This is the time of year that is furthest from baseball. Even the biting crispness of late October is totally gone from the air. Trees are bare skeletons. Only a matter of time before there's snow.
It's also the time of year that's furthest from baseball for me. I'm too emotional about it, and about my players, to enjoy talking about dealing them like trading cards. So for example, I just plain don't want to think about Jason Varitek. If he's gone, I understand the reasons. If he's not, I will be apprehensive about his bat. I have no say in it, no control over it, and either way is going to involve some pain, so I just wait for it to happen and hope it's quick and merciful, whichever way it goes.
But I also realize that this time of year is sometimes the most important in the baseball calendar. This is the time of year, for example, when a young Jed Hoyer showed up on the doorstep of the Schillings of Arizona and charmed the paterfamilias with gift bags.
The next part I can remember is the knock at our door on Tuesday morning. I open the door—T-shirt, shorts, flip flops—and there stands a guy who looks to me to be about 17 years old.
"Hello, I'm Jed Hoyer, Assistant to the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox."
While immediately thinking "B.S.—this is R.J. or someone playing a gag on me,” I could see he had bags of “stuff” in his hands and a letter.
I honestly cannot remember if Theo was there or not. I think (?) he might have been. Anyway, Jed presented me with this letter, and gift bags.
I received two letters during these negotiations. I think the first one was a sincere thank you for the opportunity to attempt this, and the second was a letter from Bill James, speaking directly to me about the fact that Fenway was far from a 'hitters park' and that statistical research showed I would perform much better in Fenway than I had in Bank One in most cases.
The gift bags were full of Red Sox gear and memorabilia for all of our children.
Regardless of the content of any of this, the first thought that hit me was, "Classy." The Red Sox were serious and they knew how to show that in a meaningful way. I was impressed to say the least.
What I remember about this time (other than the anguish that followed Game 7) was that Pedro and Manny were the favorite lightning rods in town. This was during my days of heavy WEEI listening, and the knock on both Pedro and Manny was that they were snotty prima donnas who thought they could get away without talking to the press, who cried language issues unnecessarily, etc.
What I remember liking about Schilling right off the bat was that he was so talkative, open with the press, and seemed to enjoy the attention. I thought he would finally give people what they wanted around here, and maybe take some of the pressure off the others.
Imagine my surprise when Schilling's talkativeness became the main point of criticism.
But that's neither here nor there. It's something I still appreciate about him, especially since it means he's using his blog(s) to give fans an inside look at what happened from his point of view. If you're on Facebook, he's sharing photos as well. From a fan's perspective, Schilling is one of the most accessible baseball players, if not the most accessible, ever. Maybe the pros come to take being around these players for granted, and maybe that's by design. But for a fan, these things are priceless, and something to be thankful for, all these years after that first Thanksgiving.
As long as I'm being a thankful fan, here are a few more things I'm thankful for in sports this Thanksgiving: first and foremost, that Tom Brady's knee appears to be healing; that we have Matt Cassel, your AFC Player of the Week for the second time this season, filling in at QB; that Bill Belichick is still on our sideline; that we have Dustin Pedroia and his groaning trophy case; that Kevin Youkilis finished high in the MVP voting; that we have Jon Lester; that we have this ownership, for both the Sox and Pats; that our city has finally been on top of the world in sports for so many years; and most of all, that there are people out there on the Interwebs who continue to come back to this site and read my blather and comment.
Wishing all of you and yours a safe and happy holiday.