April 1996 - Eastern Division Chumps

Pardon me for this cynical bit so early in the season, but we have some unfinished business from last year. Am I the only one surprised at how many otherwise rational and intelligent folks seem so ga-ga that the Red Sox won the Eastern Division in 1995? As we often said in college, B.F.D. (Uh... kids, that's Boulder Fire Department.)

As I expressed in no uncertain terms in this space last September, the three-division structure that baseball embraced did little but lower the bar. By allowing teams that should have been playing golf into the post-season, the Lords of Baseball tainted the whole process. Taking last year's standings and pouring them into the previous two-division format, the darling Red Sox would have finished a distant and telling 14 games behind the Cleveland Indians. Seeing as how they were pummeled in three first round games, that distant second place is a far more rightful legacy for the '95 Sox than a devalued division championship.

Ah, but the media and the Red Sox public relations machine want us to think the Rose Hose were just a heartbeat away from the first World Series victory since 1918. It should have been abundantly clear to anyone who knows squat about baseball that last year's team had absolutely no shot at October glory. Am I the only one who could see that the Sox were not championship caliber, but that with patience and development, had the potential to emerge as legitimate contenders a few years down the road?

Hopping on their own "this could be the year" bandwagon, Dan Duquette, et al tried to turn the pumpkin into a carriage by trading the highly touted Frankie Rodriguez for closer Rick Aguilera. The clock struck midnight, and Albert Belle struck Aggie's playoff meatball deep into the Cleveland night. The party was over. Aguilera re-signed with the Twins in the off-season, so now both talented pitchers ply their trade in Minnesota. The Red Sox mortgaged their future, and they have nothing to show for it but a bogus pennant on the Fenway facade. Didn't the Jeff Bagwell fiasco teach them anything?

To top it off, a month after the Red Sox stunk up the joint in the playoffs, we get manager Kevin Kennedy whining that the 17% raise he'd signed a contract for was just not befitting a manager of his exalted stature. The Duque expressed his confidence and offered a contract extension, but Kennedy was insulted. In the Boston Globe, Kennedy grumbled, "What's the reward for winning?" Earth to Kev-Dude: Winning the Most Errors in the American League Championship doesn't count. Your inferior team got blown away when in crunch time. They were barely competitive. Clearly not in the same class as Cleveland, Atlanta, or even Seattle. It was embarrassing. Call back when you actually win something significant.

The hype, poor planning, and wishful thinking have carried into this season. The Sox brass continue a proven ineffective formula by once again stocking the team with slugger-types, while only paying scant attention to last year's shoddy defense. Am I the only one that noticed that '95's post-season play once again made it abundantly clear that pitching and defense, not beef, wins baseball championships? The '96 BoSox should certainly knock the ol' horsehide around the yard, and I'm sure they'll provide lots of excitement. I still maintain that to win it all, an MLB squad has to be much better balanced than the current edition of our Olde Towne Team. Then again, it sure will be fun if I'm wrong.

©1996 - 2007 Douglas T. Dinsmoor


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