I was never really a fan of Josh Beckett’s. Young and cocky is definitely not the way to my heart. But that changed on the evening of Saturday, October 25, 2003 when I got a phone call from my sister demanding that I put on Fox to watch the end of Game 6 of the World Series.
Up to that point, I hadn’t watched on second of the World Series or any coverage around it. If you’re a Red Sox fan, you know I’m not exaggerating. 2003 almost made me give up baseball altogether and I knew if I actually watched the Yankees play in another World Series, let alone win it, I might never watch another game.
It was the seventh inning when my sister called and Beckett was cruising. The Yankees starter Andy Pettitte pitched seven innings and closer Mariano Rivera pitched two…but Beckett pitched all nine. By the seventh inning my sister was convinced no one was beating Beckett and she wanted me to watch the Marlins beat the Yankees right there on the field at Yankee Stadium.
I wasn’t as confidant as my sister. While she decided to spite watch the World Series in the hope that the ALCS had worn out the Yankees, I couldn’t bear it. But she finally wore me down and in the 8th inning I put on the game and it was the most glorious patch of baseball I had seen since the final inning of the 2001 World Series. (A joy that also was shared with my sister over the phone…we have a history of enjoying memorable sports moments that way even though we don’t live that far away from each other.) And after that game, Josh Beckett was a hero to me. A flawed hero, certainly, but a hero nonetheless right up there with Luis Gonzalez.
So when the Red Sox traded for him in 2005, I was overjoyed. Hmmm…that could be a little bit of revisionist history. Let’s go look at the archives* and see how I felt:
I watched NESN’s live Spring Training coverage last night. Basically it consisted of a tour of the new park, interviews with Bobby Valentine and Daniel Bard and a segment where we got to watch Bard shoot baskets. Some fun stuff, actually, and I’m looking forward to more.
But that was only on for an hour so I had to find something else to watch…where do I turn? The Celtics. So I’m watching the Celtics and they keep throwing it back to the studio every so often so we can see Tommy Heinsohn having an anxiety attack over the C’s losing. But when they aren’t letting Tommy go on they throw it to Mike Giardi with teases for that evening’s Sports Sunday show. Basically, Giardi began every update by mentioning that the Red Sox players aren’t apologizing for the 2011 collapse. “Waiting for the Red Sox to apologize?” was pretty much how he began each time. Now I ask you all this:
Were any of us really “waiting” for any of them to “apologize”? Because, I have to say, I wasn’t. Like many folks, I think I’m looking for answers to everything that went on that last month that I’m never going to get but to say I’m looking for an apology is off base.
It annoyed me for two reasons, one is because he did it every time they went to him and his spots didn’t seem pre-recorded (so they weren’t showing you the same piece every time) the other reason is because it just reinforces to me that the media doesn’t seem to care about what the reality of any situation is, they only want to create their own.
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!
Wasn’t it nice back when none of the players were responding to the criticisms brought about by Bob Hohler’s article? Remember those halcyon days?
Now we have Jon Lester personally calling just about every sports writer in New England, Josh Beckett and John Lackey releasing statements, yesterday was Jason Varitek fielding softballs from Greg Hill on WAAF and today we get Clay Buchholz on WEEI at 1pm with Lou Merloni. Hooray for mass communication!
While the players all say that drinking in the clubhouse during a game isn’t a big deal, apparently drinking in the dugout is, as that report is what got Beckett and Lackey to speak up. Essentially the players are saying, “Sure we drank in the clubhouse but we wouldn’t dream of bringing those cups of beer into the dugout! The horror!”.
Personally, I find there to be no difference. If you’re drinking during a game, whether in the clubhouse or dugout, you’re drinking during a game. It would be nice if these guys would spend more time trying to break down exactly what happened in September since they’re so certain it had nothing to do with drinking or a fractured clubhouse. My interpretation of what is being said is “We just sucked and there is no reason for it”, which, frankly, doesn’t fly.
All through September I wrote about (and argued) how I absolutely didn’t believe that the team just “stopped caring”. It was unbelievable to me that a team of professionals could not care about the outcome of the games or the season given how hard they worked. I still feel like there were plenty of players who didn’t just give up but I feel like I still have to eat my words because frankly, the quotes these guys are tossing out there right now pretty much feel like they’re saying they didn’t care…and that is much more disappointing than the team losing.
I hope Tito is having a cup of green tea this morning, reflecting on what an amazing run he had with the Red Sox and thanking God that he’s away from the mess they have become.
Seven years ago today, the Red Sox won game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, beating the Yankees and confirming their spot in baseball history. All of this ridiculousness won’t change that but it sure makes me long for those days.
I spent most of today offline, working on a family project that will take up a lot of time and bring me much joy. I need the distraction from the world of baseball right now. So when I finally jumped back online this evening I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Jon Lester had spoken at length about the accusations coming off of Yawkey Way right now.
That was before I actually read what he said.
There are plenty of places to read the quotes by Lester. I suppose I should say “good for him” for speaking out but I’m just not feeling it. Sure he came out and said the reason they lost had nothing to do with ownership, Theo Epstein or Terry Francona and placed the blame all on the team but he also blew off the talk of the pitchers not being on the bench and instead being in the clubhouse drinking and said that as much as he was fond of Tito it was probably time for him to go.
Let me get this part out first because I keep reading people making jokes about anyone getting up in arms over a few baseball players having beers on days they aren’t playing and I feel like it’s getting overlooked or, really, just ignored for the sake of keeping up the narrative.
I don’t think there is anyone who begrudges anyone else a beer. And I’m sure that having drinks in the clubhouse after the game is common but there is no scenario I can imagine where it’s appropriate for a clique of pitchers to leave the dugout during a game and have beers instead of acting like part of the team. Having written that, it seems to me that the bigger issue isn’t specifically that they were drinking beer but that in doing whatever they were doing in that clubhouse (which, even by Lester’s account, was drinking beer) was disrespecting not only their teammates but their manager. I really don’t care how you defend the beer drinking, being a group of entitled asses segregating yourself from the rest of your team and ignoring your manager is unacceptable.
Here’s what Lester said about Terry Francona:
But there comes a time when your authority is no longer there. You kind of run your course. People knew how Tito was and we pushed the envelope with it. We never had rules, we never had that iron-fist mentality. If you screwed up, he called you on it. That was how it worked.
“I never saw guys purposely breaking rules or doing the wrong thing in front of him and rubbing it in his face. But this particular team probably needed more structure. Tito was the perfect guy for this team for a long time but I think he got burnt out.”
Let me break down his tripe:
* But there comes a time when your authority is no longer there ~ The only way I will grant Lester this is if the clubhouse was full of new players who hadn’t played under Tito before. It makes no sense that Tito’s authority would suddenly be gone with players who have worked for him previous to 2010. Now, I don’t find Tito blameless in all of this. If the stories are true it’s very possible he let his private life get in the way of his doing his job properly. But this is a two-way street and players, ADULTS, who have worked for him before should have the maturity to treat him with the respect he deserves.
* People knew how Tito was and we pushed the envelope with it ~ You don’t push the envelope when you’re in your late twenties and early thirties. You are grown, professional men and you’re admitting you acted like teenagers taking advantage of your single mom working nights.
* This particular team probably needed more structure ~ This quote makes me want to kick Lester repeatedly. How many men on that team are over the age of 25? How many are married men with children? Again, we’re talking about adults who should not be whining that they need “more structure”.
* I think he got burnt out ~ No, Jon, you burned him out. And all your talk of what “good guys” you all are is falling on deaf ears over here. Good guys don’t act like idiots. Good guys don’t force their manager, one of the best at his job and the most successful ever on your team, to quit the job they love. Good guys don’t blame the media for a witch hunt when the things they are reporting are accurate.
Plenty of people are writing or talking tonight about how great it is that Lester came clean and took the blame for what went on. I’d love to feel that way and was hoping that was the case. But his words about Tito really come across harsh here. Tito treated this guy like a son and his way of repaying all of that is to disrespect him and chalk it up to Tito being burned out. I’m disgusted. I mean, I was already disgusted but this media blitz, which I’m sure he was hoping would make everyone remember that he’s Jon Lester and everyone gives him a long rope, only enhanced my disgust. I’d love this all to go away but it seems obvious now that we’re going to have to deal with more of these interviews from more players before we get finished with this garbage.
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:
that is all.
Labor Day is one of my favorite days of the year. I love the fall and have always looked forward to things like the new school year beginning, the new television season starting and things just, generally, changing from a long summer. My love of autumn doesn’t mesh that well with my love of baseball given September is the beginning of the end of the regular baseball season but even still it’s my favorite time of year.
Children going back to school and television fans getting new shows aren’t the only people who enjoy a fresh start in September. Thanks to the call-ups, there are many players in the minor leagues who get their first taste of the bigs in September. Just this morning, with the final regular season game in Pawtucket being played tonight, Ryan Lavarnway, Nate Spears and Kyle Weiland all got called up and will be in Toronto this afternoon. Ryan and Kyle have been called up before, but this is the first time for Nate. After playing in Portland in 2010 and helping Pawtucket make it to the playoffs this year, Nate will most likely see his first Major League at-bat in Toronto. (Nate isn’t currently on the 40-man roster so a move will have to be made before he gets officially activated.)
I’m always happy for the guys who get called up and given how much I’ve learned about Nate from Kelly O’Connor, who has been following his career much more closely than I (or probably ANYONE) for a few years now, I’m especially happy that he gets his shot this week. But the one thing that always interests me is how the fans of the Minor League teams react to losing players once the playoffs begin. I know plenty of people who follow the SeaDogs the PawSox and even the Spinners who don’t pay that much attention to the Red Sox. They live near the MiLB parks, they go to the MiLB games and aren’t concerned with what the “big” team is doing and they’d rather see their guys in the Minor League uniforms for the playoffs. If your team gets into the playoffs and then suddenly players start being plucked out to join the parent team (only to be sent packing for home once the regular season ends) it has to be frustrating. I imagine it’s frustrating for the players who don’t get called up as well given that they’re being left behind to take on the playoffs without their teammates. The playoffs for the PawSox begin on Wednesday and by all accounts Kyle Weiland was going to start the first game. Now he’ll most likely be sitting in the Red Sox bullpen in Toronto while Matt Fox gets the start for Pawtucket. While getting the big league time is what they are working for, I wonder how they feel about missing out on the playoffs (especially since they won’t be in the playoffs with the Red Sox this year)? I’d imagine for someone like Nate getting the call for the FIRST time, the excitement about actually getting called up outweighs any disappointment there might be in regard to missing the playoffs.
The PawSox play their final regular season game today at 1:05pm (all the women fans in attendance get a rose) and the Red Sox play their first of a four-game series against the Blue Jays at 1:07 this afternoon. In Toronto, Josh Beckett will be on the mound to, hopefully, put an end to the two-game losing streak. The Yankees just finished beating up on the Jays…I’m hoping this doesn’t encourage them to take out their frustrations on the Red Sox. I’d like a bit of carnage coming from the Sox this week.
My personal triumph last night was staying up to watch the entire game. I was probably all hepped up from watching CC Sabathia give up five home runs to the Tampa Bay Rays and my adrenaline kept me going through the Red Sox game.
Admittedly, at one point around the seventh inning or so, I started to fall asleep and heard a very loud “Lets’ go Red Sox!” chant coming from the television. For a moment, I honestly thought I was dreaming. I shook myself awake and realized it was very, very real. Red Sox fans representing LOUDLY at Safeco. Well done, folks, well done.
Sorry to see Justin Smoak take a Jarrod Saltalamacchia bad hop to the face. Salty looked shaken up and watching Smoak bleeding on his way to the dugout was worrisome. Word is a broken nose and a CT scan today to make sure they aren’t missing anything. No way to watch a player leave the field. Hopefully he’s all right.
John Lackey is now tied with Jon Lester for most wins on the team (11)…and has more wins than Josh Beckett (9) and Felix Hernandez (10). Yet the folks who vote for the Cy Young winner still use wins as a way to determine the best pitcher. Insert facepalm here.
In spite of their being not the best stat to judge a pitcher, wins are fun. Wins that assist in giving the team an entire game in the standings are even more fun. Wins that come when the starting pitcher isn’t exactly sharp? Tremendously fun. Now tonight we wait until 10 ET to watch Felix Hernandez pitch against Josh Beckett. A match made in prime time heaven, starting well after your average ballgame. Given the lack of coverage it will be getting in real time, we’ll probably be getting a pitching match for the ages.