DougMirabelli had the best timing of any backup catcher in the history of
major league baseball. He joined the Sox in the middle of the 2001
season, as the team hurtled towards its 83rd straight year of
unfulfilled hopes, then celebrated a joyfully apocalyptic championship
in 2004 and another for good measure in 2007. Upon his release
yesterday, he left the Red Sox as one of only eight players who played on both championship clubs.
I’m a sentimental baseball fan, so I was truly saddened to hear the
Sox had let Mirabelli go. But I trust Theo and Terry and I’m sure it
was the right thing for the team.
What never ceases to surprise me, however, is how easily fans and
media let someone like Doug Mirabelli just slide out of sight. He’ll
get a short article in the Herald and Globe that will be
primarily about how important Varitek is to the team, and the callers
to our sports talk show radio stations today will say, "Doug was overweight and slow, and he couldn’t hit a lick, good riddance!" We
obsess over these players and cheer for them like crazy, then when
their usefulness is spent, we discard them like old cell phones.
I realize that every professional baseball player’s career must come
to an end, and that they always come to an end while the player is
relatively young (Doug is 37, and in the whole scheme of
things, that is young). I realize that turnover in baseball is
inevitable – and, ultimately, desirable. I realize that Mirabelli’s
batting average dipped to .202 last season and would probably have
dipped below the Mendoza Line this season. I’m not saying that
releasing him was not a smart move.
But let’s give the guy his due. He was the only player capable of
catching Wakefield’s wicked knuckleballs. He hit some dramatic, key
home runs as a member of the Red Sox. He accepted his backup role with
grace and appeared to be a good teammate, too. And most importantly, he
was our backup catcher during the greatest era in Boston Red Sox
history since the early 20th Century.
The former baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti once wrote, "The
game breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to
foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some
pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality
that would resist the corrosion…"
"Of course, there are those who were born with the wisdom to know
that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who
can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am
not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more
primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever."
like Bart. There’s a part of me that wants to believe the illusion that
that 2004 team can last forever; that the Wake and Dougie battery will
be there every fifth day for eternity. And that part of me died a small
death yesterday with the news of Mirabelli’s release. Of course, for
Doug Mirabelli himself, the news has to be its own unique form of
dying. It’s the end of the most magical period of his life. "Not a lot
of fun for anybody," said Terry Francona about breaking the news to
Mirabelli prior to yesterday’s game.
Fireworks aren’t necessary, nor is the cover of Sports Illustrated.
I get it. He’s not Brett Favre. But how about a heartfelt "standing O"
for our #28? Those members of Red Sox Nation who have the good fortune
of attending the Red Sox’ home opener, on April 8, will get their
chance to applaud Mirabelli’s contributions to this franchise as he is
introduced to receive his 2007 World Series ring (unless he’s playing
for another team by then). Maybe we’ll get to hear Tim McGraw’s "Live Like You Were Dying"
one last time (the poignant song about making the most of every moment
that Mirabelli chose to blare from Fenway’s loudspeakers every time he
came to the plate). If you’re there that day, I hope you’ll cheer long
and loud. Not just for Doug Mirabelli, but for all members of that
great 2004 team who have slipped away silently from baseball; who, in
the end, could not "resist the corrosion."
To download my song I’m a Member of Red Sox Nation for free, or to see the YouTube music video for this song, visit www.crawdaddycove.com.