Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The O's: Part punching bag, part punch line in Boston

Many newspapers have an in-house guide to supplement the Associated Press Stylebook.  I'm guessing the Boston papers share a sports stylebook that includes a special entry for the Baltimore Orioles:  "metaphor for futility; use often to highlight the disparity between the haves and have nots."

It only make sense given the focus on Baltimore no matter whether the Red Sox are winning or losing.

Right now the Red Sox are losing. So earlier this week, in the column "Hot ticket, lousy team," Steve Buckley couldn't resist a shot at the Orioles' more considerable struggles.
The Red Sox hit rock bottom last night/this morning. We’re not talking about rock bottom in the American League East (that dis-honor goes to the Baltimore Orioles, who will be lucky to win 50 games).
Thanks, Steve, for mentioning the Orioles in the same sentence as the mighty Red Sox.

Here's hoping Buckley's simply prone to bouts of severe hyperbole. The O's are off to an awful start, but lucky to win 50 games? Heck, the '88 team won 54 games after losing 21 straight to open the season.

But this is nothing new. Let's rewind a bit.

Last year the Red Sox set of waves of panic in New England when they started losing toward the end of the season to teams including, to use their words, "the mediocre Chicago White Sox." As the storyline went, the losses were an indication that the Red Sox couldn't beat good teams.

Who to blame for Red Sox Nation's inflated sense of self? Why the Orioles, of course.

Take it away, Tony Massarotti.
The ballpark is one thing. The competition is quite another. And at this stage, we can only wonder where the Red Sox would be without the generous assistance of the Baltimore Orioles.

Shut down by the mediocre Chicago White Sox over the weekend, the Red Sox returned to Fenway Park last night and took out their frustrations on the Uh-O's, pounding Baltimore by a 10-0 score in a game that wasn't nearly that close. The Sox hit five homers before making nine outs, improving to 12-2 against the Orioles this year. Nonetheless, the Sox saw their lead dwindle to two games in the American League wild card race thanks to the Texas Rangers' doubleheader sweep of the Cleveland Indians.


If last night's resounding victory surprised or inspired you, it shouldn't have. There is too much else to consider at this point. No team in baseball has more wins over one opponent this season than the Sox do over the Orioles. Last night's win made the Sox a sterling 12-2 against Baltimore this year, a record that includes an unforgettable 11-10 loss on June 30 in which the Sox somehow blew a 10-1 lead. This year, the Sox have not lost a game to the Orioles in which the Boston starter was anyone other than John Smoltz.

The Orioles have not been the Sox' only punching bag. The Sox are 11-4 against Toronto (another doormat) and went 11-7 against the inferior National League. That leaves the Sox at 46-45 against everyone else. All of this suggests the Sox are far closer to being a mediocre team than they are an elite one.
Fair enough, I suppose. Although I might ask where the Red Sox would be without the generous assistance of a payroll ($162 million) twice as large as that of the Orioles ($81 million) in 2010 and roughly $100 million larger than those of the Rays ($71 million) and Blue Jays ($62 million).

Sorry if the rest of the A.L. East inflates your hopes with their paltry salaries and competitive imbalance. Better to ignore that and stick to a popular storyline: "How dare the Orioles  get our hopes up?"

That September storyline continued on through the post-season, where the Red Sox lost to the Angels. This time it was Dan Shaughnessy's turn to take his licks.
There was nothing fluky about this outcome, folks. It was a three-game sweep, a Boston beatdown in which all of the locals’ flaws were exposed. Just as we feared, the 2009 Red Sox were artificially enhanced by home-field dominance (56-25 at Fenway) and a lot of games against the Triple A Orioles. Ultimately, the Franconamen were a team with too many holes to win a World Series.
The Red Sox went out and bought the top pitcher, John Lackey, from the team that beat them for $82.5 million. Not that the Red Sox - second only to the Yankees in spending in 2010 - are anything like New York mind you. That storyline's unacceptable. 

"Rock bottom" ... "Uh-O's" ... "Triple A Orioles."

If ever there were a reason to enjoy the Rays' mastery of the Red Sox (Was that four-game sweep the Orioles fault as well?) and cheer for Tampa Bay to win the East.

On a related note, check out Baltimore Sports Report's contest to explain, in five sentences or less, why you hate the Red Sox. The winner gets two tickets to the April 30th O's - Red Sox game at Camden Yards. The entry deadline is 5 p.m.

Image source: Pictures depot.


1 comment:

Big Papi's Rotting Corpse said...

Man, I'm from Boston and I think I hate the Red Sox after reading that column. Very persuasive, Matt.

And now I think you can see why I don't miss the Boston sports media. Arrogant, grouchy and not prone to doing research...it's a bad mix.