We’ve been at this for a while, haven’t we? First, in 2016, I noted that your favorite player was Jackie Bradley Jr. In the COVID-delayed 2020, it was Rafael Devers. Now it’s... Tanner Houck?
To be frank... basically no. I admit that. Houck can’t really be your favorite player. He can be your favorite Red Sock. Or Red Sox player, as we usually say to avoid writing “Red Sock.” It’s a really annoying grammatical thing that every Sox writer contends with on the daily.
Enough about that, though, because Houck is a dude. Not, like, a “baseball dude.” This has nothing to do with his mirror-image Chris Sale persona, or whether or not he belongs in the bullpen. It’s bigger than that: He’s a real person when he’s on the NESN mic, and he’s compelling and real in a way that’s true of maybe 1 in 50 baseball players, Major League Baseball being largely a collection of single-minded weirdos.
I love it.
On Monday night, Houck joined the broadcast to talk about his charity, Tanner Houck’s Pitch for Adoption, the mission of which is plainly stated. TL;DR, Houck’s sister was adopted and he went through the whole story on the broadcast and it was general tear-jerker stuff that can sometimes come off as pablum. It did not, nor was it grandiose or overcooked or bad because he wasn’t pitching a charity — he was selling adoption.
That’s not entirely learned experience, even if his upbringing obviously colored him the same way ours color all of us. He talks like a normal person who happens to be a freakishly good all-around athlete (apparently this is true) but is, like, still your boy from the neighborhood.
This wasn’t a one-time thing. I cannot for the life of me remember what it was about, but he and Garrett Whitlock (I think) were on the mic during spring training and were truly entertaining. It would not surprise me one iota if Houck becomes a TV guy when his career is over, because he truly gets it.
Okay, okay, enough talk: Is he your new favorite player?
On the one hand, Devers is now the team’s signature star, and in many cases it’s gauche to root for the big cheese. On the other hand, Houck is arguably marginally important enough not to get on the scale, though a quality start last night doesn’t hurt.
I think I side with Devers on this one, but the distinction I made above holds. Devers is your favorite player, but Houck is your favorite Red Sock. Sox. Whatever. This column is over.