Sunday, July 20, 2003

Games 90 - 97 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 1
Red Sox 5, Tigers 3
Red Sox 4, Tigers 2 (11)
Tigers 3, Red Sox 0
Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 2
Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4 (10)
Red Sox 9, Blue Jays 4
Record: 57-40

Tanned, rested, and ready after 8 days on Cape Cod, your faithful Red Sox correspondent swings back into action. Despite a maddening three-game skid midweek, the Sox are now three games up on their nearest Wild Card rival, and only 4 games behind the Yankees, even though the New Yorkers have won 5 straight. The offense took a brief snooze sandwiched around the All-Star game, but woke up just in time to save my sanity. A week without a computer was sublime, as was Sox baseball on local television and radio, and the Boston Globe's sports page - by far the best I've ever read.

A variety of semi-Sox related items of interest from the week:

1. The bastards got my grandfather and my father and now they're coming after me.

My father, an otherwise relatively optimistic and rational man, is reduced to muttering expletives and fearing the worst where the Sox are concerned. He and I went to see the Sox play Toronto on Thursday (see more below). Trot Nixon got thrown out at the plate on a bizarre play, and Dad's immediate reaction was, "Typical goddamn Red Sox play". Well, actually, no, it wasn't. It was a random, weird moment not indicative of anything larger, but I couldn't convince him of that.

50+ years of crushing defeats and disappointment must do something to a man's soul. Dad spent the whole week talking about the inevitability of the Sox collapse this season, while I kept trying to convince him and my grandfather that this team was different, that the offense was one of the best ever, and the pitching staff was coming around. Multiply my family by 5 million, and you get some sense of the burden carried by the Red Sox each year. There may not be a curse, but it sure seems like there's a palpable weight on the shoulders of the Sox players.

I was reminded of this on Saturday night, as I went to bed with the Sox trailing 4-3 in the 9th. "They're done", I told myself, "this is a season-killing loss. It's time to throw in the towel." Then, when I woke up in the morning to see that they'd rallied to win, I realized that the burden was catching up to me. My 27 or so years of fandom don't measure up to Dad and Grandpa, but the bastards are wearing on me as inexorably as the tides erode the beaches of Cape Cod.

2. Live in Fenway

As mentioned above, Dad and I caught a game at Fenway during the trip. Outside of the fact that it takes 2 hours and multiple trains to get to Fenway from the Cape, and the fact that the Sox lost the game, it was an evening well spent. We hadn't been to a Sox game in Fenway together since 1976, which was also his last game at Fenway. We sat in the centerfield bleachers - with an excellent view of the strike zone, five rows back from the fence.

Not to wax too maudlin over fathers and sons and baseball, but it really was a bonding experience. I hadn't spent that much time alone with my father in as long as I can remember, and now that I'm a father myself, I've got a much deeper understanding of the pressures, anxieties, and pride a parent feels. This whole week was really about connecting with my family in new ways - for the first time I was an adult in the midst of my aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents, and accepted as one. It was really remarkable to understand without talking about it that these people saw me as an equal, as a father and a voice of reason.

The game itself was relatively mundane, except for a brief Sox rally in the bottom of the 7th. Roy Halladay really quieted the Sox bats, pitching a complete game to win, 5-2. Fenway is a glorious dump, but it really seems that the new ownership has done a sparkling job of cleaning it up, adding friendly touches like a public concourse outside the park, and putting in enhancements that add revenue while still maintaining the park's unique character (the new Monster seats, for example). I really can't describe the feeling of walking up the ramp and into the stadium, taking in the views of the old ballyard, and seeing the Sox warming up. It swells my chest every time. Really, really, good times.

3. The racist, bitter stylings of the Boston media.

Pedro Martinez asked and received permission to leave the team a day before the All-Star break to fly home to the Dominican Republic. So did John Burkett. Manny Ramirez phoned Grady Little at 5:45 am on the day of the last game before the break and told the manager that his mother was ill and that he felt that he needed to fly to New York to be with her. Little granted this request as well.

These events don't seem terribly important in the scheme of things, and probably wouldn't be in 29 other cities. In Boston, though, with soulless, ranting hacks like Dan Shauhnessy patrolling the town, a Federal case was to be made. Interestingly, though, the case was only made against Martinez and Ramirez, who - gasp! - are both dark-skinned Latinos. Shaughnessy couched his diatribe in the language of the star system, trying to excuse Burkett by dint of his relative lack of standing with the team, but his intent, as always, was clear. Tear down the stars, simply because he has a forum from which to do so. 30 teams in the major leagues treat their star players differently than their role players. It is simply the way of the world. Hell, Shaughnessy's employer, the Globe, almost certainly allows him more leeway than its cub reporters.

The Sox players had no problem with the issue, and said so publicly. Only a handful of white guys with keyboards and microphones made any issue of the situation. Sadly, it's what Sox fans have come to expect, and becomes a self-fulfilling agenda.

4. Old-time baseball on the radio

My grandparents don't get cable at our little beach cottage, which is an issue for a different time. Because of this, I had to listen to the second game of the Sox-Tigers series on the radio, something I haven't done in forever. I'd forgotten how well-suited baseball is for laying on the couch with a good book and a good broadcast on the radio. Outside of Don Orsillo's maddening penchant for overinflection on every fly ball - "IT'S DRIVEN TO LEFT, DEEP...Simon settles under it for the out", lather, rinse, repeat at least 15 times during the game - the rhythms of the game and crowd noise are an underappreciated element in our hyperspeed, gottaseeitgottadoitgottabethere culture.

5. The new and improved Sox bullpen

Shhh. Be very quiet and I'll show you something neat. The Sox bullpen has a 1.99 ERA since July 1. The team's overall ERA is down to 7th in the league. I'm just saying.

No comments: