It was a cold, hard weekend in Boston, and it proves to be a long winter for Red Sox Nation. The Fenway faithful is still reeling over the Home Nine's dramatic Game 7 loss to the Yankees last week. I waited until Saturday to call my friend John. After all, what can you say to a mourning Sox fan when you root for the Yankees without sounding like a patrionizing jerk?
He was not a happy camper and I asked him where this loss ranks in Sox history (John is in his mid-'30s, old enough to remember '78 and certainly old enough to recall '86).
"This is the worst one ever."
Worse that '86? How could that be? The Sox were one out--one strike--away from a championship that year.
"Yeah, but they still had another game to play. There was still a chance. This was worse. This was Game 7, and this was the Yankees."
Ben Jacobs was too young to remember '86, so the 2003 team popped his cherry so to speak:
Today, I am finally, truly a member of that great and sorrowful entity called Red Sox Nation. Sure, even before today I had rooted with all my heart for the Boston Red Sox. I had hung on every pitch, lived and died a little with every win and loss. But never, before last night, had the Red Sox made me cry.
...[Yet] despite the fact that the story remained much the same, this was a great season to be a Red Sox fan. This season was a wildly exciting rollercoaster ride from the first game to the last. So what if last night it felt like the ride operator pulled the stop lever before we had reached the thrilling finale to the ride, leaving us momentarily disoriented as we stumbled off the ride and tried to refrain from being ill. When you choose to get on the big, exciting rides, you sometimes get sick. If you know what's good for you, though, you always come back.
Rumor has it baseball is still being played somewhere in the USA but I can't really be bothered to verify this.
I should go on record again confessing that I'm a totally myopic baseball fan. Heck, I don't even think I can call myself a baseball fan at all, at least not in the sense of guys like Dave Pinto and Will Carroll and all the others who love the game for the sake of the game and will watch any two teams on the diamond just for the pure joy of it all.
Me? I'm a Red Sox fan and that's all I really care about. When the Red Sox season ends, baseball ends and it's then time to fire up the hot stove and wait until Spring Training.
Does anyone really believe that Martinez talked Little into leaving him in the game? Or is it more likely that Little knew, even as he was going to the hill, that he would leave Martinez in the game, that pitching coach Dave Wallace and bench coach Jerry Narron and catcher Jason Varitek had not given him any reason to do otherwise? Varitek, when asked if he expected Martinez to come out for the eighth, said, "No question."
Call me a Little apologist. That's still kinder than the incredible array of names being hurled at a man who managed for 16 years in the minor leagues and two seasons in the toughest big-league environment there is, and apparently still knows less about the game than everyone managing from the comfort of their living rooms or their seats in the press box.
In this rush to judgment to banish Little, shouldn't someone make the case that Little just might have had something to do with the fact that the Sox even made it to Game 7 of the ALCS, that the Sox and Yankees played 26 times and it took extra innings in the 26th game to determine which team was better, and that winning manager Joe Torre, who has four Series rings, ranked outlasting Little's Sox the greatest achievement of his career, even more than winning it all?
Apparently, all those comeback wins the Sox had this season, all the times they picked themselves up when things looked their darkest, all those times this club didn't lose faith in itself -- even when it was down, two games to none, to Oakland -- Little had nothing to do with that. But lose Game 7, and that all falls on Little's head. He's Gump, he's The Idiot, he's the guy who choked when the spotlight was most intense.
A reflective Larry Lucchino said yesterday that the Red Sox will have no word about the future of manager Grady Little until after the World Series is over.
"We don't have any decision to announce," said the Sox CEO from his home in Boston. "We're going to take some time this week to review the season. Tom [Werner], John [Henry], Theo [Epstein], and I will talk. That's all that's appropriate to say now.
Part of the reason for the delay is the request of commissioner Bud Selig that teams refrain from making major announcements during the World Series. "Having just had issues with Major League Baseball last week [the Sunday night `Three Amigos' press conference at Fenway], we want to be mindful of baseball regulations," said Lucchino.
..."After that loss I vowed not to watch the World Series or eat solid food until the World Series was over," he said. "I have broken both vows. But I can report that every restaurant in Boston was jammed Saturday night. Everyone in town went out. I've started to take food orally again. I'm on the road to recovery.
"Before Game 7, I braced myself for triumph or disaster. But it's become a little more painful as I get a better sense of how unbelievably close we came. I've lived with other disappointments in my life and I'll live with this, too. With a little heartache. The weather outside now feels like the depths of fall, a metaphor for the baseball season -- cold and over for us."
In the long, dark days since the loss, he has heard the voices of an angry Nation.
"Everyone is at their computer e-mailing me and John. It's inspiring that people feel so strongly about Red Sox issues, and yes, many have offered their opinion on managerial matters and I know the talk shows are having a field day."
The Red Sox have a host of decisions to make this winter. After next season is over, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe will all be free agents. Boston faces some painfully difficult choices, but fortunately they have a bright, and fearless young GM in Theo Epstein. Their ownership is progressive and has plenty of money. It could be worse.
It may be a harsh winter for Red Sox Nation, but come spring, their hope will spring eternal yet again.