Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Seven things I Hate about 86 Things I Hate about the Red Sox

I get it.

We've been celebrating a little bit too long and perhaps a little bit too loudly. We haven't acted like we've been there before.

But in fairness, we haven't. And it seems to me that the backlash has become just as exaggerated and stupid as the less restrained aspects of the celebration itself. In the spirit of this self-perpetuating gum-flappery, I'm going to look at David Schoenfield's Page 2 column from yesterday and, in the words of Hank Hill, "tell him whut."

2. Manny Ramirez's sudden and magical October transformation from absentminded, dim-witted slugger who makes costly baserunning gaffes to lovable, dreadlocked slugger who just plays the game with a little flair.

I don't think anybody's denying Manny's absent-mindedness in the field; to imply otherwise is to grossly overstate the extent of any purported "transformation." Further, to apply "dim-witted" to Manny's approach at the plate is short-sighted. When he's right (and he's right often enough to finish in the top five in OPS every year) few batters do a better job of working a pitcher. It's not like he just grips and rips.

5. Curt Schilling's bloody sock. Hockey players mock this.

I'm not real interested in Schilling's views on national politics or his relationship to his personal savior, either. Given that hockey players are presently taking the season off, though, I can't see how what they mock or don't mock has a bearing on this occasion. How many of them have risked an untested medical procedure at an advanced age to turn up like El Cid in the biggest game of the season?

23. "Yankees suck" T-shirts. Even more pathetic, lame and embarrassing.

Whatever you think of the t-shirts (and I can see the sense of both the pro and con camps), it's simply a mistake to assume that only Red Sox fans wear them or endorse the sentiment.

30. The ESPN specials. OK, we get the picture: Red Sox fans, prior to last season, had suffered immense, gut-wrenching, knee-dropping pain.

Who is Schoenfield writing for again? I forget. At any rate, it's not like Yawkey Way commissioned these specials. I don't exactly blame Tim McCarver's long and creepy on-air valentines to Derek Jeter on the Yankees. That's what the mute button is for.

36. All the bandwagon fans. As recently as 1998, the Red Sox ranked just ninth out of 14 teams in the American League in attendance.

This is just ignorant. At the time, Fenway's capacity was a shade over 34,000. The Red Sox drew 2.3 million fans that year, or 83 percent of total capacity. Keep in mind the Sox finished fourth the year before. Schoenfield's beloved Mariners drew 2.7 million in 1998. The Kingdome could also hold almost twice as many people as Fenway, and the Mariners had won the division the year before. Are there a few coat-tail riders under shiny new Boston caps? Most assuredly. Does this discount the devotion of the core base of fans? Not in the least.

10. Ted Williams. The best hitter of his day. But a bad apple. In other words, an old-school Barry Bonds.

45. Fans booing Ted Williams back in the day.

Can't have it both ways here. Either Williams was the beta version of Bonds, and so deserved the boos, or he didn't deserve fan hostility, and so was something less objectionable than Bonds.

59. Dan Shaughnessy's updated book.

Crap. Have to concede this one.

82. The strange infatuation with former reliever Rich "El Guapo" Garces.

C'mon, every team's fan base has a player like this. It's what separates the RAHs from the ROOTs, and El Guapo's as good a place to draw the line as any.

I don't doubt that there are reasons to hate my team, as there are reasons to hate any team. Free tip, though: the statute of limitations has expired on the use of the number 86 with respect to Red Sox misery. Even Yankees fans seem to get this. So let's keep a sense of proportion about these things, shall we?


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