Before 2004, being a Red Sox meant expecting the worst possible outcome for your team. And even when you were expecting, the manner of the outcome still managed to exceed what’s in the darkest recesses of your mind and annihilate your spirit. The Bucky Dent home run. Game 6 of the 86 worlds series. Grady Little in 2003.
Then Dave Roberts stole a base in the ninth inning of game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. And that was the moment when everything flipped. Immediately, bounces stared going our way. Umpires reversed calls in our favor. The 2004 Boston Red Sox never lost a game after Dave Roberts steals that base. It was the beginning of an amazing era in Red Sox history and being a Red Sox fan.
Suddenly, the team was an annual winner. Organizationally, they did things you always hoped for. Like develop young players. They spent tons of money and outbid other teams for free agents you wanted. Fenway Park was turned into this perfect cathedral of baseball. Packed every night with overjoyed people. They had lots of likable players. They had a likable manager. We had a general manager who hung out with Pearl Jam. A second championship came in 2007. It was a time of bliss for fans of the Boston Red Sox.
The 2011 team was absolutely stacked. There was no reason to think that competing for another world series championship was realistic. I started telling anyone who would listen that the team was so complete that it would not only win 100 games, but the Sox would also challenge the single season record for most wins. They got off to a horrible 2-10 start. But even then, I never worried. I figured it was just a matter of time before they figured things out and started winning. And I was right. After that 2-10 start they were the best team in baseball.
Until September came.
I’m not exactly when the Red Sox ship reversed course. It seems like it was Hurricane Irene. When September came, they were no longer that stacked team that would win the whole thing. They were something else. What they were didn’t reveal itself right away. Instead, it was reveal slowly over a month of disastrous baseball. They were the worst team in baseball in September. They became the worst team I’ve ever watch play the game.
And on the 28th day of September, they played game 162.
That’s what I tweeted on September 29, 2011. The day after the Red Sox lost game 162 in Baltimore and eliminated themselves from this year’s playoffs. It’s actually taken me longer than I thought because the collapse with my beloved Sox wasn’t just on the field, it was throughout the organization. And the fallout keeps coming. First, the manager quits. Then the GM walks away.
It’s a lot to take in. And everyday, us Sox fans learn a little bit more. None of it good.
All of this has been filling my mind with thoughts. I want to rant. I want to analyze. I want to cleanse.
And it’s going to take some time. What I first thought was a lengthy post is now probably a 3 or 4 parter. There’s THAT much ground to cover .
There was a point in time when Nomar Garciaparra was my favorite baseball player alive. And I thought he was the best shortstop around. Argued with various people that he was a better than Jeter, better than A-Rod (remember when he used to play shortstop?). I thought he would lead the Red Sox to the promised land…to that World Series championship myself and the rest of the agonizing Red Sox fan base was so desperate to win. I thought he would spend his entire career as a Red Sox player, get 3,000 hits, have his number retired at Fenway, and make the Hall of Fame.
I forgave him for not being able to hit .360 when he came back from his thumb injury. Put up with all the throwing errors in 2003 and 2004, believing that he would come through when it mattered most. Then he was traded to the Cubs in 2004 (on my wedding day, no less). And while that trade partially led to a that Red Sox World Series championship I was wishing for, there was definitely that bittersweet moment that Nomar wasn’t on the team.
Now I read this and wonder how Nomar could have fallen so far:
In one of the least fan-friendly displays I’ve ever witnessed as a baseball writer, Garciaparra spent the absolute minimum amount of time signing. He never looked up. He never said a word. When fans offered a hearty “Good luck!” or said “You’ve always been my favorite!” he either grunted or pretended the sentiment was never expressed. If someone made the “mistake” of requesting that he sign a ball on the sweet spot, Garciaparra actually went out of his way not to. Though the rope between Garciaparra and the fans was no more than half-an-inch thick, it felt like the Great Wall of China. All attempts at small talk began with a Dodger loyalist’s enthusiasm and ended with the Dodger third baseman’s body language, which screamed “I’m Nomar, you’re not — please don’t touch me.”
Read the whole thing at ESPN Page 2 – Pearlman: No love from Nomar
It’s an odd feeling to be a Red Sox fan this morning. My beloved team has clinched its playoff spot so there’s at least another week of baseball to look forward. Problem is they’re hanging onto their division lead by a thread over the dreaded Yankees. Why do I care so much? The division isn’t really what matters so much. A good friend pointed out to me recently that what really matters is winning the World Series.
And while there is some truth to all that, I’m totally freaked out to read any baseball headlines or look at the slim lead the Sox have. I can’t let go of the fact that we were once 14 games up on New York, but here we are clinging to a one game lead. The old demons are stirring and I’m fearing the worst. Nightmare reminders of 1978 keep popping into my head. I was 7 years old that year and I still remember it well. I find myself saying to myself, “Thank god for 2004. We’ll always have 2004.”
Does the division mean more to me this year than the World Series? It’s probably misguided of me to say so, but I think it does. I’ve had enough of finishing second for 10 years. Of looking up to the Yankees every year. Of worrying about collapsing when the finish line is in sight. Somebody let me know when this is all over. I can’t stomach it.