Last night, I was ticked off. I wasn't heartbroken but the Red Sox's loss because the team had been so bad in September that they didn't deserve to make the playoffs. Also, kind of like the Japanese beaten the US team in the Women's World Cup Finals, the Tampa Bay Rays were just a better story. That doesn't mean that I still didn't want the Sox to make it and perhaps turn it around in the second season but, after years of being the also-ran, it's hard for me to get TOO broken up when my high priced favorites of a home town squad don't make it as far as they should have.
Still, I was ticked off. And a lot of my ire was aimed at Carl Crawford, the high-priced bust who almost looked like he was trying to help his old team last night. Fast forward almost 24 hours and my view of the situation has completely changed. It might not be fair but two stories really changed everything. Actually, two sets of quotes.
The first quote came from Adrian Gonzalez. When asked about the Red Sox collapse, he blamed God and ESPN.
From the Boston Globe
God didn't have it in the cards for us," he said.
"We play too many night games on getaway days and get into places at 4 in the morning," Gonzalez said. "This has been my toughest season physically because of that. We play a lot of night games on Sunday for television and that those things take a lot out of you... The schedule really hurt us. Nobody is really reporting that."
Contrast that with Crawford who said that the collapse was "embarrassing personally" and ""I know what kind of season I had. I know what I did. I have to go back home and live with that. It's going to be a tough offseason for me. I have to come back and prove myself." Now I know that I'm pretty much a godless heathen so I'm biased here but when it comes to reacting to a loss and looking forward to next season, I'd like to think that my squad focuses on proving people wrong and not praying that we're in God's plans next season.
That report bugged me but it really stuck out as an issue when I read Tito Francona's comment about how the season went down.
From USA Today
"There were some things that did concern me," he said. "Teams, normally, as a season progresses, there are events that make you care about each other and (with) this club, it didn't always happen as much as I wanted it to."
The reason that this jumped out at me is because, for years, the Red Sox were described as "25 players, 25 cabs". There was no camaraderie. The ballpark was a workplace; players were coworkers more than teammates. The fact that this team somehow went from the fun bunch that couldn't stop hugging one another to guns for hire is problematic. And maybe I'm jumping the gun here but I have to think that Gonzalez's blame game doesn't fit in to well with some of the blue collar Sox.
The other reason I give the sideways glance to Adrian is that he came from San Diego, a place that has become infamous for its too mellow attitude. A number of players have gone there and been surprised to see how, while the players there might be talented, they don't have that drive or desire that is needed to take it to the next level. So I may be reading into this too much but it could be an issue that whereas Crawford failed to make any noise on the field, Gonzalez failed to click in the clubhouse.
So where do we go from here? I don't really know. Heading into this season, it seemed like Big Papi and Papelbon were on the outs but after Daniel Bard became the Red Sox version of Big Baby Davis (stud reserve for half a season, a liability at the end of the year) and Crawford wasn't looking like someone who could fill Papi's shoes, they both might need to come back. The pitching staff is great on paper but since Clay Buchholz and Dice K seems to be made out of paper and Josh Beckett isn't getting any younger, it doesn't seem like a staff that's built for the post-season. The Sox seem to be in the same spot as the Celtics and Patriots - good enough to be a threat but too flawed to make it happen.
Theo and Tito have their work cut out for them this off-season. Having great players isn't enough. They have to come together as a team and, most importantly, they have to have some gas left in their tanks when the fall comes. If the Sox fell apart like they did this year, I can't imagine that it'll get better with another year of wear and tear on these guys' bodies.
I hope Tom Brady and friends are looking at this because they aren't very far from having their window close on them too. (Although this is more on Belichick who desperately needs to improve the defense next offseason. Time to trade some of those picks for veterans and make a run.)