Saturday, October 09, 2004

Nothing Like A Little Gut Check (To Keep It Real And All)

Everything was going so smoothly. I even remarked to my wife, "The Angels have that look on their faces of total defeat. It's over." No sooner did I say that and Eckstein booted an easy double play ball. There are no things as sure things, but with a 6-1 run lead going into the 6th and Arroyo living up to Curt Schilling's assessment of the kid he wrote on SoSH, "[Arroyo's] got nuts the size of Saturn," I'd already begun to use the broom at hand for the sweep to dust out the crevices, corners, and dust bunnies of memory.

Well, they don't call him "Vlad the Impaler" for nothing. Slam.

The punch to the gut was intense, no? I yelled out, "I hate baseball!" And then went into a classic state of rage and whining. I wanted to break things. I lost my appetite. I couldn't think straight.

I swapped out the ESPN telecast from the main TV in the living room to the ancillary one in the bedroom. I no longer had the fortitude to deal with a pitch by pitch view of the game. No, it'd be occasional sneak peeks from here on out. (I was not hanging Saturn at this point. More like a small asteroid burning up to nothingness upon entry into the Earth's atmosphere.)

Eventually, I did enough rationalization ("it's only one game" "Sox still will be up 2-1") to go back to watching, but my rage was still smoldering. I became fixated on those glasses K-Rod was wearing. I hated those glasses. Kept yelling obscenity laced tirades at the TV all focused on those glasses. (The glasses were quickly becoming the '04 version of that crazy "arm rolling lady" behind the backstop at Shea during every WS game in '86. You know, the kind of thing that you hate so much you get totally irrational and start planning macabre ways to remove these vexations from your life.)

Then, just like that, I was OK again, the positive vibe was back and while it was still knotted at 6 going into the 10th, I knew the Red Sox would win it. And you won't believe what did for me: The sight of Derek Lowe coming out of the bullpen to relieve Foulke. Makes no sense, right? Derek Lowe, the guy who caused so much fan frustration all the season. The guy who'd pretty much lost every bit of his ability to get guys out was coming as a reliever of a tie game in the 10th and I'm happy?

But it's not just me is it? You can hear the Fenway crowd chanting "D-Lowe, D-Lowe." And he gets it done. 10 pitches, 6 for strikes.

We move to the bottom of the 10th with the Red Sox coming up and, absolute truth, as I'm sitting on the floor in the bedroom, leaning back against the foot of the bed, my dog (and earnest Sox fan) Butch comes in, sits directly in front of me, and puts his paw on my shoulder. I scratch his belly and we stay like that, man staring at game on TV screen, dog staring at man staring at TV, dog with paw on man's shoulder, when David Ortiz strides to the plate…

I'll remember the moment, my uncontrollable yell of relief when Ortiz took that first pitch over the wall and the ensuing dog and man play wrestle match for joy that followed for the rest of my life.

Wow. What a game.

And, look, we have the entire weekend to just relax and bask in the joy of it all. Enjoy.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Command the Fruits to Swell on Tree and Vine

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.

(from "Autumn Day", Rilke)

Kid: it is time. Your 5 straight was immense.
Pitch through shadows on the infield
and let loose the high leg kick.
(from "Arroyo Day," Cossette)

Is there a more beautiful sight than Fenway Park on an October playoff afternoon, the way the sun light streaks in at long, golden angles, and the straight edge between bright light and dark shadow inches slowly yet resolutely from the batter's box across the short infield, through the pitcher's mound? If there is, I know not of it.

A win today will sweeten an already fruitful Autumn.

"It'd be great, especially for our pitching staff," said third baseman Kevin Youkilis. "(A sweep) would allow us to set a rotation. If the other team has to go five (games), they're not going to have their rotation set up. We want Curt Schilling and Pedro against maybe a No. 3 (starter) and someone else who's not a No. 1. Those two back-to-back are a pretty deadly weapon" (Harris, Herald).

I feel greedy dreaming of a sweep, but as William Blake reminds us, " Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers." This is a special time, no need to hold back. No need to worry about shoes dropping.

A reader from somewhere in the Rockies writes in with a too far from Boston angst,

I was working last evening and couldn't even get the game on TV as we don't have ESPN at my hospital. Some poor woman walked the halls for two hours contracting while her nurse was in her car listening to the game on her radio. I'll be flying home to Boston to watch games 6 and 7 when they will win the worlds series. I want my children to be there for it and experience a city of fanatics only known to Bostonians. To make matters worse my blind date for friday night just informed me he's a lifelong Angels fan.…

Another emails from halfway across the globe,

I retire from the Navy next year and plan to return to Massachusetts, but I want to be there right now. In fact, I'm here in Bahrain watching games at all hours of the morning on, hoping and praying for the Sox to get to New York and beat the Yankees. Then I swear I will be on a plane to Boston. I'm already checking the military flights into Westover!

Lord, it is time. Bid the last fruits to be full. We wander the boulevards, up and down, restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Two for the Road

I'm working on two hours sleep here, and my brain is sluggish (more so than usual even), but what a difference it is to have a late night win end with a win that puts the Sox up 2-0 than the alternative. This is what was going on last year after a late night game on the West Coast:

Workplace production in New England will undoubtedly suffer a drastic drop today due to the overtime required on the West Coast last night. For the bleary-eyed masses, however, their Red Sox -induced sleep deprivation was hardly worth the wait (Horrigan, Thursday, October 02, 2003)

That contrasts nicely with this,

In his first postseason appearance since squandering a three-run lead in Game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship Series, Martinez allowed only three runs on six hits, while striking out six batters. Keith Foulke preserved the lead over the final 1 1/3 innings to record the save (Horrigan, Herald)

Last year I was walking around like a zombie, this year, well, it's like Beth puts it: "I just have one thing to say this morning.
Let's sweep the bastards."

Hey, was I the only one last night who, when Anaheim chose to intentionally walk Ortiz (again) to load the bases and pitch to Carbrera, yelled out (in a Ren from Ren and Stimpy way), "Oh, Scioscia, you fool! Cabrera will make you pay. Bwwaaahhhaaahaa"? Bam. Bases clearing triple and redemption for Cabrera's loosing "track of Molina's lazy fly to lead off the fifth, a mistake that led to two runs and a 3-1 Anaheim lead" (Bryant).

While we're feeling pretty fine this morning, lack of sleep aside, Jackie MacMullen's caveat is one to be mindful of:

About this time last season, [the Red Sox] limped home from Oakland with a 2-0 deficit in tow. Local pundits lamented the impending demise of the team while the Red Sox caught fire, took care of business at home, then put themselves in a position to have a Game 5 decide their fate (Globe).

But I'm not to fatalistic when I read quotes like this from the Sox:

"When you got a guy hanging over the cliff holding on with one hand, you don't want him to get his other hand up there," Nixon explained. "You want to go ahead and stomp on it."

Stomp on, bro, stomp on.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Never Rains in Southern California

Man, does winning Game 1 take the edge off or what? I know, I know the Angels have won a bunch of playoff series after having lost the first game, it's there modus operandi, but it's not my job to get rah rah about the Angels chances, it's my job to bask in the glow of the Red Sox victory.

The Sox used one of the largest offensive outbursts in the club's postseason history to halt the momentum of the surging Angels. By jumping on Anaheim starter Jarrod Washburn for seven runs in the fourth inning, they built an 8-0 lead and kept the Rally Monkey locked in its cage (Horrigan, Herald).

But it wasn't just the offense now was it?

The Sox also played smooth defense… [and] No one was smoother in the field than shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who showed no signs that he was affected by playing his first postseason game.

"Orlando is phenomenal, has been since the day he got here," Schilling said. "He is a game-changer in the field." (Hohler, Globe).

The only annoyance in watching yesterday's game were, of course, the announcers. Does their clichéd b.s. fest get old fast or what? And you have to love the incessant caterwaul of Sutcliffe et al regarding how wrong it was for Francona and the Red Sox not to bunt with runners on 1st and 2nd and nobody out. Hello? What part of the data regarding the correlation between not making outs and scoring runs don't these guys understand?

Whenever I hear this kind of talk from the baseball "experts" I reminded of the tobacco CEOs during Congressional hearings steadfastly arguing that nicotine is not addictive despite every piece of scientific data proving just the opposite. Note to Sutcliffe: I know old habits die hard and all, but it's time to get used to the fact that the Earth isn't the center of the universe and if you sail west from Spain you won't fall off the end of the Earth as much as your medieval world view suggests otherwise.

Meanwhile, like I said, the game went so smoothly I didn't vex the poor dog once. It was a snooze fest for him. Though I do think he understood we're in the post season. Case in point: He hasn't chewed up anything or been mischievous went left alone at home for years, yet yesterday I came home early to find several throw rugs upside down and placed in the wrong room as well as every magazine in my magazine rack removed and strewn about the floor and I caught him in the kitchen with a dish towel in his mouth. Guess the pre game anticipation was too much for him. Too funny.

So it's Pedro tonight. I'm absolutely of one mind with Gordon Edes on this one:

It might be as illusory as a smog-free horizon here. It might be wishful thinking. It might be a refusal to acknowledge that even the most accomplished performers in our midst are obliged by the passage of time to cede some of their greatness, sometimes almost imperceptibly, at other times so painfully obvious it hurts, no one more than the artist himself.

But when Pedro Martinez takes the ball tonight against the Anaheim Angels, taking with him to the mound an amalgam of smoldering anger, barely concealed hurt, and wounded pride, it is eminently possible -- no, make that a strong likelihood -- that he will deliver one of the signature games of his career (Edes, Globe).

Goosebumps just thinking about it, right?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Feeling Like Mt. St. Helens

At DirtDogs, über Sox fan Sean Kelly sums up my feelings precisely:

I have followed them on a pitch-by-pitch basis since Johnny Pesky was managing the team. I have seen them participate in sixty-eight playoff and World Series games in five different decades. I have seen them play in person at their last three World Series - '67, '75', and '86. I have seen them win 9 Series games and 19 playoff games. I have seen them come oh so very close.

You'd think that I'd become somewhat jaded over the years, but I am already pacing around like a young father, wringing my hands, waiting for the baby to be delivered. Five more days and my stomach, which is already in knots, will be like heavy water left over from the Manhattan Project.

Although I don't have quite the bona fides to match Mr. Kelly, I do have my fair share of playoff experience, yet I'm still like a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown today and it'll only get worse as the week goes on. I especially feel badly for my dog, Butch, for whom my pacing and/or my shouting at the TV and/or my stiff-legged bear walk and/or my writhing and banging my the floor can mean only one of two things:

  1. Either he thinks he did something wrong, and he'll stare at me wide eyed and sad, or
  2. He thinks the household is under imminent attack thus mobilizing his fight (never flight) instinct in which he proceeds to run to every window, barking, knocking down anything in his path ("And down goes the vase! And down goes the lamp!") as he attempts to size up these miscreant vandals who have dared vex me so.

Neither is a pretty sight. (Sweeping up another broken keepsake, "Butchy, we's got sum 'splainin' to do, dawg.")

And I get hyper-sensitive and touchy during the playoffs, too. I hear a reporter, like Feinstein (I think it was) on NPR this morning saying the Angels will most likely beat the Red Sox blah blah blah and I go [expletive] mental. Normally I can just shrug that crapola off, but not when I'm hours from the first pitch of post season. No way.

And I don't want to read the papers either (which is why there are no links out). I don't want to retrace the season's timeline. I don't want to be force fed another tired cliche or sound bite about how good the opponent is but this club is ready to go all the way. Basically, I just want to explode. That's all. No biggie. Meanwhile, you folks who live in Boston and can hop the T to work are lucky because Red Sox fans shouldn't be behind the wheel on days like this. If talking on a cell phone while driving is the equivalent of driving drunk, then my early departure from work today and my drive home for the 4pm start will be the equivalent of driving under the effects of crack with a chronic chaser.

Is it game time yet?

Monday, October 04, 2004

Memory, Not Full Yet

The Red Sox started the 2004 season in Baltimore with a loss and ended the season in Baltimore with a loss. But it's what went on in between that counts. Kind of feels like we went through 3 seasons doesn't it? We had the halcyon 15-6 Spring, followed by the stygian 48-45 of most the summer, and, finally, the 35-13 fruitfulness of a finish. The result is the third best record in baseball and the most wins by a Red Sox club since '78.

But that won't mean much of anything if the team doesn't beat Anaheim in the ALDS. Don't know about you, but I'm happy with the draw. I know Anaheim is going to be tough and was the toughest opponent the Sox faced all season, still it's better than having to play in the Metrosexual Dome. And there are so many good playoff memories in Anaheim …

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when Henderson came to the plate against Donnie Moore in the 9th with the Sox down 5-2 with two outs? I was in my car, somewhere around Lowell, driving home from my Filene's Basement job in Methuen to my apartment in Newburyport when the magic struck. Definitely that's in my top 5 Red Sox fan moments of all time. (I paused here to consider making an official list of my top 5 moments, but I realized how much I really hate lists, despite this unnerving desire I have to list and order things. Also when I attempt to do something like list Red Sox memories, I'm quickly conked on the head with the realization that the Red Sox memory I really want alludes me from season to season.)

Now that the game times through Friday are official, as soon as I get to work this morning I'll put in to take vacation time to allow me to cut out of work early on both Tuesday and Friday to be ready and waiting for those 4pm starts. Time is at hand to experience what will become, we hope, great memories.

When Memory is full
Put on the perfect Lid—
This Morning's finest syllable
Presumptuous Evening said—

(Emily Dickinson, Number 1266)