Vice President Spiro Agnew, before being forced to resign from office after allegations of tax fraud, speaking to the California Republican State Convention in 1970, referred to the media in general as ‘ Nattering, Nabobs of Negativism ‘ and said that they had formed their own 4H Club, the ‘ Hopeless, Hysterical Hypochondriacs of History ‘.
William Safire, perhaps the world’s foremost expert on language and its use, before his death, actually wrote the speech for Agnew to respond to attacks from the media on the Nixon Administration.
This past week, I was reminded of Agnew’s remarks often when listening to the Boston area sports talk shows crucifying the Red Sox, from John Henry, Dave Dombrowski and John Farrell down to Dustin Pedroia, Rick Porcello and everybody else. It seemed the only people in the organization who did not come under some kind of fire, from this group of self proclaimed experts, for the team’s collapse against Houston and their failure to live up to expectations during the season, were the clubhouse staff.
Perhaps I am extra sensitive to the criticism of these modern day ‘ Nattering Nabobs of Negativism ‘ since I was one of the few writers who predicted this year’s team would go to the World Series, But they did win the Eastern Division regular season championship beating out an exceptionally strong Yankee team and then came back from two games down against a powerhouse Houston Astros team and narrowly missed forcing a fifth game in the ALCS.
I, for one, have heard enough about their rants that the Red Sox are not likeable, whatever that means, their lack of power, their out of control base running, the lack of control exercised by John Farrell, both in managing the team and in his love life, the fact that Dombrowski has not won a World Series in years, Pedroia’s not running out the last ground ball of the season, and on and on and on. If that isn’t nauseating enough, when things are quiet, they’ll resurrect the tempest in a teapot that was the confrontation between David Price and Dennis Eckersley.
The only thing about baseball that these talk show stations air more often than criticism of the Red Sox is the advertising tape that describes Lou Merloni’s home run in his first at bat in Fenway which apparently made him an expert ready to expound upon everything from football, basketball, race relations, political correctness or the lack thereof, to the actions of the President of the United States and anything else in between.
I feel sorry for the members of the Boston sports media, who seem to think that their job is to find the negative in every aspect of sport and life and hone in on it. I grew up with Mel Allen and Red Barber and others who could focus on the positive while making their listeners aware of the negative and still be entertaining and successful.
I, for one, as a fan of baseball in general and the Yankees and Red Sox in particular, have thoroughly enjoyed this baseball season. The Sox and Yankees in a race to the finish that went right down to the wire. The big names like Williams and DiMaggio, Yaz and the Mick, Parnell and Ford and the like were replaced by youngsters named Betts and Judge, Bogaerts and Gregorius and Sale and C. C., but it was still like old times.
Unlike many of the old years when ‘Wait until next year’ was the Red Sox motto, the Sox did not fold down the stretch but held on to win the Division. Apparently, these experts are not aware that the Red Sox have won 93 games in each of the last two years and that that total of 186 wins in the last two years has only been exceeded in the American League by the Cleveland Indians. I wonder how many games they would have to win to be deemed ‘likeable’ by these experts of negativity.
Naturally, Red Sox Nation wanted their team to go all the way and win the series and many, like myself, had envisioned a classic World Series played in Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. That didn’t happen but, from April until October, this team kept us on the edge of our seats and involved.
From August 1st until October 1st, the Sox were on top of the Eastern Division. Red Sox fans watched a young team that, no matter what the ‘experts’ say, was fun and exciting to see. They didn’t go all the way to the World Series Championship but, along the way, they gave us a lot to be thankful for.
I am thankful for the opportunity to have seen a baby faced, 20 year old, named Rafael Devers explode on the Fenway scene and, along with a veteran named Eduardo Nunez, who tried to play when he could hardly stand, and lined a ball into the left field corner on one leg before having to be almost carried off the field, provide the spark that kept them in the race.
I am thankful for having witnessed Chris Sale’s amazing streak of outstanding performances and record setting strikeouts despite his late season problems.
I am thankful for having marveled at Mookie Betts, the RBI machine, base running wizard, Gold Glove outfielder, who works harder at playing the game than anybody in baseball and has a great time doing it.
I appreciate the dedication and ability of the veteran second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, who in addition to his uncanny ability to get to any ball hit between first and second base and make the play, has played hurt as well and as often as any player in the game today.
Who could not appreciate the contributions of rookie Andrew Benintendi, whose bat contributed so much to this year’s success and who, along with Jackie Bradley and Betts, give the Sox the best defensive outfield in baseball? And, who could not appreciate how quickly Benintendi became as good as anybody who ever played there at playing the left field wall or the way Bradley makes the impossible catch look easy and the routine catch an art form.
I appreciate the contributions of the Big Smooth, Drew Pomeranz, who had a Cy Young year of his own, the record breaking year of baseball’s best closer, Craig Kimbrel, the incredible record of one of, if not the best, bull pens in baseball and the contributions of Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon, Brock Holt and all the rest, even Hanley Ramirez who, despite a disappointing year, gave them such a big lift in the ALCS.
I am thankful for the opportunity to watch Maine’s own Brian Butterfield who is not only one of the most knowledgeable baseball men in the game but also has the ability to transfer that knowledge to his players.
Despite all the negative press about David Price’s lack of production, his problems with Eck and the general discontent with him and his big salary in Boston, and the criticism I will get for saying so, I am thankful that he had the opportunity at the end of the season to show what a class act he really is and I can’t wait to see him in 2018 at his best.
At the same time that I am thankful that John Farrell will not be back as Manager next year, I wonder if things might have been different if this nice man had ever realized that he was in charge.
Having grown up in Connecticut, a Yankee fan since I saw my first game in Yankee Stadium at age seven, in 1945, I am also thankful for the season that the Bronx Bombers put together this year.
As we get ready for another great World Series and then a long winter with no baseball, what could be better for a New Englander than knowing that the coming season will see the two teams with the greatest rivalry in all sports facing each other with two of the best rosters in baseball. The only thing that could make it better for you would be if you were, like me, a Yankee fan, writing about the Red Sox on a daily basis. That’s as close to heaven as a baseball fan can get.