When the Red Sox compiled the best early season record in their history one’s belief that the year is destined to be ruined depends on one’s Red Sox Heartbreak Level which is based on the severity of the losses one has experienced.
If it is the September 26, 2011 loss to the Orioles to complete the great collapse, or the 2003 Game Seven ALCS loss to the Yankees then… bitch, please… there’s no suffering. You have won three world titles in your short lifetime. Stop complaining and go back to playing your video game, snowflake.
If it is Game Six of the 1986 World Series, you are a six on the heartbreak level. Your soul has been crushed several times by the Boston nine, but you have been spared the emotional toll of worse losses.
If it is the 1978 Bucky Dent game, you have Red Sox Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is no point in a game between the Red Sox and Yankees that you don’t think the Yankees will win. You are at a nine on the heartbreak meter.
If it is the 1975 World Series loss to the Red Sox or the 1967 loss to the Cardinals your level ticks up to a ten. Both defeats were hard to bear, but the teams brought so much joy to Boston, the heartbreak to joy level is almost even.
If your memory goes back to the 40’s and you are still alive, no matter what causes you to leave this earthly realm “The Red Sox killed the patient,” will be written on the autopsy form.
While I remember the ’75 loss to the Reds, it was the ‘78 collapse that irrevocably changed my view of the Red Sox fortunes. From that point on I believed that every Red Sox season, even ones that began 17-2, would end in ruin, most likely at the hands of the Yankees, and the fact that Boston has won three world titles in 14 years hasn’t changed that.
In 1978 the Boston Red Sox had, easily, the best team in baseball. Tater blasting George Scott at first, speedster Jerry Remy at second, tough as nails Rick Burleson at short, Butch Hobson (think a better fielding Kyle Schwarber) at third. Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski in left, certain Hall of Famer if he had never left Boston Fred Lynn in center, borderline Hall of Famer Dwight Evans in right, Hall of Famer Jim Rice at DH, Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley leading a rotation that included Boston legend Luis Tiant, Mike Torres (things are starting to get dicey) Bill Lee (more on him in a minute) and a smorgasbord of number five pitchers, including Allen Ripley who battled alcoholism right up to his premature death. Bob Stanley was the closer, and the rest of the bullpen was better left avoided.
The Sox exploded out of the gate to a 57-26 record by the all-star game. They were nine games ahead of the Brewers and 14 over the Yankees. Red Sox fans were reveling over the prospect of finally crushing New York under their bootheel.
Then it all went wrong. Burleson got hurt and was replaced by Frank Duffy a player whose bad fielding was only outdone by his inability to hit. Hobson got bone chips in his elbow, and his power sank while his throws to first put any fan sitting behind the first base dugout life in danger.Remy and Lynn were plagued by nagging injuries. Yaz missed eight games. The Boston bench was porous. The Sox sunk like a stone.
The biggest contributor to Boston’s collapse was manager Don Zimmer. He insisted on keeping Hobson in the lineup, he only gave Fisk five games off during the season causing him to develop a debilitating shoulder injury, he banished Yankee killer Bill Lee to the darkest corner of the bullpen and allowed a human footnote called Bobby Sprowl to get shelled in the final meeting of a four-game September sweep against the Yankees unkindly remembered as the Boston Massacre. He insisted that ‘75 World Series hero Bernie Carbo be sold to the Brewers. Yes, Carbo was heavily into drugs and alcohol at that time, just as he was in ‘75. It left Boston only with Bob Bailey on the bench, who pinch hit in a key moment during the Red Sox / Yankees playoff game and took three strikes with the bat never leaving his shoulder.
So if you ask me, a long time sufferer of Red Sox PTSD, who expects the Yankees to rise from each loss like a zombie from the Walking Dead, if this early season red hot Sox team will meet the same fate at the ‘78 Sox my answer is a definitive probably not.
The ‘78 team was loaded with talent at the top but had a weak bench. The 2018 Red Sox have already shown they can survive injuries much better than the team playing at Fenway 40 years ago.
Also, Alex Cora is not going to be battling his own players insisting his best bench player be sold, refusing to pitch his number four starter, overplaying his catcher, and advising his players to give their injuries a good mud rub and continue producing.
Finally, if this Red Sox team blows a 14 game lead to the Yankees and lose the division by one run in a playoff game, their season won’t end. They will play the next night in the wild-card game.
The Red Sox are currently won 13 more than they have lost. If they play .500 the rest of the season, they will have won 95 games which should put them in the playoffs.
So, no need to worry Sox fans, we are less than a month into the season, and the playoffs are a guarantee.
Then the Red Sox PTSD kicks in and tells me “not so fast, remember ‘78.”
EPISODE 39 OF THE AVIDBOSTON PODCAST!!!
SOX GET EMBARRASSED BY OAKLAND. BAD MANAGING BY ALEX CORA? BLUE JAYS SERIES PRVIEW/MATCHUPS!
Also available on iTunes!