Let me be the very first to welcome you to the real world of Major League Baseball as it occurs today. Please fasten your seat belt, it is going to be a bumpy ride.
Over the last several years, you and your team have moved from the “lovable losers” stage, right through the “Gee, isn’t this great, we got a ring” era and running smack into the “Great Expectations” eon of your franchise. Let me explain.
Years ago, the Red Sox were much like the red haired step son, barely tolerated by most of the baseball world, never amounting to much of anything. They had sold their best player, maybe the best player ever in the history of baseball and had embarked on a long, tortured, cursed, 86 year existence without winning anything. Sure, you came close a number of times – 1975 and 1986 come to mind and who can forget 1978, but you always failed to deliver and the faithful accepted this as par for the course. You were the lovable losers with the ancient crumbling ballpark and little good history to hold up to the rest of the baseball world.
Then in 2004 and repeated in 2007, you guys won a World Series and suddenly the talk changed to “dynasty” words and free agent expenditures, and your ballpark became classic, a relic of an era gone by, yet somehow, SOMEHOW, saved by THE Boston Red Sox. You sold out every game, players were clamoring to come to New England, fans flocked to identify with you, and you reveled in it. You put seats on your wall, let the common fan take pictures with your trophies and were proclaimed geniuses of all that you touched.
Then, almost as quickly as you rose from the depths of despair and failure, and triumphally entered the brave new world of Champions, something happened. You were taken by surprise by this and it hurt. You see, you loved being on top of the world (who doesn’t) and you began to expect that every thing would always go your way. You had geniuses in charge and they would continue to lead you to the promised land, time after time, after time. You spent big money on some questionable free agents from different worlds and different parts of the country, and expected they would just blend in, play well and get you ring after ring. And everybody LOVED it. Last winter, you were talk of the baseball world, with shiny new free agents who, according to your adoring minions, were going to be part of the best team in baseball, maybe the best team in baseball history. What is the record for most wins in a season you asked, we will score more. What is the record for most wins in a season, you asked, we will win more. Why play the season, you asked, just shine up the trophy, order the new Championship rings, and crown us now. Nobody can stop us from our appointed position as the best.
But a funny thing happened on your way to another World Series crown. You didn’t make it. You stopped yourselves. You didn’t even make the playoffs. In a world of the greatest expectation for your success, you collapsed, folded up the tents and left town in the dark of night. The fans blamed everyone on the team in one way or another. The press, oh the wicked press, blamed it on everyone too. Somewhere, on a fan bulletin board, someone called for the cabbie that brought a free agent pitcher to the stadium, to be fired as well. You had lost it in the last possible instant, in the worst possible way, like a flubbed grounder or walk off home run, and the reverberations were loud and clear. What was once seen as loveable losing was now branded a total and inevitable collapse. Even your own “children”, the "Peter Gammons" and "Dennis Eckersleys" of the media could not wait to crucify you, hold you up as an example of all that is wrong with the sport and condemn you to the fires of baseball Hell. The radio and news reports are all about the dissention in the clubhouse, the uncontrolled alcoholism of the failing players, the mismanagement of the club, the disconnect with the fans. It will probably cost you your manager, possibly your general manager and may usher in the era of bloated contracts and under performing prima donnas for the next few seasons.
So, where does this leave you? Back in third place, where I like to see you. In a turmoil of doubt and shame. Love it. Getting a view of the real world of professional baseball. Priceless. Welcome to the big league boys, we were hoping to see you get there.