Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Power of Love

My new desktop:

Described over at the SG message boards, where I found this, as "the sweetest hetero life partners ever. In the history of ever."

Now, I liked Minky well enough, but imagine being deprived of this. It's scary. See, even Trot is jealous that he isn't gettin' some.

The Boston Red Sox are living proof of the power of manlove. Embrace the manhug. Be the manhug.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Spring Training Pictures 2: Position Player Boogaloo

I just realized that while I spotlit (spotlighted?) pitchers and catchers a week ago, the rest of our ragtag band arrived with no fanfare whatsoever. So, without further ado, ladies and gents, the infielders and outfielders of the defending WORLD CHAMPION Red Sox!!! ( That never gets old.)

Dude. He's got long(ish) hair. He dyed his beard. He's grinning. Billy Mueller has finally come over to the dark side.

Our new starting shortstop, who we like just well fielding short grounders as we liked him hitting them for the Cardinals. I kid, I kid. He sounds like a quiet sweetheart. We will have the most demure middle infield in the American League.

"I swear, the blue ghost of Hoyt Wilhelm was right there, and he told me to go to this place called Dagobah, and work with this great pitching coach named Yoda...why are you looking at me like that?"

Wondertwin powers, activate!!

Everyone was cool while Kevin was just singing bat karaoke, but when he started belting "I Will Always Love You" to Papa Jack, things got a little awkward.

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and Big Papi's swinging the pine again. Life.Is.Good.

"They're all nuts, aren't they, Wade?"
"Stark staring bonkers, Matt."

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Dr. Strangeglove, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bellhorn


From Chris Snow's fine article today in the Globe:

. As Mark Bellhorn walked from home plate to the Red Sox dugout late in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series last October, having struck out for the fourth time in four at-bats, the fans' criticism and anger flowed. His average had reached a stultifying .087 (2 for 23) in the playoffs.

He'll never forget, he said, one voice amid the masses.

"Some guy said, `Take yourself out of the lineup,' " Bellhorn said this week. "I'll always remember that."

It was a point that most fans and media in Boston thought or voiced that week. About that time, Terry Francona pulled Bellhorn aside. The Sox manager, sensing his second baseman had the self-confidence of Eeyore, passed along a simple, reassuring message.

"I said, `Bell, you're going to play,' " Francona relayed yesterday. " `The only thing I might do is move you out of the two-hole. You're going to play. So go play good.'

"He goes, `OK.' "

Self confidence of Eeyore? Mark's got his demeanor as well. And several other more positive charecteristics.

I'll admit, I was one of those voices amid the masses during that time. (Though in my defense, I wasn't feeling too hot about any of our boys just then. And we see how that turned out.) But he started to win me back with his homer in Game 6, and by the time he clanged one off Pesky's Pole, I was sucked in again.

You see, that's the thing with Mark Bellhorn. He's not goofy like Manny, or jovial like Papi, or just plain nuts like Kevin. He's not an obvious leader like Tek or Trot, or the "aw shucks" type like Billy Mueller. He's quiet, unassuming, steady, predictable, and eventually indispensable. Mark is an aquired taste, like...well, like Indian food. (Yes, that's a really bad analogy, I know.) But once he's won you over, you never really get over him. He's like a stray puppy dog that just sort of shows up one day, you start feeding it, it hangs around and before you know it, you can't imagine life without him.

Sure, his style of "walk- strikeout-strikeout-strikeout-walk-walk-strikeout-strikeout-HOMERUN!-strikeout-walk" can get frustrating. And when he first showed up on the Fenway green, he was just this unknown replacement guy, overshadowed by the amazing defenseman on the other side of the diamond. And then when he stuck around, it was because the aforementioned amazing defenseman was hurt, and all we heard was "When's Pokey coming back? And who is this guy with the permanent 5 o'clock shadow who strikes out all the time?"

But game by game, day by day, he won us over. We got used to the strikeouts. Because he walked nearly as much, and could occasionally whack taters with the best of them. Because the Bellhorn Scruff was not even in the top ten of interesting sartorial choices made by the 2004 Sox. Because, instead of "whatisname at second base", he became "Mahky" ,"Bell", "Horny" , whatever you called him.

It was a late September evening when I realized just how much he really meant to the team, how much he meant to me as a fan. The Orioles, as usual, were refusing to go down quietly. Foulkie had blown a save in the top of the ninth, and the game was tied. Johnny was at second, Mark came to the plate, and my mind was occupied with thoughts of "OK, Mark can walk here, and bring up Papi or Manny." And then, outta no where, Mark whacks one into deep center field for a double. Johnny scores, and the team mobs Mark on the basepaths. And for one brief moment, a bright, sweet grin intrudes upon our second baseman's usually placid countenance. It disappears, just as quickly, but it was there.

That smile brought me more joy then I would have thought it would. I liked seeing him finally smile, I like seeing him do well, I liked knowing that he was having fun doing his job. He wasn't a robot, but just a sweet quiet guy who didn't talk too much, and won his way into our hearts.The postseason only solidified that.

In a way, he is like Eeyore. Would Pooh be the same, if it was just hyper Rabbit and nervous Piglet and goofy Pooh? Would the 2004 Sox have been the same without the unsung, unassuming, but wholly endearing hero named Mark Bellhorn? Didn't think so.

I almost hope Kevin doesn't draw him fully out of his shell. I've gotten used to having Mark just the way he is.

Borrowing from the great Aaron Sorkin...

"Dude, this is like the scene from the Godfather, where Al Pacino tells James Caan he's gonna kill the cop. Only, I'm James Caan, Manny's Al Pacino, and David, you're the guy who teaches Pacino how to make tomato sauce."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Rare Basketball Post

Fact: I have listened to Teddy Sarandis call BC basketball games twice during this remarkable season for the Eagles.

Fact: Their record currently is 22-2.

Fact: Those two losses ( one to Notre Dame, and tonight to Villanova) coincided exactly with when I tuned in.

Hypothesis: I think I should stop listening to BC basketball, so they don't lose any more games.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Extremely Girly Post, Part 2

Gah.....*thunk*. Bon soir, monsieur Mantei.

(Kristen is an absolute angel for sending me that. And so are the folks at the Surviving Grady message board, for providing it in the first place.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Warning: Extremely Girly Post Ahead.

Oh dear lord.

I just saw a NESN interview with two of the newest Red Sox, Mr. Miller and Mr. Mantei, both in civvies.

Now, I like Mr. Miller just fine. He's laid back, youthful, cute, and if his rotator cuff does what it's supposed to, he could be a bonified No. 2 starter, even an ace.

But Matt Mantei is, as they say on those Internets thingies, "TEH HOTT!!!!!!" With the spiky hair, and the goatee, and the spiky, and the pretty.....sigh.

I would have put up a picture to demonstrate the above thesis, but all I could find were the those stupid MLB headshots. Which, as Sam has ably demonstrated, do nothing for a player's attractiveness. And most of them were from his Diamondback days, so he had that silly purple hat, which made it worse. So you'll just have to take my word for it. He is teh hott.

He more than balances out the addition of John Halama, who while he may be a great piece for our bullpen, is a slightly weird-looking dude. ( To paraphrase Monty Python: CUIDADO! HALAMA!!!)( Oh no. I will now scream that every time he walks out of the bullpen for the duration of the season.)

Of course, position players arrived today, so the usual suspects have arrived to compete with the new guys. Ah, to see Billy Mueller shagging groundballs again. And to affectionately call Kevin Millar a doofus once more...for he may be a doofus, but he's my doofus. Papi's "You wanna take me on, bitch?" batting stance. The rollar-coaster ride of uncertainty and occasional brillance that is Manny in the field. Sigh.

March 3rd can't come soon enough.

Until then......CUIDADO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!HALAMA!!!!!!!!!!!

Baseball Optimists, And Other Endangered Species

The pitcher pictured is in fact Javier Vasquez. (Whom I can now admire for the cutie and fine pitcher he is, and not have the pinstriped barrier.) You Yankee fans who might be so quick to dismiss him, remember what he did for you the first half of 2004. He was stone cold solid, lights out, the ace of the Yankee staff. Whatever damage his decline in the second half did to his rep, remember the first half. I think that's the type of pitcher he really is.

Then, of course, there is the Damon grand slam. Just as Boone's HR was not really the fault of Tim Wakefield, I don't think Damon's was really Javy's fault. Wake would not have been out there, had Grady pulled Pedro when he should have. Javy would not have been out there had Kevin Brown stepped up and earned his exorbitant contract, instead of alternately serving up fat ones/not being able to find the strike zone with a ten foot pole. Javy was put in one of the most impossible situations a pitcher can face, a bases loaded jam not of his own making. It's the rare pitcher, such as those named Eckersley or Foulke, who can get through something like that without flinching. It was made worse by the fact that Brown had just walked the last batter he faced. Javy had to get a strike over the plate, and unfortunately for him, Johnny Damon was due like postage. Sadly for Javy, that will be the last memory NY fans have of him, it will color his whole Yankee tenure, and I think that's unfair.

However, could you tell all that from the above picture? No. Hell, you can't even tell it's Javy. He's just another Spring Training pitcher, stretching, throwing, getting his arm ready. He's in a new place, on a new team, and has the potential to wipe all of that Yankee/Game 7 baggage away, by going out there and pitching the way he's capable of pitching. Because that's what Spring Training is all about.


The newborn possibility of the season to come. That's why we hang on every BP roundup, every report that "hey, Wade Miller's pitching from 150 feet." By July, we'll be jaded. We'll have seen what we think these guys can do, we'll think we can't be surprised any more. (We're usually wrong but that's a story for another time.)

But right now, in these halcyon spring days, it's all about potential. We've got new guys to take into our hearts, and right now they're Superman to us. Right now, they're all 35 homer-100 RBI guys. Right now they're all Cy Young award winners, past statistics and Bill James projections be damned.

We'd never admit it, of course. On the outside, we're all the "been here before", "seen it all" fans. But inside, we're giddy, we're excited, we're almost naive. That's why we come back, year after year, isn't it? Spring Training, out of all of the baseball season, is the blank slate for all our hopes, our dreams. Right now, every fan cherishes the possibility that "this is the year". That expression has become linked with the Red Sox more than others, but really it belongs to all baseball fans. Each season is a new season, a fresh start, the year that could be "our year" to shine. While July may belong to the cynics, February and March belong to the optimists.

They belong to guys like Javy Vasquez.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Spring Training

In honor of Tedy Bruschi-Bear getting out of the hospital today, I am going to cheer up the tone of this blog. With what, you may ask? Glad you did; SPRING TRAINING PICTURES!!!!! ( Disclaimer: all of these belong to the Boston Globe, I am only using them for my own amusement.)

New Sox #2 starter, David Wells, attempts to keep from laughing as teammate Bronson Arroyo does a naked fan dance just off camera.

The first amazing revelation of the baseball season: Dave Wallace does wear something other than the Sox windbreaker! ( And he has hair.)

Wade Miller has that calm, Zen, "I could kill you with my pinky finger, but I choose not to because I am a nice guy" look.

Aaaaaagh! The Beard has spread! Call the Exorcist!

"Curt! Doug! Damnit, get on the field already, and stop playing 'Reservoir Dogs' !"

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Bruschi Watch

From the Boston Globe:

BOSTON (AP) New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi suffered a mild stroke but is walking, talking and in good spirits, the team said Thursday.

Bruschi experienced temporary numbness, blurred vision and headaches Wednesday night and was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital.

''It has been determined that these symptoms were the results of a mild stroke,'' team spokesman Stacey James said. ''Tedy is in good condition and, as always, his spirits are high. He is walking and talking normally and stressed that he would like to thank everyone for keeping him and his family in their thoughts and prayers.''

The Patriots said Bruschi could be released as early as Friday.

Yaay. Thank god. I will be sad if he can't play anymore, but his health is much more important.
The news as of about 5:00:
Tedy's still listed in good condition, and apparently he's awake and talking, but the Pats are saying he had a blood vessel burst in his head. Which, combined with the blurred vision and paralysis, means he most likely had a brain anuerysm. Which is some pretty serious shit for a 31 year-old.

So, fuck football. I couldn't care less if he ever plays a snap again. I just want him home, completely well, walking, talking, playing with his adorable kids. Because not only is Tedy Bruschi an amazing linebacker, he's one of those rare athletes who is also a really good person, which we need more of. So Tedy, know that it's not only your team who would walk through walls for you. You've got a whole bunch of fans out here who feel that way too. Just work on getting better.

2:00 ET:
According to the latest EEI Sports Flash, he's in good condition in MGH, and the team said he was up and about. Not out of the woods, but that's good news. C'mon Bruschi Bear, get well. Ya got folks in 6 states worried about you.

Make that 7.
There's such a solidarity, band of Boston-Sports-Brothers thing going between the Sox and the Patriots.
So adorable.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bruschi in Hospital

OK, now I'm really freaked out.

First the Globe says:

New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Wednesday after complaining of headaches.

"He is in good condition and will be held for further evaluations," the team said in a statement. "The Bruschi family appreciates everyone's concern, but requests that you respect their privacy at this time."

Now Dirt Dogs relays this from CBS4:

"CBS4's Steve Burton Reports Tedy's Condition Worse Than Earlier Reported. He's at Mass General and Had "Stroke-Like Symptoms, Partial Paralysis, and Blurred Vision."

My heart's in my stomach. What's going on? Please be okay, Tedy. :(

The Obligatory Late-Night Random Post

Mmmmmm......54 minutes till pitchers and catchers......god I am a sad, sad person.

Oh, it's on, baby.

Being the immature creature that I am, with any Sock that goes after the Yankees, I am spiritually right there at their back, yelling "Fight! Fight! Fight!" The only surprise is that this time it was Trot, who I usually set aside with Billy and Tek as the Silent Stoic Group, leaving Curt and Kev to do the talking. Yet this time, it was understandable. If there is one thing Trot is, it is a team guy, so talking about doing physical injury to Bronson would obviously not go over well. Also: A-Rod is obviously not as big a jackass as Sheffield, but dude? Using the example of not spending time with your child to brag about your training program? Whatta maroon.

Of course this will all go for nothing if we don't get another brawl. ( How bloodthirsty I am.) I personally hope we get a replay of the Game 6 thang, and A-Rod tries that bush-league shit he described, and Bronson goes namesake on his ass. That would be, to quote Mr. Eric Cartman, fucking sweet.
They might revoke my Boston sports blog credentials for this, but I cannot honestly give a good damn about the hockey season being cancelled. I mean, I feel sorry for the hockey fans, but otherwise.....

Whaddya know, I come on here, write for a while, and actually get an idea for a legitimate post. However, I'll keep my myriad (heh) reader(s) in suspense, until tomorrow. The subject: why the Sox must keep Bronson Cornroyo in the starting rotation......

Monday, February 14, 2005

Best News of The Off Season So Far

The Beard has returned.

(AP Photo Special to the Globe / John Amis )

The Beard, like The Hoodie, endows upon its bearer special powers. The power to be a leader of men. The power to boggle the minds of the opposing offense. And most of all, the power to be damn cool. So , when The Tek showed up at his signing press conference late last December, I was horrified ( horrified) to realize to that the Beard had fled. (Or at least migrated to the face of one Theo Epstein. Who doesn't need it really, as he has his own special powers. ) Jason of The Mighty Thews was clean shaven, and there was much mourning.

But let rejoicing flow throughout the land: The Beard has returned. And spring training is only 3 days away, so soon The Beard will back in the company of its fellows: The MannyFro, The Bellhorn Shadow, The Cornrows, The Mu(eller)stache, The Caveman, and The Chinstrap. ( And what ever combination of small animal pelts Kevin is wearing around his head this month. I kid, I kid, Kevin. )

Of course, they might show up to spring training completely hairless. I would not put it past them.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Field-General

From Gordon Edes' excellent article in the Globe Today ( thanks Kristen):

The catcher, wrote incomparable New Yorker essayist Roger Angell, ``has more equipment and more attributes than players at the other positions. He must be large, brave, intelligent, alert, stolid, foresighted, resilient, fatherly, quick, efficient, intuitive, and impregnable.''

While the physical demands on a catcher are often self-evident, even if the masked man hides many of his aches and pains, a catcher's value to his team is measured most by the degree to which he masters the cerebral challenges of his position. During the season, Varitek is an island of coiled concentration in a clubhouse in which hilarity and hijinks are not unwelcome guests.


How does a catcher develop a rapport with a pitcher?

"I wish I had a formula," Varitek said. "Everybody is different. I get to know them as pitchers, get to know what they can and can't do. That's my first job. Sometimes you don't know until they get out on the mound. Then you have to figure out how they're wired in that same process. Then you get them back out there again, and you want to see them be successful. You also want to see them fail. Then you know what you have."


He listens to them, prods them, encourages them, comforts them, and celebrates with them. He is their database, their muse, their rock, their captain.

He is Jason Varitek. 

That last bit is really what got to me. I really hope Tek knows that it's not just his teammates who feel that way about him. It's the fans, too. We wouldn't feel nearly as comfortable having such nuts as KFKevin and Manny loose in the clubhouse, if we didn't know that there were guys like Tek there to calm them down, lead them on to the field into battle. He is what the baseball old-timers call a "field-general", and I bet Terry Francona feels so much better having a guy like him out there. Screw Bill James; Jason Varitek is like a fine wine. He's getting better with age.

Dame Mutability, and Other Fickle Baseball Spirits

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.

- From "The Green Field of The Mind by Bart Giamatti

Go read the entire thing. Not only is it some of the best baseball writing I've ever read, it's some of the best writing , period. It took me outside my own Red Sox glee, to those generations of Sox fans for whom October 20 and 27 were always just normal days. It made me realize how sweet October baseball is for the select few who get there. This is why I like the Wild Card. Because it gives a few more fans the oppurtunity to stave off winter for a while, to glory in this wonderful game for a fortnight more. More baseball can never be a bad thing. And yet even then, you must enjoy it all with the knowledge that for you, it will end too. Whether in the ALDS, ALCS, or World Series, once they're done, the season is brutally, finally over, and you have to suffer through 6 dreary months without baseball. This is why we obsess over Truck Day, and trades , and free agent signings. Because they are the sparks in the pile of ashes, letting us know the phoenix is getting ready to be reborn into another season.

(Much thanks to A Red Sox Fan in Pinstripe Territory for pointing the article out. )

Saturday, February 12, 2005

What is a "Good" Baseball Game?

The above question came to me courtesy of someone who is usually my nemesis, one Timothy J. McCarver, former Cardinals catcher, and current national color man for FUX Sports. (Note: I do not actually know what McCarver's middle name is, and J just sounds right. Like Homer J. Simpson.)

Anyway, tuning in to MLB.TV the other day, I had the good fortune to catch the rebroadcast of the Sox-Yankees faceoff of July 24, 2004. Otherwise known as the "Fight Game", otherwise known ( to me anyway), as "The Game Where Billy Mueller made Mo Rivera His Bitch". While most Sox fans remember that clash as one of the most exciting and watchable games of the year, McCarver made the statement, roundabout the 6th inning, that "this is not a good baseball game." Which started me thinking.

What is a "good" baseball game?What do we look for when we watch a baseball game? I mean, not just our own team's game, where we obviously have a rooting interest coloring each and every DP, each foul popup off the third base line. I mean, when you sit down to watch a random, mid-June, non-pennant face off, with say the Rangers and the Twins. Do you want a perfectly played game, where one team does everything right, and it's 7-0 from the 3rd inning on? Or do you want a game like the Fight Game, dramatic, competitive, where the score goes back and forth, even though the play might be ugly at times? What might be "good" for the baseball purist, might be mind-numbingly boring for a casual viewer.

Using the example of the Fight Game, the leads went back and forth, you never knew what was gonna happen next. The 6th inning alone was an hour long, had about 18 total baserunners, and 6 pitchers ( 3 for each side.) Neither pitching staff could find their spots. or occasionally the strike zone. Without the 9th inning implosion of the Fruitbat, the patience of Mr. Kevin Millar,and the hitting heroics of one Bill Mueller, the Yankees could have easily come out of that game the victors. And though as a Sox fan I found that personally nerve-racking, looking back on it now it was a really fun game to watch. Had I been, for example, a Royals fan, I think that would have been a good game, an interesting game to just sit down and get absorbed in.

So, I guess, the debate is one of definition: is good "perfect baseball", or is it "entertaining baseball"? It's a debate which is renewed each day.


A tidbit of Patriots news in this otherwise basebally-post:
The Hoodie has found his new D-Man, and ( as expected) in his own back yard. Obviously, this is very good news for the Patriots, but I think it's also a very smart decision on the part of Mangini. Sure he could have made more money in either Miami or Cleveland, but there's also the question of future money, future head-coaching jobs. Even if he did his damnedest in Miami or Cleveland, I think those clubs are still several rebuilding years away from contending, and they will still lose a good portion of their games. While those years won't hurt the prospects of Saban or Crennel, ( unless they continue much longer than expected), Mangini would have used them to advertise for a future head coaching job, and the losing years would have ( however unfairly) either hurt his chances, or at the very least postpone them. With the Pats, there is a similar chance to prove himself, but more material for him to work with. Though people might argue that Mangini will be hurt by Belichick's shadow, I disagree. The new question for the Patriots is "Yeah, they got three, but can they win without Crennel and Weis?" Proving that he is able to follow as tough an act as Crennel's will go a long way towards solidifying Mangini's future prospects.


The Truck rolls on...4 days till pitchers and catchers.......
Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Baseball, beisbol, baaaaayse-ballllllll.......

Inspired by such masters of the form as JoyOfSox, Cursed To First, and SamCat, I have decided to give over to the dark side completely, and make this a Sox blog. ( Since my school stuff is really rather boring.) While I have to go to work in 10 minutes, more updates will follow, since the coolest muthafucking team on the planet, the Sox, report to Spring Training in ( count 'em) 6 days.

( Mean while, go read those blogs I named above....)