Last year was a great year to be a Red Sox fan. This year, not so much.
After going all the way to a world championship in 2013, the 2014 Sox have stumbled and wheezed their way to a 39-49 record. They’re in last place in the AL East, behind even the similarly disappointing Rays; in fact, they have a worse record than the hapless Twins. Only the (surprisingly) terrible Rangers and the (unsurprisingly) terrible Astros are keeping them out of the AL basement.
Given how unwatchable my favorite team has been, I’ve basically treated the whole first half as a three-month nap. It’s given me a fresh appreciation for fans of terrible teams – I haven’t the slightest idea how they stick it out.
Anyway, it’s taken a blockbuster trade to rouse me from my slumber. It helps that this deal has nothing at all to do with the Red Sox, other than a familiar name heading one of the teams.
Let’s take a look.
I know I’m not breaking new ground by saying this, but it needs to be said: Players just don’t stick around like they used to. Thanks to free agency and the growing financial disparity between different teams, it’s far more common for a star player to move on to greener pastures than to stay and end his career in the city that made him famous. Just take a look at recent Red Sox history:
- Nomar Garciaparra was the face of the franchise for the better part of a decade, joining Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez to form the “Holy Trinity” of shortstops. He was a Rookie of the Year, a two-time batting champion and a four-time All-Star. At the 2004 trade deadline, he ended up in Chicago as part of a four-team trade. The Sox won the World Series without him.
- Pedro Martinez was one of the best pitchers Sox fans had ever seen, winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards and leading the league in ERA four times in his six years with the team. He signed with the Mets as a free agent right after that ’04 championship.
- Manny Ramirez was one of the best hitters of his generation, a legendary slugger who made an All-Star roster every year of his Boston career and belted his 500th home run with the club. Just months after that historic shot, and less than a year removed from winning his second title with the Sox, he was traded to the Dodgers.
In the span of exactly four years, Red Sox fans lost two Hall of Fame-caliber stars and one beloved franchise icon. Granted, we also enjoyed two world titles in that time, so I’m not exactly complaining. Still, it hurt to see them go.
I bring this up today, of course, because the big news is that David Ortiz has signed a contract extension that will take him through the 2015 season, plus a vesting option for 2016 and a club option for 2017. Now, that’s still not a guarantee of anything – if the past decade has taught us anything, it’s that there are no guarantees – but it definitely looks like Papi will spend the rest of his career in Boston.
As I write this, the Red Sox are two games into the World Series, which is awesome. What’s even more awesome is that this comes on the heels of one of the worst seasons in franchise history. It’s almost as though 2012 never happened.
While it seems so distant given the disaster that was last year, it wasn’t at all long ago that the Red Sox were really, really good. Between 2002 and 2011, they won 90 or more games eight times, went to the postseason six times and (of course) won it all in ’04 and ’07. For that matter, they were pretty good for several before that stretch; the last time the Sox had had a losing season was all the way back in 1997. Even given how badly 2011 ended, that was still a 90-win season.
Their 69-win campaign in 2012 was a collapse of epic proportions.
It was so epic, in fact, that I’m given to wonder how other teams in similar situations have done. As best I can tell, there were 15 teams in the last 25 seasons that suffered implosions at least somewhat comparable to Boston’s last year. How did they happen, and what happened afterward?
Let’s take a look.
Daniel Nava walks on seven pitches.