Yikes. It’s been a very long time, three decades to be exact, that the dark feelings of the 1990 Patriots season came to mind. I thought those nightmares were long since buried. So deep that even a team of A-list psychiatrists couldn’t dig them up. Then Saturday came, or maybe it was Sunday. Monday? Tuesday? One of those days came and went and I thought about what I have been seeing at Fenway recently. I thought about Ron Roenicke’s odd decision making and sleepy demeanor and BAM! There he was. In all of his failure: Rod Rust.
Yup. I thought of Roenicke and Rust’s confused, befuddled and defeated face instantly popped into my mind. Newsflash to the Red Sox, that’s not a good sign. I’m not sure if it was watching Andrew Benintendi continue to leadoff while he looked like he was swinging a tire iron at 3-1 fastballs, or if it was any one of the many Red Sox pitchers that six days into the season, I still can’t name. I feel like the guys at the Cleveland construction site in the movie Major League flipping through the sports page on Opening Day saying “who are these guys?”
The Law Office of Osich, Brice and Hall.
Now it’s early in this shortened baseball season and the 1990 Patriots are literally one of the worst professional sports teams to ever walk onto a field of any kind, but the comparisons aren’t too far off. I guess those memories are more available to me than I thought. Thanks, Red Sox ...
The early returns:
The 1990 Patriots started 1-1. The 2020 Red Sox are 2-4.
As hapless as the 1990 Patriots were during their 14-game winless streak they did start out rather promising. They opened the season in style putting a quick 21-6 first-half lead up on the Dan Marino/Don Shula-led Miami Dolphins at Foxboro Stadium. Aging football war hero Steve Grogan in his 16thyear, still had his requisite toughness, moxie and smarts. He could still play despite his failing body that was far older than his actual chronological age of 37.
In Game 1 of the 1990 season, Grogan used his hard-earned football wisdom and outplayed future Hall of Famer Dan Marino in that one. However, despite three Marino interceptions, the Dolphins came back to win 27-24. The next week, the Pats got their one and only victory on the season in Indianapolis by a whopping score of 16-14. Then Grogan got hurt basically for good, career loser Marc Wilson took over and Head Coach Rod Rust got dumber by the second. The roof caved in on and off the field. Their fall was epic in its absurdity.
As hapless as the 2020 Red Sox have looked over the first week of the season, I for one was feeling pretty good on Friday night following No. 3 starter turned emergency ace Nathan Eovaldi’s brilliant start and the Sox 13-2 win. Again, a good start.
The next four? Like the '90 Pats, not so good. Eovaldi is a really good pitcher. No issue there other than the shroud of injury concern that always follows him. Last night, he was good enough to win against a mighty Mets offense on the road, despite the Red Sox bullpen’s late-inning efforts to give the game away. Injuries concerns that follow Eovaldi aren’t really what concerns me though, it’s what follows him on the staff that does. It’s Eovaldi and shall we say 10 or so Marc Wilson’s… Not a recipe for success.
Slight Edge 2020 Red Sox. Only because they’ve won twice as many games.
Head coaching, head-scratching:
Though the Red Sox 13-2 opening night victory was fun and encouraging on several levels some negatives surfaced. Roenicke sleeping at the switch, neglecting to contest a close play at first base went undiscussed as it had no impact on the eventual win. I made a mental note of it, however.
If you watched the 13-run hit parade Friday night you likely noticed who didn’t chip in; that was leadoff hitter Benintendi, whose slump now dates back to over one full year. Despite his lack of production and a strong arsenal of outfield options to sub in, Benintendi was right back at the top of the order on Saturday. Same for Sunday. Killing rallies along the way. Roenicke isn’t impressing me so far.
Rod Rust coached one year for the 1990 Patriots, finished 1-15 and was never heard from in the NFL again.
Slight Edge: 2020 Red Sox and Ron Roenicke (for now).
The Sox Pitching vs. the 1990’ Pats Defense:
Again, the 1990 Patriots were 1-15 and lost 14 in a row. Many of the losses of the embarrassing variety. Here’s the bad news, their defense was better than the Red Sox pitching staff and it’s not close.
Of note on the '90 Patriots' defense: Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippet. Fellow productive linebackers Johnny Rembert and Vincent Brown. Defensive ends Brent Williams and Garin Veris. And defensive backs Ronnie Lippett, Maurice Hurst and Fred Marion. Those are just the best career guys on the defense, it was a talented, veteran group. Sorry Sox fans, but this one isn’t close. When your pitchers are on the field your defense is in on the field and this contest is a landslide. Let’s see Andre Tippet or Phillips Valdez? I rest my case.
GIANT Edge: 1990 Patriots
Now if you add it all up, offense, defense, special teams, coaching, intangibles, competition, roster construction, talent, executive management, resources, etc., the 2020 Red Sox should be able to separate themselves from the lowly 1990 Patriots, but it ain't a blowout and the comparison did occur to me. Better shore up that pitching and do so quickly or they may face an ugly fate amongst the dredges of Boston sports history.