Saturday, September 25, 2004

When the Wallpaper Dawns

In the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in 431 BC, the general Thucydides was late in sending military relief to the besieged Greek colony Amphipolis and the city fell into the hands of Brasidos.

Because of this Thucydides was exiled from his native land forever.

The Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert writes,

exiles of all times
know what price that is

Commenting on his military failure in The Fourth Book of The History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides does not whine, does not accuse subordinates, envious colleagues, or curses of the gods.

Thucydides says only
that he had 7 ships
it was winter
and he sailed quickly

As you know, Boston is often referred to as the "Athens of America," and many sportswriters over the years have painted the classic struggle between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees as like that of Athens vs. Sparta.

This morning the metaphor couldn't feel any more apt.

Though Francona, who was also late with relief to the besieged Pedro with eerily similar echoes of another fateful decision by a previous and now exiled Red Sox manager, has much to learn from Thucydides and history.

Francona offered his side of the story when reporters questioned him, but here is the truth: He contradicted himself. With the Red Sox facing the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, Francona bypassed his preferred relievers because they had been overworked. The idea was to protect them, to give them a day of rest, to get them ready for the Yankees and the stretch run of the 2004 campaign (Massarotti, Herald).

No excuses. No false praise. Today it is Athens against Sparta again. Win or lose, as Red Sox fans this is the classic battle we are fated to be engaged in. Chin up. Do not make the subject of your panorama today a post-modern "broken jar, a small broken soul with a great self-pity." For if you do, Herbert laments,

what will remain after us
will be like lovers' weeping
in a small dirty hotel
when the wallpaper dawns

The Spartans await.

Friday, September 24, 2004

In Limbo (Me No Like)

This is not the kind of description of your team's number three starter that you want to read during a pennant race in late September: "Sox starter Derek Lowe wasn't nearly as hideous as in his preceding outing … " (Horrigan, Herald).

And this worthy attempt to put a positive spin on Lowe's performance doesn't leave me especially giddy, you?

"I don't think Derek was quite as bad as the results," catcher Jason Varitek said. "It really came down to one pitch and one hit. There's a reason Tejada has a hundred zillion RBIs. He hit a pretty decent pitch" (Hohler, Globe).

Meanwhile, though, we learn:

The Sox get the Yankees tonight. And they plan to approach the series as if they could sweep it.

"It doesn't matter if we're one out or four out, it's going to be a big series regardless," Millar said. "It's easy to say the American League East is over with, but that's the easy way. This team doesn't do everything the easy way" (Hohler).

Pardon my sarcasm, but I was always under the impression the Red Sox approached every series as if they could sweep it.

I'm in a pissy mood, frankly. One of the legacy media guys (too lazy to look up which one) the other day wrote of how the Sox were in "limbo" between having little chance of catching the Yankees yet little chance of not making the playoffs. Well, fans (at least me) are also in this limbo. On the one hand, these losses are a horrible pain in the spleen (truthfully, I don't even know what spleen is but you get my drift); while on the other hand, I find myself with a laissez faire "it's OK, they'll still make the post season" attitude.

I tell you I don't much like living in limbo. As Austin Powers would say, "Spit or Swallow, which is it, baby?"

Perhaps Joe Sheehan is onto something when he writes, "Having done this research, I'm left with a somewhat empty feeling. I think the wild card has killed more exciting races than it's created, and I'm comfortable that the evidence supports that."

Like I said, I'm in a pisser of a mood today. Maybe this is why when I go over to the Will Carroll site and see Will's picks for MVP etc. but find not a single Red Sox player on the list that I want to drive to Indiana, hunt him down, and pop him on the nose. (Not really, I'm fairly physically non-violent. I'd more likely do something like light a bag full of dog poop on fire, leave it on his door step, ring the bell, then run like crazy. But that's just me.)

Maybe this is Will's payback against Boston fans for the time the Big Dog, Steve Silva, called him a "megalomaniac" or the time Big Dog referred to WC as the leader of the band of self-congratulatory wannabees? (Actually the latter reference was a bit nastier but this is a family show, of course.) Gotta love Silva. (Just don't ever get on his bad side.)

And speaking of BDD, I'm long overdue in publicly tipping my cap to Steve for living up to his promise that the Boston Dirt Dogs site would not change after being acquired by It's still as acerbic and irreverent and funny as ever. I know BDD isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it remains one of my favorite sites (including all genres) on the web.

Now let's bow our heads and pray to whatever or whomever it is you choose to pray to that tonight Pedro Martinez will, as Silva would say, "Petey Like It's 1999!"

[Note: Will attempt to post this weekend, but no promises. I'm just a blogger in my pajamas after all and not one of those high-falutin professionals.]

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Orioles, No Pushovers

So it appears the our man from Bogotá did get some that good karma credit that I hoped for on Tuesday when news came out that he was seeing his wife through her surgery.

Orlando Cabrera's 12th-inning home run off Rick Bauer ended the second consecutive thriller between the teams. On consecutive nights, the Red Sox beat the Orioles in their last at-bat (Arangure, WaPo).

Of course, Cabrera has limits to just how much of a caretaker he's going to be:

"I was thinking about taking another day because my wife asked me to stay another day. I kept saying, 'I got to go, I got to go, I got to go.' Once I was at the airport I called my agent and told him to call (general manager) Theo (Epstein) and tell him I was going to be here the next day and I wanted to be in the lineup. Once I landed in Boston, I went to my apartment and called Terry and left a voice mail saying I was here and I wanted to play" (Silverman, Herald).

Hey, a man's got to do what a man's got to do. (Lucky for us!)

Meanwhile, isn't it interesting the members of the media are continually chastising fans and players alike for "thinking to much about the Yankees" and/or "looking too far ahead" and all that, yet the Globe this morning has three stories (1, 2, 3) about the upcoming Yankees series? Granted they are more lifestyle type pieces than on the field sports, still, couldn't they have waited to run those tomorrow, after the Orioles series is over?

As the Orioles' Jay Gibbons puts it, "We're not the pushovers we used to be" (Arangure). After the way the Orioles have played the Red Sox this week, I think we all can nod in agreement.

"We battled this team who we weren't supposed to be able to play against," Mazzilli said. "They're supposed to be one of the best teams and we play hard against them. I'm proud of my guys, man. They did a hell of a job tonight. We just came up a little short" (Arangure).

And then there's this: "In the past three days, the Orioles have not appeared one bit intimidated by Foulke, who prior to Tuesday had converted 16 consecutive save chances."

Let's not forget, too, that the season concludes with a final three game series at Camden Yards. Assuming the Sox are still going to be battling for the Division title at that point, the Orioles aren't going to just play dead. And they won't tonight, either.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

He Lives for This

I wouldn't have been at all surprised if I'd woke up this morning and looked in the mirror to find that every hair on my head had turned gray. Talk about a "stress test."

With Keith Foulke coming in to preserve the slim 1-0 lead, one could almost hear ``Dirty Water'' being cued up on the Fenway Park sound system as the closer recorded the first two outs. The record skipped violently, however, when Foulke coughed up a two-out, two-run home run to Javy Lopez.

 Just like that, the Red Sox found themselves on the brink of a four-game losing streak, one compounded by the Yankees' win at home over the Blue Jays. The idea of an October slide was threatening the sanity and patience of New Englanders (Silverman, Herald).

Threatening sanity and patience? Ohmygaw. I felt like Mrs. Kravitz on Bewitched: ""Frank, I'm think I'm getting one of my sick headaches."

But a twist of fate or divine intervention or bad managing came to our emotional rescue, eh?

For most of the season, Baltimore Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli has been unwavering in his support of closer Jorge Julio. After a bad outing, and there have been many, Mazzilli insisted that Julio would be his closer without fail.… [Yet] Mazzilli hesitated to use Julio in the bottom of the inning. Instead, he allowed matchups to dictate his use of relievers.

B.J. Ryan, who recorded the final two outs of the eighth, was allowed to start the ninth. Mazzilli's decision rested on the numbers. Bill Mueller, batting second in the inning, had a batting average 37 points lower against left-handers. Johnny Damon, the scheduled fourth batter of the inning, hit 42 points lower against southpaws.

But Mazzilli's strategy failed when Ryan walked Kevin Youkilis to start the inning and then allowed a double off the left field wall to Mueller. While Ryan faltered, Julio remained in the bullpen.… (Arangure, WaPo)

And the rest is history. I love this celebratory photo of the Sox after Bellhorn came through with the walk off single. Think those guys are happy?

Johnny Damon sums up the situation for fan and player alike:

"What a game," center fielder Johnny Damon said. "If we had lost this game, you think momentum is big - this would have absolutely crushed us. Now, it's with us" (Silverman).

But let's not forget to pay homage to the man who's performance through 8 innings would have made a loss to sickening to even consider, Curt Schilling. I get chills when I read this from Bob Ryan:

… Jerry Remy said it was the best game any Red Sox pitcher has thrown all year, and I don't know about you, but when the Rem Dog barketh, I nod in agreement.

It's not all that often in modern sport that a ball club really gets what it has paid for, but Schilling is the pleasant exception. He came advertised as more than just a great pitcher. He came advertised as a classic staff ace, an archetypical "big game" pitcher whose interest and intensity level rises by the month. In start No. 31, at a critical time, he came up with his best effort of the season (Ryan, Globe).

Way back in March we were imagining Curt Schilling as our Hercules. And he is. Heroes don't let you down.

Ryan again,

You know what? This game was the opening night of Curt Schilling's personal second season. You'll see.

No doubt about it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A Disquieting Descends

Hmm … So the first half Red Sox have returned to haunt us?

The Sox reverted to their first-half style of play defensively, which can be summed up as sloppy. Two errors, however, were topped (or bottomed) by another poor start from Tim Wakefield (11-10), who has now posted a 9.45 ERA in his last four starts (three losses) (Silverman, Herald).

Jeez, which Red Sox team is the real Red Sox team? The club is flip flopping more than a certain Senator from the Bay State. And what, pray tell, is the deal with Baltimore? "4-8 against the Orioles this season including a 2-7 mark in the last nine meetings" (Silverman). The Soxaholix sarcastically surmise it's "The Curse of Edgar Allen Poe."

Makes as much sense as the other one. Can't you imagine a black cat with one eye imprisoned behind the left field wall? To this day, that Poe story remains one of the most macabre things I've ever read. As one critic puts it, "'The Black Cat' is one of the most powerful of Poe's stories, and the horror stops short of the wavering line of disgust." And, at times, that's an apt description for what it feels like to watch the Boston Red Sox.

To cut the club some slack in last night's horror show, they were without Orlando Cabrera, who was in Bogotá because of his wife was undergoing surgery. Here's to hoping that gives the team some good karma credit for Cabrera being a devoted husband.

Am I worried about these last three losses? Not really. But it does bother me that I sense a certain nonchalance. That's most likely not fair to the players, as they are playing just as hard as ever and had they won last night, I wouldn't be sensing in my gut a shift, if you will, in the team's tenor. And this doesn't help:

Where the Red Sox find themselves now is in a weird sort of limbo: almost too far behind to catch the Yankees, almost too far ahead of the Angels to blow the wild card (Powers, Globe).

But let's let big Number 38 have a shot at the Orioles before drawing any conclusions in focusing on the past 3 games.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Don't Jump!

Well, that was fun, eh?

I'm most certain that you all have plenty of your own negative thoughts spinning around inside your heads, so here are ten reasons not to jump in front of a bus, at least not just yet:

  1. Hey, it wasn't a Yankees' sweep.
  2. Dirt Dogs is funnier after a meltdown like that one over the weekend.
  3. Shaughnessy can stop pretending he's happy and can revert to his true self. "Never mind. It was fun while it lasted."
  4. Two words: Wild Card.
  5. The Yankees will now think they are a better team than they really are; makes my first round playoff exit predication for the Bombers more probable.
  6. Likewise, the Red Sox aren't quite as good as they thought they were. The embarrassment in the Bronx will have the club more on guard for Baltimore and Tampa Bay. (Had the Sox swept the Yankees, I'd been willing to bet they'd have been blown out by Baltimore and any gains for the Division title would have been erased.)
  7. A playoff rotation need not include Derek Lowe.
  8. We have Curt Schilling.
  9. The players remain upbeat: "No one said this was going to be easy. …This race is by no means over." — Kevin Millar
  10. [You tell me.]