'05-'06 Sox: Suffering No More

When the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, it freed from purgatory the ballplayers who came close yet never won it all in Boston. But how come no one's waxing poetic about the 45 men who played for the Sox without earning a ring in 2005 and 2006? Don't their tales of heartache matter? Aren't they able now to bury the torment that's haunted them for, umm, years?

Someone should remember those players. I will be that someone. Here are 11 men in particular who should finally rest easy for the suffering they endured during the wretched 2005-06 seasons.

Tony Graffanino: The Sox might be working on five in a row if not for this poor guy. He let Juan Uribe's ground ball roll through his legs in the sixth inning of Game Two of the 2005 AL Division Series, which opened the door to an ALDS sweep and a subsequent season of futility. Has carried his bad karma to Kansas City and Milwaukee—cities that have enjoyed a grand total of one title in 78 seasons—and suffered a torn ACL while playing last season for a Brewers team that blew an 8 ½-game lead in the NL Central lead and finished second to the Cubs, a franchise so hexed they last won the World Series when the Sox played at Huntington Avenue. If there was a team in Idaho, Graffanino would join it and open a car dealership next door to Bill Buckner.

Edgar Renteria: Got to be the only guy in history to make the last out of two straight Red Sox seasons in two different uniforms. Signed a four-year deal in December 2004 but gained 20 pounds and lost six steps in either direction as soon as he lifted the pen from the paper. In 10 years, he'll be the guy who wins you bets in a bar when people dare you to name all the Sox shortstops since Nomar. This guy is so cursed, he's the anti-ARod. Everyone in America is ticked at Alex Rodriguez for opting out of his contract in the sixth inning of the Sox clincher Sunday. Renteria gets traded to the Tigers Monday and Red Sox Nation yawns, rubs the sleep out of its eyes and wonders how to make Jonathan Papelbon's flinging of the glove the desktop on its collective laptop computer.

Matt Clement: He might actually get a ring since he was on the DL all year for the Sox, even though you and I had a better chance of throwing a pitch at Fenway than Clement. Will forever be remembered as a better investment than Carl Pavano (then again, so are the following: rolls of film, typewriter ribbon, Betamax video cassettes, 8-track players and gift certificates for one free telegram from Western Union) and for getting hit in the face by a line drive, which in turn led to a 13-month spate of ineffectiveness that ended with his right shoulder exploding.

Chad Bradford: Has put up a Papelbon-esque postseason line—15 1/3 scoreless innings in six trips to the playoffs, including 1 1/3 shutout frames in 2005—but has yet to reach the World Series, never mind win a ring. Decided to spare himself any more October heartbreak last winter by signing a three-year deal with the Orioles.

Craig Hansen: Picked in between Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz during the 2005 draft, which is a lot like putting a piece of liverwurst between two gloriously good slices of homemade bread. The very definition of shell-shocked for two years running now, Hansen continued his downward descent by teaming with Manny Delcarmen to blow an eight-run lead in the ninth inning of a game against Buffalo May 5. Alas, while Delcarmen bounced back to become the first reliever used in the Series clincher, Hansen was sent home early from the Arizona Fall League. Ouch.

Kason Gabbard/David Murphy: They technically get rings for playing for the Sox this season, but that's small consolation when you miss out on a World Series run because the Sox just had to have Eric Gagne. Seriously, how's that for a conversation-killer when people ask to see the jewelry at a cocktail party?

Jason Johnson: Played for the Pirates, Devil Rays, Orioles and Tigers between 1997 and 2005, during which his teams finished a combined 181 games under .500, before playing for both the Indians and Red Sox in 2006. He leaves the premises and they play the next season in the ALCS. He's in Japan, where we can safely presume he's not the American version of Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Josh Bard: Apparently took Bob Uecker's advice about catching the knuckleball—"Wait til it stops rolling, then go pick it up"—to heart, sans Uecker's humor. Exiled to San Diego in The Great Doug Mirabelli Trade, where he employed the same philosophy whenever somebody reached first base: He allowed 121 steals in 131 attempts this year. Seriously.

Craig Breslow: So smart it takes eight syllables to pronounce his major at Yale: Molecular biophysics. Just typing that puts me in a fetal position. Anyway, he's this year's Brandon Puffer: The guy who gets called up for a day but doesn't appear in a game. Some reward for being the guy who relieved the ailing Papelbon last Sept. 1 and struck out Lyle Overbay.

Rudy Seanez: Pitched for the Sox in 2003 and 2006. He's probably wondering what he's done to anger the baseball gods that look so lovingly upon Royce Clayton, who parlayed six hitless September at-bats into a mic'ed-by-Fox gig, a teary embrace with the World Series trophy and a ring.


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE

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