Opening Day — or, as my sister fondly calls it, “opening loss” — for the Boston Red Sox is Thursday (weather permitting). And boy, do I have mixed feelings.
Baseball is still my favorite sport. And it’ll probably always be too. And for most of my life, Opening Day also meant renewal for the Red Sox. We could forget about last year and start with a clean slate.
With few exceptions, from the time I was 13 and the Red Sox began a season in 1967 that ended with an “Impossible Dream” pennant, we’ve entered each season with realistic hopes and expectations. They’ve only played in seven World Series (including the magical ’67 season). But there have been enough near-misses and late-into-the-season runs so that you had cause to hope.
But there is no hope this season. The Red Sox aren’t going anywhere except Washington, D.C., which is where they’ll be when this disaster of a season ends on Oct. 3.
This is infuriating. I know. We were bathed in championships for the first 20 years of the decade — four of them won by the Red Sox. So the minute you start complaining about how wretched this team is, you’re accused of being spoiled. It’s like Yankee fans moaning about how they didn’t start Whitey Ford in Game 1 of the 1960 series or they’d have won that one too. What, 27 championships aren’t enough?
I don’t ask for 27 world championships. I don’t even ask for one. All I ask is that the team makes the valiant attempt to compete. The Boston Red Sox aren’t even doing that.
I have been a fan since I was old enough to know what a baseball was. Our summers revolved around the Red Sox. We sat through mid-week doubleheaders during 100-loss seasons when we knew they’d probably get trounced twice. Didn’t matter. We’d take those popcorn holders that doubled as hollowed-out megaphones and make it a day.
Since 1967, this team has tried to compete. Not always successfully, of course. The management has made some historically bad moves (Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater, Cecil Cooper for a washed-up George Scott), but in making them, at least the effort was there.
Sure. They let some popular players go. Getting rid of Fred Lynn was a colossal mistake. Allowing Carlton Fisk to walk over a contract technicality was stupid.
But they always corrected those mistakes. They may have let Roger Clemens walk, but they got Pedro Martinez a year later. They let Mo Vaughn go, but ended up signing Manny Ramirez (and had David Ortiz fall into their laps as well). And I don’t know how anyone else feels, but getting Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocum? Dan Duquette should have been arrested for grand theft.
But what have the Red Sox done since owner John Henry decided he didn’t want to pay any more luxury taxes? They gave the Los Angeles Dodgers Mookie Betts, who could stand next to Mike Trout among the game’s most transcendent players. They traded Andrew Benintendi for who, exactly? They let Jackie Bradley Jr. walk (thereby breaking up the best outfield in baseball).
Look. In the 21st century, if you have money, you use it. That’s how you compete. If you can’t take the competitive environment of the current market, then don’t. Sell the team and let someone else try.
What is happening with the Red Sox is a disgrace. Worse, now they’ve run into some bad luck. Their best pitcher who isn’t recovering from Tommy John surgery, Eduardo Rodriguez, has the dreaded “dead arm.” Catcher Christian Vazquez got hit in the eye by a baseball. They have eight players on the COVID-19 list. It would appear the bottom is falling out before the season even starts.
The only difference between 1965 and now is that I don’t care. It costs too much to be a fan these days, and not just in money. You invest so much time, emotion and energy into these teams that fielding a competitive team isn’t much to ask of them in return. If the Red Sox did even a quarter of what the Patriots have done this winter, all would be forgiven.
I never thought I’d live to see the day the Red Sox tore it down and then tanked so they could rebuild. So I can’t be bothered with them.
I can’t bring myself to root for the Yankees either. The Minnesota Twins have a Lynn guy, Derek Falvey, as their president of baseball operations. I hereby adopt them.
Go Twins. Let’s play two!