D.P. Wire Report 9/30/11 11:32p.m.
As if there was any doubt as to who would win this year's D.P. MLB 2011 Disassociated Team of the Year Award, rumors that had rolled around late last night and came to fruition earlier today as the greatest skipper in Boston history was fired, walked away, failed to have his options picked up, wasn't in God's future plans for the team, however you want to phrase it. Yes, there can be no doubt that the only logical choice even before the rash reaction was the team that was nearly everyone's darling, the team that had the best preseason odds in Vegas, the team that should at the very least easily meet their predestined matchup against Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and the Phillies, the team the Boston Herald proudly proclaimed in March to be "The Best Red Sox Team Ever," and speculated to rival the 1927 Yankees, the Boston Red Sox. Afterall, after acquiring free agent Carl Crawford for just over $430,000 per extra base hit and their blockbuster trade to acquire Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres, how could this team that finished 3rd in the AL East last year behind the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees NOT all of a sudden be a clear cut favorite? One person who saw this coming was Yankee's G.M. Brian Cashman. "Yeah, I got into the C.C. sweepstakes just to get ol' Boy Blunder Theo (Epstein) over there to massively overpay for him, and boy, did he EVER. We never had a real interest in Crawford. And now look, by overpaying for him, Theo had no money left to help out his pitching staff. And when the injuries started to mount, we knew it was just a matter of time that they'd be in our rearview mirror, where they belong." And here, Cashman makes a good point. With a team ERA that hovered near 6.00 for the month of September, the Sox historic 9 game September Swoon was clearly fueled by a pitching staff who proceeded to bring their gas cans and Bic's game after game and largely contributed to the fact the the Red Sox couldn't string together a winning streak of longer than 1 game since they took a double-header from the Oakland A's on August 27th. As the losses kept compiling, the team began gripping, and the clubhouse began to fall apart. Some players (see: Gonzalez, Adrian) as recently as the previous weekend versus the Yankees had this misconceived perception that the Red Sox had already clinched, perhaps because of the name on the front of their jerseys, even though they hadn't. And then September 28th happened. A day that will arguably go down as one of the best in MLB history saw the Red Sox 9 game September lead vanished, and entered their game in Camden Yard against the Baltimore Orioles in a deadlock with the surging Tampa Bay Rays who were in St. Petersburg throwing their 2010 Cy Young candidate against the New York Yankees. Things started out great for Red Sox nation as their team scratched their way to a 3-2 lead while the hated Evil Empire roughed up David Price and held a 7-0 advantage that had members of the Red Sox nation who had invaded Baltimore absolutely giddy. But then, as if to foreshadow everything, mother nature began to dampen Sox fans spirits, and everything else in the Baltimore area. So, the Red Sox are forced into the clubhouse, where they start to watch the beginning of the end unfold. First, there was NESN's rain delay coverage, in which Boston Globe hack reporter Dan Shaughnessy promptly tempted karma by declaring the Rays game against the Yankees over, even though, as Yogi Berra once put, "It ain't over 'til it's over." "One thing we have eliminated tonight," Shaughnessy told NESN's Heidi Watney, "is the Red Sox's season is not going to end tonight. They live to play another day." At that cue, karma proved just what a b**** she can be. Suddenly in the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees couldn't get the Rays out. Hits, walks, hit batsmen, and an Evan Longoria 3 run blast later, and the Yankees lead was reduced to a precious 1 run. Uh oh. The rains began to subside and play was getting set to resume in Baltimore as we head to the bottom of the ninth in St. Pete. The first two Rays go down meekly, as Joe Maddon sends .108 1 HR Jonathan Papelbon nightmare inducer Dan Johnson to the plate. As John Kruk and Brian Anderson so accurately pointed out during ESPN's and Sun Sports' broadcasts of the game, he was up there for one reason. He ends up down in the count, down to his last strike, when this happened. 7-7. Now the Red Sox players have to go back out on the field knowing that suddenly, this is very likely a must win game in which they hold a precious one run lead. The mistakes begin to mount. First, this, on a Carl Crawford double in the top of the 8th. Then, this, in the top of the 9th to get out of a bases loaded jam which was set up by a David Ortiz mental error. And then finally the bottom of the 9th. Jonathan Papelbon, images of Dan Johnson's recent homerun in St. Pete to tie the game rattling around in his head, conjuring images of 2008, and tired from having to go a long way in Sunday's doubleheader against the Yankees and throwing a 28 pitch save the night before, takes the mound. Things look good for Red Sox nation as Papelbon gets Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds to strike out swinging on a total of 9 pitches. But then, Chris Davis steps to the plate and sends the first pitch down the right field line for a double to the corner. Kyle Hudson pinch runs for Davis. Nolan Reimold then comes up. After throwing 4 consecutive 4 seamers, the last two of which Reimold swung and missed, putting the Sox 1 strike away from fighting on, Papelbon grooves his fifth consecutive 4 seamer to Reimold, who promptly deposits it in deep right center for a ground rule double. Save blown. Tie game. Season in jeopardy. Then Robert Andino hits a little looper to left. Carl Crawford seems to have a bead on it to get the third out and at least extend the game and maybe the season, but he is slowed down by the weight of his huge paycheck in his back pocket, traps the ball, and the nonchalantly chucks the ball up the line, seeming to not realize this game, and their season, are streaking down the third base line in the form of Reimold. And the celebration was on. Dejected, the Red Sox trudge off the field wondering what just happened, knowing they now need to pray for the hated Yankees to come through. Meanwhile in St. Peterburg, Evan Longoria awaits in the on deck circle as the 3-3 score is posted, and there was much rejoicing. Then, as he is at the plate, they 4-3 final gets posted, and the crowd goes wild. Longoria mentions afterward how hard it was to concentrate. But, somehow, despite the crowd noise, he managed to send the Rays improbably into the baseball post season as the wild card a mere 3 minutes after the Andino walkoff, but more importantly, disassociate the whole Red Sox team and send them home dejected, knowing there would not be a 163rd game or October baseball for the 9th best team money could buy. Ironically, the Longoria homeun was occurring as the Sox entered the clubhouse following their own game, as the baseball gods refused to toy with them and put them out of their misery immediately. After the game, Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, who had made a surprisingly good start, especially with the Sox recent struggles in that department, had this to say, "I thought it was completely unfair. I couldn't believe Major League baseball sent us back on to the field after the rain delay to finish the game. Doesn't Bud Selig know who we are? We're the Red Sox, B****! We were up and the game had gone long enough to be official. But, no, they force us back out there, shaken, wet, and disconcerted at what we just saw in Tampa. I mean, to make Pap's try to close the game with images of Dan Johnson hitting a homerun, inconceivable!" The ugly season for the Sox ended in the most ugly way possible as Terry Francona fell on the sword for 25 guys who appeared disinterested, and underachieved. But not to worry, news has come out that Carl Crawford has decided to give back to confused and frustrated teammates and fans by holding a Monday parade in which confetti will be made from some of his shredded millions, and the shredded dreams of printouts of some of the preseason predictions being made in newspapers, periodicals, and websites nationwide. To add further insult to injury, though, the Tampa Bay Rays, who coincidentally enough will be the next team to play at Fenway Park on April 14th for the 2012 season opener have announced that they plan on having a banner hoisting ceremony there. The banner? It will proclaim the Red Sox as "2011 MLB Paper Champions." But the one real award they can take solace in, is the coveted D.P. 2011 MLB Disassociated Team of the Year.
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