The Sox had an off day yesterday. Let's hope they used it to do something productive. I mean do something more productive than reminisce fondly about May, when they were actually a really good team in the American League.
Not so much anymore. They are 12-17 since the All Star break. While they have looked good in short bursts-their 3/4 stretch vs Detroit, for example, or that inspired ninth inning in Texas-for the most part they are playing as if they were pack mules weighted down with lead climbing Mt. Everest. It is now mid August. Despite all the assurances of Terry Francona in April and May, it is clear the old David Ortiz is not going to show up, probably never again. Neither, to any degree, is the old Jason Varitek-although in actuality he exited the building a couple seasons ago, his downward spiral into Marc Sullivan territory has still been impressive. Jason Bay has improved of late, but it is hard to say if it can make up for his two and a half solid months of breathtaking, lifealtering suckitude. J.D. Drew is simply fourteen million dollars worth of china doll useless (and if I hear another announcer squawk about how well he performed in June of 2008 I am going to hurl). There are *two* real starters on this team (Beckett and Lester and please, dear God, three days of rain). There hasn't beem a decent SS since the Clinton era, although you can probably count on AGon not to turn the position into the Chuck Knoblauch Comedy Hour the way Nick Green has. Theo, you can make a roster move a day, make five of them if you want, but you are just not going to find Mark Teixeira-probably not even Orlando Cabrera-on the scrap heap. This is *not* The Old Country Buffet. You cannot make up for poor quality with variety.
So, what's next? The Sox are seven games back in the division (imagine where they would be if they hadn't taken the first eight games from the Yanks!) and a game back in the wild card, and it doesn't get any easier going forward. The Sox start a three-game set at the Rogers Centre tonight, in recent years a surer death trap for Red Sox teams than the La Brea tar pits. There is a glimmer of hope tonight because Beckett is starting, but history indicates he's going to need to throw a no-hitter if he wants to notch another W., but all in all the upcoming stretch has .460 written all over it. Mr. Intensity himself, Kevin Youkilis, is back tonight. Maybe that will help.
And maybe someone just needs to put a glove in ARod's face again.
Fans point out that 2004 was not much different than this, that that team also played like shit pretty much up until late August, when they caught fire, cut the Yanks' 10-game lead to two, and then went on to make history. There is a real difference, I think, is in the makeup of the two teams. While Josh Beckett is currently playing the part of Curt Schilling, no one is playing the part of David Ortiz, the two guys from 2004 who made it their personal mission to put the team on their backs and carry it if they had to. Nobody except Beckett is doing that right now. And there is nobody in the lineup, even when operating at top speed, who gives you what Manny Ramirez gave you. Even when he was in a slide, his mere presence gave pitchers and managers pause. There is just nobody who fills those shoes anymore.
Bottom line? The playoffs will be an uphill slog, and the team needs to play with more inspiration than they have all year. For starters, it would help if they could actually throw out a basestealer.
But you have to start the comeback somewhere, and it might as well be with a win tonight. Beckett vs. Romero, 7:07pm, Rogers Centre. Be there.