Yikes. The last few weeks of watching the Red Sox has been like being front row for Britney Spears' recent wretched performance at the MTV VMA's. In both cases the viewer has been left nauseated and wondering if the garbage they just watched had anything to do with the formerly great product. The Sox have led the AL East almost all season and the same goes for owning the best record in baseball.
It all hit the fan last Friday as the Sox suffered their worst loss of the season, an 8-7 heart-breaker to the Yankees at Fenway. Down 7-2 in the eighth, the Yankees had scored six against a suddenly terrible Okajima and Papelbon. The Sox bounced back on Saturday with Beckett (the stopper of 2007) but they lost on Sunday night as Ortiz popped out against Rivera with the winning runs on base. Compounding that disappointing series, the Sox went to Canada and laid an egg vs. the Blue Jays, getting meekly swept by an average Blue Jays team that had nothing but pride to play for. Minus Youk (who got hit by Wang on the wrist last weekend), Coco (who's been banged up) and Manny (who is taking his annual September vacation with a faux injury), the Sox lineup is pathetic. Five runs is all they could muster in the three games against the Blue Jays. Meanwhile in the Bronx, the Yankees swept the hapless Orioles and currently find themselves 1.5 games back.
The Sox are treading water right now as they're on the brink of a historic collapse. This isn't just Sportscenter jive, it's the gospel truth: if the Sox lose the AL East (which they led at one time by 14.5 games) it'll be the greatest choke job in history. It would top even the '78 Sox (14 game lead), who lost in a one game playoff (Bucky Fuckin' Dent, ring a bell?).
Most talking heads in New England and the sports world are droning on about how making the playoffs is the most important thing in baseball. The Sox are basically guaranteed of that (3 game magic number) since the Tigers have folded. I'd normally agree but this season is a special exception. If the Sox lose the AL East it's a huge deal because they'll have no confidence going into the playoffs and more importantly, no home field advantage. They'll meet either the Angels or the Indians in the first round no matter what. Both teams are looking damn good at the moment so it's pick your poison. Having to beat either on the road would be a tall task, forget about playing the Yankees in the ALCS. They both have to get there first, I feel like the Yanks are destined to fall in the first round like last year with A-Rod disappearing in October and the Yankees creaky pitchers falling apart. The Cardinals last year aren't even worth arguing about. The weak National League makes no sense the last few seasons and thinking/hoping a team could duplicate that run would be a joke, especially the following year.
It's all in the Sox' hand. They have three in Tampa Bay starting tonight, two vs. Oakland in Fenway and then four vs. the Twins at Fenway to close out the season. All three teams are very beatable as none of them are the in playoff picture. They're just playing spoiler. Tonight should be a good one as Beckett goes against Scott Kazmir. If we can win tonight, hopefully we can use that momentum over the last week but who knows? We've looked god awful lately. Besides the punchless lineup, our bullpen has been a huge liability. Gagne at this point won't even make the postseason roster and Okajima can't get anybody out. Did I mention that Wakefield and Dice-K have been rocked the last month? The sky isn't falling in New England but it's pretty close.