Despite the panic that currently grips Red Sox fans, odds remain in Boston’s favor when it comes to securing a wild-card playoff berth. Two-game lead with six to play? Just win three of six and you’re in. The Angels and Rays aren’t going to run the table. What’s the big deal?
The Red Sox are going to beat the Yankees tonight because Jon Lester is Boston’s best pitcher and the Yankees don’t need to win the game. There’s no question that the Red Sox will open the playoffs next Friday in Detroit against 24-game winner Justin Verlander. It’s likely the Red Sox will get killed off against the Tigers, who may be the best team in the American League.
The bigger question, locally, is what happened to a Boston club that just two months ago ranked with Philadelphia as the two best teams in major league baseball?
Imagine we were on the set of the TV show Body of Proof, which uses Providence as its home base of operation. Dr. Megan Hunt would slice open the Red Sox carcass after the team is eliminated from the playoffs and find many potential causes of death.
First thing out would be the lower vertebrae in Clay Buchholz’s spine.
“Mr. Buchholz was diagnosed with several stress fractures in his lower back in mid-June,” the coroner dictated into her audio recorder. “Tsk. Tsk. There is an anonymous note in the victim’s front pants pocket that suggests team management decided to keep this injury a secret until the trade deadline on July 31 so that opposing teams wouldn’t hold the Red Sox up in a trade.
“Was this the right thing to do? Or is Red Sox management guilty of homicide?” Dr. Hunt asked, looking around the autopsy room.
“Don’t look at me!” exclaimed chief medical examiner Curtis Brumfield. “I’m blaming the players. Some of them got hurt. Others didn’t do their jobs.”
Dr. Hunt is baffled.
“I don’t follow baseball,” she said. “What other players are you talking about?”
“Well, the heart of the team, Kevin Youkilis, developed bursitis in his hip and then a sports hernia, rendering him useless in September,” Brumfield pointed out. “But the bottom line is, the Red Sox pitching staff fell apart. The general manager paid a former Angel named John Lackey 82 million dollars over 5 years to be the No. 3 starter and he has been the worst pitcher in recent franchise history.”
“This Lackey person was a former Angel?” Hunt asked. “Was he brought back to life after dying? That interests me. Tell me more.”
Brumfield rolled his eyes.
“When Lackey pitched for the Angels -- who are an American League baseball team -- he once suggested that somebody should ‘blow up Fenway Park.’ He hated the place because fly balls become doubles off the short left field wall known as The Green Monster.”
“If he hated Fenway Park, why would he come to work there?” Hunt asked.
“Because they gave him $82 million for five years … are you even listening to me, Doctor Hunt?”
“Okay, I get it. Mr. Buchholz hurt his back. Mr. Youkilis acquired two injuries which hampered his range of motion. Mr. Lackey was unhappy in his new work place. Perhaps he should have remained an Angel?”
Brumfield watched as Dr. Hunt began to examine the lower half of the Red Sox cadaver.
“These legs seem atrophied,” she said. “This body does not appear to be in good shape. Do the Red Sox not run much? Do they walk a lot?”
“Yes, they walk a lot, but they don’t run when they get on base. They paid a very fast runner named Carl Crawford $142M over seven years to add some speed to the lineup but he hasn’t produced. He has 18 stolen bases for the season and a .295 on-base percentage.”
“Well,” Hunt replied, coldly, “you can’t run if you’re not on base, right?”
“Very good, Dr. Hunt. Now you’re catching on.”
Hunt reached into the back pants pocket of the Red Sox uniform and pulled out a huge wallet.
“This team has a lot of money,” she said. “Was that the motive for murder? Were they robbed?”
“Some people say they were complacent because they had so much money,” he admitted. “The Red Sox had a 10-game lead in the wild-card race in August and never felt threatened. The talk show hosts didn’t even talk about them on the radio. They were so fixated on the Patriots that the Red Sox spent the whole month of August getting fat.”
Hunt tugged at the carcass’s midsection.
“Yes, definitely some fat here,” she said. “Is this where the pitching staff lives?”
“Well, that could be Matt Albers,” Brumfield said. “He pitched well for half the season and then ran out of steam. Baseball players are allowed to carry some extra weight. Boston’s best hitters are Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz, who are both a little chubby.”
“Then they must have cardiovascular disease,” Hunt said. “Let me cut the chest open. This could have been just a simple heart attack.”
“Some of the media critics have said the Red Sox may have lacked heart,” Brumfield told the doctor. “Not all of them. Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia have all kinds of heart but they can’t force people like J.D. Drew to care about winning and losing, not when they are making so much money.”
“That name ‘J.D. Drew’ sounds familiar,” Hunt said.
“Oh, he spends a lot of time in this hospital, getting MRIs,” Brumfield said. “He has a permanent seat in the Disabled List’s waiting room. I think he’s here for 60 days right now. His picture is on the wall in our MRI chamber. They call it the J.D. Drew Room.”
Dr. Hunt stroked her chin.
“Yes, I’ve seen that picture. Handsome fellow. Is he married? Oh, forget I said that. Let’s decide on a cause of death before tonight’s show ends. We need to wrap this up. How about if I said the 2011 Red Sox were murdered by team management, injuries, a general lack of conditioning, bad luck, and an overinflated ego from all the good publicity they received before the season began?”
“That sounds good,” Brumfield agreed. “But you forgot to mention the real murderer.”
“Who would that be?” Hunt asked.
“The New York Yankees,” Brumfield said. “Put them in there. They got beat up by the Red Sox 11 times in their first 15 meetings this season but they killed the Red Sox with their consistency.”
“Should we send the police out to bring them in?” Hunt said.
“No, the Tigers will kill them off in mid-October. I think CSI New York is doing that homicide.”
“Okay, then,” Hunt said. “Case closed. Red Sox are dead and the Yankees will soon be dead. Good night, everyone.”