Since I can’t find my copy of Four Views of the Book of Revelation in order to cover the 3rd view, I’ll consider sports. I’ve been meaning to work on this post for a few weeks, but haven’t had the free time and mental space. You may think I still don’t have the mental space for it.
I want to consider a similarity between the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Celtics: injuries. The point being how injuries have derailed the last few seasons for both teams. Sports teams are really fragile things. There are times when teams can survive and even thrive during a rash of injuries. The Green Bay Packers did this to win the Superbowl in 2011. Those instances are rare. Most often, the depth of a team is tried and then depleted. Hopes vanish and dreams are squashed.
The Celtics won the NBA title in 2008 and seemed poised to win a few more before the New Big Three fell apart. But injuries have continually derailed that hope, and Celtics fans are disappointed. In 2009 it was Kevin Garnett’s various injuries that left them depleted. Without him they nearly beat the Magic to advance in the playoffs, but it was not to be. A healthy KG, and the Celtics go to the Finals. The next year, KG was not healthy, but was playing. They made it to the Finals against the Lakers. Then, in Game 6, Perkins blew out his knee. His presence in that abysmal Game 7, the film of which should be burned for the sake of both teams, may have made a significant difference. We won’t know. But the Lakers did triumph.
Then there was last year. KG was healthy, but there was the big trade that sent Perkins packing for 2 players. He was still not right, but the emotional toll on the team seemed too big. Both O’Neals had injury problems. Until the playoffs. They put it together after their late season skid. They made it to the conference finals against the arrogant Miami Heat who hope to win 7-8 titles in their imaginations (Father, may it not even be one- oppose the proud!). In a painful moment caught on film, D-Wade pulled down Rondo while falling. Really cheap play, and their series this season against the Pacers shows they are inclined toward the cheap plays. Rondo’s dislocated elbow sunk the Celtics. He valiantly tried to play, but with only one functioning arm, his defense was a liability. That moment dashed the Celtics hopes.
The Red Sox are in a similar state of affairs. They won the World Series in 2007. Despite injuries to Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, the Red Sox made it all the way to the AL Championship against new rivals the Rays in their first ever play off appearance. Beckett pitched, but was a shell of himself. So close, but they fell in 7 to the Rays who would get handled easily in the World Series. Oh, for a healthy Beckett or Lowell. Just one would have tipped the scales enough. Just one.
2009 was just a mess for the Red Sox. It is a blur of injuries in the last few months that sunk a promising season. I have erased it from my memory.
2010 looked so promising. In the opening weeks they lost Ellsbury and Mike Cameron for essentially the season. Beltre not only provided power to the line up but single-handedly destroyed the outfield. The only remaining starting outfielder was J.D. Drew, and we all know he’s good for a few trips to the DL. Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald came out of nowhere to provide some spark. But then the injuries began to mount up- Youkilis, Pedroia, Martinez. So many injuries to key players- there were done. D-O-N-E.
2011 looked promising again. Crawford and Gonzalez joined the team. They started horribly, but were the best team in baseball from June-August. Buchholz’ back injury would start the chain reaction that led to their demise. Unlike Dice-K, he would pitch 7-8 innings. But with he and Dice-K out and Lackey needing Tommy John surgery but continuing to pitch in horrendous fashion, the bullpen got taxed. They held up well, until that fateful September. Toss in another injury to Youkilis, problems for Crawford and an injury to Beckett and the Sox put together a historically bad September to fall from first to third and miss the playoffs to the Rays.
That brings us up to the current seasons: one ending and the other still just begun.
Even before the Celtics played an exhibition game, Jeff Green needed season-ending surgery on an aortic aneurysm. Hardly the last devastating injury. Jermaine O’Neil would struggle with knee and wrist issues until he finally had to have season-ending surgery. In his absence Chris Wilcox really started to come on until he too has season-ending surgery for an aortic aneurysm. Is there something in the water in Waltham? The second half of the season, Ray Allen was riding the pine with bone spurs. But Avery Bradley brought energy, great defense and great cuts to the basket to fill in admirably. So well, that when Ray was okay to play, Bradley still started. This was the infusion of youth the Celtics needed. Things were looking fantastic for the playoffs. The road to the Finals looked increasingly easier as the Bulls suffered a number of injuries, especially to Rose, and the Heat lost Bosh for an undetermined amount of time.
But then the injury bug return. Ray’s ankles continued to give him fits. Pierce sprained his knee and Bradley’s shoulder kept popping out. The persevered, pressed on and all that jazz. But then, Bradley had … season-ending surgery. Tonight is Game 7. I think the Celtics can win it. But they are too beat up for it to really matter. It just means additional income to the franchise, players and vendors at the Garden. That’s all. They are done unless Wade or James suddenly comes up lamer than a Pauley Shore movie.
The Red Sox started the season with 3 pitchers on the DL with Tommy John surgery. 2 were expected back, and one has returned to the Sos to continue his role as lefty specialist. Dice-K continues his rehab and may help the rotation. But Lackey gets the whole season off, giving us a break and a chance to maybe embrace him when he comes back. Bobby Jenks never made it to camp and should be gone the whole season (whew! dodge that bullet). The new closer was on the DL with thumb surgery. He’s getting ready to throw again. The whole pitching staff stumbled right out of the gate, thinking it was still September 2011. But the bullpen pulled it together and 3/5ths of the rotation has pulled it together. One wonders if his back injury has messed with Buchholz’s head because he has not been the same guy he was before the injury. Beckett has thumb issues that may bother him at any given time. Then fill-in starter Aaron Cook got spiked in the knee and ended up on the DL.
The season began with Crawford on the DL recovering from wrist surgery. A wrist that had bothered him for years and suddenly got too bad to manage. In his rehab his elbow got messed up. So he’s still on the DL. Have no fear, the Red Sox still have Ellsbury, Ross and Sweeney in the outfield. And McDonald is still a back-up. Not so fast. Ellsbury dislocated his shoulder trying to bust up a double play. AAA outfielder and sometimes big leaguer Repko, brought in just in case something like this happened, was brought up. Then McDonald pulled up lame and is on the DL. Then Ross fouled a ball off his foot, fracturing a bone. To the DL with you, Ross. Sadly, he was on another hot streak. The same game Sweeney got a concussion and is now on the DL. The entire outfield, including subs, is on the DL. They can’t bring up exciting prospect Ryan Kalish because he’s on the DL recovering from offseason surgery to fix something that cost him most of last season. So the outfield is patrolled by the rediscovered Daniel Nava (who’s killing the ball), the washed up Marlon Bird and Scott Podsednik and sometimes All-Star first baseman Alex Gonzalez. How’s that for an outfield. I’m sure it inspires great confidence in the pitching staff. AAA player Che-Hsuan Lin is a great defensive outfielder, but won’t inspire a new round of Linsanity when he comes in for the 9th for defensive purposes.
Somehow the infield has only seen All-Star 3rd baseman Kevin Youkilis go on the DL, again. Top prospect Will Middlebrooks has played very well, adding some good offensive punch, in his absence. So good, that currently Youkilis, feeling and playing better, is back at first and Gonzalez is in right.
The number of players, especially All-Stars, on the DL is amazing. They are racking up the games lost to injury in an apparent attempt to set a new modern record. The amount of money of the DL exceeds the payroll of some other clubs! But they are still driving in runs. If only the starters could go deeper than 5-6 innings on a consistent basis. This team is at .500, better than preseason favs the Angels and Tigers despite having far more and significant injuries than those teams. They would be in 3rd place in any division except the AL & NL East. They are still in the wild card race. They still have hope. But if they can’t avoid injuries from here on out, you can stick a fork in them. They’ve used up their depth and can’t go any deeper. Guys need to get healthy and FAST.
So, the Celtics season, for all intents and purposes, is over. The Red Sox might be, but it isn’t looking good. The next month or so is important. If Ellsbury and Crawford can come back and be productive, and the infield stay healthy, they have a chance. They have bullpen depth, and soon will have some rotational depth, but not much. But I’ve never seen anything like the last few seasons for these teams- plagued by injuries season after season.