MLB needs the Red Sox

With potentially five teams from the top three media markets in the 2008 playoffs, Major League Baseball should be rooting for the Red Sox. Out of the 16 possible World Series match-ups only seven are enticing to the national media and three of them include the Red Sox. The reason behind it is simple: more storylines and a bigger audience.

Come on how many are really enthusiastic about a Tampa Bay-Philadelphia World Series? The match-ups involving the Sox will not just draw in devoted baseball fans but also many of the casual fans plus non-fans because of their stories.

First off, any series that includes the Chicago Cubs will get national spotlight, since it will be the first time the Lovable Losers made it to the Series in 63 years. A Windy City Fall Classic will pit the North-siders against the South-siders for a week in October. The folks on the left coast will flock to Chavez Ravine and Disneyland earlier than normal – second inning instead of the third – and stay later than the sixth but outside Orange County it is not going to bring big ratings. These four series will have stories of their own but they will not attract nearly as many views as those series that include the Sox.

Red Sox-Dodgers

No doubt about it this is the series Major League Baseball wants to see. At the trading deadline, Theo Epstein did what was best for the health of the franchise. He cut away the canker that threatened the health of the remaining 24. With the “OK” from the Commish, former Pirates outfielder Jason Bay was thrown into the middle of a pennant race while Manny Ramirez was sent to the Deep Blue Sea.

I am salivating at just the thought of Boston-Los Angeles Fall Classic. The stories would be endless. After losing the NBA Championship to the Celtics back in June, Los Angeles would be looking for redemption. If Sox win it would, no doubt, solidify the City of Boston as Titletown, USA with seven World Championships from three sports in eight years.

In addition to that there is also the Joe Torre-Terry Francona connection dating back to the 2004 ALCS. As well as Manny Ramirez leading the Dodgers to the best September record (16-5) of the eight playoff contenders while the Sox were a American League best 33-17 after the trading deadline. Do not forget about Nomar Garciaparra’s first return back to the city where he began his career. There list is endless but in essence it would be a Boston versus Boston Fall Classic.

Red Sox-Cubs

Until 2004, a Red Sox-Cubs World Series was a baseball fan’s dream. One team would walk away with their first championship in over 80 years while the other would be saying those four dreaded words: “wait ‘til next year.” Since the Sox swept the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, a Red Sox-Cubs Fall Classic does not have the same meaning it would have had five years ago, but it still would be one for the ages.

Two teams playing in the two oldest ballparks in the majors, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Both, partially, owned by big time media conglomerates. Both seem to have mirroring team histories in the playoffs from Curses to Bartman and Boone to the Sox in ’04 to, possibly, the Cubs in ‘08. Red Sox-Cubs facing off in the dead of fall for baseball’s championship. You, still, can not script a better World Series than that. Just rich in baseball history.

Red Sox-Mets

The Boston-New York connection plus retaliation for the Giants dashing the Patriots hopes of an undefeated season and becoming the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to do so. Nothing more there, though.

New Sox Policy for Retiring Numbers

A 90-year-old ballpark was one of many things the current Red Sox administration acquired from the ineffective Harrington regime when the bought the team in 2002. They also inherited an outdated policy for retiring numbers. During the previous regime, the policy for having your number up on the right field fa├žade was that you had to be in the baseball Hall of Fame, play at least 10 years and retire with the Red Sox.

After paying $700 million for the franchise, John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino made a pact to preserve Fenway Park. Since purchasing the team, the owners added many of the amenities of new stadiums while preserving many of the unique qualities of Fenway. Well now it is time for the team to take another step to further put a wedge between them and the previous ownership group. They need to change the policy for retiring numbers and are on the path to changing it.

The Sox owners will honor life-long Red Sox, Johnny Pesky, by putting his number six between Joe Cronin’s number 4 and Carl Yastrzemski’s number 8 on Friday before the final regular season series. It is an honor that has long since been overdue for the former Sox shortstop.

The current policy is dated and should have gone the way of the reserve clause. In the past, to have your number retired by the Sox you had to do three things: play 10 years with the Sox, retire with the team and be in the baseball Hall of Fame. This policy worked in the days of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio when players were stuck with one team but it is a horrible policy for the age of free agency.

How many “cradle to grave” players are left in baseball? One, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. It is hypocritical to punish a player who produced on the field and was an ambassador to the team off the field when he wants to test the free agency waters, when we would do the same ourselves. As a nation, we are always looking for higher paying jobs and ways to increase our cash flow why would expect a professional athlete would be any different? It is capitalism at its best. (Sorry Karl.)

So here is what I propose for the new policy regarding Red Sox retired numbers.

To determine if a player's number deserves to be honored on Fenway Park's right field facade a committee of five non-baseball operations employees will form the Retired Numbers Committee (RNC). Every year there will be a list of five to ten players who are potentially deserving of having their number retired. The committee will gather once a year, in July, to determine if any of these nominees truly deserve to have their number retired at Fenway Park. Note, the committee does not have to chose a nominee if they feel none are deserving of the honor.

The members of the RNC will include: three members from the Boston Red Sox public relations and public affairs department (Coordinator of Baseball Information and two coordinators of Public Affairs); 1 member of publications and archives (Director of Publications) and one honorary member (either a current player with their number retired or a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame). This committee will be overseen by the President and CEO of the Boston Red Sox, Larry Lucchino.

The reason for the July meeting is to allow for enough time for the planning of a retiring ceremony, should a player be chosen for the honor.

The RNC’s decision will be based on the criteria listed below.

Must be retired for at least five years and play at least five consecutive years with the Boston Red Sox

The player must have respectable numbers on the field

First there needs to be a set working definition of the term “respectable numbers.” For a pitcher’s number to be retired by the ballclub, they have to adhere to three basic criteria: an ERA no greater than 4.00, a minimum of 100 strike outs in a Sox uniform and a WHIP less than 1.500. In addition to these three areas starters must also have a winning record in Sox uniform and have at least five seasons of double digit wins. Closers, on the other hand, must have at least 100 career saves with the Sox and five seasons of double digit saves.

For position players to have their number retired, they must maintain a batting average above .300 during his time with the Red Sox, have a minimum of 100 career homeruns in a Sox uniform and a minimum of four season with 100 hits and Runs Batted In.

Also the committee will take into consideration any awards and honors the player has accumulated as a member of the Red Sox organization.

He must be ambassador off the playing field

The working definition of the term “team ambassador” will be defined as followed. The committee will look into any charities the player has created or given his time and/or money towards during his time in Boston. They will also take into consideration what how he has represented the team when he was away from the playing field. If there are any discrepancies in his actions as a representative of the Boston Red Sox off the field (i.e. public acts of stupidity) it will not necessarily bar him from having his number retired, but it will be noted. To have your number retired, you must be in good standing with the team, the fans, the City of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the New England region. The committee will also take into consideration any idea the player has implemented while with the Boston Red Sox that the team has kept well after the player has left Boston.

After you have just read my policy proposition for the new Red Sox retired numbers policy can any of you guys the “head fake?”