Friday, July 09, 2004

Bill Mueller, Man of La Mancha

Well, a fan can't really ask for more than what happened last night in Fenway. Indeed, since my agnostic little snit fit the other day, I've been humbled by how much heart this club truly has.

"We got written off, but this team is much better than we've been playing and we're going to show the world that we are," Johnny Damon vowed after he raced around from first base and dived in with the winning run on Bill Mueller's two-out double to left-center off Justin Lehr… (Hohler, Globe).

Isn't that all we've ever wanted from these guys? And I'm not going to castigate myself for doubting the never say die spirit of this roster is finally manifesting, because they did leave us plenty of reasons to cast doubt over the past two months.

But one thing I will admit to not seeing, and I know at least one reader made a similar confession in a recent comment, is just how big a factor Bill Mueller seems to be. While we've all been moaning and groaning about the prior absence of Nomar and Trot, is it really Bill Mueller who is the rosetta stone in deciphering what was missing between '03 and the first months of '04?

The winning run served as an official welcome back for Mueller, whose return brought the Sox back to the dangerous, 1-through-9-can-kill-you lineup they featured last year (Kilgore, Globe).

And dare we feel quixotic?

Nostalgic sorts might not get misty-eyed over it but the Sox appear to be re-entering the glory days of 2003, when the team was making unthinkable comebacks and pounding the stuffing out of the baseball at a record pace (Horrigan, Herald).

Tilting at windmills or dragons, it doesn't matter when the club is charging lance first and full speed ahead.

In the words of Cervantes,

" Folly is wont to have more followers and comrades than discretion." — Don Quixote (II, 13)

Bring on the Rangers, Sancho Pancho.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

And All Was Right With the World

Men's folly, whimsies, and inconstancy. — Swift

From the truth is stranger than fiction and the you can't make crap like this up department, I present to you the following exactly as it happened.

Last night, I'm kicked back totally enjoying the game on ESPN. Pedro looks fine. The bats are alive for the second night in a row. Indeed, I'm feeling somewhat smug that my protestation yesterday seems to have been answered.

I watch Ortiz end the sixth with a strikeout but even that strikeout feels good, as I could see the big guy swinging with all his might and I know he'll be there when it counts.It's a bit after nine, so during the commercial break I switch over to Fox and catch a few moments of Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie causing dionysian mayhem among the Cajuns. Life is good.

I switch back to the game and see that Chad Bradford is coming in. Delightful. I've an affection for Bradford ever since reading of his most peculiar and unexpected route to the Majors in Moneyball, so I'm glad there is a 9-3 Red Sox lead permitting me to watch Bradford's wacky, underhand delivery for the sake of it and not needing to worry about him shutting our hitters down.

And here comes Manny. Here comes Manny. My favorite player. I love the guy. Love the omnipresent, mischievous twinkle in his eye, love the way he strides non nonchalantly to the plate, his aura the embodiment of "Laugh On" "I see the ball, I hit the ball" Zen masterness. So here comes Manny, stepping in as he does, like he's about to mount a horse, pulling up on the front of this jersey, adjusting, twisting his head, taking a few ghostly practice swings … And here's Bradford's underhand delivery, KABOOM! My heart races. Time goes to slow motion. I'm in that frozen, perfect, Eden moment and right then, though I barely notice it, the phone rings … I see the Manny's homer clear everything on its SpaceShipOne trajectory toward Lansdowne. I'm watching Manny, who knew it was a homer before he ever even hit it, so it seems, trot around the base path, something I'll never tire of seeing and as if I'm seeing it for the first time ever … And then my wife comes in from the other room, phone in one hand while she bends and with the other hand does one of those Derek Lowe cum Tiger Woods joyous, victory pumps and I'm all like "Did you [expletive] see that? Manny Oh Manny!" And she, still talking into the phone, shakes me off with a quick nod of her head and then mouths so that I can read her lips, "We. Just. Got. An. Offer. On. The. House." I collapse into a heap. Then I rebound and start doing a jig. The dog starts barking. The dog and I start wrestling. It's 10-3 and life has never been better.

Oh, and then there's this bit: That was Manny's homer number 23 of the season. Guess what number the just sold house is? 23.

And as if that isn't enough, I awake and find on the Boston Dirt Dogs site that there is a rumor going around about a certain tall dude with a mullet.

I'm out of words.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The Agnostic

At the risk of making you all wonder if I've been taking Dan Shaughnessy bitter pills lately, I'm just going to come right out and say that last night's victory has left me more pissed off than happy. I feel like I'm being toyed with and teased by this club. For how long have we been saying, "Oh, this is the win that turns it around … " or "Now that they've got the roster back they'd planned on in March …" only to have the blundering, anemic, laissez faire club show up the next night to get their collective butts kicked?

So many questions remain unanswered. Was the 17 hit Red Sox offense that good or was Zito that bad? I mean if the Red Sox can strand umpteen flubbing base runners on any given night and then chalk it up to "not getting any breaks … bad luck" then why can't I surmise that a game like last night is not attributable to any particular talent or "turning the corner" good omen but just the serendipitous nature of a bit good luck rather than bad?

"We need to throw a streak together and this is the time to do it." — Doug Mirabelli

Well, duh. But that's what I heard last week and the week before that and the week before that … Excuse my skepticism, but this is a club whose longest winning streak of six games came way back in April and had another four game streak in early May but since then has done nothing but win a couple and lose a couple over and over.

Yeah, I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated because there is so much left of the season. 81 games. We're only half way. Lots of baseball to play. I'm perfectly contented by the notion of the Red Sox turning it on now, winning the wildcard and going all the way.

But I need a frig of a lot more than one 11-0 romp over the A's before I can dream that little dream. Know what I'm sayin'?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Just Keep It Going

Did you have a nice holiday weekend? Did you think after Schilling's impressive complete game on Saturday that all the bad vibes were behind us? I sure did. I settled into the game on Sunday afternoon feeling fine. And after the Red Sox got off to that 4-0 lead, I was so blissful that I dozed off. When I awoke it was 10-4 in favor of the Braves! (And it wasn't a long nap.)

Hey, have you ever heard of the singer Peaches? Her latest album (which I cannot reveal the name of without subjecting FSNE to FCC sanctions) features a song called "Operate" [iTunes, lyrics]. Typical Peaches, it's a totally gonzo bizarro tune, but I'm naming it the Red Sox theme song of the day because of the chorus:

He's not dead, he's gonna live
He's not dead, he's gonna live
I see his eyes rolling back in his head


The Red Sox may be stuck in the muck and with their zipper stuck, but, alas, they're not dead. Not just yet.

The fact is, the Red Sox return to Fenway Park tonight trailing the Rangers by 3 games in the wild-card standings as they enter a 10-game gauntlet against three of their chief rivals for the postseason: the A's, Rangers, and Angels.

By the time the Sox emerge from the 10-game challenge July 18 in Anaheim, Calif., they should know far better if their vision of making the playoffs is a practical ambition or a pipe dream (Ryan, Globe).

Are they going to live? Not if things don't change:

The Sox are a combined 2-6 against the A's, Rangers and Angels this year. They won 2-of-3 from Oakland at Fenway in late May but were pasted by the A's, 15-2, in the series finale. It was their worst defeat since a 22-1 beating the Yankees inflicted on June 22, 2000. The Sox were also swept in a three-game series in Texas during the first weekend of May and lost both games in Anaheim the first two days of June (Horrigan, Herald).

Elsewhere, Larry of the entertaining golf blog No Three Putts, points out some bad mojo,

After winning the US Women's Open on Sunday Meg said "I figure if I can win the US Open, then the Red Sox can win the World Series." My jaw hit the floor when she said this. This quote has JINX written all over it. I know Meg meant no harm by this and she is a big Sox fan, but some things are better left unsaid.

John Kerry made a similar statement regarding his campaign back in May. And I had similar thoughts myself when Mickelson won his first major and when the US Postal cycling team won the team time trial in last year's Tour de France. Heh. I'm glad I don't believe in jinx. Oh, wait