It doesn’t seem too long ago that I was standing among a mass of Red Sox fans in the streets of Boston at the 2007 World Series Championship parade. What I will never forget from that day, aside from Jonathan Papelbon’s horrible Irish step-dancing, is the unwavering support that was shown to former Sox third baseman Mike Lowell.
People may forget, but it was that offseason that Alex Rodriguez opted out of his contract with the Yankees, making it possible for Boston to try and pursue him. Now there is no question that A-Rod’s talent far outweighed that of Mike Lowell. But for Sox fans, it was not about that. It was about the character that Lowell had shown on a consistent basis that made him the guy that Boston fans wanted as their everyday third baseman. Chants of “Re-sign Lowell” rang down upon the famous duck boats, and it felt like the party would never end as this team was sure to contend for years to come.
The same jubilation and hope for the future I saw exhibited by Red Sox nation that day does not exist anymore. Instead, it’s been replaced by a festering pessimism that has been rapidly growing since the team’s epic collapse last September. And if you even mention the word character to a Sox fan about this roster as it is currently constituted, expect a full blown laugh-out-loud moment to ensue.
Boston’s beloved Red Sox have somehow lost their way. In a span of five years this team has not only destroyed all of the goodwill that two championships within a decade brought, it destroyed the unbelievable high of breaking an 86-year winless drought.
And no one has been able to avoid this gigantic wave of negativity.
Dustin Pedroia, who many consider to be the spark-plug of this team, turned fans off with his comments regarding manager Bobby Valentine’s handling of the massively slumping Kevin Youkilis (via WEEI). David Ortiz, who in his own right should be considered a Boston sports legend, went on a tear this week while being interviewed by reporters making it clear that he is not enjoying his time on Yawkey Way anymore (via NESN). Even the former captain and now retired Jason Varitek came under mass scrutiny for his part, or lack thereof, in the handling of last year’s dreadful September.
Tell someone in Boston that Tek’s leadership skills were not up to par after his A-Rod face shoving heroics in '04 and they most likely would have spit in your face. And don’t even go down the road of addressing Josh Beckett. Talk about a fall from grace since 2007.
So what character we thought existed amongst these guys has either faded away or maybe just never existed in the first place. Whatever the case may be, something needs to drastically change. This team has become a three-ring circus and it seems that there is no end in sight.
Sox fans have lost that faith they were told to keep in the entire organization, from ownership on down. Maybe it’s time to clean house and start fresh with the young guns down in the minors. The Red Sox are surely not famished for young, up-and-coming talent.
My question is, can this team find its identity again? For years what we thought we knew about these guys now seems like it was merely a mirage. All I’m saying is that the nation had it right in '07. Character counts.