|Man Ray hits the bricks to monument a sadist...|
the 18th century version of Larry Lucchino.
"There must be an obstacle to overcome," Hald notes, with only the faintest trace of a smirk on his face, "especially for the sizable majority of males who do not possess a natural affinity for seduction rituals." And when one transposes this always-repressed urge to dominate from the sexual arena to other, seemingly less fetishized social rituals, the need to commingle submissiveness with arrogance--a variation of the Gnostic impulse toward ecstatic annihilation--is nothing more or less than an unstoppable force.
In the medieval tale, the knight only occasionally slays the dragon. And the dragon (best characterized, perhaps, as the force that keeps civilization from achieving utopia) has a nasty tendency to regenerate.
|Charlie knows all about free-fallin'...|
"Reversing the curse," like keeping the dark forces at bay, is only a temporary achievement. What one has to admire in the rich but frightening tapestry of Red Sox history is its instinct for extremity--which is why all this psychosexual connection is not simply a parodic description. Seven years after vanquishing an eighty-six year old dragon, four years after tempting fate by winning a second time, the Sox suddenly discovered that the earth wasn't simply moving under their feet, but that a giant, unavoidable chasm had suddenly, irrevocably, swallowed them up. Before anyone could do anything about it--before they could even sense it happening--they had reached terminal velocity.
|Carl Crawford, late September 2011...|
Mythically, folklorically, it was the Yankees, to be sure (and we'll examine a curious possible "mythic" interpretation regarding that in a bit). But the great feudal pestilence from just under two hundred miles to the southwest had very little presence in the sacher-masochian September that the Red Sox (and their helplessly bound fans) experienced.
While the post-mortemizing has created both a figurative and literal lividity producing a level of corpse discoloration beyond any levels of measurement known either to medical professionals or mass media, what's clear is that the major systemic failure was the starting pitching. "Free-fall" was induced by a 7.08 September ERA from the starters, but what our first post-mortem table (at right) also shows is that the entire staff was infected with a malady best known as "pernicious strike deprivation anemia"--or, in laymen's terms, they all turned into wild-ass lefties. As the table shows, both starters and relievers were afflicted by the disease, but the severity of the problem was located squarely with those (purportedly, at least) beer-swillin', chicken-eatin' starters.
The 118 BBs handed out by the Red Sox staff in September was the highest monthly total in the AL during 2011.
In terms of what was happening on a game-in, game-out basis, however, the contrast is much more dramatic. Simply looking at the location of the starts in the QMAX matrix grid (once you're oriented to know that the upper left corner is best, and the lower right corner is worst) will tell you the story.
The September chart is a depiction of the type of catastrophe that is usually reserved for that unfortunate individual who either has a major breakdown in pitching performance from previous years or is someone pitching for a perennial league doormat or its surrogate, the exceptionally hapless expansion team. What chills the blood here is that this represents the collective efforts of seven pitchers--Josh Beckett, Erik Bedard, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Andrew Miller, Tim Wakefield, and Kyle Weiland. It is really hard to get seven guys to pitch this poorly for an entire month. (Consequently, we searched in vain for a group portrait.)
|Andrew Miller, witnessing yet|
another unfortunate trajectory...
|Kevin Millwood in Pawtucket: in search of a Margarita|
to waste away with...
At the end of the month, however, they decided that they weren't going to give Millwood a chance at all, despite Miller's inconsistency. They shopped for a veteran starter who would allow them to play hunches with their fifth starter slot, acquiring Bedard from Seattle after a noteworthy volte-face on the A's Rich Harden. Millwood's time limit for promotion to the major leagues as specified in his Red Sox contract expired, and he wound up in Colorado (where he pitched a good bit better than Miller or Wakefield).
Bedard, well-known as a "fragile" pitcher--so much so, in fact, that teammates would caution him from sitting down too quickly in order to ensure that he might not suffer a freak mishap--managed to stay healthy for the month of August; but he put too much "wiggle" into a pitch on September 3rd, and while it didn't shut him down for the rest of the year, it probably should have. His last two starts, in the final grip of terminal velocity, had absolutely no braking effect for the Sox.
|Tito: "A little early for that much snow, ain't it?"|
Theo: "If we run, only one of us will get buried..."
And, subterranean truth be told, it's probably Theo's fault--not so much for being so overrated, or for any of his actual (and very real) deficiencies. It was the hubris inherent in trying to upend the nature of the universe, baseball division. And that bravado extended all the way to the head-to-head matchups that the Red Sox had against the Yankees during the EJE (for those who've forgotten our fencing forays at the Baseball Think Factory with the potent, potioned, Parsifal-like Red Sox Nation, that's an acronym for the Epstein-James Era, which is now over).
avalanche of misfortune came rumbling down the mountain a good bit ahead of snow season this past September.
The great forces of a mythic universal order, as manifested in the seedy grandeur of a game whose business bloat is at maximum volume level, are making their counter-moves. It is a humbling and wondrous experience, for when it comes, it spares no one. It would be best to keep this in mind, and--despite any and all desires to the contrary--to try to remember (try, try, try) this very cosmic, catastrophic September.