As he walked off the field after giving up Aaron Boone’s walk off home run in game seven of the 2003 ALCS, Tim Wakefield feared that pitch would make him the new Bill Buckner, shunned and blamed for yet another historic Red Sox loss. He worried that his legacy—like Buckner’s—would be tied to the failure, not the effort.
Buckner had been a solid fan favorite until that infamous 1986 grounder. Were Red Sox fans really so fickle as to turn on a player for one mistake? Perhaps, but my theory is that Wakefield was forgiven and Buckner was maligned not because of the mistake, but because of what that mistake appeared to be. While we all watched (through our fingers) as Wake pitched his heart out, Buckner’s failure to get his glove down screamed complacency—and epitomized another missed opportunity for the bad luck Sox.
In Rhode Island politics, sometimes it seems like our players aren’t even in the same game that we are. The latest episode: Governor Chafee announced in a television interview that he had received a waste and fraud report and then immediately poo-pooed calls to release it, saying that we should “trust” him to deal with it appropriately. While “Trust Chafee” was an effective campaign tagline to garner 37 percent of the vote, this is Rhode Island and “trust” is not often associated with “politician” in the Biggest Little.
When Chafee reluctantly released the report a few days later, he told the story of the duck (that’s Governor Duck to you) who seemed to be floating on the water while in fact his feet were paddling like mad. While I know that he’s toiling away every day, transparency matters, and appearances matter. Letting us see the duck’s feet churning away is part of the deal.
The good news for Bill Buckner—and perhaps for Governor Chafee—is that wins and the passage of time can change perceptions. I was at Fenway for Opening Day in 2008 and celebrated Buckner’s redemptive return through my own watering eyes and with my sore-from-clapping hands. For Governor Chafee there’s still time to get in the game, but Rhode Islanders are going to need some big wins to trust how he chooses to field his position.
Cara Cromwell is public affairs consultant with more than twenty years experience managing issues campaigns for corporations, non-profits, associations, coalitions and candidates on both sides of the aisle. An unaffiliated voter, serial ticket-splitter and enthusiastic Red Sox fan, she believes that in politics—and baseball—game changing action occurs in the middle, creating opportunity on the ball field and compromise and coalition-building in the halls of power. Visit her blog, Straight Up The Middle, at http://straightupthemiddle.blogspot.com/ and follow her on Twitter @cmcromwell