It’s official, Sox are a done deal
We can all stop now. We can stop scoreboard watching, and doing math tricks, and harboring silly hope that there’s a big surge ahead that will thrust the Red Sox into the 2010 playoffs.
Better to cease with the torment now and accept the obvious. The Sox are not going to be in the hunt in October. The Boston baseball season is going to end Sunday, Oct. 3, at Fenway Park. When Game No. 162 is over, the Yankees will leave town and start their American League Division Series. The Sox will scatter to the four winds.
It’s not like they didn’t warn us. Remember Theo’s comments in December about the “bridge period’’? He said that’s not what he really meant, but it was a moment of truth. The reality is the Sox figured they were in for a soft season. They just didn’t think they were going to have 20 guys hit the disabled list.
It’s disappointing because postseason baseball has been an autumn staple here since 2003. The Sox have qualified for the tournament in six of the last seven seasons. They have spoiled us.
But the lost weekend in St. Petersburg crystallized what has been obvious to the rest of the baseball world since the injuries started piling up in July.
The Yankees and Rays are on 99-win paces. They are in a great race and have no reason to let up. Boston’s quixotic quest to get into the race has been a figment of our imaginations. No where else in the country are people assessing Boston’s playoff chances. It’s Texas in the AL West, Minnesota or Chicago in the AL Central, and New York and Tampa slugging it out for AL East supremacy with the loser earning the wild card. This is what Johnny Damon was telling us last week when he said no to Boston. Damon was telling us the Sox are no different from the Tigers. Boston is just another non-playoff team this year.
Think the Sox can catch the Rays with a strong stretch run? Boston still has to go on a six-games-in-six-days West Coast trip. The Sox finish with 10 games against the Yankees and White Sox. During that stretch, the Rays will be playing the Mariners, Orioles, and Royals.
I mean, what could we have been thinking? Decimated by injuries, these Red Sox are 27-25 since July 1. In the last two weeks, they rank 21st in the majors in runs scored. Terry Francona has only two relievers he can trust. John Lackey can’t hold a lead. Josh Beckett has four wins, none against a team over .500. The Sox scored only eight runs in three games at Tropicana Field. Sunday night, in the biggest game of the year, Boston started Daniel Nava in left, Darnell McDonald in center, and the second baseman was a 22-year-old kid making his second big league start (Yamaico Navarro). Oh, and let’s not forget that because of injuries, Boston’s everyday first baseman is Mike Lowell — a guy hitting .234 who plans to retire at the end of the year and then no doubt will have his hip replaced.
Really now? These guys were going to make the playoffs?
Now that I’ve said this the Sox will probably sweep their Baltimore cousins at Camden Yards this week, but let’s not be fooled again.
My moment of clarity came Saturday night when J.D. Drew ran a quarter of a mile into foul territory to catch a ball he should have let drop. So typical. No Sox player has a better skill set than Drew and J.D. is a good guy who always tries to do the right thing — so it was somewhat perfect that the defining play of this sad season would be a sensational catch on a ball that should have been left alone.
Now it’s over and we can think about next year and beyond. Let’s see what Felix Doubront can do out of the bullpen. Is Ryan Kalish an everyday player in the bigs next season? Do the Sox want to renew David Ortiz and make big offers to Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez? Trade Jacoby Ellsbury and Daisuke Matsuzaka? Make a play for Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford?
This is the stuff to think about now. The 2010 season is over. You can have some fun booing new White Sox designated hitter Manny Ramirez this weekend and it might be easy to score tickets for that big September weeknight series against the Orioles, but we can finally stop torturing ourselves about the summer of heat and hurt when the Red Sox never really had a chance.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.