Disclaimer: If you are a Red Sox fan, this article may break your heart. By continuing, you are signing an invisible death waiver, as I will take no responsibility for how miserable your life may become after reading this. If I were you I would stop reading right now. You may be better off going into China and requesting water torture, or perhaps listening to all of Barack Obama’s speeches…backwards…without a teleprompter. If you do not heed my warning and succumb to the horrible thing known as “sports depression”, I would suggest staring at a picture of one or both of the last two Red Sox World Series trophies. If even that doesn’t make you feel better, I can help you no further. Godspeed.
September 2nd, 2009 was a brutal night for Red Sox Nation. The Red Sox lost to the Rays 8-5, surrendering three runs that would not be answered immediately after tying the game at 5-5, and continuing their struggles at the Trop this season. The Texas Rangers were able to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4, and the Yankees blew the Baltimore Orioles out of the water.
This resulted in the Sox losing a game on all three teams, thinning their Wild Card edge on both the Rangers and Rays to 2.5 game and 5 game leads, respectively. It also made any dreams of overtaking the division from the red-hot Yankees much less realistic, as if they weren’t already.
But what is even worse for Red Sox fans is that, out of all of the night’s events, none of the above hurt the Sox the most.
Former Red Sox starting pitcher Brad Penny suited up for his new team, the San Fransisco Giants, for the first time on September 2nd. And he, in the words of the Joker, “didn’t disappoint”.
Penny shut out the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies for eight innings, allowing just five hits and one walk. This game was in Philadelphia, in one of the NL’s biggest hitter’s parks, and in the home of arguably the National League’s best lineup. Not to mention that he out-dueled J.A. Happ for the victory, who may be the future 2009 recipient of the NL Rookie of the Year award.
Yes, this is the same Brad Penny who had a 5.61 ERA for the Red Sox, going 7-8 and epitomizing the word “mediocre”.
Yes, this is the same Brad Penny who never lasted longer than 6.2 innings for Boston.
Yes, this is the same Brad Penny who lost six of his final seven decisions with the Red Sox, and was 1-5 after the All-Star break.
Yes, this is the same Brad Penny that was just placed on waivers by Boston, and cleared them. It is the same Brad Penny that Tim Wakefield, who is now once again ailing his injury and is currently day-to-day, replaced in the rotation immediately after coming off of the disabled list.
You must be asking yourself right now, “Why did this happen? How did Penny join the Giants and all of a sudden become Superman? Is he on the juice? Did all those McDonald’s Big Macs finally make him an amazing pitcher?”
Well, there is an answer to all of those questions, and the answer to the final two are both “probably not”.
But the real reason Penny was able to pitch so well with a new team is something intangible. Something experts, scientists, and even Leodis McKelvin have not been able to give an explanation for. However, following many archaeological and astrological discoveries, suicides, homicides, death threats, ransoms, bribes, and lifetimes of searching, the solution has been found.
It was not the switch to the National League. The Phillies are just as much of a threat to hit as any American League team, and the last time Penny faced the Phils, he allowed 6 earned runs, despite not being part of the decision. And, for the last time, no, it was not the Big Macs, Whoppers, or even the Arby’s roast beef sandwiches.
Penny pitched well because of The Curse.
Yes, The Curse. No, not the Curse of the Bambino. That Curse has been broken for five years, and the Red Sox kicked its gravestone in 2007.
It was The Curse of the Former Red Sox. A dreadful Curse that has especially haunted Red Sox Nation recently.
The Curse of the Former Red Sox is a curse notorious for one or more of the following:
1. A player the Red Sox get rid of (via free agency, release, or trade) that had been failing to perform suddenly plays at a much higher level with another team.
2. A player the Red Sox get rid of because they think his career is over or almost over and/or refuse to pay, continues to have a good or better career with another team.
The Curse is obviously, while indeed a curse for the Red Sox, really a blessing for whoever was struck by The Curse. And Penny is certainly not the only one to be struck by it. Let us take a look at a few of the players that have had a chance to stick it to the Red Sox… thanks to The Curse.
The Curse this article refers to is, again, not the same thing as the Curse of the Bambino. But, on second thought, it might as well be; the best player to be struck by The Curse is the Bambino himself. Obviously Babe Ruth was already a great player with the Red Sox before being infamously sold to New York. But, as he was a pitcher with Boston, he only had 49 career home runs with them. With the Yankees, however, Ruth only pitched in five games, starting four of them (and winning all five). He went on to hit .300 or more in 13 of his next 14 seasons, and hit 665 home runs in his post-Red Sox career. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936, and won four World Series as well as the 1923 MVP award with the Yankees.
Roger “The Rocket” Clemens is another all-time great that was cursed to be good after leaving Boston. The Rocket won three Cy Young awards and a League MVP in his 13 years with Boston. He also had both of his two 20-strikeout games with the Sox. However, at the end of his Red Sox career, Red Sox former GM Dan Duquette thought that Clemens was in “the twilight of his career”, and let him become a free agent following the 1996 season. Since then, he won back-to-back Cy Young awards in his first two years after Duquette let him go to the Toronto Blue Jays, won two more Cy Young awards in 2001 and 2004, was 162-73 after leaving Boston (he was 192-111 with the Sox, winning 5.5% more of the games he received a decision in after leaving the Red Sox than before doing so), and is now third all-time in strikeouts in the MLB. He also helped the Yankees win two World Series. Good call, Dan.
Wade Boggs is another instance of The Curse. Boggs played with the Red Sox from 1982 to 1992. He was never a power hitter, but he batted .300 or more for the Red Sox every year from 1982 to 1991, and led the league in batting average in 1983 and 1985-1988. When he had the worst year of his career in 1992, batting just .259, the Red Sox gave him up to free agency. He went to the Yankees, and hit over .300 in four of his five Yankee years, hit .290 in the fifth year, and made the All-Star game 4 times with New York. In addition, he won back to back Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and a World Series championship with the Yankees. Boggs then went to Tampa Bay for two years, hitting .289 with the Devil Rays and getting his 3,000th hit with them in 1999.
Manny Ramirez is another great former Red Sox player. He played for the Red Sox for eight years, and hit 274 of his 542 career home runs, including his 500th. He was also a .312 career batter with the Sox, and helped them win two World Series, the MVP of the 2004 championship. He stopped putting an effort into his games with the Sox in 2008, and the Red Sox, who were tired of his “Man-tics” traded him to the Dodgers. With L.A. in 2008, Manny hit 17 home runs in 53 games. He had hit 20 with the Red Sox that season, but in 100 games. He also batted an immortal .396 with the Dodgers, and was a huge help in taking them to the NLCS. Manny batted .500 in the ’08 NLDS, and .533 in the NLCS, with four home runs in the playoffs. Jason Bay, whom the Red Sox received in the Manny trade, batted .292 in last year’s ALCS, and hit 3 home runs last October.
Carlos Pena was a bench player for the Red Sox in 2006. He played in 18 games for Boston, hitting .273 with only one home run, though it was a walk-off homer. He joined the then-Devil Rays in ’07. In the last three years he has hit 46, 31, and 39 home runs respectively, and is on pace to finish 2009 with about 48 home runs. He broke 100 RBI in 2007 and 2008, and currently has 98 this season. He also hit three home runs against the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS.
Derek Lowe played eight seasons for the Red Sox. He made the All-Star game with Boston twice, and was a large part of their 2004 World Championship, as he was the winning pitcher of the clinching games of both the ALCS and World Series that season. He had a 40-save season with the Red Sox as their closer in 2000, and was 21-8 two years later, in his first season being converted from the closer to a starting pitcher. He was third in the Cy Young voting that year. With the Red Sox he had a 70-55 record and a 3.72 ERA, but was not re-signed following a mediocre 2004 regular season (not due to his clutch 2004 post-season performances, of course). Since leaving the Red Sox he has been a good pitcher with the Dodgers for four years and then the Braves in 2009. His record since leaving town and his record with the Sox are nearly identical, and his ERA before and after leaving Boston are identical. He has had 12+ wins in each of the last 5 seasons and an ERA under four in the first four since leaving town. The Red Sox certainly could have used him in the last few seasons.
Johnny Damon was a good lead-off hitter for Boston from 2002 to 2005. He stole 98 bases, batted .295, and hit 56 home runs for the Sox. He is most famous for hitting two home runs including a grand slam in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. Following ’05, Damon signed a four-year deal with the Yankees. With New York, he has hit .288 with 91 stolen bases and 77 home runs. This season, he has largely contributed to the Yankees having the best record in baseball. His career with New York has arguably been better than his career in Boston, especially from a power aspect, and he is not done with his Yankee career yet.
Joel Pineiro played for the Red Sox in 2007 until July 31st, when he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. After pitching in 31 games in relief for the Red Sox with a 5.03 ERA, he started 11 games for the Cards in 2007, going 6-4 with a 3.96 ERA. Though he had a below-average 2008, going 7-7 with a 5.15 ERA, he has had a great 2009 season thus far. Pineiro has a 3.19 ERA this year, and is 14-9 with 84 strikeouts as of September third.
Those are a few of the players that were struck by the curse in the past. In 2009 alone, Penny and three others have been struck by it.
Julio Lugo followed an awful Red Sox career by hitting .375 in his first month with the Cardinals, who the Red Sox traded him to for Chris Duncan. The Red Sox later released Duncan.
John Smoltz had an 8.33 ERA with the Sox in 2009, his only season with them. He then went to the Cardinals, and won his first two games, striking out 15 and allowing only one earned run in his first 11 innings with St. Louis.
Adam LaRoche was only in Boston for about a week, and did not do much for the Red Sox after the Pirates traded him to them. However, he has been a golden acquisition for the Braves since Boston and Atlanta swapped him and Casey Kotchman. LaRoche has played 29 games for the Braves in 2009, hitting .365 with eight home runs and 20 RBI. Meanwhile, Kotchman has hit .216 with the Red Sox, with one home run and five RBI (three of which came on his three-run shot against the Yankees in a game in which the Red Sox were blown out in anyway) in 18 games.
The Curse of the Former Red Sox is a deadly and, in recent times, inevitable thing for the Red Sox and their fans. The performances of these players may or may not directly have an effect on the Red Sox other than their production, or lack thereof, being subtracted from the team. But it does burn to see former players doing so well in another uniform. It leads to shouting bad things at the television, or perhaps breaking the TV with the lamp next to you. Or great pain in your foot, dropping the lamp after failing to make an accurate throw at the TV. And then you have one more thing to worry about, when you are such a failure that you cannot even break your TV with your lamp.
If your name happens to be Theo Epstein, I would think about what you just read. I would take great precaution before getting rid of another player, especially ones you do not get anything in return for (almost every single player listed above). Because, if you do… The Curse will strike again.
Photo Source: Getty Images