Before Spring Training, Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman labeled the Boston Red Sox as the team to beat. In September, everyone who played them seemed to agree.
Thanks to a 7-20 record down the stretch, the Red Sox blew a nine game advantage over the Rays in the standings, thereby authoring the “greatest” final month collapse by any team in baseball history. Since the fabled sale of Babe Ruth in 1919, such disappointment has been an integral part of life in Red Sox nation. From the Babe to Bucky to Buckner and Boone, the Red Sox have regularly been on the short-end of many historic moments. Now, you can add Baltimore to that list.
Of course, before the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, all of the team’s most tragic moments could be explained away by the Curse of the Bambino. That one catchall was the perfect way for Red Sox fans to both retain their passion and their sanity. Because Boston has won two World Series since then, however, that security blanket has been stripped away. So, as Red Sox Nation begins to deal with the aftermath of the team’s September to misremember, below are a few suggestions for a new curse that the Fenway faithful can use once they are done with the four letter ones.
“Curse of Adrian Gonzalez”
According to Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox September collapse was part of a divine plan. Ironically, that assessment hasn’t proven to be popular with the Boston media, which spent decades perpetuating “the curse of the Bambino”. Apparently, only malevolent forces interact with baseball?
You really can’t blame Gonzalez for seeking answers beyond the earthly realm. Much like Red Sox fans before 2004, the All Star first baseman has been no stranger to late season disappointment. Not only did Gonzalez play on the 2007 Padres, a team that forfeited a division title by losing the last three games of the season, but last year he found himself in the middle of a more substantial collapse. After leading the N.L. West by as many as eight games in the loss column at the end of August, the 2010 Padres proceeded to lose 10 games in a row as well as 23 of 37 over a period that culminated in the team’s elimination on the final day. This year’s Red Sox free fall may have been more dramatic and historic, but for Gonzalez, it was still just another September.
“Curse of Mark Teixeira”
The reason the Red Sox had such a pressing need for Adrian Gonzalez is because Mark Teixeira spurned the team’s free agent offer two years earlier. Adding insult to injury, the coveted first baseman decided to sign with the rival Yankees. Was the Boston hierarchy bitter? Well, after the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the teams’ first eight meetings in 2009, owner John Henry couldn’t resist tweaking the first baseman who jilted him by tweeting “The MT curse?”.
As it turned out, Henry was partially right. Teixeira, who wound up hitting .351/.461/.662 against the Red Sox in 2009, not only helped the Yankees even the season series, but also led the Bronx Bombers to another World Series championship. Since Teixeira signed, the Yankees have made the playoffs in all three seasons, while the Red Sox have failed to win a single post season game. If there are any curses associated with the Yankees’ first baseman, they’re probably being uttered throughout New England.
“Curse of Bill Buckner”
When the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, “all was forgiven”. Or was it? According to the Fenway Faithful, that championship cleansed away the inequities of past goats like Bill Bucker, but maybe it was the Boston fan base that needed absolution.
Since 2004, the Red Sox have added another championship, but Buckner’s stigma has remained. In fact, on September 4, Larry David scripted a brilliant Curb Your Enthusiasm episode around the lingering resentment expressed toward the beleaguered first baseman. Even though the episode provides light-hearted vindication for Buckner, the very fact that it was made suggests his error in the 1986 World Series continues to taint his long career. On the same day the program first aired, the Red Sox began to fritter away their nine game wild card lead over the Rays. Coincidence? Or, maybe Buckner’s rare public appearance was a harbinger of things to come?
“Curse of the Message”
When the Yankees marched into Fenway Park at the end of August, it was viewed as an opportunity for the Red Sox to finally relegate their rival to the status of wild card. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, however, Red Sox starter John Lackey decided it was more important to send a message. After taking exception to the over exuberance of Francisco Cervelli, who clapped his hands upon crossing home plate following a rare homer, Lackey drilled the backup catcher in his very next at bat. The hit-by-pitch turned into an important insurance run for the Yankees, which came in handy when the Red Sox brought the tying run to the plate before succumbing in the bottom of the ninth.
Since that incident, not only did the Red Sox season fall to pieces, but so too did the career of Lackey. Unfortunately for the ornery right hander, his misfortune wasn’t confined to the field. Not only did Lackey wind up compiling one of the worst seasons by a starting pitcher, but he was also forced to confront demons in his personal life when it was revealed that he had filed for a divorce from his cancer-stricken wife. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, it won’t be as easy to broker a separation with the right hander, who is under contract for three more years.