I was going to write this in May. Then I was going to write it at the end of July. Something got started about a month ago, but I never finished it. In fact, I don't think I got through two whole paragraphs. The words didn't come. I did post a little missive on tumblr, but it was a small piece, and focused only on two players.
The last time I wrote a season-ending missive was after the 2003 ALCS. I wrote it as a letter to the Boston Globe but never sent it. It was an angry and defensive rant about the team, raging against the naysayers and curse-mongerers. I bet I wasn't the only fan who penned such a letter. I'm glad I saved it, as the catharsis of 2004 felt all the sweeter for that saved file lurking date-stamped but never printed in my Documents folder. The tone was belligerent and assured, that the Red Sox would one day win the World Series and that anyone who doubted that could go fuck themselves. I emailed it to my folks and my mom suggested that it could use some editing. My dad loved it.
So sitting at the end of the 2010 regular season and pondering what has just passed is quite meditative in comparison. I'm not crying into a beer and swearing at Dan Shaughnessy (well, possibly the latter). Instead I'm shaking my head, sipping a beer and remembering some of my season highlights. Watching Tim Wakefield out-pitch Roy Halladay in Philadelphia certainly stands out, though it's gutting Wake didn't have the form he did last year. I have a witness who can confirm that I called Daniel Nava's first-swing grand slam (as did, apparently, Victor Martinez). Darnell McDonald's first appearance as a Red Sox resonates, beating the Rangers almost single-handedly and giving the first glimpse of a team turning the corner from a dreadful start to the season. I was at Opening Day when Dustin Pedroia led the comeback against CC and the Yankees with a dinger over the monster. The Dodgers game where he smacked a 100mph fastball into right for the walk-off winner played live through my flatmate's laptop onto the TV in the living room. We all knew he could do it. I was also at AT&T Park and saw Pedey foul off his foot, take the walk, hobble to first base and then back to the dugout, without any idea of the significance of it all. There was the series against the Tigers in May, where David Ortiz homered twice in one game against pitches that didn't seem hittable by anybody (I'm sure he drove one of them with his knuckles, it was that far inside). That was a late night. I remember my jaw hitting the floor the first time I witnessed a Beltre one-knee homer and the feverish excitement when we swept the Rays at Tropicana, a feat formerly commonplace and now so rare.
There was a lot to love. I liked watching Mike Cameron in the dugout, even though he was hurt, because he seemed like a cool guy to be on the team. Lester and Buchholz were a blast to watch, as were at least three of Dice-K's starts. Maybe four. The first three innings against the Yankees in May, where Beckett looked staggering just before he went crazy, crossed up 'Tek and then proceeded to hit the entire Yankees lineup with errant pitches. Victor Martinez's growth as a catcher and determined comeback from the DL (no rehab games) showed just how admirable a player he is. And Dustin Pedroia was the funniest second baseman on crutches I've ever seen.
That said, it wasn't all fun n' games. Watching most games on my laptop, enduring the five hour time difference, it could be incredibly frustrating. I stayed up until 3 in the morning watching Lester give up 9 runs and the Blue Jays trample us while the Jimmy Fund Telethon rolled on in the background. Day games were little consolation as the Sox seemed incapable of winning them. As for night games, to struggle through watching all the way to the bitter end only to watch the fragile bullpen blow a win was no fun. Sometimes I didn't stay up, but woke up early to check the scores and read about it all. Pete Abraham and Chad Finn provided some cracking reporting and commentary along the way. Sleep deprivation has become an accepted side-effect of the summer. If you catch me somewhere in Scotland on a June morning, I'll probably be yawning uncontrollably. But that's what being an ex-pat fan is all about. I probably caught more games this season than any since I left Boston, 21 years ago.
I don't regret it. As I mentioned above, there were some brilliant baseball moments, as fun and exciting as any full-on championship run. It was a fun team, and they played hard. All that lacks is the catharsis that comes from making the postseason. Rabid, longtime Red Sox fans have had a serious change to deal with of late: we've gone from perennial disappointment to the perennial expectation of success, even if it is the unromantic 95-wins-will-get-us-there philosophy. Gone is my outrage from 2003, and I'm pretty sure that in 2006 I was still so buzzed from 2004 that it didn't make a dent (I also didn't have MLB.tv). The rash of injuries, the under-performing bullpen (plus Lackey & Beckett) and all the impending free-agencies don't leave a bad taste in my mouth, they just leave me tired and a little curious. It was a long season for the devoted fan, and without the rush of the playoffs there's little point in spitting nails and grumbling. And any season that starts and finishes with beating the Yankees can't be all bad, can it?
We'll see what happens. A new bullpen and staying healthy would help.
When does Spring Training start?
Update: 132 days until Pitchers and Catchers report.