Monday, August 02, 2004

Games 101 through 103 - Red Sox
Life After Nomar

Red Sox 8, Twins 2
Twins 5, Red Sox 4
Twins 4, Red Sox 3
Record: 56-47

Don't have much to say about the Sox efforts against Minnesota, except to note that they're finding new and creative ways to lose, and that they simply must get better on the road against good teams, or they're toast.

Here's the thing, though. After all my bitching about the 2004 Sox, after all their underachieving and going through the motions, they find themselves 1 game out of the Wild Card on August 1. Moreover, the teams against which they are competing for the last playoff spot (Texas, Anaheim, and Chicago - I'm giving the West to Oakland) are even more flawed than the Sox. I've had an epiphany about this team, which leads me to postulate an entirely new theory about this team - the Anti-2003/Deep Sigh of Relief Theorem.

Last year's Sox were charmed, with an exuberant sense of adventure and thrill. They were the Cowboy Up, Rally Karaoke, Good Time Kids. They played loose, enjoyed each other's company, were fun to follow, and came thisclose to taking the whole ball of wax. They won big games late (see Trot Nixon's blast against the Phillies, or the entire ALDS against Oakland) and never gave up.

The 2004 Sox seem much more weighed down by the sense of the possible or even the expected. They knew they'd be good, knew/know that they should make the playoffs, and the pursuit isn't as much fun. With expectations come pressure, and they haven't responded well to it.

That said, I'm invoking the Sox Fan Glass Half Full clause, and going all in on the 2004 Sox. As I see it, the Sox are demonstrably better than any of their Wild Card competitors. They've got deeper pitching than all three teams, comparable offense, and a much-improved defense. It may be close, but they will win the Wild Card. And when they do, their sense of relief will be so palpable, so great, that they'll be so loose as to absolutely steamroll their post-season opposition.

In related news, I watched the Cubs play the Phillies yesterday. To say that it was strange to see Nomar wearing No. 8 in Cubbie pinstripes does the word 'strange' a vast disservice. It was viscerally weird. I had a palpable physical sensation in my gut - a sort of butterflies mixed with goosebumps. I wasn't sad, per se, but numbed. My daughter said, "Daddy, Nomar's not with the Red Sox any more - he's wearing Cubbie Blue." (Cubbie Blue is the title of a kids' song recorded by a longtime Cubs fan, so she's not quite as precocious as that quote may make it seem.) And when she said it, I swear that the room got a little bit dusty and something got in my eye. Godspeed, Nomar - here's hoping the Cubs meet the Sox in the World Series.

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