Sunday, June 04, 2006

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Afterglow

It's been a week now since the Sox finished the most amazing eight-game winning streak in post-season history, and here are my thoughts as I continue to relish one of the most satisfying events of my life.

*Although I was sitting alone in a hotel room in Texas, between email and cell phone I was celebrating all night long. Most touching was an email from a college friend who Googled an email address of mine and let me know he remembered what a Sox fan I'd been 20 years ago. That was great!

*I loved hearing so many Sox fans recalling parents and grandparents who made them Red Sox fans and who never got to see their team win the Series. I certainly was thinking of my Dziadziu, John Solak, who, along with my dad, took me to Fenway Park for the first time in 1971. I was eight. I had never seen grass so green in my life. I got a yearbook for a dollar; I still have it. Dziadziu had season tickets for a while in the '40s, and often took my mom when she was a kid. He also had a team-autographed baseball that sat in his garage in Florida until he died. When my mom gave it to me I looked up the players' names in the Baseball Encylclopedia to see which year they were all teammates. The only year that fit was 1946, the lone Sox AL champion team between 1918 and 1967. Ted Williams' autograph is the clearest one on the ball. Thanks for making me a fan, Dziadziu.

*I was in the Charlotte airport Friday night on my way home from Texas. There was a Lids hat shop near my gate. Stacked in the front was a pile of Sox caps. There was another large display inside. A young guy was trying on different Sox caps: red, camo, '70s-vintage tri-colored. Then it hit me: the Sox are winners now. People outside the Nation will want to identify themselves with the Sox now. Casual fans will look at my team differently now: the team that felled the mighty Yankees in historic style, the team that swept the Series. My team, the winners. Amazing.

*I am not a curse believer. In fact, I'd blame the Sox's lengthy era of futility on poor management, one part of which was racist. The Sox were the last team in baseball to integrate, waiting 11 long years after Jackie Robinson to bring in Pumpsie Green in 1958. Pumpsie was no Jackie; he was also no Willie Mays, who worked out for the Sox but didn't get an offer. How different the franchise's story might have been if Say Hey had patrolled Fenway's center field for a couple of decades. The Sox also overpaid for guys whose best days were behind them: Orlando Cepeda, Tony Perez, even Dante Bichette come to mind. They traded Sparky Lyle and Jeff Bagwell for almost nothing. These are just the first guys who come to mind, but these are more tangible reasons than a silly curse.

*Since I see no curse to lift, then credit for the Sox's triumph has to be for reasons of sound management. They have owners who were willing to spend--despite the underdog nature of their defeat of the Yanks and their sweep of the Cards, the Sox did have the second-largest payroll in baseball. They have a bright young GM in Theo Epstein, who could probably get elected governor of Massachusetts today. He relied both on traditionally-trained "baseball guys" and newer-style analysts like Bill James to create a roster that both produced tons of runs and pitched a devestating stretch of games in the playoffs.

*But the ultimate joy of celebrating this season comes from watching this great group of guys play so well and like each other so much. I cannot imagine A-Rod being part of this team; in fact, for all his individual brilliance he has not been much of a teammate anywhere he's played. Nomar sulked his way out of town; the Sox took off once they knew they had a guy who could pick it at short every day. On the other hand, guys like Pedro and D Lowe did not mope when they didn't get the deals they wanted. And how about Manny, who was put on waivers--offered for free--last winter, who thought he was going to Texas for A-Rod, but who turned around and had an MVP-style season, and then won the Series MVP. The Series MVP could have been any of several guys--they won because everybody chipped in. Schilling's amazing two starts on a bleeding ankle was astounding, but it may overshadow the deep desire to win all his teammates shared. That kind of integrity, will, and character have made these guys champions today and will make them legends as the years pass. Thank you, 2004 Boston Red Sox, for helping me, just another member of the Red Sox Nation, realize a dream come true.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Six More Outs

Derek Lowe has pitched himself one helluva game tonight. He brims with confidence. The Cards flail away.

I can no longer pace. I just stand in front of the TV, yelling with every out. 3-0 going to the 8th.

Credit to the Advance Scouts

As Edmonds lines one at Mueller, I am recalling a significant number of line drives that Card hitters have hit right at a Sox fielder. That tells me the Sox did a great job of scouting the Cardinals, and positioning their fielders appropriately. Being in the right place is at least as important as having great range when it comes to playing defense.

Way to Go, Trot!

The pride of Wilmington, NC (home of my in-laws) crushed a two-run double. It still doesn't feel like enough, but it is so great to see every guy in this lineup make a contribution.

I am having trouble typing because I am having trouble sitting still. I am doing some pacing in my room here at the lovely Hilton Garden Inn in Irving, Texas. Almost as surreal as watching the Sox beat the Yanks in Fargo. Almost.

Cards Give an Assist

Having their best hitter in the Series, Larry Walker, bunt a runner along, succeeded in doing nothing more than moving the Cardinals one out closer to ending their season.

That helped give D Lowe a confidence-building scoreless first. But the Sox will need more than one run to win tonight; I don't see the Cards going quietly this night.

The Time Is Now

Johnny Damon has got me almost too excited to type. This team is so confident at the plate right now. I just need to see if Lowe is feeling confident, too.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Thank You, Pedro

I cannot believe what I am seeing. My Red Sox getting great pitching. My Red Sox getting big hits. My Red Sox turning two of the more unusual double plays (7-2 and 4-3-5) you'll see. My Red Sox winning seven games in a row in the postseason.

Pedro, you did it. You emptied the tank and pitched one hell of a game. These Cardinals have no confidence with the bats now. If D Lowe pitches like he did in NY last week, his team will have a chance to win.

As close as the Sox are, I have seen them get closer and lose. The world now knows 0-3 comebacks are possible. For now, I will just keep the faith.

A Crucial Rally

Not only did Suppan not survive the inning, he also forces LaRussa to use another player and pitcher because Suppan's spot comes up third in the bottom of the inning. Every bit of attrition helps.

Another Run

After Suppan seemed to have settled down, Mueller and Nixon hit two balls hard. The Cards could easily have a two- or three-run lead, but instead trail 2-0 in the 4th. It's a crazy game ... and the Cards are unlikely to stay quiet all night.

Yes, That's David Ortiz with the Assist

The Cards ran themselves into another double play, letting Pedro wriggle off the hook. Ironic that the throw from first to third was easier for the lefty Ortiz than for the righty Millar, who is now on the bench.

And a nice scoop on the throw from Mueller, too. How long can this good karma last?

Saved by ... Defense?

Pedro looked incredibly shaky out there; thank goodness for the terrible decision to send Walker. The Sox have gotten out of every jam so far. Maybe Pedro will settle down now, with the weak bottom of the Card order coming up.

Thank you, Manny!

Three hard hit balls, and the last one lands in the seats. That quiets the crowd, gives Pedro the lead, and keeps the Sox rolling for now. Great start, Manny!

I Need You, Pedro

I know you want out after the season, and frankly I will not weep if you leave. I think your arm is suspect, and you'll want more money than the Sox will be willing to spend on you and your risks.

But Pedro, is there not a more glorious way for you to leave than as a world champion? Could you possibly maximize your value at this point in your career than to carry the label 'winner' with you wherever you go? Even the Yanks need some of that mojo right now.

I know your arm is sore, and you may not have a full tank of gas. All I ask is that you suck it up for one night, pitch like it's 1999, and back the Cards into a corner only the Sox could get out from.

Pedro, it's time to make some history for yourself, your teammates, and the Nation that has embraced you for six years. Seize this moment!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Takin' Care of Business

The bullpen did its job, although Timlin looks like his arm is just dead. Foulke is incredible; he really does seem to thrive on the work.

The Cards have been phenomenal at home, and this will not be easy. They will have their crowd, their weather, and their pride. The Sox will have confidence, Pedro, and a slightly better-rested bullpen. I'm not sure what the Cards are going to do about Game 4, since they used Jason Marquis for an inning tonight. I expect him to start, but not to be expected to pitch more than 5 innings or so. I thought it was a bit desperate of LaRussa to use him tonight. Now his team has to win four of five with a slightly weaker pitching staff.

The Sox are halfway, but each step is that much harder than the previous. But they are half the way there!!!!

Cabrera's Turn

Wow, all 6 runs scoring with two outs. I do not understand why Cabrera did not head for second; that cost the Sox a run when Ramirez blooped a single. Let's hope that run is not costly. Here comes the Sox bullpen.

Damned Lucky

All the talk about the great Sox D since the Nomar trade, and they have made 8 errors in two games! Last night the Cards made them pay, but tonight Schilling has had the answer. This generosity needs to end soon, because the Cards will take advantage of additional outs soon.

I hope the heart of the order only gets one more chance for St. Louis.

The Babe Strikes Again

Bellhorn hit an absolute rope, as did Mueller. Pitching on three days' rest is risky, and perhaps Morris is getting a bit tired.

Schilling is not as sharp as in New York, but he's doing enough; the one run was due to Mueller's error. What a gamer.

Good Start

Great job by most of the Sox hitters of laying off bad pitches, even when they are behind in the count. Nixon swung at the first pitch, after watching Morris walk three guys in the inning. And what a throw by Rolen to get Damon, too--I thought that throw was 10 feet off the bag. And Varitek--what a man! Another reason to throw Arroyo and not Wakefield in Game 5 would be to keep the Fastidious One in the lineup.

It's Up to Schilling

Curt appears to have no problems with the ankle here in the first; however, Renteria did a great job of making him throw a lot of pitches. Nice to retire Walker after his big Game 1.

If Schilling can stay in the game for a while, giving the bullpen some rest, it will work to the Sox's advantage. As Fox pointed out, they won Game 1 without either of their big two pitchers. But Arroyo was probably supposed to be Schilling insurance, not Wakefield insurance, so there is some risk tonight.

Pujols went down and got a really low pitch and turned it into a double. Now a full count to Rolen--this is a long inning for Curt. Liner right to third. Another bullet dodged. A bit of a limp coming back to the dugout. Swing the bats, men!

Huge

Both teams had a chance to win this game; both bullpens were used extensively. To deplete so many resources and win feels great; to deplete those resources and lose feels empty.

The key tomorrow: the status of Schilling's ankle.

Three wins to go. Awesome!!

Babe Bellhorn

Wow, Bellhorn has gone from effigy to World Series game-winner in less than a week. Three straight games with a dinger, hit off a girl in left field, and two off the right-field fair pole. Amazing.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

St. Louis Is Just Too Good ...

... to give this many outs to. The Sox are so lucky to be tied at this point.

If there is justice in this world, Manny will hit a dinger to win it. What an embarrassing display of fielding inattention.

Another Strategic Error ...

... was throwing a strike to Walker with first base open. I know Pujols is incredible, but Walker had a single, double, and dinger already. Alas ...

Kelly Clarkson? A town full of legendary singers, and that's the best the Sox can do? OK, I'm feeling a bit surly.

Now Varitek?

So you don't want to waste the move with two on and none out, but you pinch-hit with him with two outs and the bases empty. With their gloves and these moves, the Sox are handing this game to St. Louis.

Where's Varitek?

I realize Francona doesn't want to burn his bench early, but in a two-run game, with two on and none out, he let Mirabelli hit. No runs scored. Hope that isn't important ... .

Arroyo Saves the Day

Well, the Cards used up two outs to get another run, but the Sox also handed them two runs with four walks and an error. Hmmm, should Arroyo pitch well in relief, will that earn him the Game 5 start?

Yeah, I'm Greedy, But ...

Kevin Millar has now left six runners on base. I have no right to complain about a 7-2 lead after three, with the Cards' starter gone and the whole lineup chipping in (yep, that was Mirabelli denting the Wall with a hit), but the Cards are a dangerous team who can score runs in bunches.

Earl Weaver Said It Best ...

"Play for a run and that's what you get--a run." I know this game has a long way to go, but the Cardinals used up two outs to get one run. With a 4-0 lead, that's an exchange I'll take every time. And Williams has shown no signs of keeping this game close yet.

I know the announcers love "little ball," as if it takes more skill than mashing a ball for extra bases, but all this inning did was make sure the Cards would still be down three with 7 at-bats to go.

Setting the Tone

That was a great first inning. Only Mirabelli did not hit the ball hard. Nixon's out was a flyout, but it carried pretty well.

I will reserve judgment for the moment about the decision not to start Varitek. He did catch every inning of the LCS, and Mirabelli does a good job catching the knuckler, but the Fastidious Catcher belongs on this field. The early lead takes some pressure off this decision.

A Brother Blogger

For pithy comments from another New Englander transplanted to the Triangle, check out Ed Tremblay's page at http://home.earthlink.net/~edtremblay/index.html. When the Series is over we may start a blogotherapy support group, championing the ability of blogs to reduce stress.

Carpe Diem!

How wonderful it is to be watching the Sox in the Series, instead of finding other things to do so as to avoid watching the Yankees. How great for the fans at the Fens, and for all of us scattered throughout Red Sox Nation.

Last Saturday I was certain the Sox's season was a day or two away from ending. One week later I feel certain they will win the World Series. These guys are just absolutely fearless. Their play since Sunday has emboldened me enough to believe--really believe--they can win this World Series.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A New Day Dawns

How appropriate that the final out came just past midnight, because regardless of what happens in the World Series, a new day has dawned in the history of Boston baseball.

They not only beat the Yankees. They beat the Yankees in the most historic, epic, gut-checking, odds-defying way. In their house. In the most humiliating way possible: down 0-3, one inning away from being swept, they somehow picked themselves off the mat and won four Game 7s, draining their bullpen, crippling their best starter, and getting both clutch hits and lights-out pitching. They did not fear their destiny, they grabbed it.

The Boston Red Sox engineered the greatest collapse in the history of baseball, committed by the game's most legendary franchise, one that has tormented it for nearly nine decades.

The Red Sox are American League champions. The Red Sox will host Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday. I am so grateful to them. Four more wins to go.

Game on!!!!