Sunday, April 17, 2005

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

Games 11 & 12 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Devil Rays 2
Red Sox 3, Devil Rays 1
Record: 7-5

As my weekend draws to a close and I bang away at the keyboard to the dulcet tones of Jon Miller (and the grating inanity of Joe Morgan, but I'm in a good mood, so we'll let that go), I sit here and wonder how I ever called myself a baseball fan before this weekend. Indulgence, thy name is MLB Extra Innings.

By my count, I saw significant parts of 12 different games over the past 2 days (Rays/Sox - twice, Yankees/O's - twice, Marlins/Mets, D-Backs/Nationals, Angels/A's - twice, Braves/Phils, Giants/Rockies, Cardinals/Brewers, Dodgers/Padres), without even trying hard. I accomplished this without being a complete couch potato, squeezing all that hardball action in amongst spending significant time working on the yard and attending a local music and art festival with the family. Extra Innings might well be the greatest thing that's ever happened to me.

The package also allowed me to uncover a shocking conspiracy. I was flipping between Saturday night's Sox/Rays game and D-Backs/Nationals contest from RFK Stadium in D.C. The crowd noise in Fenway, even during lulls in the action, was clearly audible, and painted an aural picture of an engaged, excited fanbase. In D.C, though, the noise in the stadium - even in the midst of a 7-run inning - was so muffled as to create the impression that the Nationals' fans were asleep. The Nats' game was aired by the newly created Mid Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). MASN is owned by...wait for it...Peter Angelos. The same Peter Angelos who has significant motive for portraying Nationals games as boring, lifeless affairs. And if you think Angelos is above a sleazy trick like filtering crowd noise to take away from the atmosphere in Washington...well, I'm very sorry to break this to you, Mr. Selig.

All that said, I purchased the package to watch Sox games, and I saw all of both of this weekend's contests against the Rays. Forget the action on the field: I had no idea that Jerry Remy was this good. During the pre-game on Saturday night, Remy isolated Manny Ramirez' last at-bat from Friday's game, predicting that the Sox' slugger would break out of his early-season slump because of the balance he demonstrated in singling against Casey Fossum. 4 innings later, Remy looked prescient in the wake of Manny's 6 RBI on 2 no-doubt rockets over the Monster. The former Sox second-sacker is droll, knowledgeable, and appropriately biased (read: a Sox fan but not afraid to point out their failings). I'm looking very much forward to spending the summer with the Remdog.

Another non-game-related note: Devil Ray infielder Jorge Cantu tucks his ears under his cap. It's the damnedest thing I've seen in a long time. Is he a Vulcan? How do they measure his cap size - do they wrap the tape around his ears, too? Does anyone else do this, or is he the bleeding edge of a trend that'll show up on teenagers in my neighborhood by July? And if so, am I being just an old dick if I laugh at them for this, too? Cantu ends the same way as Nosferatu - is he perhaps a vampire, and if so, are they bat ears?

Matt Clement was effective on Saturday night, and Tim Wakefield continued his scorching start this afternoon. And the similarities between the two of the are the only thing that has me second-guessing the Extra Innings purchase. I've pretty much guaranteed myself of extreme levels of nervous agita 40% of the time when I turn on a Sox game for the next 6 months. Clement is Wake-lite - capable of making batters look silly nearly every time out, and capable of walking every single man he faces and grooving 0-2, 2-out meatballs to start opposing rallies (hello, Jorge Cantu, you weird-eared freakshow) with annoying regularity.

The rest of the Sox are firing on all cylinders at the moment, hitting the ball hard and often, fielding as well as I can remember a Sox team fielding (recall, if you will, that this team committed 8 errors in the first 2 games of the World Series), and getting solid pitching from everyone on the staff. Edgar Renteria's had some key hits, Manny's bat woke up in a big way this weekend, Mark Bellhorn took a break from striking out to get a few big knocks, Alan Embree's made big pitches when he's been called upon (which, frankly has been just about every game), and even Jay Payton's driven in 6 runs already this season. 4-game winning streaks cure just about all ills.

And 4-game winning streaks on the same day that I get to hear Vin Scully (!) call a Dodger game are simply sublime.

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