Saturday, June 14, 2003

Ryan's Hope

I'm not much of a prognosticator, especially regarding baseball, but the performance of Ryan Rupe last night (holding "the Astros to one earned run on eight hits while striking out four and walking none") wasn't unexpected as far as I'm concerned.


  1. If you recall, Rupe was the first official pickup of the Theo Epstein reign, occurring within 48 hours of the official press conference in which Epstein was introduced as the new Red Sox GM. You don't think Epstein is going to flub his first pick up, do you? Odds are he had his eye on Rupe for awhile.
  2. Rupe always played the Sox tough when he was with Tampa Bay.
  3. Red Sox mystique. You know, it's not only the Yankees who have a mystique factor. Playing for the Red Sox is a whole other world from playing for the Devil Rays. Rupe is pumped and wants to prove himself, especially after having to do time in AAA.

Sometimes things go as expected. (At least for one game.)

Friday, June 13, 2003

Electrically They Keep a Baseball Score
And the Beat Goes On. La De Da De De�

All I have is admiration for the beat writers who can go through a 13 inning game like last night's, be on the hook for delivering a story just after the game ends yet still manage, as Hohler does, to view it all as "the 4-hour 33-minute mini-classic."

Me? I'm still exhausted. Even after a night's rest I'm dragging my tail without a witty turn of phrase in sight. If I were a ballplayer, I'd be Trot Nixon right now.

… [Who] stranded a seemingly impossible 12 baserunners. …with opportunities to win the game in the bottom of the ninth and 10th, Nixon had left the bases loaded on both occasions. After the latter instance, he dispiritedly crouched over, a look of exasperation on his face (Massarotti, Herald).

By now you've probably seen the interview with Bill James over at Slate. The whole thing is a good read, but the part that struck me the most had nothing to do with baseball. Regarding self-image, James says,

I established a policy many years ago of trying not to read anything written about myself. Mr. Lewis was very kind to me, and I appreciate his kind words, but ... it is unhealthy to base one's self-image on what other people say about you, even if they are generous.

Words of wisdom there. I try to live by that rule myself, but it's easier said than done even as a little fish in the big blogosphere pond. When I see I link in the server logs to Bambino's from another site, I almost always follow it to see what the other blogger said. Though I agree with Bill James that such actions are overall unhealthy.

Speaking of self-image, in a couple months the veneer I've established between reader and writer is going to crack and reveal the raw truth. I found out yesterday that the HBO documentary on the Red Sox aiming "to tell much of the story through the eyes, minds and hearts of lifelong, diehard, rabid, suffering Red Sox fans" and that will include bits from yours truly will premier on HBO on September 16.

So those of you who've never met me in person, will now have a face and sound of voice to attach to what you read here. It could be disastrous. I know that in most cases, whenever I've seen and heard somebody whom I only previously knew through words on a screen or page, it was very strange. When I first heard a spoken word recording of one of my favorite writers/poets, Charles Bukowski, I was messed up for months afterwards. I couldn't believe how much higher pitched and effete his voice was than what I'd imagined in my own head while reading his work.

And that was just voice, I already knew what he looked like. Ah, well, you have been warned.

La de da de da.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

By the River Pedro I Sat Down and Wept

Although some this morning chose to denigrate fans as being "so easily pleased," with Pedro's performance last night, I'm hear to tell you, no kidding, that after Pedro Martinez one-two-three'd the Cardinals in the third and walked off the mound to a standing ovation at Fenway, I openly wept.

My wife passed through the room and asked, her brow furrowed in puzzlement, "Why are you crying? The Red Sox are winning aren't they?"

"Pedro," I stammered." Pedro" the tears running like a character in a Paulo Coelho novel.

Maybe I am too easily pleased. And what of it? Did you see the way Pedro trimmed Pujol's nose hair in the first and then struck him out swinging?

Yeah, that was pretty damn, pleasing, all right. As Buckley writes in this morning's Herald (premium), "It was one of those rare Red Sox nights in which a splendid offense and superb pitching were out on a date together, and looking fine."

Meanwhile, I think I have to agree with Brian, who produces the very excellent Redbird Nation blog, when he suggests the Cardinals have the best uniforms. I'd certainly put them in my top 5. I'm sitting there watching the game last night thinking, OK, anyone could put one bird, one Cardinal on the uniform. That's expected. A semi-daring designer might put two birds on the uni, but, who has the cajones to put two birds and the effin' branch they roost on? And it works! Now that is panache.

And speaking of the Cardinals, am I the only one who thinks Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa bears an uncanny resemblance to consumer activist and presidential wannabe Ralph Nader?

Tony LaRussa head shot Ralph Nader headshot

Each time the camera would pan over to LaRussa, I'd be like, my gosh, why is Ralph Nader wearing a Cardinals uniform? Heh Heh of course it could just be that all the tears of joy I'd wept over Pedro's performance had messed with my eye sight.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Redbirds Poop on the Hood of Your Dad's Oldsmobile (Again)

Remember back in November when Larry Lucchino was crowing about how "We are not your father's Oldsmobile" in regard to the Red Sox under the new regime?

Well, I know management is trying to turn things around, and that's much appreciated from this fan's perspective. Still, the team sure does look a lot more like my father's Oldsmobile than anything else.

The Sox rallied from a 7-2 deficit and tied the score at 7 in the eighth inning on Jason Varitek's two-run home run off Kiko Calero, but closer Brandon Lyon couldn't hold it there. St. Louis rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth to pull ahead and drop the Sox into second place in the American League East (Horrigan, Herald).

Same old story: big sluggers who yank the ball out of park with daily regularity and pathetic pitching. Red Sox in second place behind the Yankees.

Oddly enough, my dad actually drove an Oldsmobile in '67, the last time the Cardinals and Red Sox met to play nine at Fenway. Gibson won that one, as you either recall or have heard stories of.

To give my dad credit, his Oldsmobile was sort of flashy as Olds go. It was two door, sleek black, and had the fins that were de rigueur for American autos at the dawn of the space age. (It was a used car, so I'm guessing it was '62 or '63 model.) And my dad moved from the Olds to an oh so studly Dodge Coronet 500 in 1970.

That car was very reminiscent of the Red Sox in the 70s as well: pure power, a joy to behold when she opened up on the highway, all the windows down, chassis shimmering, 100mph, 110mph, 120mph, 125mph! Then, whoops, out of gas. The Coronet was not economical, going through gas as quickly as the Red Sox pitchers gave up (or give up, if you fast forward to '03) runs, which is why my dad's next car was a utilitarian VW 911. (This was at the height of the OPEC oil embargo after all, gas rationing, hour long lines at the pumps.)

I'm waxing on and on about cars because for me, and perhaps for you as well, most of my memories are inextricably wound around two things: cars and the Red Sox.

Here are a couple of examples of that from my own life. In '86 I graduated from college and struck out on my own for the first time. And those heady days of living in my first apartment with my first real job seemed to perfectly mirror the Red Sox '86 season. Just one good thing after another. Well, up to a point! We all know about what happened in the WS. And a month after that I totaled the brand new car I'd bought after college, a VW Cabriolet convertible. (Stop your snickering! I so badly wanted an Alpha Romeo but couldn't afford it. Had to have a convertible of some sort, I felt, and the VW was it, despite it being seen by some as a "girlie" car.)

A decade later, in '96, I bought my first house and moved in the same weekend in February that Spring Training begin. I, no kidding, bought my first lawn mower on Opening Day in '96. I eagerly anticipated the game because the Sox opened in against the Rangers and I was living in Texas so I'd get to see every pitch in those days before MLB.TV and the like.

I mowed my lawn to perfection and proudly stared out at the expectant green of spring from my little house. The Sox, as it goes, were swept by Texas and went on to finish April at 7 and 19, their worst start ever. To this day, every friggin' time I mow a lawn, I think about that series and my first lawn mower and first house. (I was still driving the VW Golf I'd bought to replace the Cabriolet, ten years earlier. It was all part of penance dolled out after Game 6. I put 200k on the little car which I kept longer than the Sox kept Clemens or Vaughn or Bagwell.)

In October of '99, at the height of the Internet hype, I quit my job in academia, got married, and took a job with a startup company in Virginia. I was surrounded by packing boxes, some full, some empty and waiting more possessions on Oct 11, when Pedro, sick with the flu, came from the pen in relief to no hit the Indians and win the division series. At the moment, it seemed everything was possible. The Red Sox would win the World Series, I'd get rich off my startup stock options and live happily ever after.

Well, , the Red Sox lost to the Yankees in the ALCS, the market bubble broke, the Red Sox have not been in the postseason since, and my job is always month to month as the little company I joined struggles to stay financially above water. (But I'm still happily married, so 1 out of 3 isn't bad.)

Meanwhile, I am making more memories each day and each of them are somehow tied to a bunch of guys in red stockings. It's either beautiful or pathetic. Sometimes I'm not sure myself.

Off to go scrape that Redbird poop off my car (a 2001 Ford Escape).

Tuesday, June 10, 2003


Twenty games. Twenty days.

It's a true fact, to use the vernacular of freshman composition students, that the pennant cannot be won in the next twenty days, but it sure can be lost.

This is a time for brave hearts, Red Sox fans.

You make the call as to which sounds better: The Red Sox have won four of their last six. The Red Sox have lost eight of their last 13.

Either way, since roaring to a 19-9 start, the club has gone 16-17.

The Red Sox open their home interleague slate with a pair of three-game series … First up are the St. Louis Cardinals, who the Sox faced in the 1946 and '67 World Series. St. Louis won both in seven games (Silverman, Herald).

Among the great sports cities with passionate fan support, St. Louis always makes the short list in baseball. And here's one example of the passion fans have for their Redbirds.

A buddy of mine from grad school, Terry, whom I haven't heard a word from in over ten years, emails me out of the blue from the United Arab Emirates of all places:

I write now because my favorite team, the Cardinals, visits my "other" favorite team in Fenway. … Terence [another friend from grad school] told me about your Sox journal a few years ago, and I have been a regular reader ever since. … I think I know what's kept me from writing you before. I don't have another example of someone with whom I've lost contact that still makes his voice available to me.

Beautiful. I don't know what I impresses me more, that Terry chooses to write at the dawn of important interleague series, or that even while living along the shores of the worlds away Persian Gulf, he still manages to follow his Redbirds with an intensity that has him prepared to offer the following scouting report:

What look for in the Cardinals: You don't have to face Morris, who will be saved v Clemens later this week. You do, however, face Woody Williams, who controls his fastball as well as anyone in the game. Kim has already beaten us this season, but we usually hit him hard. Wakefield should do well against us as long as Tino doesn't see him with men on base. The rest is easy to see. Don't pitch to Pujols. There is no way to pitch him. Don't give Renteria anything below the letters with men on base. Don't dare Edmonds to hit a high fastball. Don't throw a splitter to Tino. His bat is slower than when he was a Yankee. Just give him gas.

A tip of the ol' turban to you, Terry. Thanks for writing.

Despite the usual war, poverty, pestilence that always haunt our world, I marvel at how good we have it. We have baseball and we have technology such that one can follow his or her team from the four corners of the earth. That's nothing to take for granted.

Now bring on St. Louis. Game one of twenty.

Monday, June 09, 2003

A Rash of Injuries

Has first place ever felt so tenuous?

I can't believe the way the injuries are mounting up. So yesterday, Derek Lowe, himself recovering from skin cancer, had to pitch on just three days rest, the shortest of his career, because there just were not enough quality Red Sox pitchers left. And, while he pitched great, he left the game with a blister. Probably nothing, right?

Amazing. Fossum on DL. Wakefield day to day with a badly bruised ankle. The pitching coach Cloninger with cancer and having to take a leave of absence for chemo treatment. When does it end?

The bright spot: Martinez is scheduled to come back Wednesday against the Cardinals. Of course, he's only scheduled to pitch 3 innings or so and will then be replaced by Burkett. Fill in your own analogy for that scenario. And even if Pedro recovers fully, you can't help but wonder for how long his good health will last before he goes back on the 15 day or worse. [Frantically knocking on wood, making the sign of the cross, and tossing salt over my shoulder upon writing last line.]

So now it's up to Person, Rupe and Arroyo?

Time to start listening to the Prozac my friends.

Speaking of the DL, if you recall my poor pooch has Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a recent tick bite. Both are diseases humans can get from ticks, too. So last night I'm scratching my ass, as I'm want to do on occasion, and, what's this?, lo and behold there is a tick firmly attached to my left butt cheek! Consequently, I'm now checking my ass cheek every couple hours for the tell tale rash.

What are the chances of get Lyme or RMSF from one tick bite on my left butt cheek? About the same as the dog's, I guess, and that isn't particularly comforting, know what I'm sayin'? Sort of like how I feel about the Red Sox pitching right now.