Yankees Bid Farewell to Fenway for Season

This Yankees-Red Sox series at Fenway Park should have meant something for both teams. It should have been the biggest three games to date on both team’s schedules. Instead, what happens in Boston the next three nights only matters to the Yankees.

It’s weird that the Yankees and Red Sox will play a series in mid-September that should have had the same feeling as the postseason, but will now have the same feeling as the Yankees-Blue Jays series next week. With the Yankees fighting to maintain their AL East lead and the Red Sox fighting to get to the offseason in three weeks, Mike Hurley joined me for the second-to-last Yankees-Red Sox email exchange of 2012.

Keefe: If only this series had been played last week, it would have been a lot better. Not only because the Yankees wouldn’t have been losing to the Rays and Orioles in that case, but because you would have been more miserable to talk to about the Red Sox. Now with football in full swing and the Patriots demolishing the Titans, you’re probably in a good mood, and you probably haven’t watched a full Red Sox game since the Fourth of July weekend series. I will fill you in: the Red Sox suck.

Normally that would be a belligerent and intoxicated Yankee fan trying to win a war of drunken words, but right now they actually do suck. They are 63-78, in last place in the division and have lost 11 of 12. When I was in Atlantic City for Labor Day weekend, the Red Sox lost to the A’s 20-2! 20-2! And somehow I didn’t find out about this until eight days after it happened. I feel like I fell asleep on Dec. 23 and woke up on Dec. 26 and completely missed Christmas Eve and Christmas. When the Yankees got beat by the Indians 22-0 a few years back, there were T-shirt stands outside Fenway Park commemorating the brutal loss, and it wasn’t even at the hands of the Red Sox. I have a feeling there won’t be any 20-2 shirts with the line score written out.

The Yankees are in a weird spot. Their 10-game lead is now a one-game lead, and they split the season series with the Orioles. A month ago I was worried about the postseason rotation, but now I’m worried about winning each day just to get to the postseason.

That was the bad news. The good news is the Yankees have 22 games left and six of them are against Boston. This week was supposed to a meaningful series when the schedule came out and then it looked like it would be meaningless at the beginning of August, but now it’s meaningful again (well, for the Yankees). While the Yankees are playing the Red Sox, the Orioles and Rays will be playing and since someone in that series has to lose, the Yankees have a chance to create separation thanks to the worst team in baseball.

Is there any possible way the Yankees don’t win at least two of three games this week? And should they feel embarrassed if they don’t sweep?

Hurley: I watched the entirety of that 20-2 game, and I reveled in it. It was a glorious evening.

At this point, I enjoy watching the Red Sox finding new ways to fail. Whether it’s serving up grand slams to Josh Reddick, or making Brandon Moss look like Babe Ruth, or having the manager melt down on live radio, the Red Sox are just awesome. I never knew I’d enjoy this level of failure so much. But boy is it hilarious.

Now, you’re asking me about the Yankees, I guess, which makes sense because they’re a real, major league-caliber baseball team. I was confused at first why you were emailing me about the Yankees until I remembered that they’re actually coming to Boston this week. I honestly forgot. Like you said, it’s football season, so much so that what should be the best home series of the year has become a complete afterthought in Boston.

To answer your question, yes, the Yankees should not only feel embarrassed if they don’t sweep, but they should probably just quit and excuse themselves from the playoff race. The Red Sox just got swept by the Blue Jays. They were outscored 20-12 in the series. They were swept in back-to-back series by the Angels and A’s, getting outscored (wait for it … ) 58-16 in those six games (average score: 10-3). They have the same number of wins in September as the New England Patriots, despite having seven more chances. They let Omar Vizquel drive in two runs – including the game-winner – on Sunday. He’s old enough to be Derek Jeter’s dad. They are 32-41 at Fenway Park. They bat Scott Podsednik and Pedro Ciriaco and Ryan Kalish at the top of the lineup, and when asked to explain his lineup choices, the manager utters some curse word and a flippant remark, literally telling the world, “I really couldn’t care less about my lineup.”

So you tell me, will it be embarrassing to not sweep this team?

Keefe: Yes, it will be embarrassing. But while other teams have an easy time with the Red Sox, it seems like they could let you start a game and the Yankees would have trouble winning. That’s just the way Yankees-Red Sox series seem to go.

The other day I read the Tom Verducci cover story in Sports Illustrated about the Red Sox, hoping for some new info or some great behind-the-scenes story that would cause even more problems and more turmoil for the Red Sox entering the offseason. But there was no new information in the story. I guess since I have spent the last five months reading every Boston media outlet religiously to make sure I don’t miss out on anything there was really nothing new for me to learn. Unless we find out that Bobby V has been doing drugs during the seventh-inning stretch or that the bullpen has been running a prostitution ring out of the clubhouse, there is really nothing left to be discovered about the Red Sox.

The only thing that really stood out to me in that story was how out of touch with the city of Boston and reality Larry Lucchino is. He had several quotes in the story telling Red Sox fans how to act and how to accept the team’s fate and the idea of rebuilding period. But if I’m correct, your city has been calling for a rebuilding period since last year and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when they undid everything Theo Epstein had done that the ownership group finally realized. I haven’t seen a positive thing written or heard one said about Lucchino in at least five years unless it was because he forced a Globe writer to portray him in a positive light.

Boston sports fans hate A-Rod and Peyton Manning and LeBron James and the Canadiens and Canucks organizations, but has there ever been anyone involved with a Boston team that has been hated as much as Larry Lucchino is?

Hurley: Jose Offerman, for one. He was just the worst. In terms of non-players, Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs was pretty much hated for decades before they won the Cup in 2011. Even then, he was booed at the banner-raising celebration by some fans who will never forgive him for his tight wallet in the pre-lockout days.

But yeah, Larry Lucchino has always been pretty transparently phony. Only a truly blind Sox lover would look at Lucchino with googly eyes and say, “Gee, whiz, Larry, you’re really the cat’s pajamas.” Nothing is really new here. I remember reading “Feeding The Monster” by Seth Mnookin and noticing that it put a pretty solid smear job on Kevin Millar, for no real reason. I wasn’t in the media or anything at that point, just a college kid reading a book, and it was obvious that that was how Lucchino operates.

So yes, to try to tell fans how they will respond to front office decisions is hilarious, considering Theo Epstein uttered the words “bridge year” a few years ago and the front office went into DEFCON 1 to diffuse the situation. And what do we have to show for it? John Lackey! Way to solve that one.

Lucchino is correct in saying fans will be more open to a rebuilding-type year, because we’ve seen this team fall flat on its face for a while now. It was a bad mix of big-money guys, and there’s plenty of blame to go around, from Theo to Larry to John Henry to Ben Cherington to whoever else was involved in any decision for the past four years, things got ugly, and it’s going to take some time for them to crawl out of it. Knowing Larry said it’s OK to feel that way makes me feel even better though!

Keefe: We started talking about Bobby Valentine the day he was hired when no one other than Larry Lucchino thought it was a good idea. Well, I thought it was a good idea from a Yankee fan perspective hoping that it would be a disaster, but never did I think it would have been this much of a disaster. I figured the Red Sox would bounce back from September 2011 and just be good again and it wouldn’t matter if Terry Francona or Bobby Valentine or the delivery guy from Big Daddy’s in Boston that looks like Steve Buscemi’s character in Airheads and only wears Bruins apparel were the manager.

I’m scared that the Red Sox are going to fire Valentine. That would mean someone competent would take over the team and that would mean that the Red Sox would be in a better position than they are currently in. Though I do think the Red Sox aren’t going to get their first postseason win since 2008 for several more years now that after Game 162 this year they won’t have a left fielder, right fielder, shortstop or first baseman, and their rotation consists of two guys that have pitched a full season in the majors and one of those guys gets hurt every years.

What happens to your favorite sports figure of the last decade in Bobby V at the end of this year? I can’t imagine he will be back, but then again I never could have imagined that a team would trade all of their players instead of changing their manager and the Red Sox did that, so nothing would surprise me at this point. Please bring back Bobby V!

Hurley: Wow. It’s pretty disrespectful for you to mention the delivery guy from Big Daddy’s in Boston that looks like Steve Buscemi’s character in Airheads and only wears Bruins apparel, because you are pretty much single-handedly responsible for him losing his job when you moved to New York and stopped ordering from Big Daddy’s every day. That guy was a legend.

But yeah, he could manage the Red Sox better than Bob V. Nobody is crazy enough to pin all the blame on Valentine; he inherited a team with problems. But he definitely made things worse. There’s no reason for the Boston Red Sox to be this bad.On whether he’ll be back, it’s weird. On the one hand, you have to fire him, because he says things like “Who cares?” and “What does it matter?” at press conferences, and he acts like a lunatic on the radio, and he forces Alfredo Aceves to fly commercial across the country, then forces him to pitch in four out of five games for 125 pitches, and so on and so forth. It’s a bad joke that he’s still employed, and it’s an even worse joke that he’s due $2.5 million next year. Two-and-a-half million!! Cue the “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” clip.

All that being said, a part of me thinks, why wouldn’t he be back? Valentine is exactly the nut I expected him to be. If they hired him in the first place, are they really going to fire him simply for coming as advertised?

I’d hope they’re smart enough to recognize they made an awful error in judgment last winter by firing him this October, but if I told you I was 100 percent confident in that happening, I’d be lying.

Keefe: I keep hearing Red Sox fans and media members debate about Jason Varitek becoming the next Red Sox manager and I think the only thing better than Bobby V would be Varitek. He’s one year removed from being the captain of a team that experienced the worst September collapse in baseball history and played with most of the guys on the team. The age separation and difference isn’t that of someone like Joe Girardi, who only played with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, and no one is going to tell them what to do regardless of age.

If Bobby V is out, I can only hope they bring in an inexperienced friend and pal of guys on the team responsible for Terry Francona being fired, Theo Epstein leaving town and the trade of their No. 2 starter, left fielder and first baseman. Unless you think those first two things happened because of those three guys.

If Bobby V is out, who do you want in? Does it even matter?

Hurley: I can’t even follow the things you say, that’s how crazy you are with giddiness.

They should let David Ortiz be MLB’s first player-manager-general manager. His first move as a triple threat would be to sign himself to the four-year contract he feels he deserves. That’d be a good start.

I really don’t care who manages the team next year. A lot of people are excited about John Farrell, but I don’t understand that one. Cherington’s choice last year was apparently Dale Sveum, who is exciting as a bag of old rocks and had the Cubs out of the playoff picture by June. I’ve heard the Mike Scioscia rumors, and I’ll just say that if Mike Scioscia manages the Red Sox, I’m moving to Toronto and I’ll stop following baseball. But BOY, OH BOY the Red Sox would get from first to third more often!

Keefe: Not only would they be the best team at going first to third, but they would also be the best fundamentally sound team in the majors. That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact. Mike Scioscia’s teams don’t make errors or baserunning blunders. They also haven’t been in the playoffs since 2009 and they have played in a four-team division and have played 36 games combined against the A’s and Mariners the last few years. But who cares about that? Mike Scioscia is the best manager in baseball and a genius!

It kind of sucks that the Red Sox suck. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of them being in last place and seeing entire sections of Fenway Park without people in the seats while the organization chases a sellout streak that isn’t real. But this series should have been important for both teams and not just the Yankees. (I can’t actually believe I’m saying any of this.) I just miss the idea of waiting all day for a meaningful Yankees-Red Sox game or traveling up to Boston for a regular season game that has a postseason feel. I have a feeling I won’t be seeing one of those for at least five more years given the Red Sox’ current state.

Now that the Patriots have started your attention is on a quest for the Patriots’ first Super Bowl since 2004 and since Gary Bettman is a horrible person it doesn’t look like we will get to talk hockey this season unless you recently became a labor lawyer and want to talk about collective bargaining agreements. It’s sad that you have to turn to other sports right now and don’t care about baseball right now as much as you should because you can’t. What is going to take for the Red Sox to win you back in 2013?

Hurley: It is sad, but it’s not like it’s entirely new. I mean, the Yankees crapped the bed in their final year at the REAL Stadium, and even I was kind of bummed about that. And the era of the Red Sox being equal with the Yankees really only began nine years ago, so it’s not like we haven’t been here before. It does feel strange though.

For me to care about the Red Sox again, they’re going to have to make smart baseball decisions. Dumping Beckett and Crawford was a good start, even if it meant giving up a steady bat and glove in Gonzalez. In free agency, they need to go more the Cody Ross route than the Crawford/Lackey route. They need a manager who hates the media and the spotlight and can keep his frigging mouth shut. They need honesty from ownership (which has only happened once, when John Henry invaded Felger & Mazz, but will never happen again). They probably need lower ticket prices too. It costs $75 to sit way up in left field foul territory higher than the Monster seats and farther from the field. That BS just isn’t going to fly for a last place team.

I don’t think the last two things will happen, but the reality is, if they can just get back to baseball and stop inundating us all with the over-the-top marketing garbage, everyone here will be much happier. Oh. They also need to stop playing Sweet Caroline. I’ve been at Fenway this year when they were losing something like 18-3 to the Rangers. So many dopes were happily singing that awful song that I nearly started ninja kicking everyone in my section. It is the greatest embarrassment in sports.

Keefe: I take it you didn’t buy a Fenway brick or that CD that included Kevin Millar and David Ortiz sing-alongs?

So with the Giants and Patriots not playing each other unless they reach the Super Bowl, which is a situation I know you’re petrified of, and the NHL looking like they are ready to say “Eff You!” to the fans for the second time in eight years, this might be the second-to-last-time we talk via an email exchange in 2012, and maybe it’s better that way. I don’t know how much one person can take of Mike Hurley, but I think I have reached my limit.

The Yankees and Red Sox meet one more time to close out the season in Games 160, 161 and 162 of the regular season. When the schedule came out I didn’t sleep for two weeks thinking about the implications those three games might have. Now they have different implications since the Orioles and Rays will be playing each other those three days and it will likely mean the division, one-game playoff or nothing for the Yankees. I’ll talk to you on Oct. 1.

Hurley: Talk to you later, but if the Giants and Patriots make the Super Bowl, delete this email address.

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