Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be Yankees fans (The 2008 Maple Street Red Sox Annual, Part 2)

March 24th, 2008 → 12:47 pm @ // 2 Comments

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.
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Overfeeding the Monster: Entitlement and the Evolution of Red Sox Nation (Part II)

I went to my first Yankees-Red Sox game in the late ’70s, back in the days when Jim Rice viewed a base-on-balls as an affront to his manhood and Fenway Park still had its neuroses-inducing troughs. Over the several decades, I discovered a multitude of reasons to hate the Yankees: they were from New York, they had unceremoniously stomped on the collective heart of Red Sox Nation too many times to count, and their fans were obnoxious, self-entitled, uninformed, drunken louts. In contrast were the Red Sox’s partisans. I took pride in the fact that we were a stoic, loyal, and intelligent bunch. It was an important part of my identity at the time.Those descriptions, like all stereotypes, stuck because they had more than a bit of truth to them. Which is why I worry about our–that is, Red Sox Nation–current collective identity. In the years following the ’04 World Championship run, I’ve had more than one non-Bostonian complain about Sox fans and how they were assuming the sort of Yankees-esque sense of entitlement I’d grown up despising. I argue with these malcontents, of course, and point to SoSH, and the impressive number of stat heads and literati that follow Ye Olde Town Team.

But emails from those “Red Sox fan for decade,” as well as more than a few of the callers to ‘EEI, and yes, some of us knights of the keyboard have made these defenses more halfhearted as of late. There are times when it seems as if an immensely unappealing, I-deserve-what-I-want-and-I-deserve- it-right-now myopia has replaced the Calvinistic resignation that RSN personified for so many long years. To take but one example: a Worcester Telegram columnist actually put his name to a piece that detailed the “many bad decisions since [the World Series] – letting Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon escape to New York…Matt Clement, Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez, and the long-term contract for puzzling Josh Beckett, for starters.” (The headline on that gem: “Epstein to blame for Boston’s downsizing.”) As any sentient being can tell you, Josh Beckett, at $10 mil per, has to be one of the biggest bargains in the game. Pedro Martinez, who played in five games last year while collecting his $13 million paycheck, is not.

That story, of course, was written back in 2006, when a lot of those former Boston stalwarts who were allowed to “escape” looked pretty good. Pedro posted a 2.82 ERA his first year wit the Mets. With Derek Lowe’s ERA during his first year with the Dodgers coming in at least a half-run lower than any Red Sox starter that year, it was easy to forget that DL had been one of the worst starters in all of baseball in 2004. Orlando Cabrera had more than four-times fewer errors than Edgar Renteria, the man signed to replace him. And during his first year with the Yankees, Johnny Damon’s 24 home runs were more than everyone on the Sox save for Manny and Ortiz.

But taking on the Pedro Martinez of 2005 meant also having him for 2006, 2007, and 2008. Instead, the Sox got Clay Buchholz, the guy who was chosen with the sandwich pick the Sox got in the ‘05 draft in compensation for Pedro’s departure. For anyone who doesn’t remember, Buchholz, who costs around $12,700,000 less than Pedro per year, pitched a no-hitter in his second Major League start. And one of the guys the Sox got with Cabrera’s compensation pick was a left-handed outfielder named Jacoby Ellsbury. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

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Baseball–real, honest-to-goodness professional baseball–isn’t like fantasy leagues, or Bill Clinton’s golf games. You don’t get to fix your bad moves 24 hours later, and you don’t get mulligans. (“Hey, Bill? It’s Lou Gorman. That Larry Anderson for Bagwell deal? Yeah, we’d actually like to take that one back.”) The best you can do is work hard, figure out the best approach, and trust that, more times than not, that’ll pay off. As we’ve seen recently, a lot of the times it does. In 2007, David Ortiz came to the plate 667 times and reached base on 297 separate occasions, good for a .445 on-base percentage, tops in the league. Included in all those hundreds of plate appearances were 35 home runs and 52 doubles. Those gaudy stats aren’t news — Ortiz accomplishments since he arrived in Boston in 2003 have truly been historic, and he’ll go down as one of Boston’s all-time great sports heroes, up there with Williams, Orr, Bird, and Yaz.

Ortiz’s year-end line also included 16 double-plays, which means that more than a dozen times he was an utter failure at the plate. And, of course, a .445 OBP means he didn’t succeed more than half the time. That doesn’t take away from the overall impressiveness of his accomplishments, just as the team’s ill-conceived moves, poorly executed trades, or poor signings shouldn’t obscure the fact that the Sox have been the most successful team of the 21st century. (There have been a few screw-ups, such as the four-year, $40 million contract the Sox gave to Edgar Renteria; the three-year, $25 million deal for Matt Clement; the panicked re-acquisition of Doug Mirabelli at the beginning of ’06; and, yes, this past year’s mid-season trade for Gagne, a pitcher who did his best to single-handedly sink the Sox’s chances.)

I say this not in defense of the team’s front office or the guys in baseball ops; they’re doing just fine on their own. I say this because I want us–the media and the true fanatics and maybe even some of the pink-hat bandwagoners–to look at the big picture, to remember that life isn’t perfect, to keep in mind that sometimes it takes a little while for dividends to pay out. I say this because, more than anything, I don’t want us to turn into Yankees fans.


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

2 Comments → “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be Yankees fans (The 2008 Maple Street Red Sox Annual, Part 2)”


  1. floridagirl25

    9 years ago

    Well said – in both Part 1 and Part 2. As members of RSN, I think we are entitled to think and to say stupid things, but should remain grateful that those in charge of the team don’t listen to our BS.

    Reply

  2. rog

    9 years ago

    You want to talk about mulligans? What I despise about the media covering the Red Sox is that they can pretty much say any ridiculous thing (see: Dan Shaughnessy and The Sports Guy; also Boston Dirt Dogs) with complete amnesia and total disregard of the actual facts. How many of these media members are going to write about Ellsbury and Buchholz having been acquired via those comp picks? NONE. And the average fan is frankly not smart enough to pick up on this type of hypocrisy. They’ll celebrate the Slocum for Varitek and Lowe trade because it was done totally in plain view, but under-the-radar stuff like comp picks and minor league trades are easier to bury…and then easier to bury the front office guys with the knowledge that most folks don’t bother to look at the long-term results of some of these moves. In short, I hate people.

    Reply

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