EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 22, 2011

Having fun yet, Sox fans?

Bill Burt

Let's be honest. If you didn't know better — by looking at the Major League Baseball standings — you'd think the Boston Red Sox would be on the outside looking in as the playoffs get nearer.

Everybody seems to have a bad back. Everybody seems to be headed for a disabled list stint. Yet, the only thing we can do is yawn and long for October.

I have to say it's been pretty boring down there on Yawkey Way and despite what are eyes are telling us, that the Red Sox don't look as good as their record states, they really are world championship contenders.

Sure, the Red Sox are good.

Sure, three or four of their first five hitters are in the MVP discussion. Sure, they have two aces in Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. And sure, they know how to close out a lead in the eighth inning as well as the Yankees ever have been able to do with Mariano Rivera and whomever as his setup man.

I'm just wondering why all of this success has gone unnoticed.

Where's the drama? What happened to hating (in a loving way, of course) the Yankees? Heck, it's been more than two decades since the Yankees came in and out of Boston, twice, with zero histrionics like they have this season.

Nobody cares about the "first-place" Yankees.

While many people will point to the wild card, which for much of the last decade has been the Red Sox ticket to October, as the changing the way we approach the Red Sox in August and September, I wonder if it's more than that.

The fact that the Red Sox and Yankees have bought their way into October is getting old.

Let's compare their plight with Tampa Bay.

To put it in perspective, Yankees Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia, combined, make $17 million more in 2011 than the Rays entire roster. Heck, that duo makes more than seven franchises overall.

Don't gloat Red Sox fans. The guy the Red Sox snatched from the Rays, Carl Crawford, combines with Beckett and John Lackey, to dwarf the Rays payroll — making the same $17 million more than the 25-man roster in Tampa.

Mind you, the Rays also dealt away Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett, and didn't re-sign Haverhill's Carlos Pena.

The reason to part with all of those key guys from their contending teams from 2008 through 2010 was money. Their window closed last year. Now it's time to re-tool and wait.

The only problem is the Rays are still ticking, only 7.5 games out of the wild card spot. The Rays play the Red Sox six more times and the Yankees seven more times. In other words, they have a shot.

But we know better. The Rays are a three-game winning streak away from calling it quits, another gallant effort falls short.

Of course, come October, nobody will be complaining about the unfair system in place. The Red Sox will probably meet the Yankees in a seven-game series with the winner going to the World Series. It will be like the old days ... 2003 and 2004.

And then the Philadelphia Phillies, another franchise with an unfair advantage, will slap either the Red Sox or Yankees silly in five or six games. And everybody will say how great the playoffs were and how Major League Baseball is great again.

Of course, it'll be a lie. Other than those several games in October, one of the greatest sports leagues in the world is as fair as a predetermined World Wide Wrestling Federation match.