We don’t know if 2015 will go down as the weirdest season in Red Sox history. But it has to be up there, all things considered. What began as just another season with a modest amount of promise thanks to some high-profile free agent signings and a core of young, budding stars has ended with an organization undoubtedly in a state of flux.
It’s quaint now to think back to spring training and the early portion of the season.
In April, we all have a few chuckles at the not-so-spry Pablo “Panda” Sandoval and the awkward existence maintained by “outfielder” Hanley Ramirez. Mookie Betts makes a memorable catch in the Opening Day win at Fenway and, briefly, things seem to be on track. The team’s electrifying youth will commingle with dependable veterans to win 90-plus games en route to the postseason. The pitching is bad but it could only get better and eventually more of the hitters will hit…right?
Things get a little more suspect in May. Unfortunate suspicions that we conveniently dismissed in April start to be confirmed.
Kung Fu Foul Ball King Pablo Sandoval is slapped on the wrist for looking at racy Instagram photos while using the bathroom during the middle of a game. (Later in the summer, the Sox forge ahead unironically with “Social Media Day.”) *Speaking of Panda, late in the year Sean McAdam very depressingly sums up how Year 1 went, “I’ve lost track of the number of games from which Sandoval has been removed this season for either “dehydration” or “lightheadedness.“
The first few weeks of summer bring no additional heat to the lineup. Offense remains anemic. In related news, Brock Holt is the team’s lone All-Star Game participant.
— Tom M. (@TMacBrighton) July 9, 2015
From there, things get weird.
In August, manager John Farrell announces he has been diagnosed with lymphoma. Torey Lovullo takes over manager duties for the rest of the season.
It is both touching and maddening that in the subsequent two games the team scores a combined 37 runs. You can arbitrarily select any number of week-long stretches when the team didn’t manage to crack the 30-run threshold. In May, the team scored 82 runs in 29 games.
Larry Lucchino announces he will step down as CEO of the Boston Red Sox at the end of the season.
Shortly thereafter, the Red Sox oust Ben Cherington by hiring Dave Dombrowski – a move that they wind up announcing during the late innings of a weeknight game at Fenway Park in mid-August. The team is taken aback by Cherington’s unwillingness to accept a lesser role in the front office under Dombrowski’s watch.
The Shocking – Part 2
In a move that stuns fans and media alike, NESN announces in late August that Don Orsillo is done after the 2015 season. He will be replaced by Dave O’Brien next year.
During the following homestand, Dan Shaughnessy – of all people – ‘reports’ that fans trying to bring signs into the ballpark in support of Orsillo were forced to relinquish them before going into the game. The Boston Globe posts this fact on its online edition the evening before and then removes that throwaway tidbit from Shank’s column in the following morning’s print edition. The paper cites weak sourcing (it’s definitely weak something…), but it seems more than plausible that John Henry, rumored to have less affection for Orsillo than foot-out-the-door Lucchino, had an associate make a friendly call into the newsroom that Henry technically owns.
Keeping up with its classy reputation, NESN refuses to air a tribute to Orsillo played on the scoreboard at Fenway Park during the team’s final home game of the season. The following week, news leaks that Orsillo will be heading to San Diego to do TV and radio play-by-play for Padres games.
Knuckleballer Steven Wright, smack in the midst of what may be his most extensive shot to prove himself as a viable major league starter, goes on the 7-day disabled list after getting hit in the neck by an errant flyball while warming up before a game in Miami.
– In the final home series of the season against the Orioles, the Red Sox pitching staff puts together three straight shutouts. It’s been more than half a century (1958) since the team has pulled off the feat.
– After proclaiming himself a Cy Young candidate in the offseason, then pitching poorly enough to be removed from the rotation at one point in July, Joe Kelly returns to a starting role in late July to reel off wins in eight straight starts–something that was last achieved in the major leagues by Pedro Martinez in 1999. It was during Kelly’s streak, by the way, that Pedro Martinez was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Red Sox retired his number.
– It is reasonable to assume that Kelly’s streak of success will serve as the most remarkable and unexpected of the season. Surely, no one else will put together a Pedro-esque stretch. But of course, in September Rich Hill returns to the team and starts getting the ball, reeling off three straight 10-strikeout performances. He allows three earned runs in his first 23 innings as a starter since 2009. It is the first time since 1900 a pitcher debuts in September and strikes out 10 batters in three straight games.
Longest Red Sox Streaks with 10+ SO and no more than 1 BB, last 100 Years: 3 Games, Rich Hill in 2015 3 Games, Pedro Martinez in 1999
— Jon Shestakofsky (@Shesta_Sox) September 26, 2015
In September, David Ortiz hits career home run No. 500 and later reveals via The Players Tribune that he dreams of becoming a porn star. It’s probably for the best that these types of revelations slip through the cracks with little fanfare with the season now five-plus months old and football season is under way.
Runner up: Hanley Ramirez’s left field.
The Shitshow Red Sox Alum
Curt Schilling signs on to host the first ever sleepover at Fenway Park, part of an Airbnb promotion. This is bad enough on its own, but unfortunately there’s much more.
The week prior to the scheduled sleepover on September 2, he is taken off Little League World Series coverage on ESPN for posting images on his Facebook page of Adolf Hitler while talking about Muslim extremists. It is arguable if this chain of events involving the once proud Sox alum is even the most discussed of the year. In the spring, he fought off social media bullies in the name of defending his daughter. This is all a roundabout way of saying Curt Schilling should stay off the goddamn Internet for a while. Schilling is eventually relieved of his sleepover appearance duties.
The Shitshow Red Sox Alum, Runner Up
Jonathan Papelbon. Another former Boston postseason hero further disgraces himself by trying to choke out Bryce Harper, his new teammate on the Nationals and MVP candidate, doesn’t run out a pop-up.
Media Think Piece
The best piece of investigative reporting related to the Red Sox shows up in the dead zone of late summer in the form of a ridiculously long Grantland.com feature detailing the rise and fall of the low level drug dealers who managed to capitalize the most on the Yankees Suck T-shirt craze circa 1998-2004. The story discusses at length its backdrop–the formerly seedy Fenway/Landsdowne neighborhood, where it was especially fitting that a rogue vulgar T-shirt business could thrive.
It is an especially interesting read, particularly in light of the numerous residential developments and high-end dining establishments that have gentrified the area during the last 15 years. The transformation has been aided in large part by the Red Sox’s ownership and their business ventures and revitalization efforts aimed at keeping the crowds flowing into Fenway.
It only makes sense then, in this season of weirdness, that there is a shooting outside the Fenway ticket office during Labor Day weekend.
Shooting outside of Fenway Park ticket office tonight, glass window shattered. Victim is expected to be okay. pic.twitter.com/1HSTSk8ycF
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) September 6, 2015
Steve Horgan Lives…
Mookie Betts’ shutout-saving catch to preserve Rich Hill’s complete game win in the second-to-last game of the season at Fenway Park offers the symbolic hope Red Sox fans need to last the winter. Betts’ highlight reel catches – going toward the bullpen on Opening Day and going into the bullpen in the Fenway Finale – bookend the team’s home schedule and are perfectly suitable takeaway images for the season.
For those in need of something a little more heavy-handed, though, observe the photo below from Sons of Sam Horn’s soxhop411:
Better days are ahead…