Friday, July 16, 2004

More on the Sox, from a Yankee fans' perspective

I was all set to write yet another post bad-mouthing Derek Jeter for the most recent (and maybe most preposterous) story via the AP on his latest accomplishment -- being the all-time batting leader in the All-Star game for players with at least 10 at-bats (in fact, I did decide to finally write that rant and you can find it below), but in the interim I got several good comments concerning my initial "Why I hate Derek Jeter" post from earlier this week and I decided to address some really good points the commentor made (I've written some really bad sentences, but this is without a doubt the runniest run-on sentence ever).

Anyway, I received two very insightful comments from Anonymous (see here and here) on all the anti-Jeter sentiments and I have to say two things up front. One, Anon is a Yankees fan. Two, Anon is obviously smarter than me and does a very good job of making some lucid points.

Ok, enough with the lovefest. I want to take a look at Anon's last comment and I thought I'd try to provide answers to some of the questions he poses.

Fan Responsibility
One thing I’ve noticed as a sports fan is that RSN has no loyalty to many of the franchise’s greatest players. As soon as a player leaves, whether via trade or free agency, he is immediately public enemy number one. A couple of recent players come to mind:

Clemens – You let him walk by saying he was over the hill. He proved that sentiment to be just plain ignorant and, I guess, that’s his fault, not your short-sightedness. Whatever you want to say about him now, you can’t deny that he gave you everything he had for the time he was there. I can understand booing him in a Yankee uniform, but that phase of his career is over. Move on and show some class. Yankee fans in general don’t hate him, neither should you. He’s in the NL for chrissakes. He doesn’t matter anymore.

Ok, now we're getting somewhere. I lived in Boston when Clemens was sent packing and I remember a lot of fans wanting to keep him. In fact, one of the most hated personalities on the Red Sox during that period was Dan Duquette. To say that guy was a stiff would be a monumental understatement. To say the Duquette speaks for most Red Sox fans would, in my opinion, be totally off base. In fact, outside of Duquette and the media (I recall the late Will McDonough writing several disparaging articles), most fans wanted to keep Clemens, despite the fact he was only 40-38 in his last four seasons with the Sox.

Now in terms of hating Clemens after he left, that's a different story. I suspected he may have been a loose cannon based on his 1990 ALCS performance against the A's when he donned eye-black and ended up getting tossed from the game. I'm getting a little far afield, but my point is this (and I'm not speaking for other Red Sox fans), I didn't start to truly dislike Clemens until he tried to impale Piazza with the broken bat. When the Sox played the Blue Jays, I was indifferent to Clemens (of course he did win two Cy Youngs, which did raise some questions in my mind). And then once he signed with the Yankees I had no choice but to despise him. Is he a great pitcher? Yep. Would anyone have guessed he'd still be competing at this level after finishing 40-38 with the Red Sox? I doubt it. But either way, I don't like Clemens -- and not because he's fat or because I had no loyalty to him, but instead because he's a jerk.

Mo Vaughn - The fans liked Mo but the front office led by Dan Duquette was about as tasteless as you can get in handling his contract negotiation. Blaming an increase on ticket prices on his potential salary (even though they raised the prices anyway after they didn’t sign him) was low, but not the lowest. That moment came when, on a Fox broadcast, Duquette bad-mouthed him while the game was in progress, while the camera was trained on Mo at first base. Who the hell would want to play for a ball club that treats its players like that?
Anon is exactly right. The fans loved Mo and Duquette once again let his robotic personality get in the way of one of the most popular Red Sox players in recent history. What Anon forgot to mention was that after Mo flipped his car returning from a Rhode Island strip club, Duqette alledgedly had "his people" follow Mo around town to keep tabs on his whereabouts. I also agree that Mo had no choice but to leave. Sadly, if Duquette wasn't such a jerk, Mo may have had a few more solid years in Boston before his expanding waistline finally got the best of his weakened ankles.
Nomar - It hasn’t happened yet in terms of a trade, but the hatred began at the beginning of this season. One of the great moments in memory regarding an athlete’s character (that I pointed out to my nephew as an example of such) came after the Yankees won the 99 ALCS at Fenway. In the face of defeat and disappointment, Nomar came out of the dugout and began applauding, clapping for not only his/your team but the fans as well. It showed incredible sportsmanship and character and put a positive spin on a negative outcome. That’s leadership and that’s character. What does he get for his dedication? He gets to be humiliated during this past off-season as the Sox PUBLICALLY courted Texas for A-Rod. Suddenly a guy who left it all on the field for you every night for many years is as expendable as a minor league prospect. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have gone for A-Rod, you just should have showed some class in the way you went about it – especially in light of your failure to close the deal. So I guess now it’s Nomar’s fault you treated him like dirt.
A couple of comments on Nomar. First, Nomar's first appearance this season was in Boston and the fans gave him a standing ovation during his first at-bat. Nomar recognized the crowd several times before stepping into the box. And despite all the rumors about Nomar prolonging his return for contractual reasons, it was great to see fans recognizing and respecting the player that Nomar is.

I was never in favor of acquiring A-Rod and jettisoning Nomar. Personally, I think Nomar is the heart of this team. Sure Manny's a great hitter and Pedro still has his moments, and Schilling is a great addition, but all those guys lack the leadership that Nomar provides. I get the impression that a lot of this anti-Nomar sentiment is created by the media and then things get out of control. Nonetheless, I totally agree with Anon that the whole offseason A-Rod/Nomar situation was handled just about as badly as could have been imagined. And to think that the Sox might now give up Nomar to acquire a 40-year old Randy Johnson makes me wary (and weary).

Anon goes on to make a very important point (perhaps the most imporant one)  -- and one with which I cannot argue:

During the offseason, the Ben Affleck narrated doc The Curse of the Bambino brought up the Sox’s dirty little historical secret as a counter to the notion that it’s a curse that holds them back. The secret is racism. Some points from the doc:
The Red Sox were the last team to integrate.

In the process of refusing to integrate the organization passed on some big time talent from the Negro Leagues. Most notably Jackie Robinson (they had a secret tryout) and Willie Mays. They blew a chance at a lineup with Williams, Robinson, and Mays – three first ballot Hall of Famers soley because of race. On why your head talent scout at the time didn’t bother wait until it stopped raining to see Mays’ tryout: “I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to wait around in the rain to see some n*gger play baseball.” And you think you’re cursed by the Bambino.

You know what, Anon is unequivocally, without a doubt, right on the mark (But before I go on, Ben Affleck should be banned from all future Red Sox-related public relations events. He should also be forced to sit in the centerfield bleachers [As I write this, I'm listening to the Red Sox play the Angels and the announcers just mentioned that Matt Damon is at the game -- along with Eric Estrada, although not together]). I mentioned above that I didn't believe in the whole notion of "a curse," but I think I'd feel better knowing that George Herman was more upset with the Red Sox getting rid of him than knowing that the Red Sox were more segregationist for most of their history than Strom Thurmond circa the 1940's.

Anon finishes by saying:
When I lived in Boston during graduate school, I lived just outside of Kenomre Square and I never saw a black person going to a Sox game.

I know first hand, as a Yankee fan, that Steinbrenner is no choir boy. But you know what? When he was at his worst in the 80s, so were the Yankees. When he was banned, the Yanks were in last place. But when he came back and took a new approach, so did the Yankees.

So before you hate and blame others RSN, take a look in the mirror. It worked for Steinbrenner, it can work for you.

Somehow something that started out as a goof on Jeter has turned into a serious social discussion. Anyway, Anon makes some very good (and important) points and I've tried to address them, at least from my perspective.

Are Red Sox fans on average a bitter bunch? Maybe. But often times it's the one or two rednecks at Fenway who paint a picture that is not indicative of how even ardent fans feel about the Sox. Either way, Anon made some very astute observations -- some I feel obligated to refute (or at least try), and others that I sadly have to agree with.

Now, on to the good stuff. The post below was the original rant I had intended to talk about.