Welcome to the circus that is Fenway Amusement Park and the 2012 performance of the Boston Red Sox Players as conducted by seemingly, mildly interested ownership. Lead Jester in this years performance is Bobby Valentine.
One of my brothers sent me an email today and shared some of his thoughts on the Red Sox so far this season. This spurred some thoughts and my own written reaction. Which is also where this piece stems from. Many of these thoughts have been cultivated over the last several years. Others came throughout the fall of 2011. An autumn that would have fit better in the 86 year drought somewhere than it does in the 21st century.
Gone are the days when Ted Williams would sign his one year contracts based on how much he and the club thought he was worth during the previous season. Gone are the days when players would stand behind the opposing catcher and watch the other teams’ starting pitcher warm up along the foul lines. Gone are the days when the team would actually take infield before a game. Gone is the net and the retrieval of home run balls after a game by a guy walking the wall at 37 feet high. Gone are the 7:07 start times and the afternoon games before that. The Impossible Dream has been replaced with the Implausible Scene that rears its ugly head 81 dates per year. Gone is baseball as the main attraction at 4 Yawkey Way. Gone is the national pastime in its glory as the only passage of time needed for our fathers and theirs, replaced with entertainment as defined by those who measure a quality start by numbers and not by the quality of the start.
Some how the grand old ball park, 100 years old, has become the theme park and main attraction to an audience of millions throughout New England and even around the world. I cherish Fenway Park. I have since I was a kid, and like millions of other kids, I was sold on the old concrete ramps leading to the most beautiful shades of green I had ever seen. I didn’t need seats on the Monster, or a pavilion in right, or seats behind glass, or even seats that faced home plate. The greatest players in the history of the game played on that field, in front of that wall, and before those seats, empty or not. I knew Ruth, Young, Foxx, and Williams, among others, had even called this park home. That’s the beauty of it. That park was where those ball players played. That’s all that was needed. Just like it would have been at any of those other classic ball parks, if they were still around.
So far in 2012 there has already been too much mediocrity, or less, and worse yet, it seems to be acceptable. Bobby Valentine could have managed several games better this year. He could also have taken opportunities to show who is the boss in the clubhouse. Oh wait, no, he couldn’t have, because he’s not the boss. He’s just another member of the entitled fraternity of Red Sox personnel who think someone actually owes them something. The boss is the collective ownership. Just ask Boston’s GM. Insert puppet here. Ownership needs to look in the mirror regarding their ball club and worry less about the ball park. With injuries, no sense of urgency on anything, and average acquisitions this is what we get. An above average offensive ball club held back by its pitching and lack of fortitude. Even when Adrian Gonzalez finishes with great numbers again, he won’t be enough to over come countless blown 3-run leads and constantly playing from behind. Right now fans want his behind because he’s not off to a Josh Hamilton start this season.
I could go on but I probably won’t. Beckett looked like a golfer trying his hand at pitching on the mound tonight. Couldn’t have been better timing for him to show us all what he’s made of. Not much. I know every year can’t be 2007, but since the title year where’s the hunger, the drive? Actually, humorously, I guess we learned where the hunger was last autumn. He’s 50-33 with a 4.08 ERA since the 2007 title and getting worse. That’s a nice .602 win percentage but by comparison Matsuzaka has a .654 win percentage over the same time frame.
Anyways, the Sox fired the best manager in team history, and seemingly took forever to find the right guy for the job to replace Francona. Now, mind you, the right guy for the job in this case, may just be a guy fitting interesting criteria: Big name, check. New England guy, check. Sells some tickets, check. Vain enough to think it’s all about him, check. Expendable enough to be a rental manager caught in a bad lease, check. Francona may have lost control of the wheel last season, but he may have been driving a vehicle with a bunch of bad tires, and less his fault than originally thought. This season will likely show us all just how bad it could have really been.
Either way, after the Bruins early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, Fenway turning 100 years old, and various forms of early season adversity, the spotlight has been shining holes through the club in month number one of the season. The season is long, and we’ve seen that just about anything can happen. There are 131 more chances for our hometown team to redeem themselves this season. In the meantime there’s the College World Series, The Olympics, and the Little League World Series to help restore our National Pastime and then some.
The Red Sox are my life-long favorite team. Even if this season turns around for Boston, there’s several pictures in my mind that I’d rather see at 4 Yawkey Way. I’d love to see Yaz pinwheeling the bat as he settles in to face another pitch. I’d love to see Tiant delivering pitches from every conceivable angle and watch his pitch count approach 200 (talk about your quality starts). I could use a couple of episodes showing “The Steamer” taking a rake to innocent beach balls. I would love to see Lonborg pitching with the heart of a lion when nobody else believed. How about some effort, like that of Fred Lynn using every fiber of his body to make another catch that wasn’t supposed to be made. I could use some time spent in the center field bleachers during the 1978 season when “Jim Ed” would come out and hit balls into the bleachers to the kids before batting practice. Ya, he was awesome. 406 total bases in 1978 and my evenings were good or bad based on how Rice played that night. How about “Dewey” lining himself up in right field to unload his cannon to the appropriate base, time after time? Give me the buzz around the old ball park on any night that Pedro pitched. I’d even take Manny being Manny, rifling a walk-off single through Mariano’s legs on Memorial Day Weekend. Maybe I could use the grit of Lansford. Let me see the old bullpen cart bringing relievers to the mound. Are there any kids in the mix like number 26, who played first base and went 6-for-9 in a double-header against the Indians, a year after Lansford won the batting title? Give me Marty Barrett with a 13 pitch at-bat, or Carbo in the clutch. I’d take Morgan Magic and Benzinger wrapping one around the Pesky Pole. I’d take the Boston Red Sox playing baseball in the old Fenway Park.
Hey ownership, these Sox are a bust! It’s not about the ball park, it’s about the pastime, the game, the players that make the plays and send New England off to sweet summer dreams night after night. The ball park in essence is the fly on the wall that witnesses all the greatness and thus becomes the place for fathers to congregate and pass on the histories as they know it. It’s seats should be so fortunate to be filled with subtle story lines being shared game after game. Stories that live on forever from one generation of wide-eyed youngsters to the next. Instead, for many, it has become a once a year, or maybe once in a lifetime visit to an amusement park that’s so busy with entertainment that’s not the game, that the beautiful symmetry of the game is often lost to the likes of lights, gadgets, bells and whistles.
My favorite ball fields any where are not my favorites because of the amenities they offer. Rather, it’s the beauty of those rarest diamonds, where the colors run into one another at the perfect angle as if the hand of an angel reached down and arranged these things just so. There are fields that are carved into nature where the ball field ends right where the wild begins. These fields don’t have fancy lights and scoreboards, but they do have immeasurable history and countless memories where our pastime was contended by players who didn’t know better than just playing for the love of the game. These fields in some cases have long since passed ‘state of the art’ and have transformed into glorious cathedrals containing priceless pictures of yesteryear hanging in every corner, perceived by thousands from just as many angles.
I probably won’t get to Fenway this year, but if I do, I am sure someone will have to hear more stories of mine as my memory plays back images to me while I look around the old yard. Until then, I would just as soon sit on the front porch and listen to the game on the radio so I can paint my own pictures of the memories being created.