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Morning Digest: Can the Red Sox Failures End the “Best Ever” Narrative?

Morning Digest: Can the Red Sox Failures End the “Best Ever” Narrative?

The Boston Red Sox

Morning Digest: Can the Red Sox Failures End the “Best Ever” Narrative?

Who thought in April the Red Sox Would be Fighting for a Wild Card?

I start this morning with looking back at the platitudes that were given to the Red Sox back in March. I thought Boston was going to be good, but not as dominant as some members of the mainstream media.

Anytime you do preseason analysis it should be balanced. This was not the case with the 2011 Boston Red Sox.

Their narratives now look foolish.

"45 out of 45″ ESPN analysts picked the Red Sox to win the American League East.

2011 Red SoxI thought the guys at NoMaas were kidding, but they weren’t when they said “45 out of 45″ ESPN analysts picked the Red Sox to win the American League East. Well, after last night’s doubleheader sweep of the Rays, “the worldwide leader in sports” was proven wrong.

This prediction looks bad, but how bad will it look if the Sox are eventually overtaken by Tampa or Anaheim for the Wild Card?

Red Sox Will Challenge the ’27 Yankees as the “greatest team ever

Maybe the worst prediction comes from NESN, who asked if the 2011 Red Sox Will Challenge the ’27 Yankees as the “greatest team ever.”

The 2001 Mariners won 116 regular-season games to set the American League record for most wins in a single season and tie the 1906 Cubs for the major league record (though the North Siders accomplished the feat in 152 games). Both those teams failed to win the World Series. The Cubs lost to the White Sox in six games in the Fall Classic. The Mariners didn’t even make it that far, falling to the Yankees in five games in the ALCS.

The Red Sox have no intention of suffering a similar fate. The way they are constructed, they could surpass the 116-win mark, but nothing less than a World Series title will make Boston happy.

2011 Red SoxThe 2011 Red Sox possess all the pieces to have a season for the ages. If everything falls into place and the breaks go their way, they could do more than set records and become champions. They could do more than take their place on Immortality Peak and end up being mentioned in the same sentence as legendary clubs of the past: the 1929 A’s, the epic Yankees teams of the ‘30s, the 1970 Orioles, the 1976 Reds.

The 2011 Red Sox could accomplish a feat that has never been done.

They could unseat the 1927 Yankees as the greatest major league team of all time.

Regional Sports Networks are great at producing games, but they really can’t be taken seriously when providing analysis. Do you believe any consumer goods company when they tout the taste of their product? Would you write a review just based on their talking points? Of course not; you go out and try it for yourself. It sounds like NESN didn’t go out and look at the team it was covering, but decided to analyze the talking points from the desk of Theo Epstein.

This should be a cautionary tale to any other RSN that decides to take the leap of faith and publish such a bold breakdown.

Terry FranconaIt’s not Terry Francona or the starting rotation breaking down. Its karma paying the Red Sox back for not remembering their humble history. Just a decade ago this team was America’s favorite loser. They had the nation behind them as they came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the hated Yankees.

Red Sox Nation has become a caricature of themselves since that 2004 run. You would think they have 27 championships like the Yankees. You would think that Bill Buckner never existed and was born from the imagination of the creator of Seinfeld.

This potential collapse is just a way of the baseball gods restoring order to their universe.

I know this sounds silly. Maybe it is. But does my rationale sound any worse than what NESN produced back in March? If not, then I guess you see my point.

Wall Street Journal joins the fun

The Wall Street Journal joined in the fun by writing a letter to the kids of Boston. You can read it in its entirety here, but I provided you an excerpt of the highlights below.

If you are a 10-year-old Boston sports fan, you have seen remarkable, glorious things. You have seen two Red Sox World Series titles, three Patriots Super Bowl trophies, a Celtics NBA title, and a Bruins Stanley Cup.

But that’s not Boston.

That’s a bizarre fantasyland. You are residing in a utopian city where every team wins, almost all of the time, and there’s at least one giant Duck Boat parade every couple of years. You’ve got a closet full of championship hats. Your arm is sore from throwing confetti.

Home is starting to feel tense, isn’t it, kids? Mom shuts off the TV in the middle of an inning. Dad’s smoking Winstons on the porch. When the Sox make a pitching change, Grandpa kicks the coffee table and announces he has to “walk the dog.”

Grandpa doesn’t have a dog.

It’s a crueler, nervous world. Boston’s no longer chattering about playoff tickets and singing “Sweet Caroline” in Fenway with a comfortable six-run lead. The Red Sox are reaching into your belly, yanking at your guts.

Don’t be afraid, kids. Breathe it in. Embrace the pain. It’s in your DNA.

What lesson can we take away from all this? I

love a good narrative- it’s what sports writing is about- but sometimes you can take one too far. Sometimes a narrative can read well on paper, but be nauseating or silly in reality. I think you see that with the “best ever” comments and some of the descriptions of the collapse.

“Best ever” columns are sometimes the biggest culprits of over-the-top narratives. I am not talking about rankings or lists, but when you try to make a point about how a certain player, coach, or team is the “best ever.”

It usually is filled with narratives and platitudes that would only read well in a fiction article. When NESN proclaimed Boston the next coming of the ’27 Yankees. Check out some of my favorites:

Curt YoungEvery day should feel like Christmas for Curt Young, the new Red Sox pitching coach.

The Red Sox have no intention of suffering a similar fate. The way they are constructed, they could surpass the 116-win mark, but nothing less than a World Series title will make Boston happy.

Theo Epstein has put together a roster that would make Branch Rickey proud.

Besides a potent offensive attack, the Red Sox will boast airtight defense, perhaps the best of any team in baseball.

Youth, experience and versatility will ride the pine like lions waiting to hunt.

Dice-K might be the best No. 5 starter ever.

It’s funny how I have cautioned Phillies fans about becoming what they hate. Every team (except the Yankees it seems) has their 15 minutes of fame. The Red Sox created sustainable organization infrastructure that started to make you think they were the Bombers Part Deux.

Maybe they forgot they are still the Red Sox, the team that sold Babe Ruth. The team that couldn’t get over the hump in ’67, ’75, ’78, and ’86.

Maybe they forgot that Ruth’s ghost probably didn’t like them trashing his former team.

You see how a narrative can read well? I use to have some fun with the fan base, but none of it is born with the least bit of logic. Not everything has to be measured in numbers but it should be dipped in some form of logic; even if its flawed. There didn’t seem to be any when it came to the Red Sox other than “fan boy” platitudes.

“Best ever” columns have a way of coming back to bite the author. It has a way of making an entire city look foolish. Regardless of how 2011 ends up the Red Sox will not be the next edition of the 1927 Yankees.

They are lucky if they are the 2011 American League Wild Card.

With their current pitching situation they might become the most ill-prepared playoff team in the history of baseball; if they survive the final week.

Again, see how an over-the-top narrative plays?

If we could do it all over....

It’s funny how we dismiss early season results as “small sample size,” but don’t the Sox look like the 2-10 team that everyone wasn’t worried about during the first two weeks of the season?

Every team has slumps, but the Red Sox didn’t look like a champion from the start of the season.

By Mike Silva
Thursday, 22 Sep 2011

 

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