Friday, December 31, 2010

Red Sox once again hold city's attention

After a "boring" 2010, the Red Sox have reclaimed the interest of their fans.. check it out at Boston Sports Then and Now

Since the Red Sox traded away Manny Ramirez back in July of 2008, they've lacked the charisma that had endeared Boston fans for so long.

The "lovable idiots" that brought home World Series trophies in 2004 and 2007 are long gone. Those were teams treasured in Boston not just because they were good but also because they were entertaining. From Johnny Damon's caveman look to Kevin Millar handing out Jack Daniels in the dugout to Papelbon's river dancing to Manny going to the bathroom in the middle of games, there was always something going on in Fenway grabbing the fans' attention.

After Manny left town -- as troublesome as he was -- there weren't many captivating characters left on the Red Sox. Some of the same faces were still there (Big Papi, Varitek, Papelbon) but there were just as many dull ones. The emotionless Jason Bays and J.D. Drews were creating a big problem in Red Sox Nation.

Of course, it was never a problem on the baseball field. The Sox were always in contention for a World Series. It was the "soulless sox" that was the problem, off the field.

That charisma and personality wasn't there anymore and it started to affect ratings. It got bad enough that Bill Simmons; ESPN's sports guy and die-hard Sox fan, wrote the column calling the 2010 Red Sox boring.

"You have to go back to 1981 (pre-Wade Boggs, post-Fred Lynn, post-Carlton Fisk) for a Red Sox team with less pizzazz than the 2010 crew," wrote Simmons. "NESN's Red Sox ratings had plummeted 36 percent. (The Boston Globe also reported that WEEI's ratings were down 16.5 percent, and that male listeners between the ages of 25 and 54 had dwindled by 28 percent)."

Simmons attributed much of the Sox decline to something he jokingly called the "pee test". The Red Sox didn't have anyone you had to see hit -- no one you would delay going to the bathroom to watch as he put it.

The response of the Red Sox? They went and got two of those hitters.

Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are, obviously, huge additions to the Red Sox. The blockbuster off-season moves immediately shifted the Sox standing as World Series contenders to World Series favorites.

“This is one of the best hitters in baseball,” said Francona about Gonzalez in early December. “This is a big move for us. We’re getting a middle of the order bat, a guy that’s won a couple of Gold Gloves. He’s still young. This is exciting."

If bringing Adrian Gonzalez to Boston wasn't electrifying enough, the Crawford signing five days later took it over the top.

“In my opinion, he’s probably the most athletic player that’s in the game,” praised Sox veteran catcher, Jason Varitek, who'd had many battles with Crawford when he was on the Tampa Bay Rays. “Seeing him develop as a hitter and playing more, every year he seems to get better. He’s dynamic. Like Johnny Damon, his athleticism is his biggest attribute."

The additions immediately ignited some excitement into a franchise that looked like it was slowly starting to lose interest from the fans. It's created a buzz that's still present nearly a month later.

Whether the 2011 Red Sox will have that same captivating personality from the '04 and '07 championship years remains to be seen. However, there's no question they'll be can't miss TV once again.

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