Friday, January 19, 2007

The Nation mourns the departure of Trot

There's an old children's rhyme I remember my mother using back in the day in Boston whenever she had a baby on her lap and it went like this:

Trot trot to Boston
Trot trot to Lynn
Trot trot to Boston
We all fall -IN!

Upon exclaiming "IN," she would let the bouncing baby fall through her lap while the child screeched in fear/delight.

I'm going to paraphrase that ditty in honor of the departure of one of the Nation's favorite sons, Christopher Trotman Nixon:

Trot trots from Boston
His new trot begins
Trot's off to Cleveland
Our hearts fall in

Yes, the Red Sox Nation has lost one of its most beloved members today as the original "dirt dog" Trot Nixon signed a contract to play for the Cleveland Indians. The deal is for one year and worth $3 million, a significant drop off from the $7.5 mil he made in his last year with the Sox. Nixon played his entire career with Boston since he first came up in 1996. By 1999 he was the starting right fielder who became an instant fan favorite; thanks to his hard-charging style, desire to compete, and willingness to get his uniform dirty.

Trotter turned out to be a solid outfielder, making numerous diving & lunging catches in Fenway's tricky right field corner, and steadily grew into a threat at the plate. He went from modest numbers in his first full season (15 HRs, 52 RBIs, .270 avg.) to a three year stretch, 2001-03 in which he averaged 26 homers, 90 RBIs and a .279 batting average. That production, combined with his infamous pine tar-laden batting helmet and willingness to play through injuries, only further endeared himself to a fan base that tends to deify blue collar-type sports stars (see Bird, Larry.)

He made the transformation from scrappy fan favorite to full-fledged cult hero during the Sox' magical World Series-winning campaign of 2004. After injuries limited him to just 48 games in the regular season, he would go on to have one of the most memorable postseasons in the history of the franchise. He batted .255 in 13 postseason games with 1 home run (off New York's Kevin Brown in Game 3 of the ALCS), 4 doubles and 8 RBIs; he also had a big RBI hit in each of Boston's three series and nearly one in every game he played.

Trot then hit .357 (5-14, 3 doubles, 3 RBIs) in the World Series. His 3-double, 2-RBI performance in Game 4 helped clinch the title and placed Trot in the pantheon of Boston sports idols.

Alas the injuries that showed up in 2004 would signify a downturn in Nixon's health, games played and consequently his production. From 2004-06 he averaged just 95 games played with 9 home runs and 47 RBIs thanks to hamstring, quad, back and biceps problems. Last year he played in only 114 games and managed a mere 8 home runs and 52 RBIs. It doesn't take a GM to figure out that those numbers plus the injuries, hefty salary, and impending free agency probably spelled the end of Trot's playing days at Fenway as a member of the Sox; when Boston agreed to sign right fielder J.D. Drew (a deal that has yet to be officially finalized, BTW) every member of the Nation knew that it did.

Now we will be able to catch one of our favorite sons on the MLB package and the times the Indians play the Sox. I know I will be heading to see the Indians play the Blue Jays or Rays this spring training and will be among the legions of Nation members down here that will be there thanking him for all he did for our beloved Sawx. He was always one of those players willing to talk to the fans and sign autographs, as you can see from this baseball he signed for my son (which of course rests in my Sports Den), as well as give back to the community.

Best of luck Trot. We will miss your tattered, dirt-stained #7 patrolling right field and your duel-flapped, pine tar-smeared helmet digging in from the left side of the plate. Here's hoping you resurrect your career and bring some of your trademark characteristics to a downtrodden franchise.

Why do I get a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that he is going to end up being a member of another Boston society--the Red Sox Killers Club?

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