NEW YORK -- The 1962 Mets are generally considered the worst team in baseball, losers of 120 games, immortalized by the great Jimmy Breslin in his book, “Can’t Anyone Here Play This Game?’’
“The Mets did not lose games merely because they played badly,’’ Breslin wrote. “Never. The Mets lost because they played a brand of baseball which has not been seen in the Big Leagues in over 25 years.’’
But as wretched as those ’62 Mets were, they had a better September record (6-18) than the 2011 Red Sox (5-17), who evidently also are bent on being remembered for all the wrong reasons.
That sound you heard Saturday was not NASA’s six-ton satellite falling to earth; it was the Red Sox cratering in Yankee Stadium, where they had not lost all season but were cooked Saturday by the third inning.
Crater? Bottomless pit seems more like it, as the Sox continue a free fall without a safety net, unless you want to close your eyes and pretend that John Lackey and Tim Wakefield will provide a soft landing place in Sunday’s double-header.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona ripped up his lineup card from the night before and unveiled an entirely new configuration designed, he said, to give Carl Crawford his best chance to “wreak havoc.’’
Well, Crawford, restored to the No. 2 hole in the lineup, wreaked havoc all right, but not in the manner envisioned by Francona, his sliding attempt to catch Russell (“I Hate the Red Sox”) Martin’s sinking liner striking the heel of his glove and bouncing away for a run-scoring, two-run double in the second inning.
That physical failing came after a mental blunder -- third baseman Mike Aviles standing idly by instead of covering third on Andruw Jones’ groundball to Marco Scutaro in the hole. Instead of a force play at third, Scutaro had to go to second and when Nick Swisher beat the throw there, Jones was credited with an infield hit.
And on the first pitch after Crawford could not wrap his leather around a catchable ball -- he would have had an easy double play, too, as Jones had assumed the ball would drop in and would have been easily doubled up -- Derek Jeter launched a three-run home run off Jon Lester that made it, 6-0, Yankees.
Lester gave up two more runs before departing with two outs in the third, thus qualifying as the most baffling component of Boston’s collapse. Lester, who came into this season with a 16-3 record in career Septembers -- has lost his last three starts, allowing 16 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings for a 10.54 ERA.
Presumably, he is healthy -- and the Sox may need him to come back on three days’ rest if their playoff fate still hangs in the balance.
There have been other occasions where Sox collapses, especially against the Yankees, have been termed as “Boston massacres.” This, however, is in a category all of its own.