By Ryan Fitzgerald – Co-Editor-in-Chief
This moment was always coming, but I’m not sure anyone thought it would come like this. Even if you didn’t think the Sox would win it all, I don’t think you predicted this. A sweep? C’mon. After all he has done for the Sox and entire city of Boston, that’s how Papi’s career is going to end? The Cleveland Indians sweep the Boston Red Sox three games in a row? No. He has to come back right? No. One more year? No. That was a dream, more like a nightmare. The Sox are still playing tonight. Nope. It’s over. And it really hurts.
There are only a few games that have made me physically ill at the conclusion of them; the Red Sox loss to the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, the Celtics loss to the Lakers in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, the Jets loss to the Steelers in the 2010 AFC Championship Game, and the Jets Week 17 loss to the Bills last season. I can now add one to the list, Game 3 of the 2016 ALDS. But this one felt different and not in a good way.
It would be one thing if the Sox disappointingly lost to the Indians in this series. It’s another for them to get swept like they did. But having their season and David Ortiz’s career end in this fashion is pretty devastating. Honestly, how did this happen?
Unlike most losses, fans didn’t exit Fenway Park quickly on Monday night. They stood, chanted, waited for the man to come back on the field in his uniform just one more time. He did and that made it hurt even more. The press didn’t even let him on the field by himself. He was accompanied by countless photographers which I hated because it took away from his moment. Ortiz was visibly emotional. I think the entire city was. It was a rough night for everyone.
The Sox couldn’t get anything going in this series. All three games felt weird. It didn’t feel like I was watching the same team that just won the division and confidently headed into the postseason. They went on an 11-game win streak and won 12 out of their last 17 games to end the regular season.
But I guess I shouldn’t have felt so secure. I should have listened to James’ column last week. In it he said, “The Sox really finished 1-5. There has been too much focus on David Ortiz, and the team is in a slump. I am not thrilled with their finish.” He was right.
The Sox looked discouraged, scared at times during this series. David Price provided a performance not even worth a fraction of what he is getting paid and the rest of the pitching couldn’t get past Cleveland’s powerful lineup either.
This Cleveland team led by former Sox skipper Terry Francona is very capable and hungry for postseason wins. They just saw the hometown Cavaliers bring a title to the city in June for the first time since 1964. Players from that team including Lebron James were in attendance for Game 2 of the ALDS to support and encourage another Cleveland team to ‘get one for the Land.’ That was enough push for the Indians to get one step closer.
The Sox helped them too by making too many mistakes. Even Pedroia let an easy grounder slip right between his legs in the team’s 6-0 loss in Game 2, something he practically never does. Fielders made mental errors, batters watched too many strikes go by without flinching the bat, Ortiz batted 1-9, the ball club flat out choked.
Maybe they were thinking too much. Maybe the emotion and pressure of Papi’s last season played into their heads and took their focus away from the task at hand.
I think it did. They didn’t look focused or determined on the field. Even the fans felt it. When Game 3 began you could hear a pin drop in Fenway. There was no lively buzz that usually accompanies a Sox playoff home game. Everyone was on edge.
The team’s roster is filled with many young players with promising futures. But I think the heightened moment and idea of earning a championship for a Sox legend in his final season was too much for the unit to handle. Too many nerves never bodes well for a team in any sport.
So this is it. Farewell David. I now look forward to your Hall of Fame induction. You are an icon, a legend, to not just us Sox fans but baseball fans around the world. The Red Sox will not be the same without you. I’m sure we’ll see you at many more games to come, you just won’t be there to save us.