7.16: Strike!  Please.  For the love of Christ, please go on strike, retroactive to Friday, July 12.

I suppose I'm not the only one who's noticed that the Red Sox as a whole sure seem a lot weaker than the sum of their seven All-Star parts.  I suppose, too, it hasn't eluded the Nation that the flicker of hope for the bookend championships to bracket Teddy Ballgame's amazing life (1918-2002) is as faint as it's been all year.  Unlike last year when the wheels finally came off and the mirror - as in smoke and mirrors - shattered in a crushing 18-inning loss in Texas on August 25, this year the dimming has been gradual, the sun setting gently, sinking almost imperceptibly with each one-run loss.

The A's got a cushy interleague schedule and used it to start a tear in which they lose about once a fortnight.  The Red Sox got a brutal interleague schedule and used it to expose themselves as the pretenders they so obviously are, though they've even forgotten how to pretend against the patsies of late.  (Dear Mr. Selig: Sorry to pile on in your summer of discontent, but you're a freakin' moron.  Interleague play sucks.  How is it that on the final day of IL play, the Yankees had played three of their 18 interleague games against teams with .600 or better records and their closest pursuers had played 12 such games?  Only a Major League dumbass could preside over a system that could yield such a disparity in strength of schedule between division rivals.)

Has anyone noticed that the Red Sox are 1-9 in their last 10 one-run games, including a perfect 0-6 against the National League?  Does anyone else think this reflects poorly on the manager?

Last season, after 90 games with Mike Lansing, Lou Merloni and Craig Grebeck at shortstop and a firestarter for a closer, Jimy Williams was 52-38.  And he was an idiot.  So how is it that Grady Little has guided this team with Nomar Garciaparra, Johnny Damon, two All-Star starting pitchers and an All-Star closer to a ONE-GAME improvement through 90 games without having his ability questioned?  Why is he being given the George W. Bush free pass?  Seems to me like just another unsophisticated country bumpkin who gets out-managed in close games. 

Of course Grady would be a whole lot better manager if he had one reliable pitcher to throw out there between his fragile, 100-pitch starters and his suddenly shaky (again) closer.  Wayne Gomes and Willie Banks?  Good God.  Major League pitching cannot be this thin.  Is Jimmy Morris back teaching science?  Has a right-handed batter ever taken an uncomfortable swing against Chris Haney?  Is it a bad sign when your best middle reliever has been scored on in five straight appearances?  Yuk.

But the miserables in the pen can't shoulder the blame for the offensive flameout the team is going through.  How can so many good hitters all slump against such remarkably crappy pitching for so many at-bats?  Did someone turn Johnny Damon's calendar upside down at the beginning of the year? Because he's having his April now.

But the most disturbing hitting slide on the team is the one no one dares mention.  Blaspheme! Blaspheme!  But hear me out.

If Alex Rodriguez had his usual productive season in 2000, then sat out 2001 with a wrist injury and was hitting .245 on July 15 of 2002, don't you think someone would take notice?  So why is it that Nomar Garciaparra's batting average has dropped 71 points since his last full, healthy season with nary a whisper about his precipitous slide?  He takes oh-fers in which he sees five total pitches.  Unlike '99 and '00, he doesn't hit three ropes a night.  He hits routine double play balls and lazy fly balls and only gets pitches to drive on mistakes, since he steadfastly refuses to work the count.  He's just not the same player he was before that goddam longitudinal tendon split.  He's an All-Star to be sure but not "the toughest out in baseball" as that accursed Sports Illustrated cover trumpeted.

I can't believe that if the Sox lose tonight they'll have the exact same record they had last year.  It was all supposed to be so different.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and grant Shea and Nomar the serenity to take a frickin' pitch every once in a while.  Hardball