Why Rooting for the Red Sox Sucks
The Red Sox’s main problem right now is not that they’re bad at baseball. It’s that they’re utterly unlikable.
I had a little fun last week with all the chaos surrounding the club, but, baseball wise, it’s hardly time to panic. Sure there’s no bullpen and Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz were abysmal in their first outings, but the offense has staged two impressive comebacks. Have no doubt, this team will mash. This Red Sox edition is somewhat reminiscent of the 2003 club: blessed with ungodly power and cursed with no closer (or, if you recall, a closer by committee). That team also lost its first game of the season when the bullpen imploded in the 9th, giving up a four run lead to then-lowly Tampa Bay. None other than Carl Crawford slammed a walk-off three-run homer to send handfuls of Rays fans home happy. The 2003 Sox recovered quite nicely, though, going on to win 95 games and get within one mound visit of the World Series. I’m not saying the 2012 Sox are destined for a mid-90s win total, but they aren’t gonna play .000 ball forever either. The wins will come.
My problem with this team is really just that I hate rooting for it (and yes, I know I’m on record as enjoying this type of misery). Here is a necessary disclaimer: I’ve never met anyone on the Red Sox and for all I know they may all be wonderful guys. But this is sports, so we go by what we see on the field and in the media. It’s all entertainment anyway — these guys are just characters in our soap opera. And right now, they’re heels. Heels with $173 million of payroll, that is.
The point was driven home for me on Saturday, watching Josh Beckett give up gopher ball after gopher ball (five in total). Sure I was annoyed the Sox were getting creamed, but my reaction was equal parts, “Yeah, f*** Josh Beckett. I hate that guy.” And really, what is there to like about Josh Beckett, our resident fried-chicken eating, snitch-hating, good old boy? Again, I don’t know the man — he might be a prince — but he sure comes off like a jerk on TV. Worse, he takes forever to throw the ball, making the game unbearably slow. (And when he does throw it, bad things seem to happen.)
At this point, if he were to turn it around and find his old stuff, would I even enjoy rooting for him? I’m not so sure. Seriously, who do you like on this team? I took an inventory and came up with only Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Big Papi. Pedroia because he’s still one of the game’s great characters, Ellsbury because he proved to be not just consistent, but clutch last season, and Big Papi, mostly for nostalgia. Past that, you’ve got a lot of pretty boring guys. I mean, Lester sure can pitch, but he’s hardly Mr. Personality. And then there are the apparent malcontents, like Beckett and Kevin Youkilis, who according to last season’s infamous Globe exposé, is a contentious jerk. And we haven’t even talked yet about the manager.
The thing about baseball is that it’s sort of a boring game to watch. But when your team is full of personalities — guys it’s fun to root for — it becomes a lot more engaging. Think back to that 2003 team: there was Pedro, Manny, Papi, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, Nomar (before he became bitter), Trot Nixon, Bill Mueller, Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, even freaking Framingham Lou Merloni. The antics were non-stop and I’ll be damned if guys hugging in the outfield didn’t make the game more fun. There might never have been a crazier, more fun team in Boston of any kind (well, until 2004). Forget the wins, tuning in every night was a blast in and of itself.
So I suppose I’d better take it back, then. This 2012 Red Sox team is nothing like the 2003 one.