Let Me Tell You Why I Hate the Red Sox
Gentle Readers, (in my best Stephen King):
I despise the Boston Red Sox. It's a little odd, too, because there are a ton of reasons that I should like them. I love teams that draft and develop their own players, and the Red Sox have done a better job of bringing along their own talent than any other team in baseball. Even their outside acquisitions, guys like Josh Beckett, have been brought in largely due to Boston's ability to deal from a position of strength, i.e. they can afford to give up a fair amount of talent without hamstringing themselves due to the depth they've cultivated.
I'm a huge fan of Bill James, the baseball stat guru who still advises Theo Epstein, the Red Sox general manager. James is not only one of the smartest people in the game, but he's also one of the funniest and most down to earth, a far cry from so many of the joyless number crunchers who have taken his ideas and run with them.
So, why do I hate the Boston Red Sox? Well, I'm glad you asked.
I hate the Red Sox because their payroll this year is a little over $133 million. That's the third-highest payroll in baseball, right behind the two New York teams. (And by the way, while I'm talking about the New York baseball teams, how bad does Omar Minaya look right now, with that train wreck that he's assembled?)
One-hundred-thirty-three-million dollars. That's quite a large number. Let that sink in for a moment.
Now, you're probably thinking that I'm one of those people who's going to go off on an angry, barely intelligible rant about how ridiculous it is that baseball salaries are this far out of control, and it's bullshit that the big market teams just spend their way to the top, and yadda, yadda, yadda. But no, that's not me. I'm not that guy. I'm a total left-wing nutcase, for the most part, but I'm also a pretty firm believer in the free market. A team makes a ton of money? Fuck it, let 'em spend a ton. I don't really mind. Smart teams still find a way to contend on a pretty regular basis. Look at Oakland. Their payroll barely registers on the radar of the big spenders, yet nearly every year the A's are right there in the thick of it.
This is what I mind. We are supposed to believe that the Red Sox, with their $133 million payroll, are somehow the anti-Yankees. It's set up that way all the time. The Yankees are the Evil Empire, just buying whatever player they want, while the Red Sox are this total underdog, David to the Steinbrenner Goliath. The Yankees are just these big, playground bullies, and ''The Sawx'' are the heroes of the story, the scrappy little guy who ends up showing the bully what-for after the bully hits on his girlfriend one too many times.
Well, that's just not true.
Look, I realize that the Red Sox happen to play in the one division in baseball that contains the only team that hugely outspends them. But just because you spend less than the Yankees does not make you a scrappy underdog team. We saw this same thing in 2004.
''Oh, the Red Sox, they call themselves idiots! They're just a bunch of regular guys! Look at Johnny Damon! He's got a beard, for god's sake! Just some regular joes, playing for the love of the game, not taking anything too seriously. What an admirable bunch of guys. It's like beer league softball with this team.''
Never mind that in 2004, the Red Sox actually boasted the second-highest payroll in the game, just behind the Evil Empire itself. Never mind that Manny Ramirez, that lovable scamp, was lured to Boston by a $100 million contract.
Look, I'm sorry, but you getting outspent by one team does not make you the Bad News Bears. That 2004 club wasn't a team of outcasts and misfits that were somehow turned around by a coach who believed they could make it, only to turn mean and slick his hair back, then wear it mussy again when he returned to Fenway Park. They didn't come together to save a civic center through either sport or break dancing. (Though, to be fair, if they were break dancers instead of baseball players, I would love them soooo much.) They didn't have a girl suddenly come along and prove to them through the power of her pitching that you shouldn't judge people based on what's on the outside.
No, the Red Sox were a really, really good baseball team. And all of the feel-good stories that came out of them finally beating the Yankees in the ALCS that year doesn't change the fact that they still had a bigger payroll than every other team in baseball that doesn't play in the Bronx. Yet still we are to believe that they did it all on a wing and a prayer, and maybe some words of wisdom from a grizzled old coach who drinks from a hip flask and, once upon a time, may have had a shot.
Every time I turn on ESPN, (which I should know better than to do) I hear about ''The Sawx,'' endlessly. I suppose it's understandable, given that the Four Letter HQ is located in Conneticut, nearly in the shadow of Fenway. Still, though, I prefer my messy fellatio on television to be limited to the pay-per-view channels. Nothing worse than a sloppy hummer while I'm trying to eat a bowl of clam chowder. (New England does have wicked good chowder, though. Also, why do they get to use wicked for damn near anything, but I get made fun of every time I try to say it?) Understandable or not, though, it's tiresome, to say the least.
The strange thing, at least to some people, is that I don't feel the same way about the Yankees. They spend more than everybody, people say to me, shouldn't I despise them? I don't despise them. Why? Because they admit what they are. George Steinbrenner has always been a millionaire lunatic. He's always been willing to just say, "Fuck it. I want that player; give him whatever he wants." The Yankees make no bones about who they are, and I can respect that. The Sox, on the other hand, spend like it's going out of style and then try to convince us all that they're the little guys going up against the Big Bad Wolf.
Note: I do wish to interject here and say that I always thought George Steinbrenner was amusing and funny. His son, though, at least so far, is just pissing me off. If the Hank Steinbrenner Era continues on the way it has begun I'll probably end up hating the Yankees too. The guy just screams out douchebag, even before he opens his mouth.
And you know why else I hate the Red Sox? Because I'm jealous. I'm jealous of the fact that they seem to be the smartest organization in the game right now. I hate them because I would love to have their stable of young pitching available for the Cardinals to dip into. I hate them because they don't have any albatross contracts on the books. I hate them because they don't trade for pitchers who showed every indication of being hurt before the team traded away their top prospect and a future Cy Young candidate to get him. And yes, I hate them because they beat us in 2004, and I'll never forgive them for that. I haven't forgiven the Braves for '96 yet; ''The Sawx'' have a long wait ahead of them if they think they're getting back on my good side.
The Red Sox are probably the best organization in baseball right now. They just seem to get it. They may have the best team in the game again this year, and they still have one of the strongest farm systems going. In short, the Red Sox are everything I hope the Cardinals can become.
And yes, I hate them for it. For all of it.