Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Housemartins, redux

Games 150 through 152 – Red Sox

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 1
Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3
Record: 90-62

“I…I…I…I say, don’t they know it is wrong? It makes me anxious.” – The Housemartins, Anxious

I have a theory. Or, put differently, I’ve decided that I need to form a theory to ward off the psychic damage from the series of gutpunch losses the Sox have endured over the past week. The Sox have been tied or ahead in the 8th inning of 4 of the last 5 games and managed only 1 victory over that time. The losses have been epic, too – a mismanaged gack to the Yankees, a 1-run contest that ended with the bases loaded and 2 out and Big Papi at the plate, and yet another Gagne implosion.

Anyway, the theory. It says here that the Sox brain trust decided 2 weeks or so ago that the team was a lock to make the playoffs, but that they were in fairly poor shape to make a meaningful run once they got there. Okajima’s gassed, Matsuzaka’s been terrible of late, Youkilis was dragging even before he got plunked on the wrist, Manny’s still suffering from his oblique injury, Wakefield’s been brutal, etcetera, etcetera, in the midst of life we are in death, etcetera.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have been exceptionally hot and notably healthy. A full-blown pursuit of the division title may, in fact, result in a Pyrrhic victory with the New Yorkers entering the postseason healthy, confident, and firing on all cylinders, while the Sox reel into October on fumes. The Greek chorus of Steve Phillipi, John Kruks, and Michael Kays will equate a Yankee division title to a 1978-style choke on the part of the Bostons, but there’s a huge difference – in 1978, the 2nd-place team in the AL East stayed home in October.

Recognizing this, Tito and Theo (with the help of Alvin and Simon) made a critical decision to deemphasize the regular season, weighing the risk of losing the division and the corresponding home-field advantage with the reward of having a mostly-rested ballclub to take on the deep and talented field in the AL playoffs. They’d never admit this, of course, but the actions over the past week have spoken loudly on this point.

Gagne got the ball last night in the 8th, instead of Delcarmen or Timlin. That’s a management team trying to figure out if they can trust the guy in the postseason. (Hint – the answer rhymes with truck blow). Matsuzaka’s regular turn will be pushed back 3 days. As a result, Clay Buchholz will get the ball tonight, facing immense pressure to arrest the Sox’ slide in only his 3rd major league start – that’s not the action of a team that’s putting the regular season title at the top of the list of priorities.

I’m quite certain that this explanation is spot-on, because the alternative is that the Sox have completely spit the bit, run out of gas, and are in real danger of not only coughing up the division, but replicating 2005’s first-round capitulation. And I’m not prepared to contemplate that possibility. I desperately want the Sox to win the division for the first time in a decade, and I’m terrified of the Yankees come October. Thankfully, I don’t make the decisions ‘round Yawkey Way.

Misery, she sure is having her way around these parts.

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