The Character of Bleeding Red
It is no secret where my baseball loyalties lie.
Born and raised less than 2 miles from the Green Monstah, I bleed Boston red. And when the Red Sox topped the classy St. Louis Cardinals to win a championship no one six months ago could have predicted, Red Sox Nation stirred with celebration and self-reflection.
As the Game 6 finale played out, I was on a flight from San Antonio to Newark, holding silent vigil for a Sox World Series win. The hum of the plane and tranquility on board allowed me time to think about the incomprehensible relationship between the Red Sox and a healing city still deeply scarred by a terrorist attack that happened on a notable Boston holiday, during which the Red Sox play the team’s only morning game of the season.
It also caused me to think about a team that relied not on the overhyped “Moneyball” modality, but a synthesis of metrics and people.
David Ben Gurion, one of Israel’s founding fathers and its first prime minister, once said, “History is built not on repetition but on mutation, on change.”
For 86 years—from 1918 to 2004—the Red Sox wore the ignominious label of chokers, a team to be forever punished for its sale of the game’s greatest player, Babe Ruth, to the New York Yankees in 1920, after a string of five championships from 1903 to 1918. The Red Sox found virtually every imaginable way to lose, each in equally imaginative Game 7 fashion. (Look up 1946, ’67, ’75 and ’86.)
Ruth’s sale and the team’s subsequent failure would become known as the Curse of the Bambino, a truism that bred negativism and collective cynicism across the fan base. When John Henry and partners took over the Red Sox in 2002, he first sought to change the corporate culture.
Described by healer and author Rick Kuethe, ownership made clear its goal was to bring home a championship and that nothing short of it would be acceptable. “The team ownership,” wrote Kuethe, “peppered TV broadcasts of Red Sox games with high-energy ads for the team—exciting montages of victories, walk-off home runs, colossal catches, team celebrations.”