Friday, March 05, 2004

On Target

It's just a meaningless Spring Training game; still, you've got to like the way things are starting:

Lowe's main mission in Thursday night's 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins was to throw strikes, and that was essentially all he did in a two-inning cameo that looked effortless.

The Boston right-hander mowed down all six Twins he faced, inducing five groundouts and a strikeout. Of his 17 pitches, 13 were strikes (Browne,

And, the alternative, of course, is how things started last year for Lowe:

[A] year ago … he was behind everyone. A winter bout with skin cancer on his nose robbed him of a month of preparation leading into the 2003 season, and he felt as if Spring Training was an agonizing game of catch-up.

Which foreshadowed this:

Things didn't get much better early in the regular season, as Lowe had a 6.53 ERA on May 11.

With the troika of Martinez, Schilling, and Lowe, combined with the always dependable Wakefield, and a legit closer in Foulke, well, Johnny Damon says it best:

"I think we've got the best club out there," center fielder Johnny Damon said Thursday. "We know the Yankees have some hitters, but so do we. We also have the pitching now" (Bauman,

Elsewhere, Peter White is dipping into our well by quoting Homer and referring to Sisyphus in the same post. But a voice in his head wonders if he's ready for that jelly, "'Shut up, you melodramatic Red Sox fan!'"

Meanwhile, we Red Sox fans have no qualms with bearing the burden, for we know all lives should be Odyssean. We are ready "to string the great Odyssean bow of opposites, and then send an arrow through a seemingly impossible multiplicity of targets" (Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind).

What a great day to be alive.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Pesky Field

Today I mustered the courage to wear my velour track suit out in public. I feel like I'm an extra on the set of The Sopranos. You've heard of freeing your inner child, right? Well, this is more of a freeing my inner guido. And, I tell you what, it's one heck of a comfortable ensemble… Yous guys gotta problem with this or something?

The only thing classier than the Red Sox naming "Field 2 at the team's minor league Spring Training complex" after Johnny Pesky is the reverential way Nomar treats the octogenarian:

"I remember coming in as a young player and Johnny taking the young guys under his wing, all of them," Garciaparra said, as he stood next to Pesky. "I always think of you hitting those fungoes. I can sit down and listen to your stories for hours. You had the talent, and even more, the heart. We love you" (Browne,

Remember this side of Nomar the next time you read another character assassination of the oft maligned shortstop. The guy's a saint. Remember the All Star Game in '99 and the scenes of Nomar and Ted Williams?

I'm disgusted with myself in hindsight for ever entertaining thoughts of ditching Nomar for A-Rod. Embarrassing. Definitely one of my lowest moments as a Red Sox fan.

And if Nomar decides to leave the Red Sox at the end of this season, I will tip my cap and wish him the very best. He deserves nothing less.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


It's been a full week now of my Lenten abstention from the Boston media, and I'm happy to report it's going better than expected so far. For instance, in a comment yesterday Kyle writes, "interesting that your boycott of the media seems to be bringing stronger content."

While I can't say I feel I'm writing any better or worse, I do feel that I'm having to be far more creative in finding topics each day. Another side benefit, is I have more time to explore other newspapers and smaller media outlets and uncover interesting stories like this one from Tufts on Hillel president and die hard Red Sox fan Joshua Pressman. (Recall I'm only abstaining from the big three: Herald, Globe, and ProJo.)

Meanwhile, my current obsession with trying to find examples of Phi within the lines, patterns, and rules of baseball continues apace. After much frustration, I've had some success. The strike zone (as defined in the rule book rather than what is called by umpires in any given game) is a so called "Divine Proportion" of the human body. The strike zone corresponds to the golden section of the distance from the head to the navel and the elbows. (Refer to image and the orange colored line.)

Not a true "Eureka" moment, I know, but it's a start. Next I'm going to start playing around with the other famous number in mathematics, pi. I got the inspiration to include pi when I was thinking about the dimensions of Fenway and the "official" distance down the left field line: 314 ft. Pi, as you probably know, is approximated at 3.14. Pretty cool, eh?

This is also an interest observation from reader S:

This actually pertains to yesterday's post on the numerology of baseball. I was thinking about the system of 3's and 4's while doing my calculus homework, and noted that the number of games played at home during a regular baseball season, 81, equals 3 raised to the fourth power. This may be coincidental (it used to be 77 games at home), but it may be no coincidence at all that each city hosts 9 times 9 games of 9 innings each.

As Mr. Spock would say, "Fascinating." More to come on this topic, I'm sure.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Remember the beast hydra from Greek mythology?

A monstrous serpent with nine heads, the hydra attacked with poisonous venom. Nor was this beast easy prey, for one of the nine heads was immortal and therefore indestructible.

Worse, if you happened to cut off one of the hydra's heads, two more would instantly grow back in place of the missing one.

Sound familiar to a certain ballclub that terrorizes the countryside? You know, Aaron Boone goes down with a knee injury and A-Rod suddenly appears to replace him at third …

But the heroic Hercules, with assistance from his nephew Iolaus, was able to defeat the beast.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think a Hercules is now among us:

On this day, Schilling was wearing a replica 1919 Red Sox jersey from Mitchell&Ness, Philadelphia's famous purveyor of throwback uniforms. It had Ruth's No. 3 on the back and, yes, he said he did the research and determined that Babe's last year with Boston was the first year the team featured numbers (Hagen, Philadelphia Daily News).

Reading that gives me the chills. Finally. Finally! We can root for a Red Sox player who doesn't attempt to shrug off whatever you want to call the winning the World Series problem with pronouncements of "that was the past … this is a different year, a different club blah blah blah."

Instead, Schilling relishes the Herculean labors ahead of him:

"I assessed the potential teams, all the pros and cons. And the Red Sox had one thing that no other team could offer. Instead of looking at it as a negative, I looked at it as a positive. The chance to step up and help this team (win) the World Series for the first time in 86 years.

"I've established myself by being at my best when it's on the line. People say I like the attention. It's not that. It's that I like to succeed when it's do or die. I went after it harder this winter than I've ever gone after it before, because it's the first time I've been in a win-or-else situation. We're not allowed to lose. And I love that."

Quite possibly, that is the greatest Red Sox player soundbite I've ever heard.

And speaking of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, here's something from Joseph Campbell that I can't believe I've missed in all my attempts at rationally describing the concept of the curse:

"The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors, and deluding images up into the mind - whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves" (p.8).

And here, Campbell may as well be describing the sentiments Schilling expresses in the quotes above:

"The hero, therefore, is the man or woman who has been able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations to the generally valid, normally human forms. Such a one's visions, ideas, and inspirations come pristine from the primary springs of human life and thought. Hence they are eloquent, not of the present, disintegrating society and psyche, but of the unquenched source through which society is reborn" (p.17).

As they say, next year is this year. And this a year for heroes among Red Sox fans as well as players.

Monday, March 01, 2004

House of Damon

Gammons Leap Day column is typically loaded with insights and humor including this:

[Damon's] long hair and beard looks like it came out of "The Passion of the Christ." "We call him Jesus," says Kevin Millar, "and he's running around sprinkling water on people to end the curse." Last year, the Red Sox players shaved their heads. This year they're talking about adopting the Damon look. If they do, instead of the House of David, they'll be the House of Damon (ESPN).

Personally, I'd love to see the whole team go with that look for the season. It'd be nutty. Then again, some of the players do have the male pattern baldness thing setting it, so not everyone would look as prophetic as Damon.

Speaking of prophets, I went to see the controversial Gibson movie over the weekend. I found it illuminating in the truest sense of the word; however, I can understand how the film would be off-putting for many. Unless you are a devout Christian, especially one of the Catholic persuasion, or you're someone like myself who is fascinated with religious symbolism and iconography, I wouldn't recommend seeing the film.

With that said, the film had me revisiting some of my favorite works over the weekend including Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Jung's Man and His Symbols, as well as my old standby and most referenced work in this blog, Giamatti's Take Time for Paradise.

The latter is now out of print, but there are used copies to be had starting for as low as 75 cents. I can't recommend this book enough to anyone who appreciates or wants to learn more of the romanticism and symbolism inherent to the game of baseball.

For instance,

The geometry of the field that extends the threes and fours gives as well the deep patterns that order the narrative—three strikes, three bases, nine players, nine innings; four bases (including home) or four balls (the walk which is escape, commencement of movement that might fulfill the quaternity of the diamond). Three and its multiples work in baseball to delimit, to constrain, to be the norm that, except for duration, cannot be surpassed (p. 88).

Giamatti goes on to compare the batter's journey from home to first, second, third, and then to home again with the journey of Odysseus from Homer's epic. That's a short jump, of course, courtesy of Jung and Campbell, from the mythology of the Odyssey to the birth, life, crucifixion, resurrection of Jesus that is the core of Christianity.

Giamatti speaks of the "threes and fours" of baseball, and threes and fours also play a part in the Christian mythology as well. There's the three of The Holy Trinity and the four of the four points of the Cross which, according to Campbell, correspond to the both four rivers that meet at the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden as well as being the four fixed points on the compass such that the Cross, or cruciform, is the center of the world, Axis Mundi.

I was toying with the idea of the baseball diamond as mirroring those four points, but couldn't quite make it work since this would imply that the pitcher's mound, rather than home plate, is the spot from which all the energy begins and ends, the locus. I do like, though, the numerology of three (strikes) times four (balls) equaling twelve which corresponds to the twelve months of the calendar as well as the Sun in its twelve zodiacal signs, as baseball, for me, is so closely tied the seasons and the return of warm sun in spring, the rebirth, if you will.

Is anyone still reading at this point or have you all wandered off or fallen asleep? Heh heh … See with all the time I have on my hands since I stopped reading the Boston media, my mind is free to wander and wander it does. I'm now trying to see if Phi and the Fibonacci Numbers, the Golden section and the Golden String can be applied and how. Your suggestions and ideas are encouraged. (We can't let the sabermetrics folks be the only ones to have fun with numbers.)