I am not sure this piece needs to be any longer than the title. I just wanted to share a few thoughts as a life long Red Sox fan who knows a lot less about them than many of you. First, as the list of accomplishments were read, listed, or discussed as Terry Francona was shunned from the organization, it was apparent to me that this guy won in Boston despite the ownership group. Francona and Bill Carrigan are the only two managers in franchise history to win two World Series titles. Carrigan had a 20-year-old kid named Babe Ruth hurling for him in 1915. Ruth was 41-20 on the mound over those two seasons. Francona won more games as manager of the Red Sox than anyone else with the exception of Joe Cronin. In this age of instant gratification, and what have you done for me lately, Terry did a pretty good job considering he didn’t pick the players and personalities that were brought to Boston. Now Francona might need to buy a ticket to get into Pink Hat Park at Fenway Amusement Central. I will get to this later.
Second, Theo Epstein now heads to the North Side of Chicago with hopes of reversing another curse, or six (the goat, the black cat, ball through Durham’s legs, Buckner’s batting glove, the dropped fly ball, Steve Bartman). Sorry Cubs fans, but my family and I already had to deal with 86 years of this stuff. Even with the signings that completely back fired while Theo was here, his resume is still impressive. I also wonder how many of these acquisitions were handed down to him from ownership and how many were him performing as a good GM, or as a bad GM. It’s hard to tell from where I sit.
Third, David Ortiz talks of the drama in Boston when asked about his future. Think about this for a minute, Ortiz was Mr. Clutch in Boston’s Championship runs in 2004 and 2007. Over those two post seasons he only hit .386 with 8 HR’s, 29 RBI’s, 27 Walks, 29 Runs scored, in 28 Games played. He was our Mr. October, the guy who could do no wrong. The player that would be welcome here forever, right? (That’s what we thought about Francona too) He’s still a fan favorite in Boston, but given that he’s a free agent DH, who hits left-handed, and just lost his biggest advocate in Boston, where do you think he will end up? Oh and did I mention that the Yankees were in the bottom half of almost every single offensive category for DH’s? True. By the way, Boston and Mr. Ortiz were ranked first in many of those same offensive categories. Just some food for thought.
Fourth, I love Fenway Park. But I am thinking I love the Fenway Park that was introduced to me when I was a kid, not the one entering its 100th season next spring. I can still remember walking up the ramp towards the light of day, emerging from the cool, concrete depths, the hard, cold hand railings, and rising up above the field. As I neared the ramp top, I could see the net come into sight, then the Green Monster, and it was all green. I saw the green, green grass, the greenest grass I had ever seen. The brown infield dirt with the infielders whipping the ball around the horn like a blur. Back then they still took infield before the games like the rest of America still does all the way through college ball. The playing field was pristine, the rest of the park was not. Why should it be? Smokey Joe Wood, Tris Speaker, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Yaz, Luis Tiant, Carlton Fisk, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Nomar, Pedro Martinez, Manny, and thousands others all played on that field. The greatest collection of baseball talent ever assembled came together for an impromptu meet and greet with the greatest hitter who ever lived on that field before the 1999 All-Star Game. It’s an old ball park and I am glad it’s still there, but it’s been through a lot. I mean, Ted Williams actually hunted pigeons in that old ball yard. I wish all the old ballparks were still around even if the Major League teams weren’t in them. Countless memories are attached to those old ballparks. And sometimes it’s okay for something old to look old, as long as it is here and still functions.
Fifth, I have no problem with the idea of pink hats at Fenway, or anywhere else, for that matter. I know many people who were wearing pink Sox hats long before the term was coined, and these folks are as die-hard Sox fans as I am, if not more so. We shouldn’t always paint with such a broad brush, because there’s beauty in the detail of individuality. There’s also beauty in the simplicity of something designed just right. Something that stands the test of time and becomes an icon for those who have interacted with it. That something is Fenway Park, not the monstrosity it has become. The Sox sell out every game as they draw from all over New England. Many of these sellouts consist of a family who makes a pilgrimage from not only New England, but from around the world just to see Fenway. Many of these people can afford to come see a game there just once, or once a season.
Sixth, Fenway was a destination for most of us without seats and suites all over the place. We went to the park to see the home team play in their sanitary home whites and those unforgettable red numerals on the back. We came to see the ball slam off the monster and how an opposing left fielder would play it. We came to see our generation’s ace on the mound and we didn’t need a radar gun to know how overpowering he was. We came to see a ball rattle around in the door on the left field line, or a ball hug the base of the wall and roll forever in the right field corner. We came to see speed and courage run a ball down in the triangle. We came to see our favorite players, our baseball heroes play a kids game on the pristine playing surface sunken between massive green walls. Knowing full well who had come before them and sensing how those heroes past looked on that same green sanctuary. We came to hear the unmistakable sound of the bat meeting the ball. We came to sing one song that we all knew, our National Anthem. We came to hear the umpire yell, “Play Ball !” Because after all it was baseball that brought us in.
I know that managers, owners, coaches, and players come and go. I also know that the Red Sox fan base, as large as it is, can be a tough group to answer to. Good organizations are good because they have good people in key positions throughout their structure, not because analytic’s generated in a bubble overlooking reality, spit out a player’s name to go and get. The Red Sox just lost two good people in my opinion. Best wishes to the new manager and GM as they stake their livelihood on spreadsheets and computers. People make the world go ’round, and good players win ballgames, but good people who can play well together win championships. I am not ready to say Terry and Theo were the problem yet. I may never say it. Because I love the Red Sox and when they resemble an actual team again I will be here watching and cheering. I just wonder how many fans will lose their grip over the cold winter, and fall off the Sox-Go-Round.