The Red Sox in 1976: The Electric Scoreboard and Other Excuses
Three cheers for the Red Sox!
What did you expect? "Wait till next year", "If only . . .", "I can't understand what happened but here goes my analysis anyway?" No eulogies here. You can get them from the sports trivia freak down the hall or in the back of Fine Arts 13.
Sports writers feel obligated to offer alibis for seasons gone astray. There's a sense of importance in such requiems I guess; the official burial by the press. And it's something to do when there are no playoffs to cover.
Most post-season analyses harp on several common elements. A young player did not perform up to potential, the reliable veteran came up lame, it was a cold spring training, the momentum was missing, and of course, the manager did not establish a good rapport with his players. This formula will work for a Red Sox post-mortem and is guaranteed to make you a hit at any cocktail party.
The Human Element
But, these are the intangibles of the season, more or less the human element which cannot be measured on paper. And there is no reason to lament them. Unpredictability and human error are part of sports and should be appreciated. Thank God that professional athletes are not yet machines whose performances can be fed into an odds maker's computer in January. Wouldn't sports be boring if teams finished seasons in the order they had been ranked months earlier?
And that is where the Red Sox and congratulations come in. For the second straight season the Red Sox have demonstrated the uncertainties in sport. In that endless summer of 1975, when even the Fenway pigeons seemed to sing, the Bosox defied the critics who had put them behind Baltimore and New York in their division, who had forecast the A's in three, and the Big Red Machine to roll in four.
No one could have known that Denny Doyle would hit in 30 straight games, that Burton and Willoughby would be the core of a fire-up bullpen. And what about those rookies, what were their names, who were supposed to be eased into the lineup gradually?
Fred Lynn did not feel well one evening so he relaxed and collected three home runs and ten RBIs. Jim Rice was supposedly jealous of Lynn, so, according to the experts, he played better. And who can explain a ten game streak in July when the Sox averaged eight runs a game just when the pitching staff was taking a vacation.
Yaz on First
This season, Carl Yastrzemski returned to first base, after successfully flirting with youth and the Green Monster. Doyle sat on the bench, player tensions lowered morale, and injuries seemed to linger (they always do in off years.) There is also no explanation for the ten game slump in May which put Boston 9 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
Of course, some things in life are predictable. Luis Tiant is one. El Tiante will whirl and twirl for 20 more next season and the Red Sox will return for another summer of baseball and intrigue. And sports writers will continue to come up with excuses for why their pre-season predictions went wrong.
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