Our baseball team doesn’t seem to have that kill mentality, that oomph, that grrrrr that it’s surely going to need.
Not just in this weekend's series with the Yankees, but in the eventual pennant races and possible playoff scenarios. You know, assuming the Red Sox get there. And with the way they've been playing lately, that's a big assumption.
Sure, they swept the Orioles and moved back to within a half-game of first place. And that was delightful. So often Baltimore has proven to be the cure for what ails a flailing team. But unfortunately, the Red Sox cannot play the Birds for the remainder of the season. Instead, the Sox are forced to play the likes of the Rays (troublesome, tireless, and tenacious indeed) and that team you may have heard of from New York.
The Red Sox lost the first game of their four-game set in the Bronx, which means that, in the worst possible scenario, the Red Sox emerge bruised and battered and 6 1/2 games back. In that case, I will probably start looking longingly down 93 toward Gillette Stadium and taking solace in the promise of large men quibbling for yardage in tights.
However, there's always the possibility that this recent slide has woken up our dear Red Sox and they're raring to go, ice water in their veins and all that. Perhaps they're just faking us out, and they're planning on storming through New York the rest of this weekend and returning to us as conquering heroes. Here's hoping.
What worries me, primarily, is that while the Red Sox seem to be spending the second half of the season falling apart and monkeying around with starting pitchers, trying to find their place in the rotation and the team, the Yankees appear to have only gotten better. While the Sox now have more questions than answers, the Yankees seem to have settled into their role as the East's juggernauts. And that scares me.
Then, of course, there's the matter of how New York fans are treating our own David Ortiz in light of the recent revelation about Ortiz’s positive 2003 test for performance-enhancing drugs. Wisdom and rationale would dictate that Yankee fans would leave Ortiz alone, considering their own third baseman is anything short of squeaky clean.
But the majority of Yankee fans I've come into contact with have never specialized in such trivial matters as "wisdom" and "rationale." Many of them have no doubt been dying for a Red Sox player — especially one with the cachet and magnetic personality of Ortiz — to screw up. They likely can't wait to rub it in, and they did in the series opener. I suppose the turnabout is fair play. Yankee fans have certainly had to take abuse from a good subset of Red Sox fans regarding A-Rod's own dalliance with PEDs, so I suppose all's fair in love and baseball.
That said, it still wasn’t pretty to watch Thursday.
And lest we forget, it's not just the Yankees we have to worry about anymore. After the Red Sox’ past series with the Rays, we were reminded yet again that Joe Maddon's Band of Marauding Wunderkinds doesn't plan to go down without a fight either. While this no doubt makes my 88-year-old, Tampa-area grandmother happy as she lives to torture me about the Rays’ recent dominance over the Red Sox, Red Sox fans are not pleased with this outcome. We saw it happen last year, and it's just as likely that it'll happen again this season.
The Rays, apparently, are serious. And they mean to stay that way. With a playoff system allowing for, at most, two teams from any one division to make the playoffs, there will always be at least one team left out in the cold. Last year, it was the Yankees. I shudder to think what might happen this year if the Sox don't straighten up and fly right.
Of course, I am by no means giving up. Red Sox fans learned in 2004 that we should never say die. And despite the fact that J.P. Ricciardi has seen fit to keep Roy Halladay in Toronto (probably best considering the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would have occurred had he ended up anywhere else in the East), our own Theo Epstein did manage to acquire the impressive Victor Martinez and his services. This bodes well for our backup potential at catcher, first base and as DH, but the Sox haven't seemed to realize just yet that simply because Martinez can play all three positions, he shouldn't be shouldering the team's offensive load all by himself. He can't bat three times in the lineup.
Someone else is going to have to hit. I think the team would do well to remember that.
Hitting, of course, is only part of the equation. The pitchers — at least the ones who aren't currently held together with airplane glue and fervent prayers — are going to have to step it up. Because if the adage was true once, it always will be: You can never have enough pitching. With our rotation in shambles and Justin Masterson gone to Cleveland, I worry about the state and fortitude of the staff and bullpen. I suppose it's possible to pull this together on a wing and a prayer — and hey, stranger things have happened — but I remain concerned.
So here's my question: What do you think? Are you worried? Concerned? Nonchalant about the whole thing? Just waiting for the NFL season to begin in earnest so you can see for yourself whether or not Tom Brady's robo-leg appears to be functional? Basically, am I worried for no reason? Have I undergone 20 some-odd seasons of classical conditioning as regards to Red Sox baseball and its ability to worry me at this point every year? Is everything going to be all right, or are we doomed? And will we all still be standing come Monday? What do you think?
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