Sunday, January 30, 2005

Of RAH and ROOT

There are two distinct levels of fan immersion in a team's fortunes. At the more casual level, a fan of the 2004 Red Sox will remember Big Papi, Manny, Johnny Damon, and the Man in the Bloody Sock. This level might be called the Rung of Awareness, Historical (RAH). You don't have to have a day-to-day experience of the Red Sox to know these guys and have some sense of their contributions.

At a more intense level of devotion, what might be called the Rung of Obsession, Outrageously Tenacious (ROOT), a fan knows a team beyond its main characters. Who picks up the at-bats when the stars are in the dugout? Who eats the innings between the fourth starter and the closer? The names of these players don't often make it into the sweeping assessments of team history, and yet they often tell the story of how it feels to follow a team on a game-by-game, year-by-year basis. The meat of the 1997 Red Sox was Nomar's outstanding rookie year; know that and you probably know enough about that bumbling edition of the Fenway nine. But you don't really get the full savor of that year without remembering Jeff Frye playing a little bit of everywhere except for pitcher and catcher. For the RAH Red Sox fan, the grim year of 1992 is scarcely memorable as the last great Boston season for Roger Clemens. For the ROOTer, the year picks up a little extra (and much-needed) zest as the hey-day of Greg "I just might pitch lefty today" Harris.

Why tax you with these increasingly obscure names from recent Red Sox lore? A prime test case for the difference between RAH and ROOT fans, Rich "El Guapo" Garces, was rumored kidnapped this week, a report that to everyone's great relief has proven to be unfounded. El Guapo, from 1998 to 2000, was the guy you wanted to see coming out of the Red Sox bullpen in the seventh and eighth innings. It's not like he was hard to miss. And if you didn't see him the first time, you had two minutes to pick up his unmistakable form between the bullpen gate and the Fenway hill. He gave new meaning to "around the horn." The right fielder used to come to the mound after Guapo covered first base, just to give him the necessary recovery time.

If all these lazy zingers about Garces' obvious girth seem a little mean, you weren't there when it was happening. Garces became a fan favorite because he was so agreeably nonplussed about his apparent limitations. He often strolled out to the bullpen around the third inning, occasionally with something looking suspiciously like take-out in his hand. No one got a louder salutation from the right field bleachers, and no one seemed to take more delight in returning the greeting with a wave and a nod. In a way, he seemed in on and resistant to the jokes that were supposed to belittle him. He was a fat guy playing a lean guy's game, but he never failed to chase a bunt, and he never failed to cover first. History, with considerable justice, will remember the last Red Sox teams of the twentieth century as the squads of Pedro and Nomar, rah rah, RAH. But if you were rooting, really ROOTing for those teams, Guapo was part of the story too.

Anyone else want to name guys who show us the difference between RAH and ROOT?

20 Comments:

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim Wakefield, in his many jostles from bullpen to starter and back again could campaign for a ROOTer. How about Mirebelli for catching that knuckleball consistently, and lastly LOUUUUU.
Pitchers- Tom Gordon before he was loved, and a Yankee.
Aside from that and those already mentioned, I just recall a slew of crap coming in behind Pedro. (Oh, and Lowe's one fantastic year as a closer).

 
At 5:13 PM, Blogger Jay said...

From a Mets standpoint, probably the most popular ROOTERS

Recent teams: Turk Wendell, Orber Moreno, and Shinjo! Mackie Sasser was...er, fascinating to watch too. "I can't bear to watch and yet I cannot turn away."

80's teams: Tim Teufel (and the Teufel shuffle) and Hubie Brooks (he who traded for The Kid).

Roger McDowell would probably have made the cut if he wasn't subsequently immortalized by Seinfeld.

 
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