When the schedule was announced, there was - at least in this household - a frisson of expectation: the Sox were to finish the season with a series at Fenway against the Evil Empire, during which Derek Jeter would make his final appearance. It could have been something very special. But, in the event, we knew three months ago that the Sox had nothing to play for and a couple of weeks prior that the Yankees were also out of contention even for the second Wild Card.
2014 is the first season for years that neither the Sox nor the Yankees had an interest in the playoffs. And the Sox had the worst record of any World Series Champions since the Marlins in 2004. But they had been out scored by the Yankees in '03 and Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell were by then in a Sox uniform.
So this year has been frankly appalling, although it never felt that bad. Day to day, I don’t think many of us thought for a moment that we were watching anything as poor as the Valentine year, even though statistically they are virtually the same. In fact, it was the desire to win more games than in 2012 that kept many of us rooting for the Sox right to the end. And, to be fair, this was a likeable bunch of guys. Even as the gods of baseball punished us for the hubris of 2013, they kept playing and - mostly - smiling.
Especially the kids.
It's been a real pleasure to see so many make the journey from Pawtucket and show us that they can do it in the majors. I think that in Christian Vazquez we have a catcher who can read a game, throw and hit. In Mookie Betts (MLB), we have a tremendous prospect at second or in the outfield. In JBJ, we have a defensive centre fielder as good as Jacoby and I am convinced that he will learn to hit. Bogey has not performed as well as I expected at short, but watching the Yankees series made me realise that we are not missing Drew. You've only got to see what happened to the As without Cespedes (and with Lester) to appreciate his importance to a team, and Castillo appears to have the talent and the class to make a major contribution next year.
The pitching situation is more complex. I still hope to see Jon back, but heard this morning that he has put his Massachussetts home on the market. The Andrew Miller trade was against my advice, and although I have always had respect for Workman, he didn't seem to make progress this year. Tazawa worries me each time he comes to the mound and I fear that Koji will need careful nurturing if he is to play a role next year. But I do like the look of Joe Kelly and Anthony Ranaudo; less keen on de la Rosa. We’ll see. And we will see also if Matt Barnes is ready early in May or June.
So. From worst to first and from first to worst. Is our self destruction as unexpected as the triumph of the Os this year?
For me, it is. At the beginning of 2013, I was almost alone in predicting a winning Sox. This year, I got it totally wrong. In fact, you needed to reverse my ALE predictions to get close to what actually happened. It has been the story of Os. And, if only for my lovely and much missed friend Michelle, I am pleased for the people of Baltimore and I hope they go far enough this October to lose to the Giants in the World Series.
Of course, other things have happened this summer. We have had a sensational time in France: probably the best ever for Jill and pretty good for me, even if I was to-ing and fro-ing between the two countries. We have had a great time with old and new friends, enjoying the ball games even when we were losing.
That's important. In a summer in which I reached the pensionable age of 65, I know that there is more to life than winning.
The Sox had not won a World Series for eight decades when they gained my allegiance. That they have subsequently been World Series champions three times is wondrous. Generations of Sox fans did not see their team win. I have three World Series rings in my memory bank. But that is not why I watch so many games in the early hours of the morning, why I fly across to Boston to see them at Fenway.
I support the Sox because they are central to a community, because they are vulnerable, because thousands of us schlep to Fenway night after night to see the Town Nine play ball with passion and commitment and skill and joy.
Summer is over. I hope the Giants do it again, not least for Bob Bradley. And then, after four months of a baseball desert, it will be summer again. Fenway and France beckon.
Today from the everysmith vaults: Dirty Water by The Standells, from the Nuggets anthology. Original artefacts from the psychedelic era and the soundtrack to a win at Fenway.