Thursday, March 29, 2007

Let's avoid being the team of my youth, shall we?

Originally posted on Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I was thinking about the 2006 Red Sox team today as the off season is kicking into high gear, and it dawned on me why I had such a hollow feeling in my stomach at the end of the meaningless, non contending season:

It was a dreadful realization that the Red Sox were becoming the team of my youth.

Most people long to have things back to how they were when they were a kid... but not me in terms of my team.

Last year the Red Sox had several All Stars (Manny, Papi, Varitek, Papelbon and Loretta (!)) and other familiar names (specifically Schilling, Wakefield, Timlin, Foulke and Trot).

They hit some big bomb homers and had some exciting games and for a while looked like they were going somewhere... but by the end of the season they faded, they played a lot of rookies in September where they were far out of contention and the season sputtered to a halt. In the end, they won more than they lost and gave us a few thrills... but were undermanned in the pitching staff and were not a factor in the pennant race.

They have too many veterans to rebuild, but they can not seriously be considered a World Series team for the next year.

Sound familiar Red Sox fans?
Sounds like MY YOUTH!

I started following the Red Sox day to day in 1979 (thankfully I was too young to appreciate the collapse of 1978.)

Between 1979 (when I was 7) and 1985 (when I was 13) I was as faithful a Sox fan as you could find. And only once in that stretch did the Red Sox have a losing record... 1983, which basically was a year long “farewell Yaz” celebration.

So while I witnessed winning baseball year in and year out, I also NEVER experienced a team in real contention entering September, which I define as being 4 games or fewer behind first place entering September 1. In other words a 4 game September sweep from the top.

Starting in 1979, here is where the Sox were each September 1.

79 3rd place 8 ½ games back
80 3rd place 6 ½ games back
81 4th place 4 ½ games back
82 2nd place 4 ½ games back (finished 3rd)
83 6th place 15 games back
84 4th place 14 ½ games back
85 5th place 19 ½ games back

Not pretty.

I must add that in the strike shortened 1981 season they were only 1 1/2 games back with 4 to play... but they were still in FIFTH place as Milwaukee and Detroit were tied, the Yankees were 1/2 a game out and Baltimore was a game out.

In other words they needed 4 teams to collapse in 4 days to get in.
So while it was exciting in 1981, there was also a sense of reality working against them.

In 1982 they were in second place, only to finish in third behind Baltimore and the eventual champion, the Brewers

Seven season... winning baseball... big hits... and no memorable Septembers.

And they’d have the steady players like Jim Rice and Dwight Evans every year to root for.
And guys like Hobson, Lynn, Remy and Fisk were there at the beginning of the inglorious 7 year run.

And Boggs, Barrett, Armas and Gedman were there at the end.

And we got to say goodbye to Yaz and hello to Clemens.

But we also saw a steady diet of pitching staffs where Tom Burgmeier and Bob Stanley were team stat leaders.

We saw year in and year out of hung over Eck being the nominal staff ace. (If only the Sox thought of putting him in the pen.)

We saw year in and year out of Mike Torrez losing with an ERA approaching 5.

We saw stiffs like Allen Ripley and Luis Aponte be the supposed be the saviors of the pitching staff.

For God Sake, I learned how to spell Remmerswaal!

There were too many games started by Chuck Rainey and Steve Renko.

Too many September recalls like Roger LaFrancois.

And too many weak spots in the lineup as well.
There is a problem when Dave Stapleton became a regular on the cover of the team yearbook!

The team would win... but not contend.
They’d be filled with familiar names to root for... but have no depth.

They’d be fun in June and July... and irrelevant in September.

I’m getting a flashback with the current team.
I don’t need to see the next Mark Clear coming out of the pen.

I want the Red Sox to pick a side!

Either put together a team that is going to have pitching depth and strength in the lineup and bullpen to win the 2007 World Series... or blow it up and play young kids.

Straddling the fence the way they did in 2006 isn’t going to cut it!
One minute, they are going for it by dealing off prospects like Sanchez, Ramirez, Meredith and Marte to bring in Crisp, Beckett, Lowell and Dougie.

Next minute they are trading Arroyo, the only healthy starting pitcher for an outfielder with potential.

Then the team is in contention in midsummer... and they get no reinforcements saying “We’re keeping our prospects.”

If you were going to keep prospects, then why not keep the franchise shortstop and no hitter throwing starter you shipped off at the start of the season.

It’s smelling like the late 70s to mid 80s around here and it stinks.

I’d rather stink for 2 years with kids and have a young hungry team ready to win it all in 2009, 2010 and 2011 than sit through another 7 years of irrelevance.

If they fire Francona and bring back Ralph Houk, I’m going to lose it.

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