Saturday, September 25, 2004

Games 152 & 153 - Red Sox
The Last Games of the First Part of the Season...or Something

Orioles 9, Red Sox 7
Yankees 6, Red Sox 4

Last season's nadir prompted me to coin a slogan and resolve to be a new kind of Red Sox fan, and it almost worked all the way to the World Series. This year's team has been so maddeningly inconsistent, tempting and teasing, streaking and sucking, talented and uninspired, that my game-day reactions have mostly been of the frustrated variety. Last night was the breaking point.

As I watched in disbelief while Terry Francona stared history in the face and let it repeat, as I stared holes in my television while Pedro Martinez gave up the tying and go-ahead runs in the 8th inning with a rested relief corps ready to roll, I first released a stream of profanities, most of them from the "motherfucker" family, or its close cousins, the "cocksuckers". Then, I hurled my daughter's smiley-face ball against the washing machine - banished as I was to the basement out of regard for my wife's sanity and my daughters' need for sleep - and was rewarded, if only a little and only momentarily, by a resounding metallic clang. And then, as if the stages of lunacy were playing themselves out in miniature, I made peace with both my addiction, and with this Red Sox team.

I believed so very strongly in the 2003 Red Sox because of their chemistry, and because they earned my belief with wins like the 12th inning Nixon slam over the Phils, the late-season game won by Todd Walker against Baltimore, and the last three games of the ALDS against the A's. I haven't yet believed in the 2004 Sox, because for all their talent, they haven't won those kinds of games - at least until this week. Even worse, they've folded like little girls in their last three meetings against the Yankees, providing noisy affirmation for all those who rightly and loudly affirm that September and October games mean a hell of a lot more than April and May games, and call out the Sox for their inability to topple the Yankees when the weather cools.

So now, on the occasion of my 5th wedding anniversary, against logic, and against intellect, I push all my chips to the middle of the table and tell you now that the second era of positivity has come to pass. I will not rage impotently against the sins of my favorite laundry, nor will I break, kick, throw, or otherwise spindle or mutilate any household objects. I may evince disappointment, but I won't call Terry Francona an assmonkey, nor will I call Jason Varitek a sack of crap (as much as he may have deserved it over the last 4 Yankee games). I won't bemoan Pedro's demise, or Derek Lowe's limp will (and he definitely deserves it). I will continue to thrill at Orlando Cabrera's wizardy with the glove, and Doug Mientkiewicz's footwork (and be glad that Millar's bat is in the lineup until the Sox get a lead in the late innings). I'll silently believe that Manny and Ortiz will homer every time they come to the plate, and revel in Johnny Damon's bat control and Bill Mueller's pretzel-twisting swing. I'll believe in Bellhorn even as I implore him to swing the bat more, and know that Trot's playing himself into shape. I'll trust Arroyo, stand behind Timlin, Embree, and Foulke, and love to watch Pokey play defense. And I'll definitely stand a post in Curt Schilling's army, as the Sox de facto ace wills this team to his second World Series ring.

I stand by my belief in the talent of the 2004 Sox, lay before you the evidence of their stubbornness even in defeat, their legacy of almost, just-missed, shouldacouldawoulda, and state for the record that their mounting bad luck and ill-timed bad play melts into the mists beginning on October 6th, when they begin their run to the World Series. I do this in full recognition that they have but one reliable starter, are playing with a catcher who can't hit my weight (a buck 40 or so), have earned a deserved reputation as the Yankees' bitches, and will likely back their way into the playoffs as the AL West beats itself senseless over the next 10 days.

I said some months ago that this team would squeeze into the playoffs on sheer talent, despite their poor play for a the majority of the season, and that their relief in making the postseason in the midst of massive expectations would be the jet fuel that propelled them headlong into immortality. I believe it more now than I did then. They burned brightly in winning 25 of 30 games to get into position to make the playoffs, and are now in the middle of a slow, fading arc until the end of the regular season. They'll fire the engines one more time, slingshot around the slower traffic in front of them, and scream headlong into history. Pretty decent amount of ball left. Stay on target.

No comments: