I’ve been a Red Sox (@RedSox) fan my whole life. It’s inherited, on my mom’s side. I remember the first game I ever saw in person. The Sox were playing the California Angels at Fenway. Yaz was still on the team then. The crowd went crazy every time he came up to bat. He hit a home run and a double in that game. (I also distinctly remember Valentine, the Angels’ right fielder, making a spectacular play.) I was devastated in 86 with the loss to the Mets. And I was deliriously happy in 2004 when the Sox defeated the Cardinals.
I know a lot of people read the title of this, and got a little ticked off. The team has won four World Series in the last sixteen years. They make the playoffs almost every year. They’ve won MVP awards, Cy Youngs, Gold Gloves. Heck, JD Martinez actually won the Silver Slugger at two different positions in the same year. The Giants (@SFGiants) and the Cardinals (@Cardinals) are the only two teams that have been close to as successful in the 21st century. So, I feel like I have to explain myself.
For me, being a fan isn’t just hoping the team wins or being happy when they win. That’s part of it, of course, but it’s a whole experience. There’s the family connections. Following the Red Sox makes me closer to my mom, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. There’s the aesthetics of the sport. It provides visual and auditory pleasures, and the storylines can be gripping. There’s a communal aspect. Baseball and the Sox help me feel a part of New England and America while making me feel connected to Puerto Rico, The Dominican Republic, Japan, Aruba, and other places.
But the main thing is genuinely liking the team. Teams have personalities. It’s a little like dating. Wins are looks. Good looks are great, but if that’s all there is, you’re not going to have a lasting, fulfilling relationship. (Casual fandom can be fun. It’s how I watch basketball. I want more than that from baseball, though. The real thing is way better than casual.) Lately, the Red Sox just don’t seem to want to be likeable.
It started five years ago when the team fired Don Orsillo (@DonOrsillo). He was the team’s play-by-play announcer from 2001-2015, and he is basically the best in the business. He can make a three hour rain delay after the team’s been eliminated from contention fun to watch. And, more than that, he’s one of us. He’s born and bred in New England and a lifelong Sox fan. Firing Donny O was like a slap in the face. It gave the distinct impression that the team doesn’t really care about the fans.
The next thing happened this past January when the Red Sox traded David Price and Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. David Price (@DAVIDprice24) stings just because I’ve been a fan since he came up with Tampa. He should have been the 2018 World Series MVP, and he was our best pitcher in 2019, then he was gone. Like I said, it stings, but with Price, I understand that’s it’s part of the game. Players I like get traded all the time, and I get over it.
Trading Mookie Betts, however, is unconscionable. Mookie (@mookiebetts) has been the best player in baseball for at least the last four years. One of the best things about baseball is there are a lot of different ways to be good at it. Mookie is great in all the ways. Add to that the fact that he’s incredibly fun to watch, charismatic, and seems to be a genuinely good person. It feels like if the Giants had traded a young Willie Mays. It’s the type of move that can curse a franchise and cause an 86 year World Series drought. (I know I just compared Mookie to Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, that’s how good he is.) Trading Mookie Betts does not make your team better in any way. It’s penny-pinching by the billionaire owner, and it hurts.
The most recent bad move on the part of the Red Sox is the rehiring of Alex Cora as manager. I should say that I’ve always liked Cora, as a player, and a coach, and a manager. But when the report of the Astro’s cheating came out and Cora was at the center of it, I knew the Sox had to fire him. This wasn’t cheating like throwing a spit-ball or corking a bat. This hit at the very integrity of the game. It’s likely that innocent people lost their jobs because of Cora, and it’s almost certain that L.A. was robbed of a championship. You can’t overstate how important integrity is to sports and games. By rehiring Cora, the Sox show that integrity just isn’t that important to them.
I don’t know what to do now. The Padres (@Padres) have a young, exciting team and the best play-by-play announcer in the game. The Dodgers (@Dodgers) also have a young, exciting team. And if wins are looks, the Dodgers are drop-dead gorgeous. They have Mookie Betts and David Price and Dave Roberts (who will forever be one of my favorite baseball people). Plus, my dad and brothers are Dodger fans, so there’s a family connection. I could really see myself as a Dodger fan. They’ve always been my 1a anyway.
Unfortunately, feelings can’t just be turned off and on. I can’t switch affection to a new object at will. I still really care about Jackie Bradley Jr. (@JackieBradleyJr), and Raffy Devers, and Xander Bogaerts. But if the Red Sox don’t get their act together soon, a break-up could be in order. I wonder how I would look in Dodger Blue.