Friday, June 01, 2007

Duncan Sheik

Game 52 - Red Sox

Indians 8, Red Sox 4
Record: 36-16

Didn't see any of this game, as my appointed rounds as one of a miserable collection of softball misfits took precedence. I've been on the receiving end of a few drubbings in my day, but none quite so demoralizing as the twin 20+ run ass-whippings our inept squad absorbed. As I've told Whit and Teejay, my agent is calling a press conference to announce the likely end of my playing career. I'm preparing my emotional farewell speech (and still writing that primer on proper selection of at-bat music).

As the Sox race past the 50-game mark as the league's hottest team, my natural tendencies are locked in mortal struggle with the tangible, demonstrable facts. Part of me worries of channeling Chris Farley in Tommy Boy, hugging and loving this new pet so much that it suffocates under the weight of the long, hot summer and reminds me why we gave this blog its name. Another part of me (more of me, at this point) looks at the objective facts and the subjective viewpoint that comes from watching the Sox closely and sees real reason to believe.

Let's not dance around the issue. Every Sox fan old enough to remember 1978 will be holding his or her breath for the next 4 months, because until the Sox vanquish that demon, it'll always be there, holding its little corked bat and taunting us. 2004 washed away nearly all of the accumulated existential angst of a Nation. Nearly all, but some scars are deeper than others. The Sox still haven't won the AL East since 1995, and of all the tears shed in my lifetime over fate's cruel intervention, those that fell after Yaz's popup to Craig Nettles in the 1978 playoff stung the most.

I'm not going to spend much time on a specific 50-game recap, because I've basically been saying the same thing for the past month. In haiku form, then:

The pitching sublime
Youkilis, bearded beast-man
Please hit, J.D. Drew

You could argue that there's a little more depth required, and you'd be right, but the fact of the matter from my biased (and lazy) perspective is that not much has gone really wrong for the Sox over the season's first third. The cause for optimism is bolstered by the realization that while lots of things worked for the Sox, not all that many things have gone spectacularly well other than the team's record. A few guys are overachieving (Youks, Okajima, Lowell, Pedroia, Snyder, Beckett - though I'd argue he's reaching his potential, not pitching over his head), but more are achieving in line with expectations (Ortiz, Manny, Wake, Schilling, Matsuzaka, Papelbon, Pineiro, Varitek), and a few keys are still significantly underperforming, (Drew, Crisp, Lugo, Donnelly in May, Romero). The whole, it seems thus far, is greater than the sum of the parts - perhaps a nod to Terry Francona and the convivial vibe that this team casts off is in order.

The cause for concern is stated in the irrational echoes of the 1000 or so posts that precede this one - I won't belabor the point.

This week's installment of Armageddon kicks off tonight in Fenway as the Yankees come to town for a three-game set. As the estimable Peter Gammons noted this morning, the series means a great deal more to the New Yorkers than to the Sox. I might exhale slightly for a week or so if the Sox can take two of three.

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