Red Sox fans couldn't be blamed if they're not in the mood to celebrate. The ball club is 4-8, the inconsistent new manager has already made a summer's worth of tactical blunders, the closer is out until August, the projected setup man is in Pawtucket, where the last three homers he allowed should be landing any minute now, the MVP candidate center fielder is ... well, you know.
Come to think of it, maybe the 100-year celebration of Fenway Park arrives at the perfect time. Right now, the past does look a whole lot more appealing than the present. The Red Sox have invited every living player -- yes, apparently even the wretches from the 2001 team -- and more than 100 are expected for the festivities.They'll probably stick around through the weekend to take two of three from the current Sox.
With a party in mind -- and with the current team thankfully out of mind, at least for a day -- here's a look at the ex-Sox I hope are part of the show Friday, one player per position. Hit me with yours in the comments.
Relative newcomers to the Red Sox might consider Jason Varitek as the franchise's quintessential catcher, and I've got no issue with that. He was an important part of a tremendous run of success. But while he was here longer than Fisk, he was not by any means his equal. In nearly 500 fewer games, Fisk had just 31 fewer homers than Varitek (162 for Pudge, 193 for Tek), and his OPS (.837) was 71 points higher. And no catcher ever commanded a game like the methodical Pudge. A game featuring a Josh Beckett/Fisk battery could go to commercial break between every pitch and not miss anything.
He was Papi before Papi -- OK, minus the postseason heroics. Man, he was something, on the field and off. Mo was the charismatic leader of the first Red Sox teams where race was never an issue. He was defiant and warm and self-destructive and charitable and proud and passionate and accountable. And he bludgeoned the seams off the baseball, winning the MVP with a .300-39-126 season in '95, then following it up with .326-44-143. Come to think of it, though some similarities are there, it's probably not fair to compare him to Ortiz. Papi's legacy is greater, but Mo was one of a kind.
The best choice will be in the starting lineup and probably batting second. Jerry Remy would have been an obvious choice, but we see him every night. It would be great to see Bobby Doerr, whom I believe is one of the oldest living former Red Sox player along with Jamie Moyer, but he lives in Oregon and may not be up for the trip. Marty Barrett has his admirers, though his lack of range always annoyed me. So let's go to the default button and pick the guy who played for the 2004 Red Sox and proved essential in their miracle, the quiet one, Mark Bellhorn. Maybe he can clang one off Pesky's Pole on a Julian Tavarez pitch for old times' sake.
There are plenty of reasonable choices at third base -- Butch Hobson, my boyhood idol, or Rico Petrocelli, or Wade Boggs, or contemporary favorites such as Bill Mueller and Mike Lowell. And it would have been nice if the Rangers had left Adrian Beltre behind. But I figure someone on this list has to represent the obscurities, and it's hard to come up with anyone who is more obscure in Red Sox annals than Berry. A veteran of 11 seasons, he played one game for the 2000 Red Sox on July 24, went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, and never played another day in the big leagues. And you thought Bobby V. was coming to fast conclusions on Youk.
Because he was as beloved as Pedroia once. Because in his heyday, no one played harder. Because everything, everything, he hit in 1998-2000 was a line drive. Because it often felt like Nomar and Pedro against the world. Because of the salute to the fans after falling to the mighty Yankees in '99. Because of the mutual admiration with Ted Williams. Because of how it began, not how it ended. Because of what might have been.
Hey, he has the free time to put in an appearance Friday, and the 7 1/2 years he was here were worth every dime they paid him. You're damn right I still miss watching him hit. And some of the goofy antics as well. So sue me.
One of my favorite small moments from the wonderful immediate aftermath of October 27, 2004 was watching Burks depart the plane carrying the World Series trophy. His first go-round with the Red Sox did not end right. His second one ended with the perfect snapshot. I just hope he can get through Friday's ceremony without Mike Greenwell careening into his knees.
The more time that passes, the more convinced I become that we'll never see again see a right field arm like his. Think anyone would dare to go first to third on him now? He is 60 years old, after all, but I wouldn't advise it. Maybe they can have him throw out Wayne Housie or someone Friday, just for the delightful flashback of it.
LEFTHANDED STARTING PITCHER
When the 11-to-5 curveball was working (it wasn't quite 12-to-6), he was every bit as fun to watch pitch as Clemens. Barry Zito is second on his similarity scores list, which seems appropriate, though Hurst's peak wasn't as high and his overall career was less volatile.
A fan favorite and a damn effective relief pitcher, I suspect El Guapo is muy grande these days. I also suspect he would be an immediate upgrade on half the current bullpen.
I'll be blunt. Anyone who booed him after what he accomplished in 2004 is an idiot, and not in the Johnny Damon sense. I doubt he'll show up -- baseball was a job, not a passion, and he made that clear -- but if he does, a raucous ovation is the only appropriate greeting.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.