The media should do itself a favor. Conduct some simple Internet research and stop mistakenly comparing the current Red Sox collapse to 1978.
After this afternoon’s 6-2 loss to the Yankees in the first of a day-night-doubleheader, the Red Sox saw their wild card lead trimmed to a half-game over the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that deserves to play in October. Boston is 5-18 in September.
The Game One loss was more of the same for the Red Sox.
Want woeful starting pitching? No surprise that Wakefield was knocked around and departed after four innings that saw the ineffective 45-year-old knuckleballer allow five runs (three earned), five hits and five walks.
How about embarrassing defense? Once again, Carl Crawford was the culprit, allowing a Derek Jeter liner to roll to the wall to open the bottom of the fifth. Jeter advanced to second on the error and scored moments later on an Alex Rodriguez single.
Jeter could have been tagged out at the plate, if Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s head was in the game. Saltalamacchia, who committed an error in the first inning, blocked Jeter off the plate, but dropped the ball on Conor Jackson’s solid throw from right field. Saltalamacchia still could have tagged Jeter, but the catcher was looking at Rodriguez heading to second base and Jeter touched the plate for a 5-1 Yankees lead.
The lone offense Boston generated was provided by Jacoby Ellsbury, who hit his 29th and 30th home runs – both off A.J. Burnett, who limited the Sox to two runs and five hits over 7.2 innings.
Of course, the Yankees should not get excited about Burnett, or Freddy Garcia’s six shutout innings on Saturday. After all, the Red Sox lineup can’t seem to score against any pitching – even versus the Orioles.
In 1978, though Boston did cough up an American League East lead that was once 14.5 games – and seven games at the beginning of September – that ballclub rallied to win 12 of its final 14 games, erase a 3.5-game deficit to the Yankees and force that historic one-game playoff that resulted in Bucky Dent’s home run.
The 1978 Red Sox finished 99-64 and were 12-3 in their last 15 games, counting the one-game playoff. The 2011 Red Sox have choked in September. A team that once looked like a likely World Series participant has, for almost four weeks, lacked basic fundamentals, timely hitting and major league quality pitching.
Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have flopped in important games. Adrian Gonzalez is hitting under the Mendoza line against the Yankees and Rays. Carl Crawford continues to contribute little at the plate and play shoddy defense in left field. The Red Sox look more like a sub-.500 team preparing for the end of a forgettable season than a ballclub in the heat of a wild card race.
The injuries to Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka have undoubtedly hurt. And the fact that the Red Sox do not have a major league ready starting pitching prospect this season hasn’t helped. Yet the performances of Lester and Beckett have contributed to the collapse. Erik Bedard has won one game and has spent much of his brief Red Sox tenure trying to recover from injuries. John Lackey is, well, John Lackey – Theo Epstein’s $82.5 million mistake. And Tim Wakefield has been ineffective all season.
For three weeks, the Red Sox have tried to emerge from their funk. The starting pitching remains hapless. The lineup is not delivering timely hits. The relief pitching is unreliable and the team leads the majors in errors this month.
Even a few days ago, it seemed unlikely that the Red Sox would completely lose their wild card lead. Now it appears probable, which is only right. This team does not deserve to play in October.
And do yourself a favor. Don’t compare the 2011 Red Sox to the ’78 team. That would be a slap in the face and an insult to guys like Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn and Dennis Eckersley. At least they went down showing a heartbeat.