Last night the axe finally dropped and the Red Sox 2010 season turned into a pumpkin. Thanks to the triple whammy of New York and Tampa winning, and the Red Sox losing the Sox have no chance of making the playoffs. Technically they were eliminated when the Yankees won, the walk-off loss to Chicago was merely the cherry on top of the crap sundae. It’s a shame because by all rights this Sox team should have folded up when Youkilis went down, yet they still have a strong shot at putting together the fourth best record in the American League — at the moment their record is identical to the AL West winning Texas Rangers. I still hold out hope that over the last five games the Sox can scrap together the three wins necessary to hit the 90 win plateau. Nine wins above .500 is quite a nice season, all things considered, especially when you consider all the roadblocks thrown the team’s way this year. While I suspect the Manager of the Year award is going to go to Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire, or possibly Texas’ Rin Washington, for my money the most deserving candidate is Terry Francona.
If there is one piece of consolation it’s that in every other division of baseball, except for the aforementioned AL West, the Red Sox would not be in the playoffs. They would still be in contention three others, but it’s not entirely true that the brutal competitive nature is the only thing standing between the Sox and the playoffs. Though I do suppose you could argue that their record would look better if they didn’t have to play New York and Tampa thirty-eight times a season.
All in all, this has been an immensely frustrating season, filled with injuries and underperformances. Yet despite all that, there was a moment in the top of the ninth on Sunday, when the Sox scored the tying, then go-ahead runs against Mariano Riveria (five blow saves from him, only three more than Papelbon) when I really thought they were going to pull it off. The parallels to the fateful ALCS 2004 Game 4 were so strong. Dramatic steals, dramatic hits. The Improbable really did seem possible. Then Papelbon went out and Papelblew it and the rest is history. All of which means two things to me. The first being how rare it is magic like 2004 happens (and believe me when I say I’m watching the Four Days in October 30 for 30 next seek). The second is that such moments are so sweet and why we watch sports, so you can’t let the crap that usually follows ruin the moment. Which Is why instead of focusing on the whimper with which the season ended I’ll choose to remember the scrappy bunch of cast-offs and untested youngsters who never quite and gave the defending World Champs all they could handle.