This is my column that appeared at Bornintoit.com on Saturday about the Red Sox injury woes, and especially about the unsettling news regarding Jon Lester.
"The Nightmare Never Ends"
Tonight I was going to sit down and write a column about the absolute disaster that the month of August was for the Red Sox. It was their worst month since August of 1985. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.
Now, with a brand new month of September just beginning, I was hoping the Red Sox luck might turn for the better. On Thursday night, the Red Sox caught a huge break when Blue Jays rightfielder Alex Rios bobbled and then swatted Alex Cora's fly ball into the right field seats to give the Sox a much needed break and a 6-4 victory to start the homestand. It was the kind of goof that would almost surely have happened to the Sox with their run of recent luck, but thankfully it wasn't.
But now it turns really horrible again. Jonathan Papelbon left the game tonight in the ninth inning clutching his right shoulder after throwing a pitch to Lyle Overbay. He walked off the mound and into the trainer's room, and as I write this, no word yet has come down about his injury. I'm praying it might be just a pinched nerve in his neck.
Papelbon is a HUGE part of the Red Sox future. If it is a minor injury like that, he could be back shortly. But if it is anything beyond that, you might figure he's done for the year, and strictly as a precaution. He is someone's future that absolutely cannot be fooled around with, and the Red Sox know that.
But earlier in the evening, some more unsettling news of a different nature was revealed by the club. Rookie Jon Lester was today diagnosed as having a treatable form of lymphoma. Lester had been complaining of back pain, and it was discovered that he had enlarged lymph nodes. The team sent him to Massachusetts General Hospital where the diagnosis was made. Lester is just 22, and will start his treatments next week. His season is of course, finished, and his baseball future is up in the air right now.We can only pray for Jon and his family, that they get through this ordeal, and that we see him pitching on the mound at Fenway Park in 2007.
I have been a baseball fan all my life, and a Red Sox fan for nearly 30 of them, and I have never seen a team go through the type of medical issues the Red Sox have gone through this season. One player, after another, after another has gone down for a significant period of time. Of course, you cannot blame the Red Sox August fall just on injuries, as players they were counting on swooned badly after the All-Star Game (Coco Crisp, Josh Beckett and Mike Timlin and the rookie pitchers come to mind). Every team has to deal with injuries at some point in their season, and the ones that basically stay healthy can consider themselves lucky.
By the time the Red Sox hit Seattle and Oakland last week, the team began to look more and more unrecognizable. They were putting a team on the field without David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, and the lineup was what my dad would call, "toothless." When the Sox fell behind in Oakland 2-0 in the sixth inning against the A's last Tuesday night, a thought crossed my mind that I would rarely if ever think in the recent years of Red Sox slugging teams: "They are out of this game." And sure enough, they lost, 2-1, despite a great effort from Beckett.
Seeing the team the Sox have fielded the last week, they don't seem like "The Red Sox" to me, just a bunch of guys posing in Red Sox uniforms. But I was in my favorite bar this past Thursday night rooting them on, and was more than relieved than anything else to see them just hold on to beat Toronto, 6-4, and end a six-game losing streak.
It was a relief to hear that David Ortiz' heart scare was unfounded and he got a clean bill of health. He will be back in a couple of days. Manny Ramirez? Who knows, as his knee and hamstring problems keep him on the bench. Reinforcements are on the way, as Jason Varitek, Alex Gonzalez and Trot Nixon are on injury rehab assignments now and will be back by Sunday, and Tim Wakefield maybe back in the rotation by next week.
But it looks to be "a day late and a dollar short" as the old saying goes, for the 2006 season. The Sox appear to have too much ground to make up to really have a shot at postseason, and still too many key parts missing to make a really good run.
2006 will go down as a memorable season for Red Sox fans, but for all the wrong reasons. It is still a never-ending nightmare for Red Sox Nation, who wish they could all go back to sleep and dream this nightmare away.
But we are Red Sox fans, and we will always support our boys, no matter what.
Especially Jon Lester.