SEATTLE, WA: Starting pitcher Aaron Cook #35 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Lots of Red Sox-related things have been taken away from us in the last year. First, there was Terry Francona, who was replaced by Bobby Valentine's Happy Funtime Circus. Then, there was Theo Epstein, but at least he was followed by Ben Cherington, who was believed to be (and, after a certain August trade is still considered) a promising young general manager. Then, as much as it's good to be out from under a quarter-of-a-billion in future contracts, Adrian Gonzalez's sweet swing was sent to Los Angeles. Of course, Josh Beckett was also sent west, just like failed gunslingers always have been, so it's not all bad for many Sox fans.
Now, in a season where 2013 matters more than the present, one of the few items of entertainment we still could cling to is being ripped from our collective bosom. Aaron Cook struck out five Mariners on Wednesday night, ruining his strikeout rate by improving it.
Cook has punched out 16 batters in 70 innings in 2012. Pedro Martinez struck out at least 16 hitters in a single game while in a Red Sox uniform six times, with two of those resulting in 17 whiffs. Roger Clemens punched out 20 opposing batters twice, and Bill Monbouquette joins this nine-entry club with his 17-strikeout effort from May of 1961. There are other ways of explaining how few hitters he's striking out, but that, plus Cook's 1.9 strikeouts per nine on the season, should be enough of a hint.
The problem is that 1.9 per nine is too many for the kind of enjoyment Cook should be giving us at this late stage. Less than a month ago, Cook was striking out 1.1 per nine, the lowest rate in the American League (and second-lowest ever) since the Allied forces were victorious over the Axis powers. Things were so ridiculous with his punch out rates that Cook had an outside shot at cracking the top 10 lowest K/9 ever, if he could just go a little longer without missing bats.
Instead, Cook struck out four Angels in his next start, then failed to whiff anyone in the two following games, then punched out five M's to end Boston's road trip. Nine strikeouts in 20 innings of work is bad, but it's not historically interesting, and the latter is what keeps him intriguing at this stage of both the season and his career.
Cook doesn't even own the lowest K/9 of the DH era anymore, minimum 75 innings, thanks to those last five strikeouts. He did, before Wednesday's contest, but his success resulted in a failure for us, and our entertainment levels suffer for it. He's now 0.12 away from being one of the 173 pitchers in the last 30 years to strikeout at least two per nine but fewer than three, and that isn't just lacking in interest, it doesn't quite roll off of the tongue, either.
In a season where little has gone right for Boston, Aaron Cook should be in line to be historically interesting. Instead, he's now failing at failing, and it's taking one of the last bits of fun we had left in 2012 away from us. Aaron Cook, we implore you: pitch worse next time. For us.