Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Anticlimax

The Boston Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies in 4 games, their second series sweep in past the 4 years. Now the question is what will happen in Boston now that their underdog status is dead and gone. What will replace it? How will the historic behaviors and attitudes of New England sports fans change now that the central narrative of their favorite baseball team has been rendered obsolete?
I think the glory days of Boston fandom (somewhere between 2003 and the present) are over and done. As the Red Sox become the new Yankees, their nationwide fanbase, built upon the David .vs. Goliath myth, will begin to fade. The fire of the core New England fanbase, on the other hand, may subside somewhat, but will not be going away anytime soon. But the Red Sox' national (and international) following may be in jeopardy. As the central narrative of the team changes, the myth/legend that drew so many nationwide fans in the first place will disappear. This may not be the end of the world, but it may be bad news for the team's revenues, which may be cresting after several years of obscene success.
I'm not on the ground in New England to measure the energy of the Red Sox nation firsthand. But I wonder if the truly magical allure of the Red Sox -- which has existed in some form for 50 years, give or take -- has reached its peak. While there is every reason to believe that the Red Sox will be a juggernaut franchise for years to come, I think it's worth noting that in the future, our image of the Red Sox will always be different. And it didn't start when they reversed the curse in 2004 -- it started when they slowly and methodically demolished a lesser team in October. That, my friends, is what the Yankees do, and if the Sox continue to perform like this in October (and there's every reason to believe that they will), they will indeed be the New Yankees.

In other news:

  • Grady Little gets thrown over for an upgrade despite not doing such a terrible job in L.A. I'm by no means a Grady Little fan, but he did get pretty shabby treatment. Granted, this is nothing new in baseball (or in life), to see someone get kicked to the curb just because someone better comes along. But it's usually handled in a more professional fashion. And the worst part, I think, is that Little was spurned for one guy (Joe Girardi), who didn't work out, and so then the Dodgers had to go looking for somebody else, because Little was, as it seems, thoroughly expendable, even if the Dodgers didn't have the cojones to actually fire him. It was Little who took the initiative by resigning, although he took great pains not to bad-mouth the Dodgers on his way out. I doubt I would have been so classy.
  • And so, after unofficially getting the job a week ago, the Dodgers can finally admit the fait accompli that Joe Torre really is their new manager.
    What does this mean for the Dodgers? It means they'll have someone who will be able to handle the veterans and charm the media better than most recent Dodger managers. But it isn't such good news for the central problem facing this team: the tension between veterans and rookies. From any baseball point of view, the good move would be to kick Nomar, Jeff Kent, etc. to the curb and go with the youngsters, who are just as good (and mostly better), infinitely cheaper, and much less grumpy. With Torre now joining Ned Colletti in the MLB Over-30's Fan Club, the young Dodgers should be afraid, very afraid.
  • In New York, Joe Girardi took the job that was probably his about two years ago. With Girardi, the questions aren't so pressing; most of the work that needs to be done to improve the Yankees will be coming from the front office and -- if Brian Cashman is calling the shots -- that's good news. If the Steinbrothers (so named by Rob Neyer) take over and confusion reigns, the Yankee's 2008 team will suffer. As for Girardi, he already has experience bringing along young players, and that will be priority 1 in NYC. A lot of Girardi's pitchers broke down the year after he left, but we'll just have to be hopeful that that was a fluke more than anything.
  • Mike Cameron tested positive for a controlled substance and was suspended 25 games for violating MLB's substance-abuse policy on stimulants. Cameron, while taking responsibility for his actions, blamed an over-the-counter supplement. It's entirely possible that he's just saying this to exonerate himself, but it should be said that a mistake like this is entirely possible, given the nature of the MLB's testing policy and the borderline legality of a lot of over-the-counter nutritional supplements, etc.
  • A-Rod opted out. I'll be devoting a whole column to that later.
More to come, with updates on options picked up and declined, as well as a revised look at the 2007-08 free agents.

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