Thursday, December 31, 2009

Green Fields of the Mind

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. - A. Bartlett Giamatti, from 'The Green Fields of the Mind'.
It does break your heart, doesn't it? Most of the time, it seems. We named this blog 'Misery Loves Company' in recognition of the game's unique grasp on those of us addicted to its love/hate rhythms. And, at the time, because of a shared recent (and not-so-recent in one case) history of dismal returns.

We probably didn't know what we were getting into when we started this blog in the spring of 2003. We knew we loved baseball, knew that we had time on our hands, and maybe that we could write a little bit. But I don't think either of us expected that the simple act of writing it down would serve to enhance our passion for the game as much as it did. MLC helped us think about the game differently, to work for new angles and ideas about our teams. Didn't make us any saner - in fact, at certain moments, it probably contributed to a fair sight of irrationality. Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, anyone? Or the 2005 NLCS?

In other moments, the game proved transcendent. Moreso for one of us (and then two others, after we expanded the masthead in 2008), to be sure. When my time here on Earth comes and I'm making the top 10 list to end all top 10 lists, that 11-day period in October 2004 will command one of the very top spots. Even today, rereading our posts from that time brings back smiles, the memories of that impossible run still vivid. Impossible is not nearly descriptive enough.

That this is a eulogy of sorts is probably obvious by now. That such a post is necessary has been obvious for some time. We're shuttering MLC not because we don't love the game. In a great many ways, MLC has helped us really understand how much we do love it. No, we're shuttering MLC because we haven't been able to put in the effort necessary to do it the way we want to for too long. MLC was never about pageviews or making money (good thing, too) or getting exposure. It was about two (then four) guys watching baseball.

Those guys will still watch baseball (maybe even write about it at Gheorghe: The Blog). But they both know when a good thing has come to an end. So long, and thanks for reading.

May the game continue to break your heart.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The End

Game 3 - American League Division Series

Angels 7, Red Sox 6
Angels win, 3-0

Not a ton to say, really. The Sox were beaten decisively by a team that played a lot better from the beginning of this series to the end. Sure, the last inning yesterday was hard to watch, but it felt a lot like a foregone conclusion. Fittingly for me after a season in which my baseball-related attention span was negatively impacted a dozen different ways, I turned the television on in time to watch that final frame meltdown and nothing else.

I suppose it's a measure of both my maturity and the complacency that comes with a pair of championships that my reaction was more a rueful shrug than destruction of property. More of the latter, for certain.

Valedictory to come as we exit stage left hoping that misery has plenty of company in a week or so.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Street Fighting Man

Game 2 - American League Division Series

Angels 4, Red Sox 1
Angels lead 2-0

Let's review the bidding, then. In two ALDS games, the Red Sox have one run. Okay, that'll be just about enough.

Sure, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester could've been a little better, but when you're pitching with a razor-thin margin for error, sometimes you get cut. Pretty simple game, baseball. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains (snows, too, especially in Colorado). And the Sox aren't doing any of those things at a high enough level to beat a good Los Angeles team.

The Sox trailed the Oakland A's 2-0 in the 2003 ALDS after a brutal Game 1 loss and an indifferent Game 2 effort. I wrote the following then (Mom, parental guidance is suggested, as the next paragraph contains colorful language written by a clearly unbalanced person):
The Era of Positivity has not ended, goddammit. The Sox will win Game 3, they
will win Game 4, and Pedro will take the hill in Oakland on Tuesday like a
gladiator. I haven't given this much of my heart to this team to see them swept.
I remember 1999, and I remember the greatest comeback in my lifetime. Cowboy up, motherfuckers, because there's still a lotta ball left. Stay on goddamn target.
Now that guy was obviously a much edgier version of your current mild-mannered blogger. He probably wouldn't have believed you if you told him the Sox would have two championships before he turned 40. (Though he'd have been quite easily convinced that Grady Little would fuck up a sure thing just a few weeks later.) That said, his six year-older self still believes. The Sox are a hell of a good team in Boston. Terry Francona's still the best postseason manager in the game. Kevin Millar's not around to pass out bourbon shots and come up with pithy sayings, but Dustin Pedroia's got just as much redass. Pedro's not taking the hill in Game 5, but Jon Lester beat freaking cancer. You think Torii Hunter and his pole dancer's first name scare him?

Yeah, that's right. I can still talk tough and almost mean it. Let's hope the Sox have something left in them tomorrow at noon. Oh, and for the record, I'll be at my daughter's birthday party from then until about 3 o'clock, so I'll see almost none of the game. I really don't want to have seen my last Sox game of the year.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Enter Sandman

Game 1 - American League Division Series

Angels 5, Red Sox 0
Angels lead, 1-0

Yesterday I got up at 5:30 am, had three beers before noon while playing vaguely work-related golf, did a few hours of work, played softball, had another beer, and came home to watch the Sox play the Angels. Also, apropos of nothing, I'm getting old.

That's my litany of excuses for falling asleep right after Torii Hunter's homer gave the Angels all the runs they needed to back John Lackey. You may also accept: I knew the game was over because the Sox' bats looked so anemic so I didn't put up much of a fight against the Sandman, and dammit, these West Coast games start way too late.

I'll try to do better tonight. Though I'm not real optimistic about remedying the thing about the Sox' bats. The road, she is unkind to the Boston lumber.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Games 157 through 162 - Red Sox

Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 7
Blue Jays 12, Red Sox 0
Red Sox 3, Indians 0
Red Sox 6, Indians 2
Red Sox 11, Indians 6
Red Sox 12, Indians 7
Record: 95-67, AL Wild Card

While the Sox were winding down the season trying hard not to get hurt and playing Pawsox in random places (see, for example, George Kottaras spending the final half of today's game at third base), I took the opportunity to ignore them. And now, after they ripped off 4 straight wins without really trying, I'm a little conflicted about whether I should watch them in the ALDS against Anaheim.

Yeah, I don't believe me, either. Despite the fact that the intensity of my fandom has shown up only in fits and starts this season, I'm quite confident that come Thursday, I'll be finger-drumming, couch-gripping, superstition-embracing starkers. Like millions of other Red Sox fans, I probably don't know how good I've had it over the past 7 years, don't exactly recall what it felt like to wander through the relative wilderness of the occasional futile run, to know that the story of each season was inevitably foretold well in advance of the final out. That seems such a foreign land today.

I don't know whether to blame this unprecedented prosperity or my increased maturity for my struggles with focus during the Sox' 2009 season. (Yes, I do. My increased maturity can only be counted in years, not emotional intelligence.) I've declaimed otherwise, but it's a clear and indisputable fact that the losses don't hurt as much as they used to - at least not in the regular season.

This newfound perspective was foreshadowed in my final post of 2008, when I found myself far more appreciative than irrational. And that's where I am today. The Sox won 95 games - exactly Theo Epstein's mythical target - and they did with contributions from all corners of the locker room, with consistency from some and flashes of brilliance from others. They're in the tournament, with as good a chance as anyone, especially if October Josh Beckett hitches up his pants and comes to the party. They've got a deep lineup, a power bullpen, and in Jon Lester, Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, enough talent in the rotation to match up with anyone still standing. Anyone. And that's all any fan could ask.

Won't stop me from breaking stuff when the Angels are running wild on the basepaths and the Sox are stranding runners all over the Anaheim basepaths. But it might help me sleep better.

Before we roll the balls out and talk about the targets, I note with deep regret and substantial respect the fact that Tim Wakefield may have thrown his last pitch for the Sox. I hope his back heals in the offseason and that I get to lament watching him take the mound for a few more years. But if not, it's been a privilege to root for one of the finest people to ever play the game.

Okay, then. The best time of the year is right around the corner. Roll 'em out and play the game. Lotta ball left. Stay on target.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Slowly (Oh So Slowly)

Game 156 - Red Sox

Blue Jays 11, Red Sox 5 (6)
Record: 91-65

Careful. Careful. That's it. Just a little more to the right. Back it up...back it up. Aaaaand...almost there.

The Sox are treating the season's final week like a gang of furniture movers carrying a Louis XIV armoire up a narrow flight of stairs. Tito's nursing starters, coddling relievers, resting the weary, and generally behaving like things are in the bag. Fortunately, Texas is playing along nicely.

But recent misery in this very space tells us not to count any chickens before they've seen the light of day. So a clinch tonight would be nice.

And then we can commence the babysoft treatment.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Whistling in the Dark

Games 153 through 155 - Red Sox

Yankees 9, Red Sox 5
Yankees 3, Red Sox 0
Yankees 4, Red Sox 2
Record: 91-64

Let the record show that I watched a total of approximately 10 pitches from this game, all Saturday, and all while the college football games that were the primary focus of my attention were on commercial breaks. Let the record further show that I'm the better for it, in terms of both my blood pressure and my marital/parental status.

The Sox started the season 8-0 against the Yankees and ended it on a 1-9 streak. And that means exactly squadoosh starting next week. Terry Francona's studied indifference (or impression thereof, in any case) to the Sox' fate in New York this weekend is all the cue those of us inclined to step out on ledges after the sweep should need. Brian Anderson got meaningful at-bats against the Yankees. Jason Varitek played in 2 of the 3 games. Jed Lowrie made an appearance. Rocco Baldelli started a game. Okay, man, we get it.

May Jon Lester's leg heal and Josh Beckett's redass return. And, while we're at it, how 'bout clinching the Wild Card here soon so all this whistling past the graveyard doesn't come back to haunt me.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Games 150 through 152 - Red Sox

Royals 5, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 9, Royals 2
Red Sox 10, Royals 3
Record: 91-61

The Sox awoke from their Greinke and Manny-induced coma to salvage a split against the suddenly frisky Royals and endow this weekend's series in the Bronx with at least a scintilla of intrigue.

Clay Buchholz' 10th consecutive 'quality start' (and 7th straight outing allowing 2 runs or fewer) paced the Sox last night and lowered his ERA to 3.21. Fingers, toes, and other appendages crossed, but if this is the guy the Sox get in October, no team in either league has a better 1-2-3 in the rotation.

The playoff-clinching Magic Number is now 3, while the Sox trail the Yankees by 5 1/2 games in the division race. It's still a longshot, for sure, and it doesn't matter all that much, but it'd be nice to make the other guys sweat a little. After the first 2 games of the Royals series, a rabid Yankee-fan friend of mine posted the following on his Facebook page, "Do(n't) hear too much chatter from the "Nation" about making a run at AL East bout them Royals?". My gleeful retort, "maybe the yanks can put the 2009 al east champs banner right next to the one from 2004". He still hasn't responded. Odd.

Almost as odd as a 3-game set in late September with the Yankees that doesn't feel like Armageddeon crossed with Normandy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Game 149 - Red Sox

Royals 12, Red Sox 9
Record: 89-50

Yeah, all that stuff I said about catching the Yankees? The lesson, as always...wait a minute. That lesson's wrong. This one's not my fault. The Sox had 6-0 and 8-2 leads on the Royals on a night the Yankees lost, and you want to blame this one on me? Oh, hell no.

Let's put blame where blame is due, friends. And blame is due Manny Delcarmen, for whom the bell is beginning to toll as his ERA rises. Delcarmen ended June allowing 2.03 earned runs per 9 innings. After his 3 1/3 innings of 8 ER shitshow in September (which followed his increasingly mediocre July and August efforts), the Beantown local carries a 4.34 ERA. More importantly, his confidence in his ability to get outs appears to be on par with mine. We already have one Ebby Calvin on this team, so Delcarmen may get saddled with an even worse moniker: 26th man on the postseason roster. (Which is only 25 men deep, for our math-challenged friends.)

Magic number for the postseason is still 7. But it's good that we're finding out now who we can count on in October.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dream On

Games 145 through 148 - Red Sox

Angels 4, Red Sox 3
Red Sox 3, Orioles 1
Red Sox 11, Orioles 5
Red Sox 9, Orioles 3
Record: 89-59

In the early years of this blog, we spent a good deal of pixels and more than a little angst whining about the Baltimore Orioles and their (perceived, almost certainly, as we were rarely inclined then as now towards actual 'research') prediliction for playing the Red Sox tough while rolling over against the Yankees. I come here today to mend fences with the beleagured Birds and their fair-weather fan base.

The Sox are 16-2 (!) against the bedraggled Baltimoreans in 2009. Woeful is hardly strong enough a descriptor for the remains of the franchise that Peter Angelos has so systematically dismantled. I feel for you, Charm City, but not so much that I'm asking to give any of the wins back.

Daisuke Matsuzaka's now 2-0 in the early days of his 'comeback', while the Sox as a whole are 30 games over .500 for the first time this season and dangerously close to worrying about nothing more than staying healthy and getting the postseason pitching rotation in order. Hell, there's a real, live Magic Number in our lives today. (It's 7, thanks to the Rangers' 2-7 homestand.)

But here's the thing. As much as it doesn't matter, and as far-fetched as this thought may seem to be, the Sox are only 5 games behind the Yankees. And I'd much rather face Detroit in the first round of the playoffs than Los Angeles. Not for nothing, but if the Sox get within the margin of error before this weekend's series with the Yankees, Joe Girardi's mind grapes are gonna be more scrambled than one of those whackjob tea partiers who still believe Obama's from another planet.

Just sayin'.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Long and Winding Road

Games 134 through 144 - Red Sox

White Sox 12, Red Sox 2
White Sox 5, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 6, White Sox 1
White Sox 5, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 10, Orioles 0
Red Sox 7, Orioles 5
Red Sox 9, Rays 1 (6)
Red Sox 3, Rays 1
Red Sox 4, Rays 0
Red Sox 4, Angels 1
Red Sox 9, Angels 8
Record: 86-58

Last night's Sox/Angels game was so good that it jarred me out of my malaise and inspired me to blog again. For now.

The Sox came back unce, tice, fee tines (a mady) to top the Halos, taking advantage of both the Angels' generosity and that of the men in blue to steal a very unlikely one. The win was the Sox' 7th consecutive triumph, giving them a 6 1/2 game advantage over the suddenly reeling Rangers in the Wild Card race. (I'd describe that lead as comfortable, except that I've watched the Mets play in September for a few years now. Sorry, dude.)

Yesterday's game notwithstanding, the winning streak has been the product of outstanding pitching. The Sox gave up a total of 8 runs in the 6 wins prior to last night's, getting stellar starts from all comers, including (and hugely importantly) Daisuke Matsuzaka. The confounding Japanese hurler's return from his poor conditioning was far more impressive than anyone had a right to expect, to the point where he even kept his pitch count at near-normal levels in going 6 2/3 shutout innings.

If (see Kipling, Rudyard and Nuts, Candy Buts for the obvious caveat here) the Sox get a facsimile of this Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz last several outings are indicators of future performance, I'll line these Sox up against anyone in the postseason. If, you foul mistress.

Now back to your regularly scheduled indifference.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Suck My Kiss

Games 132 & 133 - Red Sox

Rays 8, Red Sox 5
Red Sox 6, Rays 3
Record: 78-54

John Smoltz is 1-1 with a 2.65 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP, and 21 Ks in 17 innings for the Cardinals. Brad Penny pitched 8 innings of scoreless 5-hit baseball against the Phillies in his first start for San Francisco. The two combined for a 9-14 record, 6.24 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in 171 2/3 innings for the Sox.

Stuff your small sample size in a sock, pal. That's gruesome testimony to the imbalance between the American and National Leagues. And Exhibit A for the reason the Sox find themselves staring up at the Yankees as September rolls around.

Bygones. The Sox won a series in Tampa. Praise the Lord and pass Josh Beckett some greenies.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Happy Hour Again

Games 126 through 131 - Red Sox

Red Sox 3, White Sox 2
White Sox 9, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 5
Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 2
Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 0
Red Sox 8, Rays 4
Record: 77-54

As both the season and this blog (apparently) wind down and the air cools, the Sox suddenly find themselves on the list of the hottest teams in the league. Winners of 7 out of 8 and 11 of 14 and, more importantly, of 1 in a row in Tampa - praise the Lord and Jonathan Papelbon - the good guys are hitting the ball all over the yard with their new and improved (Now, featuring more Victor Martinez!) lineup. At the same time, Clay Buchholz is starting to look like an actual major league pitcher, while new guy Billy Wagner is proving that he's still one.

The focus from this fan's perspective has been admittedly diffused and refracted - combination of the long season and real-world demands. And sure, I'd prefer the Sox be winning the division and the Yankees spending September recovering from a team-wide gonorreah outbreak. But beggars can't be choosers. The Sox have a great shot at their 6th postseason berth in 7 years. Can't really ask for more than that.

I think fans of the other New York team might agree.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gone Daddy Gone

Games 121 through 125 - Red Sox

Yankees 20, Red Sox 11
Red Sox 14, Yankees 1
Yankees 8, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 12, White Sox 7
Red Sox 6, White Sox 3
Record: 72-53

We interrupt this all-too-regularly scheduled blog-apathy to bring you good tidings of great joy. Jacoby Ellsbury swiped his 55th base of the season last night, breaking the all-time Sox mark held by Tommy Harper for nearly 35 years. And since this season has featured opposing baserunners gamboling around the paths with impunity against defenseless Boston backstops, a little payback from one of our guys is a small measure of poetic justice. I'll try to remember that the next time Tampa Bay steals 13 bases in a game.

The Sox have won a pair of weird ones against Chicago, hard on the heels of the most offensive Sox/Yanks 3-game set in history. The 58 runs scored by the two teams over the weekend top the list of total tallies in a three-gamer their storied rivalry. Me, I'm just happy the Sox won one of those games. Not happy at all, though, about Josh Beckett's sudden descent into gopher-giving madness.

The Yankees 20-spot effectively ended Brad Penny's Red Sox career, brief and unmemorable as it may be. Tim Wakefield comes back from the DL today, and his return to the roster in addition to the Sox' acquisition of the prickly Billy Wagner signaled tails-you-lose for Penny. Lipstick on a pig, or the final piece of the puzzle? Tune in next week (month?) and I'll give you the answer.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Now. You're looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now, is happening now.

Games 94-122: Yankees

Yankees 6, Orioles 4
Yankees 6, A's 3
Yankees 8, A's 3
A's 6, Yankees 4
Yankees 7, A's 5
Yankees 11, Rays 4
Rays 6, Yankees 2
Yankees 6, Rays 2
White Sox 3, Yankees 2
White Sox 10, Yankees 5
White Sox 14, Yankees 4
Yankees 8, White Sox 5
Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3
Yankees 8, Blue Jays 4
Yankees 13, Red Sox 6
Yankees 2, Red Sox 0 (15)
Yankees 5, Red Sox 0
Yankees 5, Red Sox 2
Blue Jays 5, Yankees 4
Yankees 7, Blue Jays 5
Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3 (11)
Yankees 11, Mariners 1
Yankees 4, Mariners 2
Yankees 5, Mariners 2
Mariners 10, Yankees 3
A's 3, Yankees 0
Yankees 7, A's 2
Yankees 3, A's 2
Yankees 20, Red Sox 11

Record: 77-45

OK, I'm back, after once again disappearing for waaaaaaay too long. And in fact, today I'm back in realtime, as I'm down at the cracker factory on a Saturday while the Yanks and Red Sox do battle on Fox. Need to get the GameCast up...and I'll try to follow along here in this very post. I guess my only solace is I don't have to listen to McCarver and Buck right now...

Well, that's freaking annoying...couldn't even get audio for the game (for free) anywhere. So now I'm just following the action on this GameDay feature on while my Pandora station serenades me with Lionel...and Third Bass...and Journey (it's a pretty eclectic collection).

Shameless blog's one reason why you haven't seen me in awhile. I'm on a health food kick.

I think last time I finally chimed in after a 40+ game absence, rob got all snippy because I was happy and excited about the play of my boys. Well, I'm back today again after a long hiatus, and sorry robert, but the Yankees continue to play extremely well...but despite the 20-11 win last night let's see how today and Sunday play out before you try that reverse psychology crap of conceeding the division to the Yanks. Because if we've learned anythign over the years, these two teams always manage to surprise us...and not always in the good "hey a naked chick just jumped out of a birthday cake" way.

Things that, despite their strong second half play (26-8), worry me:
- The apparent softness of Joba. And the higher ups in dealing with him. I'm a little sick of this babying. If he's a starter, he's a starter...why in god's name would they shift him to the bullpen right before the playoffs start? You have a young kid in the bullpen who has not only acclimated himself quite nicely, but who has flat out excelled in the pen (sorry, was channeling Mark Schlereth for a moment). Phil Hughes, take a bow, because I did not see that coming. Joba's a starter, Hughes is the reliever (and Rivera's heir apparent in this humble guy's opinion). Cash, you had it switched in your mind, but just look at the results. Don't fuck this up.

3-0 Red Sox. So nice to see David Ortiz got a new, even harder to detect, PED shipment lately.

- The Yankees record against two potential playoff opponents (yes rob, it is true, I am looking forward to a playoff appearance by the pinstriped ones): 1-3 vs Ozzie's White Sox and 2-4 against the Angels. Small sample sizes, yes, but the Angels absolutely own NY over the last, what, 7 years? (both regular season and playoffs)

-Player health, Hideki Matsui's knees in particular. I realize what he did last night, but how many times can you get your knees drained before you just fall apart in the batter's box? And why do I have this horrible feeling Pettitte or Burnett's arms are going to snap?

4-0 Boston. Alex Gonzalez just homered. Seriously? Alex Gonzalez? Ugh. A.J., get your head out of your ass.

You know what, it looks like I'm actually going to be able to escape Kramerica right now, and despite the four run deficit I'm happy to head home and actually watch this game rather than some lame gamecast widget on my PC. It's good to be back boys, and hopefully you and our loyal reader(s) are stuck with me through October. Oh yeah, rob and his Red Sox suck.