Fans of the Boston Red Sox have always been an interesting yet enthusiastic breed.
The fan base known as “Red Sox Nation” has always been among the most loyal in Major League Baseball and all of professional sports, and the 2004 World Series championship will always be one of the top sports moments for all New Englanders.
But, are Red Sox fans quick to push the panic button when the team goes into a slump?
Judging from some of the social media overreactions following a tough weekend in the Bronx against the New York Yankees in which the Sox dropped three out of four, and subsequently lost at home Monday night to a Toronto Blue Jays team which is playing out the string, I’d have to say there has been some unnecessary panic among those who follow the local 9.
Entering Tuesday night’s game against Toronto, the Sox’s lead in the American League East had dwindled to 2 and a half games. Entering the Yankee series, the Sox were up 5 and a half over their hated rivals from the Bronx.
Then, Chris Sale was roughed up on Sunday night. The Sox’ offense couldn’t do much of anything against a middle-of-the-road Yankee pitching staff all weekend. CC Sabathia got the best of the Red Sox, in spite of complaining that the Sox tried to bunt too much on the aging lefthander.
Comparisons to the beer-and-chicken September disaster of 2011 that cost manager Terry Francona his job began swirling. “Fire Farrell” hashtags in reference to manager John Farrell dominated my Twitter and Facebook timelines.
Sox fans, there’s no need to panic. Even though the division lead has shrunk, Boston is still in control of its destiny. The September schedule isn’t exactly rough – the Astros and Orioles are the only teams currently above .500 that the Sox face this month – and Sale, who rarely has two rough outings in a row, is still the best pitcher in the American League.
The offense has to get going, however. Xander Boegarts and Mookie Betts have been mired in slumps. Dustin Pedroia looked lost at the plate when he returned from the disabled list. Hanley Ramirez has been inconsistent in spite of his 22 home runs. And as great as Andrew Benetendi is with the bat, he sometimes makes decisions on the bases that leave you scratching your head.
Barring a major hot streak, the Sox aren’t going to enter October with the best record in the American League. They’re better off trying to win the division and getting the rotation set up for the Division Series. If they manage to squeak out home field advantage in the ALDS, that’s an added bonus.
Relax, Sox Nation. Boston will still win the American League East when September ends. This pitching staff is too good for that not to happen. 15 of the last 24 games are also at Fenway Park, where the Sox tend to hit better.
Let’s also try to tone the “Fire Farrell” talk down every time a modest losing streak happens. It could be worse. Bobby Valentine could still be in the dugout. The only way Manager John is leaving town is if a 2011-like September happens and the Sox fall completely out of the playoffs, which won’t happen under the new wild-card format.