Warning: This article is 99% emotional and 1% factual. It contains strictly my opinions and I am not looking to debate them. I simply need to purge before I can immerse myself in the 2012 season. This is not your typical season preview, but then again I have never been one to run with the pack. In fact, this might be the easiest article I have ever written because I don’t have to be glued to my calculator figuring out stats.
Where do I begin? I sat at my computer for hours trying to figure it out. The Boston Red Sox open their season today in Detroit and I can’t help but secretly wish they skip the season. I am simply not ready. Not ready to accept. Not ready to move forward. And not ready to believe in the team that let so many of us down seven months ago. This isn’t the first time we have been let down, but this time it was in a whole new category. One would think that having our season drastically end in 2003 by one misplaced pitch, and being deprived of yet another World Series, would be more devastating. The difference between the two? 2003 was like ripping a band aid off smooth skin. Last year was like slowing prying a giant band aid superglued on a patch of hairy skin. It took forever to watch it unfold and it hurt the whole time.
On paper, my offseason was no different than any other. My general rule is when the season is over I don’t want to talk baseball, period, until next spring. I suppose it’s because I invest so much time, money and most importantly, emotion, that I just need a break. Being a professional sports fan is grueling even on the best days when your team is successful. But when your team is part of one of the biggest collapses in sports history, it’s beyond grueling. So this offseason not only did I take a mental break but I fostered feelings I have never felt before as a Red Sox fan. My entire life I have been the “believer,” the one that shouts “It’s not over ’til it’s over,” and “Keep the faith,” but I can honestly say my beliefs have shifted a great deal and my faith has been temporarily misplaced.
Was I heartbroken because my beloved Sox failed to make the postseason for the second consecutive year in row? Or was it because they have now become a mediocre team not having won a playoff game since 2008? And what about all the people that departed? Theo Epstein scurried to the Cubs weeks after Terry Francona was canned. Red Sox legends, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield were essentially forced to retire. Jonathan Papelbon left via free agency without even sticking around for an offer, while not forgetting to shit on the Boston fans on his way out. Marco Scutaro went to Colorado and Josh Reddick to Oakland.
And let’s not forget the individual most male fans will miss the most, Heidi Watney. I enjoyed her over the years but the one thing I won’t miss are my male friends saying how hot she is. I am no expert on defining the looks of a woman, but Heidi always gave me the “all-American, cute” vibe, not the “hot” vibe. The funny thing is I’ll probably get more debates and comments about Heidi’s looks and departure than whether Tito should have been canned or not. I am sure every Heidi fan immediately googled her replacement, in case you didn’t, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with NESN’s own Jenny Dell. If I liked girls I would say Jenny Dell falls into the “hot” category. OK, back to baseball. Talk about a change in scenery. We are used to players coming and going, but we have never dealt with two legends retiring, a GM leaving, a Manager being fired, our star closer jumping ship and the “hot” face of NESN vacating, ALL IN ONE SEASON!!!
Although I will always be a diehard Sox fan, the decision I was most distraught over was the firing of Terry Francona and more importantly how they handled it. If there is one lesson I learned after last September it is this; in order for people to make things right in the sports world (especially in Boston), they have to find someone to blame. I hear it all the time on sports radio. All is fine and dandy until the minute they lose and all hell breaks loose on the radio.There are two types of fans in my opinion: Finger-pointers that make themselves feel better by putting blame on others. And then fans that accept things for what they are. Unfortunately there are more finger-pointers in this world.
They started off the 2011 season pretty much a lock to win the World Series. The “best team on paper” had such high expectations and started off the way they finished, in the toilet. But the four months in between they were the team everyone expected them to be and all was right in Boston…until September, when they tanked it and immediately the fingers started pointing. Fans need to remember that athletes are human and they make mistakes and it is nearly impossible to live up to the expectations set forth by fans and especially the media. Predictions are just an educated guess but yet people treat them as if they are written law. If every team that was predicted to win, did, then there is no point in playing the game. And although I know the role that MLB managers take on, it is sad to see them get fired for something their players couldn’t execute but yet the players don’t get penalized the slightest. Wouldn’t it be great if players salaries were performance based like the rest of the common worker in America? That might change players attitudes, work ethic and performance. It might also put a new spin on Adrian Gonzalez’ deep concern for him “providing for his family so they can eat.” I am all for firing managers but I think it is time athletes start taking some responsibility for their downfalls just as much as the managers do. I know this is wishful thinking but that the power of writing a blog.
Growing up as very competitive “Dustin Pedroia” type athlete, I firmly believe at the end of the day the people 100% responsible for losing games are the athletes themselves. Any true athlete will be the first to admit that. I couldn’t fathom blaming my coach for my mishaps unless we were flat out terrible from the start. We are not talking about developing high school players where they look to their coach for guidance and instruction. These are professional players that already possess the talent and skills necessary for success, so don’t need as much critiquing in the overall picture. Combine that with Boston’s most successful manager in history, one would think he would have been given some slack. We are talking about a manager that brought 2 World Series titles to this city after an 86-year drought. And then wham! – Four weeks of poorly executed ball leaves this once “highly praised” manager with no job as if HE was the reason Daniel Bard blew all of his high-pressured appearances. The Red Sox did not collapse because of Francona. They did not collapse because of the “beer and chicken” binges. They collapsed because they didn’t execute the game of baseball, plain and simple. Did Tito lose control of the clubhouse? All evidence points to that and that is where the debate comes in. On one hand, he shouldn’t be fired considering his long standing history, and their performance in September was an unbelievable fluke. Or the majority of people say, he is the manager therefore it is his responsibility to manage his players and losing games reflects poor management skills on his part. I understand both sides but what I really struggle with is “blaming a manager for losing games.” That doesn’t fly with me. Maybe if you have consecutive losing seasons year after year but we’re talking about 4 weeks of baseball (8 if you include April). And meanwhile, the true people at fault are the athletes that didn’t get penalized in the slightest. Could he have handled them better down the stretch? Sure, but I REPEAT, athletes lose games so remember that the next time you want to point fingers. The funny part about all this is if they didn’t tank in September, I wouldn’t be talking about this. I think management panicked and hastily made their decision. I understand their need for change and structure but at least give the man the respect he deserves. I have had time to accept this decision but I just wish it didn’t end so badly and I guess this is my attempt to pay respect to the best manager in Red Sox history. You had a great run Tito and you’ll always have a supporter in me. Whenever I need my “Tito” fix, I can tune into ESPN like I did yesterday.
I was told yesterday by my mama, “Let it go, it’s a new year, new season. Put it in the past and move on.” I watched a little NESN last night and Josh Beckett said the same thing. So this is my first attempt to moving on. I am breaking my silence of the offseason and I am hoping by getting all this off my chest it helps me let go of what I have been holding on to all winter.
This team has a lot to prove to earn our faith back. The good thing for them is expectations are at their lowest. I have never seen so many questions marks with a Sox team heading into the season since the late 90′s. Stay tuned for my season preview and my thoughts on this new manager situation. If you thought last year was a wild ride, buckle your seat belt, this has the potential to get uglier before it gets better.
I’ll leave you with one prediction. Will the Red Sox win their season opener? I am going to go with NO. Not because I am salty and have no hope. The Red Sox are 54-56-1 all time on opening day. Not to mention they are going up against Justin Verlander and the stacked Tigers. But for all you believers there is hope. The Sox are 3-1 in the last 4 opening days so I hope they prove me wrong today and give Red Sox Nation a good reason to look forward to a new season and fresh start.
About the Author
Written by "Baseball Brenda" Sepanek
I was born a sports fan. Playing soccer, basketball and softball in high school, then moving on to play Div. II softball at Keene State on partial scholarship. In 2003, our team was inducted into the Keene State Hall of Fame. GO OWLS! I am a die hard Red Sox, Patriots and UNC Tar Heel hoop fan. Most of my friends call me Baseball Brenda because when it comes to ranking my priorities in life, the Red Sox always are first on the list. I average about 40 games a year and I have attended every home playoff game since moving back to MA in 2005. I am super competitive and excel at anything you can win at :) Horseshoes, ping pong, darts, pool, cornhole, and bowling. Always love a good challenge. I play a lot of golf in the summer and a lot of fantasy sports. I am always looking to meet local Sox fans so look me up on Facebook.