Maybe it's always going to be Opposite Day in the postseason. I seem to recall this 2007 team in the regular season being in the habit of offensive failure, rather than the bullpen kind. But this time around, the offense actually picked up the pitching for most of regulation, until the bullpen--the strength of our team all year--spectacularly blew a tie game in a rally led on the Cleveland side, creepily, by Trot Nixon.
It has been my curse this season to have been immediately smitten with Eric Gagne--given he's a cute, cuddly, roly-poly pastywhite French Canadian dude, I'm pretty much bound by my genetic heritage to find him adorable--but at this point I'd say my disgust for his performances has overwhelmed my general attraction to his person. I'm sure he's a sweetheart, but it's time for Eric to hit the golf course this year. We don't need to make it personal, but let us just quietly let him go.
I think Surviving Grady's post this morning is a must-read, and within that the most important section is this paragraph on Gagne:
And, sure enough, as has been the case so many times since he came aboard, it all came apart when Eric Gagne entered the picture. After striking out Casey Blake, the Canadian Loyalist, who practically refuses to execute a 1-2-3 inning under any circumstance, gave up a single and a walk and got his ass lifted but quickly by Titio, who I'm sure could imagine fans storming the gates and killing Gagne with their bare hands. One can only hope that Gagne just kept walking off the field, through the gates of Fenway, down to the waterfront and out to the airport where he hopped the first plane back home. Because the guy is clearly useless to us from this point forward.
And it's like that. We don't have to yell and scream about it. There doesn't need to be a mob on his doorstep with pitchforks and torches. We can be quiet and civilized as we make this transition. But it is for certain that he should leave now.
I've been trying to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, but at this point I have officially given up that ghost. We can now say definitively that Gagne was the difference between a comfortable division lead throughout August and the nail-biting, ulcer-scraping tension of the final few weeks. He was the difference last night between a perhaps arduous win in extra innings and a total meltdown for the Sox bullpen. Worst of all, his spot in last night's game represents a potentially crucial missing piece for the Sox bullpen--it's not just that Gagne's so bad, but that he's taking up a spot on our roster we might have filled with a more effective pitcher. With how evenly matched the Indians and the Sox are this season, even that small an edge can soon look like a glaring advantage.
Also, I mean, Jon Lester and Javy Lopez...Lester's been a little inconsistent elsewhere this year, but of all the times for Lopez to pick to shit the bed...
Red said he'd already conceded this game mentally on account of Fausto Carmona, but I hadn't. I thought Schilling would be nails again (he was ok, but nothing like he was in Anaheim) and expected a full repeat of the Papi and Manny show (which we got, for the most part) and another 5-1 or perhaps 5-3 ball game.
So for it to have first finally attained Heart-Attack Theatre status (also tm Red) and then gone pear-shaped in such dramatic fashion, has me experiencing some severe cognitive dissonance this morning. It's kind of like that terrible pins-and-needles feeling you have when your leg falls asleep--you just have to kind of hop around, grimace and go "eerrghhhh" for a while.
It's like I've said all along. I've never felt this way about a playoff-caliber Red Sox team before, but with this year's squad, I feel like I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd been swept in the first round, or if they won 11 straight games and the World Series. They've been so hot and cold, so spectacularly bad and yet so life-affirmingly good, at different times this season. I still feel strongly that from night to night, it all comes down to which Red Sox team decides to show up. Last night the Suck Factor invaded Fenway big time, and for the first time this postseason I'm wondering if it's the footsteps of Mr. Hyde* I'm hearing...
Luckily, they've given us a day to let our ulcers heal over, and hopefully a day's lead for Gagne to skip town before he gets the full-on Buckner treatment. Unluckily, we're going to have an entire day to contemplate all the what-ifs, now that this team has shown the cracks in its armor for the first time.
* The weird parallel-universe-ness of these teams continues...Indians bloggers have apparently used the same Jekyll / Hyde reference to describe their team, too.