One essential thing in the evolution of the Homo sapiens specie has been our collective ability to believe in fictions, to embrace myths in the absence of logic. This, of course, is not my own theory—I’m not nearly that smart—but when you think about it, we all subscribe to stories that give our lives meaning, purpose, joy and substance.
We use our stories to explain our existence and tether them to articles of faith—hence, we have religions. We use these same stories to establish law and order within our cultures and communities. We’ve created fictions, such as nations and currencies, to motivate us to get out of bed in the morning.
As children, we believe in stories of Santa Claus, a portly home-invader who somehow traverses the world in 24 hours, and an Easter Bunny, a creepy human-sized rabbit biped who hides baskets in kitchen cabinets and closets.
In New England, Red Sox fans have ascribed to another myth, a myth I’m now calling “The Myth of Rick.”
Let me put this bluntly: Rick Porcello is not an ace, and his Cy Young season was an aberration, a distortion of statistics. The 2016 Rick Porcello was a nice story, but that’s not the reality.
I watched Chris Sale—a veritable big league ace—notch his first win in Boston uniform on Saturday, and to put it plainly in a language Seinfeld fans will get, “it moved.” Sale controls the plate, and much like Pedro Martinez, leaves hitters helpless in the box. He throws heat, mixes speeds, and throws strikes with all of his pitches. The hitter’s best chance is to swing early in the count and guess the right.
Rick Porcello, meanwhile, is…the antithesis of this? If his location is slightly off, he gets crushed, as evidenced in Friday night’s start against Tampa Bay where he was shelled for eight earned-runs, including four bombs, in a 10-5 loss at Fenway, which reminded of the Rick Porcello we came to know in 2015.
But this is the real Rick Porcello. Remember, he led the MLB in run-support in last year’s Cy Young bid. Last season, Porcello had a portly 7.6 runs-per-games behind him in his starts. That helps to bulk a starting pitcher’s record. Porcello finished with an impressive 22-4 record on his road to the Cy Young, which was somewhat misleading.
The point being that despite winning the Cy Young Award with his 22 wins—which was an arguable choice, given both Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber had lowers ERA’s (the stat that explains all)—the idea that Rick Porcello is an ace is as unbelievable as the Easter Bunny. It’s a myth, a fiction, and we’re seeing this now. Porcello is not a bad pitcher, but he’s not an ace.
We see the same mythological narrative when trying to justify the $30 million contract given to David Price—and his dog, Astro—who is currently on the DL and who has firmly established himself as one of the great chokers in postseason sports. Period.
Then there’s Chris Sale, who is definitely no Easter Bunny.