A simple scan of social media makes it clear that 2016 wasn’t an arbitrary number plucked from the space-time continuum. Rather, the year was a biblical scourge, a nefarious entity that plundered the planet of its most beloved celebrities and filled the terrible void with Donald Trump.
The amount of ire people are focusing on an alleged date based on the birth of Jesus is astounding.
For the Red Sox and their fans, however, 2016 was not nearly as diabolical. While the season ended in disappointment, since being swept out by Terry Francona’s Indians, Rick Porcello picked the up the Cy Young Award, Chris Sale came to Boston and Clay Buchholz—and all of his boo-boos and ouchies—were shipped to Philly.
But the big story for 2016 was David Ortiz’s swan song.
Granted, the farewell tour started at the end of 2015 with Papi announcing his retirement, setting the stage for a year’s worth of sappy and sycophantic tributes, standing ovations and, of course, custom-made L.L. Bean boots from the front office.
I’m not going to argue that Ortiz didn’t deserve a splendid send-off after a Hall-of-Fame career, and Papi should be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. And the statistics the 40 year-old slugger boasted in his final season were even more astonishing, stats that seemed to defy aging and the concept of time, the latter of which is currently caught the collective public’s craw.
Still, there is such a thing as overkill, and while the Red Sox were contending for a pennant, the ubiquitous reach-arounds from other organizations, fans and the media throughout the MLB became a distraction. The Red Sox lost eight of their last nine games, including the Cleveland’s sweep in the ALDS, and during this period, there seemed to be a Papi-party every other game, including a three-day celebration in the final weekend at Fenway.
Nothing, however, captures the essence the 2016 season of celebrations quite like the night of Sept. 28, when the Red Sox clinched the AL East at Yankee Stadium.
With a lead in the ninth, after a Toronto loss, the Red Sox found out they clinched the division as the Yankees rallied back against closer Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly. Almost half an hour after winning the division, Mark Texeira hit a grand slam walk-off, effectively spoiling the traditional post-game champagne baths.
As NESN cameras closed in on the clubhouse, it looked like a middle school dance where no one was quite sure what to do next. John Farrell then gave a milquetoast Gipper speech in front of the NESN cameras and players faked an awkward celebration, lacing the normally family-friendly broadcast with a machine-gun fire of F-bombs.
Despite the disappointing end to the season, and Papi’s career—please don’t pull a Brett Favre, Papi—the 2016 Red Sox saw their young crop of talent coming to fruition. Mookie Betts put up MVP numbers, and while Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. petered in the second half of the season, there’s still much promise. Andrew Benitendi also made his presence known on the big league roster after leaping up from the AA Portland Sea Dogs.
The year’s biggest moment, however, happened off the field when President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowksi—now being shat on by skeptics for gutting the farm system—signed left-handed stud Chris Sale in a trade with the White Sox, joining Cy Young winners Craig Price (and his dog Astro) and Rick Porcello in the most formidable starting rotation in baseball.
While, yes, 2016 saw the death of innumerable luminaries; and, yes, it marked the onset of some politically tumultuous and terrifying times, that is all the more reason to embrace our pastimes and the simply joys. Time is relative.
With that said, Happy New Year.