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Red Sox and Lakers: Comparing Two ‘Dream Team’ Disasters

February 25, 2013

As a Boston Red Sox fan living in Los Angeles, I have experienced a bit of déjà vu this year watching the Lakers’ disappointing season unfold.  It’s like I’m back in 2011 watching the Sox.

When the Lakers signed Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, fans were practically promised another championship.  Sound familiar?

The Red Sox were dubbed the best team in baseball, after they added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to their already super-star-studded roster.

Neither team lived up to the expectations.  In fact, in very Titanic-esque fashion, both “dream teams” sunk to new lows.

In 2011, the Red Sox got off to a rough start, dropping six in a row.  Then, they managed to claw their way into first place, only to miss the playoffs, after suffering the worst September collapse in baseball history.

The Lakers went 1-4 to start the 2012-2013 season and are currently sitting one game below .500.  If the season ended today, they would miss the playoffs for just the third time in 30 years.

When “good” teams fail, the coach is usually the first to go.  In 2011, the Red Sox gave Terry Francona 162 games to try to right the ship.  In 2012, the Lakers gave Mike Brown five.  Brown, of course, didn’t have two rings under his belt like Francona, and the Lakers, presumably, had Phil Jackson waiting in the wings.

Then came the surprise.

In a move that made even less sense then the Red Sox hiring Bobby Valentine, the Lakers chose Mike D’Antoni over Jackson.  At least, when the Sox hired Valentine, they didn’t have a clearly better choice.  They didn’t leave Joe Torre or Tony La Russa waiting by the phone.

Still, Valentine’s style didn’t mesh well with team, and he was fired the day after the 2012 season ended.  D’Antoni may suffer a similar fate, if the Lakers don’t make the playoffs or even if they lose in the first round.

One thing is for sure; the Lakers don’t stand a chance, if Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard can’t find a way to play nice.  Bad chemistry can derail a team full of super-star talent.  Having the best players does not guarantee having the best team.  The Red Sox learned that lesson the hard way.

For reasons that are still not completely understood, Adrian Gonzalez was not a good fit for Boston.  His swing may have been tailor-made for Fenway Park, but he never looked comfortable playing there.  Thankfully, the Dodgers bailed the Red Sox out–again–but the NBA trade deadline came and went last Thursday without the Lakers making a move.

Instead, they chose to roll the dice with the team they have now, even though their postseason chances are slim and there is no guarantee Dwight will stay in LA next season.

In order to have a realistic shot at the playoffs, the Lakers need to post a winning percentage close to .714, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com.  In the words of eternal optimist, Lloyd Christmas, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

Lloyd isn’t wrong, a glimmer of hope still remains for the Lakers, and it got a little brighter when they blew out the Celtics in an emotional game last Wednesday, just days after their owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, passed away.

In addition to the victory, the Lakers honored Buss with a moving tribute, but when beloved player and coach Johnny Pesky died in August of 2012, the Red Sox came up a bit short.  In their first home game after his death, each player wore the No. 6 in memory of Pesky, but they couldn’t get the win.  The Red Sox fell to the Los Angeles Angels 3-5.

Looking back, the 2012 season came to an end that day.  If the Red Sox couldn’t rally together in such a moment, there was really no hope that they could do it at any other time.

Today, with two disastrous seasons behind them, it will be interesting to see how the Red Sox fare with a new manager (former pitching coach John Farrell) and a clean slate—it can’t get much worse.

The Lakers will likely be uttering the same phrase next fall, when they embark on a mission to right this year’s wrongs, unless they can make good on Kobe’s guarantee of a playoff berth.  They have won three straight.  (Although, as this went to press, the Lakers were losing to the Nuggets by ten in the third.)

The Red Sox and Lakers will eventually rebound.  All great teams do.  Regardless, let their story be a cautionary tale to all those who try to buy a championship—ahem Dodgers.

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