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Note from the Author: Is this satirizing obnoxious and entitled fans? I don’t know. It could be parody or maybe I’m just a punk.
With the Red Sox reeling fast as the playoffs approach, we’ve reached a very appropriate time to ask “Does this team have what it takes?” Do the 2011 Boston Red Sox have the talent, the x-factor, the will to win, or whatever it may be that separates a championship team from everyone else?
With the current slide the Red Sox appear to be in, it could be easy to let passion cloud this thought process. But at the same time, how a team responds to this kind of adversity is the best opportunity to ask these questions.
Ever since the Manny trade, my biggest criticism of the Red Sox was that they were boring. Despite the quality players on the roster, they lacked a true marquee All-Star that made a baseball game worth watching. For such a “world class” organization like the Red Sox this is just unacceptable. Four years later the Red Sox answered these criticisms, signing Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, but for some reason I’m still not satisfied. The product being sold is still unsatisfactory, and I seriously doubt this team has what it takes to win a World Series.
There are two ways a team can win a championships in professional sports. The first route is obvious–they can rely on brute talent to overcome their opponents. The second option (and the significantly more interesting one) is having the will to win. These types of teams may not be as talented or even as deserving as their adversaries, and yet they still come out victorious. It’s almost as if a higher force pushes these teams on top, solely because of the desire to win. As Red Sox fans of the 21st century, we have been able to witness both of these situations. The 2007 team clearly exemplifies the first mold and 2004 fittingly describes the latter.
I don’t want to go into history that everyone already knows, but nevertheless, it is necessary. The 2004 Red Sox were not as talented as the 2004 Yankees. We glorify them now, but the truth is besides a select few (Pedro, Manny, Schilling, Ortiz), the team was built with spare parts (really expensive spare parts). Most of those players had accomplished next to nothing before 2004, and most of them achieved fairly little after. And somehow, in the most amazing fashion ever seen in the history of sports, the 2004 Red Sox won. This team did whatever it took to win. They played through gruesome injuries, competed like warriors (not the basketball team), and had serious balls. To put it simply, they wanted to win more than the Angels, Yankees, and Cardinals wanted to win, which is why they did.
But the 2007 Red Sox were a completely different story. That team was stacked. Jon Lester was a number four starter. Wow. But they weren’t interesting. Of course there are exceptions, but looking back, I’m just not convinced the 2007 Red Sox wanted to win. All I can think of is J.D. Drew half heartedly swinging the ball, Julio Lugo playing shortstop like a mad cow, and Manny Ramirez taking the last two months of the season off. And Coco Crisp…I never liked that guy. But the level of talent was too much for any other team to match. Yeah, they had some trouble with the Indians, but more or less they steamrolled through the regular season and the playoffs.
So what’s the point? Just because the 2011 Red Sox wear the same Boston uniforms as the 2004 and 2007 teams (not the literal uniform, I know the organization has changed those up) doesn’t mean they inherit those same qualities. Just because the 2004 Red Sox created miracles like it was no one’s business doesn’t mean the 2011 team can. Just because the 2007 team could win without noticeable effort, it doesn’t mean the 2011 team can. Hardly any of those past players are still on the team. If the 2011 Red Sox want to win, they have to earn it themselves.
I’ve defended a lot of underperforming players the past few years (Namely Lackey, Drew, Crawford). I can’t do that any longer.
John Lackey’s numbers from last season and this season look pretty damn awful. But I don’t care. All I care is that he performs well now. He’s getting paid $85 million to be a number four starter. It’s time to act like it. For most of the season, he has been the statistically worst pitcher in the American League, as in he was better than nobody. As in he was worse than everybody else. That’s messed up. He’s won before and is certainly capable of doing it again. To do anything less would be completely inexcusable.
J.D. Drew is troubling as well. According to sabermetrics, Drew is the greatest player to ever play the game of baseball. He’s a stoic guy and whether he gets upset or angry or indifferent is not my concern (The D in J.D. stands for “Don’t Care”). But again, he’s getting paid ridiculous money to bat eight or ninth. He’s taken a paid vacation (a really highly paid vacation) because of some half hearted injuries. I have a bad back too–I know it can hurt. But I’m not getting paid $15 million a year to have four at-bats a game and stand in right field for a couple of hours. Man up.
Crawford’s fate appears very similar to the previous two cases. And it’s a shame, because I really want to like him. I don’t care if he hits .250 for the season–if he hits something like .491 for the rest of the season and playoffs that’s fine. I’ve already seen an overpaid outfielder in Boston (see above), I don’t want to see another.
Clay Buchholz is hurt? Curt Schilling played through the pain. Bard can’t come through in a big game? Keith Foulke always managed to deliver. Adrian Gonzalez’s divine swing still can’t put a team on top? Manny Ramirez didn’t seem to have a problem. Boston fans love winners and Pink Hats love them even more. The Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins are all poised to contend. If the 2011 Red Sox aren’t going to come through, we can always invest in another product.
This is all extremely harsh, but it’s foolish to think otherwise. Do I have unrealistic expectations? No. I’m genuinely offended. All this team does is whine and create excuses. The past few nights they’ve rolled over like dogs. You know what would happen if this was the Yankees? They’d buy new players who were ready to get the job done. If Bill Belichick was in charge of the Red Sox, half the team would have been DFA’d.
Playing like losers is what the pre-2004 Red Sox did. Losers are pathetic, weak, and largely forgettable. This is Boston, not Cleveland. Cleveland is gross. These are the Red Sox, not the Cubs. The Cubs make me sick. This is a storied franchise, not some “don’t give a crap” expansion team. This team actually has something to play for. Right now I’m disgusted. Watching the 2011-ers (they currently don’t deserve to be called the Red Sox) is a waste of my existence.
The 2011-ers are not the teams of 2004 or 2007. I would love to be proven wrong.