The Boston Red Sox need a player with Oomph and Duende
Where have you gone, Big Papi, Red Sox Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Former Red Sox MVP Mookie Betts is not a star player and neither is Mike Trout nor will they ever be. Now that I have your attention and wondering about my medication regime or the value of shock treatments I will say both are arguably the best players in the professional ranks. If I was the mad baseball scientist designing the perfect player it would be both or would it?
Neither Betts nor Trout is the face of baseball and it is their nature – the composition of their personalities – basically quiet, reticent, non-controversial, and extremely professional in their approach to the game. But they are not the stars in the larger than life capacity. A baseball answer to oomph – an indefinable something that commands interest.
The last Red Sox star whose notoriety, public exposure, panache, elan, all went both on and off the playing surface was David Ortiz – right down to the roots with a perfect nickname – Big Papi. The Red Sox were fortunate in the Ortiz reign they also had a second and somewhat lesser version in Manny Ramirez – “Manny being Manny” is not embedded in the baseball lexicon for an apt description for a player prone to the bizarre.
Go back far enough into Red Sox lore and there is Ted Williams who generated as much intense interest outside the diamond as on. That is the real star power – incredible talent combined with an almost indefinable aura that seeps out demanding attention and public interest even if you can’t tell the difference between a baseball and lug wrench. They become more than just a statistical collection.
The single most intuitive signing George Steinbrenner ever made was Reggie Jackson. A perfect star for a city that thrives on the star system – the straw that stirs the drink. Quotable, belligerent, dramatic, and talented. To paraphrase a Supreme Court Justice on pornography “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” And locally we have seen it with Ortiz, Ramirez, Luis Tiant, and Pedro Martinez. They can talk you know what and back it up.
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You cannot manufacturer this type of star and just as a Super Nova, they are quite rare. Boston does not have one on the roster, but stars they have. Xander Bogaerts is as competent as they get at a crucial position and is noted for his leadership, but we know only anecdotal information about XB and that is it – and it is probably the way he likes it – just like Betts. Rafael Devers may soon or already have joined Bogaerts in the star category as has Chris Sale. But not THE star quality.
With Ortiz, Pedro, Tiant, and Manny the Red Sox got lucky and all four were imports, and as their personalities surfaced it brought traction. A real bonus is all four were Hispanic and of color for a franchise desperate to vanquish a sordid past. It worked.
The Red Sox since Ortiz packed it in has been a rather bland collection. No arguments about the results as 2018 speaks of that, but just something is missing. Or as George Frazier of the Boston Globe once coined an expression – Duende: “That special force or characteristic that makes someone or something irresistibly attractive.” Boston needs a jolt of Duende.