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Dan Shaughnessy

They’re not worthy

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / September 23, 2011

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With nowhere else to turn, I called baseball commissioner Bud Selig yesterday.

Left him a message:

Please, Bud. This is your chance to think outside the box. You have sweeping powers that enable you to make unilateral decisions “in the best interests of baseball.’’

How about banishing the 2011 Red Sox from postseason play on the grounds of horsebleep play for the entire month of September?

This is where we are with less than a week to go in the regular season. The math says the Sox are probably going to qualify for the tournament, but they should be barred on sheer principle and merit. Let the worthy teams participate in the playoffs. The Sox are not worthy.

Really, how do you root for these guys anymore? They have the third-highest payroll in baseball. One of the players talked about winning 100 games at the start of spring training. A local tabloid touted them as “Best Team Ever’’ before a game was played.

And they are 5-16 in September. Unraveling. And now, according to Sox ambassador/Hall of Famer/Theo bandmate Peter Gammons, we’ve got new buzz that Terry Francona has fallen out of favor with Sox management and might be managing for his job (inside baseball you don’t hear much about on NESN).

They were in first place on Sept. 1. Three weeks later - with a full week left in the regular season - they were eliminated from the top spot in the division by a Yankee team that was roundly mocked throughout New England for most of the last year.

Can we please not make this about injuries? Every team has injuries. The 2010 Sox were truly decimated by injuries. Not this group. This is about underperformance. Most of the Sox stars have been here for the bulk of the season.

This is about Carl Crawford’s pathetic 18-steal, no-production season. For $20 million a year, Crawford can’t get on base 30 percent of the time?

This is about John Lackey, the most buffeted starting pitcher in the 111-year history of the franchise. “Old Tomato’’ Jack Lamabe is finally off the hook. That goes double for Johnny “Way Back’’ Wasdin. I especially loved the talk-show caller this week who said his doctor told him he was “Lackey intolerant.’’

No one in the Sox clubhouse is spared. Even Adrian Gonzalez has come up short when it counts. For all of his great numbers, the first baseman has been A-Gone against the Rays (.131) and Yankees (.186).

General manager Theo Epstein gets his share of the blame pie for the inestimable millions spent on 1. players who aren’t here and 2. players we wish weren’t here. Erik Bedard has won one game since coming to the team late in July. The book on Bedard was that he doesn’t pitch in a pennant race and gets hurt in September. Check and double check. How can the Sox be surprised when a guy does exactly what he’s always done?

And let’s not start on Bobby Jenks, Mike Cameron, and the raft of shortstop busts.

The pitching is particularly pathetic. Like it or not, momentum was lost when Tim Wakefield needed nine tries to get his 200th win. Josh Beckett couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead against the Orioles Wednesday at Fenway. Sox starters have an ERA of 6.75 over the last 18 games. Statistically, the Sox are likely to wind up being the team with the highest September ERA ever to make the playoffs.

Oh, and let’s not forget that they’ve made 23 errors in 21 games this month.

Would it be piling on to reference the wild pitches, passed balls, and easy steals allowed?

Defensive indifference? Or just plain old indifference?

Some of this has to come down on the manager. Maybe everybody is just a little too comfortable playing for Francona. Maybe the food spread should have been turned over in the clubhouse once or twice.

These Sox have simply been too fat and too happy too long. Maybe Francona should have called out Lackey once or twice. Maybe the Sox are going to take him down the way Patriots players walked over nice guy Pete Carroll.

There’s going to be blood in the water in New York. Epstein has put the word out there, and it ought to be an awkward couple of weeks around the Red Sox.

This team has too much talent to play this badly. The Sox were the best team in baseball for four months, but the 2-10 start has been bookended by this putrid finish.

Even Schill gave up. Submitting the type of commentary he routinely railed against when he played, the Big Blowhard went on the radio and said he doesn’t think the Sox will make the playoffs. He went so far as to say he didn’t want to see them make the playoffs, given the way they were playing.

Once again, I disagree with the Big Lug. The Sox are going to make it. The numbers are with them. Like hopeless habitants of Shawshank, the Sox can watch the Rays and Angels lose, scratch days off the calendar, and inch ever closer to an inevitable playoff date with the Rangers or Tigers.

But what a way to go. Has any playoff-bound team ever been booed off the field at the conclusion of its final regular-season home game? During Fan Appreciation Week? Not exactly Rico Petrocelli catching Rich Rollins’s popup (“and there’s pandemonium on the field’’) on the final day of ’67, was it?

“Best interests of baseball’’ is rarely invoked by the Commish. Bowie Kuhn did it when Charlie Finley was selling his stars in 1976. Bart Giamatti used it when he kicked Pete Rose to the curb. Most recently, Bud cited “best interests’’ to save the Dodgers from the House of McCourt.

Now it’s time for Bud to bounce the Sox from October baseball in 2011. If the Rays or Angels can’t do it, Bud should do it.

For the good of the game.

Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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