A resolutely slanted recap of the what Boston was supposed to do,
and how funny it is that they are failing
In the offseason before the 2009 season, the New York Yankees splurged on three big free agents. They paid an exorbitant amount of money to sign CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett. Of course we now know that New York went on to win the AL East by seven games and win their 27th World Series Championship by beating the Phillies in six games.
Two years later, despite oft complaining about the spending habits of the New York Yankees, Boston abandoned fiscal restraint with a chain of moves that brought in star sluggers Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.
The San Diego Padres were coming off a solid season in 2010. They had battled the Giants for the division all season, but a late season losing streak and a head to head loss versus San Francisco ended their run, and the Giants won the division and subsequently the World Series. Adrian Gonzalez didn’t request to be traded, but it was a given that the Padres wouldn’t be able to afford him when his contract expired after the 2011 season. The Red Sox were there to solve their problem. Able to afford a lucrative contract extension for Adrian Gonzalez, the Sox moved some top prospects (keep an eye on RHP Casey Kelly) and brought the super star first baseman to Boston.
Boston wasn’t done. After the Rays had taken the Yankees usual spot atop the AL East, pushing the Yankees to the wild card and leaving Boston to watch the 2010 playoffs being tactfully broadcast on TBS (always better to watch than an ESPN telecast) the Sox decided to lure two of the Rays key free agents to Boston.
Boston awarded Tampa Bay left fielder Carl Crawford a record setting contract, making him the first player in Red Sox history with a contract with an average annual value in excess of $20 million, and the first player in MLB history to receive a $100 million contract to never have a 20 home run season.
Following the two biggest splashes of the offseason, Boston then turned their attention to their bullpen. First giving a 2-year 12 million dollar contract to Bobby Jenks, a formerly great closer for the White Sox, and then adding insult to injury for Tampa, inking the Rays solid set-up man, Dan Wheeler, to a 1-year 3 million dollar deal. The Yankees followed suit by signing the Rays closer, Rafael Soriano, to an oversized contract leaving the Rays looking around wondering what happened to their division winning team.
After all the changes, the Red Sox were the talk of the offseason. Not only did they acquire the two best available players in the offseason, but they fixed the prior year’s weakness with the two signings for the bullpen. All was jolly in New England.
The Yankees had the worst rotation among serious playoff contenders–if they were even grouped in that class. Many experts thought they was too weak to beat out Tampa for the wild card, even with all the players the Rays had lost. They lost out on signing Cliff Lee and the media was crushing them for it. With Andy Pettitte retiring they were in trouble. All was doom and gloom in New York.
But then the year started and the Red Sox couldn’t just play games on paper anymore. They got off to a horrific start, and pressure mounted. Before things could get too bad, a critical series with New York resulted in Boston taking two out of three and starting to play quality baseball. Not too much later they would sweep the Yankees and slice into their early division lead. A blink of the eye later they were leading the division and everyone congratulated themselves on a good pre-season prediction. A-Rod was on the DL and Yankee fans were wondering how much longer they could rely on Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. This was the first time in a long time where you could get almost any logical Yankee fan to admit that the Red Sox seemed like the overall superior team.
Boston only held a 2 game lead in late August despite “dominating” the Yankees in head to head play. The bleacher report even went so far as to say the Red Sox wanted the division more and were giving a “superior effort.” Then the darnedest thing happened, the Red Sox started losing at the rapid pace that they were dropping games to start the year. They lost 14 of their first 18 September games falling as far back as 5.5 games behind New York. Now the thought is that Rays team that’s only two games behind (depending on when you’re reading this) could take the wild card, eliminating them from the post season all together (we’ll save that potential blog post for another day).
The Red Sox have scored the most runs in baseball. Looking at their roster, I’m amazed that they can play this poorly. Sure they have had their fair share of injuries, but when you have the money to buy the depth its really no excuse. They had the newsworthy offseason. 2011 was their year. Red Sox v. Phillies was all but written in stone, and while they could still make a postseason run as the wild card, now is no time to think of appalling and unpleasant things like that. Now is a time to celebrate and commemorate their dissapointment.
The story of the 2011 AL East is no comeback story—the Yankees never fell too far behind. Nor is this a David beating Goliath story. It’d be more apt to relate it to Goliath continuing to consistently beating the piss out of his nearly as big and menacing foe, despite his foe buying all sorts of new armor and swords that were supposed to finally change things.
After the Red Sox admittedly amazing 2004 title and well deserved 2007 title, the inferiority complex that seemed to have found a cozy place in Boston disappeared. It was quickly replaced by an arrogance much like that of Yankee fans except much less deserving. It’s possible that more Red Sox hats were purchased and more people became Red Sox “fans” between ’04-’09 than the previous 20 years. It was reprehesible, and painful for Yankee fans to witness.
Not to worry. Society has corrected itself. There is evidence that inferiority complex is returning. This year, despite all the hype and all the logical reasons to expect the Red Sox to win the division, the only manager in my fantasy league to not pick the Red Sox to win the division was the one die hard Boston fan. His explanation was something like, “we never win the division. The Yankees always win the damn division.”
Ohhh it’s back, and society is in a better place for it. The Yankees have won 11 AL East titles dating back to the 1996 season. The Red Sox have won one (2007). If the Yankees hang on it’ll be 12 titles in 16 years. Now we watch to see if the Red Sox can manage to waste away their wild card lead too, now that’ll be a story.
Apologies for the excessive bias, but on rare occasion it’s not even worth trying to hold back. I’ll be eating my words if the Sox somehow beat New York in the postseason, after all they did win the season series handily.