A single player's departure can characterize a larger absence of talent.
If the Boston Red Sox were a multi-platinum rock band, their 2012 season would be "The Lost Year LP." As my neighbors in Oakland and San Francisco get hyped for the playoffs, it's easy to feel like this season never really happened. Perhaps living on the West Coast and physically being separated from the issue made my nonchalance effortless. It's not that I don't care that the Sox never got it together this year - even at the All-Star Break I still felt they had a glimmer of hope - it's that I accepted a season without meaning right after the first series.
Much like tracks on a lost years album, most Sox players were left out of the lineup for one reason or another. Shipped out or sent to the DL, most guys didn't make the track list: Reddick, Beckett, Gonzalez, Crawford, Youkilis, Sweeney, Jenks, Bowden, Byrd, McDonald, Punto, Nava, Ellsbury, Lackey, Bard, Matsuzaka, Bailey, Ortiz, Middlebrooks, and Wakefield and Varitek, if you will --- these are your casualties. With the exception of Beckett, Gonzalez, Ortiz and Middlebrooks, did any of these men really even play this year? It doesn't matter, I mentally said goodbye to the entire team, minus Pedroia, a while ago.
Not that I knew who I was saying goodbye to.
The Sox sustained so many injuries and called in so many obscure names, most times I didn't even know who I was occasionally caring about. Just look at the current Red Sox roster and you'll see a clubhouse that nowhere near resembles the promising group that in March of 2011 looked like a sure-fire pennant winner. Until I looked at it I didn't even know Rich Hill, the guy with the best bullpen numbers in the last month, even existed! Even worse, I'm not surprised.
Saying goodbye became the theme for this team. Josh Beckett, the man who I watched destroy the Angels by himself in Game 1 of the 2007 ALDS: traded. I didn't know what to do with my white Marlins No. 21 shirt I bought for $10 on eBay that I wore every Beckett Sox start I watched, that I rocked on campus at San Diego State, that I worked out harder in, that I knew was a shirt of a player that was one of the best that nobody could say ANYTHING about (hey, he shutout the Yankees to win a championship playing for Florida and their word logo was great). So, after all we'd been through together and Beckett became a Dodger, the shirt sat idle in my closet while I waited to see if he'd find success in LA. Two starts later, I gave the shirt to my younger cousin, who probably doesn't care about the nostalgia of it and likely already got rid of it.
In Beckett's absence, Aaron Cook is now the third man in the rotation. He threw 94 innings this year but I don't know who he is. Sure I'm glad the Sox made an absolute steal of a salary dump trade with the Dodgers, but I would have rather seen the departed play up to their standards (said every team who's ever traded away an under-performing big name). I even briefly considered becoming a Dodgers fan, then backed out.
Tonight, another player, another t-shirt: Daisuke Matsuzaka. Oh yeah, caught you off guard there. He took No. 18 and threw the gyro-ball, it was instinct to pick up a shirt that I doubt I'll ever see anyone ever wear again. Just look at this bad boy.
*Before we go further, I'd like to defend Dice-K by saying he helped deliver a World Series title in 2007 and that's worth every single penny.
Despite the Sox's failures this year, Dice-K is one of my favorites and with him getting the nod to start the final game of the season at New York on ESPN, I planned on watching the game from start to finish with No. 18 on my back. Unfortunately, I didn't set the DVR and by the time I got home it was the fourth inning and Dice-K had already been pulled for giving up five runs. I thought, "it's okay, I'll catch the midnight rerun," but then I started typing this blog entry and I missed it again. Oh well.
With Dice-K's Sox tenure likely done, I decided after much deliberation that the best thing to do is retire the shirt by giving it to my Grammy and having her stitch it into my pending t-shirt quilt. Every tee that makes me happy but doesn't fit right, from my Johnny Damon jersey shirt to my church confirmation tee with Jesus giving thumbs up, Grammy is going to cut them up and quilt them together. Which reminds me, I need to get that Beckett shirt back.
I accept seeing my favorite players go and thank them for the victories they helped the team accomplish. The 2012 season did not pain me, nor did it tarnish my fanhood, because I saw the injuries and accepted the logical outcome of them. I skipped this season; to me it's like it didn't even happen. "The Lost Year LP" is done, it's up to management and the players to top the charts with a different sound in 2013.