Johnny Damon Was Ahead of His Time
October 6, 2004. Seven and a half years ago. Hard to believe, but Johnny Damon was telling the future. Kind of. This is his actual quote:
We are not the cowboys anymore–we are just the idiots this year. So we are going to go out and try to swing the bats, find the holes, and, hopefully, good things happen. We were just a bunch of cowboys out there last year, just enjoying every minute. Now, we know we have something to prove. We don’t want to be remembered as a team that, OK, we keep making it to the playoffs, but we keep having tough losses. I mean, we want to be known as a team that rewrites the history books. This is definitely the best ballclub I’ve been on. I mean, that Oakland ballclub in 2001 was pretty awesome. We were a bunch of frat boys there. This team is a little older, but we have that same attitude. We feel like we can win every game, we feel like we like to have fun, and I think that’s why this team is liked by so many people out there. You know, the kids watching us out there–we’ve got the long hair, we’ve got the cornrows, we got just guys acting like idiots. And I think the fans out there like it. [MSNBC]
Think about it. He said that during the good times. This is just before the Red Sox played the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Just before they made history by winning the series despite being down 3-0, avenging their ALCS loss to the same team in 2003. We’re talking the Dave Roberts 9th inning steal. Big Papi’s back-to-back extra-inning game-winners. Curt Schilling and his bloody sock. I would dare to say the 2004 ALCS might have been the greatest round of playoff baseball in history. Top 3, at least.
Then these “idiots” swept the 2004 World Series. They swept a Cardinals team that featured a lineup centering around Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds. According to the season stats, each of them had at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. They had 4 (!!!) starting pitchers that had at least 15 wins and EVERY pitcher that recorded a decision that year was either .500 or above. WTF?!?! They swept a team that went on to win the World Series in 2006 and 2011. And this particular series wasn’t even close! At no point in the entire series were they ever trailing.
**Before anyone asks, I’ve fact-checked my ish against http://www.baseball-reference.com.
Then what happens. They reload and win the Series again in 2007. Not quite as exciting. But they were good enough to completely destroy Rocktober.
**I have been to a Red Sox game, sat on top of the Green Monster, and witnessed this. F*CKING AWESOME.
And then it all began.
In 2008, the Sox lost in the ALCS, 4 games to 3. Tampa Bay decided to become a major player in the AL (eventually losing the World Series).
In 2009, the Sox lost in the ALDS. Swept by the Angels.
In 2010, they didn’t even make the playoffs. A third place finish, 7 games out.
In 2011, the same result. Third place, 7 out.**
**Who killed the 2011 Red Sox? Lots of people. But specifically, Robert Andino.
That’s just how the seasons have played out. Surface-level stuff.
For a team to slowly fall out of relevance, a few factors come into play:
- A new team needs to prove to be a contender (the Rays)
- Age will work against you (Schilling in ’08. Smoltz in ’09.)
- Injuries (Schilling, Papi, Drew, Beckett, Dice-K, Pedroia, Youkilis, Ellsbury, Dice-K (again), Buchholz, Lackey)
- Bad signings (Crawford)
- Manny Ramirez (go ahead: try and predict what kind of year you’re gonna get)
All you really need is one of the factors to bite you hard and you’re sitting at home watching the playoffs. All 5? Death sentence.
That covers what you see (or did not see) on the field.
No doubt, team chemistry and the behind-the-scenes stuff is game-changing. The Boston Celtics KNOW team chemistry. Maybe better than any team in any sport (Oklahoma City isn’t far behind). But what in the crap is going on in Fenway?
In 2008, Johnny Damon was long gone. But 2008 was actually a good year. The Sox won 95 games and Pedroia was AL MVP. They had 7 all-stars. Ellsbury stole 50 bases. Manny was Manny.
In 2009, Manny was gone. They still won 95 games. Dice-K was starting to be more one-hit-wonder than all-time-classic. They had some hot spots and then landed Victor Martinez (giving up Justin Masterson… who won this trade? I say it’s a push). Jason Bay went deep 36 times. Ellsbury stole 70 bases. Beckett and Lester were pretty nasty. But the Angels beat them early in the playoffs.
In 2010, they got John Lackey to add to Beckett-Lester. They added Adrian Beltre. But Ellsbury (played 18 games), Pedroia (75 games), and Youkilis (102) wouldn’t last the whole season. The Sox played 53 different players. Beckett was disappointing, Lackey was less-than impressive, and Buchholz was nasty. Instead of having a solid 1-4 plus Dice-K, they had Buchholz and Lester. Things were looking a little darker.
2011 began with Mike Lowell retiring. Beltre jumped ship and went to Texas. The Sox responded with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Dice-K went down again and had TJ surgery. Lackey and Buchholz spent time on the DL–Buchholz stayed there. Lackey might as well have stayed there with his 6.02 ERA and almost 1:1 strikeout-to-run given up ratio. Lester faded. The offense was not crazy-good but it was far from bad–unless you’re Carl Crawford and stole money instead of bases. And to cap it off, the Red Sox went 7-20 to finish the year… impossibly blowing a 9-game Wild Card lead.
But didn’t something else happen? Oh right. Theo Epstein left because he thought the Cubs showed more potential. Terry Francona left, dropping pipe bombs on his way out. And why wouldn’t he? Reports everywhere were claiming he was distracted by a divorce and lived in a hotel all year… or that he was addicted to painkillers… or that he let his clubhouse function without leadership. If that’s the spotlight on me, then HYFR I’m gonna drop my own bombs. Players were drinking beer and eating fried chicken and playing video games instead of supporting the team? Yeah, that’s a bigger story. Let’s talk about that. Tim Wakefield wants to come back so that he can own the Red Sox record for wins? Yeah, that’s an idea… for a guy who has had a losing season in 9 of his 19 seasons and hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2002.
How did the Red Sox choose to recover? They signed Bobby Valentine. Yes, THIS Bobby Valentine:
And this all brings me to the latest chapter. Over the weekend, Bobby V went on WHDH’s SportsXtra and said this:
I don’t think [Kevin Youkilis]’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.
Really? You can make that determination after 9 games? And you’ve already got Pedroia backing Youk (who by the way, just got engaged to Tom Brady’s sister. Maybe a little emotionally distanced? Probably.) Nevermind that Bobby V has already issued a public apology. The concerning part of the story has barely been scratched. What else did Bobby V say about Youk?
Kevin came in this morning, I thought it was about his groin, he was going to tell me how his groin was, [if] it was sore after the game yesterday, so I was, ‘How you doing, how’s the groin?’ [Kevin Kaduk on Yahoo!Sports]
… uh… how are you going to let someone quote you saying that when pictures like this exist:
Well, Johnny. You were right. The Red Sox truly are idiots.