Friday, July 16, 2004

Lots of Mulletude

OK, I'm having to dash out a redo of my already written post this morning based on something that happened on the commute to work this morning. As you read it, you'll understand …

So I'm cruising along in my gas guzzling SUV, jamming to my "Summer04" play list on the iPod (via the iTrip setup), and as I come up 20 which becomes Monticello Ave (which leads to you know who's house) and two lanes merge into one, some dink in a huge, red, Ford F-350 pickup, laden with ladders, doesn't play nice and guns up beside me and then yanks his sorry excuse in front of me, cutting me off and nearly taking my front end with him in the process.

As I lay on the horn and begin a classic string of expletives while giving him the British style two fingers "Up Yours!" (which I've always preferred to the one finger salute1), I notice, ohmigod, this wannabe Jeff Gordon is sporting a totally terrific trashmullet (classification 17)!

And you know what that means: Good luck shall be ours. Based on my last lucky mullet sighting, on June 18th, it appears the positive mojo effects take a couple of weeks to kick in. Heh, heh.

Now the loss last night seems a bit easy to swallow.

Though, it's rather difficult for me (and for perhaps you as well) to be positive about one Derek Lowe.

Derek Lowe's era of good feeling lasted only one start, as the right-hander lost for the third time in four starts. …  Lowe was in trouble in each of the first four innings but managed to maroon pairs of base runners in the initial three frames (Horrigan, Herald).

I didn't watch the game, but the reports indicate the defense was sloppy and the hitting nonexistent, still, everything starts, fittingly, with the starter. And Lowe is not getting it done. You know how even the best pitcher's in the league have a couple of bad outings now and again? Well, then logically the converse must hold as well: mediocre pitchers are going to have spectacular games every now and again. The latter seems to be the case with Lowe. Moreover, when you project that out over his career, isn't their a definite pattern of him being mostly average most of the time but with these intermittent peaks of greatness tossed in?

I hope my gut is wrong on this one.

In either case, I more or less was expecting the worst last night, so I'm not especially feeling bad this morning. Just take two from the Angels.

Meanwhile, sorry for the late notice on this (time has flown by with the all the real estate stuff going on) but I'll be on vacation all next week, as I once again head to a beach house at the Outer Banks, NC, where I'll attempt my usual vacation "book a day" read-a-thon among other relaxing pursuits. The place we're saying is said to have high-speed web access, but I won't know for sure until I arrive. If so, expect a couple of posts from me. Otherwise, be on the look out for some guest postings.

Keep your Sox on!

1 I don't have time to provide a link on this, so you'll have to take my word for it, but, evidently, that "two finger," the reverse peace sign the Brits do is actually rooted in archaic military history. Seems that way back when during the wars between Britain and France, the French, upon capturing enemy soldiers, would chop of the fore and middle fingers of the "enemy combatants," thus making it impossible for them to ever draw back a bow string to launch an arrow, the mainstay weapon in those times. So the British soldiers, when they'd meet the French on the field of battle, started to hold up their two fingers in the now classic "V" pattern as a way of saying, "F-you, we've still got our fingers and are going to kick your collective French behinds." Pretty cool, eh?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Let the Second Half Dreaming Commence

For what it's worth, last night I dreamt that Randy Johnson was traded to the New York Metropolitans. Of course, the guys in blue and orange who are responsible for our recurring nightmares ever since October 1986, are not on the short list of teams rumored to be in the running for the B-Unit's services.

… the biggest battle in the game may take place over the phones in the next 2 1/2 weeks. Included in the competition are the New York Yankees, Anaheim Angels, Chicago Cubs and a pair of Sox.

 The contest: The hunt for Randy Johnson (Massarotti, Herald).

I also dreamt that I was about to step out on a rickety wood and rope bridge over a ravine (like the kind you see in Tarzan movies) and just as I stepped down onto a worm eaten board with a river flowing hundreds of yards below, my alarm went off, and the convergence of dream world and real world was so stunning I nearly peed my pants.

Make of it what you will.

Over at Bronx Banter, Alex Baba Wawa Belth has another fantastic interview, this time with Alan Schwarz. one of the most prolific and respected baseball journalists working today. (I wish I could do that. I'm too shy. Well, that and I don't really like talking to people and could never think up cool questions like Alex does.)

Here's Schwarz insider view on our beloved Olde Towne Team:

One thing I cover in the book is that I think a lot of people will be surprised by how evenly run the Red Sox organization is.… They respect statistics, but they also respect conventional scouting.

You talk to Theo Epstein about [scout] Bill Lajoie and he’ll go on for hours about how much he loves the guy and respects him and values his opinion. What’s special about the Red Sox is that everybody respects both sides. That is what’s interesting about them. I don’t know to what degree the Blue Jays or the A’s have done that. The Red Sox have a heck of a lot more leeway than those two ball clubs, particularly Oakland. They have more money. So they have more room to roam ideologically. But still Theo will tell you, and it’s a very good metaphor which is his not mine, that only through looking through both lenses — conventional, tools-based scouting and statistics-based scouting — can you really get everything into focus. I think he’s absolutely right.

Makes sense. Personally, in any endeavor I'm skeptical of those who adhere to a belief in "one right way." The world is more nuanced than that. That's what makes this time, every four years, particularly annoying. I'm talking about the Presidential race, of course, in which both sides cast every issue into the most simplistic, black and white terms, when we know and they know that everything is some shade of gray.

Back to baseball and the Red Sox, it's comforting to hear this kind of emotional honesty from the owner:

Werner won't be going back to New York for any games.

"New York has a lot of unpleasant memories," he said. "If we win, I'm happy, but if we lose and I'm not there at least I don't have to listen to 55,000 fans cheering against the Red Sox. We take these losses and wins very personally. It's very emotional. Sometimes it's better to be at a bar with some friends than with a lot of screaming Yankee fans (Shaughnessy, Globe)

But New York is in the future. Tonight it's California time. Here a question: If the Sox take 2/2 from the Angels, will you be feel good, bad, or mas o menos?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

"I'll take Red Sox Lore for $1000, Alex"

What a SNAFU day yesterday was. First the Bambino's Curse site goes down over night and doesn't come back. Then I get to work and our mail servers are down. Then our e-commerce server goes nuts, allowing us access intermittently from one machine but not another. Meanwhile various sites on the web fade in and out as the day goes on. Since I can't see any evidence of some new server virus or such, I'm just going to have to assume it's some shift in the heavens …

Clemens, three weeks shy of his 42d birthday, suffered through the longest first inning any All-Star pitcher ever has had to endure, giving up six runs, the most ever allowed in a first inning, as the AL Stars hit for the cycle -- two home runs, a double, triple, and a single in one full turn through the lineup (Edes, Globe).

Heh heh. Couldn't think of anyone I'd rather see in such an embarrassing situation. Perhaps God hates us a wee bit less? Or is this just the Yankee lovin' Yahweh extracting revenge for what Clemens did to the Bombers with his phony retirement and we Red Sox malcontents just got carried along by default?

In any case, I like. I like it a lot. Maybe Clemens' Faustian bargain is over? At least one of the Soxaholix thinks as much. At some point the guy really, really, for real, has to reach "the twilight of his career," right? Why not now?

Speaking of Dr. Faustus, that was one of the Jeopardy questions (or rather answers) last night, and, of course, Ken Jennings was the first to buzz in with the correct answer (question) on his way to clearing a million bucks. I've been following him for awhile and early on it was clear that he was destroying the competition. Lately, though, it seems if each night the other two contestants just give up. For example, last night's first round of questions were easy. We're talking Teen Jeopardy level questions and Jennings is the only one buzzing in. The same the night before. It's as if the other contestants are frozen into a stupor or are waiting for Jennings to make a mistake. What a waste. Jennings will not make a mistake. To beat him one must go on the offensive. Attack, attack, attack! Make him nervous. Make him feel the clutch. It's the only way.

And, I do believe, that's how the second half, this MLB Double Jeopardy round, needs to be played by our very own Boston Red Sox.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Reading and Baseball

It's All Star break time, and you know what that means: little to discuss regarding the Red Sox unless you want to analyze over and over the first half of the season and/or predict or otherwise pull out the worry beads regarding the second half … Today, I choose neither. Instead, it's time for a little blog incest of sorts. Regular reader and commenter Beth linked from her Cursed and First blog to Bambino's yesterday, and now I'm linking back to the very same post. (That may not be legal in some states.)

In her post, Beth discusses how much she enjoys reading and in particular how she can't wait for the forthcoming Stephen King "life of a Red Sox fan" non-fiction book to be published.

Meanwhile, much ado has been made over a recent report published by the NEA concerning reading:

Only 47% of American adults read "literature" (poems, plays, narrative fiction) in 2002, a drop of 7 points from a decade earlier. Those reading any book at all in 2002 fell to 57%, down from 61%.

NEA chairman Dana Gioia, himself a poet, called the findings shocking and a reason for grave concern.

"We have a lot of functionally literate people who are no longer engaged readers," Gioia said in an interview with The Associated Press. "This isn't a case of 'Johnny Can't Read,' but 'Johnny Won't Read.'"

The likely culprits [of course! -- ed.], according to the report: television, movies and the internet (Reading at Risk).

Some, like Jeff Jarvis, respond to the NEA's report by suggesting it's a quality issue:

But this study assumes that the books we adults are served today are as worth reading as they were 10 or 20 years ago. I'm not so sure that's the case (Buzz Machine).

I bring all this up because I think reading and baseball are linked at some deep level. Both require a lot of time, perhaps more time than the average person has in our busy, buy 24/7 world. Both involve much reflection, much stopping to consider meaning and what if's? And both, some would argue, no longer hold the preeminent position in our culture that they once did.

Our basic myths, the stories of who we are and what we believe, our literature, if you will, are no longer primarily conveyed by the written word, but more and more by the visual arts of cinema and television. Similarly, baseball is no longer the default National Pastime, but shares ground with other sports like football, basketball and even NASCAR (the latter being the most popular spectator sport in the USA).

Likewise, artistic kids who have a story to tell aren't dreaming of becoming the next Hemingway with a burning desire to write "the great American" novel, but are dreaming of being the next Quentin Tarrentino. And the young athlete with aspirations of a professional sports career is far more likely to imagine himself on a court with Kobe and Shaq than he is on a diamond with Nixon and Ramirez (or even "Manny Ortiz").

Still, I'd agree with those who contend we are living in a Golden Age of Baseball. And I love reading as much as ever. What about you? What do you think? Is reading dead? Books? Baseball? Where are we headed?

Monday, July 12, 2004

At the Midpoint of Summer

After a refreshing (glossing over Foulke's problems yesterday, of course) five of six homestand, I'm happy to concur with Theo Epstein's prognosis:

"We didn't dig ourselves a hole too deep to climb out of. We're fairly well positioned to get in (the playoffs) if we play good baseball. We faced some adversity but ended on a positive note" (Horrigan, Herald).

Coming off the break, though, (and isn't it awful to be looking ahead like this?) I'm looking for the Red Sox I'm jonesing for at least a split in the four with the Angels and two wins against Seattle. The club has convinced me they have what it takes at home, now it's time to address that 18-23 road record thus far.

In the meantime, there's a homerun derby to enjoy tonight. Can the Big O shudder the walls of juicy Minute Maid Park?

Elsewhere, did you know Manny Ramirez is in the hunt for the first Triple Crown in 37 years? Wouldn't that be sweet after all the off season on waivers and trade malarkey? Though Manny insists on being Manny, as they say, sitting out or otherwise missing the game leading into the All Star break for the third consecutive year.

Today would have been the 100th birthday of one of the greatest poets of 20th Century, Pablo Neruda, so let's celebrate his birth, the All Star break, and summer with a tomato

at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.