Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Baseball Growing Up

As a life-long Red Sox fan I've had friends ask me my opinions on the recent departure of Pedro Martinez, the arrival of David Wells or Wade Miller, etc. While I don't consider myself knowledgeable enough to want to spend a lot of time commenting on such things here (my friend Cap'n Ho does that very well indeed already!), the loss of the "franchise player" in the current state of Major League Baseball does raise an interesting question for me.

I grew up with the Sox starting in the early 70's, watching Pudge Fisk, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Rick Burleson and Dwight Evans (did I ever tell you how much I like Dwight Evans???) join Captain Carl Yastrzemski (which I can still spell from memory at least!) to form a great core team that was together for the better part of 5 seasons. This made coming back to the Sox each spring very easy for a young teenager as it was coming back to family.

It's obviously very different these days. My son C is now starting to enjoy baseball, happily even before October of this past season. But he was devastated when Nomar was traded mid-season this year. He was upset when Pedro left this winter and stressed about Jason Varitek - his self-proclaimed favorite player since he was four - until Tek finally did re-sign with Boston last week.

How much does free agency and escalating salaries hurt the fan base of the game? It's no secret that few people outside of us die-hard baseball fans still consider baseball to be "America's past time". Why? Because kids - young kids - can't hook onto a team and follow the players on that team together for multiple seasons, as earlier generations could. A "favorite player" may move at any time. While a necessary aspect of the business - I certainly don't foresee it changing nor do I even make a case here that it should at this point - it hurts building a young fan base.

Oh, and as for Pedro? I absolutely agree with Cap'n Ho... I don't regret his leaving, though it's a shame. But I really, really wanted to wish him well and have him leave with dignity. His comments as he was introduced as a Met though were simply so over the top and - intentionally or not - nasty, that I can't do that. I loved Pedro for several years, liked him the past two years, respected him always (no, Pedro, not your kind of respect)... but now I find I'm hoping to high heaven that he fails miserably in his new endeavor. Again, I'd love nothing better than to wish him well and watch him from afar... but I can't feel that way about him any more.

At least when Nomar left, though he certainly had many hard feelings about the Sox and vented some of them, he remained overall professional and I do in fact wish him well. Indeed, C has already expressed interest in a possible family visit to Wrigley Field next year to watch Nomar and the Cubbies!

No comments: