The Clubhouse Exodus?

The Globe’s Red Sox reporters always offer a solid view of the inner workings of the clubhouse, perhaps more so in recent years with the addition of the blogs and more columnists. With new Iphone apps like Boston Baseball pulling together stories “24-7″(more than just a tag line, certainly), one could spend all day reading about the Sox. After the last game at the end of the 2010 season, Peter Abraham described what most people never get to see, and even more don’t always understand. The players quickly parted ways, talking about their winter plans and overall, the longing to be elsewhere was palpable and pervasive, according to Abraham.

After another bitter loss on Sunday, Abraham’s narrative about Epstein pausing in the hallway to look at the front page of the 2007 World Series newspaper and the stunned expressions on the rookies’ faces, I started to think about another managerial possibility.(Having just looked at the Globe I see that they are inviting readers to play manager.) I don’t think it has to happen on the field. What can pull this team together mentally? A question posed by one fan, or was it Tony Mazz, on Friday, was what would happen if Tito just lost it, really going nuts in some way he never has before? The players should not tear out of the clubhouse after a game, as was reported yesterday. The season isn’t over, at least in this fan’s view.

The cyclical narrative, ending where we started, will be more painful than other collapses, simply because of the potential of this team. But if the mood is resignation and defeat, then we are all going to have more of the same. today and the rest of the week. My Red Sox tissue box will then offer comfort not only from allergies but also for the angry tears falling into the water of a washed out season.

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THE most important game of the year

Mazz is talking right now as I write this on the Baseball Reporters. This is the most important game of year, because of the ramifications but also because of the match-up Beckett vs Shields. Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post wrote about this very topic this morning.

All day, colleagues and friends have been saying something close to this. Seeing the Sox logo on my wall, one student(a Phillies fan) said, “They have to start winning now. Now.” On the superstitious side of the insanity, I sneaked into my secretary’s office after she left at 4:30 and turned her Dustin Pedroia bobblehead 45 degrees to the right toward the Ellsbury bobblehead. She told me not to touch them all season, and I haven’t until now, about 15 minutes ago.

But tonight is about Beckett. The Beckett question again. Where I started the New Year on this blog. There is that man on the stage looking up at the moon for answers. I might be doing the same between innings or even during the game, hoping that Beckett’s ankle or his entire landing leg will hold up because its holding up a lot more than the body that winds up above it.

Autumn Harvest

On May 27th, Thomas’ Trolley named eight important elements to the Red Sox overcoming their abysmal April. Three of those were were identified as “Carl Crawford’s Awakening.”  As we eye the potential hurricane of playoff games (that is the emotional turmoil, accompanying possible joys and pains–we can’t have one without the other–of the postseason), there is one harvest that I see as most likely to win games. It is always difficult to narrow the field of driving influences and this seems to happen game after game, with commentators and journalists attempting to reveal the truth to consistency in a game that endlessly confounds and surprises. But on this day, when the tourists begin to chase their hats out of this resort town, from where I write, the unofficial end of summer, I have a singular focus.

Webster’s 20th Century Unabridged Dictionary says that Crawford is a variety of peach, one of which ripens early in the season and the other late. We already know what happened in April. Then Carl, the baseball playing Crawford, had three walk-off hits, which were a sign that he was easing into the pressure of wearing a Red Sox uniform and all the nerves that might go along with a major market team. Then injury struck. Those with the speed of a Crawford seem to be more prone to the hammy pull. After watching Carl hit his grand slam a few days ago, it was enough to make me forget for a moment that he is batting only.256. It was the ease of that swing under the pressures of not the last inning but bases-loaded variety, when the game had a chance to blow open for the Sox, which it did as Carl rounded the bases at a fraction of the speed we want from him at other times. To steal bases, though, one has to get on base. Carl, we need you. Now. The electricity of action must come now with the autumn winds. We need you to fly off the branch, ripening all the way around the bases.

Wakefulness

108. It has its significance as a spiritual number for Hindus. To players and fans, it’s the numbers of stitches in a baseball. But, for Tim Wakefield, it will become the number that will mark him as the 108th pitcher to collect his 200th career win.

While Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit was marked with commercials and even a one-hour HBO documentary, titled Derek Jeter 3K, Wake’s quest for 200 wins has gone fairly unnoticed. Perhaps because that’s how Wakefield is; he might not have the outstanding statistics that dominant players have but for him, it’s not about his statistics or his successes, but the success of the organization as a whole. Jeter’s accomplishment deserves to be celebrated, but what deserves more reverence is Wake’s quest for 200 (perhaps solely attributed to the fact that I am a Sox fan and definitely not a Jeter fan). Wakefield’s quest is a team effort; if the defense doesn’t back him, runs can score whereas Jeter’s benchmark could be achieved whether or not the Yankees won or lost, his achievement was an individual achievement. I don’t mean to slight Jeter; his accomplishment is impressive let alone beautiful in the fact that he reached it with a homerun. His celebration is well deserved, but Wakefield’s attempt at 200 should receive more coverage.

With Sunday marking his fourth, and hopefully successful attempt at the elusive number, Wakefield’s career seems reminiscent of a Hollywood story, perhaps For Love of the Game. He reminds us of the genuine players who don’t seek the statistics for themselves but for the team. When his third attempt against the Twins came and went, Wakefield wasn’t downtrodden when the Sox won too late in the game, instead he was simply happy the team won, that the Sox were a step closer to the postseason. In 17 seasons wearing a Red Sox uniform, Wakefield hasn’t created a dominant role as a pitcher, but he’s added the numbers to where they matter as statistics within the organization. In a game of numbers, the statistics are constantly changing, creating a market that is much less reliable than current stocks, but Wake has remained steadfast.

200 is not a question of if, but simply, when. At 45, the oldest pitcher in the league, Wake has said he’d continue to play, “until they tell me I stink, or they don’t want me around anymore.” He’ll reach 200, perhaps flying under the radar, he’ll become the 108th pitcher and then he’ll move on to whatever the rest of the season has in store for the Sox.

~~Trenna Field, Thomas’ Trolley Blogger at Large

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/

Rain Sox

It is officially summer, and the weather is finally acting like it: a day with absolutely no rain (at least in Montana) and it is 80 degrees. Yet, I’ve been awkwardly introduced to the harsh realities of life: I’m stuck in an office. The low hum of computers attempting to breathe through the ill circulated air finds a harmony with the spontaneous clicking of keyboards. There are no windows, no opportunities, to see what I’m missing in the daylight by being stuck inside.

 

However, when the door is not open, and there is no window to open, you create your own. Being 2 hours earlier and 2,000 miles away from Fenway, I have opened a new window. A small one that I can discretely hide behind the others, (containing spreadsheets, word documents, and research strategies) the Red Sox Gameday Live is providing me with play-by-play coverage of their current game.

At first disappointed when the 1:35pm start time was pushed back due to rain, I kept busy and hoped that the Northeast rain would clear so the Sox could play. Finally, the first pitch was thrown. The tasks I was assigned seemed a bit less mundane, as I could reward myself with checking the game once I finished something. Another delay. A few phone calls and some wishing the skies would clear in Boston led to a return to play in the 3rd.

The window opened and instead of a bright number in the runs column for the Sox, I saw a dark, dismal 0, the Boston weather made it’s way to Montana. While it could still possibly be quite sunny outside, I would have no way of knowing until 7pm when I could run for home.

Instead, it’s raining. It’s raining walks and runs. Lackey is drenched in disappointment, what happened in the 4th? Was he even aiming for the strike zone? Another rain delay. At least I didn’t miss anything when corporate research averted my attention.

Thank goodness for Gonzalez bringing Ellsbury across that plate. Gonzalez is growing on me; I’m always skeptical of the new players, they have to earn their place in Boston, they can’t simply put on the uniform and demand respect (the same goes for the veteran players, they have to continuously earn my affections). But Adrian, 4 for 4 in the 8th, he’s climbing through my ranks. Finally a ray of sunshine peaks through with a 1 on the board.

Yet, it’s dampened by another rain delay and another dead end in my research. The rain delay continued to end the game. A 5-1 loss to the Padres, really? The Sox simply dissolved in the rain. I closed the window and settled on thinking about the next game. Perhaps the sun will shine in Pittsburgh on Friday or at leas the Sox won’t drown as they did in the first four innings.

As for Montana, maybe the sun is shining and it still feels like summer outside, or it could be pouring (the weather is rather spontaneous here), but a prolonged rain delay won’t end the working day early.

 

~~Trenna Field, on the Trolley at large