A funny thing happened last night when Wily Mo Pena dropped that ball.
I threw in the towel.
The Red Sox are not going to the postseason. It's as simple as that.
Not that such a premise hasn't been evident for some time now. The Red Sox have lost 14 of their last 23, seven of their last 11, and are two games under .500 since the All-Star break. Pennant fever? Please.
In retrospect, maybe we should have paid a bit more attention to the significance of that bird.
Oh, sure, we're quick to attach immediate significance to a lunar eclipse and produce enough meaningful number combinations to confuse John Nash when it corresponds with a World Series win. But when a handicapped crow bounds onto the field of play, we fail to realize its eerie significance of foretold death.
For all the "Told you so" of the past few weeks -- everyone trying to convince everyone else that the wild card was, as always, coming out of the East -- it will, in fact, come out of the Central, where hopefully the Tigers have shut up some of their detractors. Either the Twins or White Sox provide the general public with a better nominee for a competitive series against whomever they face come October. If Boston were in the ALDS, it would likely result in a second straight three-game sweep, particularly if you consider the Red Sox would not likely have the benefit of setting up their rotation for it. Without Curt Schilling starting, there is simply no shot.
They're just not that good. And this is a point that Red Sox fans will need to succumb to eventually instead of directing all their vitriol at general manager Theo Epstein for not making a deadline deal. Let's get one thing straight: Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle wouldn't have fixed a team with this many holes. Roy Oswalt wouldn't have fixed a team with this many holes.
As it stands now, the Red Sox can depend on one guy in their starting rotation, and they are still only 1-3 in Schilling's last four starts. Josh Beckett is an inconsistent mess, Jon Lester throws more pitches than Glen Ross, David Wells remains an uncertainty, and Jason Johnson has the worst winning percentage of any active pitcher with at least 50 wins.
He is your No. 5 starter. Need we say much more?
They're three games behind the Yankees in the East with a five-game series scheduled for this weekend. There remains the real possibility that with a loss tonight, they could enter that series as many as 4 1/2 games behind New York, with the danger of being almost 10 games out by the time Monday rolls around. They're three games behind the White Sox in the wild card race, and let's not forget Chicago plays Detroit this weekend, a team the defending champs have owned all year long.
In order to win the assumed "magic" 95 games to be considered for playoff contention, the Red Sox must now go 27-17 over their final 44 games. And with each loss, they put themselves further in the hole and narrow the margin of error.
In other words, forget about it.
The Red Sox haven't played that kind of baseball since their jaunt through the Triple-A National League. Since finishing with the Marlins way back on July 2, the Red Sox are a less than impressive 18-21 against their AL peers. If that says "October" to you, then I'm sorry to stomp on your unending sunny disposition. It's just not the case.
As much as last night's losing pitcher Mike Timlin apparently wants to toss the offense under the bus (and credit where it's due, Jeremy Bonderman was nasty last night), the Boston bats have been surprisingly more than two-dimensional as of late, a good thing indeed since David Ortiz has fizzled into a rare slump. As a team they're batting .271 for the month, Manny Ramirez's .358 leading the way, Coco Crisp's .316 signifying a sudden resurgence, finally. Perhaps then, Mr. Timlin would like to see the opposing batting average against Red Sox pitching, which now sits at .310 for the month.
Even when they're sweeping the Baltimore Orioles, they're still giving up 16 earned runs over two games. That seems to be a huge problem with the bats, eh? Never mind that if it weren't for the offense, the Sox would have likely lost those two games in ugly fashion. Must be the offense.
The pitching is terrible and only getting worse. Last night not included, of course. That might have been the most entertaining contest of the second half for sure, watching Schilling and Bonderman deal. But who knows how long Wells can go tonight, and what does that mean in terms as to how early Terry Francona has to dip into his frightful bullpen, one in which even all-world Jonathan Papelbon has been inconsistent lately. What about Friday when Johnson and Lester start each end of a doubleheader against New York? Will the Yankees work Lester for about 103 pitches by the third inning? Then what?
People like to point to this date in 2004, when the Red Sox were still a team without an identity to them, still only 65-52, just before whipping off a winning streak that they would carry all the way to the World Series, won beneath a lunar eclipse in the Midwest.
It's nothing short of foolish to believe such a run can happen again. One, they don't have the pitching, in the rotation or in the bullpen, and two, they don't have the cast of characters that can look adversity in the face and spit on it. Guys like Kevin Millar and Johnny Damon are no longer here. Jason Varitek is still working his way back. There was no opportunity for a "Nomar spark" this time. The Red Sox are what they are. Sooner or later, that fact will become inevitable.
Keep the faith if you prefer and see what happens this weekend with the Yankees in town. Make your judgment call on Monday if you must, but enough is enough. By this point, you should have seen all the reasons why this team will be staying home come October for the first time since 2002. And really, if the only team they can beat with any sort of consistency is the Orioles, what kind of faith does that put into this upcoming five-game set?
None here. I put nothing into it. Look at it as being ahead of the curve, beating the inevitable cry of surrender that will envelop New England in a matter of a week.
It's over. Wait 'til next year.