ANAHEIM, Calif. - Originally known as the Boston Americans, they’ve been the Red Sox since the early 1900s and are often called the Bosox.
Now, they have a new nickname, courtesy of outfielder Johnny Damon: The Idiots.
“We are not the cowboys anymore — we are just the idiots this year,” Damon said. “So we are going to go out and try to swing the bats, find the holes, and, hopefully, good things happen.”
Good things happened last year until the eighth inning in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series, when the Red Sox blew a 5-2 lead over the New York Yankees before losing 6-5 in 11 innings.
The Yankees went to the World Series; the Red Sox went home, making it 85 years since they last won the Series.
Now, the Red Sox (or Idiots) are trying again, facing the Anaheim Angels in a best-of-five AL division series. They’re in position to eliminate the Angels at Fenway Park this weekend and advance to the ALCS against the Yankees or Minnesota Twins.
“We were just a bunch of cowboys out there last year, just enjoying every minute,” Damon said. “Now, we know we have something to prove. We don’t want to be remembered as a team that, OK, we keep making it to the playoffs, but we keep having tough losses.
“I mean, we want to be known as a team that rewrites the history books.”
First-year manager Terry Francona wasn’t around last October, but he’s seen enough to have an opinion on his team.
“As a group, they are borderline nuts, but when they get out in the field, I think they try to play the game right,” he said. “I just want them to be themselves, because I think we are a good team like that.”
A good team with personality, according to Damon.
“This is definitely the best ballclub I’ve been on,” he said. “I mean, that Oakland ballclub in 2001 was pretty awesome. We were a bunch of frat boys there. This team is a little older, but we have that same attitude. We feel like we can win every game, we feel like we like to have fun, and I think that’s why this team is liked by so many people out there.
“You know, the kids watching us out there — we’ve got the long hair, we’ve got the cornrows, we got just guys acting like idiots. And I think the fans out there like it.”
Damon’s hair creeps down his back, and his beard gives him a caveman look. Pitcher Bronson Arroyo sports a cornrow hairstyle.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia had to chuckle when asked about Damon’s remarks.
“If they are idiots, they are idiots who can play,” Scioscia said.
The Red Sox have made that clear in recent years, and they won 98 games this season — their highest total since 1979.
But because of the Yankees, who won 101 games, the Red Sox are the AL wild card for the fourth time in seven years.
“I don’t think anyone is looking past any physical appearances to see if guys can play or not because those guys are good,” Scioscia said. “They definitely express themselves on an individual basis, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Calling Damon beautiful might be a stretch. But he can certainly play, as evidenced by his .304 batting average, 123 runs scored and career-high totals of 20 homers and 94 RBIs this season.
When Francona was asked about Anaheim’s Vladimir Guerrero and Boston’s Manny Ramirez in connection with the AL MVP Award, he replied: “I don’t know why no one is asking me about Johnny Damon.”
The 30-year-old Damon, a leadoff hitter, said home runs and RBIs attract more attention than what he does.
“I am just one of those sleeper guys,” he said. “I came into spring training and no one really took notice of what I did for the team last year, with the taking pitches, of getting on base, and playing pretty good ball.”
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