We survived the dark, unhappy, chicken wings-and-beer season of 2012. Sixty-nine wins, ninety-three losses. Management brought in a new manager, but even so we didn’t expect much from last year’s team.
Then, to the surprise of the sportswriters and everyone else, we saw those bearded wonders do the impossible. Yes, less than a year ago, our last-to-first team was on top of the world, which includes the American League. Ninety-seven wins, sixty-five losses. And that doesn’t include the World Series, Boston over St. Louis, four games to two.
Lester, Lackey, Gomes, Drew, Ellsbury – what players, surely the nucleus of a successful 2014. Then Ellsbury left, as we knew in our hearts he would. Whenever that happens, the sportswriters remind us, “It’s a business.” But the rest of the team seemed intact – good pitching, solid hitting, all the ingredients for another good year.
Instead, we have witnessed the baseball equivalent of a sinkhole at Fenway Park. The pitching was fine, but the hitting stank. Without warning we went directly from a world championship into survival mode. Yet, like baseball fans everywhere, many of us remained hopeful. We said to ourselves, it’s a long season, all the Red Sox need to do is get the won-and-lost record up to .500, and we’ll work from there. The division is evenly balanced, the pitching is great, and the hitters will come around.
Except they didn’t, and sometime around the Fourth of July, the season starting getting too long. It became clear to all – this team isn’t going anywhere.
The same can’t be said about the aforementioned nucleus, Lester, Lackey, Gomes, Drew. By month’s end, they were all gone, along with a few others. Lester, classy as always, took out a full-page newspaper ad thanking the “best fans in the world” for their loyalty. When I saw the ad I wondered, Am I one of them?
Even for those of us who remember the wait-til-next-year old days, this endless season has been painful. Mired in last place, with players from here and there along with the stalwart Pedroia and the ebullient Ortiz, the Red Sox have given up on the 2014 season. So had I, or so I thought.
On a Tuesday night in August, I found myself with a friend in Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, surrounded by Reds players’ wives and family members in the best seats in the stadium thanks to a Reds relief pitcher. I was even wearing a Reds hat, and I thought to myself, Why not, just this once, root for the Reds?
It was a good game, and the Reds were ahead, 2 to 1, going into the eighth inning. If they held the lead, my friend and I agreed, we would get to see the relief pitcher who gave us our tickets. He would come out and pitch the ninth, I would root for him, and no one would be the wiser.
Then our newest hero, Yoenis Cespedes – we got him for Lester and Gomes – hit a two-run home run to deepest center. My baseball DNA took over, and I jumped out of my seat, pointed to where the ball had just landed, and let out a shout.
So, I didn’t get to see the Reds closer in action, but I learned a valuable lesson about myself. I really am one of the loyal fans in Lester’s ad. No matter how hard I try, I can’t not root for the Red Sox.