Wednesday, April 23, 2008

P.S. I Love You

Games 20 through 22 - Red Sox
Red Sox 6, Rangers 5
Red Sox 8, Rangers 3
Red Sox 7, Angels 6
Record: 15-7

(Note: several passages in the following text will probably make male readers uncomfortable in places they don't like to talk about at sports bars. It's metaphorical, dummies.)

There's a powerful appeal to the early stages of a relationship, when all is uncertain and heady, the thrill of the new and unknown driving away any doubts, obscuring rationality in the service of possibility. And in the tradition of the Baseball Poets, while I'm talking about women and men (our less traditional readers may feel free insert their own gender-on-gender preference here), the same holds true for baseball seasons.

While I know that first blush of passion doesn't last (note to my wife: instead, it can turn into a much deeper and fulfulling thing), the shine and spark replaced by the routine, that recognition does nothing to diminish the captivating power of new romance. And so, dear friends, I stand before you today in love with the 2008 Boston Red Sox. I say this with full knowledge of the potential perils of the long season, of the real potential for this team to falter in the face of baseball's infinite randomness, and of the idiocy of such an obviously premature proclamation.

But I just can't help myself. This team is winning pretty with speed and grace and power. They're winning ugly with grit and guile and luck. They're playing great defense (Mr. Lugo notwithstanding), stitching together improbable relief performances, hitting the ball from top to bottom, and interspersing it all with occasional otherworldly dominance (Messrs. Ramirez and Papelbon, of note). The Sox are getting critical contributions and lift from players young (Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia were 7-for-10 last night with 2 HR and 3 doubles, Kevin Youkilis has turned into one of the league's great clutch hitters, Clay Buchholz has been good to great in all but one start, and Papelbon, well, gracious), old (Jason Varitek has shut me up, Ramirez is ablaze - even for him, Tim Wakefield continues to soldier on), and everywhere in between (Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, J.D. Drew, Sean Casey, crazy Julian Tavarez, and even David Aardsma have played key roles already). And I haven't even mentioned the rolling carnival of joy wearing number 34.

Pedroia, Ellsbury, Buchholz, Manny Delcarmen, Jon Lester, and even Jed Lowrie - all products of the once-barren farm system - give hope for the present and the future, not only producing on the field, but doing it with both flair and a commitment to fundamental prowess that bespeaks the hard work done by the front office in the name of total organizational excellence.

This team is good in a great number of ways, and despite the backlash-happy zeitgeist and its rote contrarianism, its roster is peopled by a bunch of likable, silly, loose guys. I'm really just giddy like a schoolgirl and I don't care who knows it. I'm like Jerry Maguire screaming to Rod Tidwell, only the script has changed slightly. I'm like the father at the end of Heathers, proudly announcing, "I love my dead gay son", only the object of my affection is neither dead, gay (jury's out on Lugo, I suppose), nor related to me.

I say all this in full knowledge that my words are likely to catalyze a 7-game losing streak and a handful of thuggery-related criminal charges. And I'd still love these guys.

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