Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sandy, Not Pedro

Maybe I'm the only one on this, but wasn't the ring ceremony a bit much? Dan Duquette and John Harrington got a lot bunk over the years for turning the Red Sox into the Great Team on the Hill. They seemed to actively desire the kind of organization that didn't have to call you back, didn't shake your hand, didn't really care about your opinion; not because they were jerks necessarily, but because you might not be worth their time. Or at least that's what they wanted you to think. And that was obnoxious, sure, but it was at least partly motivated by a sense of dignity. The Red Sox just simply did not do things like that. Their sound system was old, their advertisements were quaintly small, and their hands were kept by their side. They felt, and rightfully so, "we are the Red Sox, we are an institution, we do not go out of our way for anyone." It was an image they tried to manufacture, just as the Henry Boys have created one of best friends and boy scouts. And it has been a change for the good mostly, but sometimes they get a little carried away. Did there need to be war veterans on the field yesterday? What do they have to do with baseball? And was the man in the wheelchair included because they happened to have his number, or because a PR guy thought it would be a good move for the heart strings? For every wonderful moment like the monster-sized 2004 banner, there was a somewhat gosh one like the absurd "teddy ballgame" song. When they embrace Johnny Pesky with all their organizational might it feels as much about the expected reaction as it does genuine gratitude. They're manufacturing sentiment, and doing it at a time that's already ripe with plenty of its own. We don't need to be reminded of how special this whole thing is, we know. We've been here all along. Should there be celebration and fanfare, absolutely. But there is something to be said for letting a moment speak for itself. Harrington and Duquette would've put on a quieter day, a more simple affair without the James Taylors and the Bill Russells and the Bobby Orrs. And maybe, in the end, it would've felt a little lacking. Certainly Derek Lowe wouldn't have been around, as Duquette would've insulted him beyond proportion on his way out the door. That was a Duke specialty. And Dlowe was one of Monday's highlights. But it wouldn't have reeked of effort. It would've had dignity. The Red Sox used to be the beautiful girl sitting in the corner of the lunchroom daring you to come and speak to her. Now they're the smiley blonde running for student council who keeps handing you buttons and asking your name. And that certainly is better way to make money and influence people. Let's face it, the girl in the lunchroom usually ends up pretty lonely. But there was something to that, and at times, I miss it. There were two acts of great class at Fenway Park yesterday. One was sitting quietly at the top step of the visitors dugout, smiling and clapping his hands. He wasn't a winner, and he wasn't much fun, but he wasn't begging to be liked. The other was a noticeably absent General Manager, who decided it best to let his accomplishments speak for themselves. Behavior like Torre's and Theo's won't make headlines and won't sell baseball caps, but it has a place in every organization. Sometimes, with the Red Sox, it should be a bigger one.
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