The Germans call it schadenfreude which, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, combines the words schaden (damage) and freude (joy). In other words, the emotional experience of pleasure in response to one’s misfortune. I, like many of you, am not taking much joy in the ups and downs of this 2023 Red Sox team, however, I am experiencing the feeling of schadenfreude while watching the once proud New York Yankees languish in last place.
I’m 36, which means I’m an old millennial who was a senior in high school when the Red Sox broke the curse. My mentality about baseball and what to expect from the hometown boys was shaped by the experiences I had watching my team getting pummeled by the late 90’s Yankees dynasty. This all came to a head for me in 2003 during the ALCS.
During the 2003 season I had gone to a lot of games with my dad and I was the most invested I had ever been in any sports team. The team was loaded. Manny was very much in his prime, Ortiz had broken out in his first year with the Sox, and Nomar was still playing very much like Nomar. Even the guys who weren’t considered to be stars were having incredible seasons. Varitek posted an .863 OPS, the original dirt dog Trot Nixon bettered that mark at .975, and my favorite position player on the team, Bill Mueller, posted a .938 OPS while winning the AL batting title with a .326 average. All three of those aforementioned seasons were career bests.
My favorite player, and still my favorite player of all-time, was Pedro Martinez. While he wasn’t pitching to the levels he was in 1999-2000, his ERA over 29 starts in 2003 was a microscopic 2.22 which was good for a 211 ERA+. To put it lightly, this team was loaded for bear and I had never been more confident we were going to finally take down the Yankees. The ALCS was a back-and -orth affair where the Red Sox took games one, four, and six. I was at the game five loss where despite being taken deep by Manny, David Wells outdueled Derek Lowe.
It all came down to a game seven at Yankee Stadium. The matchup was our best vs their best. Our current ace Pedro Martinez vs our former ace Roger Clemens. I had loved Clemens when I was growing up playing little league, now I hated him. Pedro outpitched him and by the top of the 4th he was pulled from the game and replaced by Mike Mussina. At that point the Red Sox were leading 4-0. Pedro continued to cruise and heading into the bottom of the 8th the Sox are up 5-2. We all know what happened next.
Grady Little decided to send Pedro back out there after already throwing over 120 pitches. This was 31 year old Pedro not 29 year old Pedro and we all knew that he was considerably worse once he got past 100 pitches. My worst nightmare began to unfold. Double by Jeter. RBI single by Bernie Williams. Double by Hideki Matsui. Double by Jorge Posada. Game tied at 5-5. Why on earth didn’t Grady go to the pen?
Poor Tim Wakefield had to wear this one. In the bottom of the 11th Aaron Boone came up to the plate and ended all of my hopes and dreams. One batter, one shot, series over. I was crushed. I shut off the TV, went upstairs by myself and contemplated whether or not being a sports fan was a wise decision. This was hurt like I had never felt.
Did this pain make what happened in 2004 that much sweeter? You bet it did, but it also cemented a lifelong hatred of the Yankees franchise. This pain allowed me to understand the types of pain that past generations of Red Sox fans had carried and why Bucky “F*cking” Dent was cursed across all New England homes. When the Boone shot happened I had entered the brotherhood of pain and I had no idea how long I was going to have to carry that feeling. 2004 proved cathartic and I was lucky not to need to carry it for long, still it shaped me.
Entering this season, we were doing our preview of the league on “The Red Seat” podcast and I predicted that the Yankees would finish third in the division, but that their record would be closer to that of the Red Sox and Orioles than it would be my division leading Blue Jays and Rays. I even told my co-hosts Keaton and Bob that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Yankees finished behind the Orioles. They laughed at me and told me I was insane.
It turns out, that I was underrating just how good the Orioles would be and the depths of just how bad it could get for the Yankees. As the Red Sox head to the Bronx tonight I will take immense pleasure in watching a Yankees team, with the second highest payroll in baseball, fight for its life. I will enjoy watching Aaron Judge languish alone in the middle of a helpless lineup of aging and ineffective stars with bloated contracts. I will take pleasure in watching the 300 million dollar Gerrit Cole be sandwiched in the rotation by anonymous and unproven starters while their biggest additions sit on the IL.
I predicted that this lineup would be the worst in the entire AL East and that, with the 21st ranked farm system, there wouldn’t be a lot of help on the way. Who could’ve foreseen that relying on Aaron Judge, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, and Carlos Rodon to stay healthy would lead to poor results?
So as we enter an important series in the Bronx I would like you to join me in embracing the feeling of schadenfreude. Yes, we as Red Sox fans have our own problems, but man, look at how bad it is for those damn Yankees.