I’ve tried to wring my hands, grit my teeth and summon all the righteous indignation most Boston Red Sox fans have exhibited over the New York Yankees’ trade for Giancarlo Stanton, and I just can’t pull it off.
It’s kind of alarming, actually. Being the type of person who panics over every random physical symptom as if it’s the start of a life-challenging illness, of course I’m troubled by this psychological one.
Am I just getting too old to care? Is moving to the pro sports no-man’s-land of the mid-south and not having NESN gradually chipping away at my loyalty and interest? Or is it a credit to my powers of perception and reason that I realize we’ve seen this plot before — at least twice — and popped a champagne cork during the credits?
Probably some combination of the above, if you’re looking for the truth. Plus, the older and wiser to the inevitable inner workings of the world one gets, the more quickly one reaches “acceptance” as they travel through the stages of grief.
To some degree I believe the too-obvious conspiracy theories. Derek Jeter, lifetime Yankee and part-owner of the Miami/Florida/Montreal Marlins, looks like a convenient patsy and/or participant in this charade. And if you were waiting for commissioner Rob Manfred to invoke some sort of “best interests of the game” clause before starting your holiday shopping, your family and friends are in for a blue Christmas.
Major League Baseball’s most storied and decorated franchise has won one whopping World Series championship since 2000. After years of knowing that half the teams didn’t have a snowball’s chance beyond opening day, we’ve had an amazing, almost impossible era of parity. The Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals actually won championships, for U.L. Washington’s sake. Three times the San Francisco Giants won a series while the Los Angeles Dodgers went 29 years without getting near one.
It delighted some of us baseball nerds who grew up in the “game of the week” era, but did it captivate the casual fan? No, of course it didn’t. And there is no mistaking the obvious seismic shift as the game transitions from Selig’s leadership to Manfred’s. We are clearly headed back to the “chicks dig the long ball” epoch, when the players were blown up like the Michelin Man and the Yankees were always playing in the final week of October.
Not saying the players are juiced again, but certainly some element of the equipment is, since the recently completed playoffs saw a random player smash a home run every 4.2 pitches. I don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to see that MLB’s brass is turning a blind eye to something, so color me not surprised that the league office allowed the Yankees to acquire the game’s preeminent slugger in his prime for a bag of freshly laundered jockstraps and a $50 gift card to Mo’s.
Certainly it’s reminiscent of the last time the Pinstripers picked up a superstar with South Beach ties as the presumed missing piece in a murderer’s row lineup. That one stung for an entire winter, since most of us believed 2003 American League MVP Alex Rodriguez was all but Fenway bound during the ensuing hot stove campaign.
Of course A-Rod chose to be a part of it, New York, New York, instead. One face full of catcher’s mitt and one illegal swipe of a garish batting glove later, New England’s faith in God was restored. It all worked out swimmingly, by a count of three championships to one.
In the middle of that run, the Yankees also acquired Mark Teixiera, who it’s easy to forget was best available slugger in the game at the time. After one peak season and the inevitable championship ring, Tex went into an immediate, stark decline. The Sox, loyal to their Moneyball 2.0 sensibilities, soon parlayed low-profile, high-character pickups such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes into their third duck boat parade in a decade.
Objectively speaking — two words that don’t resonate with most Boston sports diehards — Stanton looks like another headline-grabbing overreach by the Bombers. Yes, when healthy, Stanton was the dominant power hitter in the National League. The problem is, he’s never healthy. Only three times in an eight-year career has he appeared in more than 123 games. If the Yankees’ faithful (you know, the ones who were fans from 1979 to 1993) think Teixiera and Jacoby Ellsbury were brittle after their honeymoon year, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
And I guess that’s the issue. While it’s entirely possible that I care exponentially less than I used to, it’s like flipping through the channels until landing on a movie I’ve seen 40 times. I can recite all the lines by heart. I know all the places where they have to bleep out swear words from Red Sox fans.
The ending is still satisfying enough that I’ll keep watching. Because the good guys win. Maybe not right away, but eventually.
Kalle Oakes was a 28-year veteran of the Sun Journal sports department. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. Keep in touch with him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @oaksie72.