Friday, July 11, 2003

Everything That Rises Must Converge

What a totally relaxing game last night, eh?

The Red Sox cannot be playing much better than they are right now …

Starting pitcher Ramiro Mendoza rode the wave as well as anyone last night. Allowing just one run in his five-inning start, the right-hander set the tone in a 7-1 victory that gave the Red Sox the three-game sweep against a Blue Jays team that is dropping off the map of playoff contenders (Silverman, Herald).

Meanwhile, as is our nature to obsess about the Yankees, the big news this morning is that

One day after indicating that his second-half rotation alignment likely would result in Pedro Martinez missing a three-game series against the New York Yankees later this month, Red Sox manager Grady Little publicly changed his mind last night at SkyDome (Massarotti, Herald).

And this is noteworthy from Edes:

[There is a] notion that someone -- Theo Epstein? Larry Lucchino? -- had to impress upon the manager that a win against the Yankees in late July has more bearing on October than a win against the Devil Rays, even though they count the same in the standings (Edes, Globe).

I'm as glad as the next guy that Petey will start against the Bombers. But I'm purposely distancing myself from the notion of Pedro vs. the Yankees and instead focusing entirely on the Red Sox vs. the Yankees.

Why? As much as I like Pedro Martinez, I know the world we live in. Players come and go. And if one puts too much emphasis in the notion of Pedro as Yankee slayer and gets all riled up by Pedro saying "Georgie-porgie… doesn't have the money to put fear in my heart," then one is really setting him or herself up for getting knocked down later.

While Georgie-porgie doesn't have the money to put fear in Pedro's heart, he does have the money to put Pedro in pinstripes. And I think there is better than a 50/50 chance that one day Pedro Martinez will be a Yankee, and he'll be moving Red Sox players off the inside of the plate with as much determination as he showed against Soriano and Jeter last Monday.

Baseball is a business. And I know many fans still refuse to accept this and pine for time past:

Fans miss the days when the players stuck around for more than a few years. Inflated player salaries are another sore point.

"These guys want to stay distant from the fan. They don't give you the feeling they're having a good time. They've become so distant, they're like they think they're better than the common folk," said Bob Walsh, a fan from Philadelphia. "It's all about the almighty dollar" (Achenbach, WaPo).

The fact is players stuck with one team because they had no choice. Before free agency,

"The biggest joke of all was trying to negotiate a contract. You had no choice. If they didn't feel like giving you something, they didn't have to" (Achenbach).

I guess I got used to the shuffling of players and supposed lack of loyalty sooner than most fans. While I do harbor adulation for individual players and relish every moment they are wearing red stockings, I don't shed tears when they go. Someone else will take their place.

I root for the Boston Red Sox team. Today, tomorrow, and forever.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Fortune's Reversals

OK. In the interest of full disclosure, your humble blogger (me) confesses that last night as the 7th inning finished at Sky Dome with Red Sox down 7-3, I mentally began thinking about writing today's piece from a losing perspective. I even began to switch back and forth to the "men's network" (I'm a sucker for Sean Connery as Bond and they seem to show 007 every night) with a plan to keep it there for good in due time.

Despite this club's history with rallying back, I still didn't really think it would happen.

Man, do I ever feel like a traitor to the Red Sox cause now!

Holy smokes, and as everyone now realizes, it's not just the comeback itself but the bullpen.

It seems as if every thrilling comeback the Red Sox have mounted this season could be countered by an equally chilling give back by their bullpen.

Last night, the balance of power shifted dramatically in the Red Sox' favor (Silverman, Herald).

And this kind of grit has me wanting to hoist and unfurl the South Korean flag in gratitude:

With Wells disposed of and first base open, manager Grady Little visited the mound with the idea of walking Delgado intentionally. Kim lobbied against the move - successfully, as it was - and then put his money where his mouth was. …

Said Kim through interpreter Chang Lee: "It was a situation where we probably had to walk him, but as a closer I wanted to face him. And as closer, I wanted to get him out and get the faith of the team and the manager" (Massarotti, Herald).

Then, of course, there is the good news about Varitek making the All Star team. The Big Dog Steve Silva gets quoted in the Globe with this spot on analysis:

"Obviously, it's a combination of the computer-savvy New Englanders who are online more than other parts of the country, anyway," Silva said in an e-mail.… "There are more Red Sox fan sites and discussion boards than any other major league team The promo on the TV and radio also helped drive the vote to the Internet. The Sox fans are worldwide, are more passionate than Cards and Yanks fans put together, they're relentless … all those factors working together are what put Varitek over the top" (Edes, Globe).

I concur. And all you computer-savvy New Englanders out there, give yourself a well deserved pat on the back for rallying around V-Tek.

Speaking of rallies, you have to grant me this departure from Red Sox baseball to give props to US Postal Cycling Team.

Yesterday they smashed apart the field in Stage Four, a demanding team trial that required all nine riders to go flat out, together, over 43 miles against the clock. Postal won the leg in 1 hour 18 minutes 27 seconds, half a minute faster than its closest competitors, and vaulted Armstrong from 12th place and into second. Postal riders occupy the top eight places in the overall standings…

… the Postals have become the standard, the first American-owned and managed team to dominate the sport, and they're worth watching and learning about (Jennings, WaPo).

Even if you don't follow cycling, you have to realize how huge this is. This is a first in Tour history for a US-based team. You know back when the Red Sox were last in a World Series, it was barely conceivable that a US rider, Greg Lemond, had actually won the tour. Even then it seemed like an anomaly. But then LeMond did it two more times. Still no one expected Lance Armstrong's rise to the top and total dominance in the sport. And now we have the" blue wedge of speed" of the US Postal team.

I tell you what: If it's possible that an American, a Texan, can become one of the greatest cyclists in history and the USPS team can win a team time trial in the Tour, then not only is it easy to imagine the Red Sox winning a World Series in our lifetimes, it's also imaginable that they could win many titles and totally dominate the sport.

Yankees fans of course are guffawing right now, but so were the French, at one time, over the crazy notion of US dominance in their national sporting event. They aren't laughing any more.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

The More Things Change …

Shortly after publishing my piece to the web yesterday, I realized I was being overly downtrodden. Several readers wrote in with encouraging words including this bit from S. Foley:

I've been reading how down you are, and in the interest of cheering you up, you should note that the Red Sox were, at one point 13th of 14 AL teams in team ERA. They currently reside in 8th, .02 runs out of 7th.The team has shaved over half a run off the team ERA in less than a month,and had another impressive team pitching performance in Toronto against a really tough starter (Halladay).

Great point and that certainly does put some spring back in my step.

In addition to emotional and statistical support from fellow fans, it dawned on me as well that if the games in NY had been reversed, that is, if the two consecutive losses came on Friday and Saturday and were followed by the Red Sox answering the the home run fest on Sunday and Monday, I'd be walking around thumping my chest and wanting to go to war with small island nations.

Of course, last night sure did polish the rhinestones in my cowboy suit:

[The] bullpen also did the job in relief of Tim Wakefield, who battled Blue Jays starter Roy Halladay for seven innings despite battling migraines the past two days.

After getting out of a big first-and-third, no-out situation in the seventh that Varitek called ''the key to the game,'' the bullpen of Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, Todd Jones (two scoreless innings) and Byung Hyun Kim (who recorded his second save a day after taking the loss in a heartbreaking 2-1 setback to the Yankees) did a superb job (Edes, Globe).

To add to the morning glow, there's this news from the French countryside:

You've got to hand it to Tyler Hamilton. The Marblehead native, who has been racing in the Tour de France with a broken collarbone, wants to know how his hometown team, the Red Sox, is doing. Talk about putting things in perspective (Bickelhaupt, Globe).

I can't imagine riding a bike around a flat cul de sac of a gated suburban community with a broken collar bone let alone riding in what is arguably the toughest feat in all of sport, The Tour de France. Oh, and he's currently in 10th place!

While I can't imagine what he's going through in the peloton, I do empathize with his situation of being a Red Sox fan in Europe where baseball news is often difficult to come by. I have fond memories of being in France for the de rigueur college student backpack across Europe on $10 day thing during the summer of '85.

In June of that year the Red Sox went on a real run of consecutive victories (14-1 between 6/1/85 and 6/17/85), and I couldn't wait each morning to grab a copy of the International Herald Tribune and pore over the baseball news and box scores while munching on a croissant at a sidewalk cafe. Though some days the Tribune would be sold out or the village was too small and didn't carry it and I'd go nuts wondering what had happened the day before.

Of course, the French would scoff at that, no? There I was in the cradle of Western culture, surrounded by flying buttresses and women who come and go speaking of Michelangelo and the first thought on my mind each day is the Boston Red Sox.

As they say in France, "Plus ca change , plus c'est la meme chose."

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I Should Be Used To It (But I'm Not)

These are the toughest days to get up and face the reality of it all. A part of me just wants to quit, you know? But I've tried to quit the Red Sox before and it never lasts.

Who was the Boston columnist who described the the relationship between the fans and the Red Sox as a co dependent one?

I think that's fitting. Indeed when I was trying to think about what to write this morning, this lyric from the late 80s alt band the Mighty Lemon Drops popped into my head for the first time in many years:

I'm getting sick and tired/ Of feeling like I do/ You know I can't understand/ Why I'm still sad over you

Then the chorus:

It's been a long time and I should be alright by now …

And that's just it: I should be alright by now. I've been following the team for over thirty years and have been through these kinds of losses so many times that you'd think I'd be calloused by now — But the truth is it hurts worse now than ever. Each season, each series with the Yankees seems to cut that much deeper. Eventually I am going to reach a point where it finally kills me. No kidding. I know you know what I mean.

I've been trying to rationalize it all, been rereading Art Matone's bit from last year chronicling all the times the Yankees didn't beat the Red Sox but it's like someone telling you "she was no good for you anyway, you're better off without her" after being dumped by a chick you had the major hots for. It doesn't help one bit even if true.

And I don't even have the energy to blame anyone. Take any of these scenarios: Grady not the manager; Pedro not on pitch counts; Walker not booting the double-play ball in the bottom of the ninth. Do you really think any of those would have been the difference in the final outcome? If so then you are a better fan than I am.

I'm not quite this gloomy, though:

The summer has barely started and, already, baseball season is over.

At least for Red Sox fans.

They may not admit it. They have, ever since 1918, been masters of denial. But they know it. And Yankees fans know it, too.
Boston's baseball season ended yesterday, in the Bronx, when the Sox wasted yet another stellar pitching performance by Pedro Martinez (Donaldson, ProJo).

But I'm close to being that gloomy.

See we've always heard, and rightly so, that despite tongue in cheek fun with a notion of a curse on the team the truth is the Red Sox have lost their games to the Yankees (and other foes) because, in the end, they didn't have the better team. But can that argument still be made? I certainly think the Red Sox had the better lineup yesterday, especially with Sorianno and Jeter out, yet in the end the result was the same.

Maybe Steinbrenner has it right?

"[The Yankees] respond to the challenge. This isn't high school. These are men. They understand the importance of winning" (Bryant, Herald).

I don't know. I don't doubt for a second that the Red Sox understand the importance of winning and wanted to win as badly as the Yankees. But they didn't.

Ever imagine that you are an omnipotent being and you had the power to snap your fingers and cause the current Yankees to be swapped to the Red Sox and vice versa and then see how the season ends up? How many of you think that right now if the teams were swapped the former Yankees, now Red Sox would finish the season a couple games behind the Yankees club made up of all the former Red Sox?

Here Bob Ryan nails it:

The journalistic temptation is to get melodramatic when discussing the ceaseless Red Sox fan frustration against the Yankees, but how can you not when you see games like this? Losing this game, and falling back to the same situation the team was in when it arrived here in the wee smalls Friday (i.e. four games behind), on a day when they were playing the junior varsity and your team was suiting up the full varsity is, what? Galling? Humiliating? Exasperating? Oh, God forbid, and worst of all, predictable? (Ryan, Globe)

It hurts, it hurts, it hurts. Yet I'm not giving up and saying "wait 'til next year" just yet. Sweep Toronto and then take it to the Bombers at Fenway on July 25, 26, 27, and I'll have my optimism back.

Monday, July 07, 2003

"Can You Get to a Future If Your Past Is Present?"

As I type this I'm kicking myself for not taking a vacation day to extend the Independence Day weekend into Monday allowing me to watch the match up today between el Petey and the Moose. I'm going to be completely unable to focus on much at work anyway.

Howard Bryant (pay column) knows why that is:

…today's scintillating afternoon finale between Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina should be the kind of game that gives baseball its life.

…a Sox win today the kind of statement that emotionally can revive a team later in the year. There are certain moments in a season that can be recalled during the desperate hours of September and October, and this weekend still can be one of them.…

A Yankees win reminds them that despite the Red Sox' thunder, nothing - at least not yet - has changed.

I'm covered with chill bumps just thinking about it.

And while Shaughnessy can poke fun at us ("The first two days here were two of the greatest days of your life, right up there with the birth of your children and the day you got your driver's license."), truth is the wins on Friday and Saturday were fantastic and go down as two of the greatest in my recent fan memory. Nixon's first pitch home run response to Clemens drilling "Millar in the left hand Saturday with a pitch near Millar's chin" is permanently etched in my memory of all time great Red Sox v. Yankees moments.

But some of the luster will rub off that trophy if the Yankees come out on top today.

Going back to Shaughnessy's column today, it's funny that he plays upon the "Sox and the City" theme, as last night I was watching the real" Sex and the City" (I confess to being a devout fan) and the episode's theme was so totally Red Sox fan experience:

Episode 77: Carrie discovers Berger's "ex-file", causing her to ponder: Can you get to a future if your past is present?

There it is: Can you get to a future if your past is present? That's the whole issue at stake every time the Red Sox face the Yankees. And just as Carrie was unsuccessful at shrugging off her new boyfriend Berger's previous romantic entanglements, no matter how I try to treat the Yankees "as just another club, just another game" in the end it just doesn't work.

These are the Yankees. These are the Red Sox. And there is all that history …

Oh, don't forget to vote for Varitek as the final player for the AL All Star squad. Yeah, the All Star game itself is biggest joke since "the bubble boy and the moops," still V-Tek deserves the recognition.