Who were those guys?
Losing balls in the sun. Kicking it around the infield as if they were Manchester United. Making bad decisions on the bases. Making worse decisions on defense.
Those weren't the Boston Red Sox who came to town this weekend playing the kind of baseball only Max Patkin could have loved.
That isn't the team that just two years ago broke the most celebrated curse in sports, winning its first world championship in 86 years.
That year the Red Sox were the lovable self-proclaimed "idiots," who came from three games behind to win the American League Championship Series from the dreaded Yankees. That year they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
That team had Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller. On that team Jason Varitek was healthy. Manny Ramirez and Trot Nixon were in the lineup. Orlando Cabrera was the everyday shortstop and Dave Roberts was the everyday Everyman.
Curses, look what's happened to the Boston Red Sox.
This past weekend Seattle witnessed the continuation of the slow, unraveling. Last weekend, the Red Sox lost five in a row at home to New York and fell 6 ½ games behind in the AL East.
This weekend they were swept on the road by the Mariners and the argument can be made that these losses to the last-place M's were even more damaging than the five to the first-place Yanks. Instead of gaining ground, the Red Sox' remained 6 ½ back.
"It's a situation that's hard to deal with, but we have to deal with it," said Boston's designated hitter David Ortiz, who hit his 47th home run in the Red Sox 6-3 Sunday loss. "It better change or we're going to be watching the playoffs."
After the game, sitting behind the desk in his office, while sportswriters watched uncomfortably, Boston manager Terry Francona repeatedly leaned forward and spit streams of blood into a towel, then swabbed the bloody inside of his cheek.
He said the bleeding was a result of overdosing on his blood thinner.
"The biggest thing, I believe, is the belief in each other, what we're trying to do," Francona said, who after interviewing for the vacant Mariners' managing job in 2002 was hospitalized with massive internal bleeding in his right thigh. "It's not an easy task.
"We've painted ourselves in such a corner. We're losing games we think we should win. We've just got to keep believing when it's just not that easy to believe."
With starting right fielder Nixon, shortstop Alex Gonzalez and catcher Varitek on the disabled list and left fielder Ramirez out with a sore knee, Francona is scrambling to find a lineup that works.
He started infielders Kevin Youkilis in left field and Eric Hinske in right, and in the second inning Youkilis misplayed a blistering line drive by Yuniesky Betancourt into a double.
One batter later, Youkilis lost Willie Bloomquist's fly ball in the sun, turning an out into a double and a 1-0 Mariners' lead.
"That's my fault. I put him in a tough position, trying to get as much offense in the game as we can," Francona said. "That's me."
This was a wan facsimile of the 2004 team. Even Red Sox nation that was full-throated during Boston's first Seattle visit a month ago, was muted this weekend.
"I don't want to feel helpless," Francona said. "[Third baseman] Mikey Lowell and I kind of were talking about that in the dugout during the game ... I never want to get into that role where, all of a sudden, I start referring to our team as 'They.' This is 'We' and I'm responsible for this.
"I've got to take responsibility for where we're at and try to fix it, regardless of how beat up we all are, or what's happened. Just got to make it stretch when it looks like maybe it's not going to stretch."
The once-lethal Red Sox offense managed only two hits off starter Cha Seung Baek and his relief committee of Sean Green, Rafael Soriano and J.J. Putz.
The Red Sox have too many backups who are being asked to step up. These Red Sox aren't deep enough, aren't talented enough, to stay with the Yankees.
Alex Cora is playing shortstop. And Dustin Pedroia is at second base. Coco Crisp has replaced Damon in center. And soft-tossing Kyle Snyder started Sunday, not Tim Wakefield or Matt Clement, who are on the disabled list.
In the quiet clubhouse after the Red Sox had lost for the ninth time in 11 games, no music was playing. The television was turned off. And the few players who talked had run out of explanations.
"Not good," Youkilis said. "Win games. We're just not winning them."
That about summarizes this beginning to Boston's slow fade to black.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists