What’s next, Stigmata?

32 games into the season and the standings in the East look ass backwards. The Sox, juggernauts in the division for years, sit dead last, seven games under-.500 as of Friday morning.

McGILLIGAN:I’m at a loss to describe anything about the Boston Red Sox season. Just when you think things can’t get worse, a new scandal, injury or Bobby Valentine quote rears its ugly head.

A recent tweet by ESPN/Grantland columnist Bill Simmons summed it up best when he said, “I’m running out of ways to hate this Red Sox season.” The tweet contained a link to an ESPN story regarding Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett missing a scheduled start because of a sore lat muscle two days after playing a round of golf. I’ll get to Beckett and the latest test of patience in a minute.

While I’m not at the hate stage yet, although it’s rapidly approaching. This might be the worst season in a long time, let’s review.

After the stink of fried chicken and beer cleared, the Red Sox were without GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona and coming off one of the worst September collapses in recent memory. Ben Cherrington was named the new GM and he hired Bobby Valentine as manager. The stories of the two men disagreeing on personnel, most notably what to do with Daniel Bard, began filtering out. The season had not yet started.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and his replacement, Andrew Bailey, went on the DL before the end of spring training. Carl Crawford and his foolish contract is on the DL as well. Jacoby Ellsbury goes down with a shoulder injury, hurting both the Sox and my fantasy team.

The season begins and things immediately get worse. Valentine publicly questions Kevin Youkilis; Dustin Pedroia defends his teammate and take a shot at his new manager. Solid start. The bullpen can’t hold a lead, but they don’t get too many chances to blow one as the starting pitching is terrible.

In its first series with the Yankees and on a day when the team is celebrating 100 years of Fenway Park – the only part of the organization that hasn’t crumbled – the Sox blow a 9-0 lead to the Yankees. In an extra cruel moment, my fellow Writefielder Livingstone calls during the collapse and is giving me pitch-by-pitch updates of the utter failure. Thanks buddy.

Now we’ve got Beckett. His first start after the golf fiasco results in seven earned runs in 2.1 innings pitched. Questioned about it after the game, here’s his comments courtesy of the Associated Press: “We get 18 off days a year, I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves.” That’s more than three weeks of vacation; some people don’t even get that at their job and are paid far less Beckett’s $15.75 million 2012 salary. Oh yeah, the baseball season is not 12 months long and you’re a pitcher, you essentially have to do your job once every five days.

What made the loss even worse – besides Beckett’s seemingly uncaring attitude and indifference – was that former Sox pitcher Derek Lowe got the win for Cleveland and pitched effectively.

I know Beckett was instrumental in the two recent Red Sox championships, but if you’re getting paid $15 million a year to throw a baseball, golf in the off-season and concentrate on your job.

All I’m asking is that you at least pretend to care as much as the people in the stands who make a fraction of what you do and use some of it to watch you play.

LIVINGSTONE: I’m going to chime in here, but with caution.

We’re heading into the third week of May, and, well, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Red Sox and the Yankees sitting fourth and fifth in a division they’ve dominated for the better part of the last twenty years (Sox maybe last 10 or so, but hey, it seems like two decades).

Simply put: I love this. I love watching the Sox crumble. As a frustrated Jays fan my entire life, getting blown up by the Sox in nearly 15 of 18 games against the Beantown squad in 2011 (The Sox outscored the Jays something like 115 to 35), and many years before with similar outcomes, it’s a breath of fresh air to see the Sox unable to win games.

That said, they won’t spend the entire season at the bottom. the Orioles are off to a blazing, unexpected start and it’s sure to cool down for them. The Sox have loads of talent, seasoned and young, and with the proven pitching in years past, I’m sure guys like Beckett and co. will turn things around. Dice-K and Lackey will be back soon and adding those arms to the rotation will bring more strength and stability to the struggling starters.

Until that time, I’ll bask in watching the Sox keep the bottom of the toughest division in baseball.

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