Sunday, December 09, 2001

The Winter Meetings

Baseball's annual winter meeting has begun, in Boston of all places, and, as most are very quick to point out, the meetings just ain't what they used to be.

Gone are the days of the blockbuster trades, now it's mostly free agent signings that spark interest and attention.

The last time I was surprised by a major Boston trade during a winter meeting, was December 8, 1977 when Lou Gorman unloaded Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi for Lee Smith, the big, right-handed reliever who went on to have some good seasons with the Red Sox. Remember everyone in Fenway standing up and then genuflecting to the Savior as Lee Smith would make his deliberate and always heroic walk from the bullpen to the dugout? Agamemnon departing Mycenae for Troy couldn't have looked any more epic than Smith's walk in before the 8th inning.

Of course, as Red Sox things go, Smith's relationship with the Red Sox ended acrimoniously with the whole Jeff Reardon signing and the let's use two all time great closers at the same time fiasco.

How many Red Sox deals don't end this way? Even players who remained with the club their entire careers seem to end off on a sour note. Sure, Ted Williams hit a home run on his final at bat, but he still loathed the Boston media and had a peculiar relationship with the fans, always, even in his last game, refusing to tip his hat to the fans after hitting a homer. Remember Jim Rice's dugout shoving match with Joe Morgan? Dwight Evans? On and on.

Well, Yaz did end his career on on a triumphant note and with no ill will as far as I can remember. And Fisk's tear filled number retiring ceremony at Fenway in 2000 certainly suggests that he has made amends with the club.

Good things can happen . . .