It may be the end of July, but let’s face it. Summer is over.
When I last looked, the battered Red Sox were a full seven games behind the Yankees with no hope on this planet of catching our very favorite enemy.
They are a full five games behind the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that used to be a joke. Now the Red Sox are.
A staple of a New England summer night used to be a cottage porch, a beer and a cigar with the baseball game on the radio. Not the television. Now, we are more likely to be listening to our old ZZ Top records on the porch. The Red Sox are not only lousy, they are boring.
We used to be the most loyal fans in the country. No more.
After a six-year run as the baseball franchise with the highest-rated local telecasts in the country, Boston has tumbled to the fifth spot. Ratings for Red Sox games on NESN in the first half of the season fell almost 36 percent from the same period last year, according to an analysis of Nielsen Media Research data by the SportsBusiness Journal.
Ratings for Red Sox games broadcast on WEEI-AM were down 16.5 percent, to 107,500 listeners. Listenership among 25- to 54-year-old males was down even more — by 28 percent.
For some of us, the season ended way back in April when outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (my personal screensaver) was crushed in a football-type collision with burly third baseman Adrian Beltre. Ellsbury had been the most exciting Sox outfielder since Freddie Lynn. He became an instant Cobb Manor favorite in the game in which he stole home against the Yankees. Since his April high-speed crash, Ellsbury has not been seen, except in faraway Fort Myers, Fla. No one seems to know how many ribs he broke.
The Boston sports talk shows (I listen, I admit it) now deride Ellsbury as “soft,” even though he runs into walls at full speed and has stolen more bases than anyone else in Red Sox history. There is even talk of trading the young star.
But the crushing blow came on June 25 when the team lost their diminutive spark plug. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia fouled a pitch off his left foot in the second inning versus the Giants. The second baseman broke a bone in his foot and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. That’s funny, 15 days. The team has no idea when, or if, he is coming back this year. He is such a dedicated player that he was seen taking ground ball practice on his knees.
The Red Sox were supposed to have the best pitching in baseball — on paper. That paper disappeared on May 19 when Josh Beckett went on the disabled list with a lower back strain, just after he signed a $68 million contract. He had endured back spasms then tweaked his back when he slipped on a wet mound in a May 18 game against the Damn Yankees. He is back on the mound while everyone crosses their fingers, awaiting the next injury.
It appeared that a Haitian witch doctor had the hex on the Red Sox when pitcher Clay Buchholz strained his lower left hamstring running the bases in San Francisco on June 26. Baseball players, even pitchers, are supposed to run the bases without getting injured.
Once the pitching staff was shattered, the witch doctor turned his attention to the catchers.
Victor Martinez was hit in the tip of his left thumb by a pair of foul balls off the bats of Giants Pablo Sandoval and Andres Torres on June 27, and the result was a fractured bone on his glove thumb. Catchers are supposed to catch the ball without breaking their thumbs.
Then 86-year-old catcher Jason Varitek suffered a broken foot during a June 30 game against Tampa Bay when a foul ball off the bat of Carl Crawford hit him in the 7th inning. An MRI and CT scan revealed the break. As usual, no one knows when he will return.
After hip surgery, not much was expected of infielder Mike Lowell, a former World Series most valuable player. But since he aggravated the injury, many fans have forgotten that Lowell is still on the team.
Just to show that he was not playing (and injuring) favorites, Beltre collided with another outfielder, Jeremy Hermida, on June 4 in Baltimore and broke five more ribs.
Let’s let Beltre catch all fly balls in his area for the rest of the year.
As the summer fades, the Red Sox have a better team on crutches and on the disabled list than they do on the field.
No wonder we aren’t watching.
Wait ’til next year. When do the Patriots start?