Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Nation Blame Game

I know I predicted the Red Sox Annual Collapse, but I never envisioned this. Quite frankly, I didn’t even want it to go down like this. Sure, I’m glad my Yanks will cruise to the postseason, but I almost feel a little guilty about the downfall of the Sox. Plus, it kind of sucks the excitement out of the month of September, and especially that four games in three days series coming up.

There’s only one word to describe what’s happened to the Red Sox: embarrassing. For the first time since Aaron Boone blasted his deep homer into the New York night, I feel bad for my many (actually nearly all of my) friends who are among the members of the Nation—and I’m sure they want the pity of a Yanks fan. But this downfall has been hard to watch for all of us, like the guy at the funeral who breaks out into tears. You feel bad, and it’s embarrassing for all involved, so you turn away and act like you don’t see it.

And make no mistake, this is a funeral.

The 2006 Red Sox are dead, and someone killed them. Folks, we got ourselves a genuine whodunit.

I know I’m not a member of the Nation—I just live in its capital city—but I love it when the Nation plays their favorite game. I’ve always wanted to play, so this year I’m going to MC the deal. And you know what game I’m talking about. So cue the theme music and the cheesy deep-voiced announcer, bring up the curtain—because it’s time for:

The Red Sox Nation Blame Game!

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Red Sox Nation Blame Game! I’ll be your host for the evening. Let me introduce my co-hosts, Lindsey Lohan and Eva Mendez, who will help me by standing in the back corner and making out for the duration of the game.

Who are today’s contestants, Bob?

First up, we have Terry Francona, Manager: Clearly Terry, you’re overrated as a manager. Everyone knows this, even if the Nation turns a blind eye most of the time. The Sox won in 2004 more because you didn’t make moves and let the team be idiots. Your pitching changes are questionable at best, though clearly you’re no Grady (but who is?). But we can’t put this on your head, Terr. Everyone in the organization thought Beckett would be a great #2—he’s not; Nation can’t blame you for Manny-being-Pussy; the front office didn’t get you any help at the deadline—until it was too late; You didn’t hit Matt Clement in the head with that line drive or trade Bronson; And you certainly couldn’t do anything about Tek or Trot or any of the other injuries. You’re doing the best you can.

So Terry… you’re off the hook! Congrats. Here’s your parting gift: You get to go on record as the manager of one of the worst months in Red Sox History! And here’s a complimentary Blame Game Towel for the next time you cough up some blood!

Next up, Curt Schilling, Ace: Curt, we know how much you love the spotlight, so we’ll get right to it: Your 4+ ERA and your 14-7 W-L aren’t exactly ace-type numbers (especially on a team that was leading the division almost all year); You’ve been inconsistent, notably against the Yankees, the Royals (when you gave up the most extra base hits in history) and a Sunday night against Anaheim when I sat behind home plate at Fenway—I thought you were throwing balloons, so many balls we’re floating out of the Park. Plus, you’re a loud-mouth who actually thinks people care about your opinions on the presidential race, steroids, and gun control. But the Nation can’t pin this collapse on you either, for the same reason Francona gets off the hook: too many circumstances are out of your hand, and you can only pitch once every five days. Plus, you haven’t been awful, and you’re better than Randy Johnson anyway.

So Curt… you’re free to go! For your consolation prize, you get to disappear into mediocrity for the rest of the season as the Sox waste one of the few remaining years of your diminishing talent! Look on the bright side, now you’ll have more time to play EverQuest in October!

Next… Everyone join me in welcoming Josh Beckett to the Blame Game! Josh, welcome to the real show. Sure, you beat the Yankees in 2003 in dramatic fashion, and you were an ESPN Mag cover boy despite not accomplishing anything else in your career; But here’s your portion of the blame: Your stats in your last year at Florida were worse than Carl Pavano’s in his last year there, but that didn’t stop the Sox from claiming you were their ace of the future; Your first year in Boston has been the defining season for my theory that a pitcher’s Win-Loss record is the most misleading statistic in all of sport; You’re leading the league in home-run balls, a statistic a teammate described as, “Pitch—blam! Pitch—blam! The same thing every time.”; Plus, you’ve openly admitted you’re stubborn and not likely to change your style.

But you don’t win the Blame Game! It’s not your fault the Sox flushed $30 million down the crapper and signed you to an extension; of course you signed it. And it’s not really your fault you’re completely overrated. You had one amazing postseason and have been barely mediocre since—it’s not your fault no one watched the National League anymore, or they would have seen that.

Thanks for playing, Josh! Here’s your parting gift: Getting torn to pieces for the next four years by the Nation and Red Sox media, the very same ones you so boldly claimed you couldn’t wait to pitch in front of! At least you’ll have your unearned $30 million to keep you company.

Coming to the stage now: Theo Epstien! Let’s welcome the WonderChild. Thanks for coming, Theo, that’s a nice gorilla suit you’ve got on. So you made the ballsiest trade in all of sports in 2004, dishing local icon Nomar G. for two average-at-best players. And boy, do we all know how that turned out. Personally, it still stings, let me tell you.

Must be hot in that gorilla suit.

But hold on! My producer is telling me… We’ve got a special surprise for you, Theo! (As we cross game-show lines…) Coming on the stage right now, it’s… oh my… I can’t wait to see your reaction on this… We’ve got a few special guests for you!!! Coming to the stage right now… it’s…

Every crappy player you’ve acquired since 2004! Wow! Look, they’re all here! Edgar Renteria, how are you? Matt Clement! How’s the head? Josh Beckett, thanks for coming back! Coco Crisp, what’s shakin’? And the bullpen guys, Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez! Javier Lopez, nice of you to make it. But wait, THERE’S MORE!

My producer is telling me we just got a phone call… you’ll never guess who it was! It was Johnny Damon, Dave Roberts, Orlando Cabrera, Bronson Arroyo, Pedro Martinez, Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez.

They called in to send their apologies that they couldn’t make it—we’re not sure why though. Maybe you know, Theo? No? Interesting.

We’re not finished yet! We’ve got a recorded message from Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle, and Roy Oswalt… let’s take a listen…

Hey Theo! We just wanted to congratulate you on your appearance on The Nation Blame Game! We’re big fans of the show. We would have loved to have been there, but apparently you couldn’t get in touch with us at the trade deadline. We couldn’t have been more available without posting an ad on craigslist, but that’s okay. We just wanted to thank you, Theo, for saving us from being on a third place team with no hope of making the playoffs. Really, we can’t thank you enough. Good luck on the show!

Wasn’t that nice of them, folks?

Well, it’s that time. Time to pick a winner. And I don’t see how the Nation can turn down the obvious evidence! This humble host doesn’t think there’s really any doubt. Without further ado, the winner of the 2006 Red Sox Nation Blame Game is:

Theo Epstien! Congratulations!

And now, here’s your grand prize…

You get to be hung out to dry by Larry Lucchino and the Red Sox ownership—and then you’ll be crucified by the media and the Nation itself! And all just for destroying the first shred of momentum the franchise had in 86 years—not to mention catapulting the Yankees back to the forefront of baseball.

Theo, thanks for playing. You can put your gorilla suit back on now. You’ll want to be incognito for awhile.


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