If you are still following Boston’s baseball team, the Red Sox, you are well aware that the odds of a post season this year are slim to none. In a town that’s grown entitled to having their professional sports teams play meaningful games late into their respective seasons, losing becomes a hard pill to swallow. Nowhere is this more prevalent than with the members of Red Sox Nation.
Winning a World Series in 2004, again in 2007, and then the improbable championship run in 2013 has only heightened expectations among its fan base. However, when you look at the reality of baseball played in places like Cleveland, Arlington, and San Diego, the carping about Ben Cherington and Red Sox ownership on sports talk radio ought to cease. It won’t, but winning championships nearly every season isn’t the norm—except perhaps if you are a follower of one particular franchise whose players are adorned in black pin stripes—a club with 40 World Series appearances. Dare I utter “the New York Yankees” in these parts?
I wouldn’t call myself a rabid Red Sox fan. I don’t have any interest in fantasy baseball—a digital, pixie dust approach to baseball that seems to be popular with a certain type of beta male. And while my fortunes don’t hang on every pitch made by this year’s group of sub-par hurlers assembled in Beantown, I’ve been enjoying the team the past few weeks in a way that I hadn’t earlier in the campaign.
Since what I’ve just written doesn’t jibe with the state of Red Sox fandom these days, let me at least put out some of my own baseball bona fides. I played the game through college and later, logged seasons toiling on Maine’s baseball diamonds with town teams and later, old-men’s leagues like the SMMBL, which in recent seasons has gotten much younger. I’ve also coached summer college league baseball in the Twilight League, one of North America’s oldest amateur baseball circuits—a league that’s well over 100-years-old. These days, I am a baseball umpire, spending my summers serving as the game’s arbiter. Oh—I also wrote a book about the history of the game in Maine.
I list all this to say that I have some experience around baseball. I also recognize that the game may not hold the same sway for today’s young kids—socialized by screens and gadgets—as America’s pastime had on my generation.
And yet, baseball still remains the perfect capstone to a day of work and challenges, IMHO. Its pastoral pace and rhythms hearken back to a time that wasn’t so frenetic. A time when the pace of life was more human and less frenzied.
So while other New England sports fans divert their attention to football with September’s approach, I’ll continue to catch Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo, doing the games on NESN, or tune in games on my portable radio, enjoying Dave O’Brien and Joe Castiglione’s calls.
The Red Sox are likely to lose 90 games again this season (they lost 91 in 2014). But wrapped in that futility is a silver lining. Young players like Jackie Bradley, Jr., Travis Shaw, and Rusney Castillo will (should) get to play every day. In fact, Bradley’s performance over the last week has been hopeful. An amazing defensive player, with a host of highlight reel catches to his credit, Bradley has yet to prove he can consistently handle Major League pitching. However, those of us still watching got to catch a glimpse of what might be possible with the 25-year-old outfielder this past weekend.
For the first time, Bradley’s put together a week of offensive consistency that indicates he might be part of a brighter baseball future in Boston. And then on Saturday, his five hits—including two home runs and seven RBI—put him in the Fred Lynn category, at least for one magical afternoon.