So in the end, the Red Socks’ – er, Red Sox’ – much-scrutinized visit to the White House featured a little pomp, a little circumstance, and about as much lasting relevance as a ceremonial first pitch at a Tuesday night game at Fenway in July.
No, the optics were not optimal, with the majority of the Red Sox’ minority players (as well as manager Alex Cora) absent and the majority of the white players in attendance as President Donald Trump meandered his way through a brief celebration of the franchise’s 2018 World Series championship.
The demographic divide was as obvious as, well, black or white. Ideally (and idealistically) for many among us, it would have been satisfying to see the entire Red Sox roster stand behind their absent teammates rather than behind the divisive president.
But it was not a surprise, and not an especially big deal. Red Sox players have been making their individual intentions known for weeks, long before Cora’s announcement Sunday that he would not go turned this into a trending national story.
Despite a national tone to this story that suggests the Red Sox clubhouse is about to turn into the modern version of the Bronx Zoo and the ghost of Tom Yawkey hovers above Fenway yelling at Jackie Robinson, there is not a single indication that any of this has led to even a hint of divisive effect on the Red Sox themselves, who reached .500 for the first time this season with a win over the Orioles Wednesday night.
The Red Sox handled the situation appropriately, and really, in the only way that made sense: By allowing the invited individuals to make their own decisions, and respecting the right to make that decision even if it differs from that of the player in the next locker over.
As for the event itself, the whole thing got off to an inauspicious start Thursday when the White House sent out a press release regarding the day’s schedule that included President Trump meeting “the Red Socks.”
The president, who doesn’t exactly come across as a former grade-school spelling bee champ in his tweets, apparently isn’t the only one in the White House who spells phonically.
In a ceremony on the White House South Lawn, President Trump spoke for approximately 12 minutes, offering the kind of insight found on Wikipedia. He praised Nathan Eovaldi’s performance in Game 3 of the World Series (“that was a good job he did”), was clearly impressed by Chris Sale’s 14-strikeout performance Wednesday night, and offered the usual scattered non-sequiturs (the Red Sox general manager’s name sure sounded like Dumb-browski in Trump’s pronunciation) and name-drops (he revealed George Steinbrenner was mad at him for throwing out a ceremonial first-pitch at Fenway in 2006).
In praising the ’18 Red Sox’ start-to-finish dominance, he said: “Frankly, they were unstoppable. You outscored your opponents by 229 runs and won 108 games in the regular season,” Sadly, he did not take it a step further and mention their Pythagorean won-lost record based on that run differential. Apparently he is a conventional stats guy.
Sale and J.D. Martinez wrapped up the public festivities by presenting the Yankees fan with a Red Sox jersey. They both made a few remarks, and while it would have been a deft touch to acknowledge some teammates who were not there, it’s a reach to go so far as to suggest it was necessary.
Ultimately, the Red Sox, having conquered last October, came and they saw and they checked out the Lincoln Bedroom.
Well, some of the Red Sox did. Some didn’t, and here’s to their individual prerogative to do what they feel is right.
None of this will get in the way of their quest, uphill though it is right now, to have the same decision to make next year.
In the meantime, it’s never too soon to wonder how many Bruins will go after they win the Stanley Cup in a few weeks, right?