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Into the rubble

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  September 27, 2011 08:54 AM

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This will go down as the worst collapse in Boston sports history.

It's worse than 1978.

It's worse than the Bruins in 2010.

It's worse than anything we've ever witnessed.

The Red Sox' wild card lead is gone, and so with it the faith of a fan base that has become increasingly agitated with the ineptitude it is forced to witness on a nightly basis. They told you they would be fine. Dustin Pedroia told you not to panic. The team urged you to buy a brick.

At least in 1978 the Red Sox whipped off eight straight wins at the end of the season to force the historic one-game playoff against the Yankees at Fenway Park. This sack of overrated paychecks hasn't won back-to-back games in a month.

A month.

Since Hurricane Irene, the Red Sox have managed to win all of six games. Think about the magnitude of that. The state of Vermont has managed to re-build significant stretches of secondary highways damaged by the storm over the same period it has taken the Red Sox to win six games. Six

At 56-104, the Houston Astros have the worst record in all of Major League Baseball. They have won 13 times since Aug. 27. Even the Braves, suffering their own historic wild card collapse in the National League, have three more wins than Boston in September.

All hype. No substance.

Heads are going to roll over this, because the Red Sox are not making the playoffs despite having had a nine-game lead in the wild card collapse earlier this month. The Rays are a good, but not sizzling, 15-10 this month, and yet have managed to close a nine-game gap. That's unheard of not only in the wild card era, but in baseball history in general. Tampa Bay faces a Triple-A Yankees lineup the next two nights while the Red Sox throw Erik Bedard and the Artist Formerly Known as Jon Lester in Baltimore, which is now 4-1 against Boston in September.

Maybe Buck Showalter had something there earlier this year. It's easy to spend money. Spending it wisely is something else entirely, and the Red Sox have puked out millions of unforeseen dollars to now-untradeable commodities like John Lackey and Carl Crawford. What's this winter's "splash" you ask? A whole lot of people getting fired.

The Red Sox gave it all away, and it's going to take months to sift through the fallout. Terry Francona doesn't deserve to go unless a small piece of this is his enabling of his players. Theo Epstein has helped build a solid crop of homegrown stars, but the next person who gives him a checkbook for the free agent market needs to be committed to Arbour. Maybe the Cubs opening allows him to leave gracefully in lieu of the gorilla suit. In all honesty, it's probably his best move, because nobody in the front office, one that delivered two World Series titles, mind you, is ever going to live this down.

Nor should they.

The players have quit, and finally the fans understand. The last time Boston saw these Red Sox, they were booed off the field following another loss to the team that will now likely knock them out of the playoffs for good. Boston has managed to win once since then, in 14 innings. Forget about heart. Forget about makeup. How about simple competence? The Red Sox haven't shown that for a month going now.

Red Sox fans don't wonder if the team can win any longer, but how it is going to lose next. Last night it was the Great Robert Andino's inside-the-park home run that magically disappeared out of Jacoby Ellsbury's glove. Tonight...who knows? It's like playing Red Sox Collapse Bingo. Let's go with Marco Scutaro error in the seventh.

If you're Red Sox ownership, where do you go from here? Simply opening up the checkbook isn't going to work anymore, particularly after last winter's translucent ratings grab. If they really want to fix things, it's going to take a lot of Stevie Johnson work, in that they're going to have to eat money, and a lot of it. Again.

There's only so much of that process you can witness as a fan before a disgusted nature begins to overcome you. The status quo is unacceptable for next season. Unfortunately, so are many of the moves the Red Sox are backed into thanks to financial ineptitude.

The Bruins responded from their epic collapse by winning the Stanley Cup just 13 months later. The 1978 Red Sox rebounded by winning the World Series...26 years later.

The 2011 Red Sox are not only the biggest choke jobs this city has seen, but they may be the end of this team as we've known it in the John Henry era. The collapse is all but complete, and it will go down in history not only for its epic nature, but for the contemptible way the team went down.

With a whimper.

Bricks on sale now.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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