HIGH AND TIGHT A(nother) Summer of Our Baseball Discontent …

We knew it would happen. We just didn’t know it would be this bad.

I’m not surprised that the Red Sox won’t win the World Series this year. After all, it’s been that way for 83 years. They’ve lost before, and they’ve lost badly. But what we have now is a complete and utter meltdown. From the top down, the entire organization is in complete shambles at the end of what could have, and should have been a season that lasted well into the playoffs. How did it all go bad? There are mistakes, there are bad relationships, bad closers, bad personalities and bad luck. And the Red Sox have all of them.

Funny, how it all started with good things .

Hideo Nomo pitched a no-hitter at Camden Yards in his first appearance in a Red Sox uniform and the team’s first win. His no-no seemed to answer a huge question about the depth of the Sox rotation after Pedro Martinez. Then, in Manny Ramirez’s first appearance at Fenway Park, he blasted the first pitch he saw well over the Monster, prompting the beginning of his worship by Boston fans as an RBI god.

There were plenty of things to be happy about. Even with Nomar, Pedro, Everett and Jason Varitek all doing their respective stints on the DL, focusing on guys like Brian Daubach, Trot Nixon and Lou erloni allowed us to pretend for a little while that our team wasn’t centered around and led by selfish millionaires.

Take Brian Daubach for example. Does he go home or just sleep at the ballpark? If there were cornfields instead of the Monster in left field, he might very well walk out of them and ask if this was heaven. Trot just plays hard day in and day out. His swing is pretty, he makes the tough catch, and he doesn’t ask for more than that. And Lou Merloni, graduate of Framingham South High School and Providence College, warms our hearts as a local boy that made good.

They don’t showboat, they don’t look for attention; they just get the job done and love playing the game. Unfortunately, the rest of their teammates happen to be more likely to whine over their contract, point fingers at the media or headbutt an empire than make a diving catch or even get a base hit.

Everett has been the most recent member of the Sox to display his ridiculous antics, getting suspended for four games for “insubordination.” As Crazy Carl gathers more and more baggage, he makes it harder and harder for the Sox to unload him. What team is going to want to tell their players to run for cover every time Mt. Everett threatens to erupt?

And his eruptions are not without their after-effects. Much of the hostility in the relationship between Dan Duquette and Jimy Williams stemmed from disagreements over how to handle Carl. These and other squabbles eventually led to the firing of Jimy in August, and since then nothing’s been right.

The Duquette-Williams conflict was just representative of the division on the team between the Dirt Dogs and Dollar Dogs. Jimy, whose legendary mysterious speech (e.g. the original: “If a frog had legs, he wouldn’t bump his booty”) and perpetual tinkering with his lineup caused some members of the media to write him off as a dim-witted country bumpkin, was one of those who did his job without fanfare. He kept clubhouse matters in the clubhouse and was always “just trying to win the game.” It’s easy to understand how Duquette, the man who built the highest-paid team in baseball history only to finish the season struggling to make .500, could fail to get along.

What’s sad is that the Duke and his superstars won, in a way; they ran Jimy out of town and spoiled it for the rest of us. Everything good that happened this season – the record-setting attendance at Fenway, the resurgence of David Cone, the beginning of the Manny Ramirez era, the no- and one-hitters pitched by Nomo – they’re all tainted by how a couple of overpaid whiny ball players acted at the end of the season.

As the Sox come under new ownership and hopefully new management, I hope that the Dirt Dogs will remain. They represent what baseball is supposed to be – a game.

In a way, I’m glad this wasn’t the year. They didn’t deserve it.

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