Derek Gentile: Nowadays, Sox always in the game
I was at work on Tuesday, the day after the Red Sox had lost their first game of the year to Baltimore.
In passing, a friend mentioned that, "It looks like a typical Red Sox start this season."
I chastised him gently, noting that it was one game and that their opponent, the Orioles, had the potential to be a good team.
"There are 161 games left," I said, "Be cool."
I’m only a little startled that after a decade of solid teams and three World Championships, Sox fans are still more than a little wary of the year to come.
Because when you contrast that 10 years of prosperity with 86 years of futility, I guess it makes sense.
Harry Frazee started the whole thing, selling the Olde Town team in 1923 to one of the worst owners in baseball history: The jolly but brutally undercapitalized Robert "Bob" Quinn.
Actually, Quinn wasn’t that bad a baseball guy; He simply had no money to sign players. Thus, in those years, Boston would play anywhere from three to seven minor leaguers every day. Not a recipe for success.
I still maintain that Quinn’s 1932 team, which went 43-111, was not only the worst team in Sox history but rivals the early New York Mets teams as the worst team ever.
When Quinn sold the team to Tom Yawkey in 1933, the feeling was that happy days were here again. Not really. Yawkey, one of the richest people in the world, was used to running the show his way. He rebuilt the Sox, certainly, but he did it by buying players rather than strengthening the farm system, which for many years Yawkey thought a waste of time.
In the 84 years that Yawkey or the various incarnations of the Yawkey Trust ran the team, the Red Sox were one of the most strangely run teams in baseball history.
Yawkey surrounded himself with cronies and hangers-on, eschewed drafting blacks and Hispanics, and just never had anything resembling a master plan for the team.
As a result, the only plan the Sox really had was buy a superstar or two, try to stay injury-free and hope to catch lighting in a bottle if they made the post-season.
Certainly not the best plan in the world. The most well-funded team in baseball made it to the World Series three times in eight decades, losing ‘em all.
The eventual sale of the Sox to the group headed up by John Henry in 2002 was probably the most dramatic ownership turnaround in baseball history. By 2004, Boston had broken the string of futility. By 2007 they won again and picked up another Series crown in 2013.
This feels, in some corners, still a little unreal to Boston fans. The names Bob Gibson, the Reds’ Joe Morgan, Bucky Dent and Mookie Wilson still seem to reverberate in the heads of many members of Red Sox nation.
And in some sense, who can blame them? Many of Boston’s most crushing defeats came on the heels of glorious success. In 1978, Boston won 10 of their last 11 games to tie the Yankees for the AL East championship. And then lost it to a Dent homer in the playoff game.
In 1967, Bob Gibson and the Cardinals destroyed the "Impossible Dream." And so on.
But to all of you Sox fans out there, I say this: It’s Opening Day today. This team may not win it all, but they will compete and make their fans proud.
It’s all anyone can ask.
To reach Derek Gentile:
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile
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