Saturday, February 08, 2003

A Snake Eating Its Tail

Another winter Saturday with very little Red Sox news, so another Saturday to ruminate on the nature of my inner Red Sox fan psychosis.

This is from a Washington Post article regarding the feeling of doom some Americans are falling pray to:

Context is all. A tragedy in the shadows of other tragedies can't help but seem like proof of a trend. One person's negativism can reinforce another's ( Copeland, Washington Post)..

Sound familiar?

Again, I present to you the thesis that we, the fans, are the Curse of the Bambino.

Consider negativity like the mythic snake eating its tail. When you're depressed, "you have a depressed filter," says Alexander Rich, a psychologist at the University of South Florida. "It primes your memory so you remember your feelings and things that have gone wrong and your regrets and things you're ashamed of."

[People] become more vigilant when a series of bad things happens, to prepare for the next bad thing. The metaphorical shoe dangles precariously.

"One thing goes wrong, most of us don't say, 'Ah, jeez.' " Gabler says. "Most of us wait for the next thing to go wrong because it somehow gives us shape to our bad luck."

Waiting for the next thing to go wrong? Hmm … Pesky, Slaughter, Dent, Buckner, [__?__] …

And before we, as fans, take all the blame, let's remember how the knights of the keyboard play a role in this. It's the very nature of the news media to focus on the negatives.


We may continue to pay attention to the news or we may tune it out altogether. Charles Figley, a psychologist with Florida State University, says that in one of his classes he recently tried to get a conversation going about local and world events. He realized his students weren't reading the newspapers. One of them explained: "It's kind of like, I already know the headlines, and by reading the newspaper I just learn how bad it is," Figley recalls. Classic student apathy here seems like a sign of the times.

Ever have moments in the season in which you say, "That's it, I'm no longer reading Shaughnessy or Buckley or whomever … I can't take anymore negative"?

I do.

Finally, the kicker,

In any case, mind-set is powerful. Paul Saffo, a director of the Institute for the Future, a think tank in Menlo Park, Calif., uses the phrase "unharmonic convergence" to describe how an event can fit into unrelated circumstances. "Did you ever wonder how Cortes and his band of 400 men conquered Mexico?" he asks. Cortes' arrival was interpreted by some as the coming of Quetzalcoatl, an Aztec god who was predicted to return at that time, and this made the Aztecs less prone to resisting the conqueror. They thought he was destiny.

Are we forever doomed to play the Aztecs while the Yankees play Cortes?

The choice, it seems, is ours to make.

Friday, February 07, 2003

"More to the Picture Than Meets the Eye"

Later than normal posting today as we're having a snow day. Slept in a bit and then finished off and e-filed my taxes.

Bignews today is this must read for all Red Sox fans of the transcript from Theo Epstein's online chat at SOSH last night.

A random pull quote:

One more point to consider when assessing our perceived strategy, there are literally hundreds of factors that go into player evaluations and negotiations. Of those factors, we can probably only discuss a small fraction with the mainstream media. I wish I could share all of our thinking, all of the facts with our fans, but that would be inappropriate in certain instances and would compromise our ability to compete. I think our beat writers are terrific. Just keep in mind that, sometimes, (as Neil Young says) there's more to the picture than meets the eye (Epstein, DirtDogs).


In miscellaneous news, several folks e-mailed yesterday wondering why I made no mention of Babe Ruth's birthday. Two reasons:

  1. I'm not much a birthday guy. Haven't paid much attention to my own since I was a kid, and never really get too excited about any else's, including Babe Ruth's. That is not to say I don't find certain points on the calendar to be important: I always mark the solstices and the equinoxes as well as other key dates. Just not birthdays (outside my own family).
  2. Precedent. Didn't mention it last year, and don't want to start something now.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)

This from Dave Pinto caught my interest:

The research they did back in 1990 showed that one pickoff throw was enough to reduce base stealing success. More than one had no effect. …

Actually, I like the way pitchers like Jim Palmer and Dwight Gooden approached base runners; they didn't care. If you get the batters out after allowing a man on first, the likelihood is that runner isn't going to score. So Palmer and Gooden concentrated on that, rather than worrying about giving up a stolen base. I think that's the right strategy (Baseball Musings).

Remember when this was the strategy the Red Sox practiced under Williams/Kerrigan? Remember how there was a very bellicose clamoring among fans and sportswriters about how dumb and stupid a strategy it was?

Let's keep that in mind this year when the inevitable bullshit starts to surface about how Grady Little and his coaching staff are doing this or that wrong.

I know we fans often like to think we are smarter than the guys calling the shots, but it simply isn't true.

Meanwhile, this Phil Spector news is bumming me out. I knew the guy was nut job, so many geniuses are, but that he might have murdered a woman is revolting. Unless he manages to somehow convince a jury of his innocence, a good bunch of records on my "greatest of all time" list will be forever tainted.

You know, I always thought there was something pretty creepy about Spector's tune for the Crystals, "He hit me, and it felt like a kiss."

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Here Today, Juan Tomorrow

Remember the promise of Juan Peña?

Here's his last outing with the big club in '99 courtesy of

Boston Red Sox 5, Toronto Blue Jays 0

Game Played on May 14, 1999 (N) at Skydome

Boston Red Sox        IP     H  HR   R  ER  BB   K
Pena W(2-0)            7     6   0   0   0   2   7
Lowe                   0.1   0   0   0   0   1   0
Cormier                1.2   0   0   0   0   0   0
Totals                 9.0   6   0   0   0   3   7

Man, I had high hopes for this kid. He seemed invincible in his two starts in '99, another Pedro Martinez in the making.

Alas, Juan Peña's major league career appears to have come to an end.

Continuing the effort to improve their pitching depth, the Red Sox yesterday claimed right-handed pitcher Bronson Arroyo off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Still, the move may be far more noteworthy for whom the Sox designated for assignment to make room for Arroyo on the 40-man roster:

Juan Peña.

A one-time prospect who missed virtually all of the 2001 and 2002 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the 25-year-old Peña went just 4-11 with a 5.33 ERA in 17 appearances (16 starts) for Triple-A Pawtucket last year. He remains 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in his big league career after winning his only two starts for the Sox in 1999 and could remain with the organization if he clears waivers (Massarotti, Herald).

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

Before we too quickly shrug Peña's demise off as "just part of the game," an unfortunate twist of fate but remote and removed from our own day to day lives, it's worth remembering that each of us is continually on fate's brink as well.

So each day, we should go through our motions the same way Juan Peña did on a night at Sky Dome in 1999, throwing each pitch as if it were our last.

Carpe diem.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Far and Wee

ESPN has a poll up asking fan opinion on the new red uniforms.

In an email, The Laughing Boy confesses, "I like it! But then, I'm a socialist." I like the new look, too, and I'm not a socialist. (I wanted to be a socialist when I was in college and heavy into the Clash's Sandinista album, but it didn't work out.)

With a dissenting opinion, Globe blogger Eric Wilbur rails against the "tradition hit" going on at Yawkey Way; "… what's history when there's a buck to be made. How long until we have hot dog races in between innings?" [Note to Eric/Globe: Put some effin' permalinks on your blog, OK? Otherwise you screw up the whole link back loop that makes blogging what it is.]

Edes suggest what will happen if the Sox end up getting Millar and keeping Hillenbrand:

"The Sox envision one scenario in which Hillenbrand would be part of a first base/third base platoon. He would split time at third with switch-hitting Bill Mueller, getting about 400 plate appearances at third and another 100 at first" (Edes, Globe).

Elsewhere, nationally syndicated columnist Dave Barry has some fun with the Curse. [Hat tip to Chris for the link.]

Finally, the daffodils and crocus are emerging. I've got a yard full of ¼ inch green shoots. That means it's almost Spring. Just keeping an eye out for the goat-footed ballonMan.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Four Horsemen

Did you hear that the end of the world is near?

In a June 2002 CNN/Time magazine poll, 59 percent of those surveyed said they think the Revelation prophesies will come true. Seventeen percent said the biblical prophecies would be fulfilled in their lifetimes (Mead, Washington Post).

Jeez, talk about doom and gloom.

I certainly don't share such a fatalistic view. I'm not sure how one could. I compare life now with how it was 10, 20, 30 years ago, and there is no question things are better today.

My guess is that those polled couldn't have been citizens of Red Sox Nation. Living life as we do, oscillating between hope and desperation, season after season, toughens the soul.

And our "wait until next year" attitude carries beyond the Red Sox and permeates our world view.

There is hope among the living, There is always hope.

(Besides, the world can't end until the Red Sox win a World Series again.)