Playing to Win

John Gruber, Yankees fan, writing for American McCarver

Winning should never get old. Never. Winning should make fans hungry for more winning.

The Yankees have lost many painful games in my lifetime, but one of the absolute worst was game seven of the 2001 World Series. The fact that the Yankees had won the three previous titles didn’t make the 2001 Series loss less painful — it made it worse. Good fans don’t think Well, we did win three in row. No, they think We should have won four in a row.

Though I am a Red Sox fan, I am not a ‘life-long’ Red Sox fan. I didn’t really start following the team until just before I got married in the Summer of 2004. I really haven’t known the ‘Cursed’ Red Sox. I have known the Red Sox as winners. And this Spring Training they looked like the winningest Red Sox yet.

Then the season started and the Best Team in Baseball lost their first six and eight of the first ten. By June everything was again right with the world, and they fought the Yankees back and forth all Summer for first place in the AL East. The only other team winning like the Sox and Yanks was the Phillies1.

Now reality has caught up with the Red Sox. Poor mid-season trades, injured and/or sub-par pitching, and just plain bad play has dropped them into a desperate struggle to even make the post-season, let alone make any sort of playoff run. Sure, these things happen. But in the history the Red Sox this seems to be the rule, rather than the exception.

The thing is, it seems like the Red Sox win despite themselves. From the top of the organization down, it just feels like they want to play the underdog. Instead of focusing on winning, and doing whatever has to be done to win, they rest on their laurels and rely on aging and injured bats to overcome poor decisions and poor pitching. It worked for a while this year, but Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez can only swing hot bats for so long.

The hated2 Yankees, and the Phillies, don’t see winning as a temporary state. They see each win as a spring board for the next win. Winning the World Series isn’t a miracle. It’s credit to get what you need to win the next one. Winning begets winning. And the Yankees are focused completely on winning.

Historic Yankee Stadium? Tear it down. Build a new one. We are winners. Jorge Posada? Play him into the ground like the Sox did Mike Lowell and are doing to Jason Varitek? Nope. Bench him if he can’t hit. We are winners. Nothing gets in the way of winning. From the management to the players to the grounds crew you do everything you have to do to win.

Don’t even get me started about Carl Crawford sitting out two games for a ‘stiff neck’.

I love the Sox. I don’t want to tear down Fenway. I think Tito is doing a good job. But I sure would like to see the organization re-focus on winning—from the top down—and do what it takes to win. Make the decisions and the moves to get what you need to win. We’ve got bats3, what we need is strong, durable, winning pitching. Let’s do that, ok? And let’s keep that focus on perpetual winning, not just winning for a short while.

The Phillies weren’t always so focused on winning but they sure as hell are now. It’s high time for the Red Sox to refocus on what actually matters. Winning the damn game.

  1. The Phillies are a team alone. As of this writing they are the only team with a real chance of winning 100 games. Their only NL East competition, the Braves, are ten games back with six to play, and three of those are against the Phillies.

  2. I’m a Dodgers and a Red Sox fan. Hatred of the Yankees is in the blood.

  3. Why in the hell would you pay that kind of money for Carl Crawford when you just signed Adrian Gonzalez? Insurance? That money would have bought a fair amount of the now-much-needed pitching.