It is the unbreakable duty of any Boston sports fan, especially a fan of the Red Sox, not to tempt fate or mess with superstition. However, that only applies when things are going well, and at the moment things are far from well. So talk of a choke is allowed, in the hope of history revealing these words to be needless pessimism.
The Red Sox have managed to turn round a good season where they were virtually unbeatable – described as a “lock in” for the post-season as recently as the beginning of September – to the point where their chances of playing in October rely on the New York Yankees winning games!? Red Sox fans rooting for the Yankees – how the heck has that happened?
Of the remaining ten games in the regular season, the Red Sox play the Yankees three times with the rest against the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays. Meanwhile, the team of the moment, the Tampa Bay Rays, who lie just two games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card race, have to play the Yankees seven times.
On paper that all bodes well for Boston – having to hope the Yankees win aside. It isn’t that simple though: The Yankees have had a bit of a flutter themselves in the last couple of weeks. Had the Red Sox maintained their summer form, they would have had the Divisional title sown up already. For their part, the Rays are on a roll, having taken the series against Boston at Fenway, their heads are high and they have confidence in themselves. Even the Orioles are playing well at the moment, despite being eliminated from the post-season race some time ago.
The biggest hurdle the Red Sox have to overcome is their own inertia. Perhaps more than any other game, defeat in baseball breeds a downward cycle of despair and a lack of belief. It is the job of the manager and coaching staff to turn that around… and in the face of relentless criticism and haranguing in the Boston media, that must be difficult.
Boston are forever reminded of the stellar payroll their players attract (I hesitate to say “earn” in many cases). It is the Yankees who used to be regarded as the team manufactured with the owner’s limitless bankroll, but the consortium at Fenway aren’t shy of flashing the cash as well as nurturing their own new talent through the ‘farm system’.
It is the next ten games which will show whether (to borrow a phrase being bandied about in the Boston papers) this year’s squad of players are Fat Cats or Dirt Dogs.
Let’s Go Red Sox!