Smarten up, Red Sox Nation

Let me start off by saying that the 2006 Boston Red Sox are done, caput. They have had no chance for the past couple weeks now to make a comeback. The few of you “Fenway Faithful” who are still praying for a miracle of Biblical-proportions can give it up. There will be no second coming of Crisp. Now that that’s settled, the 2006 crash, which will live in infamy in Red Sox history, up there with the collapse of 1978 in which the Sox blew a 14 game lead over the Yankees, should not have come as a surprise to anyone. This year’s team was just not that good, plain and simple. “Elementary, my dear Fidler,” I can hear many of you in Red Sox Nation say. “Before the All-Star break we were the best team in the league, everyone on ESPN said so.” Wrong. I now wish to tell you a little story of heartbreak and triumph, of a man named Theo and another named Coco. Hopefully it will give you a better understanding as to why this team, right from the start, was doomed not to play in October: October 31, 2005 – Wonder boy Theo Epstein steps down as general manager citing differences with Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. December 20, 2005 – Johnny Damon signs with the New York Yankees. January 24, 2006 – Theo Epstein returns as Red Sox manager. January 25, 2006 – Red Sox snag young hot-shot Coco Crisp from the Cleveland Indians. The change in Red Sox Centerfielders pretty well illustrates how things went for Boston last off-season. Out were the old and shaggy “idiots” that won the World Series in 2004 like Damon, Kevin Millar, and Derek Lowe. In were a bunch of new, clean cut, and most importantly, young guys that would come to dominate the roster in 2006. Therefore right from the get-go this season was going to be, as my old high school basketball coach called every season, a “rebuilding season,” nice words for a season without hope. The season started off quite well, phenomenally well in fact. Despite Crisp’s early injury, 24 year old Wily Mo Pena was filling in nicely. Mark Loretta, Mike Lowell, and even Alex Gonzalez were hitting the ball like they never had before, as well as providing the best defensive trio in all of baseball. Then there were a couple of guys named Manny and David. And the pitching, oh the pitching! Schilling was back in bloody-sock form, competing with the fiery new acquisition Josh Beckett for the league lead in wins. Most importantly, however, the young arms were exploding. Pabelbon, Lester, Del Carmen, and Hansen were performing well beyond their years. By the All-Star break it looked as if no one, not even those wily Yankees would catch them. Then the team began to show its true form. The high on which Del Carmen, Hansen, and Beckett thrived fizzled when fatigue set in. Extreme mediocrity shown by Kyle Snyder and Lenny DiNardo didn’t help. Young arms tire easily, it’s a known fact, and when a team relies almost entirely on rookie hurlers, watch out. The offense became stagnate as well. Lowell slumped, Gonzalez went back to his typical “worst offensive shortstop in the league” self, Coco showed his youth in the plate, and Wily Mo never got enough at-bats to be effective. By the time the rejuvenated New York Yankees had finished wiping the floor with Manny’s hair during the hallowed five-game summer series at Fenway, the Sox were cooked. The slow death that followed came as a shock to some. As can be seen, it shouldn’t have. The team was too young, too immature, to be good. In conclusion, this story is better than an Aesop Fable in the amount of lessons one can take from it. 1: No team as young as the Red Sox can put together a complete season. 2: No fan should put their hopes on a team as young as this one. 3: I don’t think this is a moral, but next year, as with most years in Red Sox Nation will be their year. Definitely.