Gone, but not forgotten

Gone, but not forgotten
August 1, 2014, 12:45 pm

John Farrell earned the respect of the Boston Red Sox early in spring training.


Well, that was a trade deadline.

More accurately, that was a trade deadline on whyphy; it was Ben Cherington living out the trade deadline of Danny Ainge’s dreams — just one giant orgy where everyone’s messing around with everyone in pure transactional ecstasy.

Or something like that. Either way, it's the day after the MLB trade deadline. The dust's almost settled. So where do we start? What the hell just happened?  

For one, the Sox traded Jon Lester (to the A’s, along with Jonny Gomes) and John Lackey (to the Cardinals). And after trading Jake Peavy to the Giants earlier in the week, that makes Boston the first-ever defending champion to trade their World Series Games 1, 2 and 3 starters the following season. Even the ‘97 Marlins kept Livan Hernandez for a season-and-a-half.

The ’97 Marlins!

Looking ahead, it’s fun to consider scenarios in which the former Sox pitchers might meet in October. Maybe Lackey vs. Peavy in a one-game playoff? Lester vs. Lackey in the World Series? But it’s more interesting to think about what happens after the World Series — will Lester come back to Boston?

Anyone who says they know is lying, so I’ll just say “I don’t know” and offer three quick thoughts.

1) If Lester doesn’t come back, he was never coming back, either because he’s asking for too much money or the Sox think that he’s asking for too much. I still believe Lester’s first choice is to come ‘home’; it’s just a matter of how much the team thinks he’s worth.

2) Once Lester was on board with a trade, the biggest risk in actually trading him was that he might fall in love with his new team and spurn the Sox this winter for a new lease on life. On that note, Oakland is a pretty ideal landing spot.

First of all, the A’s are baseball poor — only the Indians, Pirates, Rays, Marlins and Astros have a lower payroll than Oakland this year. If there’s a bidding war, Billy Beane is probably bowing out.

Second of all, O.Co Coliseum is a dump. Just last year, the sewage system exploded three times, including one incident that left the A’s dugout looking like Andy Dufresne’s escape pod. By comparison, even Fenway’s prehistoric amenities will look like the Ritz Carlton.

3) I love Jon Lester. Not as a person, because I don’t know him. But from a fan’s perspective, athletes don’t come more reliable, honest and respectable. (I’m omitting September 2011, but feel free to hold that grudge if you like.)

I’ll be rooting for Lester in Oakland, and can’t envision a scenario in which I wouldn’t root for him. With all the exorcised demons of the last decade, I might even (albeit quietly) cheer him on in a Yankees jersey. Not for the Yankees, but for Lester — I want him to succeed.

Buuuut, in the name of once again seeing him succeed in a Red Sox uniform, it might not be the worst thing if he has some troubling adjusting to life in the Bay Area.

***

The Sox also traded Stephen Drew to the Yankees, which is noteworthy because it’s the first time Boston and New York have hooked up for a trade since 1997 when Mike Stanley was sent to the Bronx for Tony Armas Jr.

You’ve probably heard that piece of trivia 25-30 times in the last 24 hours, but what you might not have heard that, as part of that deal, the Sox also traded a minor-league infielder named Randy Brown to New York. Boston had drafted Brown in the 28th round of the 1989 draft, and after that he spent a season with the Class A- Elmira Pioneers, two seasons with the A+ Winter Haven Red Sox, a season with the A+ Lynchburg Red Sox, a season with the AA New Britain Red Sox and two seasons with AAA Pawtucket before being sent down to AA Trenton and then off to New York in 1997.  He played the 1997 season with the Yankees' AA affiliate; the 1998 season bouncing between AAA and AA in the Pittsburgh Pirates system; the 1999 season doing the same in the Seattle Mariners system; and in 2000, Randy Brown played for the Somerset Patriots (Independent League) before calling it a career. I searched all over the Internet for clues as to what Brown is up to now, but came up with nothing and . . .

Wait,  what were we talking about again?

Oh, right — regardless of where the Sox sent Stephen Drew, the important thing is that they sent him somewhere, because there was no point in him being here. Not at any time this season, but especially not after Lester and Lackey were traded. In turn, Xander Bogaerts will now return to shortstop with two full months to convince the Sox to just leave him there and allow one of the better prospects in recent franchise history to flourish where he’s most comfortable. That is, assuming he flourishes.

And it should be fun to watch him try. Now that the floor has been removed on this season, and all expectations have flown out the window, the whole Red Sox experience stands to equal fun. A different kind of fun; not defined by championships or wins and losses. But fun nonetheless, with Bogaerts, Brock Holt, Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vazquez out there playing every day, cutting their teeth amidst flashes of brilliance: With old men Pedroia, Ortiz and Napoli trying to hold down the fort;  with young pitchers like Anthony Ranaudo getting their first taste of the big leagues; with Yoenis Cespedes, the bat Boston could have used in April, ready to add some excitement in the lineup and another explosive arm in the outfield. 

In a sense, the next two months are just an extended audition for most of the guys in Boston’s clubhouse. It’s a chance to improve their position for the 2015 season, or in some cases (WMB!) to prove that they deserve a position at all. Either way, it’s all about 2015. Here in Boston, the future is now.

 ***

But with that, it’s also important not to forget about the past. And by that, I mean the very recent past. The 2013 Red Sox — a team and a run that didn’t even feel real as it was happening, and today feels light years away. After yesterday’s deadline, the starting pitcher in Game 6 against the Cardinals, along with the starting center fielder, left fielder and shortstop now play for different teams. So do three other starting pitchers and the everyday catcher.

Of course, there’s a core that still remains from last year, but there’s no doubt that THAT era of Red Sox baseball — The Beard Era — is now over.

Speaking of which, yesterday afternoon, after the Lester deal was announced, Jonny Gomes did one final local interview on WEEI.

Gomes was one of the driving forces behind last year’s success; he’s a guy whose true value is almost impossible to gage, except to say he’s worth much more to a good team than a bad team. And considering where the Sox currently sit in the standings, this hasn’t been a great season for Gomes.

Anyway, when the conversation with WEEI was over, the hosts thanked Gomes for his time, and the now-former Sox outfielder used his last words to make a plea to the city and its fans:

“I know this year hasn’t gone the way we like it," he said . "But please don’t forget about that 2013 season, worst to first, the tragedy around the city. We might be down in the win-loss column, but don’t erase what we did in 2013.”

Of course, there are portions of fans who act like they already have erased it — the people who never miss a chance to vilify David Ortiz; who spent the last few months ragging on Gomes, despite all (things so much more important than hitting a baseball ) he did for this city; who have mercilessly criticized Cherington, and who are now just as easily back to singing his praises.

I’m talking about the people who will never be satisfied, and refuse to ever look more than five feet ahead or behind them. As it turns out, those people are usually and unfortunately often the loudest, and there’s no doubt that Gomes heard the noise; he’d have no other reason to make the plea that he did.

But in reality, nothing will ever erase what happened in 2013. Not for Gomes (unless he knows a great tattoo removal service) and not for the vast majority of people who lived in and around Boston during that run and experienced first hand how much those players cared about this city and how badly they wanted to achieve what they did despite (at least initially) barely anyone giving them a chance.

In the face of the marathon tragedy, 2013 was a perfect season — straight out of a movie starring Chris Pratt as Gomes (and Crispin Glover as John Henry) — that inspired a collection of memories that Boston will never forget and will never be erased.

Not by time, and certainly not by one juiced up trade deadline.

Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine