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.