The Boston Red Sox got off to a most inauspicious start in 2011 by losing their first six games of the season. On April 15th, their record stood at 2-10.
But then for the next 4½ months, the Red Sox played like the team they were expected to be (and I expected them to be) and played on all eight cylinders. The Red Sox had a 80-42 record over this period with offensive contributions from David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and a breakout season for Jacoby Ellsbury. The Bosox were basically winning two out of every three games they played. That usually is sufficient to reach the playoffs.
However, the Sox play in the ultra-competitive American League East and now have the misfortune to hit a September swoon. Well, to be precise, their skid began exactly two weeks ago on August 30th when they hosted - who else? - the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Prior to the start of that series with the Bronx Bombers, the Red Sox had a 1½ game lead on the Yankees in the AL East. The Yankees took two out of three games and overtook first place in the AL East. However, the Red Sox still led the AL Wild Card by a large margin. As recently as September 3rd, the Bosox had a nine game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card spot. But over the weekend, the Red Sox were swept by the Rays in Tampa Bay. The Rays now stand only three games back of the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card standings. In all since August 30th, the Red Sox have gone 3-11 in that time and are in the midst of a five game losing streak.
Yesterday, the Red Sox had their first day off since August 29th, the day before all this madness started. Hopefully, the respite will give them a chance to reboot and regroup. Tonight, they begin a two-game series at Fenway with the Toronto Blue Jays. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will make his 8th attempt to win his 200th big league game.
Then the Tampa Bay Rays come into Fenway for a four-game series on Thursday evening. I will be attending the Friday night game for my birthday. It might very well be the most crucial game of the entire 2011 season. Hopefully, I can celebrate with a Red Sox win.
In the event, however, the Red Sox do not make the playoffs, I predict that manager Terry Francona will be fired. I am not saying it would be a wise decision but it would not surprise me if it were to happen. Yes, Tito led the team to their first World Series title in 86 years back in 2004 and then another World Series title three years later. But it is a question of "What have you done for me lately?" It will be two straight years they don't make the post-season and this year would represent a spectacular collapse.
The Red Sox expect to win the World Series every year. Well, you can't win the World Series if you don't reach the playoffs. Under those circumstances heads will roll. From their way of thinking, a shock to the system might be in order and nothing would be more shocking than if the Red Sox were to dismiss Francona after eight years of service.
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