Friday, August 25, 2006

Insane in the Brain

Games 126 & 127 – Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Angels 4
Red Sox 2, Angels 1
Record: 71-56

I’m slowing regaining equilibrium after last weekend’s traveshamockery, but even as the good guys find ways to win again, the S.S. Red Sox continues to take on water. Last night, as the Sox played their second straight game with Manny Ramirez on the bench with a knee injury, Josh Beckett pitched like Josh Beckett for the first time in weeks. Right up until he cut his finger/incurred a blister in the top of the 7th inning.

All this on top of the news that David Ortiz spent Saturday night in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat that first surfaced after Friday’s twin-killing at the hands of the Yankees. (Insert joke about Sox fans experiencing heart pains during the Yankee series here.) This morning, Mark Loretta was seen walking around the team hotel wearing a dress and a Toledo Mud Hens hat and mumbling something about getting a Section 8 discharge. Hawkeye Schilling just sat back with a bemused look on his face, half-bombed on homemade gin, while Sherman T. Francona tried to figure out why the front office had called Gary Burghoff up from Pawtucket to play middle infield.

In the midst of all this carnage, the Sox picked up a game on the Yankees for the first time in a week. There’s a seed of something germinating deep, deep in the loamy soil of my imagination, and its microscopic form looks something like befuddling, illogical optimism. After spending the entire season riding high and then watching the whole thing come crashing back to the mean, the Sox suddenly find themselves in the often-enviable position of underdogs.

Realistically, these are still the same Sox that are 55-54 against American League opposition (in point of fact, these are a much weaker version of those Sox). The current roster, as related ad nauseum in this space, is a curious mix of stopgaps and prayers, with a still-healthy apportionment of studs (assuming Papi’s ticker holds out). As MLC regular (and that rarest of species, a Yankee fan without a sense of entitlement) Teejay Doyle noted to me Wednesday evening, the Sox thought they’d have an opportunity to let young arms like Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen, Jon Lester, and even Jonathan Papelbon gain some seasoning this year – not be forced into the breach repeatedly in high-leverage situations. And still, they’ve got a chance.

The psychology of teams has always fascinated me – some clubs excel as frontrunners, while others spit the bit and fade, or run better from back in the pack. Some clubs need a bit of adversity, need to get punched in the mouth and taste their own blood before they fulfill their potential – anyone remember the 2004 Boston Red Sox?

Maybe it’s the caffeine talking. Maybe I’m just compensating after the soul-crushing events of last weekend. Maybe the Sox will get thumped tonight by the Mariners and I’ll come back here tomorrow and disavow this entire post. But I’m starting to wonder if this team isn’t the personification of the old maxim: if it don’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger.

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