|10 reasons why the Red Sox will collapse
||[Sep. 21st, 2007|12:29 pm]
Red Sox Baseball
10 reasons why the Red Sox will collapse |
September 21, 2007
By Anthony Olivieri
PA SportsTicker Staff Writer
The sky is falling on Red Sox nation - again.
The Boston Red Sox celebrated their first World Series title in 86 years in 2004. Just three years later, they are conjuring up memories of another historic campaign - 1978.
The Red Sox have lost five of their last six games - many in excruciating fashion - to see what was a 14 1/2-game lead on May 29 shrink to just 1 1/2 over the rival New York Yankees in the American League East.
Boston squandered a 14-game advantage to New York in late July 1978 en route to the Yankees' second straight championship. Granted, this campaign, the Red Sox have the wild card to fall back on.
But as the noose tightens in New England nearly 30 years later, here are 10 reasons why it will be deja vu - all over again.
10. Big Papi's health - David Ortiz has been limping around with a myriad of injuries to his shoulder, knee, quadriceps and hamstring. With his team needing a lift, the clutch slugger may not be able to provide it. Ortiz had his chance to knock out the Yankees with the bases loaded in the ninth inning against Mariano Rivera on Sunday, but the aching All-Star just could not get around on the fastball.
9. Earth to Manny - Manny Ramirez is a surefire Hall-of-Famer, an RBI machine and one of the best pure hitters in baseball. But his space-cadet routine finally may be wearing thin in Beantown. He has a strained left oblique muscle, which has sidelined him since August 28. But prior to the injury, the 35-year-old Ramirez was in a fog. Without him in the lineup or with his head in the clouds, Boston's lineup becomes easier to attack.
8. Hideki Okajima's arm - Okajima was a Rookie of the Year candidate and one of the best relievers in the American League. His unorthodox delivery - specifically his head motion - confused hitters, making him the perfect bridge to star closer Jonathan Papelbon. But Okajima's arm is tired, and he will be shut down for five days. It's September, the AL East is on the line and one of your best relievers is not available? That's the real head-turner.
7. The Smug Race - There is no doubt baseball fans in New York and Boston border on the intolerable, wearing cockiness on their sleeves. But Red Sox nation has taken it to a new level after the 2004 World Series title. However, the Red Sox have done nothing since their historic championship to warrant gloating - failing to make it past the division series in 2005 or even into the postseason last campaign. Maybe Boston's rabid following is getting just a bit ahead of itself. Could it be that the Red Sox just are not that good?
6. Fall of the Dice-K - Daisuke Matsuzaka has just two wins since July 29 and looks to be out of gas. If you listened to the hype machine prior to the season, the much-heralded former World Baseball Classic MVP was somewhere between Tom Seaver and a righthanded Sandy Koufax. In fact, he was supposed to be better than that. But in reality, he has been John Burkett with a little more velocity. In the final days of the season, Matsuzaka - and his golden arm - need to show what all the fuss was about.
5. Papelbon - The luster is off one of the best young closers in baseball. There is no argument here that Papelbon will be a force in the AL for years to come. But in 2007, the mystique is lost - mainly against the rival Yankees. The 26-year-old has a miniscule 1.96 ERA and just 15 walks in 55 innings. But as Rivera's past exploits have shown us, a closer's season is defined by the big moments. Papelbon is 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA and five walks in seven frames against New York this season.
4. The Pink Hat Factor - The Red Sox always were the loveable losers, but not anymore. With a swelling fan base, they have become the chic club to root for with fans sprouting up all over the country. Red Sox nation has an immigration problem with most newcomers not knowing Johnny Pesky from Johnny Damon. All the good will built up from the baseball gods? Gone.
3. Eric Gagne - The newly acquired reliever would be higher on the list, but his effect on the Red Sox will diminish - simply because he will no longer pitch in big spots. Or will he? General manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona seem insistent on throwing Gagne into the fire. He is responsible for at least five of Boston's losses since joining the club at the July 31 trade deadline. And Epstein may continue to try to prove Gagne's worth - and himself right - at the team's expense.
2. The Yankees - Holding the best record in baseball since the All-Star break, it is all coming together for New York. The Yankees have steamrolled through the competition, including taking five of six from the rival Red Sox since late August. Boasting the league's most dangerous lineup, New York also has fixed its bullpen problems with the addition of rookie phenom Joba Chamberlain. Robinson Cano has broken out of his first-half slump, and Alex Rodriguez continues to post MVP-caliber numbers. If New York continues to play like this, Boston's play is irrelevant.
1. Harsh Reality - Simply, they are the Red Sox and these things happen. History does not lie. As much as the 2004 World Series title was supposed to erase all the bad memories, 100-plus years of suffering just does not disappear. Ask any die-hard Sox fan. It is never easy. Get used to it, Boston.
Oh please **rolls eyes**