Today is September 1st. For Red Sox fans the day holds special significance, Two years ago today marked the beginning of the end of what had previously been a successful 2011 season.
After a lackluster 11-15 start in April, the Red Sox had caught fire and gone 19-10 in May, 16-9 in June, 20-8 in July and 17-12 in August. On September 1, 2011 the Red Sox had a commanding 9 game lead in the American League East. Over the next 30 days and 27 games, they would lose in every way possible, finishing with a 7-20 mark in September, while becoming the first team in Major League history to drop a nine game lead in September and miss the playoffs.
It was about Jon Lester, John Lackey and Josh Beckett being blamed for beer and chicken gate. It was about lame duck manager Terry Francona losing his grip on players who had gone tone deaf to his managerial style and it was about a team who’s own corrosive personality had eroded it from within.
And that’s what keeps Boston fans up at night. It’s the nagging prick of conscience that won’t go away. It’s the dull, throbbing headache that’s there the morning after. It’s the beautiful day ruined by the crap colored glasses through which Red Sox fans can sometimes view the baseball world. Older Red Sox fans understand this far better than young Red Sox fans who’ve enjoyed relatively recent success.
The 2013 Red Sox have a slimmer lead but there is more hope heading into the gun lap. Their manager, John Farrell, appears firmly in charge of his team and the players quite obviously respect him. Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett have been swapped out for Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Jake Peavy and a rededicated, healthy and slimmed down Lackey. Personally I have more faith in Koji Uehara down the stretch than I did Jonathan Papelbon in 2011.
There is also one other huge factor that makes this edition of the Red Sox more likely to grab a playoff berth; they like one another. Teammates go to dinner and watch ballgames with one another on off days. Watch them in the dugout. It’s clear they are unified. Their collective reaction to the Boston bombings was a galvanizing force in the city and for the team. Their 20+ last at bat wins make them the 2013 edition of what the Orioles were in 2012.
This September will be different than 2011. Even if they lose the lead and miss the playoffs it will be different. After the mean spirited and thoroughly depressing proceedings of the 2012 season, this Red Sox team has already far exceeded expectations, pulling off a worst to first magic act for almost the entire season. Red Sox fans like this team. That should be enough.
No it’s not. Win it all dammit!