The Red Sox Teach Us a Lot About Defeat

This is not a political post. I’m not here to discuss politics. However, the election made me think about surprise victories and harsh defeats. I then reflected on the Red Sox vast history of victories and defeats. So what can the Red Sox teach us about the two? In many cases, it comes down to luck.

The Red Sox Teach Us About Humility

Let’s start with Ted Williams. In 1946 the Red Sox clinched the pennant and faced the St.Red Sox Teach Louis Cardinals in the World Series. A cocky Ted Williams looked forward to adding a championship title to his list of accolades. Williams, along with the rest of the Red Sox, did not consider what the Cardinals had up their sleeve. The Cardinals instituted The Williams Shift where most of their infield shifted to the right of second base making it awfully difficult for Williams to hit a ball to right field. It worked. Hitting only .200 for the series, Williams called it “the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me.” After the Sox lost, Williams locked himself in his train compartment headed back to Boston. “I just broke down and started crying, and I looked up and there was a whole crowd of people watching me through the window.”

The Red Sox Teach Us That Defeat Can Be Snatched From Victory

The 1946 World Series loss marked the beginning of a string of bad luck for the Red Sox. Favored to win again in 1967, the Red Sox didn’t count on the phenomenal pitching of Bob Gibson, who recorded a 1.12 ERA the following season. The Red Sox gave it their all in 1975 but a victorious and memorable Game 6 left the team too worn to win Game 7. The 1986 World Series, however, is a different story.

Every Red Sox fan knows what happened in Game 6. The words “Behind the bag!” echo harshly in the ear drums of those who dare to remember. While Bill Buckner’s error didn’t exactly blow it for the Red Sox, it’s what everyone remembers. Fortunately, fans have since forgiven Buckner, but not before enduring one more boner before finally clinching victory in 2004.

The Red Sox Teach Us It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Yankee Stadium. The 2003 American League Championship Series. After eight innings, a worn Pedro Martinez said he felt good. So despite manager Grady Little’s concerns, Martinez stayed in Game 7. Their 5-2 lead gave Little the confidence that the game was in the bag. Unfortunately, Martinez quickly went south and the Yankees won. Stunned Red Sox fans could only shake their heads and wait.

A year later, despite being down three games to the Yankees, the Red Sox won four straight to proceed to the World Series. This time they got revenge for the ghosts of 1946 by beating the St. Louis Cardinals. The Curse of the Bambino was finally dead.

When I look at all this history, there’s something Bill Buckner once said that is important to remember, “Baseball is a game of averages, but over a short period of time, to have a little luck going is not a bad thing.” Why is this quote important? Because it shows us that when we feel like we’re just average, there’s nothing keeping us from taking advantage of a little luck. Many of us are trying to move on from recent events, but if the Red Sox teach us one thing, it’s that no matter how dark things look, we’ll always have a chance to take advantage of a little luck when it presents itself.

Induction Weekend Drew Over 50K to Cooperstown

The National Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend drew over 50,000 fans this year. Fans from Seattle, Cincinnati, and New York City came to the small upstate New York town to see Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. receive their induction plaques. Despite high-priced hotel rooms and even higher temperatures, it was one of his largest turnouts ever for an induction.

Cooperstown has a population of only about 2400 people. There are many hotels in theinduction weekend drew area, but they command a starting price of $1000 for three nights during HoF weekend. Even with that kind of money it is hard to get a reservation within 20 miles of the town. Once you’re there though, it becomes clear that the effort is worth it. I arrived Friday morning after leaving Boston at 6am. After finding parking, I spent the entire three days in town. I met dozens of Hall of Famers, and browsed all the stores. I bought books, a few jerseys, and a lot of hot dogs.

I paid good money to meet former players and get their autographs. While their signatures are expensive, for many, the money goes to charity. For example, Fergie Jenkins, a one-time Red Sox pitcher, charges only $30 for his signature. According his website, the money goes to humanitarian needs. Last year saw Pedro Martinez, a Red Sox favorite, got inducted. He charges $169 for his autograph so I skipped him. Martinez’s induction last year attracted thousands of Red Sox fans to Cooperstown. It was great to see so many people wearing number 45.

While this year’s induction weekend drew over 50,000 fans to Cooperstown, I can tell you that almost every one of them felt singled out by Piazza and Griffey’s speeches when they talked about the fans. Between the large crowd, and the two amazing inductees, this induction weekend turned out to be one of the best ever.

Induction Weekend Drew Many Non-Hall of Famers Too

There were many non-Hall of Famers there too. Even though induction weekend drew tens of thousands, I found myself alone in the Cooperstown Bat Store on Main Street Friday Sunday. It’s there I got to talk to George Foster for a while, a very nice and funny man. The former Cincinnati Reds outfielder caught Carlton Fisk’s ball off the foul pole in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Foster kept the baseball in his garage for almost 25 years before giving it up for auction. It sold for $113,000 in 1999. I asked him how he felt when he grabbed the ball.

“Were you like, ‘Damnit!’ or what?” I asked.

“I don’t use that kind of language.”

“Oh sorry. Were you like, ‘Darn it!’?”

“I was like, ‘Darn it, I’m hungry! We just played 12 straight!'” Jokes aside, Foster suggested that the team knew there was likely going to be a seventh game because Boston played so hard.

Should Red Sox Shop for a Replacement for David Ortiz?

Should the Red Sox shop for a replacement for David Ortiz? While many are looking at Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts to take over for Ortiz when he retires, I’m starting to wonder if it would be a good idea to look outside the Red Sox organization for new replacement for David Ortizblood and snatch someone from another team.

Now, before anyone slams me for saying this, keep in mind that Ortiz himself wasn’t home-grown. Ortiz came over from in 2003 after a few years of inconsistent hitting with the Minnesota Twins. In fact, it was Pedro Martinez who pushed Theo Epstein to sign Ortiz, who later helped the Red Sox win their first World Series in eighty-six years. There’s a few reasons why looking elsewhere for a replacement would be a great idea.

First, veterans on the team like Dustin Pedrioa, Clay Bucholtz, and even Ortiz himself could  make suggestions to Dave Dombrowski, just like Martinez did for Epstein. They’ve been around the game for many years and definitely know good talent when they see it. While there’s more than plenty of talent in the organization already, especially in Pawtucket (I’m looking at you Josh Rutledge and Henry Owens!), the Red Sox need a leader. They need a younger but seasoned player who can join the team sooner than later before Ortiz leaves. By then, this new leader will be able to take the reigns from Ortiz more smoothly.

Let’s look at Baltimore’s Manny Machado. He’s young, hit 35 home runs last season, and has a solid batting average. He’d mesh well with the younger players like Travis Shaw and Mookie Betts. Then there’s Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas, another young player who helped lead the Royals to the World Series last year with 22 home runs. The Red Sox could use that kind of experience on the team. These two guys are young enough that they’ll be around for years to come and with experience, can lead the Red Sox to another post-season appearance.

Could Replacement for David Ortiz Come From The National League?

If the Red Sox shop for someone outside of the American League they might find strong talent in the Mets organization. Travis Taijeron, who has yet to play a major league game, has already been named a top rookie in the Mets camp, and hit 27 home runs last season in the minors. He hasn’t made it to the majors yet, but the alternative hitting perspective he’d bring to the Red Sox would benefit other hitters who could look to him to see how his hitting improved with other teams. In other words, he could provide an alternative perspective.

Whoever it is that takes Ortiz’s place in the lineup, whether it’s someone already with the Red Sox, or someone from another team,  it’ll most likely surprise those in the Red Sox Nation. Few thought Ortiz would be a major benefit for the Red Sox when he signed with them in 2003, so it’s possible that his successor might follow a similar path. So who knows who it’ll be? Maybe he’s already on the team, or with another team, just waiting for the right time and place to take his rightful place in the lineup.

Pedro Martinez Gets his Number Retired

You can say what you want about the Red Sox struggles on the field, but the one thing they can do is throw a ceremony. Whether it’s raising a championship banner, or honoring an ex-player as they did Tuesday night with Pedro Martinez, they do a very good job of throwing a celebration.

Last night it was Pedro Martinez’s turn to get honored after being formally inducted into the Pedro MartinezHall of Fame on Sunday. Before the game Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox, the now-Hall of Fame pitcher had his number retired by the Red Sox. Pedro joins Ted Williams, Johny Pesky, Carlton Fisk, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski as the only Red Sox players with their numbers retired. Illustrious company, to say the least, when it comes to Red Sox history. He also joins Jackie Robinson up there, who’s number 42 is retired throughout baseball.

As for the ceremony itself, which I was lucky enough to attend, it started with a countdown of career stats on the center field screen. This included, but not limited to, his career win-loss record, strikeouts, and much more. It also involved visits and presentations from ex-teammates Orlando Cabrera, Trot Nixon, Curt Schilling, Ralph Avila—who first discovered Pedro Martinez and his brother Ramon, and former Expos manager Felipe Alou who managed the team that Pedro first rose to prominence on. The best one, though, at least in my mind, was when Pedro called out Jason Varitek ahead of schedule. Varitek was supposed to come out to catch the first pitch, but Pedro called him ahead of schedule in very Pedro-esque fashion, stating that it was his party.

After his number was unveiled below the right field roof deck, the ceremony ended with a video highlight tribute, again shown on the center field screen, set to the song “Hall of Fame” by The Script, which was a great way to cap off another remarkably well put together ceremony by the Red Sox. It sure gave me chills, and it also succeeded in making me forget the struggles of the Red Sox at the present moment.

At least, that is, until the actual game started. The Red Sox ended up losing to the White Sox behind a 9-run outburst and a great outing by White Sox pitcher Jeff Samarzdjia. A late rally in the 9th would fall well short, but the Red Sox never really stood a chance, not with the way the team has been playing this year.

Oh, well. At least the ceremony for Pedro Martinez was worth the price of admission, even if the actual game wasn’t.

Remembering the Career of Pedro Martinez

Forget the negatives of a terrible season for now. Let’s talk about Pedro Martinez for a second. Earlier this year, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and the Red Sox will be honoring him with a special ceremony on Tuesday before they take on the Chicago White Sox. The ceremony will invlolve Pedro getting his number retired by the Red Sox organization, among other things.

Pedro will be formally inducted over the weekend in Cooperstown, which should give Red Pedro Martinez HOFSox fans some reason to smile. Pedro Martinez spent 7 years here in Boston, won a World Series in 2004, and created a lot of memories along the way. Some of my fondest memories of my earliest years of being a Red Sox fan involved my uncle unexpectedly coming over and taking me to see Pedro pitch. That was always fun, especially during the ’99 season, with a seemingly unhittable Pedro en route to striking out 300 hitters; a season that culminated in him pitching 6 perfect innings in the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. That was also the year the All-Star game was held at Fenway Park. Pedro pitched 2 scoreless innings in that game, striking out 5 of 6 batters he faced. That included Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, and Jeff Bagwell—some of the best in the game at that time.

And then there was 2004 when he helped us break the Curse of the Bambino. For Pedro, that culimnated in a 7 inning scoreless performance against the St. Louis Cardinals—one of his best individual performances in a Red Sox jersey—after he had struggled earlier in the playoffs. That game put the Red Sox within 1 game of winning the Series, and within one game of breaking the curse. He was simply outstanding in that game. It was a vintage Pedro Martinez game, when the Red Sox needed it the most.

Pedro ended his career with 3,154 strikeouts and ultimately was a worthy addition to the Hall of Fame. Whether you are a Red Sox fan or not, you simply have to appreciate the greatness that was Pedro Martinez.

Red Sox Unveil “Franchise Four”

Around the MLB, teams unveiled their “Franchise Four,” the 4 best players in franchise history as voted on by the fans. For the Red Sox, David Ortiz, Ted Williams, Pedro Martinez, and Carl Yastremski were chosen.

All of those guys have their merits, and all of them are legends in their own right, but the Red Soxone player that I would question is David Ortiz (no, this isn’t about him being sent home Sunday). We all know what he’s done with his bat, especially in the playoffs. He had a number of clutch hits in 2004, helping the Red Sox break the “Curse of the Bambino.” In 2013, he was a one man wrecking crew in helping the Red Sox top the Cardinals in 6 games that year. This is all subjective, but I would question the wisdom of putting him ahead of guys like Luis Tiant, Carlton Fisk and other such Red Sox legends. My main reservation is that he hardly ever played defense, but you could make the reverse argument for a Luis Tiant and a Pedro Martinez, who only pitched and hardly ever hit.

But, again, this kind of thing is always subjective and people will always have their own thoughts on this. Ultimately, David Ortiz’s impact on this team in the past decade plus is undeniable, and he does have a strong case to be up there. Without him, we don’t win 3 championships in a decade and break the Curse. He also is making a push for 500 home runs this season, which would be huge for him.

For me, the other guys are no brainers. Ted Williams was the only guy to hit over .400 in a season, Pedro Martinez is one of the greatest pitchers in Red Sox history, and Yaz finished his 22 year career with the Sox with 452 home runs and a .285 career average. But, it is hard to narrow the Red Sox Mount Rushmore down to 4 guys, and everyone will have their own opinions on who should be up there, especially with so many guys to choose from.