Friday, December 23, 2005

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

I was wandering around on the information backroads this morning (because MLC certainly isn't an exit on the superhighway) and came across this cute little Yankee blog. Not terribly noteworthy (Hi kettle, I'm pot. You're black as shit.), but I did get a midwinter's emotional lift at Yankeefan's glee at the gnashing of teeth in the Nation over Johnny Rockstar's defection. Seems that Yankee Nation's traffic in schadenfreude has increased substantially over the past, oh I don't know, 14 months or so. How they must miss their disaffected superiority, gone now like so many hairs from Johnny Damon's head. Like memories of that first girl that really stole your heart, the 2004 postseason just keeps on coming back, and brings a smile every time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


WWJDD? Take the money and strike a deal with the Devil, apparently.

I don't begrudge Johnny Damon his hard-earned right to make as much money as he possibly can during an elite professional athlete's limited window - hell, I may well have done the same thing as the erstwhile Sox center-fielder did yesterday, signing a 4-year, $52m deal with the Yankees. (I do take a bit of offense at his CYA press conference and at the fact that as recently as a year ago he publicly stated that he'd never take the money and go to New York.)

And I don't blame the Sox for not following the Yankees over that financial precipice - their 4-year, $40m offer was fair, if not truly market value in this Furcal-inflated spending season. They looked at Johnny Rockstar and saw a 32 year-old with an awful throwing arm and a more than passing resemblance to Bernie Williams and didn't want to be carting that corpse around Fenway in 3 years.

Neither of those things make this news any easier to take - I saw it last night on the ESPNews ticker and sat bolt upright in bed, exclaiming, "No!". I love(d) Johnny Damon. I loved his happy-go-lucky approach, his slaphappy little swing, the way he could just as easily bloop a ball over short as rocket one into the right-field bleachers in Yankee Stadium, the way he tracked fly balls and got to nearly everything - even if he had to use Manny Ramirez as a cutoff man, the way he stole bases efficiently and effectively, and far more importantly, the way he got my daughter interested in baseball.

My oldest daughter is 4 years old, and this morning I had to tell her that Johnny Damon plays for the Yankees now. "Why, Daddy? Why?", she asked me several times during breakfast. The whole $12m difference in salary is hard to explain to a kid, especially during The Wiggles. This evening, we renamed her pink Sox cap (the cap formerly known as her Johnny Damon Hat) - it's now her Trot Nixon Hat, at least until the Sox' right fielder gets traded this offseason. (I pushed for the Tizzle Hat, for what it's worth.)

In the parlance of SOSH, Johnny was 1 of the 25, and for that he'll always own a special place in my heart.

But Johnny Damon is also the first man to break my daughter's heart, and for that I hope he takes his $52m and makes Yankee fans longingly recall Bernie Williams' 2005 season. Enjoy your corporate haircut, Johnny - you're dead to me.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

How 'bout a Little Something for the Effort?

So the Mets get Delgado, Wagner, et al and all the MLC community gets is a few comments from TJ? That's a helluva deal.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hey There, Good Looking

We interrupt this winter-long slumber to gape at the Sox' recent headline-grabbing effort.

For a team without a GM, the Sox sure pulled off a dandy deal yesterday, grabbing 25 year-old stud righthander Josh Beckett from the Marlins for stud prospects Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, and a lower-level arm. The Sox also got 3b Mike Lowell in the deal. Manny Ramirez and Bill Mueller, that bell tolls for thee.

My first reaction when I heard about the deal borders on heresy, but here goes: I see Beckett as Pedro Lite. For the second time in 8 years, the Sox have swung a deal for a young, potentially dominant power arm entering the prime of his career. I have no illusions that Josh Beckett will ever be Pedro Martinez, but he doesn't have to be. He just has to be Josh Beckett plus 40-50 more innings every year, and he doesn't have the Messiah pressure that was placed upon Pedro from Day 1 in Boston. Beckett's proven he has the makeup to withstand big game heat, pitching gems in the NLCS and World Series in 2002 - neutering the Yankees in the latter on short rest, no less. All he has to prove now is that he can eat a few more innings during the regular season, and with Curt Schilling as mentor for at least 1 year, I'd place odds on his ability to do just that.

While it places me squarely in the minority, I'm a little bit excited about Mike Lowell, too. The erstwhile slugger put the p.u. in putrid last season, but his dead-pull stroke in combo with Fenway's inviting left-field environs may be just the ticket to his redemption. Couple that with his reputation for hard work, and the Sox may be able to catch lightning in a bottle next year. And if not, we'll have someone to replace Kevin Millar as the object of the Nation's scorn.

Finally, a bit of good news in an off-season of discontent. And for what it's worth, I'm still waiting for Theo to walk back in that door, and I will until they drag some stiff up to a podium to announce his hiring. Please Lord let it not be Jim Bowden.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


That sound you hear is the figurative jaw of Red Sox Nation dropping at yesterday's news that Theo Epstein has walked away from the Sox' GM position. There's a wellspring of speculation surrounding the issue, but no really good facts, so I'll refrain from commenting on the circumstances. I won't refrain from commenting on how much this sucks.

The Sox are left in quite a lurch a week before the league's winter meetings. Heir apparent (in retrospect, because nobody thought Theo needed an heir for say, 30 years, or so) Josh Byrnes is the new GM in Arizona, and smart money has the entire Sox front office in a land grab to join him now that Theo's out. Senior management must now rebuild a front office, develop an offseason plan, and execute said plan. Starting essentially from scratch. Why do I feel like I'll be looking at the Butch Hobson Era, redux?

Theo was one of us - a really smart, really driven, really lucky one of us, but one of us nonetheless. He had the job that every red-blooded male in, from, or of New England wanted once we realized we weren't going to make the Sox starting lineup. He's 31 years old and the undisputed King of Boston. And he walked away. Damn. Just, damn.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Happy Anniversary

Seems like it was only yesterday when I penned this:

Somewhere, Charlie Brown is smoking a cigarette, the Little Red-Haired Girl's
head nestled against his shoulder as they lay in the afterglow of beautiful
cartoon lovemaking. Lucy's sitting outside wondering how the hell he kicked
that ball so far.

All the stuff that came before - Buckner, Bucky, Boone, Enos
Slaughter, and Thurman Munson, and Ed Armbrister - all of it now has a purpose,
a cosmic fit. It all happened to make this possible, to make this win feel so
damn fulfilling. It all makes sense now.

And my feelings really haven't changed all that much since then. It's still a hell of a thing. Congratulations, ChiSox, and may your memories sustain you for the next 365 days.

Oh, and by the way, that King/O'Nan book blows. We did it better here. Our agent sucks.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Voice in the Wilderness

Just ducking in quickly to send a shout out to MLC supporter T.J. Doyle for turning me on to Fire Joe Morgan, a blog compendium of asinine sports reportage - that's sadly becoming a redundant phrase.

The Hot Stove is beginning to warm, and the World Series starts tomorrow, so the content-starved MLC community may actually see something from Whit and me in the next several weeks. Or not.

For what it's worth, I'm having a hard time forming a preference regarding the Series. I'd love to pull for the Astros, mostly because of Biggio and Bagwell, then I remember that Fat Roger's wearing the Red and Gray. I'd like to support Whitney and his Grandpa Jack, but I'm growing rapidly wearing of the Ozzie Guillen Media CircusTM. I'll flip a coin later today. I must admit, somewhat guiltily, that it's been refreshing living through an angst-free October.

One final note related to this blog: I've finally picked up Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan's Faithful, which is essentially a book-form version of this blog. The book is edited better than MLC, and King and O'Nan were compensated much more handsomely. Other than that, the crapprose you read here every day is just as entertaining, in my modest and unbiased opinion. King and O'Nan are obviously real fans, but they make fanboy mistakes about basic stuff (O'Nan waxed on about his expectation that Pokey Reese would provide offense, and was heartened by Cesar Crespo's .432 Spring Training batting average) and spend a lot of prose on the mundane. I'm only up to mid-May, so I'll reserve full judgment until I complete the book, but I'm sitting here wondering why Whitney couldn't get his far-flung network to set us up with a book deal.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Nation Exhales

The Bombers got knocked out of the playoffs last night, and if you had your TV muted as Darin Erstad flipped the ball to Francisco Rodriguez for the last out, you probably heard the sudden gust of wind that rustled leaves from Marblehead to Malibu. That stiff breeze was comprised of one Nation-wide sigh of relief. While cell blocks of Yankee fans, offices of television network executives, coffeeshops of journalists for whom “write” and “trite” have more commonality than a rhyme, and a man named Cashman who just performed his annual ritual of reactivating his account, there is disappointment abound in another Yankee season which fell short of the mark. For Rob Russell and his ilk, however, there is a long-overdue moment of carefree relaxation.

It’s already been covered in this space that Boston’s failure to repeat their charmed season wouldn’t be a failure at all, that 2004 created a recliner full of laurels upon which team and fan base alike can rest for the foreseeable future, and that the way the 2005 season unfolded for them, it was quite something that the Sox went as far as they did. It’s also been covered that points a, b, and c above would be rendered moot were the New York Yankees to win the World Series this year. Well, that’s not happening, so those points just went from self-help rationalization to Gospel.

While my cohort isn’t exactly kicking up his heels at the notion of his team suffering its first postseason sweep in a decade (since their playoff-debacle days when Boston dropped 13 straight postseason games), he can actually breathe easy for the first time. Last winter granted them no such downtime, as stonebuilt angst suddenly led to intense revelry which morphed slightly into utter release which eventually became hearty self-congratulation which rolled well into this baseball season. By the time the scorebook-pointing and own-horn-tooting gave way to stress about the outcome of the year 1 A.C. (Anno Champione, in the year of our championship), it was apparent that the time for deep exhalation and tranquil smiles would have to wait.

It was questionable whether the folks on the roster or in the Nation had the energy for yet another ALCS showdown with the Empire. Of course, had the situation arisen, so would have the appropriate parties, but it would have been like that last day of Mardi Gras – you realize you have to muster the energy, because for Pete’s sake, you never know if this will be the last time you ever encounter this opportunity, but you’re just so dog-tired, and beaten up, and you know very well there’s likely a letdown on the docket. So this quiet duck-out was arguably the best way for it to go down for Red Sox Nation this year. I just know there’s at least one guy for whom today is Day 1 after finally figuring out what the hell Glenn Frey was singing about in “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” Enjoy, Rob.

* * * *

The way the 2005 ALDS unfolded was also the way I wanted it. I informed my compatriot in writing early on that I would not be renewing my membership in the Friends of the Nation for this year’s playoffs. Last year was a one-off ride for me aboard the Soxwagon, doing my small part to further the positive karma that led the Olde Towne Team to its highest heights. (You’re welcome. Really.) It was a good story, excepting the Series steamrolling of St. Louis, and I’m all for that. But I’ve got just as (personally) compelling a story going in ’05, and it involved a bleaching of Sox I hope Rob understands.

There were a couple of uncharacteristically real-world dramatic stories this year, both involving grandfathers. Rob’s recounting of what might sadly have been one of his last visits to his Sox-loving grandfather provided some often-necessary perspective at MLC, and (I can’t believe I’m mentioning this) serves as a reminder that there was a happier side to the Win It For thread – the folks who waited what seemed an eternity but did hang around until the Red Sox did it. Meanwhile, you might recall my posts surrounding the April passing of my Mets-loving grandfather. While he was the family’s patriarch and the reason the rest of us live and die with every Mike Piazza home run or Kaz Matsui toss into the dugout, there’s more to the story.

Grampa Jack was living in the NYC suburbs in 1962 when the New York Mets were founded, and as one who believed that “root, root, root for the home team” was more law than lyric, he instantly pledged his allegiance to the worst team ever assembled. (It also enabled him to successfully force-feed baseball to his children in a pre-Extra Innings Package era.) Long before Stengelese made its way from Yankee Stadium to the Polo Grounds, however, my grandfather was cheering for another lousy franchise.

He was born on the South Side of Chicago (you now know where this is going) 88 years ago today, on October 11, 1917. When he was four days old, the hometown White Sox won its second World Series by taking four of six from the New York Giants. It stood to reason that there would be more trophies arriving in the South Side before long, with players like Joe Jackson, Eddie Collins, and Eddie Cicotte doing life sentences on Charlie Comiskey’s payroll. Then some stuff happened you might’ve heard about. [Although books and films paint Comiskey as Darth Vader and the Sox as the Rebel Alliance, most historical accounts say it ain’t so. Charles Comiskey (and the fans) as the victim and Shoeless Joe as the villain brought to justice – not as gripping a Hollywood story, but the truth rarely is.]

So Grampa Jack knew the ChiSox in their darkest years. When he left Chicago as an adult, they still hadn’t fully recovered from the 1919 implosion. Though he moved on to other cities and other teams, the White Sox still had a piece of him. When my grandparents bought a condo in Sarasota in the early 1980’s, that town was home to the Pale Hose in spring training. Cheering on the White Sox as the secondary, American League alternate to pulling for the Mets became the new mandate for the family. And so we did, without deviation. Soon we became privy to the doctrine of mediocrity known as the Chicago White Sox, though I’ve only come to know the full history in later years.

The immediate future of the White Sox post-1919 was compromised not by a curse, but by the fact that a roster widely considered as talented as the 1927 Yankees or any other in baseball history fell on its own grenade. The wreckage in the scandal’s wake was tangible (many of the best players banned) and perceived (franchise disarray for years to come; Comiskey’s reputation sullied). It was 40 years before the White Sox contended again.

Once that hump was crossed over, though, what prevented a title for the next 40 years? Hard to say. These weren’t the classic bad teams like the Senators and Phillies. These were teams with All-Stars on the roster, even a handful of Hall of Famers, but a whole lot of mid-grade nobodies in between. They finished in the middle of the pack most years. There are only a few first-place finishes, but only a few more last-place finishes. They haven’t won 100 games since 1917, but they only lost 100 three times. They never showed much flash, despite being well-known as the single largest purveyor of hideous uniforms (outside of Houston, perhaps) in baseball yore. They were boring. After hiring managers with first names of Fielder, Nixey, Pants and Kid in their first quarter-century, they opted for guys like Jimmie, Al, Chuck, Tony, Gene, and Jerry ever since. New Comiskey is dull and void of personality, but it has accurately reflected the team itself since its opening. This franchise has had no vibe, no must-see undercurrent, no backstory at all beyond the Black Sox tale that’s been played, overplayed, revised, and beaten into the ground long ago. The Chicago White Sox have never been sexy in the least; truly, they’ve been about as sexy as . . . well, as white socks. (Outside of my grandfather, very few folks found white socks a sexy look.)

The 2005 ChiSox, however, have a few things going for them. One is Ozzie Guillen, a fiery, mouthy skipper who most importantly has an interesting name. (It’s no “Pants,” but it beats the hell out of “Gene.”) He’s actually inspired a style of play that bears watching. In addition, the White Sox have the Red Sox backlash thing going for them. Now that the Soxwagon has witnessed its hangers-on fleeing like rats from a sinking ship, the train of thought in vogue would be to shut up the “86 Years” chatter definitively with an immediate, one-upsmanship that is the end of an 88-year famine. After seeing the joy in Beantown last fall, the humanitarian in me wouldn’t mind seeing a parade of title-less streaks broken, either, with the Cubs and Indians following in the years to follow.

More than this, however, these ChiSox have one crazy old man upstairs (we in the family hope) who would find it all too fitting that the team he was born into rooting for would win it all on his fourth day on the planet and then not again until six months after he’s gone. If fallen BoSox fans pulled some strings up there to achieve last October’s result, it could happen again this fall. And finally, don’t discount the power of my weight aboard any team’s bandwagon. Sure, that amount will slow any vehicle down at first, but once you get some momentum going, look out, people.

Happy 88th, Grampa Jack. Let’s see what we can cook up in the next couple of weeks, just for kicks.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Have a Nice Life

American League Division Series - Games 2 & 3

White Sox 5, Red Sox 4
White Sox 5, Red Sox 3

Red Sox lose, 0-3

My dad, a career Army officer, spent my 16th year living in South Korea. He loved his time there, in part because he got a taxpayer-funded vacation from me and my sister right as our pain-in-the-ass adolescence was peaking. In some measure, though, the country tickled his keenly honed sense of the absurd. I vividly remember his description of striving South Korea as "The Land of the Not Quite Right" - in stark contrast to its neighbor, the Land of the Rising Sun.

Dad's encapsulation of his time in Korea was the first thing that came to my mind as I sat down to pen the obituary for the 2005 Sox. This was the Season of the Not Quite Right. The Sox were thismuch off when it mattered, whether it was the solid Tony Graffanino lifting his glove a split second too soon to cost the Sox in ALDS Game 2, or the team dropping 2 of 4 to Toronto in the season's last week to ultimately lose the AL East, or Alan Embree, Mark Bellhorn, and Kevin Millar slipping perceptibly, or even the front office miscalculating Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling's health. The Sox were one of the dumbest teams in the league this season, repeatedly overlooking the little things as if counting on the lightning-in-a-bottle karma of 2004 to make everything okay. The little things, though, kept adding up and adding up, even as the Sox scrapped and battled and bashed their way to 95 wins, and in the end, the little things spelled the end of the 2004 Sox, 11 wins short.

I outlined the litany of bad luck, bad decisions, and bad play that befell the Sox a few days ago, so I won't go through it again. The fact remains, though, that this is the first Sox team in the 100+ year history of the franchise to reach the postseason in 3 consecutive seasons. This team won 95 games without an ace, without a closer. This team had one hell of a season, though it won't be remembered that way.

In the precise calculus of the postseason, the Sox' casual relationship with the fundamentals finally put them in a hole that they couldn't escape with brute force, as much as Manny and Tizzle tried. The White Sox were crisp from the jump, never making a single mistake that mattered. And the Red Sox, for all their heart over the past 3 seasons, finally wore down against that precision. As the Sox loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the 6th inning of ALDS Game 3, the steel will and killer instinct that sent them raging against the dying of playoff lights in consecutive AL playoff series in 2004 was nowhere to be found, and the season died in A.J. Pierzynski's glove as Johnny Damon waived meekly at strike 3.

As the team went quietly, so too did the Nation. I knew the Sox weren't going to win the ALDS as soon as the White Sox went ahead in Game 2 - knew it. And yet my primary emotion was mild disappointment, not the gripping angst that has carried the day for the past 3 years. It's as if I knew, and the Sox knew, that it was time. I've been a rabid sports fan for a long, long time, and have never been as deeply engaged in anything sports-related as I have been in the 2003-05 Boston Red Sox - the wrenching loss, the soul-swelling championship, and the slow, anesthetic stumble back to equilibrium. That's where I find myself at this moment, at dead breakeven - unhappy that the Sox lost, and still in vast awe of the fact that they won in 2004.

I'll come back here as the postseason unfolds with more on my memories of the season. I'm processing the end of the year on purely emotional level right now - it's like breaking up with someone you love deeply but know you can't/shouldn't be with, because it's not healthy for you. So while you feel the loss in places you don't talk about over beers with your buddies, you know deep down that you'll be better for it in the long run. 120 days to pitchers and catchers - can't wait to get back on target.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

These Are Better Days

Games 153 through 162 – Mets

Mets 6, Nationals 5
Mets 6, Phillies 5
Mets 3, Phillies 2
Phillies 16, Mets 6
Mets 11, Rockies 0
Mets 3, Rockies 2
Mets 3, Rockies 1
Rockies 11, Mets 3
Record: 83-79, 7 GB Atlanta, 6 GB Houston for Wild Card
Tied for 3rd in NL East and Wild Card Standings

Phew. Take a breath, people. I can’t believe that summer is already in the rearview mirror and winter is just over the horizon (autumn, the Mid-Atlantic’s best season, is on the endangered list these days), but when I think of the baseball season we just completed, there’s not one iota of “Where did the time go??” The 162 games the Mets and I just plodded through didn’t fly by for any of us; rather, they arrived to much fanfare, hung around, drank all my beer, entertained the guests, fell down the stairs, and stayed way past their welcome, but then offered a redemptive, heartfelt adieu before heading out the door. And now we relax.

We can relax now (and clearly, in light of my silence, I have been relaxing) because the Mets played themselves right out of the postseason with that 3-15 public pants-wetting around Labor Day. That putrid stretch inevitably elicited a bevy of what-if musings after the Mets’ final fortnight of resuscitation, but despite the disappointment, there is so much to like about the 2005 season that I’m going to keep wearing the blinders I donned in my initial prognosis for this team.

First of all, though the new-millennium Mets seem destined to incorporate one sizeable stint of stank into every 162-game schedule, the silver lining is that this seems to be happening later and later each successive season, making the viewing enjoyable for a longer duration every summer. In 2006, I expect a final-week plummet to miss the playoffs, or if we’re lucky, a first-round sweep. Two years later, though, we might even see the free-fall pushed back until the following spring. So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

Looking ahead to the future used to be a way to damn the Mets of the present and dream irrationally of a better day. Now it’s a realistic reason for excitement. It’s being pleasantly surprised with some of what’s gone on with an eye on bigger things around the corner. It’s the last line of The Bad News Bears. (The original. Please.) Roll call: David Wright; Jose Reyes; Mike Jacobs; Aaron Heilman; Juan Padilla; Victor Diaz; even Anderson Hernandez, who, though he went 0-for-17 before notching his first big-league hit in the ninth inning of the last game of the season, has that magic word “promise” attached to his scouting reports. It’s enough to preserve that shrug-and-smile “you never know” attitude throughout Mets Township for most of the winter, and that’s a big, big change from the discontent of winters past.

Speaking of the last game of the season, although the Mets were routed by the rubbish Colorado trotted out there, it was as enjoyable a final loss for a team that fell short of its goals as I can conceive. The fans at Shea were in A-plus form, giving the tingle to our heroes and giving the finger to our zeroes. Danny Graves got a moderate hailstorm of boos; lesser bodies of supporters might’ve gotten complacent on the last game of the year and let him off the hook, but not this steady group. Meanwhile, in addition to cheering on the normal rootables like Cliff Floyd – who homered to cap off an utterly impressive season (not sure what stands out more, the 34 HR’s or the 550 AB’s), the Shea faithful gave a special series of ovations to one of the greatest Mets of any era, Mike Piazza. Mike . . . you get your own paragraph.

What can you say that hasn’t already been said about Mike Piazza? The guy has maintained an unparalleled level of humility, understanding, and appreciation for his place since Day 1. To hear him last night in the Yankees-Angels telecast was to understand why denizens of the Township have every right to deify the man. He says the right things with a sincerity foreign to all too many professional ballplayers of any era, let alone the present batch of perspective-deficient self-aggrandizers. The Mets are only 43 years old, but they’ve seen an array of superstars don the colors; with Piazza, though, it goes well beyond the record-setting numbers. With the parabolic arc of Piazza's numbers flattening over the past few years, Mets fans have needed to gravitate to Mike Piazza the guy over Mike Piazza the athlete, but he’s always brought more to the table than the majority of his peers. That “Thunder Road” came on my iTunes shuffle (1 out of 12,016 songs) as I was typing this paragraph is amusingly fitting. Here’s hoping that, like Springsteen, Piazza enjoys a surprising resurgence in the twilight of his career, one that begins next spring. May he continue to be exciting to watch perform, worth the price of admission, and capable of cranking out hits when the masses clamor most for them. (Unless the Yankees sign him; then I hope he’s lousy. Sorry, Mike.)

Anyway, the Mets fans gave Piazza a reception to remember as the season came to a close, and my beloved 2005 Extra Innings Package concluded with a montage of Piazza moments as “These Are Days” by the Empire State’s own 10,000 Maniacs provided the accompaniment. (What, you thought something Piazza-related wouldn’t be a touch cheesy? Come on now.) Like Mike alluded to last night in the booth, the Mets and Mike Piazza in 2006 are plainly two great tastes that don’t go great together, but you just never know what might work out. Though there isn’t a single logical argument to be made for his return to the Mets, I find myself kind of hoping he does. This is reason # 749 why I’m not a big-league GM.

Back to the season in a nutshell . . . (I’ll refrain from making a comment at the expense of my tiny friend across the aisle.) There were plenty of reasons to cheer this year, from the continuing ascension of the young talent to a 12-game betterment over last year’s record to – especially to – a heretofore unseen amount of heart on the club. Seriously, for the first time since MLC’s inception I was able to use words like “scrap” and “mettle” and not be referring to Fred Sanford (perhaps in the context of “People Who Could Outrun Mo Vaughn”). The reinvigoration within the New York Mets spread throughout the Township, and that’s what made this season so thoroughly more pleasing than its predecessors. But there’s still one fascinating success this season that I haven’t mentioned. Something that, to borrow from a certain Boston Beaneaters fan, has made all the difference.

On April 2, 2005, Rob wrote:

Pay attention now, as the next sentence is as close as you'll get to a season preview from this side of the MLC table. I'm picking the Sox for another 98-win season in '05. They have the talent to win more, especially if Wade Miller is healthy, but the uncertainty surrounding Miller and Curt Schilling is enough to keep me balanced in my assessment.
On April 4, 2005, Whitney wrote:

I have clear images in my head of Beltran in the middle of the pack, Pedro on the DL, Piazza tailing off even more. Again, I'm not sandbagging this bet with Rob, but 83 wins is as high as I can see the Mets finishing. Maybe it's this pessimism that has biased my prediction, but I just feel like we've been here before. Game on. Now that I've established that I don't believe in the '05 Mets, it'll take exactly one pitch before I revert to my old self.

Pitch 1: A called strike to Jose Reyes.

The Mets are going all the way this year. 85 wins is the bet. Wild Card. World Series. It's all there for them.
98 – 85 = 13, for you math majors. The Sox finished with 95 wins, while the Mets came in at exactly 83, my initial prediction before I was strong-armed into 85. That 12-game difference means that for the first time, I win The Case Bet against Rob Russell.

And there was dancing in the streets.

Add these 24 Brooklyn Lagers to the pair of cases Rob owes me for foolishly questioning my knowledge of quotable philosophy (NB: “The unexamined life is not worth living” goes back a wee bit further than Thoreau) and there’s quite a party happening in the Lester household before too long. There might have been but two people fixated on this exhilarating battle between the Mets and Red Sox to close out the 2005 season, and one of them probably paid more attention to the more publicized, less significant pennant race instead. But if you were paying attention, you witnessed one of the Great Moments in Betting History.

Coupled with the relatively pleasant, positive outcome to the Mets’ season, this has made me extremely all right with the way things worked out this year. We're a long way from the elation the other half of Misery Loves Company experienced last October, but we're also a long way from . . . well, from Misery. A more “unexamined life” in the last two Mets seasons would have proven wiser, but riding the daily ups and downs alongside my talented peers in the Mets blogosphere (not to mention my uber-capable cohort here at MLC) this time around has made sustaining the life of this project a far more worthy endeavor.

See you in March, friends. God bless the Township.

Mother of All Train Wrecks

American League Division Series - Game 1

White Sox 14, Red Sox 2
White Sox lead, 1-0

The last time the Sox absorbed a double-digit post-season beatdown, they woke up the next morning, went to the ballyard as if nothing had happened, and won 8 straight. I'm just saying.

Sad to say, that's the only bright spot from yesterday's wire-to-wire asskickery. Matt Clement came up tiny, just as he has for most of the season's second half. The offense tried several times to ignite, but sputtered impotently when it mattered. The bullpen, well, the bullpen pitched to its level, which is to say it was mediocre to craptacular. And that, dear friends, is a recipe for a nasty, brutish and short stay in the post-season. (Dead English guy reference in honor of the newly released Calvin and Hobbes compilation.)

I can't shake the feeling that I'm watching the patient die here, that the Sox are simply so spent from the season and the post-championship overexposure that they're just running out the clock, blissfully aware that they've only got to close their eyes and all the stress will go away. Maybe they'll prove me wrong this evening. Maybe monkeys will fly out of my ass.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Same as It Ever Was

Games 158 through 162 - Red Sox

Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 2
Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4
Red Sox 5, Yankees 3
Yankees 8, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 10, Yankees 1
Record: 95-67, AL Wild Card

"Nutzie, kaputzie", exclaimed my 84 year-old grandmother each time something went wrong during the Sox' 8-4 loss to the Yankees on Saturday - and she had much reason to repeat that mantra. Among other things, this weekend taught me that the disease is hereditary. It also taught me - reminded me, anyway - that there are things in life that matter more than baseball. As I stood next to my grandfather's hospital bed and watched the Yankees celebrate their 8th straight AL East title on the mound at Fenway Park, I was struck by the absence of angst-laden emotion.

The Sox blew a 5 1/2 game lead in 8 weeks, and I'm not tearing my hair out, and I'm not breaking things in my living room, and I'm not hyperventilating. This newfound equanimity is based upon a number of factors, none more important than the fact that the Sox are still defending World Champions. That championship foundation has been the elephant in the corner of this blogroom all year, softening the edges of my mania and blunting the force of my rage. Last October also makes it easy to live with the fact that the 2005 Sox are a flawed, injury-riddled bunch - the fact that Craig Hanson came into the late innings of Saturday's game to try to keep it close says more than my words could.

It's not a stretch to argue that Terry Francona's done a better job this year than last. To wit, if you'd told me before the season started that the Sox would...
  • Essentially lose their top starter for the entire season;
  • Lose their closer for nearly the entire season;
  • Waive their starting 2nd baseman and top lefthanded reliever due to underperformance;
  • Finish the season with 3 rookies playing significant roles in the bullpen;
  • Play the second half of the season with a 1-armed centerfielder/leadoff guy;
  • Get 9 HR and 50 RBI from Kevin Millar;
  • Get 13 HR and 65 RBI from Trot Nixon;
  • Be led in wins by Tim Wakefield; and
  • Lose Jay Payton and Gabe Kapler

...I'd have prayed for the welcome relief of the offseason, comfortable with the forthcoming 85-win season. That the Sox have overcome those realities to post a 95-win campaign, only losing the division to the Yankees on a technicality, is in any other year the stuff of legend. Only the Yankees winning 16 of their last 20 kept if from being so.

The anti-climactic nature of the weekend (Hello, Cleveland!) is another contributing factor in my blase attitude. Even after Saturday's loss, I was convinced that the Sox were going to the playoffs, so the woe-are-we wailings were in short supply. Hell, the Yankees didn't even know they were playing for the AL East title until 4 outs remained in the game on Saturday. If they didn't know what the hell was going on, how the hell could I be expected to keep up?

So after 162 games, and 19 more Sox/Yankee hype-fests, we find ourselves precisely where we were last season at this time, with the delightful difference being that Yankee fans have to worry about a 3-hour time difference and the Angels' balance. The Sox get Chicago, in a matchup that screams "Crapshoot". I'll spend some time previewing the ALDS in my own inimitable fact-free way later, but suffice it to say that I have no earthly idea what's going to happen in the next week. I am fairly confident that another Yankee/Red Sox ALCS will signal Armageddeon-style press coverage that will render all other news more trivial than Britney Spears' child-rearing tips. Look for the Bush Administration to choose that week to come clean on WMD mistakes, Karl Rove's role in the Valerie Plame scandal, and W's prediliction for Madlibs.

The rivalry did bring a moment of levity this weekend. As I sat in the Fox Sports Cafe in Logan Airport, I watched with amusement as Sully the Bartender laid waste to the kind of Yankee fan that gives all Yankee fans a bad name. Yankee hat walked into the bar, and Sully said, "Lotta balls to walk in here wearing that hat," with just enough edge in his voice to make me sit up and pay attention. "Tell you what, I bet I know more about your team than you do. What happened in the 1960 World Series?"

Yankee Hat hemmed and hawed before demurring because, "Hey, I wasn't even born in 1960." Sully kept at it, "Fine. What happened in the 1996 World Series?" "Man, that was 10 years ago, who remembers that stuff?" Sully, knowing he'd drawn blood, pressed the issue, "I could tell you the score of every game of that series, and I'm a Sox fan. 1 more chance - what was Don Mattingly's jersey number?" And as the entire bar leaned forward - most of us, even the Sox fans, knowing the answer, Yankee Hat choked - just like his "team" did in the 2004 ALCS. "Pretty sure it was 27," he said, at which point the whole bar murmured in anticpation of Sully's next retort.

"23, pal. He was number 23. Now get out of my bar. And you don't deserve to wear that hat." At which point Yankee Hat slunk out of the bar accompanied by the laughter of the assembled patrons. The entire incident reinforced the stereotypes held dearly by both camps: Yankee fans are a bunch of bandwagon loudmouths, and Red Sox fans are a bunch of defensive elitists. And the truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.

I'd like to tell you that I'm all pumped and jacked, but the truth of the matter is that I'm anything but. I'm pleased that the Sox are in the playoffs. I'm looking forward to obsessing over every pitch for the next 3 weeks, if all goes well. But there's something about holding the hand of an 85 year-old man as he recounts the joys of family and shedding happy tears with him as he comes to terms with his mortality that makes all this not amount to a whole lot. And if that perspective comes with a temporary price, if it makes this post-season a little less fraught with intensity and emotion, well, that's a trade I'm willing to make. Though I will be uttering more than my share of "Nutzie, kaputzie", starting Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Throwing Up All Over Themselves

Games 153 through 157 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Orioles 3
Red Sox 4, Orioles 3
Red Sox 9, Orioles 3
Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 1
Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 5

Record: 92-65 - tied for 1st AL East & Wild Card

From the silver lining department, SoSH posted Pandemonium67 notes "The last time the Sox looked this shitty, they came back and won the next 8". True enough, but very small consolation as the Sox seem to be preparing to slip quietly into next season, trailing 7-1 to the Blue Jays in the top of the 5th inning on their way to losing 2 of the first 3 games of a home series against a team that's playing out the string. I can't shake the notion that the Sox have hit the wall, finally undone by the cumulative impact of untimely injuries, lack of depth, and post-championship hangover. Fuckers have taken 10 pitches to make the last 5 outs - really gutty performance.

This is the final week of the Federal fiscal year, which 2 very different things to your hosts here at MLC. For Whitney, proud U.S. Government employee, it means that he gets to spend the week gallivanting to New York and San Francisco, frantically spending as many of your tax dollars as possible in an end-of-year spending spree designed to convince Congressional budget staff that his agency needs the same funding level next year. For me, a humble sales exec for a government contractor, it means that I spend the week scrambling like mad to collect the funds thrown off by people like Whitney. Either way, despite the excitement afoot in the season's last week, don't expect to hear a whole lot from either of us this week.

I've got another, much more bittersweet excuse for my forthcoming absence. I'm flying to Boston on Friday to spend the weekend with my ailing grandfather, who is in the hospital with congenital heart failure. Bampa is the epitome of a stoic New Englander, his only concession to his condition a grudging "Well, Rob, I've felt better". He's also a huge Sox fan, watching nearly every game with my grandmother - those of you that read this blog last year will remember him as the one who stayed up for the final out of the World Series, even as his son - my dad - couldn't bear to watch.

I'm very much looking forward to watching Saturday's Sox/Yankees game with Bampa, even if the hospital staff probably isn't, as the Sox are probably the single greatest bond between us. My family, though close, is not particularly demonstrative about our feelings - except about the Sox. Yaz, El Tiante, the Spaceman, Mike Greenwell, the Rocket, and now Papi, Manny, and Johnny - those guys are almost proxies for our family's love for each other. Whit lost his baseball-loving grandfather this year, and eloquently recounted how the game brought them together. It was the same for me, and I feel very fortunate to have this chance to share at least 1 more game with mine.

And for what it's worth, Kevin Millar is a worthless sack of elephant puke. I'm sure my grandfather would agree, although probably a bit less colorfully.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Surprisingly Chipper (Not That Jackelope in the Peach State)

Game 151 through 152 - Mets

Mets 5, Marlins 4
Marlins 2, Mets 1
Mets 5, Nationals 2 (10)
Mets 5, Nationals 2
Record: 77-77

With the win against Washington last night, the Mets have now won their last three series -- against not only division rivals but teams fighting for their playoff lives. (If you think Atlanta wasn't soiling themselves when the Phightins crawled back to within four games, you're giving them too much credit.) Alas, as Pat Benatar crooned as she, too, was fading into the twilight of her season in the sun, it's a little too little, it's a little too late.

The Mets flanked a wretched 3-15 season-stopper between 128 games of 8-over-.500 ball and their recent 6-2 spurt. As they finish the 2005 campaign in irrelevance once again, there will be plenty of opportunities to pick out what-ifs among that three-week trip to the infirmary. Fingers will be pointed, obscenities will be typed sans asterisks or special characters, and the overriding feeling will be "what a shame." For the moment, however, let's keep things on the upturn. And no, I'm not drunk. Thanks for asking.

First of all, let's appreciate this recent last-gasp return to winning ways. These aren't easy ballgames, and the Mets are pulling through in ways they'd forgotten for a month. These guys scattered their early schedule with dramatic losable wins, and Friday night as I sat at RFK with my MLC cohort, we saw the prototypical New York Mets '05 win -- blow it, deflate me, win it, elate me. There are more what-ifs in that Carlos Beltran blast to right than I'd care to rehash, but if perhaps we could see more of that spark from him in '06, there's even more reason to believe.

More importantly than this small dosage of moral victory in the 2005 tube of disappointment ointment is the Misery Loves Company case bet. For the unfamiliar/uninterested, Rob bet that the Red Sox would win 98 games this season. With eight games remaining, they have 90. Looks like he may fall a sliver shy of that goal. Meanwhile, as it's documented within the annals of this blog, I projected 81 wins for the Mets but was made to feel a sandbagger by Rob and Mets fans alike. I caved, and posted 85. As the Metropolitans sit at even-steven 77-77 with those eight contests to play, I feel vindicated. And extremely gelatinous in the spinal department. A man's got to know his team's limitations, Clint once told me, and dammit, I do. Anyway, all that really matters is that the 13-game predicted differential is precisely where we sit with just over a week to go -- with a case of winner's choice beer on the line. Stay tuned, people. This could be fun to watch -- the undercard to Rob Russell's explosion if the Sox take a tumble to the dreaded Yanks.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Mumble, Stumble, Bump

Games 150 through 152 - Red Sox

Devil Rays 8, Red Sox 7
Red Sox 15, Devil Rays 2
Devil Rays 7, Red Sox 4

Record: 88-74, 1 GB NYY, 1.5 GB CLE- Wild Card

The Red Sox had a terrific chance to run away with the American League East this season and settle the final score remaining from the last 6 years. Through a combination of injuries, miserable pitching, suddenly less-than-timely hitting, and a Yankee resurgence, they now find themselves on the outside looking in.

Y'know, there is a silver lining here, or at least a glimmer of a modicum of a sliver of a reason for optimism. The Sox are living, breathing proof of the baseball's unique nature, of the game's ability to radically change its terms from one day to the next. The Sox are less than a full calendar year removed from the most startling transformation in sports history - an 8-game winning streak on the heels of the most putrid of 3-game losing streaks. More than half the current roster was present for that transformation. And that, kids, is what I'm hanging my faded, perfectly-fitted Red Sox hat on.

Because the objective facts aren't pretty, not with the Sox now turning over their bullpen fate to Mike Timlin and 3 fuzzy-cheeked lads with fewer career appearances combined than Timlin's made this season. Not with the Yankees getting 7 games against the Blue Jays and Orioles (and if the O's show some sack this weekend against the Sox after humbly submitting to the Yankees in 4 straight this week, so help me God I'm driving to Charm City and personally jamming Peter Angelos' head in an unflushed toilet) and the Indians getting a healthy dose of Kansas City. Not with injuries mandating important roles for Adam Hyzdu and Alex Cora. Not with Edgar Renteria making a late run at the all-time error record but making up for it by swinging a Patek-ian bat. Not with one hot bat in the lineup and 8 hit-or-miss-and-miss-and-miss compatriots.

10 games to play, with the last 3 against the Yankees. I suppose if you'd told me that the Sox would play the entire season without a healthy Foulke or Schilling, I'd take 1 game out with 10 to play. Now though, after leading the league for the better part of the season, failing to make the playoffs would be a particularly bitter pill to swallow. And I'm having a hard time coming up with an especially optimistic line on the next 10 days.

Were this any year prior to 2004, the angst pouring from this and dozens of other Soxbloggers' keyboards would have been thicker than the plaque coating Whitney's arteries. Now, though, while I'm highly agitated and more than a little disappointed, and will grow increasingly so if the Sox complete their slow fade into oblivion, the pain will be muted by the still fresh-enough memories of last October. And I can't help but wonder if the Sox themselves are subconsciously thinking the same thing.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I Can't Bear to Watch

These motherfuckers are going to blow this season. Motherfucker.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Famishus Vulgaris

Games 140 through 150 - Mets

Cardinals 5, Mets 0
Cardinals 3, Mets 2
Cardinals 4, Mets 2
Mets 7, Cardinals 2
Nationals 4, Mets 2
Nationals 6, Mets 3
Nationals 6, Mets 5 (10)
Mets 4, Braves 0
Braves 7, Mets 4
Mets 4, Braves 1
Mets 3, Marlins 2 (12)
Record: 74-76

Let’s go back to the very beginning and review. An ill-conceived plan, amazing in hindsight that it was ever formulated, which results in a free-fall to the bottom. Next go-around, we see a seemingly better-crafted strategy, one with more promise but one which only prolongs the inevitable – a longer, harder, more painful plunge and crash. Third time around, the scheme seems imminently workable, the pieces are in order – though they’ve cost a bundle to acquire – and success actually seems within reach; alas, despite the fanfare, the result is once again merely an extension of the temporary reprieve from the same excruciating outcome: a momentous plummet of epic proportions. Sad, wryly funny, and at times, tediously predictable.

Yes, that’s right, this is the saga of the last three seasons of the New York Mets. Now go back and read that first paragraph once again, and see if someone else comes to mind.

You guessed it . . . it’s also the continuing tale of Wile E. Coyote. To a tee, for crying out loud. Holy hell. That I’ve typed half a zillion words chronicling the baseball equivalent of the most redundantly pathetic of all Looney Tunes characters has me ready to check myself into the wackjob warehouse for a few weeks. Honestly, the way the Mets are tumbling (now 4-14 in September, perennially the Mets’ cruelest month ), you look at their recent schedule and you can see the coyote sailing down the ravine with that distinct, declining whistle . . . and at Game 162, that familiar thud.

Well, I could go into more detail, but honestly, why bother? Oh, right, because if this project is ever to be taken seriously, I should treat it with a degree of professionalism and perseverance even as the folks I’m discussing are playing with all the grit of a second-term president’s final weeks in office. Not bloody likely. Those of you who endured MLC ’04 probably remember being disappointed (or elated, depending upon which scribe here at the Department of Misery you exclusively tune in to read) by September Met posts that were rare, pointless, and decidedly bitter, like some kind of Metric System for America convention. Clearly, this month’s worth of entries is a walk down memory lane for you people, and in an atypical sentence void of sarcasm, I really am sorry for that.

There will be time in the next 12 days and beyond to look back on the highs and lows of the 2005 season, but right now I’m too busy watching the latest contraption from Acme malfunction as the poor coyote descends towards his impending doom at the bottom of the canyon, all while the road runner looks on bemusedly while doing the Tomahawk Chop.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Old Time Hockey

In the midst of a thoroughly depressing evening - the Sox are trailing, 5-4, to the Devil Rays after David Wells gave up 10 hits in 2 2/3 - a ray of hope for the future. Rookie righthander Craig Hansen made his major league debut less than 2 months after being signed in July. Hansen set the Rays down in order, striking out 2 and inducing a weak pop to short. Between Hansen, Jonathan Papelbon, and Manny Delcarmen, all of whom made their debuts this season, the Sox have some killer arms ready to go...for next season.

On the other side of the coin, Alex Cora and Adam Hyzdu are both in the lineup at the moment after Cora replaced Tony Graffanino. That's a recipe for sitting home for the postseason.

And Papelbon just gave up a 2-run homer.

I'm gonna sign off here before things get really ugly.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Being Eddie Vedder

Games 138 through 149 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Angels 3

Angels 3, Red Sox 0
Yankees 8, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 9, Yankees 2
Yankees 1, Red Sox 0
Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 5
Blue Jays 9, Red Sox 3
Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
A's 6, Red Sox 2
Red Sox 3, A's 2
Red Sox 2, A's 1
A's 12, Red Sox 3

Record: 87-72, 1 1/2 games ahead of NYY

Like Pearl Jam sang, and in stark contraposition to my recent activity level in this space, I'm still alive. And like the Red Sox, just barely.

I'm just barely alive because I spent a week in Cape Cod with Whitney and his family. Those of you that know Whitney, even a little, know that a week in his presence is marked by the following things: alcohol, drinking, staying up way too late, lots of food, and more alcohol, followed by drinking. By way of illustration, we spent last night in Highland Park, NJ as we made our way home from the Cape. At 2:00 AM or so, after roughly 15 cheap American beers each at the Corner Tavern we found ourselves at Giovanelli's, a glorified grease truck with spectacularly good late night eats. Being of modest size and appetite, I went conservative, rolling with a slice of pizza. Whitney, not so much. The gastronomic savant took down a Fat Cat (a sub with hamburger patties, fries - on the sandwich, cheese and assorted other grease) and a Fat Blunt (a cheesesteak with egg, cheese, fries - again, on the sandwich, and assorted other grease) in one fairly quick sitting.

As a result of the week of excess, my synapses are firing about as quickly as Doug Mirabelli on the basepaths. Even so, I feel quite certain that I could think circles around the assorted trogolodytes that staff Boston's sports radio outlet, WEEI. I had the pleasure (and by pleasure, I mean abject misfortune) of listening to the collection of bitter, self-important circle jerks at various junctures while on the Cape. I've heard a lot of sports radio, and I understand the limitations of the medium, but I've not ever heard such unfathomably unredeeming dreck. The collection of assholes that man the Boston sports airwaves seem to - nay, do take glee in the bad, the ugly, the misfortunes of others. And they stand in such distinct contrast to...

...the Boston Globe Sports section, which I've praised before in this space. Still, this week served as a reminder that the Globe still publishes the best sports in print news. 3-4 columns on the Sox after every game (columns, not beat reports) is the norm, and only the beginning of the most comprehensive coverage of the athletic world. Bostonians are truly spoiled in that regard.

Bob Ryan, one of the Globe's elder statesmen, made a very important and accurate point about the Sox early in the week. (And shame on you for wondering if I was ever going to get around to the nominal subject of this blog.) Ryan noted that a team's record was a historical record of their performance to date, not necessarily a reflection of the state of said team's affairs at this moment. And in the case of the Sox, the team that took the field today against Oakland bares only a passing resemblance to the one that hung up that 87-61 record.

The Sox are stumbling badly down the stretch, the result of indifferent starting pitching and suddenly impotent bats, both caused largely by significant and important injuries. Johnny Damon's nursing a painful shoulder injury, which renders him unable to throw the ball - not that it would be easy to tell any difference from his normal feminine hurling style. Damon's injury is made worse by Gabe Kapler's season-ending achilles rupture, because it leaves the Sox without an effective backup in centerfield. I'm sure Alejandro Machado is a nice kid, but I'd rather pour coffee on my groin than see him get meaningful September at-bats. Kapler's loss also means more Kevin Millar as Trot Nixon's platoon partner, which means 3 weeks of standard-setting ineptitude in right-field. In addition to Damon and Kapler, the much-noted injuries to Curt Schilling, Keith Foulke, and Wade Miller remain unresolved in large measure: Schilling's been gamely working through his recovery, but he's been ineffective. Foulke pitched 2 innings in today's blowout loss, a measure of the Sox' confidence in his ability at the moment.

Even the guys that are healthy have been ineffective, perhaps because the Sox are in the middle of a 30 games in 30 days stretch. Jason Varitek has posted a .361 OPS in September, gamely gutting out the end of a long season, but stinking up the yard nonetheless. Trot Nixon's September OPS is .534, with 4 RBI. Manny Ramirez went 19 days between homers, and has an .812 OPS this month - decent, but not Mannyesque. The banged-up Damon has seen his batting average slip from .341 in mid-August to .318 now, and only scored 4 runs this month. On the mound, Matt Clement's stellar first half has given way to 18 earned runs over 22 innings in 4 September starts, capped by today's 1 1/3 inning, 7 earned run effort.

And even with that litany of woe, the Sox remain 1 1/2 games up on the Yankees after today's action - and many thanks to the Blue Jays for holding on against New York. Tim Wakefield, Mike Timlin, and David Ortiz have quite simply been carrying the Sox for the past 3 weeks. Timlin's given up 2 earned runs in his last 12 appearances. Wake has been an inning-eating stud in his last 4 starts, with 2 complete games (and a 9-inning appearance that didn't count as a complete game because the contest went extras) and 34 quality innings pitched. That he only has a 2-1 mark in that span is certainly not his fault.

Nor is it the fault of Big Papi, who will finish no worse than 2nd in the AL MVP voting. Papi is slugging .690 this month, with 7 HR and 14 RBI in 18 games. He's swatted game-winning, or game-changing blasts in several of the Sox' victories in September, and is the sole real source of offense for the once-vaunted Sox - all due respect to Tony Graffanino and Kevin Millar, who've both had solid months. I now expect Ortiz to hit the ball out of the park in every clutch situation - a feeling that no other player has ever given me. I just wonder whether 1 Papi is enough to drag this limping lineup into the postseason - and fear the answer to that unworded question.

But here's the thing (admit it, you've been camping out in line for tickets to that long-lost show), this team has proven over the past 3 years that it thrives on nothing so much as adversity. They've had prosperity nearly all season long, using their healthy lineup and good-enough pitching to set the pace in the AL East since June. They've had that prosperity, and not taken advantage of it, kicking away games here and there to mediocre opponents (losing 2 of 3 to Kansas City, for example) and letting the Yankees stick around.

I've not made any pronouncements about this squad, because I haven't had the same gut instinct about them that I had at various times over the last 2 seasons. No "all-in" moment, or Era of Positivity instant of clarity. So here goes: I think the 2005 Sox will summon their inner idiocy with their backs against the wall, and close out the season in style. Regular season, anyway. We've seen clear evidence over the past 2 years of the randomness of the post-season, so the Sox have as good a chance in that crapshoot as anyone - if they can get there. It says here that they will.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Far, Far Away . . .

That describes the Mets from their goal of postseason play, as well as me from my normal life. I'm currently lounging about on lovely Cape Cod with my MLC cohort, knee deep in good beer and bad kids. It's alternately extremely relaxing and fairly hectic (see the latter part of that last sentence), but it's certainly a nice break from watching the Metropolitans' recent nosedive. We'll be back on Monday with fresh outlook on stale material. You can't wait, we know.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ya Gotta Believe It's Over

Game 139 - Mets

Braves 4, Mets 3 (10)
Record: 70-69

The folks in the Mets blogosphere are nearly unanimously sounding the death knell for the 2005 New York Mets. I set one foot on that wagon as I was cursing Braden "I'll Have a Blown Save and a . . . Blown Save" Looper last night, but I stepped back off before the wheels started rolling. With 23 games to play, it's not over. I simply won't accept that we're already into the denouement. I don't want the feeling of September contention to evaporate this quickly, and though I'm clearly fooling only myself, and just slightly at that, I'm keeping a shred of hope alive.

Last night was painful for many, many reasons, but losing that way to that team just kills me. It only makes me hope for bad things on the Braves and the toolshed they call a fan base. Another division title is already in hand; now we just have to wait and see exactly what form their premature ejection from the postseason takes. The ill I wish on that franchise and everything surrounding it frightens me.

Though the closing credits may have started to roll last night, I'll persevere; for one thing, it just got very interesting in the annual Case Bet, as the Red Sox currently sit 12.5 games better than the Mets. If you recall, Rob predicted 98 wins for his Sox, while I initially saw 81 for the Mets but was strong-armed by know-nothing dimwits into registering an 85. That's a 13-game buffer, and I may be just one night away from sliding into the wrong side of that wager. Advance notice for next year, by the way: I will be predicting 48 wins for the '06 Mets.

And here's a strange phenomenon: East Coast Agony and Flushing Local jump-started their sites a couple days apart in late August after a large amount of time away, and the 'sphere is all the better for it. Since they've returned to the blogfold, however, the Mets are 1-7 and 2-9, respectively. They've got to be feeling like "I came back for this?"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Dropping In, Coming Out

Games 135 through 137 - Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Orioles 1
White Sox 5, Red Sox 3
Red Sox 3, Angels 2
Record: 81-56

Traveling for work this week, so just taking a brief moment to let you know that I've gone gay for David Ortiz. I mean, what other options do I have? The guy is Adonis, Hercules, and Superman all wrapped up into one lovable package. He's simply the greatest big-moment hitter of my lifetime.

And I mean gay from a purely platonic perspective. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Things In Rear View Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

Game 138 - Mets

Braves 3, Mets 1
Record: 70-68

In 138 games so far this season, I've seen few quite so start-to-finish excruciating as this one. In your handy-dandy MLC glossary, the definition of "winnable loss" reads, "See Game 138, Mets at Braves. That winnable loss took my ulcer from the size of a penny to the size of Penny Marshall."

The Mets were sneaky-terrible during this contest. A box score won't necessarily give away the awfulness of how they executed -- or rather how they failed to execute. Rotten eggs sometimes look fine from a safe distance, and this certainly was one of those. Observe:

1. The Braves scored their first run on what should've, could've, and would've been an inning ending 6-4-3 double play, had not Kaz Matsui bobbled the transfer and held the ball. Just when you thought you'd never come around on Miguel Cairo again.

2. Doug Mientkiewicz got robbed of a home run when it bounced off the top of the wall and came back into play. Bad luck. But it was a leadoff double. Then Ramon Castro didn't even try to take the ball the other way, failed to advance him, and Minky was later stranded at third. Bad baseball.

3. Matsui tripled with one out. Two batters later, Clifford Floyd defied his statistical history and managed to ground into a double play to squander yet another opportunity.

4. Rafael Furcal reached on a swinging bunt; Castro left his crouch like an obese octogenarian on a pair of reconstructed knees who just woke up from a nap. Furcal is quick as all get-out, but anything remotely cat-like from the catcher's spot gets him. Hell, Cat Stevens gets him. Naturally, Furcal ended up scoring on a sac fly; the Braves manufacture runs against the league’s best pitchers, while the Mets rack up extra-base hits with fewer than two outs and scheme, plot, and connive ways to somehow keep them from scoring.

5. The Mets “scratched across” exactly one run after having runners on second and third with one out. Holy hell. This team couldn’t manufacture mud with a bucket of dirt and a bucket of water.

6. The Braves scored a run from second base on a dribbler to the mound. I don’t even know what to say about that. There wasn't even an error, unless you consider the fundamental, elementary, Fielding 101 mental error that Pedro and his band of muted infield gnomes committed.

7. The Mets notched another pinch-hit when Jose Offerman singled for the departing Pedro. Then Jose Reyes grounded into an inning-ending double play. The chances of he and Floyd doing it in one game are slightly worse than one team winning its division 14 straight times.

8. New York tallied 13 total bases and scored one run on a groundout. You have to really try to accomplish something like that.

9. They caught John Smoltz on a less-than-stellar night, and they did nothing about it. It's like the time Rob's girlfriend told him she wanted a hot 3-way, so he brought her back a melted three-cheese sandwich. Regrets . . . they're not just for clinic waiting rooms any more.

10. If you've done your math, that's three preventable Atlanta runs, so even if the Mets hadn't played any better than their "squanderlust" style of offense, they could have managed a victory. They did enough to win, yet they never really even threatened to take this one.

About the saddest thing you could say about the way the New York Mets played tonight was that if you played this game and any of the four Chicago losses in the 1919 World Series back-to-back, you'd be hard-pressed not think this game was the one where a team was tanking it. It's all starting to slip away; I guess I'm still pleased that it's September and not July or August that it's happening, but right now, "pleased" isn't something escaping from my lips too comfortably.

Pedro vs. Smoltzie, Baseball vs. Reality

Games 134 through 137 - Mets
Marlins 4, Mets 2
Marlins 5, Mets 4
Mets 7, Marlins 1
Braves 4, Mets 2
Record: 70-67

It's time to stop the bleeding, gents, and tonight's marquee match-up would be just the right setting to create some momentum in a different direction -- and by different, I mean any direction other than the free-falling southward direction in which the Mets are currently plummeting. Pedro Martinez goes tonight in Atlanta against John Smoltz with the franchise needing him to be the go-to guy they paid for last winter. If there's a sense of déjà vu creeping into your conscious about now, it's not surprising.

Back on April 10, the Mets were lying prostrate after having taken it in the prostate for the first (I just typo-ed that word "fist" and chuckled audibly at the context; school's back in session and it's 5th-Grade Humor Day at MLC) five games of the season. The Mets media and particularly the Township were collectively calling for Pedro to step in and save us from 0-162, or at least 0-6. That's precisely what he did, topping a spectacular John Smoltz outing in Atlanta with a brilliant complete game victory. It sparked a true turn-around, a six-game winning streak to follow the skid. The Bat-signal has again been illuminated, and that's the Pedro we need to save the day once more.

The problem is, of course, that it won't be that easy. Although Smoltz has allowed four and a half runs per nine since August 1 and has suffered from a stiff neck of late, he's still generally the same stud pitcher he's always been, and he's always capable of stymieing the Mets. Meanwhile, as Mike at (the hemi-resurrected, at last) ECA notes, Pedro's been off a bit in his last couple of starts. Nothing you can see in the box score, but it's something you could tell by watching those games. Missing his spots, walking guys, just being a wee bit un-Pedro-ish.

This is a call for the real Pedro Martinez, the ace, the Hall of Fame candidate, the guy with the swagger and the grin and the goofy gesturing. We're looking for the guy whose fastball defies the limitations of that slim frame and slender arm, whose command is pinpoint, and whose artistry and valor soar along with the importance of the moment. With Pedro, hyperbole is always in excess, so let's cue the INXS: Petey, . . . Need You Tonight.

* * *

Just a few words in response to Rob's sentiments below. He's obviously right, and most of our attention should be directed towards a pressing and real crisis; still, what I do know of tragedy is that dwelling on it can buckle your knees after a while, and that every person, no matter how strong, needs a break from the sad realities of life at certain times. Sports provide those breaks in reality; though the mass media would add elements of melodrama and heavy-handedness to a simple game result, episodes like last week's in New Orleans shed all the night we need to rediscover sports as the children's games that they are. The enjoyment of these games while countless Americans are losing lives, homes, and hope isn't sacrilege, to me; it's a necessary outlet for people searching for a moment of levity in a world of gravity.

Sports -- especially baseball -- and their coverage -- especially here at Misery Loves Company -- are entertainment, despite all of the business headaches, clubhouse histrionics, and human stories behind them. While you can take the perspective gained by widespread tragedy and temporarily discard sports as relatively meaningless, I prefer to apply that perspective toward the pursuit of a slice of something purely amusing, carved out between waves of sadder and sadder reports emanating from CNN's reporting desk. MLC has churned out its faux pearls of wisdom throughout wars, natural disasters, and times of deep mourning. Even if this work doesn't provide one iota of fleeting solace for its readers, I can assure you that it does so for its writer.

Though the New Orleans dwellers I'm closest with are safely away from the wreckage, anyone who knows me knows that the Crescent City has had a lock on my heart since the first time I went there almost ten years ago to the day that the hurricane blew through. The people there and the places around town have come to mean more to me than most would surmise, and I can only hope against hope for as speedy and complete a return to its previous form as possible. In the meantime, I'll be writing about the Mets and keeping my fingers crossed. (And using the excuse that it takes twice as long to type that way when my posts are tardy.)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Different Kind of Perspective

Games 131 through 133 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Devil Rays 6
Red Sox 7, Devil Rays 4
Orioles 7, Red Sox 3
Record: 78-55

This place is generally a reality-free zone, guided by the whims - and whimsy - of 2 very immature (though strikingly handsome and intellectually superior) baseball fans. In that way, it's a reflection of most of our lives, actually. Over the last week or so, though, our version of misery's taken a distant back seat to the very real and heartbreaking misery along the Gulf Coast.

I'm not going to waste a lot of words on this topic, mostly because too many people are spilling too many words on it already. Suffice it to say that the Sox haven't been at the forefront of my mind this week - I've watched parts of each of the last 3 games, but I've found it hard to turn away from hurricane coverage. For what it's worth, when Anderson Cooper turns in his microphone 40 years from now, the pure humanity he's shown this week in his reporting will be the memory that leads the retrospectives.

Back on the horse here soon with lots to discuss, but it just doesn't feel right to celebrate recreation right now. I remember how baseball served to inspire the nation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and I hope that it can play a small role again now.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Cogito Ergo Sum Imbecilius

Games 132 & 133 - Mets

Phillies 8, Mets 2
Phillies 3, Mets 1
Record: 69-64

I think many more things than I know, as this site shows.
I think the Mets are worth following.
I think they are a good team.
I think they maybe a great one before it's all over.

I think this blog entertains the masses, and by "the masses" I mean the two people writing it.
I think there are a lot of people with as much time and will to write about inane subjects as I have, or almost.
I think the people we meet on the Internet are generally who they purport to be. Sometimes I wish they weren't.
I think the boys at East Coast Agony celebrated another fine season of work by flying to Bermuda, canoeing on a Scottish lake, or snowshoeing in the Himalayas.
I think that I should write about the Mets for a living, but nobody else does.
I think I now know where I'm retiring someday, and that's a comfort.

I think the walk-off homer is exciting, but nothing beats the ninth inning, two-out, game-deciding play at the plate. It's why we nod our heads in approval at Joe Carter but marvel at Sid Bream, even if we loathe the Atlanta Braves.
I think I loathe the New York Yankees more than I do the Braves, and I'm not quite sure how that happened.
I think Braves fans take an inordinate amount of flack for their tepid support of such a dominant franchise. I think it's inordinate, but not inappropriate.

I think that if a new kind of steroid came out, or perhaps some illegal procedure were developed (like in that feeble movie Rookie of the Year), wherein baseball player's arms grew to superhuman strength, resulting not only in sheer pitching dominance but in the elimination of stolen bases, taking the extra base, and most infield singles, and run scoring dried up to the point of soccer scores, Bud and the brain trust would so obviously come down like the Iron Curtain on the violators, but since the reality is just a preposterous glut of home runs and scoring in general, which draws more casual fans to the park, and after all, baseball is a business, they think it's best merely to pay lip service to combating the utter skew and inevitable taint that steroids are infusing into the lifeblood of the sport and leave well enough alone.
I think I'm rooting for science to create that super-arm scenario.
I think run-on sentences are the truest sign of having a whole lot of important things to get out in a hurry, and acceptable in certain blogtype situations.

I think I think a veritable cornucopia of things, but I don't need to share them all right now. In due time, young grasshopper. All in due time.

I think many, many things, but there is one thing I know.

I know that when I commend them for their solid play and see sunshine on the horizon, the New York Mets immediately and surely play baseball like a band of rogue clowns on mescaline.

And I think that fairly well chaps my backside.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Most Likely to Succeed

Game 131 - Mets

Mets 6, Phillies 4
Record: 69-62

Last night was the biggest win of the season so far.

Kicking off a torrid stretch of schedule against division/wild card rivals with a . . . “dramatic” doesn’t do it justice, let’s call it “spectacular” . . . come-from-behind victory had to be the most significant feat they’ve accomplished to date. June 11 over the Angels was the most exciting, to me, but this was the biggest.

Hey, I didn’t kick off the season of superlatives. Keith Hernandez did when he referred to Carlos Beltran’s seventh-inning plate appearance as “the most important at-bat he’s had as a Met.” In actuality, it wasn’t an at-bat at all, but the walk he drew led to a run scored on a wild pitch, pulling the Mets within a run of the Phils and setting the stage for the real excitement. Ugie Urbina walked a pair in the bottom of the eighth and hung a scrumptious-looking breaking ball over the heart of the plate; Ramon Castro pounced on it and deposited into the left-field bleachers (the place some call The Bay of Pigs). You could see the mayhem, you could hear the hollering, and you could feel the jumping around, and that was just in my den. The Mets and the 35,000 folks at Shea went as berserk as you can when the game still has an inning to play – especially an inning of Braden Looper versus the top of the order. And it’s [gulp] all lefties.

1-2-3 in the ninth, like there was never a doubt.

And so the Mets continue their quickening creep northward in the standings. They’re still five games out of first in the NL East and in fourth place, but they’re now perched just a half-game out of the wild card spot behind these Phillies and the Marlins, tied with the Astros. It’s a logjam, and all the Mets need to think about is continuing to help themselves and letting the rest sort itself out.

Of additional note last night was a flop of an outing by Jae Seo, just as soon as the rotation controversies left him to swirl around other members of the staff. He allowed ten hits and four quick runs (three on two first-inning homers) through five, setting precisely the tone the Mets didn’t want for this game and this series. Credit the bullpen with sticking their finger in the dike, a by-now antiquated expression that may get this site blocked from your work. Meanwhile, to his credit, Carlos Beltran muffled some of that bad vibe with a first-inning home run of his own. Big night for Beltran. The Mets would be ecstatic to have him reach that level of stickwork he displayed in the last chapters of 2004, but really it’d be nice just to see him produce consistently in that 3-hole. It was funny last night – he had a bang-up night immediately following a sad diatribe from Hernandez lamenting his woes and saying he might not be able to get on track until next year. Well played, Keith.

Random Thought #1: Charlie Manuel was right to argue a blown call on a play at the plate, but his getting tossed may have cost him the game. There were several pitching changes that didn’t happen down the stretch that seemed obvious, even before they resulted in the predictable scenarios that foiled the Phils. Then again, I seem to remember Manuel himself making a few dunderheaded moves earlier this year, so perhaps it would have worked out the same way.

Random Thought #2: There’s scrappy, and then there’s weenie. Chase Utley whined he’d been hit by an inside pitch after the ball just did graze his sleeve in the ninth – after he blatantly leaned in to try to take the HBP for the team. The ump either didn’t see the poly-blend get brushed, or he wasn’t going to award it because of the lean; meanwhile, you could see Castro offer a look like, “Play ball, pansy.”

A great win for the Mets. Greatest, biggest, best, blah blah blah, all that really matters is that they’re right in there and playing winning baseball. I won’t tread on this theme for too much longer, but the feeling our boys have generated in the Township at this point in the season was utterly nonexistent over the past few years. They’re still a fourth-place team and only seven games over sea level, but they’re making me like their chances every time out. I like their energy, I like their hustle, I like their scrap. This has all the makings of what I’d call a . . . what’s that word?

Ah, yes. Resurgence.

When You're Right, You're Right

Games 128 through 130 - Red Sox

Red Sox 11, Tigers 3
Red Sox 10, Devil Rays 6
Red Sox 7, Devil Rays 6
Record: 76-54

I've been trying hard not to put words to my actual feelings regarding the Yankees and their recent run of good play. Then, Whitney goes and does it for me. And he just nailed it in the post below, so I'll refrain from rehashing in too much detail.

Nothing will ever take away from the joy I felt (and some days still feel - like yesterday when NESN showed an interview with Theo Epstein that recapped his October memories) last fall when the Sox went on their run for the ages. That said, a Yankee victory this fall would rapidly accelerate the natural memory-aging process, and it would salve that legion of pinstriped douchebags that cried "fluke" in the wake of the Sox' deflowering of Mystique and Aura. I don't hate the Yankees, per se, I just hate nearly all of their fans. The Yankees are certain to win another Series in my lifetime - just so long as it isn't this one, I'll live comfortably with it. Nice work, Whit.

Speaking of the Yankees, they continued to snap up Red Sox castoffs at an alarming rate. Now Vinny from the Bronx can wax apoplectic about Mark Bellhorn swinging fruitlessly over inside breaking pitches as well as vent splenetically (is that a word?) about Alan Embree's straightball. Eeyore, we hardly knew ye.

Epic win last night from the Sox, coming from 5-0 down to beat the Rays on Trot Nixon's 9th-inning single. Curt Schilling was abysmal in the game's first 2 frames, giving up ringing double after ringing double to the Rays. I was, more than anything, saddened by what I was watching, and ready to pronounce Schilling's season over - the proud warrior defeated by his mortality. Then, number 38 sacked up over his final 4 frames to shut the Rays out - and keep the dogs at bay for at least 1 more outing.

8 more at home before heading to the Bronx for what could be a season-defining 3-game tilt. Gotta take care of business on the home front first.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Dredging Up the Past, Feeling Good About the Present

Games 127 through 130 - Mets

Mets 3, Diamondbacks 1
Mets 1, Giants 0
Giants 2, Mets 1
Giants 4, Mets 1
Record: 68-62

The New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox, as well as their respective fan bases, each have their own reasons to hope and reasons to mope right about now, but there are vastly different vibes emanating from the two camps these days. A quick glance at recent entries on this blog tells the story, and it made me recall Rob's concise, accurate summation of the state of the union at the All-Star break last year:

Perspective's a Bitch
48-38, in 1st place in the Wild Card, and I'm a quivering blob of doubt and depression.
Mets: 44-43, in 4th place in the division, and Whit's quivering too, but it's his ample belly jiggling with gleeful laughter.

Flash-forward to today.
Sox: 74-54, in 1st place in the division, and while last autumn's visit to the mountaintop probably makes "quivering blob" inapplicable to any members of Red Sox Nation, there's definitely doubt, if not depression, and a bit of dread in the tones of MLC's other half.
Mets: 68-62, in 4th place in the division, 3rd place in the Wild Card, and while "gleeful laughter" may be overstating my current demeanor, there is a palpable sense of satisfaction radiating from Mets games in late August that actually matter.
Though the Nation may be giving its club a free pass this season, none of the die-hards are really going to be as flippant as they've waxed heretofore if the Sox tumble out of first place, and especially if they miss the playoffs. You can feel it in Rob's latest posts. Now, if the Sox simply don't repeat, it won't tear down what was built in 2004 for Boston; in fact, it may emphasize how difficult a feat it was and make the fans even prouder. However, there's one scenario in the various blueprints of the 2005 postseason that looms like a virus in the air outside Red Sox Nation's headquarters, and you know what it is. The only true disaster that would tarnish the untarnishable would be if the Yankees take the trophy this fall. And it would be awful.

Sox people know that the quickest way to heal, or at least medicate, the pains of past history is to win that championship. The Yankees and their truest supporters are still smarting from the pants-soiling that occurred at the hands of those Red Sox, though they'd never admit it. [Aloofness and indifference are handy towelettes when one's face is covered in embarrassing egg, but such a display either belies the true heartache of the fan or betrays the true lack of depth to the fanaticism. If you're a Yankee supporter and you tell me you weren't crushed by the events of last year's ALCS, you're either lying or a superficial fan, and in either case you should waive your right to revel obnoxiously when good fortune once again smiles upon the team that paid good money for it. Sadly, there are all too many in the latter category, as "the Yankee faithful" strays into misnomer all too often. At least the Sox fans wear their hearts on their sleeve; to a fault, many times, but it's more endearing than the arrogance.] Anyway, the one sure-fire way to strike back and stuff the recent bad memories into the Yankee subconscious would be to win it all this year, the baseball equivalent to topping a ringer in horseshoes. The Yanks fans desperately need this, and the Sox fans desperately need to avoid this outcome. Hence, all of the tension in those two camps.

Though the Nation is still donning the mask of the winner and may claim to be above the anguish if their rivals succeed them this year, I know it'd sear my salmon if I were a Bostonian. You can already hear the snide, unfunny taunts making their way throughout ballparks and e-mail inboxes everywhere. If the Sox could just guarantee that the Bombers wouldn't be storming the infield and hoisting the trophy after the last game of the 2005 season, they really could breathe easily, get about playing baseball, and let the chips fall where they may. Likewise, Rob and his ilk could enjoy watching the hometown nine give it that old college try without fretting over that one horrific result that might spoil so much good. They can't, and watching their angst from a galaxy far, far away, I'm enjoying the drama.

Meanwhile . . . the Mets have just as many problems as the Sox -- probably more. They just don't seem so pressing, and if those problems topple the Metmen in September, that's a full month to two months later than they've done so in years past. Yes, there are still concerns about second base while Miguel Cairo struggles with batting average anorexia and Kaz Matsui . . . plays like Kaz Matsui. There are still question marks in the bullpen, and exclamation points in the rotation when Steve Trachsel misses a start in favor of Victor Zambrano. Yet while we in the curious collective known as Mets Township reserve the right to pounce on the team at any time for horrid hitting, egregious errors and anything that could lead to the bubble-burst, right now that stuff just doesn’t bother us that much. This year's Mets have given us so much more to relish than the past two seasons combined, and the Mets are still kicking around in that batch of clubs called contenders. Rob can say it again . . . perspective's a bitch, all right.

Just for kicks, I dug up some of my own quotes from late August/early September posts of the last two seasons. This sampling of text should shed some light on why there's a pleasant calm surrounding all things Mets these days, even after the Mets went out to San Francisco and scored one run in each of three games. Enjoy one man's gradual slide into insanity . . .


"Really, really hoping that the Mets would be rained out, since there was no way they could come back from 3-0."

"The Wheel Has Fallen Off the Unicycle"

"Yearning for the Yesteryear of the 154-Game Season"

"Speaking of which, you pretty much know what kind of season it's been when you see that Roger Cedeno has been allowed 443 at-bats."

"So, let's recap the last couple of weeks. Loss after loss after loss, no hitting, no pitching, no fielding, low morale, low attendance . . . How 'bout them Red Sox?"

"What do you call bungee-jumping with no bungee cord? That's what the Mets did for 17 games, sandwiching a tiny win between two eight-game losing streaks."

"In the second half of this aesthetic equivalent of ipecac syrup, the Mets have suffered 4-game sweeps to the Braves, Phillies, and Expos. That leaves just the Marlins, who didn't have a four game series on the 2nd-half schedule. They did get swept in the only 3-game series they played against Florida, and they have the final trio of this season's games to make it 6 in a row. "

"Just a couple of weeks left in the Mets season. Not much ball left, and they're so off-target that you can't quite tell what they were really aiming at in the first place."

"Playing the Mets is like walking into a going out of business clearance sale. They're just giving everything away! Come on down before it's too late!"


"There's a little-known corollary to the 'Don't count your chickens' adage: If you know your eggs are all going to be duds eventually, cracking and rotting and scoring no chicks, count them all immediately and do the funky chicken all around the nest while you still have the chance. As applied to the New York Mets baseball organization, it translates: If you know full well the Mets will blow the lead, hell, you might as well go ahead and celebrate. Any lead is rare these days, and we all need something to cheer about on this dark desert highway towards the completion of this season."

"Gazing Up at Rock Bottom"

"These aren't meaningful games; these aren't even meaningful players. "

"We've go the no-name offense, the no-defense defense, and Fire Marshal Bill in the bullpen. The players just seem to want to get the season over with, a sentiment that corrodes winning percentages in the final months like little else."

"Recaps are for teams worth recapping, and the Mets ceased qualifying weeks ago."

"You Can Go Home Again (Though You'd Never Know It from Mets Baserunners)"

"On a related note, under Things I Learned This Season I can put that on those nights that the Mets are getting stomped by the 7th inning stretch (kind of like saying on those nights the sun actually sets, or on those nights Boston players do something really dorky or effeminate and yet it's still embraced by Red Sox Nation), I can load up on the Jamo's on the rocks, black the whole game out, and enjoy a pleasant good morning from wake-up until Sports Section perusal. Makes starting out the day significantly nicer, even with the headache, rot-gut, and tattered personal relationships."

"So as you can see, we don't need to delve any further into the recent past, especially when the future is now an entirely new shade of midnight black these days."

"There's nothing but worse news every day, and there's little positive to point to right now. There might be tomorrow, but not right now. I can't justify spending any more time bemoaning the sad state of affairs in Metville. I can't even make a joke here. It's just that numbing."

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Why Does First Place Feel Like Rock Bottom?

Games 125 through 127 - Red Sox

Royals 7, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 9, Tigers 8
Tigers 12, Red Sox 8
Record: 73-54

If you're counting, that makes 3 losses in 4 games to the Royals and Tigers. Last night's gutshot loss, with Bronson Arroyo unable to hold a 6-0 lead combined with the Royals' Bad News Bears remake against the Yankees trimmed the Sox' lead to 1.5 games over the Bombers, and it feels like only a matter of time before the Sox' fade to 2nd place is complete. I'll say it again - this Sox team just isn't very good right now.

I suppose I've gone through phases like this in each of the past 2 seasons, where my faith has been tested by a run of indifferent play. Unlike those 2 seasons, and despite the fact that the Sox are leading the division in August, I have absolutely zero belief in this team. Last year, I went all-in on the Sox several times - it was either a literary crutch borne of a dearth of creativity or a true believer's mantra; I choose the latter. This year, I'm not folding, but I might be checking...despite the fact that I don't think the opponents are holding very good hands.

That truth is the only thing that's keeping me sane at the moment - the Sox are deeply, deeply flawed, with a truly mediocre (at best) pitching staff, but the '27 Yankees aren't walking through that door, either. That the Nation is holding out hope for 2005 draft pick Craig Hansen to be the bullpen savior come September 1 is either a sign of keen baseball insight or vast desperation. Sadly, again I choose the latter. That New York's key additions are Shawn Chacon and Matt Lawton bespeaks the Yankees' similarly addled situation. Today, though, the Yankee roster is performing at a much higher level than the Sox'.

I got to the point last night where I had to turn the game off - I tuned in just in time to watch Trot Nixon's homer sail into the seats, giving the Sox a 5-0, 3rd inning lead. I took 45 minutes to put my daughters to bed and returned to the telecast in time to watch the Tigers plate their 5th run of the top of the 4th. Several expletives and a handful of innings later, my TV was tuned permanently to Tommy Boy. And I'm here to tell you that I can stick my head in a cow's ass, but that doesn't mean the Sox didn't butcher last night's game.

One minor light note over the last 3 days came from the always entertaining Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo. Roving reporting Eric Frede was interviewing Boston native and Sox fan John O'Herlihy in the Fenway stands, when O'Herlihy introduced his wife by saying, "We've been married for almost 2 years now, but she still has that new wife smell." Remy and Orsillo went into spasms of schoolboy chortling - which lasted for the better part of the half-inning, and had me in tears with them by the end. The lesson: men are pigs. But we're funny pigs, at least to ourselves. Gotta laugh, I guess, because these Sox are making me want to cry.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Closing Time, or, Bully for You

Games 123 & 124 - Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Royals 2
Royals 4, Red Sox 3 (11)
Record: 72-52

Schilling on the mound this evening in his return to the starting rotation - 3 hits for the Royals' first 7 batters. At least he's consistent. Make that 4-for-8. Sorry, 5-for-9. And Kevin Millar's displaying one of the most godawful throwing arms in major league history. 2-0 Royals in the bottom of the 2nd. I'm gonna start drinking. More. Spoke too soon, 6-for-11, 3-0 Royals.

The struggles of the Sox' erstwhile ace cast a recent theory of mine in sharp relief. Lost in the warm fuzzy glow that still tinges all things Red Sox is this simple fact: the 2005 Boston Red Sox really aren't very good. Sure, they're one of the league's top teams, and their offense is still probably the best in the bigs (most nights, though tonight's lineup that eschews Ortiz and Nixon in favor of Kapler and Millar says hi). They're even in first place in the AL East with 37 games to play. And still, they're not very good - at least not nearly as good as they were last year.

As the Yankees creep increasingly closer - only 3 games out as the Sox play tonight, and looking more and more like things are going to get that much more snug - while their pitching staff improves on a nighly basis, the Sox' glaring weakness sticks out like Gabi Reese at a Star Trek convention. They can't pitch. At least not on any consistent basis. The starters are at least mediocre, but the bullpen is flat horrific - next to last in the AL in ERA. Not gonna get it done, to say the least.

So it's taken me 124 games to figure this out, mostly because I'm still luxuriating in the memories of last October. And, to be sure, the American League has no dominant team, so the Sox have as good a chance as anyone to be the Cardinals' punching bag in the World Series. Still, I don't think the Sox can win anything worth writing home about - including the AL East, which my pre-realistic mind considered almost a foregone conclusion - as they're currently consituted. Would be a bit of a nutpunch to watch the Yankees pass the Sox this season, but I'd call it a coin flip at this point based upon what I see today.

The Sox do have 24 of their final 36 games at home, which is a bright spot. About to lose 2 of 3 to the league's worst team - not quite as sparkly. 7 hits in 12 ABs for the Royals against Schilling now. Downright dingy.