After Dave Dombrowski expressed his desire to keep as much of this championship team intact as possible for next season, it was surprising to see reports that many key players might be made ‘available’ this offseason as Boston attempts to lower its payroll and remain under the luxury tax threshold. Among the names were 2016 Cy Young Rick Porcello, reigning ALCS MVP and Gold Glove centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., and two-time Silver Slugger Xander Bogaerts.
It’s weird to think about, but Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are veteran Red Sox at this point. Despite their youth and the limitless futures that still lie before them, both have been on the team since 2013. They’re nowhere near as old or long-serving as Dustin Pedroia, but they’ve been here for a long time.
When I heard some of our key players could be gone, it hit me really hard. And it bothered me most of yesterday, even after Dave Dombrowski somewhat shut down the rumors, saying “We’re not looking to move anybody. We’re not driven to move anybody.”
But I’m still agitated, and not just because Dombrowski went on to say that he would ‘prefer’ to stay under the $246 million luxury-tax threshold, the highest one. Among various reasons, it reminded me that Chris Sale, Mookie Betts, Porcello, Bogey, and JBJ will all be free agents in the next two years. And as Dombrowski said, we won’t be able to keep them all. Things will change eventually, whether we want them to or not.
Baseball seasons are like snowflakes. Each one, in its own way, beautiful and unique. No two are the same. You can keep the exact same team, manager, uniforms, replicate everything down to the smallest detail: the results will still be different. Different players will come up big, and different players will fail. Opponents will be different, and the outcomes of the games will be different. And like snowflakes, each baseball season is impermanent and fleeting, over before we know it.
We can rationally acknowledge these things to be true, and yet, as emotional Red Sox fans, wish it could be otherwise. I think that’s the reason it was so upsetting to hear that Xander, Rick Porcello, or JBJ could be gone in 2019; it means that 2018 will truly be over. This spectacular, magical year, this championship season, this brotherhood of a team. As long as they’re still all together, it still feels like we’re in it, even though the duck boats parked long ago.
Eventually, these players will scatter or retire. We’ll have to see them in different uniforms, likely even root against some of them; these days, most players don’t stay with one team for their entire career. Years will pass, and we might forget some of their names or that they had some great moment that contributed to this incredible season. And when we remember what we’ve forgotten, it’ll be sad to think that we ever could’ve forgotten anything about this Red Sox team. But baseball is a business, and even if it wasn’t and everyone in it was as nostalgic and emotional as I am, nothing lasts forever.
I didn’t feel like my childhood truly ended until David Ortiz retired. I was twenty-three. For over a decade, he was a constant in my life; every Opening Day, he was in the lineup. Every big moment, he was there, the most clutch hitter of all time. When he retired, I remember suddenly feeling old and adult, and the world seemed more real; I realized that all good things must come to an end.
But that doesn’t mean new good things don’t follow. This year, we won our first World Series. We won without David Ortiz, but we won. And hopefully, we’ll keep winning.
2019 will be different. We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we know it doesn’t hold the past. 2004 is over. 2007 is over. 2013 is over. And soon, 2018 will be over, too. The only way to cope is to keep playing to win. A new season, another chance at championship.