Over the years, I came to enjoy the performances of a number of other athletes who wore the Red Sox uniform. Beginning in 1999, I was captivated by soon to be Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. It may sound cliché, but watching him pitch was like poetry in motion. The guy could throw virtually any of his four pitches on any given count with nearly pinpoint accuracy. I would have to say it was that fearlessness - which extended far beyond throwing any pitch at any time - that made Pedro one of my favorite Red Sox players of all time.
The year the Red Sox won their first championship in 86 years - and Pedro's last year in Boston - I was so happy. I remember feeling a sense of contentment. I had lived to see what probably a couple of generations - or at least one anyway - of Red Sox fans did not get to witness. It took a minute to really set in. "The World Series Champion Boston Red Sox" was a phrase that was not associated with the team, oh no. They were the team that for years would come close only to leave the hopes and dreams of the fan base dashed on the rocks. But when they won in 2004 I couldn't help but enjoy it. After all, for all I knew this was the only title I would see the Sox win in my life time. They did it again though in 2007 and suddenly the expectation was that they would be in contention for years to come.
How could it get any worse than that right? Enter the 2012 Red Sox.
To replace Francona, management chose Bobby Valentine - a move that made me cringe from the outset. For whatever reason, I had this gut instinct that Valentine was not a good fit for Boston and the fact that I'm about to defend him comes as shock to me.
To be fair, the situation Bobby V stepped into was less than ideal. He was the manager chosen to replace the one who had brought two World Series titles to Bean Town. He was the manager tagged to restore order to a team that had clearly lost control of some of its players.
Though he was undoubtedly aware of the situation, those are significant challenges to face. Then the season started. Early in the season, controversy swirled around a perceived disagreement between Bobby V and beloved third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis was ultimately shipped off to the Chicago White Sox, where his performance improved.
Injuries plagued the Red Sox, who would eventually lose Youkilis' replacement Will Middlebrooks for the season. They were losing games and it seemed as though nothing could stop the bleeding the organization was experiencing.
Some Red Sox players criticized Valentine publicly and - seemingly - mocked him as well. At one point during the season it was reported that players met with management in an effort to have Bobby V fired.
Eventually last month the Red Sox pulled a block buster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that in my opinion will be beneficial in many ways. First, they shipped one of the proverbial "poison pills" in Josh Beckett off to L.A. Second, they cleared $261 million in cap room that will allow them to go after players they will need both in the rotation and bullpen as well as in the field. Thirdly, they gained some promising players and prospects out of the trade.
For me, the last two years of Boston Red Sox baseball has been perhaps the darkest in recent memory. The years of losing seasons don't even compare to the corruption that I have seen in the organization and at times it made me ashamed to be a fan.
As a result of the trade, I will go into next season with optimism and the hope that my team can not only close the book on this dark chapter of their history, but comport themselves appropriately and once again compete for the title.