Who was it who said that Bill Mueller was “too boring for words”? Well, there seems to be at least one Globe columnist who disagrees (as I do) with that particular analysis. A nice Bob Ryan piece about Billy Ballgame from a few days back, which features this perfect Millar quote:
”He’s everything you want as a teammate,” said Kevin Millar. ”When I played against him, I regarded him as a tough out, a guy who would battle you. And that’s what he is. You need guys like him to win. Everybody talks stats, stats, stats, and they lose perspective. You don’t need big stats everywhere to have a winning team. You need guys like Bill Mueller.”
Ryan had another good column a few weeks back, comparing this year’s Red Sox to the 2004 Championship team, in which he articulates something I think we’ve all been feeling:
The problem is that there’s a whole lot of ifs and buts and ands and maybes and mights and perhapses and qualifiers and disclaimers involved. It is simply not a rosy scenario. The Red Sox should be able to bludgeon their way through the remainder of the regular season, but when October comes, and a different brand of baseball is required, the odds are clearly against them duplicating last year’s success.
That’s before we even get into a closer examination of what really went on last year. Never, ever forget the feeling of being down, 0-3, to the Yankees, with a 19-8 Game 3 pounding being the steel boot on the throat. What took place from that point on was unprecedented in the history of sport. To go from that state of hopelessness, despair, frustration, and anger to swigging the champagne in St. Louis a mere 11 days later required more than just winning baseball execution. Why, for example, did Tony Clark’s ground-rule double in the ninth inning of Game 5 not stay in the park, thereby bringing home the go-ahead run? Why were the St. Louis batters so incomprehensibly impotent? What was Jeff Suppan thinking? What got into Derek Lowe, he of the 4.93 ERA over 65 starts in two full seasons? Clearly, there was something at least a little cosmic going on.
As far as I’m concerned, the 2005 Red Sox have been playing with, and will continue to play with, house money. There is no reason to complain, and I don’t want to hear about the payroll. The Red Sox have been dealt a whole new hand. Enjoy the bashing until the season ends and then sit back and relax. You have one in the hand, and this team isn’t supposed to win. That’s pretty cushy fan duty, if you ask me.
And, speaking of last year, there was a great piece in the Sunday Globe recently contemplating the eternal question of whether winning the World Series was a good thing after all.
…I increasingly believe it to be true: We lost something when the Sox won the World Series.
By what possible logic can that be true? Start with this: Any team (except maybe the Chicago Cubs) can win a World Series. The Arizona Diamondbacks, after all, won one in their fourth year of existence, and the Florida Marlins won one in their fifth year, and two in their first 12. (The Yankees, for their part, have collected World Series championships like cheap trinkets, pocketing 26 of them over the last 82 years.)
Not winning a World Series, on the other hand–and not just not winning, but flamboyantly, spectacularly, transcendently not winning–is a more impressive accomplishment. Before last year, no other team had not won like the Red Sox had not won. Even the benighted Cubs, who have not won for longer than the Red Sox have not won, haven’t not won with such dramatic flair as the Sox, who seemed to find ever-more outlandish ways to not win despite having victory in hand. (The Cubs’ equally but less famously benighted neighbors the White Sox, for their part, have been so quiet in their failure to win over the last 88 years that no one even notices them not winning.)
As masters of the perennial near-miss, members of Red Sox Nation may have been eternal losers–but in our predestination for failure, we had something special, a Calvinist sense that we were, in our humility and accursedness, somehow distinct from all those arrogant New Yorkers, or lazy Los Angelenos, or mild Minnesotans. Now that we’ve won, we’ve taken a step toward becoming more like everyone else, more like the Sunbelt of Arizona and Florida, where World Series championships must seem to fall from trees like overripe grapefruit.
Now, I know I’ve spoken on the matter before, objecting to the idea that the victory would take something away from the town (I can no longer say “this town,” can I, now that I’m out here?), but I found this column to be pretty much spot-on in its analysis of Red Sox psychology and the feeling of adriftness reverberating throughout New England this year. It’s worth a careful read.
In fairness to Dan Shaughnessy — for whom Steven King expresses much respect in Faithful, leading me to believe that it’s at least somewhat deserved — he’s not always pissing me off with his columns. Just before I left Boston, he wrote something that didn’t totally rub me the wrong way — though I have to admit that it’s usually his bullet-point segments that are more palatable to me. Except, of course, when he’s trash-talking Bill Mueller. (I think I may just have been heartwarmed by the shout-outs to Mark Bellhorn — too little, too late, I suppose.) In any event, it’s nice to know that, even though Jackie MacMullan hasn’t written anything since her adoring piece on Tony Graffanino, there are at least some Globe sports columnists who consistently make me smile warmly and nod my head in agreement. Or at least make me think.