As this ridiculous off-season has continued for the Boston Red Sox has continued, I’ve spent some time wondering what the fans of the Boston Red Sox fans following the 1923 season might have been thinking. At that time in MLB history, they had won 5 (6, if you count the 1904 season when the New York Giants refused to play in the second World Series) World Series. I wonder if they realized that it would be another 23 seasons before the Red Sox made the World Series, or that not one of them would be alive to see the Red Sox win their next World Series. My guess is that they simply assumed that it was a more extended down period than they were generally accustomed to, but that things would get turned around soon enough.
Following their run through the 1903-04 seasons, the Red Sox (nee “Pilgrims”) had a fairly pedestrian 1905 season, finishing in 4th place with a 78-74 record. In 1906, they bottomed out, finishing dead last with a 49-105 record. It would be 3 more years before they finished with a winning record, and another 3 past that before they won the World Series again in 1912. By the conclusion of the 1918 season, the Sox had taken home another 3 World Series titles, and all was well. Even after 5 straight seasons in the second division, including the previous two in last place, my guess is that the fans of Boston assumed that the team would get straightened out in short order. They would have been wrong.
Given the Red Sox relative success over the last 8 seasons, perhaps it’s too early to be concerned about the fate of the franchise going forward. The problem with that is, unlike the fans of 1923-24, the current crop of fans (myself included) have history to look back on. We know how long a team can go without winning.
The moves that the Red Sox have made this off-season have forced me to consider if it might be another long period of time before the Red Sox win another World Series (or are even competitive.) Already the thoughts are creeping in to my head that I may have witnessed the last World Champion team of my lifetime, which if the Mayans got it only has a few days left to go, so I guess it might not be so bad.
Assuming the Mayan Calendar snafu is just a big of a joke as the whole Y2K mess was, then there will be a MLB season in 2013 and for the foreseeable future. As currently constructed, it’s hard to imagine the Sox being even competitive in 2013. Sure, there are some youngsters that show a great deal of promise like Xander Bogaerts, Matt Barnes, and Jackie Bradley down on the farm, but those guys are likely at least a couple of years away from contributing in a significant way, although if the 2013 season progresses in the same way that the 2012 season did, they may all get the call.
Another thing I wonder about fans from that era is how long did it take before they simply accepted that they might not see the Red Sox ever win again? Did they ever come to that realization, or did they always hold out hope for the next season? For myself, it’s only been 5 years, of which only 2 have been abysmal, and I’m already growing concerned. Having history as a guide makes me realize that there is no guarantee of winning every again, a fate which many other franchises’ fans already exist in. I feel for those downtrodden fan bases, but this is sports, so I’m much more concerned with the fate of the Red Sox than all other teams combined. They face an uphill battle in the East just to get to 4th place (which will take a complete implosion from either the Yanks or Orioles) in 2013, and their prospects for 2014 aren’t much better. The Blue Jays appear to be in fine shape for the next few seasons, as do the Tampa Bay Rays. That leaves the Red Sox battling for 3rd place in the division, and a shot at the 2nd wild card (highly unlikely, given the talent dispersement in the AL right now.)
It’s going to be a long road back, but it’s one that I’m hopeful will be completed sooner rather than later. I hope that Ben Cherington realizes that he doesn’t have to throw multi-year, multi-million dollar deals at any mid-level free agent who is willing to play in Boston. I hope he learns to be more selective, and that the franchise puts winning ahead of sellouts. It’s a lot to hope for, but ’tis the season.
Are you a Sox fan? What are your thoughts for the upcoming season? How would you grade their off-season moves (or lack thereof?)