By Ted Gay – @TedG63
Every Red Sox fan has the right to have one player they irrationally hate. In 2013, during the last year of his life, my father hated Jon Lester. He thought Lester was an over-privileged, underachieving, weak-hearted player who was always ready to point the finger of blame at his teammates. I spent hours trying to convince him otherwise, including informing him that both he and Lester were cancer survivors. “Bah,” my father said, waving his hand. “He’s a bum.”
I had a friend who, for the length of his career, hated Jason Varitek with a passion, and another friend’s mother who refused to watch Jonathan Papelbon pitch because he disgusted her.
When I was a child, I loved every Red Sox player unconditionally. Then, in 1976, my innocence ended. The Red Sox, after going to the World Series the year before, got off to a disappointing start. The Yankees were hosting them in a late spring contest. A win would keep the Sox within striking distance of their first place rivals. A loss would make their hole deeper. The Sox took the lead into the ninth when they turned the ball over to a blonde, curly-haired reliever named Tom House, who had joined the bullpen over the winter and was best known for catching Hank Aaron’s record-shattering homerun. On this Sunday, with House holding on to a two-run lead, he surrendered a three-run blast to Chris Chambliss in the ninth inning. That was the first moment I hated a Red Sox player, and I would continue to hate him for the rest of his sad life.
House would become better-known post-career. He started as a pitching coach and then became a tutor to many top major league hurlers. From there he has moved on to working with NFL quarterbacks. He is one of the most respected minds when it comes to throwing motion. To me, he is still the sucky guy who gave up the homerun to Chris Chambliss.
Even during good years I still had room in my heart to hate one player. Bob Stanley in 1986 (and his entire career), Curtis Leskanic in 2004, Manny Delcarmen in 2007 and Will Middlebrooks in 2013.
This year’s player? Despite most of the Sox I despised being relievers, the Sox bullpen having had a shaky early May, and me still not trusting Matt Barnes after he blew a lead against the Indians last year, my most irrationally despised player is Sandy Leon.
Every time he comes up in a big situation he makes an out. He is only average defensively and calls a bad game. He’s too heavy, he is slow and taking a spot from a young catcher who could grow with the team.
Do you have stats? I don’t care; when it comes to Sandy Leon, I am not rational. I see him get big hits, I see him make great plays, but I have a special Sandy Leon filter in my mind that blocks all of that out. I hate him. He sucks.
I know you have one too. Is it Joe Kelly? Jackie Bradley Jr? Matt Barnes? Christian Vasquez? Drew Pomeranz? Brian Johnson? Don’t tell me you love them all equally. That is just something we tell our last favorite kid to make them feel good.
The statisticians will bring out all sorts of charts and graphs to prove that our hated player is actually good. There may even be video proof. But you can’t win an argument with someone who irrationally hates a player. I couldn’t do it with my father about Jon Lester; you can’t do it with me about Sandy Leon.
We have to be slightly irrational to he sports fans. Sometimes that irrationality goes in a negative direction.
Sorry, Sandy, you may hit a World Series-winning grand slam for the Sox, and when you touch home plate and get mobbed by your teammates, I will think “He sucks.”