The Red Sox Nation of Suckers: Part 1,The Good Old Days

clowns-072709At one time not so long ago I was a Red Sox fan. It all ended shortly before the team won its first World Series in my lifetime. I found myself not really caring whether they won or not. I had lost interest.

In retrospect, one of the things that turned me off was the widespread the use of the term “Red Sox Nation.” I did not hanker to be part of such a group. I suppose I’m too much like Groucho Marx who said he wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have a person like him as a member.   

In the good old days when the Sox were pretty bad I work with a guy who explained to me why that was good. He pointed out that there were always seats to be had at the park. One could decide if things were slow on a summer afternoon to shoot over to Fenway. There was always room to spread out in the bleachers. There were no crowds to contend with. One could enjoy the game and see certain players who one had been following year after year.

For several of those years I was fortunate enough to have seats in the first row to the right of the Red Sox dugout as you looked at the field. My kids could lean over and talk to the players. One of their favorites was Jim Rice (16 years with Sox) who often handed them a ball or a piece of gum.

Names I remember of the people on the team when I first got interested were Ted Williams (21 years), Bobby Doer (15 years), Johnny Pesky (13 years), Dom DiMaggio (14 years) Vern Stephens and for some strange reason Clyde Volmer. Later I would cheer for Billy Goodman (10 years), Mel Parnel (10 years) , Jimmy Piersal (7 years) and Jackie Jensen (6 years).

Yaz (23 years – 1961 to 1983), Rico Petrocelli (14 years) —  after them Fisk (10 years) , Rice and Lynn (6 years). Wade Boggs (11 years) Luis Tiant (8 years) and Roger Clemens (13 years). The last players I recall being interested in watching were Varitek (15 years) , Garciarparra (9 Years), Mo Vaugh (8 years) and strangely Carl Everett (2 years) . After that it is pretty much a blur.

On the 2004 team that won the World Series I knew Varitek, Damon (4 years), Manny Ramirez (8 years) and Ortiz (12  and counting) as well as Curt Shilling (4 years), Pedro Martinez (6 years), Wakefield (7 years), and Lowe (8 years). In the 2007 Series Damon was gone but I knew of Youkilis (9 years) along with Varitek, Ramirez and Ortiz. When 2013 arrived I only knew Ortiz. The rest appeared as a group of nameless individuals with beards. The rest appeard as if the Red Sox were only a way station on the road to another place.

Today, the only name I know is Ortiz. There are others in the past such as Bill Lee (10 years) but like Everett he was known for things in addition to his baseball skills. Basically I’ve run through all the names that come immediately to me. The common denominator was that many of these players were with the team for many years; they were names who became people to me and I was interested in them.

Trying to understand why I lost interest beyond the “nation” foolishness I’d guess the impermanence of the players is one factor; I used to know the lineups, now they are strangers. Or perhaps it was the ever increasing cost of going to the game or the great inconvenience it entailed?

In thinking it over I feel there had to be more to it than that. Looking back, my best conjecture is I started walking away from the Red Sox when it changed from a sport team into a business venture. That was when the present ownership took over from the Yawkey family and its trust in December 2001. I began to sense that everything was beginning to change when the bean counters with their dry charts and cold hearts started running the team. No longer would we have players stay over long periods of time. Now everything was going to be determined by the dollar sign.

The prices of tickets and food started to increase dramatically. Profit over winning seemed to be the goal. It was the beginning of the gouge which always will send me fleeing.

 

9 thoughts on “The Red Sox Nation of Suckers: Part 1,The Good Old Days

  1. You may be over-thinking this. Get in the moment and enjoy the game for what it is. See it again from the eyes of your children, who did not understand that everyone was chasing a buck while doing something they love.

    When Dorothy opened the curtain to see an old man pulling levers, the Great and Powerful Oz no longer was.

    1. Ed:

      Good advice. I suppose there are many things we don’t want to figure out how they are made like sausages. I probably should not be a humbug. I’d just say that I feel “the new guy every couple of years” strategy does take a lot of magic out of the game. It’s nice to win but to win with strangers is different. Thanks.

  2. Matt,

    I agree with your take on the Red Sox now being run as business rather than as a sport’s team, and that contributes to the distaste it leaves in the fans’ mouths. Another reason the team’s roster seems to be like a revolving door is the revolution of MLB front offices using advanced statistical metrics in their evaluation of players capabilities and performances. In the old days, old time scouts would draft or trade a player because he had the “look” or can “hit a ball a mile.” Since approximately 2003, starting with the Oakland A’s, teams employ mathematicians and statisticians who pour over volumes of data and utilize complex algorithms to project out a player’s future performance. If they perceive that player’s value to be below what the rest of the MLB teams perceive his value to be, they ship him off for what they feel are better players for value on the $$, or they do not resign that player because they feel his asking price is way above what his actual value to the team is. A perfect example of this is the Jon Lester trade. He is a proven, quality pitcher who steps up in the playoffs. However, statistically he is not elite, yet he is asking for a new contract that would rank up with the elite pitchers in the game today. Couple the use of advanced metrics with the fact the Red Sox have been burned badly in recent years by long term deals that turned out poorly, and you see a reluctance to sign a player for a lengthy period of time, unless it is a very team friendly contract (i.e. Dustin Pedroia’s contract).

    The revolving door phenomenon is not team specific, very few teams nowadays have players on their rosters that play for the same team for 5, 10, 15 years. I think that is the exception rather than the rule in today’s statistics and $$$ driven MLB. The Tampa Bay Rays, a very small market team without much wiggle room for payroll, move through star player after star player each year and have continued success. This is because they acquire young undervalued players via trade, maximize their value to the team and get the most out of them, then once their skills are overvalued on the trade or free agent market, they trade the players away or let them walk into free agency.Their best player, Evan Longoria, signed an extremely team friendly long term deal early into his rookie season, before he put up the statistics that would warrant a massive 10 year, $20 million per year contract (Think A-Rod contract). Now he is likely overvalued by other teams, and when his Rays contract expires will likely be overpaid by a team like the Yankees or Angels. I hope this helps give you a clearer picture as to why teams like the Red Sox don’t hang on to players like they used to. Here is an excellent website that is all about advanced statistical metrics. http://www.fangraphs.com/

    – Dave

    1. Dave:

      Thanks – Good and thorough analysis which is spot on as usual. I’m sure the result of the “revolving door” phenomenon will eventually be a diminished interest in its product. Baseball was always though of as Americs’s game but it has now been surpassed by NFL football.

      I looked at a chart showing the television audience for the World Series which shows a steady decline since 1984. Sox/Mets drew an average of 36 million; last year it was less than 16 million; In 1985 the all star game drew 28 million viewera and its now down to 11 million. Attendance has held up pretty well but to date but that too will start slipping (it is down 444,000 over last year.) I’m speaking from my own experience when it comes to things like the All Star Game – I used to watch it because I knew the players, many had been around for a long time. Now I don’t know any of them.

      You can see the way in which people who think only of money end up destroying things. Henry has a good product in the Red Sox but with the high prices and the revolving door of players the interest in the team may go down significantly. I suppose that’s when he’ll unload it.

  3. Your take on probation was an excellent analysis. If the admission officer at Harvard, Bu, BC and MIT send out rejection notices to more qualified candidates are they committing crimes? Where are the academic indictments? Every judge at the Moakley building and all state judges have bypassed more qualified applicants for law clerk jobs to hire their preferred choices. All the AUSAs were not the most qualified using the standard they applied to probation. Will they be hoisted on their own petard? A future prosecutor may have them all over a barrel. 2. Are people who purchase the Globe and buy Red Sox tickets endorsing what happened to O’Brien? Remember Lenin said “the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”. If you try to explain that concept to people who work in the state court system you get a blank stare. Every employee in that system got their job through political connections. Every position filled had a more qualified candidate. All could face the same bogus charges but they’ll never see the connection between support for the Globe and Red Sox and the malicious prosecution of so many.

    1. NC:

      1. Thanks. Things improve but the Globe doesn’t like the guy who is doing the good job so he gets indicted. Only in Boston where everyone follows in lock step to it thinking. In looking back, one mistake made at the O’Brien trial was not bringing in every person hired by O’Brien (Young probably would have stopped it) to show how they are all doing a banged up job. Your point is good about the universities. How does who is “the most qualified” be determined. By book learning or by the school of hard knocks? Enough, it is obvious this was a persecution rather than a prosecution.

      2. Anyone who buys a Red Sox ticket or the Boston Globe are putting money into the pockets of the Fenway Sports Group. The majority stockholder of that group is interested in making money. All his workers have to figure out how best to do that. That is why the heart has been torn out of the Red Sox. When did you ever hear of the team giving up just after the all star game. Do you think the Globe will be demanding that the ticket holders get a rebate. Will the US Attorney indict John Henry and his group for racketeering – they secured the sale of tickets by fraud when they promised to compete for a whole season and aren’t doing it. They are not putting the most qualified players on the field.

    2. Ever since the Red Sox were bought by the present ownership they have improved every year. Three world series wins. Isn’t that enoufh for you?

  4. Same here. The commercialism and the money grubbing are turn offs. It used to be run by a charity. Now a finance guy from Wall St. and a hustler from Hollywood control it. Worst of all it’s connected to the NYT and Globe.

    1. NC:

      Some still think the Globe can be neutral in the reporting of the Sox. Who was it that said you can only serve one master.

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