I’ve never minded when the Red Sox have cheated and gotten away with it. Same goes for the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and even Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School sports teams (go Vineyarders!) and even further down the line, to T-ball, baby soccer and the like. I am happy when my teams win and sad when they do not and what I don’t know to this end cannot hurt me.
Thus the revelation and subsequent admission by the team that the Red Sox wer using an Apple Watch to try to steal signs from the Yankees not bother me. I love it. Something about this whole season has seemed a little off since day one, but now the full picture of this team is clear. They aren’t good guys. They’re bad guys, and rather than run from it, they’ve finally embraced a full heel turn. It’s about damn time. It is, for better worse (but probably better), who they are.
Even if this scandal means the end of John Farrell’s tenure as Red Sox manager — and it seems certain to mean the end of Farrell’s tenure as Red Sox manager — I’m cool with it, because the team is suddenly interesting, from DGAF team president Dave Dombrowski on down to Chris Young, the ostensible ringleader of this inane, insane, failing plot to get one over on the second-place Yankees. The reverberations from this will last for years, if not decades, all for a scheme to decipher some pitches they couldn’t hit anyway. I am over the goddamn moon at how stupid this is, and how much the teams hate each other. It is delicious.
The best place to start is here, because it is the moment something was clearly off:
Eduardo Nunez with the latest swing in MLB history pic.twitter.com/PRKniTcFbb— Boston Sports Info (@bostonsportsinf) September 4, 2017
My guess is that this is when the Yankees figured out that they were right about something being rotten in the state of Denmark. I was watching the game and assumed Nunez had stolen a bad sign, but not as part of a countermeasure against an electronic spy program, just like normal sign-stealing and such. It was the only thing that made sense.
But no! Instead the Sox were using an Apple Watch to pick up the pitch signs early, perhaps via a specially trained camera in the outfield, and quickly signal them around the team and back to the batters. The Red Sox have now accused the Yankees of doing just this with special YES Network cameras, and I have no doubt that they do, but it doesn’t matter at this point. The Yankees leaked the info to the New York Times and the Cheatin’ Sox were born (un)fair and square.
Farrell was the first to face the media, and he stammered through an unconvincing explanation (“I knew but I didn’t know,” basically) that would have been much better presented thusly:
Fortunately, Dombrowski, who is good now, went out there and did just that:
This is what the Red Sox needed, not just yesterday, but all season. They needed swagger, and they finally, belatedly have it. For all his genius, Chris Sale couldn’t give it to them. For all his anger, David Price couldn’t do it either. For all his grit, Dustin Pedroia couldn’t do it. For all his talent, Mookie Betts couldn’t do it. You can go all the way down the line without finding a guy to fill David Ortiz’s large, empty, swaggy shoes, or you could until yesterday. Gone are Big Papi’s cleats. In are Dombo’s snakeskin loafers, and he wears them well, as always.
Instead of worrying about the cavalry showing up, Dombo chortled about how the whiny Yankees could stoop low enough to proactively engage the media and the league, rather than settle it in-house. In so doing, has finally confirmed what we all suspected after Price’s multiple blowups this year, the still-unfortunate Eckersley incident included: This team doesn’t care about being liked, to the point that they might even prefer to be hated away from their most adoring fans. They don’t want to be the good guys. They want to be the Evil Empire.
Don’t believe me? That’s fine. Let’s take a big swing of coffee and head over to the Red Sox online shop...
Appalling? Maybe. Part of an agreement between Major League Baseball and Disney to license the Star Wars brand to all teams? Yes:
NO MATTER. The Red Sox are bad guys now, and this is a good thing, not leastwise because they were probably never all that “good” to begin with.
This is dangerous territory, but as I’ve been debating the merits of Giancarlo Stanton’s pursuit of the pre-1998 single-season home run mark (i.e., not the record) with the irrepressible Jake Devereaux of BP Boston, I’ve thought a lot about how our biases affect the way we consider baseball history. Case in point: Jake, who is wrong, thinks that Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in 1961 should be considered the all-time single-season home run record. I can count to 73, so I think Barry Bonds’s 73 homers in 2001, which is the actual record as of 2001, is the record.
He’s not convinced:
Answer the question! Do you believe that we have reason to believe the guy who who hit 73 bombs in under 500 plate appearances did roids?— Jake Devereaux (@DevJake) September 5, 2017
Do I have reason to think Bonds did “‘roids?” Yes. Yes I do. So let’s fast-forward to the 2004 Red Sox, and apply the “Do I have reason to believe that [X player] did roids?” test and see where that gets us. TL;DR: It ends in some tough questions about how we contextualize the results we like (the 2004 season) versus those we apparently didn’t like (Barry Bonds breaking the home run record, which, to be clear, I loved and Jake, who is wrong, didn’t).
If the Red Sox-as-virtuous organization story survived not just in 2004 until yesterday, it’s cold and dead now, and not a moment too soon. It doesn’t honestly portray Boston’s role in the baseball firmament and the ruthlessness with which the organization will fight to stay there. Do we give up on this team because they were “cheating?” Do we give back the 2004 title because they fielded a set of bat-wielding linebackers? Do we give back the five pre-1919 World Series titles because baseball was fucking segregated at the time?
I’m not necessarily proud to say that the answer to all of the above questions is no, but the answer to all of the above questions is no. What happened happened, and what’s happening now is happening now. Furthermore, what’s happening now isn’t a crime against humanity like segregation or even a crime against “fairness” like doping, but it’s much more like the latter than the former. At least with respect to ‘roids and sign-stealing, you’re trying to get better. If you’re going to cheat, don’t cheat society; cheat to win. Especially against the Yankees.
Stepping back, our expectations for the Red Sox could not be higher It’s generally World Series title or bust, reargued daily in light of a tiny new sample size’s worth of information. It is so, so, so dumb, and the only thing dumber is an idiotic, failing scheme to pick up signs via an Apple Watch that probably backfired the moment it was conceived, but maybe not (in which case, good, I liked the games we won).
The only conclusion I can draw is that the Red Sox want to win even more than we want them to, which I didn’t even think was possible, given how insane we are #onhere. If the team cheated, they must really want to beat New York, and must really want to wear and sell those World Series Champs licensed goods one more time just as I sure as shit want to buy them, so yeah, whatever they have to do is cool with me. Just win, guys, and if you’re going to cheat, don’t get caught. It’s much easier that way.