Dancing in the Dark


Dancing in the Dark

On Thursday afternoon, I left Boston for a bachelor party down in Hilton Head. Although, the destination isnt nearly as important as the fact that, upon arrival, I quickly realized that cell phone service on the island was shakier than Daniel Bard. Actually, scratch that. The service was more like John Lackey completely useless but still infuriatingly present. The kind of thing where every once in a while youll see a random bar or two pop up on the phone, but by the time you open your email, the connections long gone.

Anyway, for obvious reasons, I freaked out. No cell service meant no calls, no texts, no Twitter, no e-mail, no Words or Scramble With Friends. No letting co-workers borrow my phone to coordinate secret meetings with my boss. It meant an instant, unexpected and involuntary removal from society, and in turn, an anxiety attack . . .

. . . which of course subsided after a few hours.

It always does. At least for me. Ill find myself in a place where my phone doesnt work and after a brief panic, Ill embrace it. Ill feel liberated and start saying annoying things like: Aaahhh, no phone. This is FREEDOM! So, by Thursday night, Id made peace with my weekend off the grid. Granted, it helped that Boston was about to embark on one of its most quiet sports weekends of the year. No Bs. No Cs. A Pats preseason game and a series between two of the worst teams in the American League. It was actually the perfect time to escape; to re-charge my brain for the start of football season.


The next day, everything changed.

The Red Sox pulled off one of the largest, most historic and franchise-altering trades in their 112 years of existence. The Internet caught fire. Twitter exploded. I assume sports talk and Sports Tonight ratings went through the roof. All things considered, it probably turned into one of the most inspired and memorable weekends in recent Boston sports history.

Meanwhile, I was in South Carolina pacing around like Chris Farley in Black Sheep, killing myself to find a signal that didn't exist. Eventually, I had to give up, and accept the fact that I wasn't going to get a handle on everything that happened until returning on Sunday night. It hurt, but there was nothing I could do, and by Saturday, I had once again settled into my non-existence and committed myself to enjoying what was left of my time off the grid.

So here I am on Monday morning. Back in reality, with my cell phone glued to my hand and the new look Red Sox staring me in the face. To be honest, I'm still catching up. Still wading through stories, tweets, quotes and analysis from all the parties involved and coming to grips with the reality of this most unrealistic development. But the show must go on.

For our first order of business, lets give a quick paragraph to the four most recent ex-Red Sox:

Josh Beckett: I was looking at Becketts Baseball Reference page this morning and noticed that hes only finished in the Top 10 in Cy Young voting twice in his career. The two years: 2007 and 2011. Pretty fitting, right? The season that left us forever indebted to his greatness and the season that will leave us forever loathing his arrogance. Thank God the Sox traded for him in 2005, and thank God they shipped his ass out of town on Saturday.

Adrian Gonzalez: In May of 2011, Gonzalez delivered one of the most dominant and enjoyable hitting displays that Ive ever seen in a Red Sox uniform. Not since the best days of Manny or a young Nomar Garciaparra had a guy been so locked in in so many ways. At the time, I (and the rest of New England) couldn't have been more excited about what the next seven years would bring. But at this point, here's a statistic that's more telling than anything the All-Star first baseman did last spring: Adrian Gonzalez, a former No. 1 overall pick with more talent than all but a few players in the world, has now been traded four times in his career. There's something off about that, in the same way that there's just something off about Gonzalez.

Carl Crawford: On August 19, Crawford came to the plate in the ninth inning of an eventual 4-1 loss to the Yankees, and at that moment we all knew that it would be a while before we saw him again. However, we never imagined that instead, his lead-off single would mark the last at-bat of the most disappointing stint in Red Sox history. But despite the enormous let down of watching one of the game's most exciting and impactful players repeatedly fall on his face, it's almost impossible to hold the same contempt for Crawford that we have for Beckett and, to a lesser extent, Gonzalez. To steal a quote from the Belichick Files: "It just didn't work out." And now that the Sox are essentially free from the burden of Crawford's ridiculous contract, there's not much else to do but shrug our shoulders and move on.

Nick Punto: You know that scene in Waynes World when Wayne and Garth are standing in front of the blue screen? If not, here you go. Also, in the scope of this trade, Nick Punto is Delaware.

So, that's what's gone, But what's left here in Boston? Well, first of all, a new-found respect for Ben Cherington. We wanted bold. We wanted decisive. We wanted to unleash a bombshell that would shake that clubhouse to its core. Well, BC did that and then some. In the process, he took an enormous step towards resuscitating a nearly-unconscious fan base and giving us all reason to believe that the darkest days of this stretch of Red Sox baseball are firmly in the rear view.

But it's only one step. Despite all the skill, determination and creativity that it took to even get this far, there's no question that Cherington's most difficult task still lies ahead. After all, it's one thing to dismantle a franchise, it's another thing to build it back up. Especially, when we're still not exactly sure what's going on behind the scenes.

Will Lucchino still have a heavy hand in player personnel or is he finally ready to let Ben loose? How much will ownership want to spend? Will the departure of Beckett and Gonzalez actually right the ship in that topsy-turvy clubhouse? Who's the manager? Does this move set the wheels in motion on Fenway Sports Group finally answering our prayers and selling the team?

Those are five questions, but we could go on. And there's no doubt that we will over the course of this last month of the season. It's going to be a crazy, confusing and cathartic experience for everyone involved.

In many ways, it will be a lot like my cell phone and Internetless experience down in South Carolina.

From now until the start of this offseason (and even beyond that), the wheels will be turning behind the scenes at Yawkey Way. Conversations will be had, plans will be made, the future of this franchise will be taking shape in real time. But we won't have a clue what's really going on. We'll be stuck in the dark. In the meantime, we'll scramble around like Farley in Black Sheep trying to pick up a signal, any ounce of information that can help clarify the situation and provide some insight into where this thing is headed.

It will be stressful. It will be frustrating.

And most likely futile.

But at the same time, it will be liberating. Thanks to this trade, in many ways, we're now free. Free from the non-stop insanity and drama that surrounded Beckett. Free from the limitations that came with the more than 200M that was tied into Gonzalez and Crawford. Free from the fear that the Sox were not only stuck in this debilitating rat race, but that there was no end in sight.

Sure, it's only a matter of time before the insanity starts again. Once the World Series ends and the offseason begins, we'll all be thrown right back into the madness. But for the next month, despite being in the dark, we can at least find some peace and perspective in our time off the grid, in the aftermath of what might be the first step in finally restoring order at Fenway.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.