By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL/Designated Writers
The baseball playoffs begin this week and the Boston Red Sox won’t be in them, which is a little shocking because just about everybody else did make it.
I think I’ve uncovered the reason why the Red Sox, one of baseball’s most storied franchises, didn’t make it this year and it has nothing to do with the fact that they couldn’t hit, their pitching stunk and they couldn’t catch a cold on defense.
I tuned into a Red Sox game one night and noticed the pitcher on the mound was wearing #77. That’s interesting because that’s typically a spring training number, but I have regretfully noticed that there are a few players wearing non-traditional numbers on every team. (There once was a time when a MLB player wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a number higher than #55.)
OK, I figured, this guy slipped through the cracks and is just a one-off. Until I noticed who was warming up in the bullpen.
#74. And No. #79.
Later, in came #70, followed by #72. Is this a bullpen or an offensive line?
It’s at this point that I should probably mention that Boston also had a starting pitcher/tight end with #89, so it’s not just a bullpen-specific issue.
C’mon, Red Sox, y’all are better than that. The franchise that gave us Ted Williams (#9) and Carl Yastrzemski (#8) and Carlton Fisk (#27) is laughing in the face of baseball tradition. (It should probably be pointed out that when Fisk went to the Chicago White Sox, he tried to stick to the Red Sox by wearing #72.)
What’s next? Three digits? Fractions? There are still plenty of numbers available. I checked — the Red Sox have retired 10 of them. Unless they start carrying 45-man rosters, there should be plenty to go around.
It wasn’t that long ago that pitchers rarely had something as radical as a single-digit number (there still aren’t many). When baseball first went to numbers, the eight position players got numbers 1 through 8 and the backup catcher got #9. Hence, pitchers with double-digit numbers.
But give me a single-digit pitcher — take a bow, 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell (#4) — any day of the week over this.
Next time the Red Sox want to wonder why they aren’t in the all-comers playoffs, they should just look in the uniform closet.