Regular readers of this blog are aware that I am a Yankees fan, although I try not to indulge myself about baseball excessively. Nevertheless, occasionally my nature as a fan comes through.
After the way the Red Sox blew their lead last night, I had to check the Boston papers to see the reaction of Red Sox nation. This piece from the Herald is enough to warm the heart of the Big Stein:
The Red Sox swallowed a bitter, 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays last night, though their magic number nonetheless dwindled to four. That is all that stands between the Sox and a fourth playoff spot in the past five years. Yet because their lead in the AL East has been trimmed to a mere 2 ½ games on the hard-charging New York Yankees, many Sox followers simply cannot help themselves.Sure the Red Sox have blown 12 games out of their 14.5 game division lead. Sure they've lost 5 of their last 6 to the Yankees, and 11 out of their last 21 overall. What's really important is getting into the playoffs. This swoon? Just a tune-up.
We’ll never make it. We’re doooooooooooomed.
“It means a lot, but it means nothing as far as winning a World Series,” Sox manager Terry Francona said before the game when asked about the importance of a division title. “It means a lot for what you set out to accomplish, I think. I don’t think there’s any getting around that, and I don’t think we want to. But when it’s all said and done, it won’t have any bearing on how far we get into the postseason.”
Some of us thought Red Sox history changed forever in 2004. We thought the inferiority complex went out with the 86-year drought, the Curse of the Bambino, and all the other nonsensical stupidities that unnecessarily burdened a franchise and its followers.
Maybe we were wrong.
Maybe Red Sox fans need something silly to worry about because they are unhappy unless they are miserable.
Lest there be any doubt, the Sox are in tune-up mode with regard to the postseason. For them, at least, the Yankees are not as much of a concern as Eric Gagne, Daisuke Matsuzaka or Hideki Okajima. The Sox now lead the Detroit Tigers by seven games with 10 to play, and they are not about to sacrifice potential postseason success simply so they can say they won the division.
“Is it going to make or break things? No,” Red Sox captain Jason Varitek said of a potential division title. “Do I want it? Yeah...”
So really, what’s more important here: when you play, or against whom?
This Herald columnist has it wrong. What's really important is neither who you play or when you play, it's how you're playing. And if you're playing poorly enough to blow a 14.5 game lead, and to lose a lead of 2.5 games with just 10 games left to play, then you're not playing well enough to go very far. How many teams can you think of that crumbled in the stretch and then rebounded to win titles? Thought so.
The Red Sox aren't doomed, but if they do blow their division lead, it will be a sign that you shouldn't expect anything from them come the postseason.