Friday, June 25, 2004

"A double kick drum by the river in the summer"

Okey not so dokey.

I'm trying to remain positive. Baseball is an incredibly difficult sport, after all, and the Red Sox, despite being among the best in the world at the game, are only human.

But one can't help but wonder…

Sometimes, quite simply, it looks like they're coasting. Like they are going through the motions and biding their time. Like they expect to win just by showing up. …They hand out unearned runs as if they were Halloween candy and continue to play a complacent, uncreative style of baseball that could put Al Gore to sleep. (Massarotti, Herald).

As much as this seems inconceivable during the cold winter months when thoughts of watching a baseball game in summer is pure ambrosia to a February hunger, there comes a point at least once during every season where I need more than anything to step back and try to forget about the Boston Red Sox. I'm at such a point. This weekend I'm headed to D.C. for my annual pilgrimage to the National Folk Life Festival and, as God is my witness, I'm not going to even check the scores. Let what happens, happen. I need a break.

You know the musical geniuses known as Wilco have a new album out, and listening to it reminded me how much I loved their 2002 release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, so I've been listening to that as well and hearing the wonderful song called "Heavy Metal Drummer" just got me to thinking …

I miss the innocence I've known
Playing KISS covers
Beautiful & stoned

When Tweedy sings the lines above, going nostalgic about his youth listening to heavy metal cover bands, I realize I, too, miss the innocence I've know regarding baseball. I remember, 5th or 6th grade, when just saying the words Red Sox held some sort of magic and whether the team was winning or losing mattered less than just thinking about how cool it was to go to Fenway and see your heroes in their white, white uniforms. I didn't stop to consider whether they were "coasting" or whether they were paid too much or whether so and so would be traded and do we need another bat or another arm … It was just baseball, Red Sox baseball, Fenway Park, the smell of mustard on a hot dog, and that was enough …

Unlock my body and move myself to dance
In long liquid flowing blowing glass

Curt Schilling writes in a recent SoSH post,

It's hard, damn near impossible to be a fan of the game, and a fan of the Sox. Reality must be suspended for you, for all 9 innings, reality and rational thought.

That and this always insatiable need to know more, more, more. In the Globe's Buzz I read, "The Providence Journal's Sean McAdam thinks Boston will go after another bat if they don't win the Carlos Beltran Sweepstakes, not another arm." Why? What's Theo thinking? What's Voros McCracken thinking? What about Bill James? More, more, always wanting more.

I miss the innocence I've known.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Face of Mortality

This better be true:

"We can treat it [Pokey's injury] nonsurgically," [team physician Bill Morgan] said. "We can give him a few days, let the acute swelling come down, make sure his motion is good, and then we'll just work on protective mechanisms like taping, maybe partial splinting in his glove, and taping while he hits so that we can protect it for the next 4-6 weeks so that he doesn't reinjure it." Morgan, saying he would be "surprised if he missed a week …

Because if it isn't, if the team loses Pokey, I may just lose my mind. My positive visualization meme is hanging by the metaphorical thread at this point, and it won't take much to sever it.

And why is this? Well, because as a Red Sox fan, you know what they say?

"Clearly a lot of the meaning of their lives is premised being able to blame the Red Sox for what ails them."

That's Moneyball author Michael Lewis talking in an two part interview at Identity Theory (Part 1, Part 2 — Hat tip to Chris O'Donnell for the link).

Lewis also contends,

"If you wanted to point a finger at who is responsible for the curse, I think you point first to the fans.… If you had to point to one thing that made it less likely that the Red Sox would win the World Series, I would say it was those people that go to Fenway Park to watch the games."

Ouch. While Lewis is certainly guilty of generalizing Red Sox fans and painting us with a very broad brush, he's onto something, no? I won't presume to speak for all fans, but, as I've written before, I know I am my own "curse."

… for me, and perhaps for some of you as well, the Curse is my own memory, my own personal problem with summoning perseverance in the face of mortality (Aug. 1, 2002).

But where I disagree with Lewis, at least in my own myopic fan view, is with the notion of scapegoating the Red Sox for all that ails me. It's actually the other way around. I know I'm a flawed personality, but I look to the Red Sox as my morality play, my catharsis.

As it goes, my natural state is to be a doom and gloomer, all hope is lost, the glass is not only half empty, it's full of poison, kind of guy. See it is my hope, and one of the big reasons I started this blog in the first place, that if I can somehow learn to overcome my own innate pessimism and cynicism while following the Red Sox, then I'll also be able to carry this smiling Buddha attitude into all the other facets of my life.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Just when I think I've learned to better deal with the metaphorical Schiraldi meltdowns and balls between the legs kinds of things life deals me, I realize it's the same old me. Here's a perfect example from my own life at the moment. I recently made the decision to purchase a new, more expensive home before selling the one I already own. It seemed prudent. This is a hot market where it's not unusual for one or several people to make an offer on a house just hours (yes, hours) after it gets listed. But, as a knuckeballs can go over a fence in the 11th inning, our house has been on the market now for 18 days and while we've been close, twice being in the final two choices of two buyers, no offer has been made. Worse, Tuesday and Wednesday, not a single person stopped by to even look. And the clock keeps ticking.

Am I remaining positive, cheerful, optimistic? Not exactly. Like any good Red Sox fan, I've gone directly to despair, screaming and yelling and banging my head on the ground, "Why does this always happen to me? The house will never sell. I'm going to go bankrupt. I should just kill myself now. I'm going to be forever known as the Grady Little of real estate decisions! For God's sake, what have I done?"

Yep. There you have it. Not a pretty sight. But I'm still trying.

Pokey's thumb is gonna be OK.
Pokey's thumb is gonna be OK.
Pokey's thumb is gonna be OK.
(And my house will sell.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Love at First Sight

You've got to love Nomar's modus operandi of swinging at the first pitch he sees when it pays off:

… the highlight of the rally coming after the Twins intentionally walked Ramirez to load the bases in a 4-1 game.  In came reliever Joe Roa, whose first pitch to Nomar Garciaparra was pounded for a grand slam that gave the Sox an 8-1 edge (Massarotti, Herald).

I need to hold onto the memory of that slam last night so that I can turn to it the next time the first pitch swing results in a weak popup just past the infield.

Now before you start firing off nasty missives to me insinuating that I'm bashing Nomar, let me say this: I love Nomar. I think he's going to be a key piece to this lineup moving forward and I'm happy as all hell that he's back from the DL. However, I'd be a hypocrite if in my own "diary" I didn't confess that I'm still smarting from all the swinging at the first pitch outs that came off Nomar's bat last September and October. I really am. And it's going to take a couple of months of seeing success with the first pitch swing before I can get that behind me.

I just don't believe in love at first sight, I guess. Even in Nomar's batting title days, the first pitch swing didn't sit well with me, but I couldn't argue with success.

Now that I've got that off my chest, what a fine win that was last night. And Manny Ramirez leading the American League with 19 home runs fills me with contentment.

Meanwhile, this Washington Post headline says it all: "As Usual, O's Barely Compete With Yanks." (Oddly, on the print edition has this headline. Online it's different.) So I guess I shouldn't hold out much hope of gaining ground on the Bombers. That's what sucks about being in second place.

Now that Jose Contreras has been reunited with his wife and children, he very well may become the dominant pitcher the Yankees expected. As you can imagine, fearing for their safety was a major distraction for the pitcher. It'll be interesting to see if the Red Sox will be able to dominate Contreras as they have thus far.

Elsewhere, I'm in awe and, yes, a little bit jealous (as weird as it sounds) of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and their longest win streak in the Major League this season. 12 in a row. Can you imagine if the Red Sox could pull of 12 in a row? I'd be happy with half that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Trade Talk

While I be the first to admit I love the excitement and wheeling-dealing nature of baseball trades, it always deflates me a bit when I remember the old cliche is true: you can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Kansas City Royals general manager Allard Baird and two top aides scouted Youkilis over the weekend in their search for a young, low-budget third baseman and catcher they can acquire in trade for their star center fielder, Carlos Beltran, who is eligible for free agency after the season (Hohler, Globe).

Baird and Beane worked on the three-way trade that would have included the Dodgers, then spent the weekend working with Theo Epstein on a three-way deal that in the Red Sox's world would have sent Beltran to Boston, Kevin Youkilis and Scott Williamson to Oakland and A's third baseman Mark Teahan (Kansas City's favorite), Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach and Oakland pitcher Mike Wood to Kansas City (Gammons, ESPN).

Dang, I've had a covetiveness for Youkilis ever since reading Moneyball, but now, having seen him play and having heard the "Yoouuuuuk!" chants at Fenway, I've really become attached to the rookie. And Shoppach always seemed to be the ace up the sleeve should Varitek cum Boras decide to peel off the red stockings and walk out the door.

Meanwhile, who the heck is Curt Leskanic? The DirtDogs site claims he's now a Red Sox. The SoSH crowd seems generally positive with the deal. And, of course, we do "Trust in Theo," so it must good.

Speaking of good, or rather great, let me tip you off to the band The Killers if you haven't already become entranced by their hooks. I've had their debut album looping through my iPod four of five times a day since I bought it last week. (I know these little music asides are off topic, but I just want to share the love when I find music that makes me shimmy and shake.)

Now it's back to Fenway for a much deserved and, hopefully, a victorious homestand. The Twins are a scrappy bunch, though.

They're in first place again this year, and they've gotten there the hard way. They've been outscored by their opponents 326-322. They really should have a .500 record (Baseball Musings).

It's time to put together back to back to back to back to … well, you get the idea, wins. As we've all been scratching our heads and commenting upon, the lack of real feel good honest to goodness win streak this season is some cause for concern.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Treasure Up During the Summer

After a feel good Thursday and Friday, the weekend was a real punch in the gut.

But it wasn't devestating, was it?

"It takes a lot to devastate this team. We're going to keep coming at you. We're not going to fall off the end of the Earth." — Mike Timlin

I agree with Timlin. The 2004 Boston Red Sox still have the 3rd best record in Major League Baseball. Pedro Martinez, despite getting hit around pretty good by the Giants Saturday, was popping the mitt at 93mph consistently and even reaching back and bringing 95mph when he had to. Derek Lowe has had two consecutive solid starts. Trot Nixon is back. Nomar is back.

Though while there is so much summer ahead and so much to sunshine to carry our optimism, let's not forget that the summer solstice is upon us. From here on out, the daylight receeds a bit more each day as summer begins its deliberate march toward autumn. Oh, you won't notice it. A few seconds here in the evening a few seconds there in the morning, and the warmest summer celebrations, Independence Day, the All Star break, August afternoons at the shore, are still ahead.

But one day, one afternoon in early September, you realize just how quickly twilight moves in, the porch lights are on at suppertime and all of a sudden you feel lonesome like the wind as the AL East scoreboard announces whether you've been cheering the grasshopper or the ant all summer long.