You know, I really did think the days of epic collapses and thus mourning were behind Red Sox fans. I assumed that 2004 cleansed those sins and put us in a different world. I also assumed that the Red Sox existed in a world where they simply could not collapse like that. With the ability to spend money, if not at a Yankees-esque pace at least at a rate that is the envy of the majority of the sport, I thought we might be collapse-proof.
Well, I was wrong. Now, 2004 and 2007 have changed many things. Had this past month or six weeks taken place in the absence of those two titles I may well have been looking for a tall building. But those titles really did change so much. We might have just experienced an epic collapse, and we still have a long and let's say problematic history as Red Sox fans. But there is nothing particularly special about this sort of suffering. I don't think what I am experiencing is dissimilar to what a Braves fan of similar passion has been going through over the last few weeks. Well, ok. Maybe it's a little worse.
And the repercussions are beginning to hit and to hit hard. Terry Francona moved on to other opportunities, which is to say he was fired but no one wanted to be accountable for it. And frankly reading between the lines it seems that Tito was frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of management support and by something perhaps more frustrating and worrisome -- a potentially divided locker room. There is lots of room to speculate as to who might or might not be poisoning the well and without substantiation I have no interest in repeating what rumors I've read and heard. But it seems quite possible that a new manager will be stepping into a situation in which he will have to clean things up a bit in the clubhouse. I worry that we are going to realize just how good a job Tito did in managing egos and personalities these past eight years and how tough that is to replicate.
Meanwhile it looks very much like Theo Epstein could be on his way out. The way I am reading things is that he may want more power, which would come at Larry Lucchino's expense. Let's keep in mind that while Theo is a local boy, I think that actually adds to the pressure. He bagged out once, in bizarre circumstances involving a gorilla suit after 2005, and maybe he looks at that Cubs job and sees a real opportunity. I think it's safe to say that if he could bring the Cubs to a World Series as GM and head of baseball operations he would become one of the most legendary front office figures in the history of the sport.
Of course it's not necessarily that easy. I don't want to lose Theo and I did not want to lose Tito, so I am a bit concerned with the direction of the franchise right now. Our money actually adds pressure inasmuch as this team should never, ever be in a rebuilding phase. Yet when I look at that roster I see an awful lot of missing pieces and to make matters worse I hear all of these rumors about a really ugly, selfish locker room that reminds me of nothing so much as the 1980s Red Sox and I cringe. Despite what many of us thought after their offseason last year the Rays are not going away. And the Yankees are even better positioned to reload every year than we are. Of course I also hope we are not rash. Don't start thinking about how to unload Crawford. Don't start having a fire sale. Don't start thinking that we cannot possibly re-sign any of these guys. In a way if we do lose Theo I hope we hire from within because the last thing you want is some new guy coming in and thinking he has to overhaul the whole damned team.
So baseball is done. Call me provincial, but I won't be watching much of these playoffs. Sure, I'll peek in to see if the Yankees lose. But the flipside of paying attention to baseball enough to see if the Yankees lose is that sometimes those bastards don't lose. I'll be damned if I can figure out how they did it this year. I still look at that roster and I do not necessarily even see a playoff team, never mind a division winner or World Series contender. But credit where credit is due. They got it done when it counted and the Red Sox are watching at home. Wait 'til next year . . .