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South Boston Online
South Boston Online
  Thursday, March 5, 2015
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xtra xtra!
Rooney Real Estate
By Paul Noonan
     That’s really the only word that describes the Red Sox these past two and a half weeks.  From  dropping five of six to the nearly triple-A teams the Royals and Devil Rays to this weekend’s catastrophe at Fenway,  the Sox have gone from a World Series threat to looking up at the Wild Card.  From blowing games in late innings to getting plain old spanked, the Red Sox have brought back memories of the days of the curse.  Only the curse is no longer an excuse.  The blame now falls where it should have been all along:  with everyone who comes out of the dugout. 

     The excuse of Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield is getting old.  And every team has had a key  player injured or a key player slumping.  So pinning the latest downfall on those two players’ absences is taking the easy way out.  The play of the Sox in the first half wasn't’t a fluke.  While Varitek’s game-calling ability is unrivaled, his bat was far from dangerous.  Varitek was the worst hitter on the team until his injury.  Wakefield’s absence has hurt, but he’s only one fifth of the rotation.  Even with the injuries, the Sox were winning.  Despite missing three-fifths of the original rotation for most of the year, the Sox still managed to lead the division and maintain one of the best records in baseball.  The Sox were winning when Alex Gonzalez, Manny and Coco Crisp weren't’t hitting, and they were winning when they were.  They won when Lowell and Youkilis slumped.  They won when Loretta and Ortiz slumped.  The Sox won when Josh Beckett pitched well.  They won when he pitched below his abilities.  What has happened since the All-Star break comes down to the mental and emotional aspects of baseball.  Physically, the Red Sox are not any worse than the Yankees or the White Sox or the Twins or the Tigers.  You don’t win 53 games before the All-Star break by getting lucky.  The talent is there, but somewhere along the line the Sox lost that competitive edge.  And that’s what now has them 6.5 games out of the division and four out of Wild Card.

     There is a reason the Yankees are in the playoffs year after year.  It’s not the All-Star lineups or all the money, though that helps, it’s the desire to win.  Take Sunday night’s game, the ninth inning, to be specific.  Not to pin blame on Mirabelli because no one player ever loses a game, but in that situation you have to catch that splitter he missed, that allowed Cabrera to get to third.  Yet credit to Cabrera.  He didn't’t hesitate.  The second that ball squirted away, he took off.  He knew the best chance for his team to win was if he was on third and he made sure he got there.  Nevertheless they got to two outs, and then Jeter on a pretty good pitch makes sure he gets a hit.  As clutch as Papi is, Jeter is right up there, too.  Jeter didn't’t try to hit a home run and get the lead.  He didn't’t try to get a double.  He knew all he had to do was get a single.  And that’s what he did.  Because of Cabrera’s efforts, he scored easily.  He may have scored from second too, but it would have been much closer.  The Yankees’ pitching wasn't’t much better than the Sox’s.  Game one and game three weren't’t close, but the other three were.  And the Sox  had opportunities to win each of the other three, good ones at that.  Yankees drove in runs when they had the chance, the Sox struck out or grounded out or flied out.

     The phrase “gut check” fits perfectly well here.  The Sox are at a point where they can pack it in or keep fighting.  There is still hope for a playoff spot.  After all, they are only four games out of the Wild Card, and they have six games against the two teams ahead of them.  It all comes down to desire at this point.   The Sox team of 2004 had desire.  Sure they were a little better, but they could have called it quits after going down 3-0 in the ALCS.  If the Sox want to start winning, they have to change their mind set.  They can’t keep going into games hoping they don’t lose.  They have to go in thinking they’re going to win.  Better yet they need to believe they’re going to win.  You can’t believe in a team that doesn't’t believe in itself.     

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