Jacoby Ellsbury was welcomed back to Boston this Tuesday by a throng of boos, vitriol, and outrage. Fans held signs calling Ellsbury a “sellout” and “traitor” with one sign actually reading “Break a leg Jacoby, seriously”. The animosity was so malicious you would have sworn Ellsbury had singlehandedly lost the World Series for the Sox last season, as opposed to helping them win it. But Ellsbury won’t be remembered for winning a World Series with Boston, he’ll be remembered for winning two. In 2007 and 2013 Ellsbury combined to hit .325/.386/.450 in the fall classic. In his seven seasons with the Red Sox Ellsbury hit .297/.350/.439 with 241 stolen bases while averaging a 4.8 WAR per 650 plate appearances. Ellsbury didn’t always fit in Boston; he was quiet and reserved and developed an unfair reputation of being injury-prone. The majority of Ellsbury’s injuries had more to do with hard play and bad luck than poor conditioning. I can’t think of anyone who could survive a full-speed head on collision with Adrian Beltre… How quickly we forget in Boston. “They’re booing the uniform not the player” is the hackneyed response to the ice-cold receptions to Sox legends like Johnny Damon, Roger Clemens, and Wade Boggs following their returns to Fenway in pinstripes. As a Red Sox fan it’s truly embarrassing when a player that’s given so much to the team and city returns only to be maligned and burned at the stake by the same fans that worshipped him six months prior.
After three championships since 2004, you would think the Sox could lose 100 games for 10 straight years and still be in the fans good graces. It baffles me how a fan base that went 86 years without a championship can be this entitled. Red Sox nation collectively turned their backs on champions like Terry Francona, Josh Beckett, John Lester, Clay Bucholz, and John Lackey only to pull a complete 180 and embrace the latter three with open arms the second the team starting winning again. The reactionary sensationalized nature of sports talk-radio and journalism in the vast Boston media market often bleeds over and shapes fans opinions for better or worse. It’s safe to assume that if the Red Sox continue playing poorly this season; last year’s World Series title will be quickly forgotten. A true fan of a team mustn’t waver. You buy tickets and cheer regardless of your team’s current position in the standings. You don’t have to agree with the moves or decisions of your favorite ball club, but you still watch the games and wear the cap. Fair-weather fans and bandwagon jumpers will come and go, but real fans should take pride in knowing sticking it out through the lean years makes winning all the more sweeter.
The Yankees/Red Sox rivalry is dead. The two teams haven’t faced each other in the postseason in 12 years, and the only two players remaining from 2004 ALCS are David Ortiz and Derek Jeter. The subsequent “hatred” between these two teams is largely manufactured by the media and broadcast television in order to boost interest and ratings. Do you honestly think the players from either of these teams play harder or with more intensity when they face each other as opposed to any other team? It’s fun for Sox fans to hate the Yankees and vice-versa but is there really any reason anymore? If you think Ellsbury signing with the Yankees is such an act of betrayal don’t blame him, blame the Red Sox front office. They didn’t touch the years and money offered by the Yankees, and this Red Sox fan is glad they didn’t. More power to Ellsbury, but I’m excited not to be burdened with a 37-year-old, making $21 million, playing center field for my team in 2021. I’m grateful the Red Sox got to employ Ellsbury for his age 24-29 seasons for a combined salary of what he’ll be making in one year as a Yankee. I’m happy for Jacoby Ellsbury. He was a great player for the Red Sox, and he played his way into a massive free agent contract. I’m glad it’s no longer my favorite team cutting the checks. So instead of booing Ellsbury for what he’s become, how about cheering him for what he was. I’m sure it will be easier for the “Fenway Faithful” to cheer for him when he’s an aging 37-year-old making $21 million dollars for a team they love to hate.