Former Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly has a message for fans
Games are getting canceled, the negotiations are moving at a snail’s pace, and the baseball world continues to be at a standstill. Though I have enjoyed seeing the Red Sox gang getting together on their own and hitting the sandlots near them to get the work in, it’s still isn’t much. While we wait for the news that a new CBA has been reached we have to find every bit of positivity and just when we need it most, Joe Kelly steps into the shining light.
"A plea: Don’t give up on baseball. It’s too important,” Joe Kelly said."
The former Red Sox reliever took to the LA Times to pen an impassioned message to baseball fans the world over and I felt every bit of it. Kelly not only spoke of his experiences as a player in the league but also as a fan of the beautiful sport known as baseball. As I kept scrolling down the page it felt more and more as if Fightin’ Joe had written those words to each and every one of us individually.
It’s always refreshing to hear from players who are still fans of the game in their hearts and don’t just look at this as a business and job. Joe touches on that very topic in his message and tries to hit at many of the talking points we’ve been hearing since December while relating them back to the humanity of those involved.
"“The usual criticisms of baseball have come bubbling to the surface. Baseball is slow, out of touch, selfish, steeped in traditions that no one even remembers anymore,” Kelly added. “Yes, I get it. The game has been trying to hold onto your loyalty for years now. This is it. Enough. But it’s time to take a breath and understand, deep down, that baseball is awesome, and the same critics who love to undermine America’s pastime know this.”"
As I said, Kelly points to the flaws in the current way MLB is run and speaks more as a fan than a player in the system. It’s a refreshing take from somebody who’s spent 10 years in the league and has two World Series rings. He could be as jaded as the next guy but instead, he wants nothing more than for the next generation to fall in love with baseball just as he did, and just as we did.
Throughout this entire process, the players have been united every step of the way. When we have a current scene where there’s a massive gap between the top of the pay scale and the bottom, the players remain in lockstep. Something that we’ve heard from some of the top names in the game, that also carry the highest paychecks, is that this isn’t about them, it’s about the next crop of players.
Guys like Max Scherzer, Andrew Miller, and Kelly are fighting to get better pay and situations for those just making it to the big leagues, as well as, those climbing tough the developmental ranks. That’s what sets this current crop of players apart from those we’ve seen in labor issues past all over the sports world, they’re not in this just for themselves. That’s why we need to stick with the players and back their fight, and another reason why Joe’s essay hit’s even harder.
Red Sox Nation had a love-hate relationship with ol’ Jim Buchanon until he became a machine in 2017 and then a damn Terminator in the 2018 Postseason. I think the fans always had a soft spot for Kelly despite his up and down performances but once he decided it was time to throw down, he was embraced in full. Tyler Austin learned that day that Fightin’ Joe wasn’t the guy to mess with and a new chapter in The Rivalry was written.
Joe would depart the Red Sox for Hollywood and the Dodgers in free agency but unlike others in the past, he never became an enemy. When he eventually returned to Fenway Park he was greeted with nothing but love from his former club along with a fantastic tribute video. I’ve pitched in the past for Kelly to be brought back to Boston and I’ll stand on that hill until it’s no longer there.
The Red Sox are in need of bullpen support and bringing back a guy who’s familiar with the organization could be the boost they’re looking for. Adding his veteran presence to a bullpen that has plenty of young arms could essentially give Alex Cora another coach on the staff. It’s hard to not learn from a guy who’s performed on the biggest stages when he was needed the most.
At the end of the day, nothing can be done until the lockout is ended and business opens back up. I expect a wild signing spree from all over the league when that day does arrive and Kelly could easily be scooped up by another contender. Not only does his performance on the mound justify another shot in the league but his words in this message further prove what we already know, he’s a great clubhouse guy.
"“All I ask is that while we are waiting, don’t forget why you care so much. Don’t forget why you own that player’s jersey. Don’t forget why you bring that baseball glove to the game,” Kelly reminisced. “Don’t forget why you felt compelled to ask those questions and get those answers. Don’t forget why baseball is so awesome. I haven’t, and never will.”"
To wrap everything up with a nice bow I just have to say I’m a Joe Kelly guy. At times he’s made my blood pressure shoot through the roof and at others he’s had me shouting at the television along with him after a big out. I’m glad I saw what he wrote and loved his words. When all is said and done, he’s one of us, he loves this wonderful game and wants to see it flourish, he’s a baseball fan.