After a tough loss, Red Sox have a long road ahead
The phony “surging” Red Sox blew another save Wednesday and lost to the White Sox, 8-7, despite Chicago making every effort to give the game to Boston.
The indomitable Chris Sale (10 more strikeouts — whee!) gave up five earned runs and has now won three of his last 21 starts, but probably will be featured as the red-hot guy in the NESN “Hot Zone” when he returns to Fenway Park in a couple of weeks, trying to win his first game at home in more than a year.
The Sox trail the Yankees by nine games in the American League East and reigning MVP Mookie Betts, who evidently has no interest in staying in Boston, is on a pace to finish the season hitting .265 with 26 homers and 72 RBIs.
But enough of this reality. The star-powered Sox are an unparalleled commercial entity and are set to take their show on the road to London for a couple of days. They are off to Great Britain, where they will play two games against the Yankees in a land where no one knows anything about baseball.
MLB is attempting to create buzz in a country where folks think Prince Fielder, Duke Snider, and Earl Weaver were Royals; a place where Ray Knight would be “Sir Ray’’; a place where fans will applaud foul balls and Alex Cora will be addressed by every media member as “Coach.”
Cora is ready for a two-week, three-country junket that will take him to London, Toronto, Detroit, and Cleveland (All-Star Game) before he returns to Fenway July 12. But he knows this can’t possibly be as bad as the round-the-world excursion the defending world champion Red Sox took in the spring of 2008.
That fiasco took the Sox from Fort Myers to Chicago (short layover), to Tokyo (two exhibitions and two regular-season games), to Los Angeles (three exhibitions), to Oakland (four games), and finally to Toronto (three games). The trip covered 16,000 miles, three countries, and 10 time zones.
“This will not help us win games,’’ then-manager Terry Francona predicted. And he was right.
In 2008, the Sox flew a Japan Air Lines Boeing 747 to Tokyo. It was a 382-seat plane and the traveling party was 160. Wednesday’s flight to London’s Gatwick Airport was an 88-seat (all flat beds) Crystal AirCruises aircraft, the same plane the Bruins took to China last fall. The normal Sox traveling party of 72 swelled to 88 for this trip.
Cora was a backup infielder for the 2008 Sox. Along with traveling secretary Jack McCormick and team physician Larry Ronan, he’s one of the few London travelers who experienced the disastrous Japan junket.
Ronan, who has been overseeing the care of David Ortiz at Massachusetts General Hospital, is something of a legend regarding the Japan trip. In preparation for the 12-hour flight to Tokyo, Ronan advised the players not to fall asleep and to abstain from alcohol because of its dehydrating effect. Imagine Francona’s surprise when, in mid-flight, playing cribbage somewhere over the North Pole, he got up to use the bathroom and observed Ronan in full recline — a couple of mini-bottles of wine on his tray — snoozing under a Zorro mask.
“That will always be my favorite memory of the Japan trip,’’ Francona said.
“I think Daisuke [Matsuzaka] pitched in Japan and then in Oakland,’’ recalled Cora. “He was like 3-0 in five games or something like that. But then we went to Toronto and that’s when we started feeling it.’’
At the end of their 2008 trip, the Sox made six errors and were outscored, 23-9, in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Jays.
“On that last day in Toronto, one of their guys hit a one-hopper to Mikey Lowell’s left,’’ recalled Francona. “Mikey took one step to his left and just fell down. And I was thinking, ‘I’m with you, Mikey.’
The Sox were in last place in the American League East when they returned to Fenway for their championship ring ceremony.
“All the baseball people were uneasy about that trip. We were set up to have heavy legs, set up for us to get our ass kicked. It was a total circus. We had cement in our shoes. It was the worst road trip in the history of the game.’’
“After the first month of the season, Tito had a meeting and told us, ‘Great job,’ ’’ remembered Cora. “He said, ‘You guys were fine, now we go.’ And then we took off.”
Shifting to present-day problems, Cora said, “I’m actually not worried about the two games in London. We’ve got to come back and play in Toronto and Detroit. Those are big series, and we’re doing everything possible to stay sharp.
“Somebody mentioned like, ‘Wow, this is a long trip.’ I said, ‘Well, how about this one? You can be in Double A right now on a bus ride and bad hotels and bad meals.’ So let’s put everything in perspective. It’s not that bad. I heard the plane is like a flying hotel. So we’ll be fine.
“We’ve got this app. It’s called TeamWorks. We’ve been getting reminders throughout the week. What to eat, what to drink, what not to drink, when to go to sleep and all that.’’
His ultimate international travel tip?
“Drink Pedialyte, not Bud Light.’’
Swell. Unfortunately, everybody was up for shots of Jack Daniels after Wednesday’s excruciating loss to the moribund Pale Hose.
Popular around the globe, the Red Sox are a bad brand right now. It’s probably a good time for them to leave the continent for a few days.