Thursday, August 30, 2007

It would take a Yankee fan to be naive enough to think that a three game sweep in this series means a damn thing. So what if the Red Sox had a chance to knock the Yankees out of contention in the AL East? So what if they had a chance to hurt the Yankees chances of getting the AL Wildcard? Dropping three straight games to your archrival is never a bad thing, right?

When you look at it, it's not as though the Yankees came in reeling from dropping three of four in Detroit. The Yankees threw their 1, 2 and 3 starters at Boston, while Boston countered with pitchers who weren't expected to win. And none of that would have mattered if Major League Baseball didn't pull a depressingly juvenile stunt in sending a representative to ensure that Terry Francona was wearing his uniform jersey while the Yankees had a man on base.

That one instance really cost the Red Sox the series. It had a major impact on the game played the night before and on this afternoon's game. Bud Selig owes the Red Sox an apology for that devious bit of trickeration. In all seriousness, while it was a strange incident, undoubtedly poorly timed and probably unnecessary, it's not really that big a deal.

If the Red Sox don't know how to play the Yankees with Jeter at second having faced that team 13 times prior to the game this season, then having their inspired leader on hand might not have been enough to help them there. After all, the team ought to know how to line up to defend Abreu or A Rod or Matsui in every conceiveale count no matter who's on what base. These guys in the Yankee lineup are fairly well known. The Red Sox see them on occasion, so nothing should disrupt their concentration on the task at hand.

However, nothing seems to be able to happen to the Red Sox these days that doesn't present complications. I'm not sure what to make of that incident which culminated in Joba Chamberlain's ejection. Yes, the Sox have hit A Rod a few times this season. But the Yankees don't seem to be the reactive type, or at least they haven't been in the Joe Torre era. Also, why Youkilis and why in the ninth with one out and a five run lead. It would make more sense to get him out as opposed to putting him on base and providing the Red Sox a spark to start a rally.

However, all that logic doesn't change the fact that he threw consecutive fastballs over Youkilis' head, entirely too close for comfort. I think the umpire made the right decision to eject him immediately after the second pitch. While I don't want to believe that Chamberlain was head hunting because it makes no sense in the situation, it's hard to argue with the fact that both pitches were essentially in the exact same location. One pitch can get away from you, but two is hard to explain.

Tonight, in the wake of a three game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, seems to be the perfect time for me to answer the recent attention that has been given to Red Sox Nation's presence in opposing stadiums. This is not a good thing. It's a symptom of the underlying problems in Major League Baseball.

Because the baseball season has devolved into a long, pointless tournament that only a very few teams can win because only they can afford to collect enough quality pieces to play at a high level, fans in a number of cities have long since given up on their local teams. Why pay to see a team that needs a series of major miracles to qualify for the postseason? So there are plenty of tickets to induce plenty of tools who have been priced out of attending games in Boston to travel to cities like Baltimore and Tampa and Kansas City.

Then there is the phenomenon of Red Sox Nation spreading like a virus through America. Since so many people can't afford to live in New England, there has been a diaspora of Red Sox fans. And since man businesses decided to forsake the expensive Northeast for cheaper regions, there are a ton of New England expatriates in Arizona, Florida, California and other such places. So the Red Sox have a small base in a number of other major league towns.

Also, this team and its myriad of vices draws to it with magnetic force every cutthroat, criminal, misfit, moron, hypocrite and douche in each city in which they play. Every person who thinks the infield fly rule has something to do with insects, every jackass who venerates the cliche fest that is Bull Durham, every person who always wanted to be a bully but never had the chance and every tool who thinks Bill Simmons is the lizard king is a potential Red Sox fan just waiting for the bandwagon to gather steam.

But those who remain and endure in New England are seldom any better than the new crop of Red Sox fans and the exiles. For every normal, sane, rational Red Sox fan that I know, there are at least ten that would sip the refuse at the Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant if John Henry's crack staff of PR people broke the story that it contained vitamins and minerals. For instance, there is the fan who tells me things like JD Drew's numbers are comprable to A Rod's and Red Sox fans will regard JD Drew as a bargain next season.

And after 2004, there were those teary eyed losers who railed and raved about how much this team had meant to their ancestors of the nth degree that had endured all the losing but kept the faith. If one in thirty of that class of fan could prove an ancestor of theirs had been on of the 10,000 odd fans who managed to fill Fenway to 1/3 of its capacity for the final game of the single greatest player in the history of the franchise, then I'd be a little less vocal in my criticism.

For every fan (or informed adversary like me) who knows who Jackie Jensen was or has read the John Updike piece on Ted Williams' final game, there is a massive legion whose only connection to the days before Pedro Martinez came to town comes from nostalgia pieces by the CHB, Bob Ryan, Bill Simmons and others. Red Sox Nation is a waste of time and space. We would all be better off if they would shut up, and perhaps refrain from breeding.

What does not help is that the media, for the most part, coddles and even encourages these jackasses to even greater levels of jackassery. Bill Simmons, who ought to know better (but he's from Connecticut, so I make allowances), seems to enjoy this trend to an indecent level. Of course, I shouldn't be surprised the SPorts Guy feels that way, since these bandwagon fans seem to regard him as a spiritual leader and fall all over themselves to worship at his altar.

This piece from USA Today, which seems to have sparked this new wave of attention to Red Sox Nation, misses the key point that ought to be made about Red Sox fans. Red Sox fans are caught up in a connundrum that is all the more maddening for their inability to recognize and understand it. Red Sox fans have all of the vices of Yankee fans. They're loud, they bully people who don't see things their way, they're boring and they have an inflated sense of their own baseball IQ.

However, Red Sox fans have none of the virtues of Cubs fans, to whom they are often compared. Cubs fans are patient, they endure losing without the cynical, affected posture Red Sox fans developed and have not shed since 2004. Red Sox fans are much more like fans of the other Chicago team. Like the White Sox, the Red Sox lost for a very, very, very long time. And just as the stigma of being second team in second city has tainted the White Sox fans, constantly coming off worse than the Yankees year in and year out still wears on Red Sox fans, even in this post-2004 era.

For a change, I am not the only one railing against Red Sox Nation. Red Sox fans have become so arrogant and unpleasant that Jim Caple (author of The Devil Wears Pinstripes) has himself repented of being a Red Sox fan. Caple wrote this piece ripping Red Sox fans for the way they have comported themselves following the 2004 chamopionship run. It's really quite good. Not quite as good as a three game sweep by the Yankees, but still worth the read.

One more happy note before I sign off... The season series between the Red Sox and the Yankees stands at 8-7 in favor of the Bronx Bombers. Good times. Good times, indeed.

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