The team that was bought to topple the kings of baseball couldn’t even trip up the sport’s street urchins. The last-place Baltimore Orioles wouldn’t roll over for the Red Sox Wednesday night.

The season that was to be a six-months long Red Sox coronation never happened. Across the baseball map you could sense the glee. Outside Boston and New York, fans have grown weary of Big Baseball just as they despise big government, big banks, big business.

Driving home Wednesday night and listening to the radio as the Red Sox and Orioles waited out the long rain delay, I thought I heard cheers in Camden Yards at the news the Tampa Bay Rays had rallied against the Yankees.

The little guys, underdogs and sad sack losers of baseball were the victors in a night this sport won’t soon forget. Baseball once cheered the Red Sox the same way in 2004. Then, Manager Terry Francona was a slightly more buttoned up Joe Maddon, the Tampa Bay skipper. They seemed cut from the same cloth.

Not this year. Francona seemed a shell of what he was.

Maybe it was the absence of Brad Mills and John Farrell in the dugout with him. Both men are now managers elsewhere.

Maybe it was the injuries that wrecked the rotation and the lineup.

I’ll leave others to pick over the bones of the 2011 Red Sox, from management to players. To me, this month of failure can’t be a sharper reminder of how far the Red Sox have moved away from 2004 and winning the World Series.

Or look at it this way: What happened in Baltimore this week underscores how special that 2004 Red Sox team was during the season and the playoffs. Stars or scrubs, everyone had each other’s back. Virtually every player waited for his cue to stand up and deliver.

You’re done waiting for this team to deliver.

Seven years ago in Fenway Park, David Ortiz came back for how many curtain calls? It’s not over ’til the fat man swings was one of the great lines that October.

Journeymen Mark Bellhorn and Gabe Kapler made the most of their moments on stage. Dave Roberts and his stolen base in the playoffs. The quiet, professional Bill Mueller had his key hits.

The clubhouse jokers, Kevin Millar and Cowboy Up. Pedro Martinez and “Who’s your daddy?”

Curt Schilling had an oversized ego but he also had the determination to match it, bloody sock or not. Derek Lowe and a young Bronson Arroyo rocking and rolling to the tunes in their own heads.

The maturity of Mike Timlin. The unflinching resolve of Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek. The goofiness of Manny Ramirez. The professional hitter that was Johnny Damon.

Damon and his beard were hooted out of Boston when he accepted more money from the Yankees. Remember the scornful T-shirts after he left? “Looks like Jesus, throws like Mary.”

Guess what, Damon and the Rays are in the playoffs. Imagine if Manny hadn’t retired from the Rays in April after his 100-game suspension for violation of baseball’s drug policy. He’d be in another postseason, too.

But not the Red Sox. They’ve milked the glory of 2004 and the second World Series win in 2007 instead of holding themselves up to the standards set by those teams. Funny, but the Yankees with their 27 world championships do exactly that.

Yes, their money talks. You still have to know how to spend it. Forget the Red Sox’s courtship of pitcher John Lackey for a moment. How’s that deal for Daisuke Matsuzaka working out? Carl Crawford actually made fans long for Captain Carl Yastrzemski.

The Red Sox have tried to win like the Yankees and spend like the Yankees. Today, the team and its fans know what it’s like to fail and fall like the Yankees.

During the early innings of Game 7 of the 2004 American League championship series, I walked the aisles of old Yankee Stadium talking to those Yankees fans who would talk back. I heard some of the same disgust and dismay today.

When royalty falls, the ground does tremble. And the people look to the successor.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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Twitter: SteveSolloway