last October’s soul-Wrenching
debacle in the American League Championship Series, we swore on our
daughter’s firstborn child that we would never, absolutely, unequivocally,
if we lived
to be 100, give our heart away to a baseball team, ESPECIALLY
those pathetic worthless losers the Red Sox.
A months ago our rejection of America’s pastime was
looking was looking prescient and prudent. The Beantown bombers
were mired 10 and a half games behind the Yankees Evil Empire, and their
lackluster, win-one-lose-one campaign was clearly heading for an early
and merciful elimination.
They had plenty of talent, these Red Sox, and won their
share of games in blowout fashion, either through shutout pitching from
one of their two stud hurlers, Pedro
Martinez and Curt
Schiller, or because
their killer lineup went on an offensive tear and scored 10+ runs. But
they were losing way too many close games.
Our theory at the time was that they, like us, were emotionally
exhausted after the agonizing seventh game, fourteenth inning meltdown
of last year. So many individual players had to go to the well, reach
resolve and superhuman effort,
just to get to that seventh game in the Bronx. Player after player
was having a career year last year , doing things they had never been
able to do, before or since. Bill
Mueller won the American League batting title,
and he was a career .286 hitter after 8 years in the bigs. And he wasn’t
the only one. Garciaparra, Nixon, Ramirez, Ortiz and Todd Walker had all
been banging the bejesus out of the baseball, back in 2003.
They played, individually and collectively, at the absolute
limit of their abilities, and they captured the hearts and imaginations
of fans all over New England. The Madness was on the march with the falling
leaves, and the oft-jilted faithful of Red Sox Nation were seduced once
more by the siren call of the Boys of Summer, whispering the wicked words
which have sentenced so many of us to the shame and suffering of personal
recrimination and chagrin: "This is the year," it murmurs. The sacred
mantra of the ultimate sports sucker – the Red Sox fan.
After trying so hard, and coming so close, and losing in
such a psychologically devastating manner, is it any wonder that neither
we nor they had the stomach for the kind of nightly gut-check pugnacious
nastiness required to win the close ones in the Major Leagues, or to
emotional flag to the fate of a team in a pennant hunt. It was less
than six months after the debilitating debacle of the ALCS in October. Too
soon, the scar tissue had yet to form, and the recently formed emotional
scab was in danger of being easily dislodged by any strong emotional
attachment or even strenuous cheering.
Just as well, we thought, that they were decidedly mediocre,
pedestrian, dispirited and disappointing. By July we were counting down
the number of days remaining
until the start of Football Season. Then, just when we thought we were
safe, what do those Fenway bums do, but go on a monster tear, winning
21 of the
to within two-and-a-half games of the pathetic Yankees, who are slouching
and stumbling towards the playoffs on sore arms and fragile psyches.
So we were happily ignoring baseball altogether, until
the national political conventions started up. Whose idea was it to hold
the Democratic shin-dig in Boston and the Republican revival in New York?
Whoever it was, it got us thinking. Now, one of the things that we pride
ourself on, a key to the Dowbrigade worldview, is the ability to see
unnoticed. The more we thought about it, the more we saw parallels
between the Democrats and the Red Sox, and the Republicans and the Yankees.
According to Jay Leno, ""You know Boston is a
perfect city for Democrats because the Democrats are like the Red Sox:
They’re optimistic in the spring, concerned in the summer, ready to choke
in the fall."
The Democrats, like the Sox, were plucky, disheveled, lunch
pail pluggers. The Republicans were arrogant aristocrats with an attitude,
backed up by
money, power and a successful track record. Just like the Yankees. Now,
we know we will probably hear from some misguided Yankee fan who will
claim to be a die-hard Democrat, but this will just prove, in these
trying times, that some individuals have completely lost their moral
Steinbrenner is a staunch Republican, almost a
Prototype for the Aggro-attitude, manic magnate. His team wears ties
in airports, he supports
(and contributes to) President Bush, he hangs in Republican circles.
Majority Red Sox owner Tom Werner has contributed to and is supporting
of the Sox ownership group has been firmly associated with the working
that steam shovel in an early installment of that classic American rivalry,
man vs. machine.
Suddenly we were seeing corollaries in every intentional
walk and stolen base. We were detecting connections which would be deemed
paranoia in lesser men. The Red Sox were within two-and-a-half, and it
was a holy war again. How
to not be fooled again! Luckily, friends with harder hearts and firmer
wills reminded us how many opportunities remained to crash and burn, and
the wide variety but invariable inevitability of past failure, so
we were able to avoid giving our sporting heart away so cheaply again. For now.
For these Red Sox really are different. In the middle
of the season they actually did something that the team has NEVER done
during the 35 years we have been following their fortunes, something
so out of character that it at least makes on think that, maybe……
They got rid of the player considered their heart and
soul, the most popular athlete in Boston, with the possible exception
of Tom Brady. They traded Nomar Garciaparra for a pair of defensive
aces – Golden Gloves Orlando
Cabrerra and Doug
sports pundits immediately proclaimed the move the biggest disaster since
trading the Babe. But suddenly the Red Sox were one of the best defensive
teams in baseball. With some health luck and according to the situations,
we may soon see an infield of Mueller, Cabrerra, Pokey
Reese and Mientkiewicz
– all Golden Glovers and quite possibly the best defensive infield the
franchise has EVER put on the field.
This was a radical departure for the Olde Towne Team because
since time immemorial the Red Sox have been a hitters team. They have
always looked down on defense as sissy-style baseball. Rosters have changed,
phenoms have come and gone, managers have been given the keys to the the city
and soon after run out of town on a rail, owners have bought and sold
the Sox like a lot of hog futures, but the team philosophy has been the
same. Sign sluggers and a couple of stud pitchers, and bludgeon
your way on base, tattoo that left-field wall with doubles and triples,
and defense be damned.
One would think that after 86 years of unremitting abject
failure someone along the way would have dare to suggest trying another
tack. Until now, no one had. Turns out the Sox have plenty of pop
in their bats, even without Garciaparra, and now that they have a stellar
defense, they are the hottest team in baseball. How long it will
last is anyone’s guess, and the reason baseball is a betting man’s sport.
We have thus far avoided investing serious emotional equity
in the fate of this team so soon after the trauma of last year, but if
up in the ALCS against the Yankees again, there may be no stopping us
from falling off of the wagon. Already we are hearing the ghostly whispers
in the wind and the whirr of machinery that lulls us to sleep. This
is the yearrrr….
Stop us before we cheer again.