I know how (a lot of) you feel. You want to be excited. Pitchers and catchers report today! This is out day to be full of joy and happy and merry anticipation! But you have concerns or, worse yet, you don’t seem to care at all. You want to care, you do, but there are so many negative residual feelings left over from 2011 that you aren’t sure if you can. I have felt this same way for the entire off-season.
I went to Truck Day armed with my camera and a hope that seeing Fenway and the equipment truck would shake me out of it. I then spent many hours after that truck departed lamenting the state of my beloved team and using some very strong curse words to describe various players still wearing the Red Sox. So I get it. I know that every time you see Terry Francona on ESPN you’re going to be sad. I know that every Phillies game that Fox airs on a Saturday afternoon is going to make you want to throw things at the television every time they show Jonathan Papelbon. I know some of you are secretly hoping that every move Theo Epstein makes turns out to be an epic failure for the Cubs (maybe that last one is just me). As much as it annoys me when people say this so casually, I’ll let Cher give you my advice:
Because what other choice do you have? I can’t choose to be miserable. I mean hell, sure I can CHOOSE to be miserable but why would I? Why is so much of sports fandom wrapped up in being pro-actively unhappy? Many of the decisions made by this team lately have dumbfounded me. Some have angered me. But on April 13th, thanks to the generosity of a dear friend, my butt will be in Fenway Park freezing as it has been for many years now. Why am I going to attend a baseball game in person in APRIL* if I don’t care about the damn team? I’m not. But this year I will be there because, dammit, no matter how many Popeye’s jokes get made I want to see Josh Beckett et al lead this damn team to victory.
I am tired of being sad or, worse, indifferent about what has happened to my team. (Yes, I said “my” team. It’s my team. It’s your team too. It’s our team. I try to avoid it when writing, but I use “we” in reference to the team as well. Not going to change now.) I can choose to put all the unpleasantness behind me (yesterday’s Twitter bombing of all the Boston sports writers covering Papelbon’s press conference didn’t help that, admittedly) and focus on the new season or I can just wallow for a while. (I’ve been wallowing for a LONG while and, quite frankly, am sick to death of it.) So I woke up this morning and decided that enough was enough. I’m going to embrace this day like I’ve embraced every one of these days for many, many years now.
Pitchers and catchers report today, people. Rejoice, friends, for Spring Training is upon us!
As I often do when the subject is emotionally fueled, I wrote three different openings for this entry before I got the feel for what I wanted to write.
I’ve often said that as amazing as 2004 was, 2007 was more fun for me. 2004 was full of anxiety and nail biting and when it was all over I sat, alone, watching the rolling rally on television crying (and sneezing….I was sick that day no doubt from the previous two weeks of no sleep) and just taking it all in.
In 2007, I told my boss I was going to the parade (and he was great enough to not question it at all) and I spent the day with two equally excited friends (KellyO and Cindy…along with Steve!) and had more fun than I thought possible at a parade. It was party, party, party with a lot of thank yous thrown in. That is what I want to focus on today. This evening Kelly O’Connor has been posting photos from the night the Red Sox clinched the division on her Twitter and Facebook pages as a way of saying goodbye to Jonathan Papelbon.
In all my years of watching the Red Sox I can’t remember a night that was more fun to watch (and I wasn’t even there in person) than the night they clinched the division. Realizing they were letting the fans stay at Fenway after the game to watch the Orioles/Yankees game (a reminder: The Yankees needed to lose that game for the Red Sox to clinch. They were beating the Orioles going into the 9th inning and Mariano Rivera blew the lead and the Orioles ended up winning in the tenth on a Melvin Mora bunt single.), I kept switching from the O’s/Yanks game to NESN because I wanted to watch the celebration. It’s difficult to explain that while the Red Sox clinching the division in 2007 wasn’t as important or exciting as their winning the ALCS and World Series in 2004…it was a whole lot of fun the likes we really hadn’t experienced as Red Sox fans and Papelbon was a huge reason for that.
Now, of course Papelbon is a pretty damn good pitcher and any team would be better with him on it and I will miss that feeling I’d get when he took the mound at Fenway and if I had my druthers he’d still be with the team. But I’m not dwelling on any of that. Right now, I’m mourning the loss of a pitcher who, more often than not, got the job done in a manner that could sometimes leave you breathless while also being one of the more entertaining guys on the team.
“Mourning” might be the wrong word. I’ve prepared myself for this moment for a while. It’s a bit like what went on with Pedro Martinez. I knew Papelbon was going to follow the money (and who could blame him?) and as I mentioned the other day, as long as he went to a team not in the AL East nor a team I dislike, I’d be okay with it. So I’m happy that he isn’t in the AL East yet sorry that he’s going to the Phillies (although if ever there was a team or fan base I think his personality will fit it with, it’s Philadelphia). So while I’m not exactly mourning, I’m definitely feeling the hurt of losing Paps. I would like the Red Sox to stop subtracting and get going with the addition (although I should say, I’m pleased the Red Sox didn’t sink into Paps what the Phillies are).
The entry title refers to Papelbon’s first start in the Majors. You all remember it…a Sunday in 2005 when we all thought Manny Ramirez was getting traded. Before the game (or after, I forget now) a reporter asked him if he preferred being called Jon or Jonathan and he told the reporters that he preferred to be called “Jonathan”. (Prior to being asked, he was usually referred to as “Jon”.) It always stuck with me even though it’s such a little thing because the Papelbon we know now wouldn’t have waited to be asked, he would have just told the reporters.
In my life away from baseball, I try to embrace change. Hell, who really has a choice, right? So that’s what I ‘m trying to do with the Red Sox. I’m trying to embrace the changes we’ve already gone through and the ones we’ll be experiencing soon. I’m trying.
It isn’t easy.
Leaving out any considerations about the length and cost of his contract and who the closer will be for the Red Sox in 2012, the bottom line is I will genuinely miss Papelbon being a member of the Red Sox and being “ours”. Seeing him as one of “theirs” won’t be easy.
So not only did I miss manager interview coverage (Hello, Sandy Alomar, Jr) yesterday by being offline for most of the day yesterday, but I missed the Jonathan Papelbon signing with the Toronto Blue Jays or Philadelphia Phillies rumors as well. It’s always a busy sports day when I have to take some time off.
At this point I have no dog in the fight when it comes to choosing a manager. I’ll accept whichever candidate they choose as long as his name doesn’t begin with Tony and end with LaRussa, so I can just let them hash it out and get back to me when it’s all over. (Although there is a large part of me absolutely convinced it will be Dale Sveum.)
I’m feeling a similar ennui in regard to the Papelbon rumors. I really enjoy his entrances into games at Fenway and I really like watching him when he’s on. I’ve also heard some good stories about him off the field so, generally speaking, there’s no reason I shouldn’t want him back in Boston. But, truth be told, if he decides his future is elsewhere, God speed and thanks for 2007. I don’t want to see him go but I won’t be weeping over my laptop if he does. I just don’t want him going anywhere it could adversely affect the Red Sox (like, say, anywhere in the American League East) and I don’t want him to pitch for a team I don’t like (oh, let’s say, like the Philadelphia Phillies). Aside from that, I’m good.
I worry that this September and, really, October, have given me this meh feeling for what is going on right now and I hope choosing a new man to lead the team will help in my getting back that feeling I’m used to having when I hear Red Sox news.
I’ve spent most of today doing research for a longer piece I’m going to write when it hit me I didn’t write anything yesterday. I’m hoping to stop the alternate day posts and get back to posting every day…so here we go!
* Tony LaRussa announced today that he’s retiring. I have absolutely nothing good to say about Tony LaRussa so I’ll just say goodbye.
* If Terry Francona became the manager for the Cardinals, I wouldn’t mind terribly. I’m hoping when he does eventually get a job it’s with the national league. (And given the Cardinals hiring practices, the hatchet job Tito got in October shouldn’t hinder his ability to get a job with them.)
* I’m still very bitter that Mark McGwire will have a World Series ring
(I hadn’t intended this to be all about how much I dislike the Cardinals but they make it very easy. I’m happy for their fans, who seem like a decent group, but that’s about it.)
* Derek Lowe has reportedly been traded to the Cleveland Indians. He was never one of the “25” that I expected to last this long. What do I know? The sad part of the trade is that the Braves are getting a single A player and $5 million toward the $15 million left on his contract. Ouch.
Have to get this off my chest: I want to go back and delete every entry or tweet that I’ve written defending John Lackey in any way. I won’t get into why (you can Google it and find out for yourself) because I hate feeding into the gossip mongers, but if the story is true in my mind there is NO defense for him and, really, I couldn’t care less what happens to him from here on out. And that’s all I have to say about that.
But about that game…(not that first one which we will not speak of but that second one)
When Mark Teixeira doubled in two runs and then scored on a bad throw in the first inning I yelled, out loud for the baseball gods to hear me, “I’m done! I’m SO done with this!” and stormed out of the room with the television. I paced around until the next inning began and then sat myself down in front of the television and kept watching until the very end. Apparently I wasn’t “done” but I needed to finally let the frustration out.
And I’m glad I didn’t give up because the way the game was won, while more than a bit painful at times, was beautiful. (Beautiful as in “That baby is butt ugly but his mother thinks he’s beautiful”, beautiful.)
After last night’s game I went to the Rays message board at rays.com (I sometimes do this with the opponent after a game) and was surprised by the number of fans complaining that the Red Sox were given preferential treatment by the umpires last night. In my experience, there is usually one troll who shows up on the message boards saying the the Red Sox pay the umps (or that the umps just want to ensure the Red Sox are in the playoffs) but no one else really takes that troll seriously. Last night, many fans were agreeing that the umps were giving Beckett a different strike zone than Shields. I laughed it off. Fans get worried and start to fear the worst, so as ridiculous as it was, I understood where they were coming from.
Then this morning I read this quote given by Joe Maddon:
I wouldn’t have written this entry if I didn’t feel strongly about the “It Gets Better” campaign but I will admit to being a little surprised that the Red Sox have agreed to become the third team (behind the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs) to produce a video for the project. Little Sam Maden did a good thing and the Red Sox (and their fans, given the almost 10,000 signatures on the petition Sam started) responded in kind. My surprise comes from what seems to be a natural lean away from anything related to LGBT by the world of sports, and I’m pleased to have been proven wrong. Also, I’m really looking forward to seeing the completed video! Thank you, Sam, Red Sox fans and Boston Red Sox.
Speaking of thanks, Alfredo Aceves deserves a whole bunch of them from Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon and Terry Francona, yes? Yesterday’s performance was, in my humble opinion, the epitome of clutch and just solidified my belief that he is one person in the bullpen that the Sox can’t afford to lose right now. When he entered the game, we essentially got another starter just starting later than normal. How great is that to have waiting in the wings? Of course, four innings, three hits and one earned run later, it went to JD Drew, he of the Golden Sombrero yesterday, to come up big with the winning hit. Sometimes you just have to shake your head and laugh.
Watching the closer get thrown out of the game in the ninth inning was, to say the least, surreal. It actually surprised me to find out this is the first time Papelbon has ever been thrown out of a game, even if I couldn’t think of a time when it would have happened. While I get why Tek was thrown out, even though it stunned me a little, Paps getting tossed was all because the umpire decided to insert himself in the game. I hate when that happens and I hate even more that they don’t get called on it by the broadcasters or MLB…it’s only the fans (and Tom Caron on Twitter yesterday, hoo-boy). But we have no time (or reason) to dwell. They won and today they go for the sweep with John Lackey on the mound and Scott Atchison and Dan Wheeler the only relievers who weren’t used on Saturday. Today’s game, at 1:35pm, could be a doozy.
I will be at a family event and unable to watch the game live (thanking the technology Gods for my smart phone) but I have no doubt it’s going to be one that we’ll be talking about for a while.
Okay, so we’ve seen the team (finally) win their first game, then we saw them win a series (or two) and now, with the same game, we’ve seen them win a game on the road and all five starting pitchers have at least one “w” under their belt. Add to this there being no “When will Papi hit his first home run” and all we have left to deal with from the media is “When will Carl Crawford become Carl Crawford?”. I’d say we’re doing all right.
This has been the longest 17-game stretch I can remember. I’m worn out and I’m not even playing. And now we have three late night games to look forward to (tonight and tomorrow at 10:05 and Saturday at 9:05). If they can bring us wins, I won’t complain about how sleepy I am!
I watched some of yesterday’s game on my cell phone while I was in church. Bobby Jenks caused me to think bad thoughts while there but at least it all ended well.
Random stat that probably doesn’t mean anything but makes me happy: Jonathan Papelbon currently sports a 2.84 ERA and has 3 saves this year.
Blog suggestion for the day: The Josh Beckett Foundation seems to be making the blog rounds, asking for help in promoting their good work. I’m always more than happy to help out but instead of giving you a duplicate post of what is said here, I send you to Denton at Surviving Grady for the info on how to support the Foundation, help out Children’s Hospital AND win a tricked-out Jeep Wrangler.
At midnight I began watching the replay of Saturday’s game (having watched most of it in real time) and fell asleep with it on. It was one of those restless sleeps where I was half asleep but could still hear the rain outside as well as the television and when Jed Lowrie hit his home run, I dreamed that they revealed his picture on a box of Wheaties at Fenway Park during a rain delay.
Today is Jed’s 27th birthday. Along with other good things coming to him, I hope he gets another start. It’s tough for me to watch Marco Scutaro get pushed out of his position but it’s also tough to watch Marco struggle knowing a productive Jed is on the bench.
“This is back to back games where Beckett is right on target”…so said Jerry Remy. Beckett had his second great game in a row. This time striking out nine and only giving up three hits and one earned run in seven innings. He and Jonathan Papelbon now share ERAs of 1.80.
It was a good win (and for the cynical, prior to yesterday, Beckett’s ERA against Toronto over the last three years was 11.80 with a total of zero wins. It’s fair to say, he has trouble against the Blue Jays) and here’s hoping it is the first of many. I’ll take a 10-game winning streak, sure.
The Red Sox are 3-10 and 5 games out of first place. The Minnesota Twins are 4-10, the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets are 4-11 and the Houston Astros are 5-10. Seattle is the farthest back in their division at 6.5 game out. I mention all this because the Red Sox might hold the worst record in baseball, right now, but they certainly aren’t the only team struggling. Heck, this week alone the Mets have had two doubleheaders and lost them both. Joe Nathan, closer for the Twins, has blown two saves in a row to the Tampa Bay Rays. Misery is spreading across MLB but it can’t last forever, right?
One win at a time works for me.
A shout out to Kristin F who was the first person to email me the correct answer to Friday’s contest question. She has a copy of Remembering Fenway Park coming her way! Thanks to every one for joining in! There will be another contest coming up soon!
Random stat that probably doesn’t mean anything but sounds great (with thanks to Bruce Allen over at Boston Sports Media Watch): In 2001, the Oakland A’s started 2-10 going 9-18 and didn’t get over .500 for good until July 8th and went on to win 102 games.
Blog suggestion for the day: Beth over at Cursed to First relays the Legend of Jed Lowrie.
Well, that was both enjoyable and extremely painful.
I’m not pointing fingers, I’m not bitching about anyone, I’m not rehashing the game. I only ask the baseball gods to not give the Sox and their fans the final kick in the privates this weekend. Let this weekend be, relatively speaking, meaningless. If I have to be at Fenway Park AGAIN when the Yankees clinch the division, I might hurt someone. That is all.
Still fighting this damn cold but as of right now I really do want to do a final S0x live chat…so right now I’m looking at this Thursday against the White Sox. It’s the final game of September and even though it starts at 8pm, I thought it a good choice. Hope folks will be able to join us!
I will say this about ESPN: Joe Morgan talking about how Papi “really” feels even after admitting Papi said nothing of the kind to him and also going on about how the Red Sox front office “Gave up” on this season should be cause for that man to get a stern talking to from his bosses or at least a punch in the face. I know Morgan is a sub-par broadcaster but last night he was just out of his ass and his boothmates did nothing to discourage it and actually encouraged it. I think Joe Morgan might be a bigger asshat than CHB – and that’s sure saying something.
I lied. That is not all about this weekend. Friday and Saturday and parts of Sunday were some of the most fun and exciting baseball I’ve watched in a long time. If folks choose to dwell on the fact that the Sox lost yesterday, that is their choice. As much of a bummer as it was to see Papelbon blow another save and Okajima give it up at the end, those things don’t take away from how much I genuinely enjoyed watching these games. I’ve written it before. All I ask is that they win more than they lose and they’re still keeping up with that…so I’m happy. Disappointed they didn’t get a sweep and the Yankees clinched a playoff spot sure, but still happy and proud of my team for never saying die.