Category: Dailies

Stars in the Desert

by Trenna Field, Trolley Blogger at Large

(photos by TField)

Should the winning team of the All-Star game determine home field advantage in the World Series?

The all-star game is played as an exhibition game of the best players voted by fans and the organizations. The NFL, NBA, and NHL each use the game for entertainment rather than competition. Major League Baseball uses a serious wager: home field advantage in the World Series. Shouldn’t home field advantage go to the team with the best record of the season?

The question was posed during MLB All-Star FanFest in Phoenix over the weekend. A place for baseball fans of all ages and all teams gathered to celebrate and take in the every aspect of baseball. From memorabilia and Hall of Fame displays to interactive fun and autograph sessions with some of the game’s most admirable individuals, every team was represented at the Convention Center in Phoenix and every fan there had more than one thing in common. FanFest provided an aspect of the game, away from the field, away from the competition, and a new look at the commonality of the fans and incited new discussions of what the weekend even meant and what Tuesday’s game will entail.

But with the best players competing for something a few months down the road, fans wondered if it was even worth it. Gambling over which undetermined teams will have the opportunity to play more home games during the Series is a notion some fans seemed uncomfortable with. “They work all season and then the best team might not even get the pay out of having to play on their field just because of this game,” one Boston fan said.

However, another fan thought the stakes were worth it, “it gets the players to work for something for their league, American, National, that’s all that matters so it gives each player the opportunity to benefit their team or their league come October,” a Giants fan said.

It’s an interesting question. But another fan pointed out that sometimes the “best players” don’t even play in the game. He yelled as a group of fans with Red Sox shirts and hats walked by, “rumor has it Beckett might not play Tuesday!” and in response a young man with a Papelbon jersey shouted, “good, he shouldn’t, we don’t want him injured!”  Well, it was later confirmed that Beckett will play, but Alex Rodriguez is out with knee surgery, Jose Reyes joined the list of other players currently on the disabled list like Jon Lester, not to mention the pitchers who are ineligible after Sunday’s games. If the All-Stars voted by the fans and the league aren’t playing in the game, then is it okay to play for anything other than pure entertainment?

Perhaps it’ll change in the future, but Tuesday’s game will have an impact on where games are played in October, and that puts pressure on a game that is pure fun in other sports, but quite meaningful in baseball.


Happiness by the Rivers

“Truly, though our element is time” wrote the poet, Philip Larkin(no relation to Barry), “we are not suited to the long perspectives.” That comes from a heartbreaking poem, “Reference Back,” about a young man’s return home who has to come to terms with how life has changed in the house where he grew up. Part of this poem is classically Romantic, in the way it shows how going back to some familiar place is comforting yet might lead us to confront what has been lost over the same period of time. It’s been nearly twenty years since Tim Wakefield pitched his first game for the Pirates.

A lot has happened since then. Wake most likely did not know then he would return to Pittsburgh in 2011, wearing a Red Sox uniform. More significantly, he probably didn’t know he would  still  be putting on a baseball uniform at all. Most likely, he is happy about what has occurred since then. Professor Abraham at the Globe has been writing about this moment for Pittsburgh and Wake a great deal over the past few days because it is one of the more important stories this weekend. It’s about history and time. It’s also about winning and losing. Is it really possible that the Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992. How would we survive the same fate, as Sox fans? We can’t know. We can’t know what the future brings, even as we are pretty convinced that with such a long tradition of winning,  having just one losing season is barely imaginable.

The research I’ve been following on the subject of Happiness (and now unabashedly tossing around this blog) tells us that we can’t really know what will make us happy in the future. As Red Sox fans, we know that another World Series will make us happy each and every year.  But, since that destiny is not guaranteed maybe there is something about day to day life that brings real joy? Maybe that’s the key. The long season provides us a new game almost every single day. So there is nothing to carp about, to steal Peter Abraham’s phrase, even if there is a sweep in Pittsburgh, whom as a whole city are grateful for the increase in revenue all around town this weekend. In losing, perhaps, we give a little joy to others.  At least that is how I am taking my coffee this morning.

Right of the Pesky Pole Notes:

For great insights about the Pirates & baseball check out the blog I hope you know already:

http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com/

Joy in Beantown & the Slumping Blog


Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length, said the poet Robert Frost. If you have spent a few days or weeks in my class on the Confessional Poets, or long enough in a bar in conversation with me, you would hear me repeat this quote. I am interested in Happiness. In recent years, the subject has been the source of many studies, a great deal of research and blogs(See Daniel Gilbert) and books, and now perhaps more of a topic at the tavern. (Well, perhaps it’s always been a topic at the tavern.) The difference is now we are looking at sustaining joy, beyond its term limits implied by Frost. But consider readers of Dante. The number of those who study The Inferno significantly outdo those who read Purgatorio or Paradiso, no to mention how many times The Inferno has been translated into other languages. Could this point to our desire to understand pain and tragedy because it feels more mysterious than joy? Or is it that pain is the territory we most often occupy?

The question I have about our current state, which is first place, is if the relief and joy we are feeling now is a result of how terrible April went for the Sox? On a more personal point, my blog has slumped for many reasons recently(including the switch to WordPress) but one of the reasons this week is a solid feeling of contentment. So, here is what I would like to celebrate with you, in communal happiness(doesn’t pain always feel too personal?):

1)Let’s give the middle relief some. How about Rich Hill’s curveball in the 8th in Cleveland

2) Carl Crawford’s awakening

3) Carl Crawford’s awakening

4)Carl Crawford’s awakening

5)I can’t say it enough, but I will move on to Ellsbury. We missed you last year for certain.

6)I bow down everyday to A.G.

7)How about Pap’s consistency?

8)If you get down for a minute or two one of these nights, consider that sweep a few weeks ago. You know the one.

Boston Springs

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“Good. I think that’s great,” Francona said when
apprised of Selig’s comments on Thursday about the playoff expansion. “I
wish we were hockey. I don’t like hockey, but the more teams, the better. I
can’t see how it wouldn’t be [good for the game]. It gives a lot of fans reason
to stay with their teams.”

Staying with their teams is something Boston fans know all too well. It’s nice to
be from a place where the teams have a shot at the playoffs. So, even if the
Sox are off to a rocky start, over the last night few nights, fans were able to
glimpse the beginning of one season and the end of another. The Sox and Bruins
have  both been able to send wins home in extra innings and overtime. Just
what the Boston fans needed. Not mention the possible second coming of Dice-K last night in California.

The Bruins were in a more dire position; the playoffs limit
the amount of acceptable (if that’s possible) losses. Being down two games in
the quarterfinals was not something the Bruins seemed comfortable with. Michael
Ryder secured a shot at winning the first round of playoff games on the road to
the Stanley Cup. Ryder scored the opening goal for the Bruins as well as the
game-winning goal to bring them back from the brink of the quarterfinals. The
Bruins now lead in the best of seven series.

“But you need your players to step up at this time of
year and every night a lot of times there is a different guy stepping up and
tonight it was Michael,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the game.

And through the course of the same nights, a different guy
stepped up for the Sox. Finally. In what seemed to be the eleventh hour, Adrian
Gonzalez made his move in the eleventh inning with a double to bring J.D. Drew
home to put Boston
on top.

Maybe Gonzalez was waiting for the right moment to step up
but as the team attempts to regain its position as a contender for the
seemingly far off playoffs, he might have urged Carl Crawford to make his move,
too.

As the Bruins pulled out another overtime victory, (followed by the Celtics sweeping New York) and
as the Sox season is picking up, staying with their teams is something fans can do
easily without having to wish baseball was hockey.

—Trenna Field

Jedding Ahead

In 2008, Jed Lowrie set a Major League Record, one of those quiet records that doesn’t splash across the screen or on the ESPN news ticker. It’s in the fine print, where some fans might easily forget–or tucked in the details some of us without the right reading glasses might not bother to squint for, the lower footnote.

In 155 total chances, Lowrie did not record an error at shortstop. After the divorce with Nomar (followed by a retirement reconciliation of course), we might consider how important Jed is to the future of the Sox. The episode, a long battle in fact, with mono last year is over.One of the more impressive performances last night, excluding the brilliant pitching of Lester for all innings except one, was turned in by Lowrie. If I want to remember the game, I don’t have to try to recall the look on his face as he tore through first base on his way to double off Price.

With some recent growth on his face, Jed looked tougher than any other moment he has played on the Sox. As he offered some academic advice for a complaining Price, Lowrie exhibited the intensity we have been missing. Finally. Finally the Sox look ready to grind it out. Youk(no surprise there), joined Lowrie on the panel, screaming at Price then encouraging Lowrie.

Mr. Crawford, are you listening? Take notes. Chin up, sir. Chin up!– the same chin on which you might free up for some shadows, lending yourself to the biting, angular intensity missing on the field.

VICTORY! and a Mannywood ending.

With Barry Bonds’ girlfriend detailing the physical changes effected by steroids in recent weeks, one wonders about the choice. The first image is of a desperate ballplayer, reaching his late thirties, feeling the natural decline.I imagine Ali fighting Larry Holmes. Let me rephrase: I remember the aged Ali as Holmes’ punching bag, the brutality of unanswered punches.The other story of that beating is that one of Ali’s doctors prescribed “diet” pills for him. The drugs in question made him sluggish. And pathetic. As a young boxing fan, I hadn’t been filled with quite that much sorrow before.

My sorrow today is lighter but wider. It has more to do with the game of baseball than it does with one player. The loss is about the Red Sox, its history and its players, specifically those who played alongside Manny, who are at a loss for words. There were some of us who were baffled by Manny but still kept our affections. There were a few of us who were hopeful for the revival of the Idiots, even if they were in Tampa. One segment on the MLB Network during Spring Training showed him working as hard as any ballplayer could and losing more than twenty pounds, not to mention making major adjustments to his stride to avoid hamstring problems. Painful work.Now the pain is ours.Ortiz compassionately summed it up: “It’s sad.”

But baseball has redemption built into the stats. It has time, which makes the grass sturdy and green..In a few hours the Sox will take the field again, afresh from a laser show and good, old hometown glory.

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OH & SICK

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We are looking for answers, solutions, understanding, clarity, perspective and insight. I have no words. But my teammate, Trenna Field, my blogger at large, is here to help.

jason-varitek-05.jpg


If the 2011 Sox season were a book, I’d be tempted to put it down. Not that it
hasn’t peaked my interest, how could it not? 0-6, Ellsbury batting 3 for 22,
Varitek confused over what constitutes a forced out, playing 7 innings before
letting the game winning run score in the 8th as the Tribe takes
another W.

It’slike the baseball version of Space Jam.
Aliens must have come and taken the talent out of our players. They put the
extra hours in during batting practice, changed the batting order, played in
warm weather, moved to colder weather, yet still have not managed to pull out
with a win. These aren’t our Sox.

Or maybe they are. Their not looking for excuses. They know they’re letting fans
down; they’re letting themselves down. “We’ve heard it before every game, “it’s
a long season,” or “we need to get it together” or “the Yankees are going to
hit an 0-6 stretch at some point.” Their hope is there, the optimism. They feel
bad. Heck, with the salaries they make, they should. One might argue that they
should be paid on performance, the same argument used against teacher salary
increases if students aren’t performing. They’re not performing. With a $142
million contract, Crawford better improve his performance. But maybe this is
proof that with all the money the club has it can’t buy wins. Crawford won’t
win by himself. Gonzalez isn’t the key. The pitchers need their defense backing
them. The lineup needs to connect with the ball and find the gaps in the field.
The team needs synergy, they need to connect with the ball, and they need to
connect with each other. They need to up their game against the Yankees and
they need to step up to the plate and cross it more than the Yankees at Fenway.

If this season were produced in Hollywood, the players would flashback to their
childhood days of playing ball, their eleven-year-old little league playing
selves. The game is their life and they love it. When they lose, they take it
hard. They walk off the field with their heads down, bats dragging through the
infield dirt. Home to moms and dads who console them, “it’s not about winning
or losing, it’s about how you play the game.” Coaches who say, “Don’t worry.
We’ll get ’em next time.” The Sox better start playing the game because next
time comes around quickly.

If the 2011 Sox season were a book, I’d be tempted to put it down. It’s too awful.
Not in a poorly written sense, no, this is captivating stuff. It’s too vivid,
too emotional. But, I never put a book down, I have to follow through, page by
page until the last, even if it’s too hard to handle. I can’t put the Sox down,
not until game 162. And who knows, there could always be an epilogue
.