Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Boggling of a Mind

Games 60 & 61 - Red Sox

Chicago Cubs 14, Red Sox 6
Cubs 7, Red Sox 6
Record: 32-29

The above-titled boggling comes courtesy of Joe Morgan in the intro to tonight's ESPN telecast of the Sox/Cubs series finale. He said something that rings completely and totally true to me - which is just shocking enough to utterly alter my worldview. Up is down, white is black, the Sox suck on ice (oh, wait - that part's dead-on)...

Morgan said, "The Red Sox don't seem to have any sense of urgency." And Morgan is right smack on the button with that assessment. Batting Kevin Youkilis 3rd in a game that the Sox must win in order to avoid a sweep is evidence of Terry Francona's lack of urgency (and literally as that sentence enters the ether, Youkilis takes a ball over the fence for his first homer of the season - like Morgan, I remain a freaking moron. Though Doug Mirabelli's base-running brain fart redeems us just a little.) Urgent teams don't wander through the season's first 2 1/2 months, underperforming on a daily basis. The silver lining, if there is one, is that the Sox had an even longer stretch of doldrums after last year's hot start, and snapped out of it in time to...well, you know what they did.

On the other hand, Yogi Berra once said, "You are what you are." Okay, he may not have said that, but it's true. At some point, the Sox are what they are. And what they are with 101 games left in the season is me-di-o-cre. Cue showtunes:

M is for the way Mark Bellhorn misses the ball - a league-leading 68 Ks in 185 at bats. And if it seems that I've spent a lot of energy in this space taking shots at Bellhorn, well, I have - he's the posterboy for the reason why baseball people take shots at Moneyball philosophy. There's a fine line between patient and catatonic, and Bellhorn's about to need a crash cart.

E is very, very extraordinary, and so is Alan Embree's level of suck. Keith Foulke's not been far behind. In fact, the entire pitching staff sports a 5.08 ERA - dreck.

D is either for dreadful, which describes Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo over the past month or so, or for disabled, which has been fitting for too many important cogs - most notably Curt Schilling.

I is for invisible, which fits Manny to a T thus far in 2005. The enigmatic slugger's carrying a .248 average and a sub-.900 OPS into mid-June, and he's been even quieter than those numbers suggest.

O is for one of the bright spots - Ortiz. Papi seems hell-bent on proving that his eye-opening 2004 was no fluke. I can't name 3 more fearsome hitter in the AL.

C is for calm, which is not an apt description for me during Sox telecasts - of which I've seen significantly more during this, my initial foray into the joys of the Extra Innings package. Too much of a good thing, indeed.

R is for road warriors, a pretty good description of the Sox to date. Boston's played 35 of 61 (36 of 62 after tonight) in opponent's parks, and they haven't played well in those parks. The Sox are 17-9 in Fenway and 15-20 elsewhere. Their ERA is 1.18 runs higher on the road (5.60 vs. 4.42) while their OPS is .807 at home and .773 away from the Fens. If nothing else, having 55% of the rest of their games at home is something to hold onto. A meager something, but beggars can't be choosers.

And finally, E is for eh. Eh, because I'm watching this team underperform and I can't muster more than surface-level angst. Eh, because I'm giving them what they're giving me - uninspired performances. Eh, because after winning the World Series - and I hate this, but I can't shake it - they get a little bit of a pass this year. Bill Simmons is right. I get breaking-stuff angry during individual games, but unlike previous seasons, I've mostly been able to let it go from day to day. My moods haven't been colored by winning and losing streaks - and thank God for that. Lotta ball left, and if this flat play continues and the Sox continue to be on the outside looking in at the playoffs I leave open the possibility that I will unleash a full-scale nutty. Just isn't gonna happen tonight.

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