Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be Yankees fans (The 2008 Maple Street Red Sox Annual, Part 1)

March 21st, 2008 → 10:08 am @ // No Comments

Those of you who are regular readers of the Maple Street Press Red Sox Annual (published on conjunction with the good folks from Sons of Sam Horn) know that it delivers a series of remarkably insightful articles every February. This year is no different: the 2008 edition, which is available for the low price of $12.99 (cheap!), includes a piece on the ’07 title run by the Globe‘s Gordon Edes, an examination by stat man Pete Palmer on the necessity of a lefty specialist, a ranking of Beckett among the playoffs all-time pitching greats, interviews with Director of Player Development Mike Hazen and pitching coach John Farrell, a position-by-position breakdown of the big league club, an analysis of the team’s minor leaguers, a ranking of the top prospects, the change in approach to free agents…well, you get the idea. Reading this is, without a doubt, the easiest and most enjoyable way to sound like you truly know what you’re talking about when you starting jawing off at the Cask.

I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute to this year’s Annual; my contribution is an essay on the current state of Red Sox Nation. Jim Walsh, the book’s editor, has been generous enough to let me reprint it here, probably because he knows that there’s not a soul out there that wouldn’t want to read everything else the book has to offer.

So without further ado, I offer it up, here. Or, rather, I offer up the first half here – I’ll post the rest over the weekend…


Overfeeding the Monster: Entitlement and the Evolution of Red Sox Nation

On December 26–fifty-nine days after the Red Sox completed their sweep of the Colorado Rockies for their second World Series win in four years–I got an email from a self-identified “Red Sox fan for many decade.” The subject line referred to my book “Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top.” It read, “Update FTM; revise drop hed to include the word ‘dumbs.'” The email itself went on in the same vein:

“Just got FTM as a Christmas present. Suggest you update it to include the Bosox boner on Gagne. See article by Rob Neyer, senior writer’s story on e-mails between Epstein and scout Mark Delpiano re: Gagne, in which Delpiano warned the Red Sox to steer clear of the drug-dependent Gagne. Stupid deal cost the Sox a very good pitcher, Kason Gabbard. Also, the Red Sox will commit another blunder if they give away the ranch to obtain Santana. The Yankees have pinned a ‘no trade’ label on pitcher Ian Kennedy. The Red Sox should do the same with Jacoby Ellsbury.”

In the year-and-a-half since FTM came out, missives like this have been surprisingly common. Take this one, sent in the summer of 2006: “I would rather have Pedro with Josh Beckett.” Or this one, sent a few weeks later: “When Theo ran Pedro Martinez out of town last winter, we should have all seen that Theo was not interested in winning in the present. That was the beginning of the end. The thing I don’t get, is how running good players out of town helps building for the future?” I picked those two randomly from the dozens that didn’t get caught up in my obscenity filter.

Back in the fall of 2005, an impassioned Theo Epstein warned his colleagues in the Red Sox’s front office the dangers of aspiring to Yankees-esque, superpower status. [Note: this, of course, was first reported in Feeding the Monster, available for the low price of $10.20 (cheap!).] There was, of course, the monetary burden such a effort would entail, but Epstein was more worried about the instant-gratification ethos such an effort risked creating.

“We’re going to need a lot of patience, because there’s going to be a lot of failure,” Epstein said. “It could get rough. Right now, there’s a lot of hope [about the team’s young talent]. But remember, the most popular player on the football team is always the backup quarterback. When [Dustin] Pedroia”–who had just concluded a season in which he hit a combined .293 in AA-Portland and AAA-Pawtucket–“gets up here and he hits a buck-fifty, discovers he can’t reach the wall and can’t find his stroke because it’s freezing out—well, that will happen.”

As it turns out, Epstein’s had it almost exactly right. Pedroia did, in fact, have trouble reaching the wall when he first took over as the team’s starting second baseman. (He finished last April with a .182 average, a figure that beat Epstein’s prediction by a mere 32 cents.) Even with the Sox spring surge, it didn’t take long for the masses to get restless. On April 23, three days after Alex Cora tripled in the go-ahead run in a come from behind victory over the Blue Jays, a Globe columnist wondered when Francona would “decide that Dustin Pedroia is simply not ready to hit major league pitching? … It’s not as if the manager doesn’t have a viable option.” A mere week after that, the fact that Cora had hit a robust .360, over a dozen or so games, the situation was dire enough that the Herald (“Cora keeps making case”) and the Providence Journal (“Cora is really making a case for himself”) ran almost identical headlines.

And what happened after that? Cora hit .232 for the rest of the year, concluding the ’07 campaign with an average (.246) that was almost exactly in line with that for his career (.244). Pedroia, meanwhile, hit .333 the rest of the way and ended the year at .317. Among his season’s highlights were smacking a leadoff homer run in Game 1 of the Series. Oh yeah: he was also the first member of the Sox to win the Rookie of the Year since Nomar snagged it a decade earlier.

Coming tomorrow: My first brush with the trough, the knights of the keyboard, and why there are no mulligans in baseball.

Post Categories: 2008 Season & Gordon Edes & Maple Street Press Annual & Yankees

3 Comments → “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be Yankees fans (The 2008 Maple Street Red Sox Annual, Part 1)”

  1. rog

    16 years ago

    Oh, how I miss those late 90’s days listening to WEEI for hours while working on Grad school papers. Drunken Boston guys (redundant, I know) calling up Ted Nation proposing trades of Jose Offerman for Ken Griffey Jr. Mike and the Mad Dog callers just aren’t as delusional or, frankly, nearly as fun to listen to. Your next book should just be a giant collection of emails that these lonely, sexless turds sent to you since 2004. I would totally read it.

  2. […] This is the second half of my essay in this year’s Maple Street Press Red Sox Annual (published on conjunction with the good folks from Sons of Sam Horn), which is currently available for the low price of $12.99 (cheap!). For lots more inside dope on the Red Sox, circa 2000-2005, check out my New York Times bestseller Feeding the Monster, which you can get for the even lower price of $10.20 (cheap!). And, as always, it’s never too later to request your signed copy of FTM. *** […]

  3. […] A lot of the reason for that is systemic: if you’re covering the Sox beat and your game story is missing a quote that’s in every single competitor’s piece your editor is gonna be on your ass. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of smarts, to put together something that’s interesting, comprehensive, and new. That’s what makes Alex Speier’s new series in the New Hampshire Union-Leader so impressive (and enjoyable). It’s about a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: the Sox player development system, the way the team has emphasized building–and keeping–young talent even when it means dealing with the wrath and scorn of the instant-gratification hoi polloi. […]


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