By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
“The vibe is different. I can tell you that right now. There’s not much searching. And you feel it. You come to the ballpark every day now and it feels like last year.”
– Alex Cora before Tuesday’s game against Twins
Roughly six hours and nine pitchers later, of course, the Red Sox lost. And so there is only one word for this.
But seriously, when are Alex Cora and the Red Sox going to let it go? Winners of six straight entering Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, the Red Sox were feeling better about themselves. Heck, we were starting to feel a little better about them, thanks largely to a 2-0 victory over the Twins on Monday that was one of their better wins of the season. Then Cora came out before last night’s game and said those two naughty words again – last year – and pretty much everything went to hell.
OK, so that’s an exaggeration. But you get the point.
Why do the 2019 Red Sox keep doing this to themselves?
Earth to the Red Sox: Please stop talking about last year. Please. And more than anyone else, Cora should know this. He is a baseball lifer, from a baseball family. The current uniformed members of the Red Sox could all live three successive lifetimes – as themselves – and never recreate what happened a year ago, when they went 108-54 during the regular season and 119-57 overall en route to a World Series title. They had the greatest season in club history. And they deserve every ounce of credit that goes with that.
Trying to recapture that magic is a pointless, fruitless endeavor. The 2019 Red Sox are a different team with different challenges and an entirely different set of issues and problems.
In fact, from the moment Cora spoke yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of the words of Bobby Valentine, who uttered the following in 2012 after a May victory placed the Sox at a perfectly mediocre 22-22: “If we play like this the rest of the season we’re going to win a championship.”
The very next day, the 2012 Red Sox lost. They went 47-71 over the balance of the season and finished last.
Look, no one is saying these Red Sox stink. They don’t. They have ample talent. But during the team’s recent surge – right up until yesterday – Cora was delivering the consistent message that the Red Sox still need to get better. He said they just need to keep improving. Then the Sox came out and beat a good team in a series opener – finally – and it certainly looked and sounded like they believed they had unlocked their season.
They subsequently blew three leads and two saves in a 17-inning loss that depleted their pitching staff (again) and almost immediately brought them to their knees.
In the end, here’s the point: baseball is humbling game. Last year was the exception, not the rule. Nobody, ever, has had all the answers. Entering tonight’s series finale in Minnesota, the Red Sox have lost 7-of-8 series this year against Houston (0-2), New York (0-2), Cleveland (0-1) and Tampa Bay (1-2), the best competition in the American League. In the opening game of those series, they went 2-6.
Then they arrived in Minnesota and defeated a Twins team that had the best record in baseball, which prompted them to declare that they had rediscovered themselves.
What a mistake.
Sooner or later, this team needs to get out of its own head – and way – and accept the fact that chasing 2018 is akin to pursuing the Holy Grail.
Turn the page, boys.
Turn. The. Page.