Friday, January 16, 2009

A New Favorite

Over my years of Red Sox fandom, I have had several Sox players that I have called “my favorite” at one time or another. Unfortunately, the Sox have not found it necessary to treat my favorite players the way I’d like them to be. Since Mike Greenwell simply faded away, I’ve had a bit of a run of bad luck. I went with Greenwell for a chunk of time until I fell for Phil Plantier and his crazy squatting batting stance. Unfortunately, Phil was shipped out of town after season or two. I smoothly moved onto Mo Vaughn. I’ve mentioned that the sight of Mo hunched over glaring at the pitcher looked so intimidating to me. Mo and I had a good run until 1998, when he was shipped out of town. Why the Sox had to monkey around with Mo’s contract is still beyond me. Luckily, by that time the Sox had obtained Pedro Martinez. All I had to do was see him strike out one guy to be hooked. He didn’t pump his fist, or show joy. He simply walked off the mound. His body language not only said, “I struck you out” but, “I can’t believe I just had to waste my time throwing you three strikes when we knew you couldn’t hit me.” It was utter contempt, and I loved it. The problem with pitchers is they don’t play every day. That’s why I considered Nomar Garciaparra my favorite player, unless Pedro was pitching. The sight of Nomar in the box wagging that bat waiting to pounce was great. He just looked dangerous. Well, 2004 pretty much ruined that for me. First Nomar was shipped off for players worth about half as much as he was. Then, Pedro was allowed to leave at the end of the season. That left me with only Manny Ramirez. Manny was my favorite non-Sox for years, until he came to the Sox. The way he just simply hit was amazing to watch. That added him to the Nomar-Pedro combo to make a mean three-headed monster. So, Manny was my guy until last season. Once again, the Sox decided my favorite player needed to be shipped away for players half his value. So, if you’re scoring at home, my favorite players have: retired, been traded, cut loose, traded, cut loose, and traded. Which brings me to the greater issue at stake. I enter the 2009 season without a favorite player. Who should it be?

There is any number of reasons why a player would obtain “favorite” status. I’ve listed a couple that made my list because of the way they stood, or the way they walked. Asking around some people I know, I found even more reasons. Josh liked Trot Nixon because he played hard. Adam liked Don Mattingly and Andy Pettitte because, well, he’s a Yankees fan. Jonathan liked Jonathan Papelbon because they have the same name. Tim liked Tim Wakefield, and Andrew liked Jason Andrew Varitek for the same reasons. Kate liked Brian Daubach because he was dreamy. So, clearly, there’s no set of rules that need to be followed. Basically, if you’re going to the game, which player would you be most disappointed not to have in the line-up? It doesn’t have to be a star player, or even a starter, just someone who you enjoy. I’m not sure which guy that would be in my case. Let’s explore my options…

I’m going to quickly exclude middle relievers. No offense to the likes of Manny Delcarmen and Justin Masterson, but it just doesn’t work. The turnover rate of that position is too great to lock onto one player. As long as we’re in the bullpen, there’s always the closer. Jonathan Papelbon is certainly someone I hope to see if I’m at a game. He has the talent I can admire, and the swagger I adore. His frat-boy attitude isn’t my favorite, but he’s still a lot of fun. Let’s put him on the short list. At the moment, the only catcher on the team I can even name is Kevin Cash, so I guess it won’t be a catcher. Kevin Youkilis is a great player, and appears to be a favorite of many fans. But, he just doesn’t excite me. It’s like the difference between a Pedro shutout and a Maddux shutout. There’s just something extra with Martinez on the mound, and I don’t get that from Youk. Dustin Pedroia is another obvious choice. The reigning MVP has the talent, and has the spunk. His “laser show at 8” attitude could get annoying, but I can’t resist the irony of also putting him on the “short” list. The Lowrie/Lugo combo at short can be eliminated from consideration, just because. I like Mike Lowell. He’s been a great player for the Sox. But, I always see him as a spare part. Maybe it was the whole “throw in” status. But, he’s just never done it for me. Jason Bay is another fine player. I feel like it would be betraying Manny a little bit to add him to my list, but he could work his way in. Jacoby Ellsbury fits the criteria. He’s exciting to watch, and I definitely want him to be in the line-up if I’m at Fenway. Plus, I was at his ML debut. But, if I call him my favorite player, does that make me too much of a “pink hat”? I’ll take the risk and put him on the list. JD Drew is out right away. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fine player…just not quite there. As for David Ortiz…it’s too easy. The bench guys could be options, but none of them should get the playing time I’m looking for. The rotation is full of options. Beckett has the obvious skill and swagger, and I definitely want him to pitch when I go to a game. Dice-K is a little bit too much like Youkilis. I’m sure he’s a great player, it’s just hard to tell when you’re watching. He doesn’t excite me enough. Jon Lester is another great option. He might be a little too popular to latch onto at this point, but he should be fun to watch for years to come. Tim Wakefield certainly meets one criterion. Since his games are always over in 20 minutes, I always like to see him on the mound. The knuckleball still drives me batty though. Brad Penny and John Smoltz actually need to pitch a game before getting any consideration. Other than the kids who might not even be on the team, I think that’s everybody.

That leaves a list of Papelbon, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Beckett and Lester. Who should I pick? I guess I’ll give it the season, and see if anyone pulls away from the field.

Who’s your favorite Sox, and why?

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