The greatest year of baseball ever … like ever

It will take a better statistician than me to make the case that the 2013 Boston Red Sox are the best, or second best, or whatever best team in the history of the club. I can’t speak to anything first-hand experience back to 1967, when I was nine years old and playing bad first-base in the Georgetown, Massachusetts rec department’s Farm League (pre-Little League) using an antique pancake mitt handed down from my grandfather, a relic I hated at the time but really wish I had today.  That Impossible Dream team will always be the most vivid. 1975 was frankly a blur. The 1986 Buckner team was the most evil in its wicked mental torments. The Curse-bursting 2004 team the most blessed. The 2007 the most capable. But this one….I don’t know, they just played wicked good and seemed to have fun and a showed lot of respect for the laundry.

Basking in the morning-after-glow of a great World Series game, everyone wants to roll over in bed,hug the lovable, bearded rascals and say, “I love you. Let’s do it again.” Sometime in the next few days the team will pile into the duck boats and parade around a happy city and Boston will have its moment finally after a baseball season that started fresh and raw and unknown in April and ended six months later the way the movies would have wanted it to.

Painting the house in April, on the ladder, WEEI kept me company on those chilly weekend afternoons with Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien calling the games in between Verizon Wireless and Shaw’s Supermarket Little Debbie Snack Cake ads. As I scraped and prepped I kept an ear tuned for that tell-tale rise in excitement in their voices and listened as a lot of new names made their debut .Would I have called it then? Would I have made the prediction they’d go all the way “from worst to first?” Of course not, I was thinking maybe they’d get the wildcard but not make it past Toronto or Detroit. I trusted the new manager, John Farrell, solely on the basis of his killer jaw-line and that calm Gary Cooper demeanor so calm and firmly assuring after the Howdy Doody persona of his ill-fated predecessor Bobby “Did You Know He Invented the Wrap?” Valentine.

Then the Brothers Tsarnaev did their heinous deeds.

Suddenly the Red Sox were carrying a lot more psychic weight than just trying to redeem themselves from the days of Chicken-and-Beer and their last place finish the year before. They came home from the road trip and one could feel the city latch onto them, beseeching them to make it okay, to bring back the calm rhythms of a sunny afternoon game in Fenway, to sing the songs and chant the chants they cheered and sang the year before and the year before that. The Red Sox couldn’t to carry the weight of the Marathon. They were happy to accept it and gracious in allowing Fenway to become the city’s church and place of mourning; but as John Lester said, the team didn’t have much to offer other than provide a diversion to get people’s minds off the mess.

Boston is a city of ghosts where nothing really changes, a place with a ring of road salt rime around the cuffs of its pants; a pissed-off, wind chapped, itchy skin, sleet smeared windshield, can-you-fucking-believe-they-closed-the-Hilltop? town that isn’t nearly as liberal as the rest of the country thinks it is, a college town that doesn’t love the students who infest it, a kind of ugly place that retreats into its clannish neighborhoods, scores an eight-ball of whizzer and looks down at the bandwagon yuppies in their pink hats who sing “Sweet Caroline” in the eighth inning.

That horrible song with no connection what-so-ever to Boston or baseball is never going away. When The Neil Himself showed up and sang the damn thing at the Post-Marathon mourning session I gave up my campaign to ban it and just thank edthe Baseball Gods that we don’t need to wave Surrender Towels like every other team’s fans seem to need to do along with ring cowbells and follow big LED jumbotron exhortations to Make. Some. Noise.  It is said that Red Sox fans are the tenth player on the roster. This sentimental, formerly cursed nation that cheers from Woonsocket to Millinocket (and who, after breaking the Curse in 2004 lugged team gear and flowers to the graves of their dearly departed so they could join in the celebration too) these fans like the loud, crazed drunk I once watched in a black and orange knit wool Bruins cap sitting behind the visitors bullpen who taunted J.D. Drew non-stop for collecting too much salary, and then who scornfully caught, barehanded, a Yankee homer whacked at him by the despised A-Rod and then hucked it back onto the field without a second thought or spilling a single drop of his $8.50 cup of ‘Gansett.

I’m just glad to have the chance watch it all with my sons and my mother and my sister and my brother-in-law and nephews.  Crowded around a television. Screaming and high-fiving. Drinking too much on a school night while layered in a #38 Schilling t-shirt with a Mike Lowell 2007 World Series MVP team jersey on over that, and a nasty smelly blue Red Sox hat speckled with bottom paint.

I doubt this fan will ever see a year of baseball like he saw in 2013 — a double-headed championship crown that started with the Cotuit Kettleers and ends with the Olde Towne Team triumphant.

And David Ortiz is getting a statue in front of Fenway. Just saying.

Opening Day

Lester on the mound vs. Verlander in Detroit at 1 pm today. I’ll be in the car doing my best to drown the polar bears by driving the way-too-familiar 250 miles from NYC to Cape Cod. As a card carrying member of the BLOHARDS (Benevolent Loyal Order of the Honorable Ancient Red Sox Diehard Sufferers of New York) offer this listening tip for any fellow Bay State commuters who carry the ring into Mordor every week on Route 95.

The first solution is to drive a contemporary vehicle with SiriusXM and listen to the game via satellite. That isn’t in my cards, nor is bluetoothing the MLB app on my Android phone into the car’s speakers. That’s way too hipster and just … weird. So, for your old school listening pleasure, here is the roster of radio stations to code into the pre-sets listed in order of a return from the land of Darkness back to the Promised Land. There really isn’t anything to compare with listening to Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien call a game through the 1950s-tinny crackle of an AM radio.

  1. Manhattan to Bridgeport — 1490 AM WGCH in Greenwich
  2. Bridgeport to New London — 1080 AM WTIC Hartford (best signal in Connecticut)
  3. New London to Warwick — 1440 AM WILI Willimantic (unneccesary if you switch to from WTIC to the station below around Mystic)
  4. Warwick to Fall River — 103.7 FM WEEI Providence
  5. Cape Cod — 96.3 FM WEII Cape Cod

The full list of stations in the Red Sox Radio Network is here.

Now, with everything possible before us and no real numbers on the board (sorry, but the Mariners vs. the A’s kicking things off last week in Japan does not constitute a real Opening Day in my book) the slate is clean, everyone is without sin and hope springs as eternal as …. Spring. My prediction for the 2012 season: the Tigers win the World Series. Ok? Got that? The Beloved Red Sox duke it out with the Blue Jays to finish above Baltimore at the bottom of the AL East, arguably the most difficult and competitive division in any pro sport.  The Sox just don’t have the pitching this year in the fourth and fifth slots in the rotation to have any hope. Dice-K might  be resurrected like some apparition rising from the ashes, and pigs might fly, but there just isn’t any there there when it comes to the starting pitchers. So, let’s celebrate Fenway’s 100th birthday and get all mushy about the lyric little bandbox,  put d’affaire de poulet et biere behind us, give Bobby V. his honeymoon season and hope the Money Men do well with their hedge funds and can afford some new arms next winter, because they didn’t spend diddly this year.

Oh, and one last thing. I already miss Tim Wakefield, my favorite Red Sox since Bill Lee. The man was a hero to all men of a certain age and I once rode an elevator with him at the Mass Eye and Ear Clinic. So I have that going for me.

And another last thing, since every purple-prosed baseball poet has to end the season with that weepy Bart Giamatti quote about baseball seasons ending and breaking our hearts, every cliched Opening Day post must embed this classic sonorous James Earl Jones panegyric to the pastime from Field of Dreams:

 

 

Boston Sports Blogapalooza

Thanks to Joe Gill at Boston Sports Then and Now for hosting Boston’s sports bloggers at the Fenway Tavern this coming Sunday for the Boston Sports Blogapalooza. I was connected to Joe by Tim Daloisio at CBS Interactive (and excellent Red Sox blogger) so as a result Lenovo is a sponsor and providing an S-10 netbook for the raffle as well an hour’s worth of open bar tab (the latter will probably set off a financial crisis on my corporate American Express rivalling the Greek bond meltdown).

I am going to try to be there in person, but a combination of feeble excuses may keep me on the Cape this weekend before heading to Raleigh at the delightfully early hour of 4 am on Monday.

I am a big fan of the sports blog genre, particular Red Sox related ones, and wish I had the chops to maintain one myself. I guess there’s a niche open as the Cotuit Kettleer’s unofficial blogger, but it’s enough for me to feed this one and I just don’t have the time.

Here’s the one’s I read:

  • Codball – covering the Cape Cod Baseball League with an excellent podcast (remind me to revise my Kettleer’s “prospectus” lots of roster changes)
  • Surviving Grady – my long time favorite and generally off the wall irreverent
  • Wicked Clevah – Stephen O’Grady’s very incisive data analysis look at the Sox

That’s only the blogs. Add in my reading of Baseball America, the Society of American Baseball Research stuff, Baseball Prospectus newsletters, meanderings through the world of southern AAC college and AA/AAA minor leagues, and I am pretty much a hopeless baseball geek who only draws the line at NO fantasy league stuff. I just don’t have the time. As it is I estimate I watch or listen to four full ball games per week, subscribe to the full MLB package on DirectTV, MLB mobile on my Blackberry, and MLB.com webcasts on my ThinkPad. I have issues.

So try to make it to  Boston Sunday, have a drink and a chance at a netbook on Lenovo.

Interactive post-season baseball

Waiting for a flight home to Boston, I lit up my wireless connection and tuned into MLB.com’s post season baseball feed. Having paid for two years in a row for a fairly weak service full of irrational blackouts and lots of calls to MLB.com’s customer service line to get permission to watch the paid stream, I expected to be able to follow TBS’ post season coverage through the MLB.com subscription.

Well, the good news is that I can — through a pretty slick video viewer that permits to select between eight camera angles and stack them together in a single, PIP, split, or two by two configuration. The problem of this “pick your angle” model is there is no editor/producer selecting camera angles and the overall experience is somewhat shitty. I want someone to decide what I need to see and not click like a fiend to get the camera to track a frozen-rope liner out to the 6-4-3 doubleplay.

The Twitter integration … well is interesting in that the peanut gallery is now officially blessed as contributors to the spectacle.

But overall, the most interesting thing about the MLB/TBS “HotCorner” application is checking out the behavior of the camera operators during commercial breaks when they zoom way in and like creeps perv the faces of the VIPs in the expensive seats to see if there are any celebrities worth calling out during the play-by-play.  Being the LA Dodgers one would expect some movie star to be fanning themselves with a program. The funny part is it is obvious the way the camera lingers that some producer is scanning faces and telling the cameraman to stick to faces wearing big “Jackie Onassis”  sunglasses or who look important by dint of their jawlines and silver hair.

Go Sox.

oh, yeah, Yankee Suck

Take me out to the ballgame …..

As I grow old I start to look at life’s potential opportunities differently, chafing at hours spent wasted in front of the television or laptop, fretting over powerpoints that don’t get read, emails that don’t get answered, Dancing With the Celebrity Housewives in Intervention … and realize, that at any given time, there is something I could be doing that I have never done before.

Last night I did something I’ve been meaning to do for the last four years — and that was go see a Durham Bulls game. I tried once the first summer I worked in North Carolina but was rained out before the first pitch.

Goodmon Park is what the connoisseurs of the sport would call a “bandbox” of a park — a nice new  (1995) AAA league ballpark that sits like an emerald of grass in the late afternoon sun and gave me that wonderful revelatory thrill as I walked through the tunnel to the stands and saw in front of me that big green field (I get kind of religious when I emerge from the bowels of Fenway, but still, the comparisons between churches and ballparks are one of sport’s writings most tired but true cliches.)

Big bag of peanuts, four — count em — four hotdogs; a big Yuengling beer and a nice night in the Carolina summer on the third base line by the Red Sox bullpen.

Clay Bucholtz on the mound for the Pawtucket Red Sox — my home team’s AAA feeder. And Scot Kazmir rehabbing for the Tampa Bay Rays — last season’s arch rivals (we had an epic bench clearing brawl).

Bucholtz left the game early, falling behind, and by the end of the nine innings the Bulls had won, 3-1, breaking a long losing streak.

Just  a nice night, well spent, with a good friend, a lot better than four hours weeding emails in a hotel room.

As Ortiz Falters Boston Fans Show Class

via Bill Simmons – It’s hard to say goodbye to David Ortiz – ESPN The Magazine.

I admit it, I have spread the Ortiz-misses-the-steroid theory to explain why Boston’s clutch hitter has struck out in Mudville this season. I am ashamed as Bill Simmons eloquently points out that Boston’s fans owe the man an eternal debt of gratitude for delivering two World Series. His theory is the guy is older than he says he is. Whatever, it’s sad to see a legend fade.

It’s been a sports experience unlike anything I can remember. Red Sox fans refuse to turn against Ortiz. They just can’t. They owe him too much for 2004 and 2007. It’s like turning on Santa Claus or happy hour. Every Ortiz appearance is greeted with supportive cheers, every Ortiz failure is greeted with awkward silence. The fans are suffering just like he is. Only when he left 12 men on base against Anaheim on May 14 did I receive a slew of angry e-mails from back home, but even those tirades centered more around Terry Francona’s steadfast refusal to drop Ortiz in the order. I cannot remember another Boston athlete stinking this long, and this fragrantly, without getting dumped on.

Really, that’s a tribute to what he means to his fans and how delightful it was to watch him play. His career might be over (notice I left the door open; I’m such a sap), but Ortiz has reached the highest level an athlete can reach: unequivocal devotion. Sox fans love him the same way you love an ailing family member. In the end, at his bleakest point, he’s brought out the best of an entire fan base. He has inspired dignity and emotion and loyalty. The fans could have sped his demise (and saved a few games) by booing until Francona benched him. They didn’t. How often does that happen?

I figured it out today …

… I slept an hour later than usual, woke to grey skies, ate bacon and eggs instead of beneficial oatmeal, did rapid-fire errands, stopped by the herring run just as the day turned awesome (I saw a big school of herring waiting in the top pool), installed a new mower blade and mowed the lawn, bought a six-pack of Offshore Ale, strung up my rod with a new lure, and hit the prettiest beach on Cape Cod for two hours of casting practice (no fish yet) in the setting sun before rushing home and catching the last five innings of a four-hour classic of a baseball game against Yankees (who also lost a nailbiter to the Sox the night before), cooking the entire time (rillettes, duck leg confit, vegetable stock, hummous) screaming at the TV in the kitchen, and scaring the dogs.

I congratulated my esteemed neighbor for doing the right thing, and she told me about an profile of your humble narrator in the Barnstable Enterprise.  I couldn’t find a copy, but someone dropped it by the house while I was running errands. I feel conspiciously auspicious. I’d point to it, but it’s not online and I am not in the mood for personal promotion.

A good friend dropped by and we got on the topic of seagull attacks and the time I watched a seagull poop into someone’s agape mouth aboard the Hyline ferry M/V Point Gammon when I worked on there as a deckhand in college.

Tomorrow I paint the bottom of the yacht and continue my gardening. My spring peas have sprouted and my arugula is showing itself.  The tulips have opened and the alcove reeks of hyacinths.

On a day like today it does not suck to be me.

Definition of mixed emotions

ThinkPad tablets have been installed in the player’s lockers in the new Yankee Stadium (aka “The New Toilet” to Red Sox fans).

Seeing ThinkPads deployed in an innovative way makes me glad.

Seeing them in Jeter’s locker makes me squirrelly.

Check out the video at MLB.com at 2’50” for the sighting in the wild.

Thanks to GottaBeMobile.com for the pointer.