September 28, 2006

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LONGSHOTS: Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
by Dave Long

Hereís a multiple choice question for you. Which description would you select to describe a season that will conclude on Sunday without a Red Sox trip to the playoffs for the first time since 2002? (A) Fun. (B) Heartbreaking. (C) Disastrous. (D) God awful. (E) Predictable. (F) Interesting. (G) All of the above. Even though itís still a few days from being over, since the white flag was raised over Fenway by trading their healthiest pitcher to San Diego on August 31, I think we can answer the question a little early too. I say itĎs All of the Above and hereís why:

Fun: Take your pick: David Ortiz; Jonathan Paplebon; and, before he got hurt, the exploits of ex-bad boy Manny Ramirez. Letís start with the rookie. He struck out 75 in 68 innings and gave up a paltry 40 hits. He went 4-2, saved a team-record 35 games before getting hurt and had an astonishing 0.92 ERA. All that makes me wonder how they could take numbers like those out of the all-important closer role in 2007, which it appears is what they plan to do. I say thatís the first mistake of a season that hasnít even arrived.

Watching Ortiz come through so many times in the clutch canít be described as anything but fun, can it? Then thereís breaking the 68-year-old team record for homers in a season held by Jimmy Foxx. To truly appreciate what Ortiz accomplished you need to understand just how good Foxx was. So for the folks who donít know much about history, when he retired only Babe Ruth had more lifetime home runs. In 1938 when he hit 50, Foxx batted .349 and drove in an astonishing 175 runs. While amazing, the team record RBI total probably wasnít all that surprising to those watching back in the day. As during a stretch when he knocked in over 100 12 straight times between 1929 and 1941, he also he drove in 156, 163 and 169. And while Iím not sure he provided the same late-game drama for Boston as Ortiz , I think you get the picture: Foxx was great. So to move into his class really says just how good Ortiz has become.

I donít believe that would have happened if Ortiz had never been put in the batting order a place in front of one Manny Ramirez Ė who is the Jimmy Foxx of his time. It appears Manny is going to be the scapegoat for the collapse and calls will go out to send him out of town. I mean itís one thing for a finger-pointing blowhard like Dan Shaughnessy to call for his head, but itís quite another story when a reasonable guy like the Gordon Edes does it too. I understand those who just canít live with the indifference Manny goes about his business with. Especially if he really did quit on the team when he could have played, as Edes believes. But if Theo does send him packing he better get something good in return. We saw what the line-up produced when Manny didnít play, as well as how he and Ortiz alone kept them afloat the month before it all went down the drain following the Yankees series. When heís hot, heís fun, but that does seem to fade Ė when things go bad heís just being Manny. I hope he doesnít go, but itís possible the time has come.

Heartbreaking: The uncertainty Jon Lester now faces goes here. Things like that are always stunners and remind all but those most whacked that these really are just games played for our entertainment. Not life and death as they are treated by some. Hopefully, this will have a happy ending for Lester and his family, where making it back to Fenway as the pitcher most believe he can be will simply be the cherry on top.

Disastrous: When you have the second-highest payroll in baseball and throw in the towel before September, can it be called anything else? Itís true the rash of injuries suffered by core players all at the same time could be called a disaster too. But the truth is, they lost six of seven to KC and Tampa before it all came apart Ė so you have to wonder if the injuries were really the cause, or just the final straw.

God awful: This pretty much sums up the lost weekend when they somehow lost five straight over three days and nights to the hated Yankees. And it happened at FENWAY PARK for crying out loud. It was the knockout punch that for all intents and purposes brought a shameful ending to their season, just as the Twins nearly overtook Detroit at the same time from the same 7 1/2-game-back spot Boston was in when the Yanks left town.

Predictable: I said it after last season and again before this one: if you rely on too many question mark pitchers and guys approaching 40 youíre asking for trouble. Last year it was Wade Miller, Matt Mantei, David Wells and the returning-from-surgery Curt Schilling. This year it was Schilling, Wells, Keith Foulke, Tim Wakefield and Rudy Seanez. Itís not that aging players canít be productive. Itís that they break down. And when you have as many question marks on a staff as theyíve had the last few years the risk is just too great. If nothing else, hopefully the last two years proved that.

Interesting: The 2006 season certainly had its moments, though outside of Ortiz most happened before mid-August. However, they will be nothing compared to the off-season as Theo tries to move Manny again, gives up on another one-year-and-out acquisition in Coco Crisp and retools an ineffective pitching staff, while talk radio is screaming San Diego made it to the Series with 15 Red Sox alumni on its roster. Yes I said FIFTEEN!

All this should make the off-season something to look forward to. Which Iíll gladly do, if the trio apologizes to fans who pay the highest ticket prices in baseball for giving up before September 1. To me thatís more inexcusable than the five-game sweep. You know George Steinbrenner would never have allowed that in New York and I donít think John Henry should have allowed it in Boston either.

Other than all that, it was a great year.

Dave Long can be heard on Sports Night with Dave Long nightly from 6 to 7 p.m. on 610 WGIR-AM


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09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
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02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat