Free at last, free at last.
The Red Sox played their 81st and final home game Wednesday night. In their last shameless attempt to direct your eyes away from the playing field, the Sox promoted this finale as a celebration of the “All-Fenway Team.’’
The ballpark was an embarrassing two-thirds empty for the start of this latest festival; maybe that’s because the contrived party came on the heels of Saturday’s salutation of Red Sox prospects, Sunday’s latest tribute to the beloved Johnny Pesky, and Tuesday’s preposterously timed eighth anniversary of the 2004 champs.
Talk about a franchise that has lost its way . . .
We are lucky there are no more home games. An extension of this interminable Fenway season no doubt would have forced the Sox to come up with “Thanks Carl Everett Night” or maybe they would have brought back Joe Kerrigan along with Jerry Lewis for a “Nutty Professor” reunion on the Fenway lawn. A few more days, and we could have taken home Joe Hesketh commemorative refrigerator magnets.
I’m waiting for the Fenway party feting the 2007 Red Sox champs on their eighth anniversary in 2015 (hope Julio Lugo and Bobby Kielty can make it).
Wednesday was the final night of Fenway’s “Fan Appreciation Month.’’ We got to see the great Carl Yastrzemski with the All-Fenway Team. Management also had current players at the gates, in uniform, greeting fans late in the afternoon (handing out 2013 schedules, of course).
But the ballpark was late to fill. Folks here are too smart for this succession of increasingly hollow celebrations.
Bringing back the great old ballplayers was a nice gesture, but somewhat of a waste. Today’s fans would have felt more appreciated if Sox bosses brought back Josh Beckett for a customer-participation dunk-tank promotion.
What a season!
“There’s not much I would have done differently,’’ a wistful Bobby Valentine said before the home finale. “I think I would have kept the beer in the clubhouse. I could have used it after a few of those games.”
In the end, this was the Red Sox team that couldn’t do anything right. They were the Despicable Mes, the team you loved to hate. And now you won’t have them to kick around anymore. They are off to Baltimore and New York to finish the season.
There is still something to root for: The 2012 Sox can crack the coveted 90-loss column.
If the Sox sink to the magic 90, we officially can call them the worst Boston baseball team in 46 years. That’s a whole generation of bad.
It’s important that they lose 90. If they lose a mere 89, they go down only as the worst Red Sox team in 20 years (the 1992 Daddy Butch Hobson All-Stars finished 73-89). Big whoop.
We need this to be the worst team since 1966 (72-90), when Billy Herman ran them into the ground.
Because they need to hit rock bottom in order to get better. There can be no notion that they are on the right track. And if we can all agree this is the worst team of the post-Vietnam War Era, it will help them confront their real issues of talent, entitlement, denial and, chain-of-command.
Speaking of denial, maybe the Sox finally can admit that the sellout streak is over next April 10. Wednesday night’s set the number at a nifty 793. The home opener next year (April 8) will make it 794. Then comes Game 2 of 2013. A weekday in April. That’s the one. The Sox have beaten the Portland Trail Blazers and every other record. Time to let it go.
More unsolicited suggestions:
It would be a good idea to fire Valentine within 24 hours of the end of the season in New York Wednesday.
I’ve got to admit I’m going to miss the guy. The soon-to-be-ex-manager delivered a tour de force in his pregame press conference Wednesday.
“I have the gas masks. I could handle the chemical weapons,” Valentine said. “The bullets penetrated a bit, but they didn’t kill me . . . I’m not getting fired today . . . If this is my last day [at Fenway], I’d like to thank you all, or at least most of you, for your professionalism this year and your willingness to put up with all the stuff that goes on on a day-to-day basis and wish you all great health to you and your families . . . Obviously this wasn’t what I set out to do. I haven’t done a good enough job.”
Wow. Maybe the Sox need to bring him back. Bill Belichick is never going to deliver a sound bite like that one.
But seriously, the Sox should cut the deal with Toronto and hire John Farrell as soon as they fire Valentine late next week. No messing around this time. Ben Cherington needs to look decisive on this one.
Another fine offseason idea would be rolling back ticket prices. It’s the right thing to do. Everybody knows the Red Sox relieved themselves of $261 million in future payroll when they made the Dodger deal. Time to share the gold.
And could we please stop with the Bill James Redemption Tour? In the last month, the Sox have spread the word that the reason they stopped winning championships after 2007 was that they stopped taking advice from the non-verbal contrarian locked away in the basement in Lawrence, Kan. Apparently, it was James who designed the good Boston teams. This bad team was built because the Red Sox stopped following Bill’s ideas.
Oh, and here’s one last suggestion for the innocents who designed the ballot for the All-Fenway Team: Next time (2112 perhaps?), have fans vote for “outfield’’ not “ left field, right field, center field.’’ This way, you would not have the embarrassment of Yastrzemski as a “first reserve,’’ while Dwight Evans and Fred Lynn make the starting lineup.
Really. Did anybody think of that? Yaz — the greatest living Red Sox — was there Wednesday night and he wasn’t even in the “starting lineup.”
And Trot Nixon was a first reserve, ahead of Jim Rice, who was a second reserve. Please.
More blunders in a season of mistakes.
The Sox did everything right for Fenway’s 100th birthday in April. It has been all downhill ever since. The ancient ballpark has been the home of a lot of great players and moments. Unfortunately, Wednesday night was not one of those moments.
The 2012 Sox would have been better off letting this sorry season bleed out quietly. Sometimes it’s OK to simply admit that there is nothing to celebrate.Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.