“Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint.”
How often have you been told that, with respect to the baseball season, no single day nor no single event matters more than the collective performance over a 162 game season? When looking at individual performance, I follow that perspective to a fault. Until a slump reaches the proportions of David Ortiz in the first months of 2009 or Jason Bay in the most recent, I feel confident that a player will regress or progress as the case may be back to their mean. “Water seeks it’s level”.
With respect to the team at large, a season is made of peaks and valleys, winning streaks and lulls. As a fan, every multi-game streak in either direction can feel like a precursor to the fate of the season, but as Terry Francona and his players will tell you time and time again, they don’t get caught up in such momentum as easily as we do. They head to the park day in and day out to play, and try to win, a game against the team lining up against them on the field that day.
At the same time, every season has inflection points, especially the great ones. You don’t have to look further than July 24, 2004 for proof. When Jason Varitek put his mitt in Alex Rodriguez’ face, and Bill Mueller walked off an 11-10 win off Mariano Rivera, the Red Sox turned a season mired in a month of .500 ball ball into a 45-20 record over the final 65 games of the season. The rest of 2004 is in the record books (without any * – but that is a conversation for another time).
With the 2009 Red Sox mired in a post All-Star game slumber, stumbling out of the gate with only three wins in their first eleven games, the collection of what came to pass yesterday, both the valley’s of David Ortiz’ “breaking news” and peaks of his subsequent return to “classic, clutch” form with a go ahead three run home run in the 7th inning, and what will come to pass today as the trade deadline approaches are just the type of story to serve as such an inflection point.
Whichever direction this season heads from these final days in July, its fate and potentially the fate of the not to distant future of this organization hang in the balance.
No matter the side of the David Ortiz argument that you fall, whether you consider his inclusion on the 2003 PED positive list a shattering detriment to his character or, like San Francisco Giants fans and Barry (or Dodger fans and Manny or Yankees and ARod, etc) as long as he wears your colors all is forgiven, you have to believe the 2009 Red Sox clubhouse has been inexorably changed.
David Ortiz’ subsequent triumph, 2-3 with the go ahead three run home run, in the game less than four hours following the most professionally devastating news the slugger could expect to hear further heightened the gravity of the day.
Ortiz, as much as any other player in recent Red Sox lore (you could argue that Pedro Martinez also carries this mantle), has carried the mantle as the face of the franchise with an important distinction; the franchise as defined are recast through the ownership of John Henry, Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino and team. David Ortiz is the signature of the this team on the city of Boston. Will Ortiz, and any subsequent revelations change the context of or taint this ownership groups’ legacy?
While yesterday’s events may have altered the future path of the Henry group, today’s trade deadline represents another potential inflection point in both the season and the franchise. As much as anything Theo Epstein and his baseball operations staff have been known for the development of young talent, the ability to find a diamond in the rough, and the aggressive nature at which they approach the trade deadline.
At the same time, the organization’s distaste for leveraging their young pitching talent in trade conversation has yielded both a stocked farm of young hurlers. This trade deadline, unlike others where that young talent hasn’t been touched, would require a change in that philosophy.
Will the Red Sox land a Victor Martinez, Roy Halladay, or Adrian Gonzalez today? In doing so, how much of the perceived future of the organization will they be leveraging to do so? Most importantly, how will these changes of events serve as a defining moment for the 2009 Red Sox team? Will it propel them forward as actions did in the late July of 2004?
On a day of uncertainty and misinformation, one thing can be sure, the Red Sox franchise has taken a subtle turn over the past twenty four hours. The question is, which direction will it take us?