I see it has been some two months since I last posted, which is utterly unacceptable especially given the fact that I have more "free" time than I had back then. Of course there's also little movement from both of our professional sports teams and even college football season is a full two months away. This is a time for outdoor drinking, golfing and camping, not sitting around complaining about the Sabres and the draft or the Bills schedule. However, I'd like to think we won our little Trending Buffalo vote for reasons that didn't involve going months without posting, and when The Scizz even finds time to make a couple of posts, it's time for me to step it up, even if this disjointed post turned into complaining about the Sabres draft.
As if you couldn't tell, this is obviously a post regarding the American League-leading Boston Red Sox.
This week marks the halfway point of the baseball season, 67 days of which the Red Sox have led a division in which they were in many cases believed to finish behind the Rays, the Blue Jays, the Yankees and the Orioles. It was believed to be once again the best division in baseball, but this year Boston would not be playing any part of that. Personally I was just hoping for a surprise third place finish and to stay in the wild card hunt as late as possible, expectations fairly easy to embrace given the low bar the Bills and Sabres have forced me to set every dawning season.
And then something comes along that reminds us that for all the stats, all the men and women whose sole job is to follow specific teams and make predictions as to their future performance, all the fans that tune in every game, predictions are nothing more than educated guesses. Last season and into Spring Training this season, two prospects were focused on more than others: Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr. While those two have showed flashes of brilliance in their time for Boston, they have been bounced between the minors and majors and have yet to prove their worth as everyday players. Instead it has been prospects like Daniel Nava and veterans believed to be well past their prime like Shane Victorino and Jarrod Saltalamacchia that have carried the load.
It is still far too early to pencil the Red Sox into the playoffs, let alone division champs at this point. As I write this there are only 5.5 games separating the first and last place teams in the AL East and seven teams find themselves within five games of one of the two wild card spots. They could falter in the way the Rangers did last season, the way the Pirates have done the last couple, and I'm certainly bracing myself for such a result given the beer n'chicken collapse of two years ago compounded by the fact that I'm a Buffalo fan and such results are not especially out of the ordinary here. But for now, I'm just enjoying the ride, enjoying Ortiz cement his legacy as the best DH to play the game, Buchholz pitch like it's 2008, Ellsbury swipe bases with ease, walk-off wins from expected and unexpected sources. A season I expected to watch out of the corner of my eye has turned into one in which I am tuning into every night, incredibly grateful that TIme Warner Cable is stupid enough to not notice that my $50 purchase of the Center Ice package has morphed into a free Extra Innings package.
Sometimes the breaks just fall your way.
I believe Darcy's comment about "suffering" was the worst thing he could have possibly said to this fanbase, mostly because we've been suffering since 2007, so hearing management use the term immediately made people think "my God, we're going to crater and won't even be relevant until the 2020's." What he should have said, what I believe is more applicable to the current situation, is simply "we're not there yet, we still have work to do and we'll do everything in our power to get there." Hell, I'm sure words very similar to some that have been said by someone speaking for the team, but have been drowned out by those screaming about the word "suffering."
Oh, and not for nothing, but people beating the "Sabres are trading up" drum didn't really help matters either; setting up the fans for another round of blame assessment when the motivation for a team to move down in this draft to those top three guys is sparse to begin with and the price could mean effectively neutering your farm system for years to come. I know there are those calling for just that, but such a philosophy only works when you can also lure the top free agents, something that for whatever reason has remained not to be the case in the current era. You want to see the impact of a top pick on a team and a fan base? Look at the Florida Panthers a year from now, following their last place season in front of the emptiest arena in sports as ownership desperately tries to throw in more free goodies to entice fans to buy season tickets that already cost less than a winter coat. Then you can see how Mackinnon/Jones/Drouin really "transformed" a franchise.
So what's everyone mad about? I guess it's because "the Sabres have two picks in the top-16 in what's called the deepest draft in a decade" isn't as sexy as pontificating about who can be packaged in some blockbuster akin to the Herschel Walker deal, except we're the Vikings and the player in this case isn't in the league yet. I get it, we want new, we want excitement. You know what's new? The coach, the defense and half the fucking lineup. We're willing to mortgage a bunch of guys who haven't played more than 30 games together and half the farm system for one guy? I think that's insanity but I know many don't and who the hell knows? Maybe management has proposed just that only to be shot down, and even though they'd certainly be parts of any draft trade conversation, the MIller/Vanek trade discussion is an entirely different animal outside of the draft conversation. Although that discussion is again, less juicy.
But then you watch another team, in another sport, show that occasionally the prognosticators, the fans, even management, have failed to fully assess the team that they are compiling. You may not recognize all of the names, and even those you do you're unhappy with. But then they take the field or ice and you realize that you were wrong and wrong in the most fun way possible.
So let's just wait until the fall to see what "suffering" really lays ahead.