A couple of weeks ago, I was at the neighborhood pharmacy, chatting with a few folks as we waited for our prescriptions.
The topic, as it so often is in Boston, was the Olde Towne Team, whose fortunes, since their epic fail last September, have been on the decline.
This was before the Red Sox made their trade of the century, and managed to unload a quarter of a BILLION dollars worth of payroll. They accomplished this by getting the Dodgers to take three erstwhile superstars off the Red Sox fans, one of whom was a Grade A whiner, one a hostile POS happy to rest on his laurels, and the third a poor schnook who’d underperformed and over-injured himself while collecting a more than hefty guaranteed salary.
In all likelihood, this unholy trinity will go on to once again reclaim their superstar credentials, implicitly suggesting that it was Boston that was the problem, not them. (Wa, wa, wa…)
I appreciate that this is a tough town to play in, but that’s why these guys get the big buck contracts. In exchange, you’re expected to produce on the field, charm the members of The Nation off the field, and put up with equal parts of praise, sucking up, advice and excoriation, from everyone from silver-haired grannies flipping you the bird at red lights to two year olds who pull the binky out and give you an attaboy for the catch you made in last night’s game. It is that kind of town.
So now the Red Sox are back in our good graces. Now, when they’re mediocre, we can comfort ourselves that this is a bridge year, a rebuilding years, and that we’re no longer trying to emulate those crazy spenders, the Yankees, and buy success.
Of course, we will continue to lament – as I did with my neighbors at Gary Drug - this year’s suckfest at Fenway. (Which followed up on last year’s suckfest ending, when the supposed greatest team assembled since the 1927 Yankees went into a fall swoon from which they have not yet recovered.)
For the record, I did get to five games this season, most of them wins, and I did enjoy myself, as I always do at a live game, even when the Red Sox are choking and croaking. (That said, the best thing I saw this season at Fenway was the Springsteen concert on August 15th…)
But despite the abject season that we’re still going through, I remain a baseball fan.
There are just so many reasons to love baseball, I don’t understand for a minute how anyone can find it so colossally boring. (The boringness, I would argue, is even part of its charm.)
If for no other reason, there are the team names.
Sure, the major league teams are pretty drab. The Boston Red Sox. The Chicago White Sox. The Oakland Athletics.
Even the names that have something to do with the city they represent – the Seattle Mariners, the Milwaukee Brewers – are pretty much lacking in color.
But not in the minor leagues.
Who wouldn’t want to see the Lowell Spinners, the Worcester Tornadoes, and the Chillicothe Paints play ball? I wish I’d been around to see the Worcester Coal Heavers.
And then there’s the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Now I bow to no fan in the low opinion I have of that ego-maniacal lard-ass Roger Clemens. I didn’t like him when he played for the Red Sox – the original high paid whiney baby – let alone when he left the confines of America’s Most Beloved Ballpark. But I will give him credit for making me aware of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Those who follow baseball may be aware that Clemens, having gotten off the hook on the steroid charges – which, much as I despise the man, don’t believe should have been investigated in the first place – is making something of a comeback by pitching for the Skeeters. At age 50.
There is much speculation about why Clemens is pitching.
Did his legal battles so exhaust his wealth that he needs the walking-around money? Does jumping back in as a pro postpone the date when he becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame, by which time voters may no longer care about who did or didn’t use performance enhancing drugs. (Yawn…)
Anyway, all the psycho-drama and gossip also make baseball more interesting than other sports. Not that the other major league sports lack for it. It’s just that baseball plays out over such a long season, and against the backdrop of so much lore and history, that there just seems to be a lot more of it. (Seriously, name another sport in which the general manager, hoping to escape the press, left the ballpark wearing a gorilla costume. As did the Red Sox former GM, Theo Epstein. And name another sport in which the manager brought in a player not much over 3 feet tall to confound the other team’s pitcher, as did Bill Veeck when he sent Eddie Gaedel up to the plate. Gaedel walked.)
Baseball players also seem to have better names than other athletes.
Admittedly, basketball gave us Alonzo Mourning. And it is hard to top football’s Y.A. Tittle.
But baseball has provided Champ Summers. A pitcher named Dizzy. A pitcher named Dazzy.
And as part of the Red Sox-Dodgers deal, we’re getting a pitcher named Rubby DeLaRosa.
It does not get much better than that.
For the month of September, I will be largely tuning out the Red Sox.
I will no doubt watch a bit of each game, for the pure pleasure of watching baseball (and catching up on the psycho-drama, of course.) While it’s theoretically possible that the Red Sox will “make” the post-season as the second wild-card, with a one-and-done playoff opportunity, it is highly unlikely. (If they couldn’t do it last year with the greatest team since the 1927 Yankees…)
But I will mostly be biding my time until the playoffs start.
There are any number of teams that I will be quite happy to cheer on, starting with the Chicago White Sox. (I am, after all, half Chicago.) I can get behind Tampa Bay, the Tigers, the Angels, A’s, the O’s.
In the National League, I’m even less choosy. Anyone who’s playing against the Yankees – assuming they win the American League Championship - will, of course, become “my” team for the duration.
Don’t know what I’ll do if it ends up being the Yankees vs. the Dodgers.
I’ll have to go with the Dodgers,. But while I wish them no ill, I do not want to see those Red Sox alumni make the difference. I don’t want to see Adrian Gonzalez win the series for the Dodgers with a walk-off homer. Or Josh Beckett pitch a winning game. I don’t have to worry about Carl Crawford doing anything. And will admit it would be downright funny to see Nick Punto, the journeyman who somehow got himself thrown into the deal with the high-wattage stars, stick it to the Yankees.
But I’ll guess I’ll cross that baseball bridge when I get to it.
Til then, I will occasionally partake of the Fenway suckfest, knowing that, if nothing else, tickets will be even easier to get a hold of next year than this.