When the NBA Finals ended on Sunday night, the first thought that popped into my mind was, “Well, five weeks until football.”
That’s right. In the midst of Red Sox season, at a point when they will be the only game in town for the better part of two months, my attention skipped right past that and onto Patriots training camp. Football practices over baseball games.
Such is the current state of the Sox, who have more or less punted their title defense (ahem, football) and are now six games under .500, 8.5 games out of first place, five and a half games out of the second Wild Card and owners of the third worst record in the American League.
By now, we are all aware of the truckload of gruesome numbers, from their abhorrent performance with runners in scoring position to their lousy record in one-run games to the ongoing lack of any consistent production from the middle of the lineup. And while they did indeed win last night, and in a one-run game no less, they scored just once (against a pitcher in Minnesota Twins righthander Kevin Correia who came in with an ERA of 5.60), giving them a grand total of five runs in their last three games. Not good.
In other words, it was more of the same. The Sox as we presently know them are a bummer and while there’s time for them to heat up and maybe even make a playoff run, especially considering the various flaws up and down the AL East, you’re forgiven if contemplating this team and its current plight sends your mind wandering elsewhere, maybe even a little ways ahead.
And besides, it’s not like winning a title makes contending for another one year later some sort of birthright. Four of the last eight World Series champs have missed the playoffs the following season, the San Francisco Giants being the gold standard. They won it all in 2010, missed the playoffs in 2011, had another parade in 2012 then finished 10 games under .500 last year. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the Giants currently sport the best record in baseball.
The Giants recent pattern marks one of several reasons that the future is really where it’s at for the Sox, a fact pushed temporarily yet firmly into the background thanks to the dream come true that was last season. The farm system is flush with talented prospects and the lack of any long term contractual commitments beyond Dustin Pedroia (and hopefully Jon Lester) will allow for an enormous amount of flexibility from a financial standpoint. Given the M.O. at Fenway since the August 2012 mega-trade with the Dodgers, that sort of room to maneuver should make for some fascinating decisions over the course of the next few years.
So don’t fret if you’re not feeling it, Sox fans. Look ahead or in another direction entirely. The Sox are not going anywhere, whether they start winning or keep spinning their wheels. They know you love them even if you’re not fully engaged, would rather imagine what’s down the road or are just plain bored. The bright future isn’t that far off.
And neither is football season.