The Curse of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named
You may be forgiven for thinking that the wind howling down Brookline Avenue the other day was the laughter of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, forever haunting the Olde Towne Team with the memory of that fateful October night in the South Bronx. As yet another Red Sox hurler went down with a leg injury - in scenes eerily reminiscent of the opening days of the star-crossed 1987 season - there was no sign of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, last seen traversing some minor league backwater in search of cannon fodder for the hapless Cubs.
From Presque Isle to Greenwich, Red Sox fans have been sticking pins in their Brockton Rox He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named bobble-arm dolls ever since Jorge Posada, with one bloop double off the running-on-fumes Pedro Martinez, turned their postseason hopes into a pumpkin. Now, it seems, the joke is on us.
David Wells is leaning on crutches in the Big Concourse, shoveling down another plate of chicken fingers. Curt Schilling is embarking on an elvish quest with his Internet fanboy friends. And even noted hockey fan Keith Foulke, the heart and soul of a miracle champion whose magical October, to this reporter, seems a lifetime ago, is treading on thin ice.
And now, a succession of no-hopers - Jeremi Gonzalez, John Halama, somebody named Tim Bausher - are set to trudge up the well-worn path from Pawtucket, bent on proving to the Fenway Faithful that their ownership is truly committed to winning. Ben Sheets isn't walking through that door, Boston. Johan Santana isn't walking through that door. Even Jon Papelbon, the prodigal son of Red Sox Nation, upon whose arm rest the hopes of New England A.C. (After Curt), isn't walking through that door.
Instead, we get Abe Alvarez - a soft-tossing lefty who's actually blind in one eye - serving up beachballs to Dmitri Young and Pudge Rodriguez on Tuesday in Detroit. Alvarez is a nice kid, but he couldn't beat a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Indeed, it's time to get used to the new reality, Sox fans. Having learned nothing from the grim reign of Trader Dan Duquette, these newly-crowned World Champions buy their pitching like government cheese - in bulk, and without checking for mold.
Moribund. Hopeless. Lethargic. Disgraceful. The Curse of the Bambino may have ended when Mark Bellhorn flipped to Doug Mientkiewicz six months ago, but the Curse of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is only beginning. And the Boston Red Sox, deep in the throes of their death rattle after only twenty games of uninspired, flatulent baseball, are a dinosaur - the kind even Carl Everett can believe in.
Dan Shaughnessy is a frequent contributor to ESPN the Magazine.