At Least Occasionally, There Can Be An “I” In “Team”

When baseball players are interviewed, their comments are filled with cliché after cliché about team, taking it one day at a time, and the like. If a player goes 4 for 4 in a game his team loses, he will almost universally say that he would trade his individual success for a team victory. Well, there were some memorable individual moments during the Diamondback’s visit to Fenway this past weekend that likely rise above the clichés and affirm unspoken self-interests.

Stephen Drew had an unceremonial departure from the D-Backs last season after questions as to his toughness and character following the perceived slow recovery from a near shattered ankle.

He returned to the lineup later than expected in 2012 and was hitting .193 in 40 games. Out of apparent frustration, the D-Backs unloaded Drew, trading him to Oakland in late August for a minor leaguer. At season’s end, Oakland declined to exercise a $10 million team option for 2013 and released Drew after paying a 1.35 million buyout. Drew then signed a one-year deal to play in Beantown. He has since had only marginal success, entering the series against the D-Backs hitting .230. Over the three game series against his former team, however, Drew raised his average to .244, unleashing on the D-Backs with a 6 for 9 weekend, including one home run, 3 runs batted in and 4 runs scored. Sure, if Drew said anything at all, it would likely be that he was pleased the Red Sox took 2 out of 3 from the D-Backs. But don’t for a moment think that this quiet, easy going guy is not relishing his torrid weekend against the team that nurtured his professional development and then abruptly parted ways.

Cody Ross played for the Red Sox during the disastrous Bobby Valentine regime last year, where he had signed a one-year free agent contract. Despite the tumultuous season for the team, Ross demonstrated his value, playing in 130 games and hitting .267 with 22 home runs. He loved playing on Boston and wanted to remain. However, according to Ross, the Red Sox brass told him that they were not going to commit to any longer term contracts. Soon after, the Red Sox signed Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli to three-year deals (although Napoli’s deal was shortened to one year after health issues arose). Ross felt that he was lied to and from his perspective, he was ready to commit to a long term relationship but the Sox left him at the Alter. Ross soured on the Sox and elected to sign for three years with the D-Backs. He returned to Boston this past weekend with just a little more fuel in the tank because of the bad taste in his mouth as to how he was treated. As the saying goes, payback is a bitch, and Ross went 6 for 13, including a timely home run on Friday night to help lead the D-Backs to their 7-6 victory. As Ross departed Boston on Sunday and despite losing 2 of 3 to Boston, don’t you think there was at least some “take that” in Ross’ mind?

Paul Goldschmidt played for the first time this past weekend in famed Fenway. Although Goldschmidt was born in Delaware and was raised in Texas, his father, David, was raised in Natick, Massachusetts, a town just 15 miles out of Boston. As Goldschmidt noted, almost all of his father’s family members were Red Sox fans for life. His father, David, and a number of the Goldschmidt clan trekked to Boston to watch Goldie’s premier. And they were rewarded. In his first ever at bat at Fenway, Goldschmidt cleared the Green Monster for a first inning two–run home run. He finished the series going 4 for 12 with an additional home run. Down the career road for Goldie, he and his family will long forget that the D-Backs dropped two of three, but the memory of that first at bat and first series in Fenway will live on.

Joe Thatcher made his debut with the D-backs on Friday. He had just arrived with the team after being traded for Ian Kennedy, who was well-liked by Thatcher’s new teammates. Thatcher entered the game on Friday night and promptly struck out Big Popi. Upon returning to the dugout, he was nothing but smiles as he received kudos from his new teammates. Thatcher made three appearances over the weekend and pitched two scoreless and hitless innings (although he walked two in a row on Sunday). He sent a message to his new buddies that he was there for a reason.

And then there was Tuffy Gosewisch. His name is likely not familiar to many of you. Tuffy is a soon to be 30 year old career minor leaguer, who played high school ball at Horizon High School in Scottsdale. He was undrafted and went on to play for baseball powerhouse ASU. In 2005, following his NCAA Baseball successes, he was drafted in the 11th round by the Phillies. He made the rounds through their minor league system until 2012, when he was traded to Toronto, where he was again designated for a minor league assignment. After being released by Toronto following the season, doubts as to his future must have been at the forefront. However, Tuffy signed as a free agent with the D-Backs in 2013 and spent the first four months of the season again in the minors. He was then finally called up during this past interleague road trip. Tuffy had recorded his first major league hit in Texas last week, but it paled by comparison to playing at Fenway. He started on Sunday behind the plate in Boston, replacing inning-eater Miguel Montero and super-sub Wil Nieves. His mom, dad and other family and friends were seated in the visiting family section and were clearly focused more on Tuffy’s performance than the score posted on Fenway’s iconic scoreboard. In the eighth inning and with the D-Backs trailing 4-0, Tuffy came to the plate. He laced an outside corner fastball into right field for a base hit, later to be stranded at second base. His parents grinned from ear to ear following that first Fenway hit, and are likely still beaming. Do you think they would replace that moment with a strikeout if in return the D-Backs won the game? Me thinks not.

So, for a moment, I will cast aside the clichés regarding team for a true team sport, and acknowledge the individual. Good for you, Stephen, for reminding the D-Backs of why they invested so many years in you. Good for you, Cody, for making the Red Sox question why they didn’t invest more years in you. Way to go, Joe, for impressing your new teammates in your first outing and then smiling widely enough for them to realize how much their approval and your contributions matter. And as to Goldie and Tuffy, kudos for giving your parents a thrill.

I wish the D-Backs had greater success during this road trip, but these individual accomplishments warmed my heart and will long be remembered.