Friday, August 22, 2008

War and Peace

Game 127 – Red Sox

Orioles 11, Red Sox 6
Record: 73-54

A blessed day off yesterday, a chance for the Sox (and for me, really, because at the end of the day, it’s about me) to take a deep, cleansing breath and exhale the noxious memories of yet another Clay Buchholz disaster. I got lucky: I spent the evening discharging one of my many civic duties, so I was spared the sight of the Sox blowing a 4-0 lead courtesy of young Buchholz and his band of pyrotechnic bullpen mates. There is no truth to the rumor that Terry Francona hand-delivered Buchholz a bus ticket to AA Portland after the game, but the fact remains that somebody did – see you in 2009, kid, how ‘bout you work on that confidence.

Still, the Sox took 2 of 3 in Baltimore and find themselves creeping back to respectability on the road. And even better, 20 of their remaining 35 games are in the asymmetrical comfort of home. So that’s our jumping off point today – whither the 2008 Red Sox? Let’s set the scene: with 35 games to play, the Sox are 4 ½ games behind the Rays in the American League East and dead even with the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card standings. Boston’s last 35 look like this:

3 @ TOR, 3 @ NYY, 3 vs CWS, 3 vs BAL, 3 @ TEX, 3 vs TB, 4 vs TOR, 3 @ TB, 3 @ TOR, 4 vs CLE, 3 vs NYY

Not easy, especially given the Sox’ issues with the Jays. There’s a doubleheader in there against Toronto in Boston, and a merciful 2 days off (that preseason gauntlet in Japan paying a mini dividend).

At some point, realistic observers have to recognize that the well-founded skepticism of the Rays is about as well-placed as the U.S. 4x100 relay teams’ baton passes. And even though Tampa plays a relatively difficult schedule over the final 6 weeks of the season (20 road games, with series’ against the Sox (2), Yankees (2), Twins, and White Sox), they’ve shown an elite-level resiliency all season. Hard for me to believe, but I don’t think the Sox will catch them.

The Twins, as they always do this time of year, have tapped into the reservoir of black magic that’s hidden deep in the bowels of the Zoroastrian temple that doubles as their ballpark and become a major factor in the race. On the other hand, they’ve got by far the roughest schedule of the contenders, with a 14-game convention-screwed road trip (hey, look, I found something I can thank Republicans for without sarcasm – way to go GOP! (Alternate take: once more, the Republican Party completely fucks the little guy)) and a total of 22 road tilts versus 12 in the Homerdome.

Schedules are interesting, I suppose, but the quality of the team is probably more important. The Sox’ offense has rounded into nice shape, even without Manny Ramirez. The starting pitching has been above average – most recent starter nothwithstanding. The Sox’ hopes for the rest of the year are pinned firmly to the heretofore underperforming bullpen, and to Josh ‘Ebby Calvin’ Beckett. Modest improvement from the bully and a return to 2007 form for Beckett, and the Sox coast into the playoffs – maybe even as AL East champion. More of the same, and it’s a dogfight, coinflip, your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine horserace cliché festival.

Predictions generally aren’t worth the pixels they’re displayed upon, and mine are often worth even less than that, but I’ve had a decent track record here at MLC down the stretch. My formerly ample gut says the Sox will sneak into the playoffs as the AL Wild Card, but much like 2005, won’t do a whole lot once they get there. And the Tampa/Los Angeles-Anaheim ALCS will make Bud Selig and FOX SPORTS cry. Almost as much as the Angels/Brewers World Series.

As for this story’s customary villain, well, the Yankees are starting Carl Pavano on Saturday. I don’t suppose I need to say much else.

Like a smart man once (twice? Ad infinitum?) said, roll the balls out and play the game.


Nick said...

A post containing an anachronistic political diatribe, how revolutionary! Think I'll go out and barter my services (according to my abilties of course) for a Che T-Shirt.

Power to the proletariat!


rob said...

i'll grant the political diatribe part, but i'll not stand by quietly for your 'anachronistic' barb, good sir. my slag is as true today as it has been in all the history of our great republic.

Nick said...

Depends on who we define as the 'little guy' I suppose.

You could see where this sort of thing might implicate both "sides" of the political isle, no?

rob said...

well, hell, they're all politicians in the end, aren't they? and mlc certainly isn't the place for a political argument, so i'll refrain from starting (continuing?) one. next time at the dub, though, it's go time.

Nick said...

I am afraid I would not be much fun. I long ago called for a pox on both political houses. This will likely be the first time in my voter eligible life that I stay home on the first Tuesday in November during an election year.