I woke a couple of times during the night and checked MLB At Bat on my iPhone. First time I looked the signs were good. The Red Sox were ahead of the Orioles, if only just, and they were off for a rain delay. They had played enough to make it official if the game were to be called. Meanwhile, the Rays were on the receiving end of a 7-0 shellacking by the Yankees. No anti-Boston tactics in play there I thought.
The next time I rolled over and reached for my phone, by a strange quirk of timing it was 05:00 – just in time to see the Sox were tied at 3 in the bottom of the ninth at Baltimore and the Rays had somehow clawed their way bay to seven apiece taking the game into extra innings. Not fully aware of the enormity of what was playing out before my eyes, and especially not that it was “live”, the Boston score changed to 3-4Final and I then realised something dramatic had happened. Within seconds it seemed, the Rays scoreline also changed – to 7-8Final/12 and that was it.
I went back to sleep, not entirely sure I hadn’t just dreamt that – or was it a nightmare?
Only an hour or so later, as I got up to take Kay to work (pay back!) I began the post mortem scanning of the game reports. For the second season in a row it looks like Papelbon will be cast in the role of villain. One strike away from victory….
One thing that has to be said here is that Tampa Bay are in no way the bad guys in this story. In fact you’ve got to tip your hat to them – they kept winning and that is the difference in a nutshell. I’m sure they are still celebrating now on the Gulf Coast, and with good reason. Their wild card birth is as remarkable a story as Boston’s spectacular choke (though won’t be talked about for anywhere like as long!)
Some time today Jonathan Papelbon will be on the phone with Scott Boras: “Er, Scott, I guess that may have cost us a few Million bucks last night?”
The history of sports – and Boston losses in particular – suggests that Terry Francona will be looking for a new job in the winter. My own view, however, is that that would be harsh – if only for the two World Series wins he engineered. Curt Young, the pitching coach, is a dead cert for the sack, and given that woeful starting pitching (and some closing pitching!) has been the main let-down, he deserves it. Sure, neither he nor Tito could foresee the injury to Clay Buchholz, but the train wreck that was Dice-K was entirely predicable (though impossible to have dodged cost-effectively).
The 2012 Red Sox will bear only passing resemblance to this year’s squad, with some old favourites there no longer. On September 2011’s showing, that’s maybe no bad thing.
Incidentally, I bet Theo now wishes they paid Johnny Damon what he was asking for in 2006 to keep him in Boston.