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So, how to sum up the 2012 Red Sox season? First, I defer briefly to Woody Allen:
“Summing up…I wish I had some sort of positive message to leave you with. I don’t. Would you take 2 negative messages?”
OK, I will try to be a tad brighter in my outlook than that, but it is safe to say that a fan base hasn’t been this let down by the thing they love since George Lucas released the Star Wars prequels. And as a new character, the just-fired, one-year-and-out manager Bobby Valentine proved to be about as popular as Jar Jar Binks. But it wasn’t all Bobby V’s fault that the Red Sox had their worst season since 1965. There were an absurd amount of injuries…a record 56 roster players used as a result…and a squad of B-level players and rookies playing out the string after the big salary shed that sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to the LA Dodgers.
But those factors don’t excuse the 9 run lead they coughed up to the Yankees in a loss in April, or the roll-over-and-play-dead 0-8 home stretch when they could have played spoiler for any number of teams playoff aspirations...the Yankees chief among them. If the Red Sox historic collapse last September was a scary horror film, this year’s long, slow slog to the AL East basement was a joyless installment of a once-frightening horror series cynically grasping to put a few extra butts in the seats…think Friday the 13th Part 9 in 3-D.
This brings us to the future, and its link to the past. The media in Boston were merciless in calling the celebration of past stars at Fenway’s final home game a distraction for the failures of 2012, but I disagree. I will never tire, for example, of recalling the glory of the 2004 season. You could put it on a loop and make me watch it Clockwork Orange style and I’d still love it. So when the Red Sox contemplate next year’s roster, the last link to that 2004 team…and the one who had the biggest hand in breaking the 86-year world title doubt - David Ortiz - must be back in the fold. If those celebrations of past Red Sox greats are really not a distraction, but a reminder that we do have an emotional connection to the players who provide us with life-long memories, then Big Papi needs to finish his career in a Red Sox uniform. It would show the fans that the loyalty they have shown in recent years isn’t taken for granted, and that the best of the past can sometimes be our greatest springboard to a brighter future.
- Mitch Wertlieb