Take Red Sox chemistry and nuke it, please

October 18, 2004|By LAURA VECSEY

BOSTON -- What a terrible twist of fate. Or maybe it was exactly as it should have been, considering the long, twisted fate of the Red Sox.

Their final hope to beat back the Yankees in this American League Championship Series rested in the hands of a sinkerball pitcher whose emotional well-being was, well, lower than a sinker.

Meanwhile, Derek Lowe's ERA in five appearances this season against the Yankees was a scary 9.28.

No wonder he talked about redeeming himself last night. No wonder Red Sox pitching coach Dave Wallace said he wished there were another option for last night's start in Game 4 of this American League Championship Series other than Lowe.

"But there is no option," he said about Lowe, soon to be a free agent looking for a new, less cursed home.

Talk about a vote of confidence.

Talk about another vote when Lowe, after giving up a triple to Hideki Matsui in the sixth, was pulled for reliever Mike Timlin, whose ALCS ERA was a mere 13.50. So the Yankees took back the lead and Lowe was off to the dugout and the shower and free agency.

It was about this time that it seemed appropriate to suggest that the Red Sox start thinking about the inevitable this winter:

Break up the Idiots.

That should be the mandate for the Boston Brain Trust.

Tear it up. Fumigate the clubhouse. Or at least get a little less goofy.

Make some major changes -- and that means more than just the mandatory haircut for Johnny Damon.

Damon's Samson locks didn't give him strength against the Yankees, nor did it give Damon an American League Championship Series batting average above the Mendoza line.

Then there was Ramiro Mendoza, the Red Sox reliever who balked home a run in the demoralizing 19-8 loss in Game 3. What was he thinking?

What was Manny Ramirez doing, running into outs?

What was this entire Red Sox Nation thinking, so certain this was going to be their year and then allowing the shredded ankle tendon of Curt Schilling to set them back so far, this baseball town would start soothing their souls with the Patriots' 20-game win streak?

"We were coming off a great series against Anaheim with a lot of momentum. We had Pedro [Martinez] and [Curt] Schilling in the first two games, Bronson [Arroyo] in the third. We thought we'd be up 3-0 right now, but there was a switch," Damon said.

A switch, yes.

Lights out, Boston.

No team has ever come back from the kind of hole the Red Sox had dug, going down so hard, so fast to a Yankees team that ratcheted up their effort and focus and got some pulverizing results.

The Red Sox need to find a new angle, a new mantra. No more Cowboy Up. No more Idiots. It didn't work in 2003, and this October, the Red Sox needed a miracle and Schilling's ankle to spontaneously heal to again come within five outs of a World Series.

First baseman Kevin Millar came to Boston and tried like the dickens to laugh the Curse of the Bambino out of the clubhouse. He has been a catalyst for change, and it was an admirable effort.

Millar launched some catchy marketing campaigns and infused Red Sox Nation with a carefree attitude that belied their own brand of bludgeoning offense.

The aim of the Cowboy Up/Idiots was to put a million miles between this group of players and all the all the horrific stuff that happened in 1946, 1948, 1967, 1975, 1978, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1995, 1998 and 1999.

All those postseason implosions have done nothing but make Red Sox Nation the most insecure sports club in the universe. Now, with the Yankees clubbing the Red Sox into submission, the emotional carnage from this demoralizing ALCS isn't going to just evaporate.

This hangover will carry over into spring -- exactly the kind of baggage this group had been attempting to dump into the Charles River.

There's no way the Red Sox can emotionally recharge for another run at the Yankees next season, not without some major changes. The twin burdens of wanting to win a World Series and wanting to beat the Yankees to get there -- that's just too much to bear, even for 25 strong, hairy Idiots men.

"Sure we have a plan. We started talking about 2005 in 2002. You don't go into the winter and decide then what you're going to do," Theo Epstein said last night.

The boy wonder who knocked on Curt Schilling's door last November and refused to leave Arizona until Schilling agreed to come to Boston, Epstein didn't want to talk about the Red Sox plans for this winter.

"We win four games in a row and we're in the World Series," he said before Game 4.

"Momentum in baseball is all about the starting pitching performance. From an emotional standpoint, it doesn't take more than a good start to regain the momentum," he said.

Epstein refused to believe that the entire Red Sox season had been nullified by a startling implosion by the Red Sox in the first three games.

He said the Red Sox will not alter their game plan for off-season moves just because the ALCS was where the team fall into an unfathomable abyss -- a hole no other team had ever come back from and won in post-season history.

"Our goal every year is to put ourselves in position to win the World Series. We want to be a team with a chance. Nothing that happens over a four or seven-game span could change that," Epstein said.

We shall see. The Red Sox have a slew of major players whose contracts are up. Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Orlando Cabrera and Derek Lowe headline the group.

In the same way the Red Sox were willing to trade Nomar Garciaparra this past summer, they have to be thinking it's time to cut the cord with Martinez, too.

Time to unload the burden from the shoulders of this downtrodden crew of Red Sox. Enough's enough.

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