Game over (almost)
Not long ago, Red Sox Elimination Day was part of the New England calendar, right there with Evacuation Day, Flag Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.
Elimination Day is the day when the Red Sox are officially erased from playoff contention. In most of the 1950s and 1960s, E-D (works on multiple levels, no?) usually fell sometime in the middle of September as the woeful Red Sox wrestled for seventh or eighth place alongside the likes of the Washington Senators and Kansas City Athletics. There was a lot of bad ownership and bad baseball. The Sox made it to the postseason only once between 1918 and 1967.
We are spoiled in this century. The Red Sox have made it to the postseason in six of the last seven seasons. There has been good ownership and good baseball.
This year is different. The 2010 Red Sox are on pace to be eliminated in the next couple of days (try not to get carried away by these easy weekend wins in New York), a full week before the conclusion of the regular season. It has been almost a month since the Sox played a game of any consequence, and these late season, back-to-back weekends with the Yankees are barely registering on the local sports radar.
While the Sox prepare to play the Yankees in the Bronx tonight, the Patriots are playing the Buffalo Bills in Foxborough, the region is agog in anticipation of Shaquille O’Neal joining the Celtics, and the Bruins are rejuvenated by the arrival of rookie sensation Tyler Seguin.
The Sox have done a nice job, given their injuries, but watching Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish, and Lars Anderson is simply not the same as arguing about whether Terry Francona should start Josh Beckett or Jon Lester in Game 1 of the Division Series against the Angels.
Still, baseball matters. Even in the dead zone, on the brink of Elimination Day. And in this spirit, we examine a few hardball topics while waiting for kickoff against the Bills.
■If George Steinbrenner were alive and well, I don’t think Joe Girardi would be allowed to tank this weekend’s series against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
■Anybody else offended by David Ortiz’s remarks late Wednesday? The delusional slugger is probably going to get renewed for $12.5 million for 2011, which speaks to his impressive return from the dead.
Unfortunately, Big Papi’s amazing past deeds, and hard-earned reservoir of goodwill (he is a terrific ambassador for baseball and the Sox) don’t excuse his outrageous and tone-deaf conclusion that he took a pay cut when he “settled’’ for a four-year, $52 million extension back in 2006.
Papi needs to swallow some humble pills and take a good look around. Fans don’t want to hear a baseball player complaining about $52 million or $12.5 million next year. Especially a guy who was on the brink of being released in April, a guy who magically turned around his career in 2003 — the same year he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Ortiz already has made more money than he ever could spend, and there is not much of a market for a 35-year-old declining DH who can’t hit lefties. At this juncture, the idea of a multiyear contract for Ortiz is a joke.
It’s been a great run, Papi. Don’t go all Pedro on us here at the end.
■Ortiz’s graybeard brother is Mike Lowell, who has worked overtime to conceal his disgust with the Sox organization the last couple of years. The Sox never wanted Lowell in the first place (they were forced to take him and his salary to get Beckett in 2006), and they traded him last winter, only to have the trade rescinded when Lowell failed a physical in Texas.
They have been trying to trade him since the start of the 2008 season, and it has been painful watching Lowell play through a serious hip condition. It’s a miracle that the retiring Lowell is still a member of the Sox as we go into the final week of the 2010 season, but next Saturday’s “Thanks, Mike Night’’ represents the height of hypocrisy. Who thinks of this stuff?
Lowell was MVP of the 2007 World Series and has been a stand-up guy in his Boston tenure, but “Thanks, Mike Night’’ is right out of the Nomar Appreciation Playbook.
■ Stan Kasten is stepping down as Washington Nationals president at the end of this season. Kasten and Sox CEO Larry Lucchino are qualified to succeed Bud Selig as baseball commissioner, but Lucchino has compiled an exhaustive enemies list in his 31 years in baseball, which makes Kasten a clubhouse leader.
■ Phillies soon-to-be free agent outfielder Jayson Werth switched to agent Scott Boras this past week. This doesn’t help the Sox’ prospects of landing Werth. It’s hard to get past the memory of Lucchino calling Boras a liar in front of client Mark Teixeira during negotiations after the 2008 season.
■The Sox plan ballpark renovations in Fenway’s dreaded right-center-field bleacher/grandstand area in the offseason. Some club personnel would like to see the cramped bullpens expanded (double-barrel action puts everyone at risk), and that would involve moving the fence closer to home. Beckett and John Lackey are not believed to be in favor of this radical notion.
■ Go see “The Town,’’ even if it’s just for the Jack Clark joke in the Fenway scene near the end of the flick.
■ Kalish, Reddick, Anderson, Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Yamaico Navarro. Who makes the Opening Day roster for 2011?
■ Happy Elimination Day. Think of the money John Henry saved not having to print “Wild Card Champion’’ hats and T-shirts.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.