Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Just A Few Wins Away

A lot can happen in the season's final month. Just ask the Yankees, who trailed the Red Sox by two and a half games heading into last September. Or Oakland, who had a one-game lead over Anaheim. Or even Chicago, who led Cleveland by seven games at this point last year. They may not have been usurped, but they had to fight into the last series of the season for their AL Central crown. September is a cuh-razy month where anything is conceivable.

Except, of course, for the Red Sox making a comeback in the AL East race. Hell, they may have played themselves out of a Wild Card berth. They are currently 71-60, seven games behind the Yankees and six behind Wild-Card-leading Minnesota. That's a lot of ground to make up in a single month, even if the Indians set a similar precedent last year. The difference is that this Red Sox team isn't nearly as well off as the 2005 Indians. Hell, they're not as well off as the 2005 Blue Jays.

Unless you actively avoided baseball during the Yankees off-day, you know that David Ortiz has left the Red Sox to undergo tests for an irregular heartbeat. This is coupled with the loss of Manny Ramirez, who is day-to-day with a strained vagina. Just look at the lineup fielded by the Sox last night:

Crisp, CF
Cora, SS
Loretta, DH
Youkilis, LF
Hinske, RF
Lowell, 3B
Lopez, C
Pena, 1B
Pedroia, 2B

Who in that lineup scares you? The only guy who frightens me more than even Melky Cabrera is Youkilis, and he's Jewish so it doesn't count. This group of pedestrians stuck it to Esteban Loaiza last night, scoring a whopping zero runs over his seven innings of work. Joe Kennedy and Chad Gaudin finished off the Sox, making Yankees fans everywhere just a little happier. As it stands, the Red Sox are only two games ahead of Toronto, and nothing would be sweeter than seeing the Blue Jays second in the 2006 AL East standings.

Remember the 21-game, 20-day stretch the Yankees endured (had to ask, some people might be senile)? The Red Sox are right in the middle of their own version, which started with the five-game sweep. Imagine that. You're heading into the longest uninterrupted sequences of games of the season, and you kick start it by dropping five straight to the first place team in your division. And in the process, you lose your superstar left fielder to his menstrual cycle and your superstar DH because of medical concerns. Which, by the way, he might have been able to avoid if he could turn down his nightly bucket of KFC once in a while.

Boston doesn't get a rest until a week from Thursday, but that's not the worst of it. In that time, they have two more games against the A's – and against decidedly better pitchers – four games against the Blue Jays, and three games against the White Sox before they're mercifully bestowed a day of rest. The have another off-day that wraps around a weekend series in Kansas City (though we can't be sure they'll find any reprieve there), and three in Baltimore before heading into Yankee Stadium, where their season will officially come to an end if it already hasn't by that point.

And, as if the Baseball Gods – or at least the scheduling Gods – have a bone to pick with Red Sox Nation, they head right from New York back home to face Minnesota, and then north of the border to once again face Toronto, who, prior to the five-game sweep, were giving the Red Sox much more trouble than the Yankees. So it appears that everything is stacked against the Sox. Which brings me to this:

Everything was stacked against the Red Sox before, namely in the 2004 ALCS. However, there is a huge difference between then and now, and it's evident when you scroll through their current roster and stat sheets. There are serious problems with your pitching staff when you're forced to trot out Kason Gabbard* on any kind of regular basis. So when your stopper doesn't stop, your next best starter could go down on a moment's notice, your overpaid free-agent misses the second half of the season, your Mr. Reliable misses two and a half months, your rookie "sensation" hits the DL for the remainder of the year, and your next best option is a Royals castoff, you're in for a shitty finish to what started off as a great season.

As a commenter at Pinstripe Alley hilariously states in his signature line:

I wish the Red Sox the best of luck in their 2090 pennant chase.