Sunday, September 30, 2007


Game 162 - Mets

Marlins 8, Mets 1
Final Record: 88-74
2nd Place in NL East, 1 GB Philadelphia, 1 GB wild card

No postseason

Stunning. Staggering. Incomprehensible. There are several dozen other descriptors for what happened, but there's no point in trying to list them out. There's no good to come out of digging deep into our hearts and recording the agony of this day, this season. As fast as we can walk -- run -- away from this wreckage, the sooner we can clear our minds of it and simply leave a scar.

How bad is this? As it has since spring training, the truth lies somewhere between Willie Randolph's stoicism and the blogosphere's fanaticism. It's bad, but in January, I got a phone call telling me one of my best friends was dead. This isn't in the same conversation. In August, I got another informing me my dad's house had burned to the ground (fortunately empty of people). This isn't close to that. Between the months of October and March, I dealt with a ruinously horrible human being who happened to become my boss, a brutal saga only curtailed by my resignation. This approaches that feeling . . . but no.

All of that said, this is still more anguish than the non-Mets fan, non-sports fan can fathom. My wife tried -- somewhat, but clearly in vain -- to empathize, but truly all she could offer was "Sorry about the Mets." There is no sense in trying to explain. Ever since I wore a toddler-sized Mets cap I've placed all too much emotional freight on the Met train; it's the way I was groomed to be by the family elders I curse today. And the hardest part of it? I love the game of baseball, there are four more weeks of it, and any thought of the sport is a punch in the gut. Every sight, sound, newspaper article, commercial, promo, TV listing, magazine cover, or stranger wearing a ballcap is that fucking 12-year-old kid shouting at me on a rainy October morning, "Mets suck! Mets suck! Mets suck!"

There may be more to blog about, but this is about it for now. Right now, if I had to decide, I'd tell Rob I want to discontinue Misery Loves Company. Five seasons in, I feel like I'm getting the lion's share of the misery. I put too much effort, too much thought, and too much heart into this endeavor -- none of which I felt was matched this year by the team I supported. I want out of the whole thing.

Of course, six good months of licking wounds and fading memories will, as always, change my mind. (I hope.) Reasoned thought will replace what's passing for it now. Thoughts of having Minaya, Randolph, and just for the fuck of it, Wilpon & Wilpon, strapped to a wall next to Reyes, Glavine, Mota, Feliciano, and the entire 40-man roster for a public flogging will gradually evaporate. My demands for firings and unconditional releases will be rescinded. My Mets caps and shirts, quickly and decisively shelved this evening, will make their way back in the rotation. Mentions of anything Met-related by folks I encounter will elicit reactions that make their way from dismissive groans to "I don't wanna talk about it" to something approaching rational discourse to actual perspective.

It takes time, though, so you don't want to know from me on this day.

Back to "How bad is this?": I'd say what I'm feeling right now is akin to the time my long-time girlfriend broke up with me. The Mets, like myself, had a good thing going, totally blew it, and now there's a lot of pain for both them and us tonight. Just like then, I saw it coming for a while but dwelled in denial. And I'm getting a slew of similarly sheepish condolences from the guys I know. Like that episode, I'll get over this in time -- and like then, probably fairly quickly. It's building character, wisdom, and experience in me by the moment. And in the meantime, I'm forging an even closer relationship with friends. (Back then it was James B. Beam. Tonight it's Arthur Guinness.) Plus, my next few weeks just got totally freed up and I'll end up saving money in the long run! Huh . . . I guess everything happens for a reason, and something better is surely right around the next corner. (Wow, even the bullshit rationalization is the same.)

I don't feel too great right now, but in the immortal words of a former colleague of mine (for three weeks), "I just say FIDO . . . Fuck it. Drive on."

The Clash

Game 161 - Mets

Mets 13, Marlins 0
Record: 88-73

I generally don't "ask" for stuff for my birthday, much to my family's chagrin, but this year I did -- and when that day rolled around a week or so ago, I pretty much got everything I'd asked for and then some. Great birthday, for many more reasons than great gifts.

I generally ask for a million things during the course of a Mets season, and yesterday I pretty much got everything I'd asked for and then some. Great day, for a few reasons other than Mets-related gifts, but it was mostly about baseball results.

The problem is, there's one more day in the regular season (at least). Between the razor-sharp pitching of John Maine, no chance for the bullpen to blow it and not even a step in that direction, a massive attack of hits and runs, and the fisticuffs I half-heartedly suggested two months ago to light a fire under our guys . . . well, let's just hope they Mets didn't blow their wad in one glorious afternoon. Somehow we have to find a way to keep the adrenaline circulating for at least one more day.

The Marlins, as if paid off by the Wilpon trust, seem to be helping to do just that. Not only did they ignite a spark by throwing at, around, and behind Luis Castillo, and not only did Marlin catcher and Kevin Millar's batting instructor Miguel Olivo start a mini-mêlée with a misinformed exchange with Jose Reyes that led to him punching Sandy Sr., but the quotables they issued after the game are just the potables the Mets can slug back to keep the fire in their belly. Thanks, guys.

Olivo talked about having his manhood challenged (by a grinning, goofing Reyes); it's standard LaRussian fare, trite and almost laughable in this context, loosely translated as "I don't like the way this game or this season is going, so I'll blame someone else and lead with my fist." He's Ike Clanton in Tombstone. Well played. Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez sent a few foul words the Mets' way as well, indicating that he plans to lead the charge to give our boys a beatdown. We'll see.

But thank you, Marlins. A million thank yous. I can only hope you've woken up a slumbering beast.

Meanwhile, down in Brother-Love town, Brett Myers and others have indicated a similar distaste for the Amazins. The '07 team of mild-mannered stars is a far, far cry from the moustaches, smirks, fist-pumps, and finger-points of the brash '86 team, and yet there's similar venom swelling in the others. Unlike the Marlins' misdirected pouting over an overblown occurrence, though, the Phils' hate is less about an incident or a player, it's that "I hate the Mets, their fans, their town, their organization, everything about them." God bless 'em. That's what rivalries are all about.

One of our cousin-blogs had a running commentary about football's NFC East and the rivalries and mutual loathings that bounce around the division. The fans feel the decades-old "hatred," if such a word is suitable for sports (and I think it is), and all we really want is for the players to sense it, tap into it, get a charge from it, and if we're really lucky, feel the hate, too. That's rare these days. It would be hard for the Mets and Phillies to have that mutual bitterness, if only because this is virtually the first time in their 46 years of divisional co-existence that they've grappled each other for the crown. Still, fans of both sides already have buckets full of the contempt that familiarity brings, largely fueled by other showdowns in other sports. That the players themselves might also be tiring quickly of the opponent's antics can't help but elevate the excitement.

It would be a real shame if yesterday's mild bench-clearer was the event to unite the guys on the New York Mets, but it was too late to make a difference. Highly-paid professionals certainly shouldn't need an extraneous circumstance to foster the drive and determination to excel when there's this much on the line this afternoon, but human beings are peculiar animals. The hari-kari of the last few weeks has eluded comprehension, so logic and rational points have no place here.

I'm frazzled and out of it and nervous and jittery and to be honest, I'm not sure what day it is. The opening chords and lines of the first song on Jane's Addiction's album Ritual de lo Habitual seem to be the quintessential rev-up to this game . . . "Here we go!" Problem is, the song is called "Stop." My head is spinning about just about everything right now.

I'm only focused on one thing today, and all I can ask is that the same can be said of a dugout full of guys wearing blue & orange as they strap it on for either the epilogue to a tragedy or the key scene in a multi-part heroic saga.

Stay tuned. I will. Here we go.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Game 160 - Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Twins 2
Record: 95-65
American League East Champions

So this is a bit awkward. I can't help but feeling a mite guilty about the gleeful ending to my evening, watching Jonathan Papelbon run around Fenway in his underwear, Mike Lowell and Mike Timlin cavorting like 5 year-olds, a bunch of grown men donning swim goggles and dousing each other and the fans in champagne and Bud Light. You'd be very hard-pressed to find another moment in the history of this blog when our respective outlooks were this polar.

And since we're sharing, let me get this off my chest: despite my measured protests to the contrary, I cared - really, really cared about winning the division. All that 'let the chips fall where they may' nonsense was pure psychological defense mechanism. Really glad I can admit that now in the soft afterglow of the Sox' first division title since 1995. Melvin Mora and his Tom Berenger imitation has set me free.

I didn't get to celebrate properly, as I'm one day away from an epically stupid attempt to run, mountain bike, and canoe 35 miles or so through the Northern Virginia woods. That, and even as I'm overjoyed by the division championship, I can't help but admit that the thrill will be diminished if the Sox don't put some post-season icing on the cake. I'll be away from the television for the better part of the rest of the weekend, so I'll leave the stage to the Mets and their comeback.

Late addition, just because Papelbon is my kind of moron:

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Dead Boys

Game 160 - Mets

Marlins 7, Mets 4

Record: 87-74
1 GB Philadelphia in NL East, 2 GB San Diego for Wild Card

Just a few thoughts - I'll spend more time on this game later. Ah, fuck it, no I won't. I'm too goddamned numb. All the troops in the Township are putting on brave faces, talking about making history, win one at a time, blah blah blah. And maybe that's what we're all supposed to say, but I can't bring myself to do it. The Mets have been so completely outclassed physically and mentally in this stretch, that even winning tomorrow night's game would rank as a massive upset, let alone making the playoffs.

I simply am not smart enough or talented enough to put adequate words to my utter disappointment with these Mets. It would be one thing if they'd played these games close and lost heartbreakers because of bad luck or quirky bounces. But they have simply not deserved to win any of the games they've lost. Stupid plays, indifferent fielding, and godawful pitching have overcome any spark provided by their prolific bats - and the fact that they've scored 34 runs in the last eight games is the lone bright spot, despite it being just two more than the Nats scored last fucking series. The Mets deserve to be eliminated, plain and simple. And that is just abjectly painful to admit.

Van Halen

Game 159 - Red Sox

Twins 5, Red Sox 4
Record: 94-65

It was Back to School Night in my little hamlet, so I caught exactly none of this game. Thornton Mellon, however, continues to slay me.

Since I have very little to say about the Sox, I come here then to offer some small succor to my colleague, for whom I am fairly lousy company at the moment. Back on September 25, 2004, I wrote the following about a stumbling group of idiots:
I said some months ago that this team would squeeze into the playoffs
on sheer talent, despite their poor play for a the majority of the season, and
that their relief in making the postseason in the midst of massive expectations
would be the jet fuel that propelled them headlong into immortality. I believe
it more now than I did then. They burned brightly in winning 25 of 30 games to
get into position to make the playoffs, and are now in the middle of a slow,
fading arc until the end of the regular season. They'll fire the engines one
more time, slingshot around the slower traffic in front of them, and scream
headlong into history. Pretty decent amount of ball left. Stay on target.

Things turned out okay for those guys, as I recall. And I do, so very often.

Not sure if that helps much, my friend, but here's to the Mets staying on target.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Last Resort

Game 159 - Mets

Cardinals 3, Mets 0
Record: 87-72

It's all incredibly uncanny . . . in addition to being an emotional disemboweling for those of us who haven't fled the Township in terror. The Cardinals, as if wanting to keep the Mets fans' hate for them at a simmer, send Joel Pineiro to the hill and he blanks the Mets. Blanks 'em -- when they've been notching six a runs a game with ease lately. Pedro throws as well as could be expected, maybe better (no thanks to Luis Castillo, who set the tone nicely by creating an unearned run in the 1st), and yet it's not enough.

The friggin' Cardinals -- if anything, we owed you one, you sons of bitches. Unbelievable.

Meanwhile, down in Philthadelphia, the fucking Braves issued one of the most hapless, soulless, and blatantly gutless displays possible for the second night in a row. There was a playoff-like atmosphere in Philly tonight, which should have been a clear indication of the choke job the Atlanta Braves would cough up. How I didn't see that coming . . . It almost felt illegal -- had they tanked it intentionally, they would have invariably looked more into the game. Sure, they ended up making it sort of close, but more bumbling errors (Chipper's meager and game-changing attempt last night needs an investigation) plus Met-killer John Smoltz sticking it to Glavine yet again with his own pants-crapping just reeked of a hated rival screwing our guys over any way they could. Fuck the Braves. Could not despise you more. Fuck you, Braves.

And yet . . . how can we blame anyone at all except the miserable Mets? All they needed to do was limp down the stretch to the finish, beating horrible teams half the time, maybe less. Not only have they not done it, they've melted down in every which-a-way possible. It's lampoonish, but nobody 'round these parts is chuckling.

Memo to all players, coaches, and executives in the New York Mets organization: The Washington Nationals are not a good a baseball team. Maybe the .453 winning percentage should've told you. They made each and every one of your pitchers look like they should consider a new vocation. The St. Louis Cardinals are a pathetic shell of the team they were a year ago, with season-ending injuries, national controversies, death, and other mild maladies decimating the club. They just shut you out when they had zero to play for and you had it all on the line. What the fucking flapjack roller-skate piece of crap tin foil Florida Marlins will do to you butternut pilgrims over the weekend might border on the criminal -- except that the violence will be of the cartoon variety, what with you caricature Bugs Bunny assclowns tripping over your sloppy selves from innings 1 to 9.

I want to give up on you. I deserve to, and if I had a rational stitch in my lobotomized head, I damn well would. I'd spend tomorrow night with friends, yukking it up over crunchy crudités and crisp Colorado ales, or with my young children, laughing and playing as only carefree, naïve youths who don't know the Mets score can. What will I end up doing, though? Donning yet another wanna-be lucky cap, drinking myself into vague numbness, and shouting at you as you sleepwalk through another contest with emotionless visages in the New York night.

I know you need to keep an even keel from top to bottom, but it just feels like I care a hell of a lot more about this than you guys do. I want to say I know that's not true, but it's hard. It's a gut-twisting, week-ruining, stranger-kicking kind of anxious, mostly internalized ire that I'm walking around town with now. It's torturous, and the only reason I'm still clinging to the rope of hope -- you know, the one tied to the trailer hitch as you careen wildly across the gravelly parking lot and into the pricker bushes while the guy in the flatbed throws darts at my eyes, ears and mouth -- is that there is still every chance (and by every I mean more fleeting than a BetaMax tape of Pauly Shore's career paid for with Susan B. Anthony dollars) that you bastards might pull this out.

Make no mistake: if you do, it will be a drop-to-your-knees, utterly overwhelming kind of redemptive, glorious moment that we couldn't possibly have felt if you had played the past week with the tiniest of sparks. If you don't, it will be career-defining ignominy for some of you and a truly bitter eternal memory for the rest. It will be baseball history, and not the good kind. You'll be referenced and embarrassed every year at this time. You'll be one very big and very bad joke.

But for God's sake, don't think about that now. All I want to see between now and Sunday evening is a non-stop manner of play that will make us say, "Those guys left every ounce of it out on that field. Wow." If we can really feel like you went through it right next to us, giving as much of your mental energy, physical stamina, concentration, sweat, effort, hustle, prayers, and just the best you've got, we'll all die together and be proud to be buried alongside one another. Or maybe we'll all be part of something historically great. Either way.

If we can't feel that, then go fuck yourselves. You're the fucking Braves. But right now my money's going the other way, despite every sensible instinct shouting out vehemently against it. Motherfucker, I'm a Mets fan -- Township-variety, and we simply know no other way than to get on the goddamn bus, sign our lives away, grab a cup, and see where this fucking thing takes us. All aboard.

Faith No More (redux)

Game 158 - Mets

Nationals 9, Mets 6
Record: 87-71

Back and forth, I sway with the wind
Resolution slips away again
Right through my fingers, back into my heart
Where it's out of reach and it's in the dark
Sometimes I think I'm blind
Or I may be just paralyzed
Because the plot thickens every day
And the pieces of my puzzle keep crumblin' away
But I know, there's a picture beneath

Indecision clouds my vision
No one listens...
Because I'm somewhere in between
My love and my agony
You see, I'm somewhere in between
My life is falling to pieces
Somebody put me together

Layin' face down on the ground
My fingers in my ears to block the sound
My eyes shut tight to avoid the sight
Anticipating the end, losing the will to fight
Droplets of "yes" and "no"
In an ocean of "maybe"
From the bottom, it looks like a steep incline
From the top, another downhill slope of mine
But I know, the equilibrium's there

Indecision clouds my vision
No one listens
Because I'm somewhere in between
My love and my agony
You see, I'm somewhere in between
My life is falling to pieces
Somebody put me together

Frank Sinatra or AFI (reader's choice)

Game 158 – Red Sox

Red Sox 11, A’s 6
Record: 94-64

Love is a Manny-splendored thing, indeed. Or, in English, it sure is super-terrific to have #24 back in the lineup, even if in a limited capacity.

Yesterday’s 5:00 EST start meant that I only saw the final handful of innings, so I missed most of Manny’s 3-for-3, 2R, 1BI, 1BB performance. Regardless, the reappearance of his bat in the lineup augurs nothing but good things for the Sox’ postseason chances. There's something poetic in the way he drops the barrel of his bat and hammers a pitch on a line into right field.

The win over the A’s was a textbook example of how the Sox’ offense needs to operate to give the good guys a chance to win in October. Keep the game close early, chase the opposing starter, and feast on the soft underbelly of the opposing bullpen. All of the AL playoff teams (the Angels, Indians, and Evil Empire) have strong late relief (Joe Borowski notably excepted, but the Tribe’s got sick setup guys), but they’re all vulnerable in middle relief. Dustin Pedroia’s rocket homer in the 6th was the launch pad for the Sox’ 6 runs against the A’s bullpen, and a blueprint for next month.

Shifting gears now, and grinding metal against metal. An honest assessment of the quality of my efforts here over the past month leaves this observer with the feeling that something’s missing. That something is honesty, and I’m afraid to tell you that you won’t be getting it anytime soon. I may allude to it here, but some unseen force is rebuffing my efforts to come clean. If I were truly and fully open about my feelings regarding the Yankees and the Sox and the stretch run, you’d be forced to call my doctor and have me taken away for observation. Maybe when the season’s over I’ll let it out – the catharsis might be freeing.

For now, you’ll get that tease and like it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Game 157 – Red Sox

Red Sox 7, A’s 3
Record: 93-64

In the words of Jerry Remy, “Don, this has been a weird game, hasn’t it?” I know your name probably isn’t Don, but the point is otherwise spot-on. Last night’s strange brew of a contest featured, among other things:

Manny Ramirez batting second in his return to the Sox’ lineup after an extended
injury-related absence.

J.D. Drew going 3-for-4 with a run-scoring walk and seemingly finally figuring out that the Green Monster could be his friend.

Oakland starter Chad Gaudin pitching 4 relatively strong innings before walking the first 4 batters in the bottom of the 5th.

A’s infielder Marco Scutaro striking out 3 consecutive times after only whiffing once in his previous 64 at-bats.

Eric Gagne struggling to protect a 3-run lead in the top of the 8th. Wait – that’s not weird in the least. The weird part was Tito using Jonathan Papelbon to bail him out and being willing to use Paps for a 4-out save in a game where every other move seemed geared towards getting the team focused on the postseason. Manny left the game after 3 at-bats, Curt Schilling was lifted after 86 pitches, and, well, Papelbon was in line for a 4-out save - until the Sox scored 3 in the bottom of the 8th to take a 6-run lead and let Tito off the hook…

Except that Brian Corey tried to light himself on fire in the top of the 9th, allowing the tying run to reach the on-deck circle with only 1 out…

Only to be bailed out when Dustin Pedroia’s nice running grab on a pop to shallow right turned into a baffling game-ending double-play.

On top of all that, the Yankees blew a 5-0 lead to the Devil Rays and lost in 10 innings. As I said, weird.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Little Feat

Game 157 - Mets

Nationals 10, Mets 9
Record: 87-70

Blast. That was close to being something. As it turned out, it was nothing.

Maybe six ninth-inning runs and a damn fine comeback that fell just short isn't quite nothing, but the time for moral victories expired long ago. If we're simply looking for signs of life amid losses to one of the league's doormats, I just registered for postseason tickets in utter vain.

It's a simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball. Going 1-for-3 is great for a batting average, but where those three elements are concerned, it spells doom.

You got trouble
And it's tailor made
Well mama, lay your head down in the shade
'Cause your eyes are tired, and your feet are, too
And you wish the world was as tired as you
Well I'll write a blogpost, and I'll send it away
And put all the trouble in it you had today

. . . Oh, Atlanta -- thanks.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Ohio Players

Games 153 through 156 - Mets

Mets 9, Marlins 6
Mets 7, Marlins 2
Mets 7, Marlins 6
Nationals 13, Mets 4
Record: 87-69

The Mets are sandbagging it. Gotta be. Nobody can look this bad against the Washington Nationals every time out. There's a master plan afoot, not as well documented or as much lamented as the one in the other half of the MLC camp, but some kind of a strategy wherein the Mets are going to limp into the playoffs under the radar, then rally like the cohesive unit they haven't been since two (calendar) seasons ago. Gotta be. Because if they're really this bad . . . lord have mercy.

Over the four-gamer against the Marlins, the Mets looked this dreadfully ordinary from time to time, but they did what it took to snag three of four. Ugly wins are still wins, and to rebound from the Thursday night ipecac they way they did was noteworthy.

Almost . . . too noteworthy. It was too comfortable, that little cushion between them and the Phillies -- and we're talking I-AA football game promotional local hardware store free giveaway seat padding "little cushion." Still too much easy breathing for the Met in royal blue and blaze orange, I guess. We've mentioned how the 2006 World Series teams stumbled down a flight of stairs at the end of the regular season en route to postseason success. Were the Mets so stunned by their NLCS defeat that they've taken to utmost emulation?

The Nationals. The Nats. The Gnats. The esrtwhile Expos. The team put together by MLB's executive office, a superstar crew that couldn't assemble a toddler Lego set, much less a baseball roster. Once again they looked like a dominant force, compared to our New York Mets. Staggeringly so.

Mike Pelfrey made quick work of the Nats early, then faltered as if to say, "I'm really more of a four-inning guy." Keith Hernandez has made his displeasure about the coddling of young pitchers well known; by keeping their pitch counts very low, managers ensure these guys'll have neither off-season surgery nor any capacity for throwing more than six innings on any given night. There's a happy medium somewhere, but Pelfrey and several others on this staff seem to tire at breakneck speed somewhere in the middle frames.

Which leads us to . . . the bullpen. Guillermo Mota is a guy whose 2007 Topps baseball card actually has crosshairs on it, and his allowance of three runs in an inning of work surprised no one; meanwhile, old friend Dave Williams threw a 15-pitch ninth in which he surrendered a three-run jack to Ryan Langerhans -- which, if I am reading the rulebook correctly, means he must sit out the next two years of organized baseball of any kind.

Moises Alou hit safely for the 28th game in a row and helped turn a first-and-third base hit to left-center into a man-on-second, two-runs-in situation with only a slight glove gaffe. That's veteran smooth.

Remember José A. Reyes? The other José Reyes in the organization? The guy who never gets on, never steals bases, is good but not great with the glove, and who hits AA-caliber pitching at a .214 clip? I'm tired of watching him lead off for the Mets over the last month. It's really getting annoying.

Speaking of annoying, the Nats' TV booth -- Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton -- is startlingly abrasive for fans of either the Mets or announcers with just enough impartiality to still dwell in the factual. Sutton's not terrible, he's mostly just . . . there, and it may be some lingering distaste for the former Braves color guy that makes me lump him in with Carpenter. But the latter is a play-by-play guy that somehow incorporates more skew into his fairly straightforward job than seems possible. Tonight we learned some valuable information:

1. Ryan Zimmerman's league-leading 23 errors would be in single digits if it weren't for his throwing errors. He has softer hands than David Wright, who has 21 of his own. (That they can say this definitively based on the 17 games they've watched Wright -- who seemingly makes every snare but delivers some wild throws -- is mind-numbing.)

2. The ball Austin Kearns misjudged badly and ran by as it fell in for a double? Well, he doesn't have the benefit of slow motion out there, folks. (You don't have to crucify a power-hitting corner outfielder for misplaying a ball, but at least let the viewing audience know it was actually a mistake. Is Kearns running for office?)

3. For the second time in a week, Bobby C called a deep Nats fly and let loose the "See! . . . You! . . ." but before the "Later!!" could make its way past his lips, the ball dropped onto the warning track, so he finished it with "At the wall!" Tonight he even led it all off with a "Popped to left," then inexplicably overcorrected with the premature tater call. Because for the second time Moises Alou made a less-than-dexterous play on said fly, I couldn't appreciate the broadcasting ineptitude with a chuckle. When the aged Phil Rizzuto used to do the same thing with regularity, I enjoyed it with the same levity that made me laugh when my kooky grandfather couldn't spit out my name until the fourth try. When Mr. Carpenter does it, I don't enjoy it at all; he just seems like an amateur.

And more than anything, it's the aversion to anything even slightly negative about the hometown nine that drives me nuts. The team is 17 games under .500, but you'd never know this team wasn't playoff-bound by listening to a broadcast; on the surface, that's admirable, keeping fans into it and extolling a truly overachieving team. What makes up the nightlines on MASN, however, is a series of exaggerations, embellishments, and outright incorrect statements about what's going on between the lines. All too many one-sided questions raised about the umpiring, official scoring, and every play made or not made.

What is it about Washington, DC play-by-play guys that they're babbling, bumbling homers? (Wizards caller) Steve Buckhantz and Bob Carpenter need to call our softball games sometime; we'll never feel so good about getting slaughter-ruled ever again. I enjoy quite a bit of hometown bias, don't get me wrong. Sonny & Sam never let there be any question whose side they're on as color guys, and I'm for that. But the ability to maintain objectivity about the quality of the team's performance is essential to maintaining credibility, and too many guys shelve that and don the rah-rah blinders.

Meanwhile, Riggo and I think this current Redskins team is closer to 6-10 than 10-6. Keith and I think there are some problems to be worked out with this by-many-accounts top-notch Met team before they even think about the playoffs. Rob and I call our teams' fortunes like we see them, neither pie-in-the-sky nor sky-is-falling. At times we are swayed towards either polar extreme, but we've usually got a little slab of the concrete to point to in our defense. Generally speaking, we try to issue blatantly biased realism. We don't always succeed, but with every game I watch that's called by the Prozac Pair in Washington, I feel better about what we do.

Anyway, tomorrow is yet another turn in this rollercoaster finish. I think we've possumed it enough for now, boys. Let's turn the jets back on.

The Kinks

Games 154 through 156 – Red Sox

Red Sox 8, Devil Rays 1
Red Sox 8, Devil Rays 6
Devil Rays 5, Red Sox 4
Record: 92-64

Quite frankly, I’m at a bit of a loss this morning. I haven’t quite muddled through my state of mind regarding the Sox. This weekend brought a gutsy performance by Josh Beckett in the clutch, a cardiac comeback in another game marred by managerial indecision, and a very predictable loss with a JV lineup on the day after the Sox clinched a playoff berth.

That last sentence is the key. Even as my irrational fanboy side desperately wants the Sox to win the AL East and break the Yankees’ decade-long stranglehold on the top spot in the standings, my rational mind knows that the Sox would be better prepared for October if any number of key players could take a few days off to rest and recuperate. With the Sox facing the A’s and Twins to the Yankees’ Rays and Orioles, that plan for relaxation is also a recipe for a Wild Card entry into the playoffs. What’s a girl to do?

It comes to this then: ultimately, I want to Sox to win the division mostly because I personally dread the landslide of poorly-written “choke” stories and endless McCarver/Buck references to 1978 and Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone, and…gack. I want the Sox to win the division so I don’t have to hear every mouthbreather pinstripe jerkoff fan proclaiming the Yankees’ superiority. I want the Sox to win the division for me, dammit – way more than I think they need to win it for strategic reasons.

And, at the end of the day, that’s pretty lame reasoning.

So I’m resolved to just watch these last 6 games for fun, let the chips fall where they may, and trust that the Sox’ management team knows a skosh more than me about how best to set up the roster for postseason success. And if, by some chance, the Yankees win the division, that smile you’ll see on my face is there to hide the burning desire to punch the next jackass wearing crossed NY gear in the neck. Serenity, now. At least for the next 10 days or so.

Let’s go Mets.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Dead Milkmen

Game 152 - Mets

Marlins 8, Mets 7 (10 inn.)
Record: 84-68

How many times can we keep telling ourselves the Cardinals and Tigers reeked this bad down the stretch last year? I think I'm already to the point where I'm thinking, "Well, actually, they weren't this bad."

This just in: two NL West teams have better records than the Mets (and are playing 1000% better baseball). What does that mean? It means that at the current pace, there is no wild card to save the Metropolitans from themselves. "Collapse" will be synonymous with the 2007 New York Mets forever. Ask Jim Bunning. All those elections and he's still the guy that lost three starts in seven days (Gene Mauch, tactician) as the Phillies tattooed their notorious legacy on their own asses by leaving the pennant at Goodwill.

Once Marlon Anderson gave us the clutch heroics that, frankly, we've come to expect from him, we Townshippers all thought this would be the spark game -- the galvanization of this herd into a cohesive unit. You know, the scene towards the end of the screwball comedy where the band of misfits comes together to save the camp, or the house, or the world, or a Washington, D.C. taxicab company. Didn't happen, but it was a moment. And although it was quickly undone, I'll still take a memory from it: when Marlon Anderson is at the plate, it may not be prudent to shout in unison, "Let's Go Marlins!" (Or, just as possibly, when playing the Florida Marlins, it may not be prudent for Mets fans to yell, "Let's Go Marlon!")

At any rate, Marlon took some inspiration and (shouldv'e) won the game. Instead of a galvanization, though, it was more of a coagulation, one quickly melted into gelatinous muck by the humid Miami air and the sweaty pigdogs we call relievers.

Hey, Willie, I'll give you this: you are going against the grain and keeping the other team (and us) guessing. Jorge Sosa threw two splendid innings last night, and with Billy Wagner apparently unavailable to close a pivotal game in this damnable quest not to crap yourselves entirely, you went with (the evidently spent) Sosa in the 9th. Very clever. Can't wait till those rosters expand.

Oh, but you brought in Pedro Feliciano for one batter just so Sosa could start in the stretch. I like the way you "think," sir.

And not walking the bases loaded with one out and the tying run on 2nd base? Très avant-garde, monsieur.

Hey, Dave, I know it's hard to concentrate with all of the "MVP" shouters, but here's a tip I noticed on TV: after each brilliant snag that forces you to spin around, you chuck the ball at Delgado in the dugout. Meet Jeff Conine, former Marlin and your first baseman. I know, hard to argue with what Dee-Dub has been doing at the plate, but if he makes that throw in the 9th . . .

Speaking of Delgado, he was seen lacing up his cleats in the 10th as if he might hit . . . setting him back 7-10 more days in his rehab.

Lastings Milledge took it upon himself to throw the hissy-fit everyone in the New York media has been urging Willie to have. How to Avoid the Postseason Roster: Have your platoon-mate catch fire? Check. Spaz out in a misguided, mis-timed, Lou Piniella wanna-be, head-shakingly embarrassing fashion? Check. Help your team miss the playoffs? Ch-- . . . we'll see.

Whom do you want up with the game on the line in a pressure moment? In June, you'd have put Jose Reyes near the top. Now, he's right behind Mike DiFelice. And from what the guys on the team bus say, you do not want that.

Maybe I've been too busy fast-forwarding over TiVoed Mets disasters, but where's Omar been lately? Camp David? Sure, Willie is Nero, fiddling while Rome burns, but Omar's the council head who thought tiki torches on top of gas trucks would make this toga party rock. Show yourself, sir. You've got some 'splaining to do.

Wheelhouse Jerry noted well the other night that the Duaner Sanchez cab accident has had layered, lingering effects on the bullpen even more than a year after the fact. It's true. I told him that my own late-night quests for grease food have left me lamenting the unwise decision a day later, but never a year later.

People say every movie has a perfect ending, it's just a matter of when you stop the film. I wish someone could advise me in such a capacity on Mets games. Case in point, "September 20: watch 8.5 innings, turn it off. Ending is as you'd assume." My mornings would be so much brighter.

Det. Sipowicz, 15th Precinct, once quipped: "You know how I know I'm evolving towards a higher planetary consciousness?" His answer was that he didn't punch a skell's lights out, mine is that I didn't make a reprehensible joke that somehow equated a certain human tragedy of the early 1980's with a factor in the Mets' plight. Like Keith chides with tongue somewhat in cheek during the tensest moments of the tightest contests, "It's only a game . . ."

Joke woulda worked, though. Really woulda.

Speaking of jokes, I can recycle my ancient one about Willie and his bullpen, the man who brought a knife to a gunfight, blah blah blah, but at this point it's painfully unfunny -- and not in the way my wisecracks normally are. The Mets have surrendered 43 runs in five games; though way too many have been unearned, find me the Mets fan who has confidence in any pitcher on the team and I'll show you a raging dipsomaniac. Pass the hooch down this way, Red, I don't wanna see no more.

Help us, Pedro; you're our only hope.
Help us, Pedro; you're our only hope.
Help us, Pedro; you're our only hope.
Help us, Pedro; you're our only hope.
Help us, Pedro; you're our only hope.

Rebirth Brass Band

Game 151 - Mets

Mets 8, Nationals 4
Record: 84-67

A nation rises and falls on a nightly basis with every win or loss by a baseball team. As does a Township. These next two weeks may damn well put Rob and me in the hospital, sanitarium, drunk tank, rage counselor's classroom, or divorce court. God bless baseball.

Because the Mets won last night, and because the St. Louis [expletive removed] Cardinals finally pulled one out against the Phils thanks to Yadier [expletive still lingering] Molina, I can breathe this morning. Not breathe easy . . . hell, no. I just mean oxygen can actually make it to my lungs on a semi-regular basis, as opposed to the past few mornings. My cohort knows what I mean.

The Mets at last put together a victory over the vaunted Washington Nationals. I suppose I didn't help the Mets' plight by having mocked the Gnats early and often this season, but all I'm asking for now is that the Erstwhile-Expos continue this mad barrage on the baseball against the Phillies over the next week and a half. Please, don't pick and choose when to overachieve. (Like the Marlins, who gave the not-dead-yet Braves a game last night because they bumped Dontrelle Willis to pitch tonight against the Mets. That's crap.)

Mike Pelfrey got the job done last night. He wasn't stellar, but he got it done, and that's something that can't be said about a lot of arms on the Mets' staff lately. Just as importantly, and possibly overlooked (but not by Lee Mazzilli), Jorge Sosa came into the game in a jam and worked out of it unscathed. He's been victimized along with everyone in that bullpen lately, but I have more faith in Sosa than I do in a slew of others. (Not saying whom; in an unrelated story, Feliz Navidad, Now Batting for Pedro Borbon, Posture-pedic.)

Speaking of Mazzilli, the Metmen had be so mentally twisted up that I was taking solace in the most trifling of things Met-related; for example, I recently found satisfaction in realizing whom Maz reminds me of when he speaks, something that had been gnawing at me for a while. Doesn't mean much to you, but he is a dead ringer (vocally) for an old Long Island college crony of mine, "Pip" Pipia. I saw Pip after the Mets-Astros game a couple of weekends ago, and that must have crystallized it for me. Not sure how it eluded me for this long -- Pip's partner in crime (quite literally) during the frat guy days was a kid named Mazzoni, or Maz for short. Duh.

[A massive] Aaaaaanyway . . . The Mets now square off against the air-conditioned (no fans) Florida Marlins for four huge (okay, every game is now huge) contests. Glavine, Pedro, Ollie & Maine. That's as fearsome a foursome as we're going to throw at anyone right now. But in this crazy time of the season in this silly sport, we know that that somehow doesn't mean much.

To profane the classic line from one of the most widely underrated (or underviewed) films in all of cinema, "Throw straight, you bastards -- don't make a mess of it!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Marilyn Manson

Game 153 - Red Sox

Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 1
Record: 90-63

This is like watching a slow-motion train wreck and not being able to look away.

The Housemartins, redux

Games 150 through 152 – Red Sox

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 1
Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3
Record: 90-62

“I…I…I…I say, don’t they know it is wrong? It makes me anxious.” – The Housemartins, Anxious

I have a theory. Or, put differently, I’ve decided that I need to form a theory to ward off the psychic damage from the series of gutpunch losses the Sox have endured over the past week. The Sox have been tied or ahead in the 8th inning of 4 of the last 5 games and managed only 1 victory over that time. The losses have been epic, too – a mismanaged gack to the Yankees, a 1-run contest that ended with the bases loaded and 2 out and Big Papi at the plate, and yet another Gagne implosion.

Anyway, the theory. It says here that the Sox brain trust decided 2 weeks or so ago that the team was a lock to make the playoffs, but that they were in fairly poor shape to make a meaningful run once they got there. Okajima’s gassed, Matsuzaka’s been terrible of late, Youkilis was dragging even before he got plunked on the wrist, Manny’s still suffering from his oblique injury, Wakefield’s been brutal, etcetera, etcetera, in the midst of life we are in death, etcetera.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have been exceptionally hot and notably healthy. A full-blown pursuit of the division title may, in fact, result in a Pyrrhic victory with the New Yorkers entering the postseason healthy, confident, and firing on all cylinders, while the Sox reel into October on fumes. The Greek chorus of Steve Phillipi, John Kruks, and Michael Kays will equate a Yankee division title to a 1978-style choke on the part of the Bostons, but there’s a huge difference – in 1978, the 2nd-place team in the AL East stayed home in October.

Recognizing this, Tito and Theo (with the help of Alvin and Simon) made a critical decision to deemphasize the regular season, weighing the risk of losing the division and the corresponding home-field advantage with the reward of having a mostly-rested ballclub to take on the deep and talented field in the AL playoffs. They’d never admit this, of course, but the actions over the past week have spoken loudly on this point.

Gagne got the ball last night in the 8th, instead of Delcarmen or Timlin. That’s a management team trying to figure out if they can trust the guy in the postseason. (Hint – the answer rhymes with truck blow). Matsuzaka’s regular turn will be pushed back 3 days. As a result, Clay Buchholz will get the ball tonight, facing immense pressure to arrest the Sox’ slide in only his 3rd major league start – that’s not the action of a team that’s putting the regular season title at the top of the list of priorities.

I’m quite certain that this explanation is spot-on, because the alternative is that the Sox have completely spit the bit, run out of gas, and are in real danger of not only coughing up the division, but replicating 2005’s first-round capitulation. And I’m not prepared to contemplate that possibility. I desperately want the Sox to win the division for the first time in a decade, and I’m terrified of the Yankees come October. Thankfully, I don’t make the decisions ‘round Yawkey Way.

Misery, she sure is having her way around these parts.

The Supersuckers

Game 150 - Mets

Nationals 9, Mets 8
Record: 83-67

It just keeps getting better and better.

John Maine was hammered again, raising his ERA above 4.00 for the first time all season. (His August was a humid 6.32, while his September is the beginning of Fall at 9.20.) Moises Alou extended his hitting streak as well as the notion that his 41-year-old body won't hold out. The defense finally came to play, the concentration seemed vastly improved (perhaps the players only meeting helped), and they couldn't keep the lowly Nats in the cavernous park.

Your Washington Nationals . . . last in just about every offensive category (their nostrils are neatly trimmed), projected by some idiots to lose 100 games, and rising to the occasion to whip the Mets. Give Manny Acta a bunch of credit. He is managing like it matters (nine pitchers used last night) and has his team fired up. If I have to return to this space in the very near future to denote a letdown against the Phillies, I will have nothing but bile for this club, but you have to tip your cap to them.

And while you're doffing the cap, maybe use it to flog the Mets? Losable wins, losable wins, losable wins. The Phils keep winning, as if . . . you know . . . they really want this division title. The Mets? Questionable at best.

I keep hoping, and perhaps even believing, that this is the storm before the calm, that these weeks are dues-paying time and a chance for peripheral bandwagoners to get bumped off. A thinning of the herd coupled with a sweetening of the ultimate result. At this point, if the Mets manage to win the NL East, it'll be 1,000 times more gratifying than it might've been if they'd cruised to victory with ease.

So thanks, Metsies, for fostering appreciation and intensifying our eventual joy. You guys are cool like that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins

A post titled in honor of one of my least-favorite bands of all-time in honor of one of my least favorite Red Sox players of all-time. Eric Gagne, Billy Corgan called and said, "you suck". When the Yankees pass the Sox sometime in the next week or so, the 4, count-em, 4 games Gagne blew over the season's final 2 months will loom enormous.


The Waterboys

Games 146 through 149 - Mets

Phillies 3, Mets 2
Phillies 5, Mets 3
Phillies 10, Mets 6
Nationals 12, Mets 4
Record: 83-66

There's a legion of folks in Mets Township this morning who are going overboard with melodramatic, Chicken Little hysterics after the Mets crapped themselves for a fourth straight game. They're insinuating that there's now some doubt not only about whether the Mets can stave off the Phillies, but whether they can even salvage a postseason spot. They're freaking out, having watched the Mets perform the role of "worst-looking team in baseball" for a quartet of games, and now these idiots are suggesting that the Mets are in deep, deep trouble.

Well . . . I think you're going to have to lump me in with that group.

I can't watch any more. I settled in for a night of Met baseball and Redskins football, and was pleased to see the Metmen notch four quick ones off Nat pitching. Almost felt sorry for the hapless Nationals. The lesson, as always . . . you know. And then the invariable unraveling proceeded. Quickly.

Current Problems, As I See 'Em

1. The defense, or the bourbon-soaked drunk walk that's passing for it. Boots, bobbles, and bad throws -- they're occurring with startling regularity. The talking heads have praised the Mets' D all season long. If they still think so after the infield has become a swamp of slippery people, they're blind.

2. The mental midgetry. Twice a game the Mets seem to make a play that can only be described as "ill-advised." Honestly, you just feel like a Jim Leyland would have pounded these bad instincts out of his players' heads in spring training, and here we are in mid-September watching head-shaking gaffes. Both #1 and #2 speak to the third entry...

3. A total lack of concentration, sense of import, and fire. Sorry, I don't count getting tossed out of games after watching yet another Strike 3 go by, even if the umpiring has been as clumsy as the fielding. Miscalculations, plays that aren't quite made, and games that get away from you . . . these are things that happen to the best of teams from time to time. For the Mets, this is currently the permanent menu du jour. It's eye-scratchingly painful to watch, and while you feel that these intangibles are easier to correct than, say, a massive hitting slump, Willie Randolph is looking less and less like the guy to fix such problems.

Ol' Willie. He doesn't seem to be sweating a drop as the Phillies creep 2.5 games back of the Mets; it's part of his stoic persona as manager of this team. I generally like that approach, and I think we could do a lot worse than Willie Randolph for manager, but if this slide continues, there will inevitably be a barrage targeting his skippering of this sinking ship. And it won't be entirely misguided. Someone has to be accountable for this muck; Omar and his inability/unwillingness to bolster the bullpen can share the burden, but Willie's going to hear about it, right or wrong.

If the Mets do fall out of the postseason, there will be calls for his job. They won't be sensible, but they will be heartfelt. Someone has to pay for our agony, at least according to us. He won't be fired, of course; historically, that happens sometime later. Mauch lasted 3.5 more seasons, Zimmer two more, and even Marcel Lachemann made it 110 or so more games. (But hmm, do you see a trend?)

Players will be alienated, booed for reasons legitimate and not so much. As Charles Barkley said last night, no matter what athletes say in the press, they do read the papers, they do watch TV, and they cannot help but take it personally when the fans turn on them. Shea Stadium hasn't been a place where the '07 Mets thrive, but it could get a lot less friendly when they return next week. Who knows what that means for the off-season, for returning players and those looking for a new home? It's ugly, but it's part of playing in New York, they say. Brace yourself, boys.

And what of the 2007 Mets' legacy? We've been slotting them into positions of greatness all season; that's what we do as we chronicle the fortunes of a team pegged for 90-plus wins. The what-ifs and the prospect of scanning StubHub for NLDS, NLCS, and dare we say it -- a date with the Boston Red Sox in the rematch of all time (as far as this blog is concerned) . . . it all seems laughably silly at this point. We've considered the apocalypse that Misery Loves Company will be if the Mets and Sox square off in the Fall Classic; perhaps we ought to ponder the carnage if they both gag their way out of the playoffs?

And hence, the getting carried away. It's just so easy to forget that the Mets are still in first-place, even if they look like Bingo Long's Traveling All-Stars as they make the Nats look like an MLB powerhouse. This is a team with a huge payroll, actual All-Stars, and playoff experience. Hall of Fame pitchers, the brightest of young stars, and veteran league leaders. No team is without its blemishes (the Phillies' pen nearly squandered an 11-run cushion last night), and perhaps the reality check of this suckage -- and honestly, it's the suckiest sort of suckage I have seen in some time -- is what they need to humble individuals and unite the club. Maybe they're poised for actual legend, a la the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals?

But for the record, I've just described what's down that other road. Choose wisely, boys, and good luck.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Travelin' WIlburys

Games 148 & 149 - Red Sox

Yankees 8, Red Sox 7
Red Sox 10, Yankees 1
Record: 90-59

Headed out of town for a few days, so I'm ducking in while watching the final regular season matchup between the Sox and Yanks for a bit of cleaning up. Thanks to Whit for his brief post from yesterday - captured my sentiments precisely. A day's perspective, aided by a lot of quality beer, very little sleep, and a thorough Yankee ass-kicking is a much-needed thing. I was borderline psychotic after Friday's loss - one of the worst I can remember in this long rivalry.

I won't belabor it, because the Sox righted the ship and stabilized the neuroses of millions of New Englanders yesterday, but Terry Francona completely managed his team out of the game on Friday night, brutally butchering the pitching staff and backing himself into a very unnecessary corner. I say this as a great admirer of Tito, the best Sox manager in my lifetime.

Josh Beckett was long-ago labeled Commander Kickass of the Fuck Yeah Brigade by the proprietors of the stellar Surviving Grady. Yesterday, he showed once again why the moniker fits him to a tee, shrugging off a first-inning homer by Derek Jeter and retiring 19 straight Yankees to lead the Sox to victory. The streak was only broken when he buzzed Jason Giambi in the ribs in the top of the 7th, long after the outcome was decided. Beckett's now 19-6, and he's the profane heart, soul, and balls of the Sox' pitching staff. His performance was immeasurably huge yesterday.

Beckett's intentionally unintentional drilling of Giambi gave Whit and me something to talk about over a few Abita Reconstruction Ales yesterday. Since it seems at least possible that Roger Clemens will repay the favor (even as Beckett was defending Yankee punching bag Kevin Youkilis, who took a pitch from C.M. Wang off his wrist yesterday) in today's game, I proposed that Curt Schilling drill Bobby Abreu in the top of the first tonight, drawing mutual warnings and forcing Clemens to stay away from the inside part of the plate. Clemens is a noted rocket surgeon, with a long, well-deserved reputation for mental midgetry in big games - I figure he'd get so twisted up that he'd do something stupid. As I type this, Schilling got through the first with no drama, so I'll leave the strategery to the experts. (Just watched Johnny Damon and his noodle arm try to throw Jacoby Ellsbury out at the plate, and failing miserably - the symmetry of that moment is noted.)

I missed yesterday's game, spending the day instead basking in a stellar early fall afternoon in Williamsburg, VA watching the William and Mary Tribe batter Liberty University's Christians - a bit of post-missionary role reversal, that. Best of all worlds for me - didn't have the angst-filled reality of watching Sox/Yanks in a perceived must-win game, still got the desired result. Right on.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Soggy Bottom Boys

Neither one of us really wants to talk about it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Elvis Presley

Game 147 - Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Devil Rays 4
Record: 89-58

David Ortiz spent 2004 through 2006 delivering all manner of game-winning heroics, building a well-deserved reputation as the game's most fearsome clutch performer. 2007's regression to the mean was probably ordained, but that hasn't made it any less frustrating and confusing for Sox fans - and probably for Papi himself. But then came last night, with the Sox 2 outs from giving the surging Yankees another game, 2 outs from losing a home series to the Devil Rays, 2 outs from spending the next 2 days fretting over the impending Sox/Yanks conflagration in Fenway.

The Sox looked for all the world ready to concede this game from the drop. The Rays posted 4 runs on Jon Lester in the top of the first, and appeared poised to deliver several more in the next few frames. Once again, though, the Sox' bullpen rode to the rescue, bailing Lester out (that's an oft-used phrase in my neck of the woods) in the 4th inning and going on to record 5 1/3 scoreless innings, courtesy of Tavarez, Delcarmen and Papelbon.

When Papi's 3-run blast over the bullpens in right brought the Sox to within 4-3 in the bottom of the 3rd, I hopped up (to change my daughter's soiled diaper - the homer certainly brightened my mood) and exclaimed, "right back in it - nice". And so they were, but they took their sweet time.

Neither team scored after the 3rd, both bullpens posting matching zeros for 5 innings, despite the fact that the Rays rolled out luminaries such as Gary Glover and Whit's pal David Wheeler in back of starter Edwin Jackson. Even so, I managed an unusual level of calm, despite the frantic sub-limbic wailing of my animal brain urging me to consider the fact that Mike Mussina had pitched shutout ball against the Jays and reminding me that a Sox loss moved the Yankees within 3 games in the loss column.

Jonathan Papelbon retired the Rays in perfunctory fashion, bringing the top of the Sox' order to the plate in the 9th with my apprehension mounting but my conscious self knowing that Papi would bat. When Julio Lugo worked Al Reyes for a well-earned walk, I actually became a bit confident, and remained so even as Dustin Pedroia flew to shallow left.

And then, with a single swing, Papi sent my arms skyward in concert with 35,000+ in Fenway, getting just enough of a Reyes fastball to send it into the 2nd row of the bleachers in right (and many thanks to Delmon Young for his addled stumbling - many outfielders may well have actually caught the ball) and join his teammates at the plate in a gleeful pogoing slamdance. Man, there's not much better in sports than a come-from-behind game-winning homer.

Papi's first walk-off homer of the year could not possibly have come at a better time, because the Yankees are ridiculous right now. The Sox' magic number is now 12, but they may well have to win 12 games to finish off this vamprous beast from the Bronx. Gracious.

Tapes 'n' Tapes

Game 145 - Mets

Mets 4, Braves 3

Record: 83-62

Ah, technology -- and the idiots who try to use it. Last night was a curious progression of agitation, animation, and elation in my house's back corner den; the Mets and Braves were the nucleus of it all and had plenty to do with said progression, but it was more about how my ignorance framed the proceedings. The message that recently infiltrated one of our sister blogs for unrelated reasons is that following a sporting event, like life, is all about how you set your expectations. Think about it. (Not too hard.)

I didn't manage to cozy up to Gary, Keith, and Ronny's broadcast until close to 10:00 last night. I'd recorded the game (Dear God, bless Mommy and Daddy and Sister and TiVo and . . .), and figured the contest was well concluded -- well, I hoped it was well-concluded -- by then. But when I queued up the game, it looked as though it was still rolling along three-plus hours into it. Instinctively, I thought, "Hmmm... extra innings. Okay."

Now, why I would rush to that judgment stands in defiance of the lesson I thought I'd learned on this night, when presumed extra frames were instead a drubbing of the Metsies. And that thought crept into my mind. Oh, or it could be a pasting, and I'm hoping by the Mets this time. But with Smoltz vs. Maine, that didn't seem likely.

I began watching the game in Moderate Speed Mode. This is different than Super Speed Mode, when I essentially fast-forward through a game, only stopping to re-watch scoring plays. Super Speed Mode is reserved for when the family is in the car, waiting in the driveway and honking the horn, or perhaps when I know I watched the game over some beers the night prior but can't for the life of me recall what happened.

Moderate Speed Mode is something DVR rookies can't execute, a dexterous double-FF/pause that, if performed properly, gets you from the end of one pitch/play to the beginning of the next next without lag or overstep. Anybody can get through the commercials; the art is getting through an hour and a half of Brewers booth banter unscathed. I'm pleased to say that I'm no slouch at it, and I jetted through good commentary because I wanted to catch up to extra-inning action.

See, by now, those of you who saw the game or the highlights or even the score above know there were no extra innings last night. That's right. I'm sad to say that "user error" skewed my viewing of the game. Yes, even wily veterans make bone-headed gaffes along the way. But here's where it got interesting . . .

So by the seventh inning I was growing confident that the game wouldn't be another 17-7 bloodbath. (These weren't the Orioles, for Pete's sake.) Every time the Mets got multiple runners on I would envision a nine-run inning that would stave off the extras, but with the Mets up late, I simply knew the reality . . . our boys were going to blow another lead. It was just a matter of how, and who.

And so I went through which pitcher I thought might be the culprit. As Jorge Sosa closed out the seventh, I thought that I could've lived with him surrendering at least one. But he didn't. Then the Metmen tacked on another run, thanks to a Milledge triple/Reyes single. 3-1, and a more painful blown save in the works. Damn.

Enter Heilman, and as my surety grew that he was the guilty party, I lamented that fact, since he's been on the rise of late. Not perfect by any means, but on the rise. After two efficient outs, he walked Edgar Renteria on four pitches to bring Mark Teixeira to the plate. Indefensible, really. I had it pegged as a Teixeira homer, but he merely singled. Heilman out, Feliciano in. Had I not already "known" this game was in the 14th inning, I couldn't have been more unwavering in my belief that Feliciano would screw it up. One batter faced, one walk. Thanks for playing.

Feliciano out, Mota in. Reprise: Had I not already "known" this game was in the 14th inning, I couldn't have been more unwavering in my belief that Mota would screw it up. One batter faced, one single, two runs scored. Tie game. Lots of boos (and that's a phrase that sounds a whole lot better than it reads). Deep down I hoped that the Braves might plate another one so that a stirring comeback by the Mets would be in order. The lesson, as always, is that I am an idiot.

So when Beltran singled to open the bottom of the eighth, stole second, skillfully moved to third on a groundout, and scored on Shawn Green's single (by the way, Green is making a late and powerful case for postseason activation), I could only think, "Oh, no . . . Billy." The highlight of the game for the Mets, and it was a deflating moment for me. What a moron.

Enter Sandman (borrowed). Enter Wagner. Matt Diaz flied out to right on a ball I thought could be the one. After Martin Prado grounded out to second (and dropped the bat in a way that it bounced up and landed perfectly on its end -- baseball can be funny sometimes, and not just in the important stuff), I started to muse . . . wait, maybe I . . . wait . . . okay . . . maybe? It started to occur to me that certain recent changes to our programming might've altered things to where the little message doesn't pop up when the Extra Innings feed cuts off at game's end. In layman's terms . . . I am an imbecile.

Billy Wagner promptly induced a dribbler down the first base line, picked it up, did a confused twirl in a tweener state of "tag the bag?/tag the runner?", and made the play. Game over. In 9. I reveled more than I had a right to; for most, it was a hard-fought win, for me it was an Alcoa Fantastic Finish.

My own bumbling enhanced this game to a much more exciting level. In addition, there's dark comedy to be found in my knowing -- even when I didn't know -- that Feliciano & Mota were going to give it away. Of course, the bottom line is that the Mets won, the Phils were bludgeoned again, the lead sits at seven games and the magic number is 11 with 17 to play.

But once again, our expectations carve out our enjoyment quotient. Take a lesson. I know I will. (In remedial TiVo management.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bon Jovi

Game 146 - Red Sox

Red Sox 16, Devil Rays 10
Record: 88-58

Whitney and I had a fraternity brother in college named Steve Stanziale - a fairly standard-issue Jerseyite (though far smarter than the typical male of the IROC set), complete with the requisite macho bluster and card-carrying membership in the New York Giants' fan club. Sometime in the fall of 1990, several of us - Redskins fans all - gathered to watch a Monday night affair between our squad and the Giants. At halftime, Big Blue was beating the burgundy and gold silly, dominating them all over the field on the way to a 13-0 lead that didn't accurately reveal the Giants' total control of the contest.

As we moped sullenly during the halftime festivities, the phone rang, and the dulcet tones of Fratre Stanziale rang out in gleeful mocking. And when the phone hit the cradle, we all - at the same instant - suddenly felt very good about our team's chances. 30 minutes of gametime and several touchdowns later, the Redskins emerged victorious, and an gleeful epithet was born. From that moment on, any time someone claimed victory in advance of a contest's resolution, he was said to have "Stanzialed". To this day, we use this construction in our admittedly under-mature circles.

Fast forward to last night after Tim Wakefield's suddenly unmissable knuckleball staked the Rays to an 8-1 lead. Via text, I hear from Whitney that the YES Network broadcasters had announced that the Sox had lost to the Rays, almost certainly handing the Yankees a game in the standings. 5 innings and 15 runs later, the Sox hushed those premature rumors of their demise in convincing fashion. Congratulations, Joe Girardi, you've executed a textbook Stanzialing.

As for me, I didn't see very much of the comeback. I've had a fairly dismal several weeks at the rockyard, and my already black mood was certainly not helped by the first 3 1/2 innings of the game. Instead of descending into cat-kicking despair, I opted to check in on my man Alton Brown and Good Eats. I did sneak the occasional peek at the score on my phone, and switched back to NESN in time to see Kevin Youkilis' bases-clearing triple make the score 12-9. I feel no particular shame for my weakness - I really needed a break. And, I've now got a killer marinated skirt steak recipe to try. Win-win.

Atlanta Rhythm Section

Game 144 - Mets

Braves 13, Mets 5
Record: 82-62

"The coming weeks will probably shelve the pleasant memories of early September . . ."

Guess I asked for that one.

Chalk this up to one of the 35 or so that the Mets are simply going to lose. El Duque solidified Oliver Perez's bid for a postseason rotation spot with a super-shaky outing. He missed most of his spots, starting in the 2nd inning. Aaron Sele did what Aaron Sele does, inflating deficits like he was schooled in Reaganomics. 13 runs, about three times what the Braves scored the entire series the last time the Mets visited Atlanta.

Just one game. Bounce back tonight and the easy smiles return. It's that simple. (So long as Gary Cohen stops touting our guys' successes and discrediting our opponents, leading fate into temptation.)

The Mets went down 9-0 about the same time the Red Sox were down 8-1. So much for misery getting some company.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Led Zeppelin

Game 145 – Red Sox

Devil Rays 1, Red Sox 0
Record: 87-58

Tip of the cap to Scott Kazmir, who dominated the Sox last night, striking out 10 and allowing 5 hits over 7 innings.

Last night’s lineup was a sure sign that Terry Francona is at least as concerned with the care and feeding of his horses in preparation for the postseason as he is with winning every game down the stretch. David Ortiz and J.D. Drew got the night off against the tough lefty Kazmir, and with Manny Ramirez still nursing his strained oblique, the lineup read like a Spring Training split squad affair. Dustin Pedroia batted third, with Bobby Kielty in the 5-hole and Julio Lugo manning the DH slot and leading off. I agree in principle with Francona’s plan, but I can’t say I like the short term results.

In diametric opposition to Daisuke Matsuzaka’s stretch-run troubles, Curt Schilling seems to be rounding into form at exactly the right time. Hard luck loser once again, Schilling only yielded a single run to the Rays over 6 innings. In his last 4 outings, the 41 year-old had given up 7 ER and allowed 26 baserunners in 25 innings, good for a 2.52 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. I’ve heard that he’s pretty decent in the postseason, as well.

The Sox’ AL East magic number stalls at 14 for another day, with Tim Wakefield taking the mound tonight against the Rays (who’ve won 13 of their last 17 to get Joe Maddon a 2-year contract extension). Righthander Andy Sonnenstine takes the ball for Tampa, stirring mild hopes that the Sox’ lineup may, in fact, include at least 8 major league hitters – the Mirabelli/Cash Wakefield caddy slot notwithstanding.

In less relevant but much more fun news, Wily Mo Pena continued his assault on National League pitching last night, blasting a pair of homers against the Marlins. The free-swinging outfielder has 7 longballs in 72 NL at-bats, as compared to the 5 he hit in a Boston uniform in 156 trips to the plate. He’s batting .264 and – more importantly – slugging .569 for the Nationals now that’s he’s in the lineup every day. Good for Wily Mo, and good for the Nationals.

Kool & The Gang

Games 140 through 143 - Mets

Mets 11, Astros 3
Mets 3, Astros 1
Mets 4, Astros 1
Mets 3, Braves 2
Record: 82-61

One of the keys to the ultimate success of a given baseball team is peaking at the right time. That time is October, not early September, but it's a whole lot more comforting to see this team playing up to its potential after Labor Day than it is to have had them clicking on all cylinders on Independence Day and pining for that level of play now. The 2007 Mets were top-notch in April, moderately effective in May and August, and relatively dreadful in June and July. Looks as though they're book-ending a midsummer snooze with some good baseball, and that's 100% better than the alternative.

What does that mean for their chances to win the division and compete in the postseason? It bodes well but promises absolutely nothing. We've written more than once about the unpredictable results to the last few years of playoffs, and so nothing is taken for granted. Except when we speak of getting World Series tickets in a semi-tongue-in-cheek manner. You know how it is.

And that's how it was Saturday at Shea, as my brother-in-law and I took in a fine outing by the Metmen on a sunny day at the old ballyard.

My grandmother likes to remind me that when she and my grandfather were taking me to my first major league baseball game in 1978, I showed up in their room at 6:30 in the morning, all decked out in my uniform, wondering how long till we rode into the City for the game. It was a 7:30 PM night game, of course. Well, Patrick and I were only slightly less geeked up for this game, arriving way too early.

The problem was that on a hot day after a night game, Willie'd given the boys a day off from batting practice. Our loss to begin with, but then the players' tickets didn't become available till after an hour after we got to the stadium. It hardly mattered, though; we walked over to check out the progress on Citi Field, saw Ralph Kiner walk into the ballpark, and talked all things Mets.

His comment after we received David Wright's tickets: "X5G . . . I've never seen that section before, and I have no idea where it is . . . that's gotta be a good thing." And indeed it was, as we were 10 or 12 rows back behind home plate. We dropped off our promotional Mets fleece blankets (at a blazing hot day game? Really??) at the seats and meandered up to the Diamond Club for a couple of beers and some sausage & pepper subs.

Once we settled in for the game, we enacted a couple of side games, just because. They included drafting a trio of players for whom a home run would get you a five-spot as well as a drinking game wherein spotting any jersey/T-shirt sporting a player's name and number from the '86 club meant a quick slug for me, any from the 2000 WS team meant one for him. Hey, live baseball is the eighth wonder of the world, as far as I'm concerned, and needs no ADD-incited filler; that said, it was a long day in the hot sun, and there's no reason not to enhance even a brilliant spectacle.

And then there was the brilliant spectacle that was Tom Glavine's day. He was perfect through five; in a bizarro-jinx move, Patrick began talking about it after the 1st inning. Seemed to be working, but we let our guard down in the 6th -- possibly ordering our 6th round of Bud Lights in those icy aluminum bottles -- and Cody Ransom (wasn't he a secret agent?) knocked one into left-center to spoil our fun.

Didn't spoil our day, though, as Glavine quickly induced the 4-6-3 from the next batter and eventually pitched into the 8th. He was still looking strong then, even, and Willie pulled him despite Glavine having thrown just 86 pitches and two idiots in the lower deck sternly cautioning against it. The move worked out, of course, and there's cause for praise in the Met pen after I heaped so much abuse on them for a few weeks. (Deservedly.)

Oh, and our beloved revolutionary hero David A. Wright homered in the 3rd, netting me $5 and giving the Met faithful a reason to stretch their legs and their lungs. Couldn't have scripted that one much better, though Patrick wondered aloud why he didn't glance up at the folks occupying his seats and offer a wink and a point. Yeah, okay.

All in all it was a textbook-great day at Shea, a near-complete foil to the anxious, intense, uproarious, and ultimately heart-breaking night in the mezzanine last October. Next trip out we'll return to our rightful place in the cheapies next to jokers like ourselves, but now and again it's nice to get close to the action and live well.

A tremendous sports weekend for yours truly. The coming weeks will probably shelve the pleasant memories of early September, but for now, let's not worry too much about that, okay?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Terry Cashman

Games 143 & 144 - Red Sox

Orioles 11, Red Sox 5
Red Sox 3, Orioles 2
Record: 87-57

The Sox did what they're supposed to do against crappy teams, taking 3 of 4 at Red Sox Park at Camden Yards. They did cough up the series' third game on "Take Back the Yards Night", to the delight of the 3, 354 Orioles fans who actually attended the game.

Of far more import than the woebegone Baltimore franchise was Daisuke Matsuzaka's performance during Saturday's loss. He failed to make it out of the third inning, allowing 8 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks in 2+ innings to a bunch of guys who'd most recently been seen trolling for high school talent at MacArthur Center in Norfolk. Over his last 6 starts, the erstwhile Rookie of the Year candidate has allowed 28 runs in 26.33 innings for a tidy 9.57 ERA, yielding 32 hits and 14 walks over the same span. He's now pitched 184 innings on the season and has recently hinted that he's feeling the combined strain of the longer MLB campaign and the shorter rest between starts as compared to the norms of his home league.

As much as it makes my heart race and offends my delicate constitution, I'm not going out on a limb to say that the Sox will make the playoffs - if even the division race remains up in the air. If we accept that as true, the most important goal over the next 18 games is to ensure that the team's best prepared to succeed in October. An effective Matsuzaka is a big part of that preparation - otherwise the Sox will be rolling the dice on Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester, or Clay Buchholz as the No. 3 postseason starter. All of those guys have upside, but all of them present substantial risks, as well. The Sox need to store Matsuzaka away like the fragile flower he seems to have become, only bringing him out for 1 or 2 carefully chosen starts between now and the season's end.

Once again, the opening day of the NFL season served to cement my feeling's about the nation's new favorite sport in comparison with the pastime of old. While the Red Sox' nailbiter with the O's unfolded in parallel with the Redskins' season opener against the Dolphins, I spent the better part of the afternoon glued to MASN's baseball telecast. Frankly, I was far more interested in my fantasy football squad's result that I was the 'Skins. I managed an emphatic fist pump when Jonathan Papelbon closed out the O's. Meanwhile, I missed Shaun Suisham's game-winning kick against the Dolphins. I know mine is a minority viewpoint, but give me Baseball Poetry over the Super Bowl Shuffle any day.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Lil' Romeo

Games 141 & 142 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Orioles 6
Red Sox 4, Orioles 0
Record: 86-56

"The guy's an idiot. I dropped my bat. It kind of freaked me out...I was upset they took him out of the game. He's good to hit. He's 9-15. The guy [stinks]."

While those words will likely earn Dustin Pedroia a fastball in his ribs, courtesy of a Baltimore pitcher, they'll do nothing to diminish Red Sox Nation's growing love affair with the diminutive second sacker. Baltimore's Daniel Cabrera, the real-world manifestation of Nuke Laloosh's million-dollar arm and 5-cent head, whistled a fastball behind Pedroia's ear one pitch after being distracted into balking Coco Crisp home from 3rd with 2 outs in the top of the 4th. Benches (sorta) emptied, with several Sox players (and several of his own teammates) yelling at Cabrera while the 6'7" righthander had a tantrum on the mound.

To his credit, Oriole broadcaster Jim Palmer, who knows a thing or 2 about pitching, lambasted Cabrera for his immaturity and blamed him entirely for allowing Crisp to distract him into the balk. I listen to Palmer quite a bit, living in the O's broadcast area, and he's generally a bright spot for a franchise that has had so very few since Peter Angelos purchased the team in the mid-90s.

In addition to Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury continues to spark the Sox in Manny Ramirez' absence. The rookie scored the 4th run in the 8th inning, singling and stealing second before racing around the bases on a sharp single to left. There aren't 10 other major leaguers who would've scored on the play. Ellsbury also made a terrific catch while banging into the leftfield wall in the bottom of the same inning.

Jon Lester went 7 solid innings, walking only 2 while allowing 4 hits. His command seems at times to be an ephemeral thing, so the relatively good control he displayed last night is an extremely positive development. Manny the Carmen got a taste of 9th inning pressure, closing down the Orioles with only a single hit against him. The kids, once again, are alright.

The ability of Boston's young players to contribute meaningfully may be the single biggest difference between the late stages of this season and the same time last year. The 2006 Sox got hurt and completely cratered, having to start guys like Jason Johnson, Devern Hansack, David Pauley, and Kevin Jarvis in the midst of a pennant race. The upgrade to Clay Buchholz and a healthy Lester to begin games and Hideki Okajima, a confident Delcarmen and a healthy Jonathan Papelbon at the back of the pen is dramatic. Toss in Ellsbury and Pedroia in place of people like Willie Harris, Dustan Mohr, and Gabe Kapler, and the effect is multiplied.

The 2006 Sox went 23-34 after August 1 to finish with 86 wins. The 2007 squad just matched that win total, and are 21-14 since 8/1 - the same .600 winning percentage they've carried for the full season. What a difference a year (and some new blood) makes.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Natural

Game 140 – Red Sox

Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 4
Record: 84-56

This game was so largely uncharacteristic of the 2007 Sox that I’m gonna let it pass without a great deal of irrational ranting anger. They didn’t manage the fundamentals particularly well, which ultimately cost them the game. Three times, this team failed to execute sacrifice bunts. The bullpen first let the Jays tie the game in the 8th on Troy Glaus’ solo homer off Manny Delcarmen, then gave up the winning runs in the 9th when Vernon Wells took Hideki Okajima deep.

I did say “a great deal of irrational ranting anger” above, because there was this one minor issue that deserves a mention. The Sox’ offense, as has been its occasional wont this season, squandered several scoring opportunities in this one, exhibiting a great deal of creativity and savoir faire in so doing. Or, more precisely, J.D. Fucking Drew reared his ugly head and his hole-filled swing yet again in the clutch. Twice Drew came to the plate with 1 out and the bases loaded, and twice he failed to deliver. His better-than-average speed salvaged a single run in the first when he beat out the Jays’ attempted double-play turn. In the 7th, though, Drew’s unique ability to find rock-bottom in the clutch was on display, as he swung over yet another low, inside breaking pitch to strike out with the sacks filled and 1 out.

According to Baseball Prospectus’ Run Expectancy calculations, MLB teams average 1.65 runs when they load the bases with a single out. Last night, the Sox managed a single run in two such situations, underperforming by 2.3 runs in those innings alone. Drew himself was responsible for 673% of those squandered runs, according to my laser-sighted solar-powered math machine. He stinks and he sucks and he stinks, and I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I wonder if the Sox would be better off with Bobby Kielty or Eric Hinske as their starting rightfielder. Hinske’s got better SLG numbers and a comparable OBP, with only 2 fewer HR in 270 fewer AB. Hell, Rick Ankiel has exactly as many homers as Drew does this season. I’m not certain about this, but I’m fairly sure I heard Mike Lowell organizing a blanket party for Drew in the dugout during the late innings last night. And it’s long overdue.

But, back to equanimity, so, too was this Sox team overdue for a crappy loss. Off to see the Fighting Angelos' for a 4-game set in Charm City, with 'Take Back the Yards Night' slated for Saturday. Be nice to see the crowd 15% O's fans as opposed to the normal 5%.

Three Days Grace

Game 139 - Mets

Reds 7, Mets 0
Record: 78-61

Before, as Rob noted, I found myself short on insightful prose because all was well with the Met Machine. Today, despite the Metmen having forfeited a softball game to the Reds yesterday, despite John Maine having gotten pounded around, despite Carlos Delgado sitting down for 7-10 with a hip strain . . . I'm still okay with everything in the world of the Mets.

For I am two days from my first trip to Shea since the glorious night with the un-Hollywood ending last fall. As my brother-in-law commented, it's as if this season has flown by in a blur and we're back to the tension and excitement of that October night. No, we're not nearly to that point in the success story yet, but it feels like it for us. Returning to the scene of the crime (Yadier Molina, guilty on all charges) is momentous enough, but to park it in Dee-Dub's seats behind home for an afternoon has us both pretty fired up . . . and has me unwilling to care at all that the Mets snoozed through a series finale yesterday.

According to the terms of the arrangement, we were supposed to meet Dave himself and some of the team for quick pictures. Doesn't appear that this is happening, but we'll still hold out a tiny glimmer of hope. And if not, an afternoon in the sun at Shea with Tom Glavine on the hill and me in the ballpark . . . well, only a damn fool would gripe about that.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Texas Tornados

Game 139 – Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Record: 84-55

I see that Whit is having the same issues I faced this morning in reconciling the difficulty in generating pithy commentary in the wake of an overwhelmingly positive outcome. Conflict, pathos, and sputtering rage are so much easier to chronicle than benign happiness.

Josh Beckett not only got his 17th win last night, he did it by hitching up his drawers and throwing 117 pitches over 8 innings when his team desperately needed to rest some bullpen arms. Tough luck for Josh that this seems finally to be the year where Cy Young voters realize that wins aren’t the best measuring stick, but his comeback from an extremely disappointing 2006 has been an enormous factor for the Sox in 2007. Last night, Beckett did exactly what aces do – step up when it counts the most and deliver. He had 1 bad inning, walking the 9th-place hitter to allow the insanely hot Matt Stairs to bat with runners on base. Otherwise, he fairly dominated the Jays’ tough lineup.

In a classic case of timing being everything, Jacoby Ellsbury’s gone plaid since his recall from Pawtucket. After 2 homers in 104 games at AAA Pawtucket, Ellsbury’s now hit 2 in 11 games with the Sox (both in the last 3) after his 2-run shot off Roy Halladay last night. The rookie has a Bonds-like 1.284 OPS in 34 at-bats and a cult following in the Nation that’s unlikely to wane anytime soon. The next 2 months may well feature Coco Crisp’s farewell tour in a Red Sox uniform.

I note with some schadenfreudian whimsy that Roger Clemens got a cortisone shot for his ailing elbow. Or, to steal blatantly from Deadpin this morning, he more accurately received a “cortisone shot” for his “ailing elbow”. Don’t get me wrong - I’m still terrified of the proposition of facing the Yankees in the post-season. It’s just that Clemens is so much fun to root against.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Paul Hardcastle

Game 138 - Mets

Mets 11, Reds 7
Record: 78-60

My last post was filled with philosophical questions and big-picture musings. This one . . . uh, Paul Lo Duca hit two-three run homers against a sagging franchise and Oliver Perez was the second straight Met starter to issue a fair-at-best outing and get the win. Stirringly recapped by yours truly, no?

Twice in a row the Reds have tagged the Mets' pitcher in the early innings and, aided by some lackluster defense, managed a lead towards the middle innings. Twice the Metbats have come alive against shoddy Cincy pitching and put up crooked numbers galore, thanks at least in part due to yet another case of asinine architecture. The Reds have enough tradition that they and their fans deserve better than this silly little park.

Headed back up to the tri-state area tomorrow at the crack of dawn, counting down the days until I visit Shea for the first time since Game 7 last year. Can't be a result any more heartbreaking, and I'm quite sure the seats will be better. Five wins in a row after the implosion in PA. Read below for why I won't try to make any sense of it . . .

Blood, Sweat, & Tears

Games 134 through 137 - Mets

Mets 7, Braves 1
Mets 5, Braves 1
Mets 3, Braves 2
Mets 10, Reds 4
Record: 77-60
Off to Atlanta, where the weekend could provide more nightmarish results. But it's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up game, this baseball, and there's every chance that after looking hapless against the Phillies' fourth-string rotation and Grade E bullpen, our lads will shine against the Braves' stellar arms. And if the Metmen can take two of three, the confidence comes right back.

Sounds stupid, doesn't it? It works. Sounds improbable, right? Okay, then, go ahead and tell me with any accuracy how this season is going to write its last chapter. You can't, and that's why I'll continue to tune in despite all good judgment. Sometimes in the movie theater you stop trying to figure out what's going to happen, you turn your brain off, and you sit back and watch, hoping you'll be entertained and that the ending will satisfy. Doesn't make for very insightful blogging, but that's where I am today.
What a silly game baseball is, eh? Four days ago I'm distraught because of the results of the New York Mets, and now everything's back to peachy. Our guys are humbled one trip out, heroic the next. Rhyme -- we've got a little of that, but the search for reason goes on in baseball season.

Maybe Willie Randolph is onto something. (I said "onto" this time.) Perhaps the stoic, measured, even-keeled-to-a-fault isn't really to-a-fault. Willie knows that highs and lows come and go, and they're rarely as high or low as they seem to be at the moment. Maybe as football season is now between the horizon and ourselves, we let that one-game-matters notion creep into our otherwise sensible baseball brains.

Maybe, though, any and all discussion, analysis, prognostication, or outlook based on a single baseball game, a single series, or even a single week of play is futile, unnecessary, and enormous ado about nothing.

Maybe blogging about every single game is preposterous, inviting immediate thoughts and personal reaction to supersede perspective and balance. Maybe the four years Rob and I have spent at MLC HQ has been a colossal waste of time, energy, creativity, and output. Just read through the annals here for daily doses of misappropriated excitement and woe, misdiagnoses and misinterpretations of what any one game means in the big picture. Hindsight and permanent records never go well together, but a-post-a-day blogging makes it something of a boilermaker. Maybe we should sober up.

Yeah. That's likely.

Beyond our addiction to this stuff and our sense of duty to Readers #3, 4, and 5, we also know that the fun of baseball is the emotional investment to your team. It's leaping from your couch at the sight of a game-ending tater, even in May, or the prospect of head-shaking misery when the club gets swept in a critical series nearing the home stretch. Sensibility, as we know it, is unknowingly shelved for six months -- even as we tout the tenets of a reasonable and practical view of our club's chances. Statistics and historical perspective accompany our well-rationed arguments about the merits and flaws of each team, but binders full of mathematics and old standings cannot sway the hearts of the most deeply-rooted rooters.

When it's going well, we're on top of the world, and when it's going poorly, we're down in the dumps. So be it. In the same vein of suspending disbelief for entertainment purposes, ours is a willing suspension of better judgment, so don't apologize for it any more than you would for liking Field of Dreams or The Natural.

The most prudent approach would be to stave off excessive agitation or elation until late September, when you really know what's what -- but if you can wait that long, I don't think you're really much of a fan. It's simply impossible not to get caught up in when you care about the team -- and we care a lot. So long as we do have one foot grounded in reality and are still trying our best to incorporate reason into our madness, I believe we can justify the couch-kickings last Thursday and the fist-pumpings of the past couple of days. The latter is no more a statement of surety about future successes than the former is an abandonment of hope.

All of which is to say that while the "Spinning Wheel" philosophy I brilliantly employed over the weekend (also spoofed here in a post that gives me much perspective) is indeed the wisest route, I still reserve the right to exhibit cursing, rejoicing, fret, sweat, celebration, exasperation, worry, fury, and extreme bouts of utter happiness and despondence over the next four-plus weeks. Enjoy. Should be kind of fun.