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Maybe It’s Better This Way

October 12, 2005

There’s Always Next Year

It was just last Friday that the Red Sox relinquished their hold on Major League Baseball’s championship title, though it is not yet known to whom they will cede it. We do know however, that it aint the yankees. And, really, that’s all that matters now. yankee fans are not content unless their team wins the title every year, Red Sox fans are pretty content so long as the yankees don’t. A few days removed from the traumatizing event, and in light of the hated yanks subsequent elimination, it is becoming bearable to reflect on what’s happened.

First of all, despite the painful collective flashback Red Sox Nation suffered watching that one ball squirt through the legs of Tony Graffinino, Graffinino aint no Bill Buckner. Myself, I will forgive him and would like to see him playing second base for the Sox again. No that wasn’t a Bill Buckner moment. That error might have made the result just a little more inevitable; but this was a crap-fest all around. I am of the same mind as Sox Manager Terry Francona when he says,

The White Sox “pitched better than us, they hit better than us, they ran the bases better,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “They outplayed us, and that’s why they won.” —No Repeat in New England – Red Sox Swept Out of This Postseason

This is not the end of the world, though. It may even be a blessing in disguise. See, I think Red Sox fans— at least the ones I know —have let success get the better of us. Lifetimes of agonizing ‘second-half-slides’ and near-misses, amounted to an almost comfortable expectation of failure and disappointment, but also an annually renewed sense of hope for the future, as illustrated by the mantra, “there’s always next year.” Winning the World Series took us out of that comfort zone into unknown, or at least forgotten territory.

Last winter was for exalting in the glory of the trophy as it wound it’s way through town after New England town greeted at every stop along the way with parades and rallies. Winter’s cold criticism and traditional armchair managing, had been rendered superfluous by success. It was just one winter prior that was the winter of ‘why the fuck did Grady Little leave Pedro in in the eighth inning of game seven?!.’ The latest installment of the Winter of Sox Fans’ Discontent. But Red Sox fans knew what to do those winters.

Winning took some of the bite out of the cold New England winter, which was great; but, I fear it led to a complacency among Red Sox critics (ie: everybody in the Nation.) We spent lavish amounts of money on caps and mugs and fleece throws adorned with our Red Sox colors. We drank coolattas out of plastic Red Sox cups and ate big-mack extra-value meals out of paper Red Sox bags. We gained weight. We practically hibernated through the icy winter, warmed by the glory radiating off of our heroes. The frenetic brainwaves usually expended on working out the Red Sox problems were reduced to delta waves of blissful slumber; and we got plenty of slumber.

As a result, we came into this season much like Curt Schilling: bloated, slow and out of shape. We weren’t as expressive of our bitter criticism and sardonic cynicism at the team’s chances. Even calls to give the axe to (strike out king and mediocre second baseman) hapless Mark Bellhorn felt hollow. Who could deny his crucial and miraculous game six home run against the hated yankees? We had lost our very essence as Red Sox fans.

So, as they clung to first place in the division this season, we said “we’ll take it” and “good enough” somehow expecting with heart and determination they could punch through and do it all again. It was not to be.

Maybe it’s better this way. Maybe this return to the cool comfort of unrealized potential and optimism for the future is just what the doctor ordered.

The Red Sox’ problems didn’t just arise in the post season. Despite the fact that we held onto first place for much of the season— perhaps attributable to the fact that the AL East teams all beat up on each other and keep things close(?) —this team had it’s flaws.

I only Say This Because I Love You

One player immediately pops into mind as I type the word ‘flaws’. The one who, at my house received the most unflattering and possibly overly harsh nickname of any Red Sock: Stupid Fuckin’ Piece of Shit. I won’t mention his name (Kevin Millar) but this is one guy whose monkey-handed, concrete-shoed style of first base play that I dreaded watching. Offensively, he didn’t hit for power (or average!) and couldn’t even put together even one memorable streak like the one’s he had last year (unless you count the months long home-run drought he subjected us to this summer.) But the Red Sox demise is not all his fault. There was also our disappointing starting pitching staff and our virtual lack of bullpen.

Starters: “All-Star” Clement tanked after his All-Star Game outing. Curt ‘GOP’ Shilling had nothing for us this year, having apparently (and admittedly heroically) left it all on the diamond last post season. Bronson Arroyo had his mind on other things— like that new fingering for that guitar chord he just learned, and cutting his inexcusable CD of covers —too distracted, apparently, to be consistent on the mound. Wells turned out to be the only starter I felt reasonably good about when he took the mound; and he’s temperamental, fat, antagonistic to umpires and gets suspended for cussing.

Bullpen: We had a decent leftie submariner in horror movie psycho killer Michael Meyers. Last year’s closer, Keith Foulke became hobbled by knee surgeries (multiple) and his come-back attempts were uncomfortably unpleasant to watch. Mike “Boomhauer” Timlin was alright, but he’s no closer. There is hope out there with the three youngsters. But the rest of the bunch proved useless on a regular basis.

[THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS —which may never see completion— your Montag is too busy right now.]

Error-prone Rente-dia-ria goes from zero to semi-hero with his late-season batting.

Damon and the others whose contracts are and/or who may retire…

Will Manny be back? Can anyone else afford him? The Mets?

Ortiz a regular first baseman?

My Dream outfield.

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