Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

Pedro! Pedro! Pedro!

This was June of 1999. Pedro was a god in this season and this is what he let his teammates do to him. (Photo by Kuni Taknhnshi and used without permission)

So just when much of the Red Sox fan base is worried, frustrated and at the end of their rope, who shows up in town to cheer us up?

Pedro Martinez.

The best pitcher I have seen in my lifetime was sitting at a folding table in a HomeGoods store in Bedford, Massachusetts over the weekend promoting a charity toy drive supporting the Jimmy Fund and his personal charity back in the Dominican Republic. He was supposed to be there for two hours and he stayed for three and a half, signing autographs for roughly 450 people. I wasn’t one of those 450 but nonetheless I sit here beaming while reading the stories and looking at the photos of his return.

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December 5, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , | 3 Comments

Another Flashback – October 2008

Classic Pedro/Nomar photo by Kuni Takahashi

Classic Pedro/Nomar photo by Kuni Takahashi

So I wrote this as one of the two pieces I needed to write for the WEEI blogger contest (I was looking for the original piece I wrote that got me into the contest and can’t find it. It’s floating around here somewhere!).  My final entry had photos for each item but I’m not posting them this time.  I enjoy these kinds of entries and need to get back to writing more of them!  (And, once again, a long entry awaits you.  It seems MY personal favorite entries are usually of the long-winded kind!)

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An off night is a great time to reflect on the sports moments of the past. So, because I’m nothing if not specific, I give you five favorite moments and five least favorite moments in New England sports history and how they affected me. Moments that I was alive (and old enough) to witness (not necessarily in person). What this means is no Fisk’s home run (which I was alive for but, alas, have no memory of), no Impossible Dream team of 1967 (predates me), no Ted Williams. You get the point.

Also, I’m purposely leaving out the 2004 and 2007 post-seasons of the Red Sox. Because, truly, I could write a book about them both and we really don’t have that kind of space right now.

Let’s start with the good and countdown since that’s so darned popular these days:

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July 28, 2010 Posted by | 2010 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My God Rant

You know he does.

You know he does.

I don’t consider myself overly religious.  I’m more spiritual than specifically religious but I do believe in God and Jesus Christ.  I’m Catholic by birth and still believe in and follow many tenets of that religion.  I share this here so folks know where I coming from when I write the rant I’m about to write.

The religious beliefs of famous people, including athletes, was never something I paid much attention to.  I’m not one of those people who wants to know every intimate detail about the personal lives of the folks I choose to follow whether as actors or writers or athletes.  Entertain me and I’m happy.  Which is one of the reasons, as much as I love technology and the Internet especially, all of this access we now have has always been a little disturbing to me.  I don’t want to know who Tiger Woods is banging or which football players bring guns to every party they attend.  Sadly, that ship has sailed and I practically have no choice.  If I spend time online, I’m going to eventually come across information I could have done without.  It seems to me that there was a time when religious beliefs were held closely to each individual and not something that was put out there for the public to dissect.  Those times, if they ever really did exist, are gone.  People seem to be more willing and happy to share their beliefs with the world which automatically sets them up for criticism.

For years the famous have thanked God, most notably in award ceremony speeches.  But it wasn’t until 2003 that I actually paid close attention to a player thanking God so specifically as I did Bill Mueller.  After one particularly good game, Mueller told an ESPN  reporter that before he would answer any questions he wanted to “thank the Lord for blessing me with the gifts he did that helped me help the team tonight”.  I use quotation marks but that isn’t a direct quote – just as close as my memory will let me get.

I was blown away by his forthrightness, knowing full well the shitstorm that was going to crop up on the Red Sox message board I frequented at the time.  I wasn’t wrong.  A debate began over at the Red Sox fan forum about whether he should have said what he said.  The people complaining about him trotted out the oft-used “we don’t need baseball players preaching to us” argument while folks on the other side of the argument felt it was his right to say whatever he wanted in the moment and thanking God wasn’t the same as preaching to people.  That same season, well in that POST season, Trot Nixon got a pinch hit, extra innings, 2-run home run against the Oakland A’s during the ALDS that kept the Sox alive and led them back to Oakland where they eventually won the series.  In his post-game comments, he said that Jesus was holding the bat for him when he swung (Trot was banged up which was one reason didn’t start the game – the other being left-hander Ted Lilly was the starting pitcher).  You can imagine the online controversy THAT caused.  In the post-season of 2004, in the presser after his amazing Game 6 “Bloody Sock” start, Curt Schilling announced to the world that he was a Christian.  Each of these moments were followed by passionate arguments for and against the players having the “right” to do this.  All of that was followed up in 2005 with an interesting article written by Bob Hohler detailing the Evangelical Christians in the clubhouse with this supportive quote by Gabe Kapler:

”Everyone is very respectful of one another and what they choose to believe in,” said Gabe Kapler, who is Jewish. ”The guys in this clubhouse live in harmony when it comes to that kind of stuff.”

So the bottom line of the Hohler piece seemed to me to be that there were an awful lot of Evangelical Christians on the team but, unlike the reputation of that group, they weren’t making the non-Evangelicals feel left out or intimidated. Works for me.

Anyone who visited Fenway Park during the Nomar Garciaparra era knew that he took a knee and said a prayer (or two) during warmups before each game.  Pedro Martinez built a Catholic church in  his hometown back in the Dominican Republic.  There were (are) little signs of religion everywhere in baseball (cameras are always picking up fans in the stands with their hands clasped together in prayer, hoping for a ‘miracle’ for their team) and I have not once felt like baseball or specific baseball players were trying to convert me.

The overt tips of the hat to their God are much more obvious in baseball now than possibly any other time.  Many pitchers take a moment before they take the mound to do what looks like praying (in many cases we don’t really know  – maybe they’re just meditating?) and many batters cross themselves while at bat or give a point up to heaven once they take a base.  And with the more obvious shout outs to religion come the more heavy handed criticisms of it.  My favorite (and I say that with great sarcasm) is the argument that even if there is a God (which most people who use this argument believe there isn’t…which is fine, to each their own), he doesn’t care which team wins a game.  I happen to agree with this argument fully.  I don’t believe for a minute that my God is up there laying bets on his favorite teams.  But my issue here isn’t about the existence (or not) of God it’s about the idea that people claim that players believe God wants “their” team to win.

In all the outward gushings of the believers, I’ve never heard one or read one quote that said “God wanted our team to win today!”.  Those quotes could be out there but I’ve not been made aware of them.  Here’s a short primer for the unaware:  People who believe in God, regardless of which God it is and how they celebrate this, believe God has an interest in them.  The bottom line for praying is that if you ask God for help, you might get it.  It’s really just as simple as that.

Bill Mueller believes that God gave him a talent that made it possible for him to sustain a career in professional baseball.  Trot Nixon believes that Jesus was with him in what he (Nixon) considered a time of struggle.  Curt Schilling believes that in a moment where the hopes and dreams of millions of people were square on his shoulders and he was in a weakened physical state, God helped him through.  I have no idea if any of them are right.  My struggles with my faith are many and too private to fully share here but I don’t see any reason to take issue with those who publicly articulate that they believe a higher power is helping them out.

I would take tremendous issue with, say, Jon Lester going on NESN and telling people the only path to a fulfilling life is through Jesus Christ.  The flip side of that is that I’d be offended if Jacoby Ellsbury told Heidi Watney that God was dead and all who believed were fools.  We don’t watch baseball to be preached to, from either side.  But if Jonathan Papelbon went on NESN and said that he felt like God blessed him for whatever reasons, where is the harm there?  To me, that is the equal of what the players do when they thank God or Jesus or the saints or their dead mothers.  They aren’t telling us we need to be next to them believing what they do, they’re just comfortable enough with who they are to share that with us.  Why is this a problem for people?  Why use the dismissive “God doesn’t care” argument just because you don’t care?  The “God doesn’t care” line reeks of willful ignorance.  I honestly can’t think of anyone who has ever argued that their God genuinely wants one team to win over another.

It isn’t my business if people want to thank God or the Goddess or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  I happen to think there’s enough room for all of us.

July 1, 2010 Posted by | 2010 | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Gotta win, gotta score

Sure, you THINK he doesn't look intimidating...but he will kick your ass.  Courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

Sure, you THINK he doesn't look intimidating...but he will kick your ass. Courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

Another successful game!  Took a while and gave us some angst while it was happening but it ended well and, right now, that’s all we can ask for, right?

Great time in the live chat (and we’re now 3 for 3 so I might have to think about scheduling maybe 2 a week instead of 1 to help the Sox out of their funk!) – thanks to everyone who participated (whether by actually chatting or just visiting us to follow along).

Once again, Dustin Pedroia goes into the post-game questioning period with a message for folks…:

“David’s fine,” Pedroia said. “He’s one of our teammates. It could’ve been me that hit into a double play. It happens to everybody, man. He’s had 60 at-bats. A couple of years ago, I was hitting .170 and everyone was ready to kill me too. What happened? Laser show so relax. I’m tired of looking at the NESN poll, ‘Why is David struggling?’ David’s fine. He’s one of our teammates. We believe in him. He came out of it last year, he’s going to come out of it this year.

“It’s 25 guys, man. We met the other day. We need everybody to win. This isn’t two or three guys who are going to carry a team. We need everybody to help us win games. We have each other’s backs and we’re ready for the long haul. We started out [crappy] but we’re going to come out of it. We believe that.”

Now, regardless of whether you all think Papi is “fine” or you want him run out on a rail, you have to admit that being so forceful and forthcoming with public support is a sign of one hell of a teammate.  Ever since John Tomase’s story about how the chemistry in the clubhouse is terrible (using no named sources – my favorite way to try and disparage people.  Oh wait, it isn’t MY favorite way, it’s Tomase’s) there has been an active show of support from all over the team whether it’s the way the act in the dugout or the things they say to the press.  Maybe Tomase’s piece had some merit to it?  OR maybe they were so disgusted by it they decided (at the team meeting?) to make sure folks new it was full of holes?  In any event, I’m enjoying the public shows of solidarity – even if it’s only for our benefit.

And, fools who boo Papi, really, give up  your tickets.  You absolutely don’t deserve to sit in those seats.  I’ve gone over and over about how I feel about booing so there is no need to rehash it all but I’ll say this:  If you sit at Fenway Park (or ANY park) and call yourself a Red Sox fan AND boo David Ortiz, you are an asshole.  Plain and simple.

Oh, and Jeremy Hermida has something to say to those worried that Papi will be a problem in the clubhouse (talking about when he scored on Mike Lowell’s double in the 8th):

“He was one of the first guys to come up to me and said, ‘Way to pick me up,’” Hermida said. “That shows what kind of teammate he is and what kind of guy he is. He realizes there’s only so much he can do out there. He squared up a ball but unfortunately it was right at somebody. Fortunately, we were able to come through and get the knock when we needed it.”

He isn’t sitting and sulking. He’s still a part of the damn team and people need to remember that.  I will absolutely not disagree that it’s painful to watch him struggle with his at-bats but that doesn’t mean he deserves the anger and disrespect that so many are throwing around right now.  I don’t envy Tito his job; the decision to sit a legend doesn’t come easy.  I believe Tito will do what’s right for this team and his players and I’m not going to second guess him – especially not on May 5th.  Seriously, people, criticizing Papi on your blogs or on message boards, fine, I get it, it’s frustrating.  Booing him at Fenway?  You folks can go sit on a tack.

Tonight at Fenway the Red Sox will honor Nomar Garciaparra with a retirement ceremony of some sort.  I won’t be there but I’ll be watching.  Congratulations, again, Nomar!

John Lackey will, for the first time in his career, pitch against the Angels tonight with old friend Joel Pineiro on the mound.  So the quest for a sweep begins at 7:10pm.  Come on, John.  You don’t want Clay to be the only one on the team with 3 wins, right?

May 5, 2010 Posted by | 2010 | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

But baby that&#39s a lie

I dig the Jay Bay but I'll be happy when we don't have to keep hearing about him any more (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission)

I dig the Jay Bay but I'll be happy when we don't have to keep hearing about him any more (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission)

Red Sox baseball on television today!

Unless, of course, you actually live in the Boston area.

If what they’ve done historically still holds true, the MLB Network will be airing today’s 1:05pm Sox/Mets game as long as you aren’t in the Boston area market (not sure about NY – do they get blacked out too?). I always hope against hope that someone, somewhere will forget to flip a switch and we’ll get the game – but I sincerely doubt that’s what will happen. The game is also being aired on MLB.tv (but, seemingly, not on the radio) so there are options out there for folks who want to see there first glimpse of Jason Bay v the Red Sox.

It’ll come as no surprise that CHB chimed in today on the Nomar “signing” and wasn’t impressed.  Much to my surprise, Sean McAdam wrote a similar (if not even more scathing) piece yesterday about how the Red Sox “jumped the shark” by signing Nomar so he could retire. It’s nice to see that while Nomar and the Red Sox can acknowledge that people are human and baseball sometimes has to be treated like a business, these guys can still hold a grudge.

If by doing something that holds a lot of meaning for the individual player and the fans is “jumping the shark” I hope the Sox continue to circle that shark tank and jump it multiple times.  They made a lot of people happy yesterday and it didn’t cost them a dime (Rob Bradford tweeted yesterday that since Nomar immediately retired the Sox aren’t on the hook for his $30 as outlined in his contract).  They didn’t make it any kind of big show (hell they didn’t even present him with a jersey and cap – and I was really hoping for that!), they just made the announcement, let Nomar talk a bit and ended it.  Warm feelings all around and bygones being bygones.  Whats the big freaking deal with that?  It’s good PR (how great did the FO look yesterday?), it made Nomar feel good, most of the fans absolutely loved it and it helped close a relatively ugly period of Sox history (I say relatively because his leaving the team led to the greatest moments in Sox history – that part was damn beautiful).  Stop pissing in our cheerios, fellas.  It was a nice gesture and you’ll find more fans who loved it than who didn’t.

Although that was always CHB’s problem – no matter how much he wanted the fans to hate whichever player of the week he was pissed at, they just wouldn’t.  Hell, I’ll bet you can find more Red Sox fans who like(d) Carl Everett more than they liked Dan Shaughnessy.

I’ll say it forever – Nomar loved US (the fans) and hated THEM (most of the sports media) and I’m perfectly all right with that.

So it’s off to Port St Lucie for the Sox today (a Kyle sighting perhaps?).  Every one of these “meaningless” games brings us another day closer to April 4th!

March 11, 2010 Posted by | 2010 | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I wanna be like Nomar G

Nomar appreciating the love last year at Fenway.  Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

Nomar appreciating the love last year at Fenway. Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

You all know this by now, but since I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face I have to write it down to make it real for me.

This post will be rambling and incoherent with many uses of unnecessary punctuation.  I apologize in advance.

At 10:30 this morning the Red Sox will have a press conference from Ft Myers announcing the signing of Nomar Garciaparra to a one-day contract so he can then retire with the organization.

Yes, this news made me burst into tears.   And I’m genuinely just bouncing around the house, waiting for 10:30am to arrive so I can see Nomar with the Sox (in a jersey, right?  They’re going to give him a jersey?????  They have to do the jersey thing.  They have to!  Nomar in a Red Sox jersey again will floor me, just floor me.).

Last year I wrote about Nomar coming back to Fenway park and how I actually had a ticket to the game and didn’t end up going.  I cried (not because I wasn’t there but because of what was happening) for a good part of that night.  I’ve always maintained that I believe “the trade” in 2004 was the right thing to do even though I cried for days after he was traded…but I never stopped “loving” Nomar.  I always wished him well (watching him in that Cubs jersey that first time nearly killed me).

Lest people want to muck up the works today and bitch about Nomar for whatever reasons, I give you this quote from last year (about us, the fans!):

“I love ‘em. I love the way they treated me,” said Garciaparra, whose eyes were filled with tears. “I’m getting emotional because when I was gone, Boston fans were everywhere. I can’t say how many times I heard, ‘Thank you. Thank you for all you did.’ Even today, I was walking down Newbury Street, a guy came up to me and shook my hand and looked me in the eye and said, ‘Thank you for all you did.’ And I just looked at him and said, ‘No … thank you.’”

How do you NOT want this guy to retire as a Red Sox player?

There were many more good times with Nomar than there were bad…and that’s what I choose to focus on.  What’s in the past is past and, for me, all that matters now is that Nomar is coming home.

March 10, 2010 Posted by | 2010 | | 6 Comments

And there's been a lot of broken dreams

Kelly O'Connor took this photo of Greg Montalbano at the Lowell Spinner's Alumni Dinner in January 2009 (Used with permission)

We lost Greg Montalbano in 2009. Kelly O'Connor took this photo of him at the Lowell Spinner's Alumni Dinner in January 2009 (Used with permission)

Just a note of warning:  This entry is long and although I want it to be all-encompassing, I’m sure I’ve missed  few things.  But this is pretty much how I remember 2009!

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2009 was a fairly eventful year for me personally in both the good and bad categories.  Sadly more bad than good which is probably why I initially avoided writing any kind of recap for the blog.  But while I was writing my recap of the Red Sox decade (and I’ll have that up as soon as I finish it!) I realized I should probably write something about the final year of the decade as well.  So here goes.

January:  I started blogging at WEEI.com.  Looking back on my entries for this month, I’m genuinely surprised I found so much to write about (it didn’t stop new readers from complaining that I was writing “drivel” though.  Should have been a sign!).  Personal highlights in January:  The ongoing Jason Varitek saga, the signing of Rocco Baldelli, Kyle Snyder getting picked up by the Mets, the beginning of the MLB Network and Jim Rice finally gets voted into the Hall of Fame!

February:  Bombshell of bombshells for MLB.  Selena Roberts exposes Alex Rodriguez as a steroid user.  The MLB Network cuts its teeth on this one and, unlike Peter Gammons and ESPN, doesn’t disappoint with their coverage.  Unafraid of losing access to the players (again, unlike Peter Gammons or ESPN), they go full throttle on this story and introduce us to their newest addition to the network:  Bob Costas.  I wrote a lot about MLBN in 2009 and a bit about Sl*ppy.  I would have written much less about the two, most likely, had this story not broken.  Personal highlights in February:  The Caribbean World Series on MLBN (I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed it!), Truck Day, pitchers and catchers reporting and Joe Torre’s book about the Yankees.

Chapter 10: The End of the Curse. When asked by Regis Philbin the other day what happened to the Yankees over the past 7 years, Joe responded “The Red Sox happened”. That will go down as possibly my favorite Red Sox/Yankee-related quote ever.

March:  I spent a lot of March writing ‘rants’ and pointing folks toward baseball-related Twitter accounts.  Must have been resting up for April!  Personal highlight in March:  The WBC.  I spent a lot of time ranting about players getting hurt and how I didn’t care who won only to be totally sucked into it by the end.

April:   The beginning of the season!  Lots of liveblogging and picking up more WEEI readers (with mixed results!).  Personal highlights in April:  Going to both Sox/Mets exhibition games at CitiField, attending Opening Day at Fenway and high-fiving JD Drew and Hideki Okajima during their introductions, being at Fenway for the walk-off win against the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury stealing home on Andy Pettitte, Tim Wakefield taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning (thus setting the table for his All Star selection), watching Jonathan Van Every pitch while Javier Lopez floundered in right field then eventually getting DFA’d (watched on television, not in person), the Patriots Day game where Luke Scott got all pissy and some idiot fan threw a ball onto  the field and “Toeing the Rubber” getting nominated for a New England Sports Blog Award in the category “Best Red Sox Blog”. Relatively speaking, a great month except for one thing that really hit the baseball world hard and made the month miserable:  the death of Nick Adenhart.

But I don’t cry because of any personal connection I have to Nick. I don’t cry because a future baseball star is dead. I cry because parents lost a son today. Many people lost a friend. And the world lost someone who could have potentially been great. Not just at baseball but at life. No drunken ass has the right to take that away from us. This doesn’t “put things into perspective” for me. I hate when people say that. I’m forty years old for God’s sake, I’ve seen enough death and tragedy in my life to have proper perspective, thank you. I don’t watch baseball and think that what goes on down on that field is life or death and more important than anything else in my life. I’d argue that most sports fans, even if they act like they have no perspective, have exactly that. Baseball is an outlet to forget about the realities of life for a few hours.

May: Getting to see Daniel Bard’s first Major League appearance (after having seen him pitch in Pawtucket) was very special.  Finding out that Jerry Remy was recovering from cancer was sad and a little frightening.  Personal highlights in May:  Seeing Kyle Snyder with the Bisons at Pawtucket, Javier Lopez signing Steve the Ferret’s “Lopez” jersey (also at Pawtucket), Aubrey Huff fistpumping to Joba Chamberlain, appearing on “The Baseball Show” on Comcast SportsNet, crying (literally crying) over Big Papi’s first home run of the season, getting to meet metsgrrl and “paloozaing” with a huge group of people I love during the Mets/Sox series at Fenway.

Yesterday was an amazing day spent with friends (most of whom I haven’t seen in quite a while or hadn’t met yet!). There are many amazing tales to tell (but not here!) – my favorite being when our friend Susan noted that we could start singing “O Canada” except no one knows the words past “O Canada!”. Standing up and singing loudly and proudly, a group of us proved her wrong. That our serenade didn’t get us thrown out still kind of surprises me.

June:  This month brought us the end of interleague play, the end of Jonathan Van Every’s season (thanks to knee surgery), Tim Wakefield hitting ten victories with his torn labrum, John Smoltz making us all wonder why we were so excited to have him on the team while Dusty Brown makes his major league debut.  Personal highlights for June:  Derek Lowe returning to Fenway with the Braves, Nick Green’s walkoff against those same Braves, sitting in Fenway during a mind-numbing rain delayed game that turned into a loss for the Sox (okay, that one is a lowlight, really) and the Sox capping off 7 wins in a row against the Yankees with an eighth.

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January 3, 2010 Posted by | 2010 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Everybody wants a little piece of my time

Papi image via NESN/Poster image from The X-Files

Papi image via NESN/Poster image from The X-Files (Photoshopping isn't my strong suit)

Well they sure found something to take our minds off of the trade deadline, didn’t they?

I missed all the live ‘fun’ on NESN yesterday.  The game, the Papi coverage, the Nomar interview…got to check in Thursday night and have a few observations (might be a bit rambling as I started writing this at 3:15am!):

1)  I’ve always suspected Nomar of using PEDs.  For whatever reasons, hypocritical or not, it never bothered me in the “Ooh his career is tainted” way just in a “I wonder what might have been if not for them” way.  After watching his post-game interview on NESN I absolutely believe him when he says he didn’t use.  Maybe I’m naive or maybe I’m just purposely turning a blind eye – either way I look at it, Nomar offered a compelling view yesterday and if you haven’t seen the video of his interview you should.

Garciaparra cast doubt on the method employed to obtain the 103 names on the list, suggesting that some players opted not to take the test in order to purposely fail the test. The players assumed that doing so would increase the number of positive tests and therefore require PED testing throughout baseball.

I’d like to hear more about this.  He specifically mentions the White Sox in the interview with John Chandler.  Someone needs to dig deeper into this.  If they’re going to drizzle the names out this way there should be something in the way of a response from the players.

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July 31, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , , | 14 Comments

But above all this, I wish you love.

Nomar gives us the love back. Photo taken by Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

Live blogs* always mess me up. I feel like I’ve written a new post because I was typing for 3+ hours and then remember that I have to come up with something else original for the next day. My brain is not fully engaged just yet, though, so I’m going to cheat and leave you with links to stories I’ve been reading.

First up: Dustin Pedroia!

Apparently, Tracy Ringolsby’s knickers are in a twist because Dustin got chosen over Ian Kinsler for the All Star Game. Boo hoo. No, seriously. Boo, freaking, hoo. I’ve had enough of people whining about this. I could have whined about Youk not getting chosen over Teixeira, but I didn’t. (Okay, maybe I did a little. But my reason for wanting Youk over Teixeira was, admittedly, totally selfish and petty. It had nothing to do with feeling like he was slighted.) The All Star Game voting is a popularity contest. Always has been, always will be. No amount of kvetching is going to change that. The ONLY way the ASG will stop being a popularity contest is when you take the voting away from the fans. Since that won’t happen (because MLB isn’t stupid. Take the voting away from the fans and you pretty much will take away your viewers) can we put a moratorium on complaining that the “right” players don’t get picked?

The right ones DO get picked. The players the fans want in the game are the ones who go. If your favorite player didn’t get picked then, guess what, you didn’t vote enough for him as a fan base. There is no conspiracy to put Pedroia in over Kinsler because of where he plays. And if Red Sox fans truly fixed the voting, Mr. Youkilis would have won over Mr. Teixeria, no? Not so incidentally, it’s rumored that Pedroia won’t be going to St. Louis, choosing instead to stay home with his wife. Have no idea how true this is (though it wouldn’t surprise me) but if it that’s what ends up happening the world can’t stop rending their garments since Kinsler is sure to be chosen to take his spot.

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July 9, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , | Leave a comment

Someday maybe my baby will love me like Number Five

So I have to write a little about Nomar. Especially given that I bought a ticket specifically to see him play tonight and then, for various reasons, ended up not going to the game.

I remember the day Nomar was traded much like people remember where they were when someone famous died. I was alone in my parents’ house sitting on the floor using their new wireless connection to stay on my laptop and watch ESPN at the same time. The biggest rumor on that July 31st, 2004, was that Derek Lowe was going to be traded for Matt Clement. It didn’t make sense and most of us didn’t want it – but that was the dominating rumor on the Red Sox fan forum that day.

To add fuel to that fire, Matt Clement happened to be pitching that day and came out of the game “early” which totally fed into the rumor. (A quick glance at Baseball Reference tells me that Clement pitched 7 innings that day, gave up four hits and four runs – two earned- and struck out 10 so I’m not sure what folks considered “early” but that was certainly the buzz that day.)

The first indication that the Lowe rumor was wrong and our lives were going to be spun around was someone posting that “it’s Nomar”. No one believed it. Theo wouldn’t trade the current face of the franchise, would he? Moments later ESPN confirmed it and the wake began. There were people online threatening Theo. Others just threatened to stop following the Red Sox. Many people, including myself and not limited to women, admitted to crying. Sure there were folks who thought that getting rid of Nomar could be the shake up the team needed but there were very few of them on redsox.com at that moment.

My parents, my sister and her (then) 3 year-0ld daughter returned before Theo had given his press conference. We all watched both Nomar and Theo talk about what happened (separately, f course) and some of us cried some more. I remember my father not buying Theo’s argument about it all being about defense yet also feeling sorry for Theo, noting that he looked “sick” and not as self-assured as we were used to seeing him. I didn’t know how I felt. I trusted Theo, even back then, and I figured if he thought shaking things up by trading Nomar was going to help the team – I had to believe he knew what he was doing. But it hurt like hell. Nomar was, for me, the best part of the Red Sox for a very long time and even though there were signs in 2004 that a split might be best for everyone, I never wanted it to happen.

My 3 year-old niece was taught by me to chant “Let’s Go No-mar!” from the moment she had begun speaking. Her first piece of Red Sox gear was a Nomar jersey. When you asked her who her favorite player was she rattled off “Nomar, Papi, Manny, Pedro and Dougie!” (Don’t ask. I have no idea how Doug Mirabelli got lumped into her favorites!) and she owned a Nomar “Celebriduck” as well as a McFarlane figure. Anything she owned that was Red Sox-related had something to do with Nomar (and Nomar’s trade also prompted her to pick up a new favorite…Johnny Damon. A story in itself for another time!). Explaining the trade to a 3 year-old was quite the task.

But we sucked it up and moved on. Sure I watched the occasional Cubs game to get a glimpse of him but more often than not I just put him out of my mind altogether. I didn’t want to know how he was doing. Why bring up the pain of his leaving over and over again? But he was always there. Sitting in the back of my mind, waiting for me to check the box score for the latest Cubs game to see how he had done. When he went to the Dodgers the Red Sox had already won the 2004 World Series but I still missed him and still had a hard time watching him in another uniform. I don’t think I’ve watched an entire game that he’s played in since he left the Red Sox. Even after two championships I still miss him and wonder how things might have been different.

So when the first rumblings came about that the A’s were going to pick him up, I immediately bought a ticket for tonight’s game. At some point last week I had the thought that two Sox games in a row directly following the Fourth of July would be a bit much so I decided to ditch tonight’s game. I don’t ditch games easily. It’s a painstaking process in which I go over the pros and cons of my making the trip to Fenway. But with this game there was no arguing with myself. I decided not to go to the game and I was all right with that. It was a weird sensation but I shrugged it off. Then it was pointed out to me that this would be John Smoltz’ first time pitching at Fenway as a Red Sox player and I decided to go. But I wasn’t sold on getting there. Something just nagged at me that it would be all right if I didn’t end up going.

Given that I, pretty much, cried from 7:00pm until just after Nomar’s first at-bat, I think I made the right decision.

Quotes like this kept the waterworks going:

“I love ‘em. I love the way they treated me,” said Garciaparra, whose eyes were filled with tears. “I’m getting emotional because when I was gone, Boston fans were everywhere. I can’t say how many times I heard, ‘Thank you. Thank you for all you did.’ Even today, I was walking down Newbury Street, a guy came up to me and shook my hand and looked me in the eye and said, ‘Thank you for all you did.’ And I just looked at him and said, ‘No … thank you.’”

Say what you will about Nomar in 2004 but I hold no hard feelings toward him. None at all. And I’m thrilled that he got the ovation I believe he deserved tonight.

I’m slightly cranky that the Sox let a rookie pitcher make them look foolish and that John Smoltz isn’t getting it done…but I choose to focus on Nomar’s return. And given that the Fenway Faithful honored him with a one minute, ten second ovation (suck on THAT, Boston Dirt Dogs), I’d say many fans feel the same way.

July 7, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | | Leave a comment