Thursday, November 11, 2004

From a No-Longer Long Suffering Sox Fan By KJ

Gentle readers, your gracious (and I use that word generously) host, SR has requested that I put down some thoughts about the recent Red Sox victory. What follows is an assortment of thoughts, feelings, and general rants about the improbable season of the 2004 Boston Red Sox, and what lies ahead for us and Theo Epstein, our numbers-crunching, boy-wonder GM....

On Wednesday, October 27, 2004, the Boston Red Sox pulled off what I consider to be the greatest sports victory I have ever witnessed in my young 29 years of life on this earth. With a simple throw from Foulke to Mientkiewicz (my hands hurt writing this last name), 86 years of pain was wiped away. Generations of Red Sox fans have lived and died, without ever seeing this day, yet I was able to see it. How I wished I was in Boston, reveling with the throngs of fans that crowded Yawkey Way, crying, laughing, hugging each other, and screaming at the tops of our lungs. Such is the power of Red Sox Nation (RSN), and while I was unable to be in Boston, here's a brief run-down of my life starting when we were down 3-0 to the MFY (use your imagination and figure out what this acronym stands for) to that final out to finish our sweep against the Cards.

Game 3 of the ALCS was particularly painful to watch, given the fact that we were playing within the confines of that hollowed ground known as Fenway Park. Not only did we lose, we got our butts handed to us, and our only hope was Derek Lowe, a starter who had been demoted to the bullpen, and really had not made much of an appearance for us in the playoffs. Lowe and behold, he came through for us, and Big Papi (David Ortiz) absolutely crushed the ball in the 12th. The minute that ball sailed into the bleachers, RSN's collective emotions soared high again, as we had Pedro "I want to be like Rick James" Martinez and Curt "What the hell, just suture my tendon and let me pitch while soaking my sock with blood" Schilling slated to appear in Games 5 and 6. If only we could get to Game 7, perhaps we had a chance.... Certainly history was not on our side, yet with every victory, one could feel the momentum shifting, and the Yankees breaking apart like Kevin Brown's hand. Those marathon games sucked the life out of the Yankees bit by bit, yet you could see the bitchiness rise in them, especially starting with A-Fraud's pansy-ass, bitch-slap incident. The whole "What Did I Do Wrong?!?!?" look on his face, when the world clearly saw the incident was the epitome of the New York Yankees. A team that was crafted to win a world series was now acting like a spoiled child who just found out that he wasn't getting jack squat for Christmas. Do I consider the 2004 ACLS the World Series of 2004? Simply put, yes. Without disrespecting the Cards, the juggernaut that arose from Papi's blast in Game 4 was just too strong. I don't care which team the NL put up against the Sox, I'm convinced that the same fate would have occurred to them, but of course, this is speaking after the fact. Getting back to the fact....

Game 4 of the World Series was a gut-wrenching experience for me. Memories of Bucky "Bleeping" Dent, Bill Buckner, and a whole plethora of Red Sox collapses swam through my head the entire game. Frequent imbibing of Budweiser was certainly not helping my mood, despite the fact that we held a lead going into the 9th inning. Predictably, my mood became darker and darker, to the point where I was absolutely convinced that The Satan of Swat was going to raise his head anytime now and just give us all the shaft. My only consoling fact was the simple thought that if we lost, we'd have another 3 games left to at least try to win, or continue to get shafted which would be par for the course. Fast forward to three outs left, Foulke (by the way, thank you Oakland for letting him go last year) on the mound, runner on second, two outs....

It all happened in slow motion:

The weak dribbler by Rentiera straight to Foulke (oh, shit, he's going to bobble it.... he doesn't!), the throw to first (jeez, he's going to throw it somewhere other than to Mientkiewicz.... he doesn't!), the catch (oh, Lord, just let the mother@#$er catch it, I swear I'll do anything you ask of me... HE CATCHES IT!)

I just stood there in silence, with a small smile on my face, and my immediate thought was of my father. He was somewhere in Los Angeles with my family celebrating like he had never celebrated before. For a brief insight on the meaning of the Red Sox to their fans and to me, check out the Sons of Sam Horn thread at and scroll down to "lurker BoSoxFaninDC" I had always said that more than anything, I wanted just one World Series victory for my dad during his lifetime. Once I realized that this wish had been granted, I quite frankly started tearing up, while receiving congratulations from my friends who were watching the game with me. Suffice to say, it truly felt like a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and the beer really started to flow like never before. Hell had indeed frozen over, and every member of the Nation could sleep well that night.

Now, it's almost two weeks later, and questions have to be answered by management and the Nation with regards to the 2005 season. Certainly, one of the things that drove the Nation was The Curse, and now that it has been lifted, what does RSN have to keep us together? In all honesty, the thing that keeps fans together as a team is simply the fact that any fan base has something in common. What the Nation had in common was not just the Curse, but the fact that we were Boston Red Sox fans. We still hate the MFY, and we still will crowd Yawkey Way before and after every home game. Dads will still bring their kids to Fenway for that glorious experience, and the crack of the bat will still resonate among the chants of "LETS GO RED SOX". Screw the curse, the Nation isn't going anywhere as long as the Red Sox are still around.

On a much more complicated matter, what do we do with our free agents? Certainly, some would argue that we owe it try and bring back the whole team for another go at the World Series. Unfortunately, the feel-good reasons do not outweigh the practical reasons, and baseball is certainly a business. In short order, we need to do the following:

· Re-sign Varitek, there is no question that he's the leader of the clubhouse (think back to him clocking A-Fraud), and he works very well with the pitchers
· Make a reasonable offer to Pedro, and by reasonable, I mean he's going to have to take some kind of pay cut. He is not the same pitcher he used to be, and I don't think he'll last another 5 years. He wants a long term contract, but the Red Sox shouldn't give it to him. A two year contract, with an option for the third year looks good to me.
· -D-Lowe will probably get a huge contract offer from a team considering his recent playoff performance. Should we match it? Nope. He's been very inconsistent, and while he certainly came through big for us, he could have also imploded in a huge way. Sometimes it's best to say good-bye, this is one player whose time has arrived.
· Trade Trot Nixon for pitching. Trot has been a valuable member, but he's expendable. Getting a Carl Pavano type pitcher, while losing Trot would not hurt us at all.
· -Let Orlando Cabrera go. We have Hanley Ramirez, one of the top prospects at shortstop in the minors. He's not ready to come up yet, but predictions are that he'll be ready to go in 2006. If we can get Barry Larkin for cheap, it'll be a good deal in our favor.
· -The bullpen is fine, but we need to shore up our starting pitching. Clearly, if anything is to be learned from the 2004 playoffs, it's that good pitching will almost always beat good hitting. Rumors have it that the A's are dangling their Big Three, I'd take a close look at all three of them and would probably take either Zito or Hudson.

I'd certainly like to see a repeat of 2004 next year, and the year after that, and so on and so forth. However, I DO NOT want to see us become like the MFY, and just throw money all over the place for old, overpriced free agents. We need to cultivate our home-grown talent, and make smart, well thought out moves which address the team's needs, not the needs of a meddlesome owner. Let the Boy-Wonder do his work, he hasn't fucked up yet, and I doubt he'll make any really bad moves. The Sox will be major players for years to come; it's how we do it that will dictate the rest of MLB's perspective of us.

In closing, a few items must be addressed.... First of all, now that Johnny Damon has won, what will he do?!?!?! All indications point toward him getting married, and patrolling centerfield again for us next year. I have absolutely no complaints with that. Secondly, does my lovely fiance' get a reprieve, or will she have to endure year after year of my ranting and raving? Unfortunately, as the future wife of a devout Red Sox fan, she'll have to put up with my antics for as long as I live and breathe. However, I suppose I could tone it down for the next year, but after that, anything goes. If SR allows me to continue to contribute to this website, I'll keep you posted on this. Thirdly, if you look to SR's rant dated 9/7/04, you'll note that he says that: "I believe that Fenway Park is the most beautiful building I have ever seen." Yes, it was I who brought SR to Fenway and introduced him to the joys of going to a Sox game in Boston. Could it be a mere coincidence that SR's first time at Fenway also leads to the Sox winning it all??? Let's just say that I hope to go back there with him next summer, and if we win it all again, then he's got no choice, but to keep going every year. Let all Fenway Franks be forewarned!

Lastly, screw all these chants of "1918", I can't wait to walk into Yankee Stadium next year, with all my Red Sox gear on, and scream "2000" at them. This year belonged to RSN, and to its legions of fans. I'm damn proud to be one of those fans.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

What Now?

Depressed, demoralized, despondent. This is not how I felt four years ago. Four years ago I could handle it. After all, it was a fluke, a mistake, an anomaly. Four years ago the people had spoken and their message was that, despite our electoral system, they wanted to continue the prosperity and relative sanity that we had enjoyed as a nation over the previous eight years. Four years ago I believed I could handle the next four years with relative ease. After all, there I was, ready to take on the world. Ready to graduate from college, ready to get out into the world and succeed. Four years ago was very different than today.

I remember watching the results come in on that November night. Three of the most important people in my world were with me and we were sure that our guy would win. We were having cocktails and making jokes about the coke-head who had run for president. Then Peter Jennings called Florida for Bush. Then for Gore. Then for Bush. Then it was too close to call, and it was one am on the west coast and we all had to work in the morning. I remember my girlfriend at the time crying, leaning against the counter in a dark corner of the kitchen and weeping quietly. “So many people are going to die,” she said, and as I tried to console her I wondered if she was right. We all knew things would change. We knew the country would quickly become a much more conservative place. We all knew this asshole was itching for a war, all but promising one during his campaign, but I dismissed her words as fear and emotion. I thought that everything would be all right; after all, what’s four years in the grand scheme of things? How much damage could really be done in just four years? And it would only be four years, the guy was elected, not by the people, but by a loophole.

The next nine months went much as I predicted. Bush decided to tie some foreign aid to a promise by countries not to council abortion in planned-parenthood clinics. I looked forward to watching Will Ferrell open SNL by lampooning our dumb-ass in the white house each and every week. I surfed web sites that kept tallies and archives all the ways the dumb ass butchered the English language. Then, just two weeks after I had made a trip out to NY and DC to look at grad schools, “it” happened. The phone rang at almost the same time the alarm clock went off. I turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit. And just like that we had our war.

Like every other male age 18-26 the thing I thought of most in the following weeks was the draft. Like many, I believed that this would be a protracted conflict. Also, the uncertainty regarding North Korea and the country’s collective blood lust led me into fears of World War III. Not the devastating nuclear war of so many bad 80’s movies, but a real multi nation, two front war, that would drain our nations resources and man power. As time has shown our worst fears were never realized. There have been no more major terrorist attacks on US soil. The war in Afghanistan did not become a war against a united Arab world. The North Korean front never materialized. Bully for us.

As 2000 became 2001 and then 2002 I became desensitized to it all. After all, everything was happening to someone else. Someone else was at Guantanamo Bay, someone else was fighting in Iraq, someone else was getting a tax rebate. Me? I was trying to get through Grad school. I didn’t have the time or the energy to be outraged. I left that up to someone else. I was in denial, in my own little dream-and waiting for the day President Snowman would be ousted. I had faith. Sure, I still remembered the girl who worked at the Subway sandwich shop on the campus of my undergraduate university. She was nice enough, smart enough to attend a state school, and pleasant in that ignorant Midwestern way, the type of person you’d see on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” She said she had voted for Bush because of the tax cuts and the rebate she was sure was in the mail that very day. She had no idea that because of her job as a minimum wage sandwich jockey she wouldn’t be getting anything. She simply did not make enough money to qualify.

Still, the fact remained that this dumb ass hadn’t really been elected the first time. And after a war and an occupation that was still claiming the lives of US service people (I am SO PC), after so many people received no rebate and no tax cut, after watching the man invent SO MANY WORDS, I was sure he would be gone. Maybe not in a landslide, maybe not run out on a rail, but gone, which was good enough. After all, raise your hand if, like me, you actually feel less safe than you did last year, and the year before that. (OK now put your hand down, you look silly and people will begin to talk.) I had faith in the people. I had faith that the country would look back at the sexy Clinton years with all of its economic promise, cigar blow jobs, and complete lack of fear of being turned in as a terrorist by your neighbors, and say “I want that. I’ve had enough recession, enough blood for oil, enough being the butt of every world political joke.” I had taken my third drive across country. I had seen the people, met them, talked to them, and they were good, they would do the right thing.

Now this. This time there is no excuse. Bush won. The lawyers were there. The election reforms were there. So far I haven’t heard of any “voting irregularities.” Voter turnout was high. We did it to ourselves this time. So here I sit, the very picture of dejection. Dreading the next four years. Feeling for all the world as if the Clinton years were but a brief respite from the ultimate direction of the country. After all, the axis of evil has been in power for most of my life, and I don’t even remember my three years under Carter. I’ve lost faith. I’m back to being a cynic. I’m back to believing that the only real civilization to be found in this country is on the coasts, the rest of the country simply exists to provide me with food, cheap manufacturing, and girls with sultry southern accents. I don’t know if I can face the next four years. I don’t have the intellectual cocoon of grad school to retreat to. I no longer have the activist in my life who provided balance for my narcissism. I don’t know what the next term will bring. The specter of the draft still looms and I don’t see our military actions decreasing. By the end of this term my brother will be 18, what will happen to him if these wars continue? How can you ever reach a resolution to a war on something as elusive as “terrorism?” The real terror for me is that there’ another Bush out there. He’s said he won’t run, but what if he does? What if he gets his eight years? By that time I’m sure there will be another, young Bush just reaching the age where he’s eligible to run. We may be headed for the world’s first popularly elected monarchy. Of course, depending on what happens in the next few years we may get four years of The Presinator as a change of pace.

So there it is my few but loyal readers. I have no words of solace. I love this country. I always have. This is the land that gave us baseball, and blue jeans, and a free public education. No matter what I’ve though of the government I’ve always loved the people of this country. I stand up during the national anthem because even though it represents everything I hate about our government it represents all the people I love as well. I keep an American flag, not because I support our foreign policy, but because it’s my flag, and when I see it I think of my grandmother, and my brother, and my uncles who fought for that flag even though their parents and siblings were locked up in concentration camps back home, the uncles who fought in order to prove that they were just as much a part of the fabric of this country as anyone else. But now my faith is shaken. The anthem is just a song; the flag is just a collection of colors. We live in a country dominated by rubes and morons, people ready to believe whatever they are told by whoever has the best advertising. As I get older, I am slowly becoming a religious man, because I feel as though it’s all there is left. I’ve lost my faith in everything else.