Sox Lose Their Identity, Can’t Be Compared to Yanks Anymore

Even though the Red Sox held a 9 game lead in the Wild Card loss column on August 25th, I didn’t believe they had the worst collapse in baseball history. The 1951 Dodgers probably hold that distinction, with the 2007 Mets not far behind. For comparison purposes, I thought the Mets blowing a 7 game lead with 17 to play was far worse. Remember, the Sox only had a 4 game lead at the same point in the season, as the Rays had made up much ground in early September.

Since the season ended, however, the fallout of this collapse is so colossal that it has to take the cake. The ’07 Mets were changed as a franchise by their poor play, but it exposed a flawed system. The Red Sox, on the other hand, had arguably one of the better front office/field manager combinations in baseball. They have an outstanding player development pipeline that has allowed them to restock their rotation and acquire Adrian Gonzalez. Their success under Theo Epstein the last decade has turned them into the “Yankees- north.”

Less than 60 days since the Sox swept a doubleheader on August 27th, their entire organization has changed. Francona is gone. Epstein is about to leave. Longtime Red Sox such as Josh BeckettTim WakefieldJason Varitek, and David Ortiz have looked terrible with their public behavior.  Their clubhouse, once the bastion of leadership and grittiness, is fractured where you wonder if they could repair it with the current group of players. They were considered by many to be better than the Yankees. They were the future, the Yankees were the past. Now it appears they have returned to the losing ways of the past. This may be the quickest descent in baseball history.

What will the next ten years look like for Boston? They went 86 years without winning a World Series. It will be hard for them to pull that off again, but the turmoil created by this collapse may derail the gravy train; at least in the near future. On a positive note the new GM/field manager will come here with a clean slate; but what about the players? Crawford, Beckett, Gonzalez, and Pedroia will certainly have to answer the questions about September next spring. The first losing streak of 2012 will result in stories about the Sox conditioning and clubhouse culture. Until they win again there will be doubts. The Mets have carried the burden of the collapse around their neck that last four years. David Wright hasn’t been the same player since. What makes the Red Sox stars believe they won’t suffer the same fate? Two World Series titles didn’t stop their local scribes from producing one of the biggest hatchet jobs in the history of sports media.

The Mets collapse was bad, but they were trying to build something. The Red Sox had a good thing already going. They were one of the best run franchises in the game; the Mets weren’t. The Mets collapse was poetic justice for the shoddy foundation built by Omar Minaya and the backstabbing of Tony Bernazard. There was no indication the Sox had problems until after the fact. Add in the media delving into the background and personal lives of team members and the Sox situation stinks from all angles. The Mets were just bad on the field, not off it.

Maybe the last decade was a dream and the Sox eventually were meant to wake up. If Cinderella’s carriage has turned into a pumpkin what a cruel joke the baseball gods have played on the city of Boston.  It’s one thing to give them the gift of beating the Yankees one season. That is fast and fleeing. It’s another thing to make them the Yankees, which is what happened after 2004. To take that away is the equivalent of asking someone to give up their penthouse and live amongst the people. It’s not an easy transition. It’s harder to go back then the struggle to get the top. Is it self-inflicted? Some of it, but if they won one more game all of this would be moot; even if they lost in the first round of the ALDS.

If the clock has struck midnight what a ride it was. The Boston Red Sox are now just like the rest of the league and not in the Yankees elite class. Can the city handle it? Only time will tell, but the early return is not good. That is why this might not only be the biggest collapse in baseball history, but in all of North American sports. The franchise didn’t just lose a playoff spot, they lost their identity. That, in my opinion, is far worse.

By Mike Silva
Thursday, 13 Oct 2011


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