Column: Not our fathers' Red Sox
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 22:10
Growing up in a small Connecticut town, I learned what being a New Englander was all about. I learned that Nor’easters are not something to fool around with, the word wicked can be used in almost any conversation (especially the further north you are) and the Boston Red Sox will always break your heart in the end.
Being a Red Sox fan takes a strong resolve that cannot be found anywhere else in the country, unless you root for the Chicago Cubs. Until 2004, nobody from my generation or even our grandfather’s generation got to see the Sox win it all. After winning the World Series again in 2007, Red Sox nation all but forgot about those tough years in 2003, 1986, 1978 and so on. But this season, we were reminded what it truly means to be a Boston Red Sox fan.
It all started last season on a fall evening in Baltimore, when former Sox closer Jonathon Papelbaun walked off the mound after giving up the game winning run to the Orioles that eliminated Boston from the playoff race. It was a collapse like no other, where the Red Sox lost 11 out of 14 games in the month of September. Then came the chicken and beer scandal and then went manager Terry Francona.
After what seemed like rock bottom at the time, Red Sox nation was excited for this season, as all of New England was ready to forget last year and celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the baseball cathedral that is Fenway Park. The Red Sox opened the season with a 6-2 loss on opening day to the Yankees and followed that with a 15-9 loss, after leading New York 9-0.
The season would only unravel from there. Carl Crawford’s injury status worsened, the famous Fenway sellout streak became suspect after empty seats were spotted during games and multiple players started to question Bobby Valentine’s leadership ability. On June 25th one of the first major shakeups of this team happened when fan favorite Kevin Youkilis was traded to the Chicago White Sox, leaving David Ortiz as the last member of the 2004 championship team that’s still playing with the Sox.
By the all-star break all hope was not lost, but the faith of Red Sox nation was wearing thin as Ortiz was lost for the remainder of the season due to an Achilles injury. Ortiz was leading the team in most categories offensively at the time of his injury.
In August things went from bad to worse as rising star Will Middlebrooks was lost for the season due to a broken wrist. On August 13th, one of the biggest ambassadors of the Red Sox franchise, Jonny Pesky died at the age of 92. Only four current players attended the funeral for Pesky, which was a major black eye on an already difficult season.
On August 25th the Red Sox completed a blockbuster trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was this move that revealed ownership had given up on this season and was focused on 2013. Speaking of ownership, by September rumors were swirling on Yawkey Way that the team was for sale and that Bobby Valentine was close to being fired. Owners John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino denied these rumors, but one can only imagine what was said behind closed doors.
By September it was clear that this was a lost season but it was confirmed on September 20th when the Sox clinched their first losing season since 1997.
Many Boston fans who derived out of the 2004 and 2007 world champion teams were left asking how this could have happened to a team that spent so much money acquiring talent and building a decent farm system in Pawtucket.
In the simplest of terms, it’s not about the money or how much talent you have. This team did not have the chemistry that Boston teams have had in the past. They were against Bobby Valentine from the day he was hired. Players like Josh Beckett just didn’t care about their performance or the team in general.
What bothers me most about this season is the lack of interest or responsibility that ownership has shown for the team. The owners were more concerned about selling commemorative bricks outside the park and bringing events like college hockey and Liverpool soccer to Fenway. Meanwhile the team was in disarray and even the most loyal of Sox fans had seen enough.
I would like to say this group of Red Sox players is like our fathers’ and grandfathers’ Sox but they’re not. Those teams that broke New England’s hearts through the 60s and 70s were lovable losers because they always hustled and gave it their all, the same cannot be said about this year’s team.
So tonight the Red Sox will play their final game of the 2012 season against the Yankees in the Bronx. I, like the rest of Red Sox nation will be watching because it will be the last time to cheer for the Sox until next April. Many questions will be answered this off-season about the future of this team as Boston tries to rebuild what was lost.
One thing for is for certain though, after 86 years without a World Series title, you can’t break the spirit of Red Sox fans, but after a season such as this past one you can give it one hell of a try.
Follow Tyler on Twitter @TylerRMorrissey