In a season in which I’ve been to more Red Sox games than any other, last night I officially lay the 2012 Red Sox to rest. Sure, at 15.5 games back in the AL East the Red Sox have been over and done with for some time now. Bet despite my grief, I needed closure. It felt very much like a funeral as I walked through the Yawkey Way entrance.
I can vividly remember buying a ticket package last January. I specifically chose the package that I did because it included a Yankees vs Red Sox game on September 11th – a late season game bound to have playoff implications. Instead I watched a decimated Red Sox team trying their best to play spoiler. As my girlfriend scanned the starting line-up on the centerfield scoreboard, unprovoked she stated, “I only recognize two names up there.” Whether you’re a Red Sox fan or not, almost everyone in Boston (except Mayor Menino) has gotten used to rattling off names like Papelbon, Big Papi, Beckett, A-Gone, Youk, and Pedroia. Instead last night’s lineup was filled with Loney, Lavarnway, Kalish, and Ciriaco. Only the names of Ellsbury and Pedroia resonated with the casual fan.
The game itself was bittersweet, for several reasons. Sweet in the sense that Jacoby Ellsbury had a walk-off single, one which would drop the Yankees back into a tie for the AL East lead with the Orioles. As much as I want to root hard for the Yankees to somehow fade and miss the playoffs, it just ain’t happening – the rest of their schedule is brutally easy and mostly at home. It was also sweet to see Dustin Pedroia hit a home run to tie the game after the Sox found themselves down 3-2. Pedroia and Ellsbury absolutely have to stay – I just hope that Ellsbury wants to, and Scott Boras doesn’t play spoiler.
Fenway was stuffed to the max, which frankly was surprising to me. I guess the Fenway faithful will always get up for Red Sox vs Yankees, regardless of how poorly the hometown team is playing. I managed to find seats in the second row directly behind the Sox dugout, and it was more of the same – sloshed 60-year-old businessmen sitting in front of us, similarly sloshed 22-year-old college kids from Boston and Philadelphia sitting behind us and heckling Yankees first baseman Nick Swisher to no end. Swisher, to his credit, was a good sport and went back and forth with people in the stands on several occasions. He clearly has some “idiot” in him, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he’ll end up in Boston next season. On the Red Sox side Jacoby Ellsbury was one of the few to acknowledge the fans as he ran into the dugout each inning.
While the house was packed and the game was tight, there’s no doubt that the Red Sox lineup was missing many of the old personalities that’s made this rivalry great in recent years. The electricity that you’d expect in any Yankees vs Red Sox series, let alone a September series, just wasn’t there. Bobby Valentine seemed to trudge out to the mound as he pulled Lester from the game, and it felt very much like the good times had passed the team by.
Realistically, it might take 2 or 3 seasons for the Red Sox to truly emerge as a contender once again. And while there’s no doubt that Red Sox fans will continue to head to Fenway in droves, it won’t truly be the Fenway I’ve come to love until the electricity is back in the air.
For now we have the Patriots – New England is now solely focused on you, Mr. Brady. Go get ‘em.