Choke: The Boston Version

Well Red Sox and Braves fans, I write this article today, my first for this site, on what to many is just another September day. Kids have school, parents have work, lives are going on just as they would any other day. But last night; last night was not just another night. Last night was a historic night in baseball history. Usually every year a division or wild card race will go down to the wire, some even down to the last day. But last night… last night was different. The Red Sox, who had a 9 game lead September 3rd were fighting for their playoff lives. And the Braves, who it seems like have had at least a 5 game lead since July, were doing the same. Two of the most epic collapses of all time were happening in front of our eyes. It’s amazing how the reaction of two cities can be so different too. People in Boston are acting like they’ve just been through the apocalypse and that they are just waiting for God (or whatever power it is you may believe in) to damn then in hell for all eternity. While in New York, specifically Yankees fans,  have never been happier to blow a 7 run lead in the 8th inning. Cory Wade is possibly the most beloved loser in Yankees history. Thank you Mr. Wade, for knocking out the Red Sox by letting Dan Johnson, who hadn’t  hit a home run since April 8th, hit a game tying homerun off of you in the 9th. You are a hero to Yankees fans everywhere.. and for that your name will be part of stories from generation to generation when we are telling the story of how you knocked the Red Sox out of the playoffs.

But as a Mets fan (yes I still admit to being a fan), I do have a different perspective on last nights events. As hard as I’ve tried to wash away the memories of 2007, I still have the random nightmare that I keep reliving those last three weeks of the season. I wake up cursing Willie Randolph and I immediately start to cry at the thought of Tom Glavine letting up 7 runs in 1/3 of an inning. But here’s the thing Sox fans… As much as you want to crawl into a hole and not come out, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is the difference between your beloved Sox and my dreadful Mets. The Mets have let 2007 stay with them to this day. The team, the front office, the owners, and most importantly the fans, not only haven’t forgotten, but will never forgive for what happened that year.  But the Sox have a chance to be different. They have a chance to make it right with their team and their fans, but there are certain steps that need to be taken to ensure this.

Step 1: The Team has to be changed. New Leadership is essential or this WILL happen again just like 2008 with the Mets.

As tough is may be to hear, the days of Manny, Big Papi and Pedro are over. The self-proclaimed “idiots” are gone.  This is a new team, and Big Papi should not be resigned. He had a great run with the Sox, and you got way more out of him then you thought you would over the last 2 years after he was almost cut, but don’t let your loyalty and heart get in the way of making a smart decision. Papi isn’t getting any younger, his bat is slowing down, and obviously, his leadership skills aren’t what they used to be. When a team like this chokes down the stretch it comes down to team leaders to be able to stop the bleading. There is only so much a manager can do because he is not on the field competing with them, which is why team leaders need to step up and do everything they can to make sure the collapse doesn’t happen. To me, this is why the 2007 and 2008 Mets were such a disaster. David Wright and Jose Reyes were young and not leaders, Beltran played like a leader, but was still immature and not the leader he finally was this past year before being traded to San Francisco. Carlos Delgado was as close to a leader as they had but he was always hurt and even he wasn’t loved by all of his teammates or fans. Sox fans, you need a new leader. Maybe he’s on your roster now. Maybe Pedroia steps up. Maybe Youkilis not being on the field was the reason they fell apart. Whatever it may be. It’s time to turn it over. Papi was one of the faces of the franchise. But it’s time to let go.

Step 2: Don’t make a knee jerk reaction and fire Francona. He deserves a second chance.

This may not be what you want to hear or what you’d expect me to say. But if you’re gonna change over to a new player as a leader, you do need some consistency in the clubhouse and Francona is the guy that should stay. Listen, don’t get greedy. Remember when youguys didn’t win a World Series for almost 100 years. Well Francona has won 2 in the last 8. That, by any teams measure, is successful. Yes this season was a disaster, and yes he is partially to blame, but he has more than earned another chance with this team. If i had told you in 2003 that he would’ve won you 2 World Series by now you all would’ve signed for that in a heartbeat! Francona is a perfect fit for this team, the veterans respect him, and he has a way to make his team gel. Firing him would be a mistake that down the road would be more detrimental than beneficial.

Step 3: Appease the fans and go make a big move.

This might be the biggest and most important thing the Red Sox can do this offseason. Even the Mets front office was smart enough to realize after 2007 they couldn’t go into the next season with the same team, so they made a calculated risk by trading off a lot of top prospects to get Johan Santana. This was needed to bring the fans back and to give the players on the team the hope and confidence that next year would be different (even though it turned out for the Mets to not be enough to matter). This is not a year the Red Sox can afford to be cheap. Here’s my suggestions. Cut/eat John Lackey’s contract. Let him start 4 or 5 games next year and if he’s not better, its time to cut ties. Hell you might be able to trade him to the Mets for Jason Bay at that point. Sign Jose Reyes and/or CJ Wilson. If the Sox did this, that lineup would be unstoppable. It would bring energy that they thought they were getting with Carl Crawford except Reyes would not disappoint. He’s a once in a generation type player with his speed and excitement. He would be a steal for the Sox and if you pay enough, the Mets are too cheap to match and he will be yours. CJ Wilson is another one that won’t come cheap but you need a pitcher. Starting pitching is what caused this problem, and by signing him, or trading for another big name starter, you will be fine for next year with Buchholz getting healthy again, Lester, Beckett, and Wilson/TBA.  With those 4, a good bullpen, and the best lineup in baseball. You will have a big enough lead in September where you could lose out and still make the playoffs.

So Red Sox fans, what have we learned… The end is not here. God doesn’t hate you, and you will all be fine. Take a deep breath and get ready for next year. You have a great front office, with great ownership whose not afraid to spend money. The core for this team is intact and for the most part is fairly young! You guys will be around for years to come and Yankees fans won’t admit it today, but they are happy you’re not in the playoffs and you are still the team they least look forward to playing every year. Think of it this way… you could be a Mets fan.

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