"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Absentee Fan

(Photo from Boston.com)

I cannot go to the parade today. This is one of those times where being an adult really sucks. And though I have friends who've promised to pass on my love to Jacoby, to snag me some of that championship parade confetti so that I may keep it as a good luck charm in my wallet (same as '04 confetti and confetti from all three Pats' parades), and to take pictures of the boys for me, it's not quite the same.

So, obviously, I won't be able to write about the parade for you. But what I can do is share with you a conversation Amy and I had over email this morning:

Amy: Go to the Globe site. Go directly to the Globe site. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. The flight home photo gallery. NOW.
Me: /gives self carpal tunnel hitting "right click, save as."

From the accompanying Globe article: //The Sox had partied hard after winning their eighth straight World Series game Sunday night - Jason Varitek carried David Ortiz on his shoulders - but their flight home was more of a family affair.//

Amy: I want pictures of Papi on Tek shoulders.

Me: Jason Varitek has to be a superhero. There is no other explanation.

Amy: No wonder he looked so tired and cranky getting off the plane. Moving must be difficult.

Me: I mean, he is a strong man. But David Ortiz is like 483 pounds of muscle and awesomeness.

Amy: And godlike superpowers. I will never get over Jacoby having his shirt signed by the players. You know he did it all shy, like he was asking them to sign his annual (because he calls yearbooks annuals) and afraid they would say no.

Me: I know and probably like Papi embarrassed him or something when he took the jersey and he announced to the plane, "Hey, our Speed Racer wants us all to sign his jersey! So fucking sign it for the man!"

Amy: And Pedroia shook his head all like "rookies, man."

Me: Do you think Pedroia calls Jacoby "Rook?"

Amy: I think he calls him "Noob."

Me: And then he looks at Youkilis all, "Am I right?" and Youks is just like "get back in the wheelbarrow."

Amy: And Mike Lowell is all, "Oh here, we baked you a cobbler last night."

Me: And then Youks says "But you're gonna have to eat it while stuffed in the overhead compartment."

Amy: I feel like Pedroia is his tag team in this. Like sometimes he uses Pedroia for backup and sometimes he puts him small spaces. Like a little brother.

Me: I mean, sometimes it's necessary to have a small accomplice because it's hard for bigger people to hide in the whirlpool and scare Varitek.

Amy: The lecture that ensues after that....epic.

Me: And Youks is all standing behind Pedroia and trying not to laugh while Mike Lowell yells at them. And Jacoby is kind of sitting wide-eyed in the corner.

Amy: And then he tells Jason Varitek he would never scare him on purpose or accident.

Me: And Bucky (Buchholz) is all behind him nodding solemnly. Pretty sure Jacoby calls Tek "Mr. Varitek" too.

Amy: Oh yeah. All of them. "Mr. Francona, sir, may I please sit next to you?"

Me: "For chrissakes, kid, you gotta tone it down a little. You're making me uncomfortable."

Amy: This is going on the internet, isn't it?

Me: I can't go to the parade. What do you expect?

I keep remembering bits and pieces of conversations we all had Sunday night. At one point, I remember us all taking bets on whether or not Mike Timlin would come into the game and, if he did, if he would have an animatronic deer slung over his shoulder from Colorado's Bullpens O' Wilderness.

Greta: Mike Timlin is digging that bullpen setup.

Me: I worry, though. I worry that instead of warming up, he's hiding behind a blue spruce tree in a camo blind and lying in wait with his crossbow for an unsuspecting squirrel to happen by.

Amy: A legitimate concern.

And then I'm pretty sure I tried bargaining with Timlin and told him that if he got out of the inning (he did), that he could retire immediately and spend the rest of his days hunting Matt Clement.

I'm just saying, I'd be kind of concerned if I were Matt Clement.

So those of you who are attending the parade today, have a fantastic time. Pass along my love to the boys and take lots of pictures. If you wanted to share them with me, well my email is on the side there and I wouldn't be upset.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Of Men and Baseball, This Game We Play

(Photo from Boston.com)

A friend of mine in Colorado sent me a message last night. "Congratulations," she said. Then she went on to mention Papelbon and Varitek and their obvious, er, affection for one another. And it struck me; this friend isn't really a baseball fan. She follows football and we occasionally talk about her Broncos and my Patriots and our mutual dislike of the Colts or Steelers or somesuch, but this baseball thing was relatively new to her. She'd been following the Rockies during this postseason run because, how could you not if you live out there? As she put it, "There's an awful lot of purple. An awful lot." But still, she wouldn't have considered herself a baseball fan. And yet, here she was, discussing my team with me. Talking about my closer and my catcher by name and getting it right (which is more than we can say for Tim McCarver). And I suddenly realized how proud I was. Because people elsewhere will be talking about my baseball team. And they'll be talking about them by name.

I would never claim that the Red Sox fly under the radar. That's a preposterous assumption and one you'll never hear me make. But I made the point a while back that if the Sox won this World Series, it would introduce the new guys to the world on a huge stage and their careers would begin in the brightest possible light. And we could say "Look at them! They're our rookies! We made them!" And we did. And we can.

Just as you and I will always remember where we were, what we were doing, and who we were with, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Daisuke Matsuzaka and the gang will one day think about the first time they won a World Series, and they'll remember Coors Field, and how the air was thin, and the champagne was plentiful and the celebration lasted for days.

There are three defining images for me last night. They all sum up this unique and wild run in different ways. The first is Ryan wearing a Bud Light box on his head (for Papelbon mojo, you understand), and breathing into a paper bag. He did this with two outs in the ninth inning, grabbing the bag as soon as Jamey Carroll's deep, deep, deeeeeeeeeeeeep fly ball settled into Ellsbury's glove. It was a much-needed moment of levity in a night fraught with drama and tension. Those of us assembled - Greta, Amy, and myself - laughed for what felt like the first time in three innings. We needed that. Because it's baseball. And baseball is supposed to be fun.

The second image that'll always strike me is the enormous, face-splitting smile on Jacoby Ellsbury's face as the camera followed him in from left field, sprinting to join his teammates on the infield. Because baseball teams play a long season. They play a lot of games. And at every turn it seems the rookies are trying to keep their wits about them, trying to keep it all together and never admit that they might be intimidated, or frightened, or in over their heads. And even when things appear to be clicking for them in all possible ways, as with Ellsbury and the World Series he just had, they seem to be trying to keep things in perspective. As if they're constantly telling themselves, "Act professional. Do not freak out. Keep things under control." But then there comes that one moment, as with Ellsbury last night, when the exhilaration and excitement and months of working hard and playing with the big boys all comes tumbling out, and they can't keep the smile in any longer. And it's at that moment that you realize, these are just kids. Some of these guys are just kids. Some look barely old enough to shave. And the release of this, the culmination of all they've worked so hard for, often times, alongside their mentors, is great. And their joy is something to behold.

And finally, the third and most important thing I'm going to remember about this Red Sox World Series victory is not really about the Red Sox at all. It's about family, or rather, the families we make for ourselves. I watched the game with friends last night, as I'm sure many of us did. Four of us came together from four different geographic regions and watched the Sox become World Series champions. Greta is from Baltimore, Ryan from New Orleans, Amy from North Carolina and myself, from New Hampshire. We all have ties to this region and this team. We all have our reasons. But these are people that, were it not for the Red Sox, I would never have cause to know. These are people I met through this crazy internet in general and a message board over at Surviving Grady in particular and these are people who have, over the past couple of years, become my very best friends. And when Papelbon struck out Seth Smith last night and the celebration commenced, we all hugged each other and screamed and poured champagne and then we all called our dads, or our brothers, or our friends back home. We called our families. And the image that struck me was Amy's face, after getting off the phone with her dad and brother back in North Carolina. "I'm so happy about this," she said, choking up, "but it also makes me miss them a lot."

"Oh, pumpkin," I said, and hugged her.

"I just miss my family," she said.

"Me too," I said, "But, you know, we're kind of your second family. We're all kind of here watching this with our second family."

"That's true," she said, wiping away tears. "The Red Sox kind of made this family for us, didn't they?"

"They did," I said. "We wouldn't know each other without them."

And that, above all, is what I thank them for. Because the winning is great. The winning is fantastic and amazing. But the winning means nothing if you have no one to share it with. The winning is empty without your family.

And this family of mine - this Red Sox manufactured family - means more to me than any amount of winning and trophies could ever mean. Without this family, I'd have no one to force-feed me tequila and chips when I seem in danger of going off the deep end when I hear that Jon Lester is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. Without this family, there would be no one to calm me down and stifle the bloodcurdling screams when I saw Eric Gagne warming up in the Sox bullpen (brilliant motivational tactic by Tito, I think). Without this family, there would be no one to indulge my Jacoby Ellsbury crush or my long-standing and steadfast love for Jason Varitek. Without this family, I wouldn't have you guys who read this every day and make me laugh with your comments and emails. Without the Red Sox, I wouldn't have this family, and without this family, I wouldn't have anything.

You guys make this all worth it. Because I would keep doing this if the Red Sox never won again, but I wouldn't keep doing it without you guys. So thank you, 2007 Boston Red Sox. But most of all, thank you guys. You know who you are.

How Sweet It Is

(Photo from Boston.com)

"These are the best of times." - My Dad

Congratulations to the 2007 Boston Red Sox and their fans. World champions, once again.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Striking Distance

(Photo from Yahoo! Sports)

I should be asleep. I didn't get into bed until 3 this morning. It's Sunday and the Pats game doesn't start until 4:15. There is absolutely no good reason I should be awake right now. Except that this morning is the morning the cat has decided that I absolutely cannot sleep past 8 o'clock. He attempted to get me out of bed by pushing his food dish all over my hardwood floors, meowing incessantly, and inexplicably running back and forth across my apartment. And when that didn't work, he stood on my chest and meowed directly into my face, to, I assume, talk abut how awesome Jacboy Ellsbury is. On that, we agree.

So I'm up, and I'm thinking, you know, the Red Sox are one win away from winning a World Series. And how insane is that? Not because this team has surprised me in this way because, if I'm being honest, they haven't. Sure, there have been countless times when I've yelled at them during the course of the season and implored them to "score runs for Tim Wakefield/Daisuke Matsuzaka, for the love of god what is wrong with you?" but really, they've maintained their pace, or, I guess, set the pace. But what has surprised me is how absolutely badass our rookies are.

I mean, remember during the ALDS and the beginning of the ALCS when everyone was saying that if the Sox wanted to advance, they were going to need to get production out of someone other than Manny and Papi? Huh, silly me, I thought they were talking about how JD Drew was going to have to start pulling his weight or how, god forbid, Lugo should start getting some hits. But the wee rookies have totally taken up the charge. Pedroia is in full "I don't get no respect, everyone thinks I'm too small, I'll show you haters!" mode and Ellsbury has seemed decidedly non-blinded by the bright lights and giant stage of the World Series. I mean, the man started the season in Double A. And now he's going 4-for-5 and serving as the ultimate catalyst in Game 3 of the World Series. A charmed life indeed.

True or false: Every time Tito gave Ellsbury a start during the season, he found a nice note written on sturdy stationary in his manager's office the next day?

Thanks for giving me a shot. I hope to make you proud.

Jacoby Ellsbury
(Centerfielder, Boston Red Sox)

Eventually, Tito had to tell him nicely to stop since it was appreciated but really wasn't necessary. "Kid, you're gonna get a lot of starts in the future. You don't want to spend all your time writing notes." But Ellsbury just wanted Tito to know how appreciative he was. He's thinking maybe a nice fruit basket, or perhaps a wine and cheese assortment to thank Tito after the season is over. Mike Lowell can totally help him pick out something appropriate.

I feel like that is one of those things that I could be making up, or it could be 100% of fact. One never knows with these Red Sox, do we?

And Dustin Pedroia, wee little engine that could Dustin Pedroia talks about Ellsbury like Pedroia has been in the bigs forever and, lo! the many things he's seen. They'd blow Jacoby's mind. Let's just hope the kid can keep his wits about him. The chain of command, as it were from Youkilis to Pedroia to Ellsbury is fantastic and sure to be the nexus of many bouts of ridiculousness in seasons to come. Though you'll notice that neither Youks or Pedroia, in their endless quest to determine the speedster among them, have challenged Jacoby to a footrace. Oh, the beatdown that would commence.

So tonight, tonight could be it. Maybe not, but, you know, it could. And that possibility has me feeling a little heady this morning. Granted, that could also be the sleep deprivation, but I think it's at least 87% baseball. So we will spend our day killing time, watching the Pats, thanking the universe that Patrice Bergeron seems to be okay and counting down the minutes until game time. Because it could happen. And it could happen tonight. And if it does, I think we should all write some nice thank you notes.

Wonder Boys

(Photo from Boston.com)

Okay, look, it's late (early?) but I needed to declare exactly how madly in love with Jacoby Ellsbury I am. And look at him, validating the love and affection with the 4-for-5 and the 2 RBIs and the two runs scored. Someone loves me back, is what I'm saying. All that and free tacos to boot.

That, my friends, is a rookie who delivers. As is Dustin Pedroia, of course, who has adopted the attitude of a grizzled veteran when talking about Ellsbury which is just the best thing ever. Almost as awesome as Kevin Youkilis, dressed in full Everest climbing gear. Which, honestly, makes no sense considering that Youkilis generally has so many problems with the sweating that Fox feels bound to mention it. Maybe he just likes mittens?

Anyway, there is likely no team in sports less comfortable with a three games to none lead than these Red Sox. Because they know that's anything but a sure thing. But things could not be better right now. And the good times keep rolling on.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Any Way You Want It

(Photo from Boston.com)

Yeah, that's right, the Journey quotes are coming fast and furious now. That can only mean good things.

Above, Jacoby Ellsbury does his part to end world hunger by stealing second to ensure tacos for America! What a patriot! What a guy! Royce Clayton can get his taco now. That Jacoby, such a nice boy.

This one...this one was not easy. This one had that postseason feel to it. That "this could go completely to shit at any second" feel. This is something I'm used to. But Schilling did what he's capable of doing and, once he got it together after a slow start, pitched a beautiful game. Of course, the Sox would be nowhere this season, or this postseason, without their bullpen, Manny Delcarmen Bullpen Band and all. Okajima, in particular, has pitched more than I often think is strictly wise, but has risen to the challenge every time. And just think, this is the guy we got to keep Matsuzaka company.

Then there's Papelbon who is apparently also capable of some impressive gymnastic moves out there on the field should the situation require it. And I mean, the Papel-parents are completely normal-looking folks. There is virtually no indication in that picture that those people have spawned the unholy union of Nolan Ryan and Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance. (Not to mention the borderline psychotic Papel-twins.)

Curt Schilling just referred to this lethal bullpen combination as the "Papajima Show." Hmmm, possible. We'll take that under advisement, Curtis.

Weirdly, despite the fact that the Sox are now up 2-0, I'm more nervous now than I was after last night's game. (Two nights ago? What day is it anyway?) Perhaps it's the whole "Okay, so the Rockies have some shutdown pitching as well" thing and the "Coors Field is a mysterious place of legend and mystery" thing but mostly, I think, it's because this game felt real. Because World Series games are supposed to be tight. They're supposed to be hotly contested. They're supposed to be pitcher's duels. And Fox and NESN can throw stats and numbers at me all they want (not that I'm listening to anything Fox says, especially Eric Byrnes because, have some pride, dude, don't let Jeannie Zelasko and her freaky, freaky nose taunt you like that and also comb your hair! You're on national television!), but I know how these things can turn on a dime. So I remain cautiously optimistic.

I am, however, greatly enjoying the fact that in every commercial, the dude from Jordan's Furniture looks like he's about to vomit. Since they're two Sox wins away from hemorrhaging money. Unfortunately, I won't get my furniture for free because I didn't buy it in the time frame but I'm not gonna pretend like I won't be kind of amused if this happens because I'll feel like the Red Sox are objecting to the fact that it took for-freakin'-ever for Jordan's to get me said furniture. Because the Sox care that my living room is inviting and aesthetically pleasing to guests, obviously.

So now, we wait a day. The Rockies are likely not stoked about having yet another day off but such is the way of things. And NESN is promising, "Coming up: Reaction from Jacoby Ellsbury." I really hope someone has to wherewithal to ask him about Tacos for America.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Headline Cliche-palooza!

(Photo from Boston.com)

Okay, comments section, people. I want your submissions for most overwrought, cliched headline we're likely to find in the national media today. I'm fairly certain headline writers all over were already wetting themselves with the puns inherent in a Sox and Rox series, and now that the Rockies were, um, rocked in Game 1, I'm certain they can barely contain themselves. So, what you got?

As for the game, I think Jen summed it up nicely when she casually mentioned to the assembled masses last night amongst the beer bottle, pizza box and buffalo wing detritus, "Did you ever think we'd be spending Game 1 of the World Series just kind of casually watching people fly out to center?"

No. No, I did not.

But apparently, I'd forgotten about Josh Beckett. Joshua Patrick Beckett who, I believe, is on some kind of a mission - apologies to the Rockies and their apparent mission from God. Greta and I were discussing the other night that it's a good thing Beckett can throw a 97-mph fastball, otherwise, he'd likely be in prison and the owner of a fair number of restraining orders stemming from frequent bar fights he started because someone was "lookin' at me funny." So, you know, glad that baseball thing worked out. Furthermore, I'm glad someone (Jason Varitek) has apparently upped Beckett's postgame sedatives as he's managed to drop most of the profanity and even looks in danger of falling asleep. Like there are about three million things he'd rather do than talk about his utter dominance as a postseason pitcher. Like maybe that chick in the back of the room. He'd kind of like to get out of here and show her his heater if you know what he's saying, and I think you do.

And now we read about how Beckett is embarking on some kind of pitcher outreach program and adopting Buchholz and Lester over the winter and, I guess, taking them to his Texas ranch where he's going to teach them to spit and shoot things be better pitchers. This is either the best idea in the history of ever, or the worst. And either way, I'm going to need a NESN camera crew filming every second of it. Ignoring for a second the fact that I'm not sure Buchholz won't suffer some severe separation anxiety when apart from his BFF Jacoby, are we absolutely certain we want these guys subjected to whatever depraved and insane rituals Josh Beckett undergoes during the offseason? What if he makes them eat pork rinds? From a pig they killed themselves? Buchholz seems like a sensitive soul. I'm not sure how this is going to go over. And then what happens when Timlin makes his inevitable field trip to "visit?" I just would not be surprised to read about a rebel band of misfit pitchers knocking over grocery stores and mini-marts using only chin-high fastballs as weapons. Which actually kind of makes them sound like superheroes. And if that's the case, they're going to need capes. I love capes. People should wear capes more.

Sleep deprivation, people. Catch it!

You know who else needs a cape? Dustin Pedroia. I totally wore my Mighty Mouse pajama pants last night in honor of Pedroia (oh I know you are not judging me and my sartorial choices. You do not judge mojo.) And they worked, didn't they? Amy and I have decided that Kevin Youkilis is pretty stoked to have someone on the team to pick on since he's tired of being the butt of clubhouse jokes and he's not allowed to pick on Jacoby because Mike Lowell clutched him protectively to his bosom and shook his head, silently, "no," so Youks has settled on Pedroia. And when Pedroia doesn't get a hit or an RBI, Youks gets to push him around the bases after the game in a wheelbarrow because it's funny for Youks and the rest of the team but Pedroia really hates it. Safe to say there was no wheelbarrow ride last night. And I'm guessing the Pedroia Strut was out in full force. As it should be. Because - and you know I'm not firing on all cylinders if I'm quoting Julio Lugo here - but "the little midget's the man!"

Postseason baseball makes us say weird things. We can't be held responsible. For instance:

Amy: Matt Holliday has a really pointy head.
Me: I know. I totally thought my TV was wonky.
Amy: I guess it's a good thing that he chose a profession that relies so heavily on haberdashery.
Me: It must be nice to know that when he retires, he can open a charming shop called "Holliday's Hats for Pointy-Headed Chaps."
Amy: I feel like in the inevitable low-budget local TV ad for that store, he's wearing a boa. Is he wearing a boa?
Me: I think so. Matt Holliday could totally glam rock out for Jesus.
Amy: Awwww, that's nice.
Me: I thought so.

But it's not just us. Fox caught Coco and Royce Clayton having, and I shit you not, the EXACT SAME discussion about the Tacos for America thing that had taken place in my apartment not five minutes earlier. We concluded, as you do, that whoever steals the first base, thus providing tacos (for America!), should really consider getting on the ballot come November.

Me: That should totally be Obama's platform.
Greta: Tacos for America?
Amy: I feel patriotic already.

Then Colleen gave us a breakdown of the taco provisions (apparently having done extensive research), and concluded with, "Though any Taco Bell manager reserves the right to deny a patron his or her taco if they have reason to believe said patron has already had a taco." Which, I believe, is the same point Royce Clayton was making when he said, "How you gonna come in and say, 'I ain't got my taco!' You could go to every Taco Bell in the world and say that. 'I didn't get my taco!' How they gonna know?

This might be the kind of stuff we talk about to avoid talking about things of import like wondering whether Good Curt Schilling or Bad Curt Schilling will turn up tonight. Because we are not naive or stupid enough to think that it's going to be this easy the whole way through. Yeah, this is the postseason. That doesn't tend to happen. But for right now, I think perhaps I'm just going to think about Ellsbury being Mike Lowell's binky and how Josh Beckett's reign of terror is really a sight to see.

Oh, and thanks to Dan for the shout out on Yahoo! That's badass.

Headlines, people, let's see 'em.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Steve Perry says "Don't Stop Believin'." We ALWAYS listen to Steve Perry.

(Photo from Boston.com)

I woke up this morning - after not nearly enough sleep - to an email from my dad, subject line "Paps." "Just an observation," he said, "I don't think Jonathan Papelbon can hold his liquor very well." Photographic evidence would seem to support that claim.

These are the kind of things my family emails one another about. The Red Sox. The Patriots. Whether or not Tom Brady sends flowers to Randy Moss on a daily basis. If David Ortiz uses a slide rule to get his facial hair that perfect. Whether or not Jonathan Papelbon can hold his liquor. And, I suspect, these are the things a lot of families talk about. It's how we communicate. It's not like it was in 2004 when we spoke of faith rewarded and of all of this meaning more than what it meant. No one is talking about exorcising demons this time or validating the careers of those veterans who have played seemingly forever without a chance at a World Series. This time, it seems, most of us are talking about the young guys. About what a blessed way this is to begin a career. About the high standards they're setting for themselves. We are not talking about getting Tim Wakefield a ring a year after he walked off the mound a Game 7 loser in Yankee Stadium. We're not talking about Pedro having his shot at greatness validated. We're talking about Jacoby Ellsbury introducing himself to the world on the largest possible baseball stage. We're talking about Dustin Pedroia teaching the big guys something about hitting and being on your game. And yes, we're talking about Matsuzaka.

Whereas 2004 felt like vindication, like the brilliant end of an era that might've evaporated if not commemorated, 2007 feels like a coronation. It's different, but it's no less sweet.

Of course, the Red Sox haven't won anything yet. And I would imagine they would be the first ones to point that out. (Well, Bill Belichick might actually be the first one to point that out but we're not asking him). There is still baseball to be played and last night, until Pedroia broke the game open with his bases-clearing double, I wasn't at all sure the Sox would be playing any more baseball this year.

Amy and I chatted after the game.

Amy: I called the Pedroia thing, by the way.

Me: Nice work. I spent the first six innings with severe intestinal distress and my face buried in Greta's couch.

Amy: Yeah those innings were painful. I didn't think my eyebrows were ever going to go back to their proper spot.

Me: At one point, I actually started bludgeoning myself in the head with a football. Not a soft, Nerf type football, mind you, but an actual pigskin, NFL-type football.

Amy: As you would.

Me: Well, Julio Lugo's head was not available. Mine seemed the best available option.

Amy: Of course.

Our conversation then devolved into squealing and nonsense over Mike Lowell and Jacoby Ellsbury and trying to find video evidence of Kevin Millar's participation in the post game celebration. But the fact remains, this was a hard fought game. And a hard won game as well.

And the Indians - oh the Indians - my heart really does break for them and their fans. I've said it before and I'll say it again, and I would have said it had they come away the victors last night: they are an excellent baseball team. They are well-managed and they play a great game. I would be happy to call them my team and I would be proud to have any member of their team playing for me. In fact, at several points during the season I lamented the fact that we couldn't somehow morph the two teams into one and call ourselves the Indisox, or the Soxians and take on the Rockies together. But that is not the way of things. Indians fans are proud people, and I'm sure they don't want my sympathies. So instead I offer a metaphorical handshake over a series well-played and well-fought. It's certainly the most evenly matched competition I've seen in recent history, but someone had to win.

And I think the Sox can be proud of the way they won as well. Once again, we're talking about the little guys. Of course, we're talking about Beckett and Schilling as well because there is no World Series without Beckett and Schilling, especially without ALCS MVP Beckett, but there is equally no Series to talk about without Pedroia or Youkilis. And the public's clamoring for Ellsbury these past few days surely speaks volumes about the confidence we have in our rookies. I don't know about anyone else but I want them to play partially because I think they'll acquit themselves well, but also because I'm so proud of them and I want to hold them up, like some shiny, new toy to the light and say, "See? Look what we have! Isn't it great?" I want to show them off and have people admire them from afar.

So while 2004 was filled with more weeping relief, visits to cemeteries, prayers and poetry of the past, 2007 looks to the future. Getting off on the right foot, so to speak, though that sounds too trite. It's the bridge between the veterans who came before and the new breed of Sox who'll make up our team for years to come. It's the perfect storm of old and new coming together and colliding, for the briefest of moments, in an explosion of baseball dominance and celebration.

And yes, it's about Jonathan Papelbon dancing with a box on his head and not being able to hold his liquor.

See you all Wednesday.

Pennant Fever

(Photo from Yahoo! Sports)

Boston Red Sox: 2007 American League Champions.

We're goin' back to the World Series, baby. Excellent.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Better and Better

(Photo from Boston.com)

The way I figure it, Miami has long been a thorn in the side of these New England Patriots. So it's not overkill to score the points. Sure, Miami is terrible this season but it was nearly 90 degrees in Miami and according to Matt Light, the Pats have won only two games in Miami in the past seven years. (I didn't check those numbers but I'm inclined to believe Matt Light. He's a very large man.) And Belichick, in his Belichick-y way, is right, one more turnover and it's a two possession game and we all remember what happened a couple of years ago during the Monday Night Football game where the Dolphins dressed as traffic cones and Tom Brady decided to throw interceptions from his ass. I mean, even though we've all agreed to pretend that game never happened. My point being, it ain't over until it's over.

And, you know, this is the NFL, this is not Happy Good Feelings Learning Camp. You can't throw interceptions. I'm sure Matt Cassel is a nice boy. Probably loves his mother and calls her on her birthday, first thing. But his mother isn't the coach of the New England Patriots. And Tom Brady is unreal. There are no other words. (Of course, right now, he's wearing a snappy suit and giving credit to everyone but himself for the win. Because he's a nice boy. I mean, he's talking about how awesome Heath Evans is. Come on.) Even Brady doesn't seem to understand how Randy Moss catches nearly everything thrown in his general direction. Maybe Randy Moss is like the NFL wide receiver equivalent of Vlad Guerrero. Like if you throw it anywhere near the on-deck circle, Vladdy can hit it for a bomb. Randy Moss can pretty much turn any pass within twenty yards of him - horizontally or vertically - into a touchdown. It's madness.

I would never pretend to be unbiased about my football team or my quarterback. But they're ridiculous right now. And I kind of want to hear the slow jams Randy Moss and Tom Brady are writing about each other. Because you know that's happening. And I'm loving it.

Talking Points

(Photo from Boston.com)

This may very well be the first time I've used a picture of JD Drew.

A few things:

Thing 1) Curt Schilling was not about to let that little fireballin' punk Beckett out-pitch him. One time he even did it on a leg held together with airplane glue and bailing twine. Maybe you've heard about it. Has Beckett ever done that? Schilling sure as shit doesn't think so.

Thing 2) I have never been so glad to be wrong about a player. I promise not to rag on JD Drew for at least, oh, three days. Not only is the bobblehead facing forward, it's also earned a spot of honor on the coffee table.

Thing 3) Oh hey, offense. There you are.

Thing 4) I cannot fully express my love for Jacoby Ellsbury. I mean, I could try, but it's not altogether coherent, nor it is entirely decent. I'm just sayin', Jacoby Ellsbury is totally ready to spearhead the Era of Badassery in Fenway's center field.

Thing 5) Now we know the benefit of Kevin Youkilis having a head shaped like a Milk Dud (tm Kevin Millar).

Thing 6) Amy and I were talking about whole cakes when JD Drew hit the grand slam. As in, "Did you know you can order whole cakes from Pizza Republic?" We then decided we had to talk about whole cakes every time Drew came to bat despite the fact that a) I don't like cake and b) "Are you sure that's what you want to be talking about when the apocalypse hits?" per Greta.

Thing 7) Apparently Bill Mueller threw out the first pitch. My love for Buelly knows no bounds. Especially when you just know that he and Theo had a really affectionate man-hug reunion and that David Ortiz squeezed him so hard, his head nearly popped off. Can Beully stay forever?

Thing 8) Amy: (on the blond cameraperson following the players as they score) "Does Manny have a blond woman following him around?"
Me: "Yes."
Amy: "Do you think sometimes he wonders if she's real?"
Me: "Yes. Actually, I was wondering that myself."
Amy: "Is that because we think too much like Manny?"
Me: "That's a terrifying thought, But...yes."
Amy: "This is going on the internet isn't it?"
Me: "Yes."


Thing 10) Here we go again, kids. Strike up the band. And someone make sure Beckett is ready, even if he has to personally drag Matsuzaka bodily from the mound.

Thing 11) Strap in. Bring it on.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Josh Beckett: Postseason Badass

(Photo from Boston.com)

And just like that, it's a series again.

Josh Beckett does not take no for an answer, y'all. He simply does not. And that's why the good lads over at Surviving Grady have been calling him Commander Kickass of the F@ck Yeah Brigade all season, a title he richly deserves. So back to Boston we go. On our turf now. Things are getting interesting.

Tim McCarver must be stopped. There has got to be a way to silence that man. Thank god the Sox managed to pull it out last night, lest we be subjected to thousands upon thousands of articles - on top of McCarver's histrionics - about Manny lollygagging around first and getting gunned down at home and oh my god, you'd think the man personally peed on Ted Williams' grave. And then there's his quote about how it isn't the end of the world if the Sox don't win this thing, about which we're apparently all supposed to freak out and show up at his penthouse with pitchforks and torches and drive him from this fair, baseball is life, city. Yeah, bullshit. Because, and I don't say this often because it's frequently hard to distill the essence of the conversation from the babble about unicorns and ponies and offering to give part of his salary to Pedro Martinez, but Manny has a point. It's what I said the other day. I still believe it.

Now, I don't know about you, but most of the people I know are not freaking out about this. No one is going to kill themselves over a botched double play. No one is going to commit hari kari with a Louisville Slugger. And yet the media cannot handle the fact that we're not all about to jump en masse off the Tobin. So they tell us we should freak out about what Manny said. Because, oh my god, Manny doesn't care! Save the women and children! But here's what I think. Manny cares, and Manny plays hard. According to Peter Gammons, Manny's been working his ass off during this playoff run. (And are you going to argue with Peter Gammons? I should certainly hope not). But Manny also understands that he plays baseball for a living. It's baseball. It's a game. We freak out about it and that's (sometimes), part of our charm, but at the end of the day, it's a game. He just does not understand what we're so worked up about. So here, here's an RBI. Happy now? It's that simple. We're done freaking out about what Manny says. Maybe eventually, the media will catch up.

As for Josh Beckett, can he pitch all the games? He's pitched on short rest before, right? So what's one day of rest? Sure, it's short but, you know, he's Josh Beckett. He's a postseason monster. He'll mow you down soon as look at you (or bark at you if you're Kenny Lofton and dare to drop the bat). He's throwing gas out there and his smirk is perhaps one razor-thin shred of decency away from being a full out sneer. I believe it was Beth who once said, "When Beckett strikes someone out, he stalks off that mound like he's saying, 'money's on the table, bitch.'" And that is the god's honest truth. Because I'm fully aware that were Beckett on another team, I'd probably think he was an arrogant, swaggering little punk. Hell, I think that now. But I also think he's earned the right to swagger.

After a particularly nasty strike out last night I turned to Greta and said, "Do you think 'Tek has a nickname for Beckett?"

"Joshua," she replied.

"Yeah," I said, "you're right. 'Tek probably doesn't go in for nicknames."

"Nothing frivolous like that," she agreed.

This made me think of an exchange I'd had with Amy the following week about Ben Watson and his take on nicknames:

Me: He prefers 'Benjamin,' you know.

Amy: Do you think he and Jonathan Papelbon have discussions about how nicknames are just a way of showing that you can't handle the awesome of your full name?

Me: And then Benjamin says something like "I mean, not that Tom isn't, you know, a cool guy, or kind of awesome or whatever, but, you know, I just think he might be even more awesome if he went by 'Thomas.'"


And then Papelbon will be like, "Yeah, man, I know what you mean, I mean 'Tek is cool and all, but he should totally make people call him 'Commander in Chief.'"

And then Watson's all, "Um, that's not really what I meant...but okay."

And then they play checkers.

Amy: I think that is probably exactly how it went down.

And these are the kinds of discussions one can have when one isn't concerned with what Manny's gotten himself up to. You see? You see how much nicer a place the world is when we're not worried about Manny?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

(Photo from Boston.com)

Hmmm, maybe so.

The way I figure it, there are positives about last night's game.*

1) We learned from the always enjoyable Tim McCarver that Doug Mirabelli is perfectly square out of occupational necessity and not due to some freak of genetics.

2) We learned that Tim Wakefield can still make people look silly when swinging at a knuckleball in the dirt.

3) We learned that members of the Red Sox can still hit home runs at an astounding rate.

4) We learned that Travis Hafner is a fantasy football guru.

5) We learned that...oh screw it. We learned that your Red Sox are getting shut down by some badass pitching and the whole "We're no scoring any runs for Tim Wakefield" thing has reared it's ugly head again.

Because none of those things listed above really mattered in last night's game. Sure, Wakefield can make people look silly. Until he doesn't. And it's not like with other pitchers. There are really no signs. It's just strikeout, strikeout, strikeout, walk, hit batsmen, three-run homer. Or thereabouts. It's not Wake's fault, really. It's the knuckleball. There isn't much you can do about it.

And the home runs were nice but ultimately, amounted to nothing more than a death rattle.

Okay, that's a bit extreme. These Sox aren't dead yet. We've been here before. Actually, we've been in worse straits before and managed to right that ship. But it's backs to the wall time. And they best come out fighting.

And again, you can't fault Cleveland. They're playing some amazing baseball right now. If the Sox ultimately lose this thing, you have to give all credit to Eric Wedge's Young Pups Club for playing some extraordinary baseball. Because this isn't like in the past. Red Sox fans have lost the right to do that, "Oh woe is me, nothing ever goes our way, we don't get any breaks thing." This has to stop happening for three reasons: 1) It's annoying, 2) It's not true, and 3) That's why we have Cubs fans.

This isn't about breaks not going our way. If a potential home run ball turns into a warning track fly out it's not because the baseball gods hate us or because everyone in the stadium exhaled at the same time. It's because the hitter didn't hit it hard enough. If someone strikes out on a ball in the dirt, it's not because the umpires have it in for us and want to see us cry. It's because the hitter made an undisciplined swing or was fooled by a nasty breaking pitch. If the Sox lose this series, it's not because of curses and decades of anguish. It's because they got outplayed by a superior team.

We're always looking for someone to blame around here. Always willing to lay the responsibility on someone else. But this time, that's not how it goes. This time, there's a chance they will lose simply because the other team is better. And if that happens, I, personally, will tip my hat to the Indians and wish them well in the World Series. Because they will have beaten an excellent team. And they will deserve what they've won.

Now, I'm not saying this is gonna happen. Stranger things, etc. I'm just prepared, is all. If it all ends tomorrow, I'll be sad, I might kick something, I might scare the cat. But I will be excited about the prospect of next year. Not because I have to be to keep myself sane, but because it's genuinely exciting. If it all ends tomorrow, I think we can all agree that it's been a great ride.

Beckett takes the ball tomorrow and, as they've done all season, the Sox are relying on him to be the stopper. Now, I've spent boatloads of time and energy making fun of Josh Beckett and his enormous cranium, but there's still no other horse I'd rather rely on to win a sudden death game. We live and die by Josh Beckett, it seems. That's baseball in Boston right now. And if the ship goes down, we go down with it. No excuses.

*No, wait, the only actual good thing about the series potentially ending soon is that we will be free from McCarverisms until next postseason. Thank the good lord.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

To Live and Die by the Double Play

(Photo from Boston.com)

It's like this: sometimes emulating Jason Varitek is a good thing. Like when he hits home runs. Or when he throws a tantrum in the dugout (because sometimes Daddy gets angry), or when he yells at Kenny Lofton to hurry up and get in the box. Or with the designer playoff stubble. Or just the general all-around awesomeness of being the Captain of the good ship Red Sox. But the double plays? Not so awesome. We, as a team, don't need to be doing that so much.

After the six squillionth (rough estimate) double play the Sox grounded into last night, I made a mental note to berate them all sternly today. But I'm not sure it's worth it. For the most part, they weren't swinging at bad pitches (something they've gotten really good at avoiding lately as evidenced by the fact that Manny's stats with an 0-2 count are like a .600 BA, 2 Ks and 5 BBs. Insane.), and when they did make contact, they were hitting the ball on the ground, thereby leading to jillions of double plays. And one incidence of Ryan Garko falling down which lends further credence to the claim that he looks like a slightly less swollen Doug Mirabelli. Of course, there's always the "But this is Jake Westbrook! Jake Westbrook isn't that good!" thing, which I like to call the "Derek Lowe Corollary." That being, a previously average pitcher puts on the big boy pants and becomes a postseason hero. Could happen. Could be Jake Westbrook. I'm just sayin'.

I realize this sounds defeatist of me and I certainly don't mean it that way. Someone had to win last night's game and despite a valiant effort from the Sox, it wasn't them. But these Indians are not lying down for anyone. And it's going to be a tough road ahead.

Plus, there's the added fun of reading about how David Ortiz's knees are going to crumble to dust at any second. Who likes a little nausea with your morning coffee? That's what I thought.

So to distract ourselves we...well, we talk about the Patriots, if we're being honest. But when we run out of discussing how Randy Moss used to squirt referees with water bottles and fake-moon stadium crowds and is now using folksy expressions like "lollygag" in the press, (as in "Tom Brady does not let us lollygag in practice,") one has to wonder what Belichick has put in that Kool-Aid, we make up scenarios involving the Red Sox where Dougie actually does play first base and Papelbon, unavailable to pitch on a certain day, takes over color commentary for a playoff game and has Tim McCarver clamoring for a noose by the fourth inning. Actually, can we make that happen? What do we need to do?

Then we talk about how Kenny Lofton has either found the Fountain of Youth (much like Brett Favre, per Amy), or that the Kenny Lofton currently playing for Cleveland is actually Kenny Lofton, Jr. and no one noticed. He's played for every conceivable team. There could totally be two of them. And if this is the case, MLB really needs to install retinal scan machines at the on deck circle or something to dispense with these kind of shenanigans.

Then we try to organize a bake sale to raise funds to keep Mike Lowell around. Because we make a mean key lime cheesecake.

And then we talk about how maybe sports is actually driving us certifiably insane and perhaps we should go to bed because really, insanity is adorable and charming for a while, but when it gets to the wild-eyed and crazy-haired place, well, we're not actually Stephen King with an excuse for that kind of thing is what I'm saying.

So tonight the Sox throw Wakefield out there to face off against Paul Byrd. I think that's probably the wise move because, yeah, you could probably make Beckett pitch on short rest but the way I figure it, if the Sox lose tonight, you've got your ace going on his full rest in an elimination game, and that would be more important. So we shall see what we shall see. In the meantime, I'm going to see what I can do about that retinal scan thing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


(Photo from Boston.com)

I guess that answers that question. Not that it was easy. Or, at least it didn't look that way. In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably admit that at one point, I switched to The Next Iron Chef on the Food Network because it was the only channel on TV where no one was talking about Tony Romo's ability to walk on water/Tom Brady's magnificent powers of awesomeness. Not that Tom Brady isn't awesome. His career-high five TD game would argue otherwise. It's just, sometimes, even when it's your team, the hype gets to be too much. I think I feel some of the old fluid lung that plagued me in June coming back and the last thing I need at the moment is to hyperventilate about football. Good thing it's not baseball playoffs or anything so I can relax until next Sunday. Oh wait...

I'm not complaining. That would be insane. The Patriots just beat the Cowboys by three touchdowns, prompting a tense email exchange between friends where their decision to run for a touchdown when already up by fourteen points was called into question. Fair enough, but it seems to me that the Patriots are embracing the role of the villain this year. After the idiotic SpyGate fiasco, everyone seems to want to paint them as the big, bad Patriots. So they've shrugged and said "Fine, so be it." They're also playing pissed off. Which can't be good for anyone that has to face them.

They're not invincible. I know that. But as my dad said when I called him during the two-minute warning, "This team is just...they're so...this is unreal." Well put.

It seems we've run out of things to say about them. After all, there are only so many ways to say, "The Patriots met all comers and kicked their asses into submission." Which is fine. But here's the thing, I'm not sure they're not even better than this. You see, last week, there was a moment when, after Tedy Bruschi drove Cleveland QB Derek Anderson to the ground and absolutely leveled him, I thought, "There are two ways this could go here. The Patriots could either stomp on the gas and drop fifty on this Cleveland team, or they could realize that their beef is not with the Browns, respect the fact that Romeo Crennel is on the other sideline, and show some mercy." They decided to show mercy.

Today, against the Cowboys, they were unmerciful. Some people probably think it was unnecessary, but the way I look at it, if you're going to be the best, you have to beat all other contenders for the title. And you have to beat them convincingly. Dallas is obviously a very good football team. They're just not better than the Patriots.

So now all attention will re-focus on the matchup in three weeks between the Patriots and the Colts. The Colts seem to think no one is paying attention to them. Um, right. As much as I'd like to forget they won the Super Bowl last year, I am never quite able to make that a reality. My point being, no one is underestimating or ignoring the Colts. The Patriots just happen to be playing out of their minds right now. I don't think the fact that Peyton Manning isn't getting "Germany Surrenders!" headlines every day means that he's underrated. That's an insane claim. Personally, I'm terrified of the game in three weeks. It'll be my birthday (because the Pats love playing the Colts on my birthday weekend. Absolutely love it.), and if all goes according to plan, I'll be at a Bruins game futilely cheering on the Black and Gold while getting text message updates about the Pats game. And I'll be terrified the whole time. Of course, we've got to deal with Miami and the Redskins first. Either of which could be a classic trap game. Eyes forward, boys.

As for the Red Sox, I feel it speaks volumes about my feelings on the Eric Gagne Experiment that upon his entrance to the ballgame last night, I put my shoes on, stood up and promptly announced, "Right. I'm going home then." Because who didn't know how that was gonna play out? I hate being right about these things. And in Tito's defense, there weren't that many other options. Lopez certainly proved to be equally ineffective. Oy.

I figure that the start Schilling gave us last night is about what we could have expected - and can expect - from Matsuzaka. So in that sense, it was a wash. The teams certainly battled it out but I knew, as soon as The Dimpled One (aka Grady Sizemore), starting hitting, we'd be in for a long night. You can't keep a good bat down, it would seem. I've decided to chalk Game 2 up to the old "you win some, you lose some" axiom. After all, it's a cliche for a reason.

So tomorrow we role on, into the Jake - or Mothra's lair - and we try to right the ship. Though so far, I've gotta admit, it's shaping up to be the series we all expected. And it's a good one.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

That Just Happened

(Photo from Boston.com)

First, some background: for whatever reason, my parents' TV is about six seconds faster than mine. I thought it was just because of my cable connection or something but, turns out, they are actually in possession of the fastest television on the Eastern seaboard. It's like they're watching the games in future times. So it's possible that they know what's going to happen in any one situation of a sporting event BEFORE it even happens in real life. Seriously, no joke. So when my dad called me last night during the ninth inning and I was having a minor freak-out about Eric Gagne being allowed into a game the Sox weren't winning by double digits, I took solace when he said, "Don't worry, they make it out of this."

"That's right," I said, "your TV is faster."

"Seems like it," my dad responded.

"Well hey," I asked, "On your TV, can you tell me, have the Sox already won game two?"

"I'ts 3-0 Sox in the second," he said.

Wouldn't it be nice if such a crystal ball were actually available?

Admittedly, I did not expect last night to go down as it did. You couldn't really have two more evenly matched pitchers - as they're surely 1 and 1A in AL Cy Young voting this season - and Sabathia is never someone you take for granted. So I'm not really sure what happened. Eric Wedge seems to want to fall back on the "trying too hard" mantra and maybe he's right. I know only that Beckett was not about to let anyone beat him. Not the Indians, not the AL All-Star Team, and not the invading bug army from Starship Troopers. Simply put, Josh Beckett was going to win that game. There were no two ways about it.

Initially when my dad called, I didn't hear the phone ring because Greta, Amy and I were methodically working our way through several pitchers of pumpkin beer and trying to assemble our own personal Team Awesome, 30-or Under, and Attractive. (We're still stuck on a first basemen, by the way.) So when my dad finally did get hold of me, he expressed disappointment that I wasn't at my post.

"I am so," I said, " We're at Beerworks surrounded by a bazillion TVs. We have wings. We have dip. We're on our fourth pitcher of beer."

"Wow," he said, "The Sox are only on their third pitcher."

What can I say? The puns flow freely come playoff time.

"Here is the thing," I said to Amy at one point, "Look at how I'm drinking the beer. Look at how I'm eating my food."

"I see that," she said.

"My point is, if we were playing the Yankees right now, I'd be dry-heaving on every pitch and three hours from now I'd be sitting with a cold burger and four lukewarm but untouched pints of beer."

"A tragedy indeed," she said.

And then, for some reason I don't really remember, I apparently tried to get her to eat a Wetnap. Evidently the combination of the playoffs and Josh Beckett's dominance turn me into a frat boy.

So tonight we're back at it. It almost seems too much to ask for Curt Schilling to pull another magical postseason start out of his sleeve. But he's the Big Schill. That's what he does. I am surely not underestimating Fausto Carmona because, I mean, the dude sounds like an epic John Milton poem. You wanna go up against that? But I rest my faith on the capable shoulders of Mssrs. Ramirez and Ortiz, those men of postseason greatness. And I will pour another beer. For this is playoff baseball. And it? Is good.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Youth Movement

(Photo from mlb.com)

Greta and I were watching the Rockies/Diamondbacks game last night and we got to talking about the playoff teams in general and how there's an overwhelming youth movement among them. Aside from the Red Sox, the other three teams are comprised largely of young guys, farm system players, who have contributed in a big way. Greta is fancy and has an ESPN Insider subscription and she was telling me about a Gammons article discussing this exact point. The gist of it was, I gather, that if one wants to know how to build a successful playoff team, one need look no further than the four teams remaining in this year's playoffs. Even the Red Sox, who have the luxury of working with a very large payroll, are making use of the young guys and their farm system. And you certainly can't argue that this team could have gotten where it is without the impact play of Papelbon and Pedroia. Not to mention the contributions of Ellsbury, Buchholz, Lester, Delcarmen and hell, even Youks is a product of the Sox farm system.

This all made me realize why there's a different feel to the playoffs this year for Sox fans. Or at least most of the Sox fans I know. It's because, for the first time in a long time, we are excited about the future of the franchise, not out of psychological necessity in the "Well, I guess we'll wait until next year and see if there's anything worth caring about in the minors" but in a "these kids are the real deal" kind of way.

"The thing is," I said to Greta, "I don't think this year has a do or die feel to it, you know?"

"Yeah," she agreed, "it is different."

"Because the veterans on the team that we all wanted to get a ring, got one three years ago. Tek has his ring. Manny has his ring. Papi has his ring. Wakefield, thank god, but Wakefield has his ring."

"And the new guys will get there."

"Exactly," I said, "I mean, I'd love for Paps to get a ring this year."

"But," she said, "He's Papelbon. He's awesome. He's young. He'll get one."

And that's the thing. These playoffs don't feel like life or death. Which is not to say that I don't want them to win. Of course I do. I want them to win because they're my team, they're my boys, and you always want your boys to do well. But it does feel different.

"It's not that we care less," I said, "It's that we care differently."

Perhaps some people will conclude that this means I care less about baseball, but I think the opposite is true. This is not 2004 and that kind of situation only comes around once in a lifetime. Instead of losing sleep over playoff rotations and spewing bile and vitriol towards our opponents, I'm excited to be watching baseball for baseball's sake. I try very hard during the regular season to refrain from being a stereotypically myopic Red Sox fan. I want to know what's going on in the rest of baseball. Sure, I could pay attention to the National League more than I do but there are only so many hours in a day. (Plus, I adopted the Mets this year and look how that worked out). But if you take a step back and remove yourself from a foaming at the mouth Red Sox fandom, these two series that are happening right now are excellent baseball. There's a lot to be excited about.

And as for the future of the Sox, I, for one, am very excited. It's going to be a sad day when Manny retires, when Papi hangs it up, when, god forbid, Tek calls it quits. It's going to be a hard time in the Nation. But thanks the the farm system and the players we've got waiting in the wings, it's going to soften the blow. There is no rebuilding on a team like the Red Sox. The fans don't stand for that kind of thing. But the future, as they say, looks bright.

A lot of this attitude amongst the fan base - or those members of the fan base I call my friends - probably owes a lot to the emergence of Pedroia as the Rookie of the Year front runner and the year both Youks and Papelbon have had. It's an indication that maybe, just maybe, the front office and management know what they're doing. They know when these guys are ready. I'll admit it, I didn't think Pedroia was major league ready. I thought we needed another stop gap second baseman for one more season until he broke in. But in this case, I am more than happy to be wrong. My point is, next time, perhaps I'll trust the judgment of the people who are paid to judge a player's readiness. At least so far, they seem to know what they're talking about.

I don't mean for this to read like a farewell letter to the 2007 team or a requiem on a season or even a "let's look on the bright side" kind of thing. Obviously, things are going well for the Sox and their fans right now. There's some excellent baseball about to be played and the Sox could very well win the whole thing. And if they do, I'll be dancing in the streets along with everyone else. For the old guys and the young ones. But even if the Sox fall short, I'm still excited about the future. (Despite the fact that Jacoby has yet to call me). There's a lot to look forward to.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

(Photo from Yahoo! Sports)

"I love the guy. He's great. But if he digs in too hard I'm gonna have to hit him in the neck." - Mike Timlin on Trot Nixon.

Here's the thing: I like the Indians. I've liked 'em for a while now. Not just because they've become Trotter's new home or because Grady Sizemore can smuggle illegal immigrants across the border in those ridiculous dimples but because, you know, they're a pretty good baseball team. They're scrappy and they've got heart. But not in that obnoxious David Eckstein way. Their manager looks like a serial killer and I dig that about him. It's good to have someone on the bench who looks like they might snap and kill four people if you so much as spit a sunflower seed in their direction. See also: Tavarez, Julian. Plus, they beat the Yankees. That's gonna give me warm fuzzies no matter how you slice it.

Now people asked me who I'd rather face in the ALCS, the Indians or the Yankees. And while I was quick to point out that we had to get there first (ever superstitious), my answer was always the same: bring on the Indians. Because, and I know I've mentioned it before in this space, but I am so done with the Yankee thing. Of course I was happy to see them get knocked out in the first round (again) and I eagerly await the carnage and bloodshed that reigns down from Steinbrenner's underground lair, but I am tired of baseball being all Yankees/Red Sox, all the time. There are other teams. The Indians are one of them. Let's play them this time.

Of course, there's also the little matter of 2004 and how, with every passing year, the legend of that grows more intense and extreme. And no matter what we do, we'll never surpass that level of emotion, of come-from-behind-ness, of intensity. Even if the Sox were to pull the same "dig self out of an 0-3 hole again," it wouldn't be the same. You only get one first time.

That said, this series against the Indians looks to be a great one. Both teams have excellent pitching, potentially explosive offense and both are playing great baseball right now. And that's what the playoffs are supposed to be about. Two great teams beating the crap out of each other for the pennant. I, for one, am excited.

You see, when the Sox play the Yankees, I spend most of the games angry, craving blood and hellfire. I throw things, I break things, and my cat hides under the sofa (where he doesn't fit, actually, but that's another matter). The "good baseball" part becomes secondary because, try as I might, I can't let go of the "AHHHH, APOCALYPTIC BASEBALL WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE, STUPID YANKEES ARE EVIL AHHHHH!" thing that we're all fed constantly. It's just too ingrained. All rational thought goes out the window and I spend every pitch dry-heaving. But now, with that pressure removed, I'm thrilled to see two excellent teams go at it. The way I see it, if the Sox were to lose to the Indians, there'd be no shame in that. I wouldn't be happy about it, obviously, but I might be able to sleep with that result eventually. The Sox and Indians have identical records this year. They're an even match. This is how it should be.

Plus, there's always the chance that Eric Wedge and Tavarez will get into a staring contest that will eventually result in someone shooting lasers out of their eyes or that Manny will decide to kidnap Trotter during the seventh inning of Game 1 and force him to tell him stories from inside the Green Monster. To say nothing of Jason Varitek being forced to reveal his superpowers in front of a packed house at Fenway. It's playoff baseball. Anything can happen.

"We saw him and he got his ovation - which he deserved - but I hope he doesn't get anymore. If he gets too many of those, it means he's on base way too often." - Terry Francona on Trot Nixon.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Shameless Self-Promotion, Part II

As promised, here's the link to the clip of my WBZ interview. There are two files, one big and one small. There were also two slightly different lead-ins, promos, etc. as the interview aired twice.

This link will have to work until I can get something up on YouTube.

Giant thanks to Jeff for doing this for me.

Also, how about those Indians?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

(Photo from Boston.com)

Okay, that picture is like Christmas and your grandfather laughing all at once. It's like puppies and fluffy white clouds and sunshine on your birthday. It's like supreme happy.

The Red Sox have certainly been creating their share of supreme happiness lately. And for that, I am supremely grateful.

Apparently, that's why we put up with everything from Curt Schilling. We deal with the bitching about a new contract and the blustering about...everything. We deal with that because more often than not, when it comes time to be a big man in the postseason, Schilling is Captain Big Pants. He surely was yesterday. Despite the final 9-1 score, the game was close until the 8th when the Sox, as Jen said, scored a touchdown. (It was Sunday, football talk reigned supreme). And from there, despite the appearance of Eric Gagne on a Red Sox postseason mound, it was all gravy.

Of course, if y'all really want a special postseason experience, you should play the Mike Scioscia Face drinking game. Developed by Amy, it involves drinking every time the camera shows Mike Scioscia standing in the dugout and, per Amy "looking like he wet his pants three innings ago and he's standing in his urine-soaked uniform pants and trying to power through." You'll be lucky if you make it through the fifth inning without alcohol poisoning.

But judging by the Sox celebration pictures on Boston.com, it'd be amazing if the Sox managed to avoid that fate as well. Good thing we have five days off.

As for our opponent, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Now, don't get me wrong, I want Cleveland, if for no other reason than because I'm done with the Yankees and I want new blood. Plus, I kind of like Cleveland. They've got spunk. And Trot Nixon, who, despite the outcome of yesterday's game still holds ownership papers to Roger Clemens. Plus, that reenactment of "The Fly" was kind of awesome. So I humbly request that they take care of the Yankees today, Joe Torre finally gets his walking papers (at this point, he's probably begging for it), and we all take the next four days or so to gear up for the ALCS. That's a lot of days, a lot of time to run out of baseball type things to talk about. Which means several days of stories about Jonathan Papelbon's special edition Scrabble board made out of beef jerky and Cheez-Its and Mike Lowell's tutoring of Jason Varitek's playoff scruff. Bring it on.

As for the Pats, I swear, after Tedy Bruschi absolutely leveled Derek Anderson on that sack, Anderson was about four seconds away from flat out refusing to go back into the game, instead forcing Crennel to send Brady Quinn into the fray. Luckily for Quinn, he managed to avoid the onslaught. But the Patriots, as Manny Ramirez would say, are bad men. And they keep rolling along.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Manny Ramirez: Bad Man

(Photo from Boston.com)

Apparently, in the parlance of a one Mr. Manuel Aristides Ramirez, "When you don't feel good and you still get hits, that's how you know you're a bad man."

Safe to say Manny is the aforementioned bad man in this case. Or, to use a more familiar term: Manny being Papi.

Swarms of locusts descend on the Yankees and Manny hits one to the moon and back? Must be playoff baseball.

Those of us watching the game together tonight began theorizing whether or not Anaheim would intentionally walk in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth just so they could have a chance at pitching to JD Drew who could, I don't know, retroactively ground into a double play or something, thereby erasing the previous run and sending the world spinning off its axis. (And yes, I realize that Drew got the first two RBIs of the evening and picking on him is a bit unwarranted at the moment, but old habits die hard). But clearly, Manny just wanted to take care of things himself. Evidently, that was his first walk-off in a Sox uniform which seems preposterous considering that he remains Manny freakin' Ramirez. But hey, no time like the present.

Especially encouraging to see the team battle this one out after a less than stellar performance from Matsuzaka.

And then there was the whole Yankee losing thing too which was positively delightful. I know the Sox and Yankees aren't in direct competition at the moment but it's impossible to ignore what's going on in that series. There are those old habits again. Plus, with biblical plagues descending on Jacobs Field and the entire Yankee infield spraying each other with Driven, er, excuse me, bug spray, I wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees lodge a complaint with Major League Baseball about "unsafe working conditions" or some such nonsense. Apparently Ohio mosquitoes are quite attracted to the scent of "sandlewood and grapefruit" with just a touch of True Yankee. Though there was also a recurring theme this evening that the swarms of bugs were due to the freshly killed game that Trotter had no doubt buried under the bases and the pitcher's mound. Doesn't sound so crazy now, does it?

I knew there was a reason for why I inexplicably decided to love Travis Hafner a few weeks ago. I love it when these things pan out.

Off day tomorrow and then we're back at it on Sunday with Big Schill, Mr. Postseason Big Britches on the hill in Anaheim. It's ours for the taking. See you then.