Owner: Battered Red Sox Need 'Miracle'
Fear, rather, is at work, as FanHouse doesn't pay sportswriters idled by broken thumbs, back spasms, fractured ribs, or other debilitating injuries likes of which suffered by the Sox this year.
I've been feeling dumber since watching the Dodgers try to run the basepaths. Who knows, whatever weird force that's attacking Sox players may claim even scribes who inquire about its effects.
Fortunately, 3,000 miles of Flyover Land are between us when John Henry, the team's principal owner, gives me his State of the Sox.
"At this point we'll need another miracle," Henry said via email to FanHouse, going into Boston's series opener at Yankee Stadium on Friday night. "This team, healthy, is capable."
The Red Sox should be out of miracles this century judging by the magnitude of their last one -- the comeback from three games to nil against the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series, followed by the franchise's first World Series championship since 1918.
The task now may be less daunting, but only barely so. Without their best player, Kevin Youkilis, who had season-ending thumb surgery Friday, the Red Sox (62-47) will try to pass the Rays (67-41) or the Yankees (67-40) or both.
That the battered Sox are 15 games above .500 in baseball's best division, Henry said, reflects well on both general manager Theo Epstein's construction and remodeling skills, and manager Terry Francona's stewardship. Only 10 of the 25 players who suited up on Opening Day have been active for the 109 games. Every other player on the team who has been on the roster this season -- 48 all told -- has spent time either in the minors, with another team, on the disabled list or on the bereavement-family leave list.
"You have to admire the way so many have played through pain," Henry said. "Mike Cameron, Marco Scutaro, J.D. Drew, Adrian Beltre have had continuing injuries, yet have persevered.
"Others have simply been unable to play."
Henry added: "It's frustrating to hear people question why a player doesn't come back as quickly as some would like. One of the problems we have is players trying to come back too soon."
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is the symbol of this Sox season of pain. Six games into the schedule, Ellsbury cracked four ribs when he collided with the third baseman Beltre. Ellsbury was still in pain when he returned to the field in late May. Diving for a ball in the outfield on May 27, he landed on his chest and cracked a fifth rib, which took several scans to identify. Ellsbury returned to the Sox on Wednesday and received a big cheer from the crowd at Fenway Park. In his comments to FanHouse, Henry implied that Ellsbury drew unfair speculation during his time on the DL.
"The questioning of whether or not Jacoby Ellsbury should have been back earlier hopefully was rooted in the desire to see him come back," said Henry (pictured right). "No one should question his desire to compete. In fact, he came back too soon initially. We didn't realize he was as badly hurt as he was. No one was looking forward to this season more than he was."
When the season began, the Red Sox regarded the Yankees and Rays as two of the top three teams in all of baseball. "We have a really good team," senior advisor Bill James told West Coast Bias in March. "But if the Yankees win 105 games and the Rays win 104, it makes for a difficult summer."
The Yankees and Rays are both on track to win 100-101 games. While he isn't ruling out a miracle, Henry seems to be wondering whether the Sox, too, would be moving at a triple-digit pace but for the excessive injuries.
"Theo put together a club this year that should have been right there with the Rays and Yankees," he said. "However, the injuries we have had have been almost astonishing. I didn't think 2006 would ever be replicated. But injuries are a major part of sports.
"Our payroll was our highest ever. We went for it this year. We felt well-positioned to make the postseason and believed our starting pitching would make us difficult to beat in October. But we also knew that Tampa and New York were extraordinarily strong."