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All is not lost with the Red Sox - yet

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  May 10, 2012 08:30 AM

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Looking for hope?

Please, try and suppress your laughter.

It's amiss to say the Red Sox have hit rock bottom, because with each day there seems to be an even lower depth for this deplorable squad of underachieving deadbeats. Last night, the Red Sox fell to 12-18 on the season thanks to a 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals, who doubled their home win total with a pair of victories over Boston this week. The Sox are 7 1/2 games in back of the Rays, seven behind Baltimore for a wild card berth, and 4 1/2 behind Toronto. 

The Sox are toast.

Or are they?

It is the worst start for a Red Sox team since 1996, and a quick look at the annals from that season shows that 16 years ago today, on May 10, the Red Sox had the same number of wins (12-21) as the modern day, bloated version.

Big deal, right? Kevin Kennedy's squad didn't make the playoffs, the manager lost his job, Roger Clemens fled town to be closer to Texas by way of Canada, and the team never led the AL East the entire campaign. True, but after being eight games out on May 10, after a 7-19 April, and playing pretty much .500 ball for the next three months (May: 14-12, June: 13-14, July: 13-13), the Sox tore up August going 22-9, and found themselves right back in a pennant race. After May 10, the Sox went 73-56, and were mere games out of the wild card slot until the final day of the season, when they finished three games behind the Baltimore Orioles. And that was way back in the dark ages when there was only one wild card slot. Remember those days?

I'm fairly certain if these Red Sox find themselves in that situation come August, fans would like their chances.

Of course, at 12-21 in '96, the Sox had already started to come to some semblance of life, going 6-2 to start May, when they began to get back on track. They were the defending AL East champs, Clemens had a decent year, despite his 10-13 record, Heathcliff Slocumb had yet to become Heathcliff Slocumb, and Mo Vaughn had a monster season (44 homers, 1.003 OPS). 

This year's sorry state has never escaped from the worst collapse in franchise history a season ago. They are still the same team, inherently unlikeable thanks to poor decision making in the front office, in the dugout, and in off-day activities (Helloooooo, Beckett). Granted, that '96 team was mess too, what with enormous egos from guys like Clemens, Jose Canseco, and Mike Greenwell getting in the way down the stretch, but there were guys to root for too: Troy O'Leary, Tim Wakefield, Tim Naehring, and a portly relief pitcher who become a cult hero.

They didn't ultimately win, but they had character, something we've yet to see from the 2012 Sox.

There are a lot of similarities between the two teams, veteran groups with some young talent and inexpensive options sprinkled in. Plus, remember, if there were two wild cards in 1996, the Red Sox, at 85-77 would have been tied with the Chicago White Sox, and maybe the Seattle Mariners (Seattle finished 85-76, a rainout deemed irrelevant in the final standings) for the final playoff berth.

See? Even with Bobby V's plummeting band of losers, all is not lost.


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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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