Thursday, December 31, 2009

Green Fields of the Mind

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. - A. Bartlett Giamatti, from 'The Green Fields of the Mind'.
It does break your heart, doesn't it? Most of the time, it seems. We named this blog 'Misery Loves Company' in recognition of the game's unique grasp on those of us addicted to its love/hate rhythms. And, at the time, because of a shared recent (and not-so-recent in one case) history of dismal returns.

We probably didn't know what we were getting into when we started this blog in the spring of 2003. We knew we loved baseball, knew that we had time on our hands, and maybe that we could write a little bit. But I don't think either of us expected that the simple act of writing it down would serve to enhance our passion for the game as much as it did. MLC helped us think about the game differently, to work for new angles and ideas about our teams. Didn't make us any saner - in fact, at certain moments, it probably contributed to a fair sight of irrationality. Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, anyone? Or the 2005 NLCS?

In other moments, the game proved transcendent. Moreso for one of us (and then two others, after we expanded the masthead in 2008), to be sure. When my time here on Earth comes and I'm making the top 10 list to end all top 10 lists, that 11-day period in October 2004 will command one of the very top spots. Even today, rereading our posts from that time brings back smiles, the memories of that impossible run still vivid. Impossible is not nearly descriptive enough.

That this is a eulogy of sorts is probably obvious by now. That such a post is necessary has been obvious for some time. We're shuttering MLC not because we don't love the game. In a great many ways, MLC has helped us really understand how much we do love it. No, we're shuttering MLC because we haven't been able to put in the effort necessary to do it the way we want to for too long. MLC was never about pageviews or making money (good thing, too) or getting exposure. It was about two (then four) guys watching baseball.

Those guys will still watch baseball (maybe even write about it at Gheorghe: The Blog). But they both know when a good thing has come to an end. So long, and thanks for reading.

May the game continue to break your heart.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The End

Game 3 - American League Division Series

Angels 7, Red Sox 6
Angels win, 3-0

Not a ton to say, really. The Sox were beaten decisively by a team that played a lot better from the beginning of this series to the end. Sure, the last inning yesterday was hard to watch, but it felt a lot like a foregone conclusion. Fittingly for me after a season in which my baseball-related attention span was negatively impacted a dozen different ways, I turned the television on in time to watch that final frame meltdown and nothing else.

I suppose it's a measure of both my maturity and the complacency that comes with a pair of championships that my reaction was more a rueful shrug than destruction of property. More of the latter, for certain.

Valedictory to come as we exit stage left hoping that misery has plenty of company in a week or so.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Street Fighting Man

Game 2 - American League Division Series

Angels 4, Red Sox 1
Angels lead 2-0


Let's review the bidding, then. In two ALDS games, the Red Sox have one run. Okay, that'll be just about enough.

Sure, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester could've been a little better, but when you're pitching with a razor-thin margin for error, sometimes you get cut. Pretty simple game, baseball. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains (snows, too, especially in Colorado). And the Sox aren't doing any of those things at a high enough level to beat a good Los Angeles team.

The Sox trailed the Oakland A's 2-0 in the 2003 ALDS after a brutal Game 1 loss and an indifferent Game 2 effort. I wrote the following then (Mom, parental guidance is suggested, as the next paragraph contains colorful language written by a clearly unbalanced person):
The Era of Positivity has not ended, goddammit. The Sox will win Game 3, they
will win Game 4, and Pedro will take the hill in Oakland on Tuesday like a
gladiator. I haven't given this much of my heart to this team to see them swept.
I remember 1999, and I remember the greatest comeback in my lifetime. Cowboy up, motherfuckers, because there's still a lotta ball left. Stay on goddamn target.
Now that guy was obviously a much edgier version of your current mild-mannered blogger. He probably wouldn't have believed you if you told him the Sox would have two championships before he turned 40. (Though he'd have been quite easily convinced that Grady Little would fuck up a sure thing just a few weeks later.) That said, his six year-older self still believes. The Sox are a hell of a good team in Boston. Terry Francona's still the best postseason manager in the game. Kevin Millar's not around to pass out bourbon shots and come up with pithy sayings, but Dustin Pedroia's got just as much redass. Pedro's not taking the hill in Game 5, but Jon Lester beat freaking cancer. You think Torii Hunter and his pole dancer's first name scare him?

Yeah, that's right. I can still talk tough and almost mean it. Let's hope the Sox have something left in them tomorrow at noon. Oh, and for the record, I'll be at my daughter's birthday party from then until about 3 o'clock, so I'll see almost none of the game. I really don't want to have seen my last Sox game of the year.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Enter Sandman

Game 1 - American League Division Series

Angels 5, Red Sox 0
Angels lead, 1-0

Yesterday I got up at 5:30 am, had three beers before noon while playing vaguely work-related golf, did a few hours of work, played softball, had another beer, and came home to watch the Sox play the Angels. Also, apropos of nothing, I'm getting old.

That's my litany of excuses for falling asleep right after Torii Hunter's homer gave the Angels all the runs they needed to back John Lackey. You may also accept: I knew the game was over because the Sox' bats looked so anemic so I didn't put up much of a fight against the Sandman, and dammit, these West Coast games start way too late.

I'll try to do better tonight. Though I'm not real optimistic about remedying the thing about the Sox' bats. The road, she is unkind to the Boston lumber.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Games 157 through 162 - Red Sox

Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 7
Blue Jays 12, Red Sox 0
Red Sox 3, Indians 0
Red Sox 6, Indians 2
Red Sox 11, Indians 6
Red Sox 12, Indians 7
Record: 95-67, AL Wild Card

While the Sox were winding down the season trying hard not to get hurt and playing Pawsox in random places (see, for example, George Kottaras spending the final half of today's game at third base), I took the opportunity to ignore them. And now, after they ripped off 4 straight wins without really trying, I'm a little conflicted about whether I should watch them in the ALDS against Anaheim.

Yeah, I don't believe me, either. Despite the fact that the intensity of my fandom has shown up only in fits and starts this season, I'm quite confident that come Thursday, I'll be finger-drumming, couch-gripping, superstition-embracing starkers. Like millions of other Red Sox fans, I probably don't know how good I've had it over the past 7 years, don't exactly recall what it felt like to wander through the relative wilderness of the occasional futile run, to know that the story of each season was inevitably foretold well in advance of the final out. That seems such a foreign land today.

I don't know whether to blame this unprecedented prosperity or my increased maturity for my struggles with focus during the Sox' 2009 season. (Yes, I do. My increased maturity can only be counted in years, not emotional intelligence.) I've declaimed otherwise, but it's a clear and indisputable fact that the losses don't hurt as much as they used to - at least not in the regular season.

This newfound perspective was foreshadowed in my final post of 2008, when I found myself far more appreciative than irrational. And that's where I am today. The Sox won 95 games - exactly Theo Epstein's mythical target - and they did with contributions from all corners of the locker room, with consistency from some and flashes of brilliance from others. They're in the tournament, with as good a chance as anyone, especially if October Josh Beckett hitches up his pants and comes to the party. They've got a deep lineup, a power bullpen, and in Jon Lester, Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, enough talent in the rotation to match up with anyone still standing. Anyone. And that's all any fan could ask.

Won't stop me from breaking stuff when the Angels are running wild on the basepaths and the Sox are stranding runners all over the Anaheim basepaths. But it might help me sleep better.

Before we roll the balls out and talk about the targets, I note with deep regret and substantial respect the fact that Tim Wakefield may have thrown his last pitch for the Sox. I hope his back heals in the offseason and that I get to lament watching him take the mound for a few more years. But if not, it's been a privilege to root for one of the finest people to ever play the game.

Okay, then. The best time of the year is right around the corner. Roll 'em out and play the game. Lotta ball left. Stay on target.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Slowly (Oh So Slowly)

Game 156 - Red Sox

Blue Jays 11, Red Sox 5 (6)
Record: 91-65

Careful. Careful. That's it. Just a little more to the right. Back it up...back it up. Aaaaand...almost there.

The Sox are treating the season's final week like a gang of furniture movers carrying a Louis XIV armoire up a narrow flight of stairs. Tito's nursing starters, coddling relievers, resting the weary, and generally behaving like things are in the bag. Fortunately, Texas is playing along nicely.

But recent misery in this very space tells us not to count any chickens before they've seen the light of day. So a clinch tonight would be nice.

And then we can commence the babysoft treatment.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Whistling in the Dark

Games 153 through 155 - Red Sox

Yankees 9, Red Sox 5
Yankees 3, Red Sox 0
Yankees 4, Red Sox 2
Record: 91-64

Let the record show that I watched a total of approximately 10 pitches from this game, all Saturday, and all while the college football games that were the primary focus of my attention were on commercial breaks. Let the record further show that I'm the better for it, in terms of both my blood pressure and my marital/parental status.

The Sox started the season 8-0 against the Yankees and ended it on a 1-9 streak. And that means exactly squadoosh starting next week. Terry Francona's studied indifference (or impression thereof, in any case) to the Sox' fate in New York this weekend is all the cue those of us inclined to step out on ledges after the sweep should need. Brian Anderson got meaningful at-bats against the Yankees. Jason Varitek played in 2 of the 3 games. Jed Lowrie made an appearance. Rocco Baldelli started a game. Okay, man, we get it.

May Jon Lester's leg heal and Josh Beckett's redass return. And, while we're at it, how 'bout clinching the Wild Card here soon so all this whistling past the graveyard doesn't come back to haunt me.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Evenflow

Games 150 through 152 - Red Sox

Royals 5, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 9, Royals 2
Red Sox 10, Royals 3
Record: 91-61

The Sox awoke from their Greinke and Manny-induced coma to salvage a split against the suddenly frisky Royals and endow this weekend's series in the Bronx with at least a scintilla of intrigue.

Clay Buchholz' 10th consecutive 'quality start' (and 7th straight outing allowing 2 runs or fewer) paced the Sox last night and lowered his ERA to 3.21. Fingers, toes, and other appendages crossed, but if this is the guy the Sox get in October, no team in either league has a better 1-2-3 in the rotation.

The playoff-clinching Magic Number is now 3, while the Sox trail the Yankees by 5 1/2 games in the division race. It's still a longshot, for sure, and it doesn't matter all that much, but it'd be nice to make the other guys sweat a little. After the first 2 games of the Royals series, a rabid Yankee-fan friend of mine posted the following on his Facebook page, "Do(n't) hear too much chatter from the "Nation" about making a run at AL East title...how bout them Royals?". My gleeful retort, "maybe the yanks can put the 2009 al east champs banner right next to the one from 2004". He still hasn't responded. Odd.

Almost as odd as a 3-game set in late September with the Yankees that doesn't feel like Armageddeon crossed with Normandy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Crash

Game 149 - Red Sox

Royals 12, Red Sox 9
Record: 89-50

Yeah, all that stuff I said about catching the Yankees? The lesson, as always...wait a minute. That lesson's wrong. This one's not my fault. The Sox had 6-0 and 8-2 leads on the Royals on a night the Yankees lost, and you want to blame this one on me? Oh, hell no.

Let's put blame where blame is due, friends. And blame is due Manny Delcarmen, for whom the bell is beginning to toll as his ERA rises. Delcarmen ended June allowing 2.03 earned runs per 9 innings. After his 3 1/3 innings of 8 ER shitshow in September (which followed his increasingly mediocre July and August efforts), the Beantown local carries a 4.34 ERA. More importantly, his confidence in his ability to get outs appears to be on par with mine. We already have one Ebby Calvin on this team, so Delcarmen may get saddled with an even worse moniker: 26th man on the postseason roster. (Which is only 25 men deep, for our math-challenged friends.)

Magic number for the postseason is still 7. But it's good that we're finding out now who we can count on in October.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dream On

Games 145 through 148 - Red Sox

Angels 4, Red Sox 3
Red Sox 3, Orioles 1
Red Sox 11, Orioles 5
Red Sox 9, Orioles 3
Record: 89-59

In the early years of this blog, we spent a good deal of pixels and more than a little angst whining about the Baltimore Orioles and their (perceived, almost certainly, as we were rarely inclined then as now towards actual 'research') prediliction for playing the Red Sox tough while rolling over against the Yankees. I come here today to mend fences with the beleagured Birds and their fair-weather fan base.

The Sox are 16-2 (!) against the bedraggled Baltimoreans in 2009. Woeful is hardly strong enough a descriptor for the remains of the franchise that Peter Angelos has so systematically dismantled. I feel for you, Charm City, but not so much that I'm asking to give any of the wins back.

Daisuke Matsuzaka's now 2-0 in the early days of his 'comeback', while the Sox as a whole are 30 games over .500 for the first time this season and dangerously close to worrying about nothing more than staying healthy and getting the postseason pitching rotation in order. Hell, there's a real, live Magic Number in our lives today. (It's 7, thanks to the Rangers' 2-7 homestand.)

But here's the thing. As much as it doesn't matter, and as far-fetched as this thought may seem to be, the Sox are only 5 games behind the Yankees. And I'd much rather face Detroit in the first round of the playoffs than Los Angeles. Not for nothing, but if the Sox get within the margin of error before this weekend's series with the Yankees, Joe Girardi's mind grapes are gonna be more scrambled than one of those whackjob tea partiers who still believe Obama's from another planet.

Just sayin'.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Long and Winding Road

Games 134 through 144 - Red Sox

White Sox 12, Red Sox 2
White Sox 5, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 6, White Sox 1
White Sox 5, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 10, Orioles 0
Red Sox 7, Orioles 5
Red Sox 9, Rays 1 (6)
Red Sox 3, Rays 1
Red Sox 4, Rays 0
Red Sox 4, Angels 1
Red Sox 9, Angels 8
Record: 86-58

Last night's Sox/Angels game was so good that it jarred me out of my malaise and inspired me to blog again. For now.

The Sox came back unce, tice, fee tines (a mady) to top the Halos, taking advantage of both the Angels' generosity and that of the men in blue to steal a very unlikely one. The win was the Sox' 7th consecutive triumph, giving them a 6 1/2 game advantage over the suddenly reeling Rangers in the Wild Card race. (I'd describe that lead as comfortable, except that I've watched the Mets play in September for a few years now. Sorry, dude.)

Yesterday's game notwithstanding, the winning streak has been the product of outstanding pitching. The Sox gave up a total of 8 runs in the 6 wins prior to last night's, getting stellar starts from all comers, including (and hugely importantly) Daisuke Matsuzaka. The confounding Japanese hurler's return from his poor conditioning was far more impressive than anyone had a right to expect, to the point where he even kept his pitch count at near-normal levels in going 6 2/3 shutout innings.

If (see Kipling, Rudyard and Nuts, Candy Buts for the obvious caveat here) the Sox get a facsimile of this Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz last several outings are indicators of future performance, I'll line these Sox up against anyone in the postseason. If, you foul mistress.

Now back to your regularly scheduled indifference.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Suck My Kiss

Games 132 & 133 - Red Sox

Rays 8, Red Sox 5
Red Sox 6, Rays 3
Record: 78-54

John Smoltz is 1-1 with a 2.65 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP, and 21 Ks in 17 innings for the Cardinals. Brad Penny pitched 8 innings of scoreless 5-hit baseball against the Phillies in his first start for San Francisco. The two combined for a 9-14 record, 6.24 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in 171 2/3 innings for the Sox.

Stuff your small sample size in a sock, pal. That's gruesome testimony to the imbalance between the American and National Leagues. And Exhibit A for the reason the Sox find themselves staring up at the Yankees as September rolls around.

Bygones. The Sox won a series in Tampa. Praise the Lord and pass Josh Beckett some greenies.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Happy Hour Again

Games 126 through 131 - Red Sox

Red Sox 3, White Sox 2
White Sox 9, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 5
Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 2
Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 0
Red Sox 8, Rays 4
Record: 77-54

As both the season and this blog (apparently) wind down and the air cools, the Sox suddenly find themselves on the list of the hottest teams in the league. Winners of 7 out of 8 and 11 of 14 and, more importantly, of 1 in a row in Tampa - praise the Lord and Jonathan Papelbon - the good guys are hitting the ball all over the yard with their new and improved (Now, featuring more Victor Martinez!) lineup. At the same time, Clay Buchholz is starting to look like an actual major league pitcher, while new guy Billy Wagner is proving that he's still one.

The focus from this fan's perspective has been admittedly diffused and refracted - combination of the long season and real-world demands. And sure, I'd prefer the Sox be winning the division and the Yankees spending September recovering from a team-wide gonorreah outbreak. But beggars can't be choosers. The Sox have a great shot at their 6th postseason berth in 7 years. Can't really ask for more than that.

I think fans of the other New York team might agree.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gone Daddy Gone

Games 121 through 125 - Red Sox

Yankees 20, Red Sox 11
Red Sox 14, Yankees 1
Yankees 8, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 12, White Sox 7
Red Sox 6, White Sox 3
Record: 72-53

We interrupt this all-too-regularly scheduled blog-apathy to bring you good tidings of great joy. Jacoby Ellsbury swiped his 55th base of the season last night, breaking the all-time Sox mark held by Tommy Harper for nearly 35 years. And since this season has featured opposing baserunners gamboling around the paths with impunity against defenseless Boston backstops, a little payback from one of our guys is a small measure of poetic justice. I'll try to remember that the next time Tampa Bay steals 13 bases in a game.

The Sox have won a pair of weird ones against Chicago, hard on the heels of the most offensive Sox/Yanks 3-game set in history. The 58 runs scored by the two teams over the weekend top the list of total tallies in a three-gamer their storied rivalry. Me, I'm just happy the Sox won one of those games. Not happy at all, though, about Josh Beckett's sudden descent into gopher-giving madness.

The Yankees 20-spot effectively ended Brad Penny's Red Sox career, brief and unmemorable as it may be. Tim Wakefield comes back from the DL today, and his return to the roster in addition to the Sox' acquisition of the prickly Billy Wagner signaled tails-you-lose for Penny. Lipstick on a pig, or the final piece of the puzzle? Tune in next week (month?) and I'll give you the answer.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Now. You're looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now, is happening now.

Games 94-122: Yankees

Yankees 6, Orioles 4
Yankees 6, A's 3
Yankees 8, A's 3
A's 6, Yankees 4
Yankees 7, A's 5
Yankees 11, Rays 4
Rays 6, Yankees 2
Yankees 6, Rays 2
White Sox 3, Yankees 2
White Sox 10, Yankees 5
White Sox 14, Yankees 4
Yankees 8, White Sox 5
Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3
Yankees 8, Blue Jays 4
Yankees 13, Red Sox 6
Yankees 2, Red Sox 0 (15)
Yankees 5, Red Sox 0
Yankees 5, Red Sox 2
Blue Jays 5, Yankees 4
Yankees 7, Blue Jays 5
Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3 (11)
Yankees 11, Mariners 1
Yankees 4, Mariners 2
Yankees 5, Mariners 2
Mariners 10, Yankees 3
A's 3, Yankees 0
Yankees 7, A's 2
Yankees 3, A's 2
Yankees 20, Red Sox 11

Record: 77-45

OK, I'm back, after once again disappearing for waaaaaaay too long. And in fact, today I'm back in realtime, as I'm down at the cracker factory on a Saturday while the Yanks and Red Sox do battle on Fox. Need to get the GameCast up...and I'll try to follow along here in this very post. I guess my only solace is I don't have to listen to McCarver and Buck right now...


Well, that's freaking annoying...couldn't even get audio for the game (for free) anywhere. So now I'm just following the action on this GameDay feature on MLB.com while my Pandora station serenades me with Lionel...and Third Bass...and Journey (it's a pretty eclectic collection).

Shameless blog cross-promotion...here's one reason why you haven't seen me in awhile. I'm on a health food kick.

I think last time I finally chimed in after a 40+ game absence, rob got all snippy because I was happy and excited about the play of my boys. Well, I'm back today again after a long hiatus, and sorry robert, but the Yankees continue to play extremely well...but despite the 20-11 win last night let's see how today and Sunday play out before you try that reverse psychology crap of conceeding the division to the Yanks. Because if we've learned anythign over the years, these two teams always manage to surprise us...and not always in the good "hey a naked chick just jumped out of a birthday cake" way.

Things that, despite their strong second half play (26-8), worry me:
- The apparent softness of Joba. And the higher ups in dealing with him. I'm a little sick of this babying. If he's a starter, he's a starter...why in god's name would they shift him to the bullpen right before the playoffs start? You have a young kid in the bullpen who has not only acclimated himself quite nicely, but who has flat out excelled in the pen (sorry, was channeling Mark Schlereth for a moment). Phil Hughes, take a bow, because I did not see that coming. Joba's a starter, Hughes is the reliever (and Rivera's heir apparent in this humble guy's opinion). Cash, you had it switched in your mind, but just look at the results. Don't fuck this up.

3-0 Red Sox. So nice to see David Ortiz got a new, even harder to detect, PED shipment lately.

- The Yankees record against two potential playoff opponents (yes rob, it is true, I am looking forward to a playoff appearance by the pinstriped ones): 1-3 vs Ozzie's White Sox and 2-4 against the Angels. Small sample sizes, yes, but the Angels absolutely own NY over the last, what, 7 years? (both regular season and playoffs)

-Player health, Hideki Matsui's knees in particular. I realize what he did last night, but how many times can you get your knees drained before you just fall apart in the batter's box? And why do I have this horrible feeling Pettitte or Burnett's arms are going to snap?

4-0 Boston. Alex Gonzalez just homered. Seriously? Alex Gonzalez? Ugh. A.J., get your head out of your ass.

You know what, it looks like I'm actually going to be able to escape Kramerica right now, and despite the four run deficit I'm happy to head home and actually watch this game rather than some lame gamecast widget on my PC. It's good to be back boys, and hopefully you and our loyal reader(s) are stuck with me through October. Oh yeah, rob and his Red Sox suck.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Left of the Dial

Game 120 - Red Sox

Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 1
Record: 69-51

Sweeps are neat.

Brad Penny and Junichi Tazawa facing the Yankees tonight and tomorrow: less neat.

Still, beggars can't be choosers. The Sox improved to 7-3 post-Bronx beatdown with yet another convincing win up North. J.D. Drew went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers and Jon Lester dropped yet another dominant performance, going 8 innings for his 10th win. Dustin Pedroia returned from paternity leave to record a pair of base hits and annoy the everlovin' heck out of his teammates with baby pictures.

Lester started the season 2-4 with a 6.51 ERA in his first 8 starts. In the 17 starts since that rough patch, he's posted an 8-3 record with a 2.05 ERA. His 181 Ks are third in the AL. If he's not the best lefthanded starter in the league (especially since Cliff Lee's gone to torment the other circuit), he's on the short list. His only weakness: like Josh Beckett, he can't pitch every other day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Crazy

Game 119 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 1
Record: 68-51

Buchholz > Halladay.

And that, in a nutshell, describes last night's Sox win. Knock me over with a feather.

Clay Buchholz pitched 6 strong, poised, effective innings, allowing 1 run on 6 hits and escaping a handful of potentially game-changing jams. Roy Halladay failed to get into the 6th inning for the first time in 42 starts, gave up homers to David Ortiz and Jason Bay, and struggled against Alex Gonzalez. Casey Kotchman and Kevin Youkilis stole bases. Takashi Saito struck out the side in the 9th inning. They played some other country's national anthem before the game. Down was up, left was right, dogs and cats frolicked in the stands.

I suppose that's why they play the games. Hope Jon Lester caught the lesson.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Small Victory

Game 118 - Red Sox

Red Sox 10, Blue Jays 9
Record:67-51

Good gracious. Even the wins hurt these days. The Sox blew three different four-run leads and tried to give away a three-run advantage in the bottom of the 8th before holding on to win. Based on my emotion after Jonathan Papelbon recorded the final out, I'm not sure I'd have felt any worse had the Sox lost.

On the bright side, it was, in fact, a victory. And coupled with Joe Mauer's personal demolition of the Rangers' pitching staff, it brought the Sox back to level with Texas in the Wild Card race. Every thorn has a rose, or something.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Slip Slidin' Away

Games 116 & 117 - Red Sox

Rangers 7, Red Sox 2
Rangers 4, Red Sox 3
Record: 66-51

It all seems to be slipping away, doesn't it? Sure, the Sox still have 45 games to play, and they're only one game off the Rangers' Wild Card lead, but the vibe out of Boston is distinctly vintage late 2006.

In a lot of ways, the Sox seem to be approaching the season's final months like Tiger Woods did the last two rounds of this weekend's PGA Championship. Where Woods sought to make pars, hit the center of greens, minimize mistakes while expecting his opponents to wilt before him, the Sox' incremental, hold-steady, wait for things to turn around approach has them falling slowly but surely behind the pack.

Had I been in a position to give Tiger advice (far-fetched, to be sure, but maybe not as much as you think), I'd have implored him to go big, at least early in each of the final rounds. Had he put his foot down, stepped on his opponents' neck, broken their spirits, he might have won by a half-dozen strokes. Instead, he let Y.E. Yang stay close and gain confidence. And if Terry Francona would take my call, I'd offer him similar advice. This is time to be bold, to make obvious though perhaps unpleasant decisions in an effort to change the team's dynamic. Tell David Ortiz he's no longer the everyday DH. Have a similar discussion with Jason Varitek. Demand more from everyone, and make it clear that veteran status doesn't convey with it automatic playing time.

At this point, what do the Sox have to lose?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Use Somebody

Games 112 through 115 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Tigers 5
Red Sox 8, Tigers 2
Tigers 2, Red Sox 0
Red Sox 8, Rangers 4
Record: 66-49

Apologies for the extended absence. Team MLC has had a lot going on. Tune in to Gheorghe: The Blog on Monday to hear more.

In the meantime, the Sox seem to have righted the ship, winning 4 of 5 since that time in the Bronx we don't talk about. It's pretty clear that the Sox are playing for the Wild Card right now, so last night's win against their closest competition is a good start.

Wakefield's coming back soon, as allegedly is Daisuke Matsuzaka. Clay Buchholz has been better and better. Alex Gonzalez came over from the Reds to shore up at least the defense part of the shortstop role. Bandaids, half-measures, stopgaps. Just get to October, baby.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Old Man and the Sea

Game 110 - Phillies
Phillies 4, Cubbies 3 (sorry Pop)

Record: 62 wins, 48 losses, 3.5 games ahead of Florida

Every time the Phils get groovin', I come back here to post and instantly they throw up all over themselves. The club is 33 and 19 on the road with a gutty victory in 12 innings at the Friendly Confines. That's the best record in baseball. Unfortunately, before they left for Chicago, the Phils lost 4 of 6 at the Bank to even their home record at 29 and 29. No other contender is under 4 games north of .500. It's spectacularly frustrating. Up is down, black is white and hotel beds are more comfy than the Sleep Number bed back home.

Out of the wreckage of the squandered homestand comes the news that our dear old friend Jamie Moyer has pulled the short straw. Seems management feels that despite the fact that his 10 wins leads the staff, Jamie's pitched so poorly lately that he's gotta be the one to get bumped in favor of Pedro. Jamie's not taking it well but that's to be expected. Logically, he was the only choice. Joe Blanton, JA Happ have been very solid. If the Pedro experiment fails, Jamie will be plugged back in. How many starts Pedro will get remains to be seen.

Tune in tonight. 8PM on ESPN.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Great Balls of Fire

Game 111 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Tigers 5
Record: 63-48

Insert the usual caveats regarding reading too much into what amounts to six-tenths of one percent of a baseball season here. And then proceed to say/hope/extrapolate that last night's game was a positive sign for the Sox for the following reasons:

1. They won a baseball game. This is a non-trivial matter.

2. They scored 6 runs, roughing up a very good starting pitcher in the process. Sure, they should have scored more, but that would have rendered point #3 impossible.

3. They came back to win after squandering a 4-run lead. Sure, the Detroit comeback was fueled by lackadaisical defense, middling (to be kind) relief pitching, and inefficient Sox offense, but the Sox nonetheless had a chance to choke and failed to do so for the first time in what seems like forever.

4. Jonathan Papelbon was phenomenal in his first multi-inning appearance in months. Climb on my back and ride me for a few weeks, you slumping bitches kind of wonderful.

5. Last night's game amounted to a must-win, both to end the team's longest losing streak in 3 years and because Junichi Tazawa makes the first major league start of his career tonight. After the Sox threw him headlong into the fire, choosing the 14th inning of a scoreless Sox/Yankees game as his major league debut, a home start against the Tigers should be a breath of fresh air. But it's still his first major league start.

6. Did I mention that the Sox won a game?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Idiots Rule

Games 108 through 110 - Red Sox

Yankees 2, Red Sox 0 (15)
Yankees 5, Red Sox 0
Yankees 5, Red Sox 2
Record: 62-48

As Whitney reminded me this weekend, somebody posted the following back in July regarding a newfound (and, shortlived, as it turns out) confusion about the Sox/Yanks rivalry: "As with most things, the Yankees are at the root of this new evil. Several times in the past week alone, Yankee-fan friends were meek, deferential even, during Sox/Yanks banter. In the past, I could always count on a "26" or a "Bucky Dent". Now, though, there's a wistful quality to my pinstriped pals' trash talking. Almost makes me feel sorry for them, mourning the loss of their swagger."

That dude is an idiot.

It is undeniably true that this weekend's disastrous series in the Bronx would have rendered me cat-kicking, raving, asylum-bound deranged had it occurred before 2004. So I suppose my current grumpy, irritable, black mood is a sign of progress. But let's be very clear on one thing. It stinks and it sucks and it stinks to lose a single game to the Yankees. To lose 4 in a row (and 6 games in the standings in 6 days) and look meek in doing so will affect my mood for the next week. And that swagger, backed up as it is by a paper-mache thin series of accomplishments in comparison to the events that took it away, is back with a vengeance. As is my angst. I find all of these things offensive to the extreme.

As opposed to the Red Sox, who are offensive to the infinitessimal. In the final 3 games of the series, Sox starting pitchers allowed 3 runs in 20 innings. And never had a chance. 15 hits and 2 runs in 33 innings of baseball. Frank "Bunting in the Dark" Viola could've replicated that line. It's safe to say that the Sox will plummet unceremoniously down through the standings should this ineptitude become a habit.

A less emotional analysis would note that the Yankees are healthy, balanced, and playing terrific baseball right now, especially at home. The Red Sox, meanwhile, aren't the Mets in terms of injuries, but they played this series without their starting leftfielder, 2 starting pitchers, and shortstop, and with their third baseman and right-fielder limited significantly. And they're playing like dogshit. In the words of the immortal Joe Manto, talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I do note with some rueful, straw-grasping rationalization the reaction of most of my Yankee fan friends, who seem to be jockeying for their places at next week's parade down the Avenue of Heroes. Celebrating in August, just like foretelling the end of the world at the same juncture, has a funny way of boomeranging. I only wish I had a saying to encapsulate that truism.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sing Me Spanish Techno

Games 108 through 110 - Red Sox

Yankees 13, Red Sox 6
Yankees 2, Red Sox 0
Yankees 5, Red Sox 0
Record: 62-48

This hangover comes courtesy of Whitney, Dale's Pale Ale, and little girls awake before 7:00 am. It also bears the gift of brevity.

I feel nearly precisely the way I felt after the Yankees went up 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS after embarrassing the Red Sox in Game 3.

And I think we know how that turned out.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Clifford The Big Red Dog

Game 106 - Phillies
Phillies 3, Rocks 1

Record: 61-45, 7 games ahead of Florida

Since we last posted, the Phillies have recovered rather nicely from a hellish June. You might recall the Phils posted a absolutley horrific 6 and 12 record against the AL East. Funny thing is, they were 3 and 3 vs. the Yanks and Sox and 3 and 9 vs. the "others".

The Phils were 43 and 37 exactly one month ago when I last posted and struggling to gather momentum. Old mo found the Phils in the familiar form of one James Calvin Rollins.

Back on July 7, Jimmy's batting stats were ghastly: .224 avg, .275 OBP, 7 HR, 33 RBI.

They are still unsightly today but they are moving northword thanks to a stellar month at the plate. His numbers are now: .245 avg, .294 OBP, 13 HR and 51 RBI.

Much better, eh? In that time the Phils went 18 and 8 while increasing their divison lead in the "Little Division That Couldn't" from 2 to 7 games.

Now that Clifford Lee has arrived to do what Cole Hamels is having so much difficulty doing - pitch as the staff ace, the Phils have every reason to feel comfortable that they are in perfect position to win a third straight division title.

Much needs to settle with regard to the rotation - who's in, who's out - and despite the huge lead, the history of this game and this franchise warns us to not look past tonight's tilt against the Fish let alone to October.

Still, I'm likin' this title defense so far.

Moon River

Game 107 - Red Sox

Yankees 13, Red Sox 6
Record: 62-45


You using the whole fist there, Doc?

I guess I'm supposed to chalk last night's game up as one of the unwinnable ones. Sox were due to lose to the Yankees, every team's gonna lose their share during a 162-game season, blah, blah, blah. Placing too much emphasis on a single regular season contest is a surefire recipe for the preparation of tasty, tasty crow. But just like the Billy Mueller/Jason Varitek brawl game in July 2004 seemed (and turned out to be) a marker, so too did last night feel like an omen.

These two teams are headed in substantially different directions.

The Yankee offense is deeper and more productive at the moment, and significantly more healthy. Nothing symbolizes the Sox roster right now so much as Mike Lowell's painful, arthritic diving attempt to stab Alex Rodriguez' sharp grounder down the leftfield line in the 6th inning. 'Diving attempt' is a kindness, really - Lowell sorta toppled over and missed the ball. When he's healthy, he eats that ball up. Kevin Youkilis started in leftfield for the first time the 3 years, and if he'd been injured, I suspect Terry Francona would have been activated. Jed Lowrie, already struggling mightily to recover from wrist surgery, strained his arm on a check-swing. So go the Red Sox at the moment, while the Yankees frolic around the ballyard like Teen Wolf during a full moon. Minus the facial hair, of course.

With Phil Hughes solidifying the bullpen, the Yankee pitching staff is at least comparable, and with the Sox' current injury- and ineffectiveness-related woes, arguably better. John Smoltz, as tough an old gunslinger as he is, appears for all the world to have fired his last bullet. And Clay Buchholz doesn't seem ready to pick up the gun and keep firing. Meanwhile, Daisuke Matsuzaka's throwing stars are dulled and Tim Wakefield's killer butterflies are cocooned for at least a few more weeks. This metaphor's as cheesy as Derek Jeter's (alleged) pickup lines, but it doesn't change the fact that the Sox are reeling while the Yankees gain momentum.

Josh Beckett's got a lot riding on his shoulders tonight. Losing the first two games of this series feels for all the world like it would start a 2006-esque chain reaction. And nobody wants that.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hate Paper Doll

Game 106 - Red Sox

Rays 6, Red Sox 4
Record: 62-44

With apologies to one of the great SportsCenter commercials of all time, I offer the following two-sentence recap of last night's game, and by extension the Sox' mini-series with the Rays: Did you see it, Jack? They sucked.

And now they get to go into Yankee Stadium (New and Improved! Same Mouth-Breathing Fans, More Homeruns!) limping both figuratively and literally. Jason Bay, questionable. J.D. Drew, marginally ambulatory. Mike Lowell, carried around the bases by DeMarlo Hale. Josh Reddick, prone to spontaneous nosebleeds (also, back in the minors). John Smoltz, old (and starting today! Huzzah!).

But if they win tonight to extend their 2009 record against the Yankees to 9-0, well, that's a mindfuck of a different (pin) stripe for the New Yorkers. Here's where the MLC script says I go all contrarian, say something about positivity or targets, or balls. Problem is, I don't believe it right now. The Yankees are the big stack, and the Sox are pushing chips around trying to stay in the game. I'd be happier than Joba Chamberlain's mom in a meth den with a split this weekend. Anything more is way too much to ask.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Two Princes

Game 105 - Red Sox

Rays 4, Red Sox 2 (13)
Record: 62-43

So it appears that the coronation of Daniel Bard may have been a tad premature. Just like Terry Francona's hook.

Tito yanked Jon Lester after a leadoff HBP to Carlos Pena in the bottom of the 7th. To be fair, Lester had thrown 110 pitches to that point, but he was also dealing, having only allowed 3 hits and no runs. Hideki Okajima relieved Lester and gave up a single before inducing a double play and walking a batter, leaving runners on first and third with 2 outs. Enter Bard, who gave up a run-scoring infield single to Jason Bartlett and then retired the side with the Sox leading 2-1. Fine. It's baseball. Stuff happens.

Bard saved his best work for the 8th, unfortunately, allowing a leadoff longball to Evan Longoria before loading the bases on a pair of walks and his own throwing error. Amazingly, Manny Delcarmen cleaned up Bard's mess to preserve the tie, but in the recent tradition of Sox/Rays action, irreversible damage was done.

Just took a little longer this time, with the Sox wriggling out of another bases-loaded, no out situation to prolong the agony until Longoria (who batted with a base empty and 2 out in the 13th) smashed another homer to win the game.

In one fell swoop, the Sox lost a game they led in the 7th inning, burned their bullpen in the first game of a brutal week, dropped a game to the Yankees, and continued their ineptitude against Tampa. Probably could've scripted this one a little more brutally, but it would've required some effort. And Luis Castillo.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Games 101 through 104 - Red Sox

Red Sox 8, A's 5
Red Sox 6, Orioles 5
Red Sox 4, Orioles 0
Red Sox 18, Orioles 10
Record: 62-42

Adam, we hardly knew ye.

In all the (highly justified) hoopla surrounding last week's trade deadline acquisition of Victor Martinez and (surprisingly underblown) fooferaw regarding Big (Pill) Papi, the Casey Kotchman for Adam Laroche deal barely registered. A few shoulder shrugs from the fans, a gracious and thoughtful quote from Laroche, and that was that - one of the game's worst goatees and his single American League homer was returned to the netherworld of Senior Circuit mediocrity. I, for one, will miss him. If only because he and Mike Lowell made a terrific tag team of sneakily Hispanic dudes.

As for Martinez, let me be the 1,783,458th Sox fan to say, 'hell, yeah'. Not only did the Sox get instantly better on offense (they will likely score at least 18 runs per game the rest of the way) by replacing many of Jason Varitek's at-bats with Martinez' shinier new version, they got substantially more versatile, with the latter's ability to play first base and Kevin Youkilis' proficiency at third giving Terry Francona a Garanimals-esque universe of lineup options. Martinez will also keep Varitek healthier down the stretch, a huge deal for an old catcher well past the extended warranty. On top of all that, Theo Epstein landed Martinez without sacrificing anything in the way of top prospects, sending the likable but just decent Justin Masterson and a pair of low-ceiling minor leaguers to Cleveland.

Of course, after yet another deer-in-the-headlights debacle from Clay Buchholz yesterday, you can count me among the relative minority of Sox fans that wish Theo had pulled the trigger on a Buchholz for Roy Halladay deal. Sure, Buchholz may turn out to be Roy Oswalt, but Roy Halladay makes the Sox odds-on favorites to win the World Series this year and next. I'd do that deal.

Bygones, though, as the Martinez deal came right in the middle of a much-needed reversal of fortune (for the Sox and the Yanks) that sets up a hellacious first week-plus of August. Deep breaths today before the Sox head to Tampa and New York for 6 games. If you want to give me a 3-3 week right now, I'll take it faster than Dave Roberts swiped second.

As an aside, I thought I was the MLC staffer on vacation last week. Must've goofed up my calendar.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hypocrite

Games 99 & 100 - Red Sox

A's 9, Red Sox 8 (11)
A's 8, Red Sox 6
Record: 58-42

I was prepared to spend a few free lazy afternoon moments lamenting a pair of losses against a mediocre Oakland squad, and offering a measured, wholly rational prognosis for the rest of the season (the ceiling for the current roster is the AL Wild Card, after which point anything is possible, though I think the Yankees are a better team).

Then, the New York Times intervened in a most unexpected and thoroughly unwelcome manner, reporting that David Ortiz is among the 100+ major leaguers that tested positive for PEDs in 2003. Unexpected may be a bit strong, actually. But unwelcome isn't strong enough.

I've written in the past that an Ortiz PED report would be the one that drove me over the edge. I probably meant it, too. Today, I found it extremely sad, but far, far less shocking than less-jaded me would have. Had this occurred in 2005, I'd have spent months defending the honor of the 2004 World Champions. Now, I think we all know that squad had its' share of drug cheats. Just like every other team from the late 80s to the present.

I'm sure Ortiz will deny it, like all of them do, and toss off some half-hearted joke about red beans and rice. This time I won't believe it. Not because Papi's decline as a player is convienently correspondent with MLB's stepped-up enforcement, necessarily, though that's an inescapable truth. But because they all cheated. Even the ones who didn't, even the media, even ownership and management. They all cheated because it put butts in seats and dollars in the till - the ultimate measure of success in our world.

So dies the last tiny shred of my baseball innocence. I'm far less depressed than I expected I'd be. Turns out my hypocrisy is deeper than I'd thought, or at least my love of baseball - warts, 'roids and all - trumps my disdain for most of its practitioners.

Quickly, then, fuck 'em all. And c'mon, Jon Lester. This team needs a win.

Send in the Clowns

Games 95 through 99 - Mets

Astros 5, Mets 4
Mets 10, Astros 3
Mets 8, Astros 3
Mets 7, Rockies 3
Mets 4, Rockies 0
Record: 48-51

In baseball, as in life, sometimes you have to bottom out before you can begin the slow crawl into recovery.

Did the Mets bottom out this week? Seven games under .500, yet another PR debacle, one firing with more being predicted, with the deals of the past making the trade deadline utterly inconsequential? If it's not rock bottom, we're at least in the same zip code here.

And out of nowhere, the Metmen rattle off four in a row for the first time since May. Huh.

One quick, tangential note on the Tony "Slash and" Bernazard quagmire and resultant press conference spasm . . .

To the legions of members of the media coming to the defense of . . . a member of the media: please step away from the soapbox and take Adam Rubin off the crucifix. As much as Omar Minaya's blurty tirade was misdirected and confusing, the multiple accounts indicating that Rubin's reporting was overblown and incendiary (perhaps consistently so) explains the lumping of Mr. Rubin in with the other self-serving media types we learned about in entomology. This sad, stupid situation seems to have enough associated blame to hand out to a number of people. Over at the Wheelhouse (the blog, not the crap shout-fest on SNY), Jerry listed the few folks who'd be spared his axe when it came to giving the Mets a much-needed enema. No sportswriters -- in fact, no media people outside the SNY broadcast booth -- would be spared.

Enough about that, but here's the thing: I have actually gotten to enjoy the last few nights of Metball, and if one more hideous, public embarassment was what it took, send in the clowns and let's see more humiliation.


Editor's Note: The casual mixing of metaphors is often forgivable, but dear lord... to incorporate the use of an axe into the administering of enema is beyond cringeworthy, it's like watching the New York Mets run the bases. My apologies.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vacation

Games 95 through 98 - Red Sox

Red Sox 3, Orioles 1
Red Sox 7, Orioles 2
Orioles 6, Red Sox 2
Red Sox 8, A's 3
Record: 58-40

I'm on Cape Cod, staring out at ocean as the tide recedes over the Brewster Flats, and I'm still cranking out more content than the rest of Team MLC combined. This, friends, is not the Golden Era for our little blog.

Short version: Orioles, good for what ails a team. Smoltz, frustrated (and -ing). Lester, stud. Beckett, stud. Bard, stud. Offense, finally. Beach, great.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bad to the Bone

Game 94 - Red Sox

Rangers 3, Red Sox 1
Record: 55-39

Since the All-Star break, the Boston Red Sox are 1-5, having plated a total of 13 runs. The Sox' batsmen have recorded a robust .192/.252./.285 line, good for a .537 OPS. To put things in perspective, Reggie Willits has a .542 OPS. Darin Erstad's is .541. Matt Cain's OPS is .539. San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain. He's a pitcher. THE BOSTON RED SOX HAVE FIELDED AN ENTIRE LINEUP OF MATT CAINS SINCE THE ALL-STAR BREAK.

HOLY SHIT! PASS THE TYLENOL.

Substitute

Games 88 through 94 - Mets

Braves 5, Mets 3
Braves 11, Mets 0
Mets 5, Braves 1
Braves 7, Mets 1
Mets 6, Nationals 2
Nationals 4, Mets 0
Nationals 3, Mets 1
Record: 44-50


Every day seems to sink the squad a little lower than the day before. Every day the news -- ranging from updates in severity of injuries to Jerry Springer-style reportings about loose cannon members of the organization -- gets worse. And yet there are 68 games left to play.

I'm not going to make it to Citi Field this year. Early this season I was dead sure I'd arrange with cousins and brother-in-law to meet up and hit at least one game, maybe more. What a waste of time and money that would be at this point. I'll pay 8 bucks for box seats to the Norfolk Tides . . . and then lament my investment into the Extra Innings package while I watch nearly every Mets game. It's still the Mets, and it's been dark comedy this season. Dark, uncomfortable, depressing tragi-comedy.

Last night's starting lineup:

A Pagan CF
L Castillo 2B
D Murphy 1B
D Wright 3B
J Francoeur RF
C Sullivan LF
A Berroa SS
B Schneider C
M Pelfrey P

How do you even make fun of that? Worth mentioning that Luis Castillo was quickly supplanted by Fernandogidp Tatisgidp after he argued a pretty clear bobble in the field and was tossed.

Losing 2 of 3 to the Nats . . . wow. Getting shut out by the Nats Tuesday night . . . yikes. Shoulda been shut out by the Nats last night again except for a run plated on a Mets-like idiotic throwing error . . . oh, my.

Much of the Township is getting lynch-mob-like, which is to be expected. But these aren't the Mets. They're stand-ins. It's the touring version of Phantom of the Opera, the one featuring Horatio Sanz and Elizabeth Berkley. When it sucks, you look at the cast and there's not a moment of wondering why. You just wish you could have gotten to see the real deal and wonder how much better that would've been.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Not at the table, Carlos..."

Games 48-93: Yankees

Yankees 3, Indians 1
Yankees 10, Indians 5
Indians 5, Yankees 4
Yankees 5, Indians 2
Yankees 12, Rangers 3
Rangers 4, Yankees 2
Yankees 8, Rangers 6
Rays 9, Yankees 7
Yankees 4, Rays 3
Yankees 5, Rays 3
Red Sox 7, Yankees 0
Red Sox 6, Yankees 5
Red Sox 4, Yankees 3
Yankees 9, Mets 8
Mets 6, Yankees 2
Yankees 15, Mets 0
Yankees 5, Nationals 3
Nationals 3, Yankees 2
Nationals 3, Yankees 0
Yankees 5, Marlins 1
Marlins 2, Yankees 1
Marlins 6, Yankees 5
Braves 4, Yankees 0
Yankees 8, Braves 4
Yankees 11, Braves 7
Yankees 9, Mets 1
Yankees 5, Mets 0
Yankees 4, Mets 2
Yankees 8, Mariners 5
Yankees 4, Mariners 2
Mariners 8, Yankees 4
Yankees 4, Blue Jays 2
Yankees 6, Blue Jays 5 (12)
Yankees 10, Blue Jays 8
Blue Jays 7, Yankees 6
Yankees 10, Twins 2
Yankees 4, Twins 3
Yankees 6, Twins 4
Angels 10, Yankees 6
Angels 14, Yankees 8
Angels 5, Yankees 4


Yankees 5, Tigers 3
Yankees 2, Tigers 1
Yankees 2, Tigers 1
Yankees 2, Orioles 1
Yankees 6, Orioles 4

Record: 56-37

Well then, I'd say we're all caught up...and look at that, los Jankees están en el primer lugar. Muy bien. And it appears their afternoon is going quite well today too....sweeeeeet. But wait, I just saw rob say they were the best team in the league. Either reverse psychology on the midget's part, or acknowlegdement of a Yankee pitching staff and lineup that is absolutely in sync (bye bye bye) right now. Either way, my neglect of MLC ends now. I am back, and the nonsensical pop culture references and useless utubes are coming with me. It's good to be back boys.

Faith

Games 92 & 93 - Red Sox

Rangers 6, Red Sox 3
Rangers 4, Red Sox 1
Record: 55-38

And here you were thinking I'd come in this joint all throwin' shit around and breaking stuff. I can't possibly imagine what would have led you to believe that. Me, all mild-mannered and even-keeled.

In truth, the breaking-stuff option crossed my mind a few times over the past several days. The Sox haven't hit in weeks, and the ball's bouncing every which way but theirs of late. A realistic assessment of their roster right now in comparison with those of Tampa and New York yields at best a draw, and at worst, a show in an event where only win and place matter - especially on offense.

But it's still July, for chrissakes. Ranting and raving might make me feel good (and it has in the past, Lord knows), but it doesn't amount to much other than a few additional points of blood pressure. And judging from the way our elected representatives are trying their damnedest to continue to place insurance company profits over public health, a rise in blood pressure can't bode well. I digress.

I wouldn't call myself optimistic, per se. Just temporally realistic. I think there's at least an even chance the Yankees are the best team in the league right now. I think there's an equally likely chance that things will change, and quickly, by trade, injury, and simply reveral of fortune.

So for the first time in a while, roll the balls out, let 'em play. We'll see what happens.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Back in Time

Games 89 through 91 - Red Sox

Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 1
Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 2
Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 1
Record: 55-36

On the one hand, losing 2 of 3 to Toronto while the Yankees sweep the Tigers really isn't the most auspicious beginning to the second "half" of the season. On the other, I'm still recovering from 4 days (and 3 nights, more importantly) spent in the company of various rakes, scoundrels, and roustabouts hard by the Carolina coast, and my indifference is matched only by my grogginess.

Noted with some concern: the continuing lack of offensive prowess shown by the Sox.

Monday, July 13, 2009

See How We Are

Games 86 & 87 - Mets

Mets 4, Reds 0
Mets 9, Reds 7
Record: 42-45

These last two games before the Break are merely a handful of sawdust sprinkled on the puddle of classroom barf that was the first 85 games of the season. In the ever-so-slightest of ways, it reduces a little of the stench and unsightliness, but let's face facts: there's no mistaking what's under there, and the teacher says it may be some time before the janitor can actually clean up this mess.

Recently the SportsGuy had an ESPN.com podcast with one of his Yankee-loving friends. After making half-hearted analyses on the nature of the acrimony between Mets fans and Yankees fans (as if on cue, SG's buddy brought up "26 championships" and how that invariably makes Mets fans so bitter . . . this being the irony Alanis Morissette should've sung about), they launched into a topic of mild interest: are the Mets the new Red Sox?

As much as the Mets' recent disasters can't possibly match up to 86 years of heartbreak, the acuteness of the torturous undoings and the collective mindset of Mets Township that now expects the debacle before presuming any victory does ring some bells with Sox fans. A fan base whose faith in the team now "officially" hovers around 30% (that's generous) and whose M.O. has become "what next?" . . . but also a team that consistently answers that question with "well, since you asked . . ." It's familiar ground for rooters of the Olde Towne Team.

And such is the metamorphosis (no pun intended) since we began this endeavor in 2003. It's like when Elaine became George. I have become a sad sack Sox fan. It's not a question of whether this will be the year, only how low and embarrassing we'll sink. Or how heartbreakingly close we can come. The good news is that it seems like we will have a 7-game World Series loss or two somewhere in the coming years, and you'd not expect that level of competence give the bungling currently in every aspect of this organization.

In other good news, when the NL blows the All-Star Game, it means the Dodgers or Phillies won't have home-field advantage, which is fine by most of us. So there's that.

Royal Oil

Games 86 through 88 - Red Sox

Red Sox 1, Royals 1
Red Sox 15, Royals 9
Red Sox 6, Royals 0
Record: 54-34

There may be a better way to enter the All-Star Break than a three-game Sox winning streak coupled with a three-game Yankee losing streak (Amy Adams is likely involved, if there is), but I'll certainly take the real-world scenario that played out this weekend.

Jon Lester and Josh Beckett took turns gunslinging, dropping 17 innings of 7-hit, 0-run starting pitching on the Royals. Lester, in particular, carried the team to victory as his mates stumbled around offensively against Brian Bannister. The lefty channeled Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp in Tombstone's payoff gun battle, wading into hostile fire and refusing to surrender. Dustin Pedroia's 8th-inning double finally made Lester a winner. Beckett's performance was even better, though it lacked the drama of a scoreless late-game battle.

The recently-maligned bats even showed up on Saturday and Sunday, as if chagrined by Lester's one-man (two, if you count Papelbon's devastating stuff on Friday) effort. And they needed to, as the middle part of the bullpen gave another incendiary (in the bad way) performance on Saturday. After John Smoltz delivered his best outing, staking the Sox to a 9-1 lead after 5 innings, Justin Masterson and Manny Delcarmen allowed 5 runs in the 6th, and were on their way to giving up more in the 7th before Daniel Bard snuffed a rally. Then, Bard himself gave up 2 more in the 8th to make a certain laugher far less funny.

And now an All-Star Break that's sure to be far less nerve-wracking than it looked like it might have been a few short days ago, followed by 4 days on the beach and a whole lot of ignoring baseball for me. Angst, my friend, I'll catch up with you in a few weeks.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Good Times Roll

Game 85 - Mets

Reds 3, Mets 0
Record: 40-45


Bronson Arroyo had been getting lit up like a Christmas tree for weeks.

PitchersIP H RERBBSOHRPC-STERA
B Arroyo
(W, 9-8)
9.0400050115-755.38

The Mets face Johnny Cueto tonight. Cueto was absolutely torched by the Phillies last time out (9 ER in 2/3 inning). I will be fairly stunned if he doesn't throw a shutout against the Mets.


In other news to file under Things That Make Me Loathe This Team, the Mets traded one of my favorite guys on the team -- Ryan Church -- for a player I have never been able to stomach since his arrival in the bigs -- the Braves' Jeff Francoeur. I can't imagine that there will be enough upside in this deal (Francoeur has a rocket arm, but Church's was damn good; Francoeur swings at everything, which should endear him to David Wright) to make me come around on him.

Frankly, there just seems to be no way that Omar Minaya out-thunk Frank Wren. Not in Strat-o-matic, not in Connect Four, and certainly not in major league baseball.

To Rob's point below, I am earning the unbridled revelry I will exhibit when the Mets win the World Series in 2034.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bittersweet

Games 84 & 85 - Red Sox

Red Sox 5, A's 4
Royals 8, Red Sox 6
Record: 51-34

I really want to amp up the righteous indignation, but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to generate any emotion that's not theatrically enhanced. (Cue Jon Lovitz: "I'm ACTING!") The Sox are 3-4 at home against Seattle, Oakland, and Kansas City. The Yankees have crawled back into a flat-footed tie with the Sox atop the division (and the league). The bullpen blew another one last night. The offense is hitting below .250 over the last month. Aaron Bates and Mark Kotsay are starting at first.

And I'm sitting here struggling to tip the outrage scale at anything above mild annoyance.

I feel bad about it, really. The Mets, bless their feeble hearts, are an abject train wreck. I can see how Whitney might be getting worn down by having to watch that mess every night. I don't have any excuses.

All I have, really, is a growing, nagging realization: My name is Rob, and I'm spoiled by the Sox' success.

The malady doesn't affect me during games; in the moment, I'm every bit the irrational adolescent I've always been. But I don't carry the losses with me into the next day, and the next, like I used to. You can see it in the mailed-in offerings here at MLC of late. Go back to 2003 and 2004 and compare. There were times when the agony was laughably palpable. Hell, Aaron Boone ruined about a month for me.

As with most things, the Yankees are at the root of this new evil. Several times in the past week alone, Yankee-fan friends were meek, deferential even, during Sox/Yanks banter. In the past, I could always count on a "26" or a "Bucky Dent". Now, though, there's a wistful quality to my pinstriped pals' trash talking. Almost makes me feel sorry for them, mourning the loss of their swagger.

Almost. Suck it up, you ninnies. I need you to be assholes again. My angst is depending on it.

I Would Be Sad

Games 83 & 84 - Mets

Mets 5, Dodgers 4
Dodgers 11, Mets 2
Record: 40-44

For the first time that I can remember, I TiVoed the Mets game and deleted it before watching even one pitch. I inadvertently caught the score when it was 11-2 in the 8th. What would be the point of watching?

Mets vs. Reds tonight. July 10, and the Reds have a better record than the Mets. To borrow from Annie Savoy, this is the damnedest season I've ever seen. And not in a good way.