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.