It hurts to look at Josh Beckett’s ERA from 2010. If we stare at it long enough, we might forget his poise and prowess during the 2007 postseason. I remember that’s when a colleague who is a tenured Philosophy Professor, born in South Africa, commented on Beckett’s demeanor. He said, “that Red Sox pitcher is so inside himself. It’s amazing.” This is a man who hasn’t watched too much baseball but knows beauty when he sees it. (One needn’t go further than his garage full of old Jaguar convertibles.)This element of Beckett is not something that ever really goes away, only when he is noticeably playing through injury.
All last year, I watched games where Beckett seemed like he might be returning to greatness. It was a long wait. Just like the end of the play by the other Beckett. Vladimir says “Well, shall we go?” His cohort says, “Yes, let’s go” Then the stage direction reads “They don’t move.” There wasn’t much that changed. But if we look at Beckett’s stats, he has always given up a lot of home runs. After all, he has won 20 games only once. At 30 years old, fans can hold onto their expectations for Beckett, somewhere in the 15-18 range for wins. The biggest change will be the comfort both he and Lackey will find in knowing their lineup is healthy and uniquely potent. We are still in winter and the stage is bare and it’s hard to know what’s coming until the big truck departs from Boston heading south. In this light, I am thinking we will utter Vladimir’s words at the opening. “I am glad to see you back. I thought you were gone forever.”
Photo by Matt Stone
I don’t even want to look. This game do that to you. I had some terrible dreams and tried to remember we are at the All-Star break. I don’t even want to read any of the news. It’sYouk and that ankle. His stance, besides his grimaced bouncing out of the box, looked as though his weight was shifting differently. Well, hell, his stance is like that. He could have nails inside his cleats and we wouldn’t know.
Crazy things can and will happen in the second half.
This season has had some exhausting lows and wild highs. This game do that to you. (You have your own ideas of its best and worst moments. I have to ponder that further.) Everyday I turn to the Globe and MLB.Com. Later in the day, I tune into WEEI and 98.5 and Red Sox blogs. I forgot I am supposed to vote to get him into the All-Star. Will he end up on crutches and join that crew on the bench? Last night, before Darnell smacked that double down the line, the camera panned a slovenly, tired group of guys hanging over the railing. That wasn’t a shot of disheartened, drunk Red Sox fans in the beach bar near left field. It was the Sox bench. A comeback would have changed that body language, more like the slang of losing. It would have changed my dreams, too. This game do that to you.
There have been essays written about optimism when one is a Sox fan, including one excellent piece by Jerry Thornton. It comes up a lot, this optimism/ pessimism thing. On the blogs and in the comment boxes, persnickety and downright mean peeps sling metaphorical pig snot at each other when the Sox lose. Three losses in a row guarantees some good action today.
Some will question Tito. Some will bemoan the Ramones of the bullpen. Pun and misspelling intended. Some will want Theo’s head. Some will tell Peter Abraham that he is a closet Yankee fan, even though he covers the Sox with a Sox-like grit and passion. Others will tell me to shut up. This game do that to you. “The Stresses of the Game” is the title of the next chapter I’ve reached in Doug Glanville’s new book. It helps to keep that in mind. There is a set of stresses for us as fans. Then there is the unimaginable stress as a player.
But as I write this, I am drawn back to video clip of Dustin provided by my fellow blogger, Fenway Bleacher Creature(FBC) Dustin says, in so many words, people counted us out in April and May, They talked about my slump. They talked about Papi’s slump.Then what happened??! Laser show. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have him as a teammate. Hysterical.
If you are feeling like me this morning. Game over. No fight. Like we knew it all along with all those line-up changes and Lackey lacking, like you are looking at your shoes and can’t see the next game, remember there is another whole half of a season. And tomorrow is another game. Go watch Fever Pitch and have a cold beer. Or come over and watch it with me. I have the beer. And after last night, I have a case of it. This game do that to you. But then what happens?
Right of the Pesky Pole: Notes
I lifted the phrase, “This game do that to you” from the outstanding short story by Nicholas Mainieri in the baseball issue of The Southern Review. See my links for more about the lit mag.
The Orioles snapped a ten-game losing streak yesterday and I snapped an 11-day blog writing streak. Both were conscious, willful decisions.My reasons were personal, as you can see from the previous entry. (Thank you for the comments and emails from many new blogosphere friends.)
In fact, the Orioles reasons for winning were personal, too. It seemed they clawed back yesterday, determined to avert a sweep in front of a mixed crowd, where Sox fans chanting “Let’s Go Red Sox,” were so audible on my computer that I was confused about the game’s park. The O’s fans valiantly chanted back. Ah, Fenway South. It hurts being an O’s fan, so the players wrestled back for them. So why are you reading this on a Red Sox blog you are asking by now. Do I really need to hear pity for a team we needed to sweep?
Maybe it’s the gracious O’s fan, a colleague, who lives in Maryland (yes, he has a two hour commute,as opposed to my 12 minutes). Ken, a lifelong fan, was the first person I thought of when I found out I couldn’t go to the game on Friday. He suffered an 11-0 defeat, all while sitting behind the Red Sox dugout in our Fenway South filled stands. Of course it was all beautiful to me, and to us. As was Saturday. And then Sunday happened, all the clunky, just- missed plays, the bloopers, the hit-by-pitches, the sore backs, the decreased velocity of Lackey, the errors, the 0-for-Ortiz, the high-pitch counts, topped off with a high-dosage of bubble-gum mixed with tobacco for Tito.
The good news is that we are 14-5 over the last 19 games.
The good news is that Lackey isn’t injured given the suggestions yesterday about his velocity. It seems that Sox fans are going to protest each game Lackey grinds out. I have vowed my faith and remain by it. If the Antagonistas de Lackey continue their uprising, so be it. He will win the next time out. Before then, I suggest looking at the stats from the last 9 years. His record is 108-75. At 6’6″ and 245, he will give us the innings and win games, even sometimes when our bats get quiet.
PS. As I linked to the Globe to look over our place in the standings, I saw Professor Cafardo’s article about how meaningful this win was for the Orioles. I hope my entry doesn’t seem too unoriginal given the tone of Nick’s terrific insights. “To Orioles, this was a big deal.” But what the heck, I am writing as the Monday Morning Pitcher. Also, I await the return of the Boof. Where’s the Boof? His velocity is back up at 95 in a rehab session.
On the IPOD as I write this: Reckoner by Radiohead
I am still trying to figure out Joe Nelson’s step, mid-windup, which precisely resembles another pitcher. Maybe we can get Batting Stance guy Gar Ryness to do a follow up book on windups? I am going off-track here, as promised by the blog’s sub-heading. Sometimes you just have to follow your mission and mine is going off-track. Before I go any further, allow me to raise my Cooperstown Cookie and cup of Coffee to our walloping comeback.
Here’s to you,VMART! (and again, again, and again. Wow 5 for 5!)
And here’s to you, Bill Hall!
And here’s to you, Dustin!
And here’s to you, yo, Adrian!
And, to the Bard of Boston, 101!!
Finally, I offer a half-nod to Country Joe (formerly Ordinary Joe) Nelson. Nelson has traversed the east coast, with a stint in KC(with his desire to be near water only slightly quenched by their outfield waterfalls),returning to the Sox from two fish teams, the Marlins and the cartilaginous Rays. We have the Charles River, but he’s happy anyway. He give up one hit last night but had two impressive strikeouts. For me, this was a good closing to a great comeback, even if the stands emptied by half(what the hell is this about, by the way? doesn’t anyone stay until the last out anymore??). If Ramon I bemoan Ramirez came out, the final score would have been 9-7. Our local hero(here in Asbury Park, NJ), Scott Schoeneweis, could have taken it on in April, not May, and not in the least, June.
When I started the last paragraph, as my last, with “finally,” I was lying.
In the midst of Lackeyisms flying all over, going tweet, tweet, tweet in Twitter universe, (What is Lackey lacking? etc.,etc. .) I bow to and stand with John Lackey. I don’t really care how much money he is earning every time he throws a pitch. He hasn’t been his best, but we aren’t even at the All-Star break. The guy is a workhorse and when we need him in the playoffs, he will gut it out, inning after inning, even if he has to throw 130 pitches, turning green in the face.
As I have already semi-ranted on Boston.com, can we please stop talking about $$$$. MLB has a total revenue of over five BILLION dollars. That’s big business. But it’s big business because we love the game, and not only that, baseball brings work to many people from ticket hawkers to beer vendors( there is a good story on NPR about Baseball Vendors from 2003).
What are we fighting for? . . .let’s put down our guns and pick up our books and go off to the game.
After John Lackey gave up the hit to Dustin that ended his no-hit bid against the Red Sox two years ago, catcher Jeff Mathis walked up to the mound, perhaps to console or something, and Lackey said, “Give me the f**king ball.” He didn’t want to hear it. Let me get back on the mound and forget I had this no hitter thing going and let’s win, he seemed to say.That’s Lackey. And that’s what I love about him. Gritty, fiercely competitive, tough, and unrelenting. He gets the job done. And we are happy that his socks are Red Sox red.
So last night’s win wasn’t “poetry in motion,” as we often hear about fluid, graceful, or beautiful plays. But even poetry isn’t always “poetry in motion.” Take some of the greatest American poets, such as Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, or Anne Sexton(all from Boston by the way). Sometimes their work has a lyrical, natural syntax and form. Other times it is awkward and rugged. Still, it is beautiful and sometimes gut-wrenching and raw.
As quoted in my bio, the great novelist and short story writer, John Cheever, said, “All men of letters are Red Sox fans.”
If you are interested in this meeting of baseball and literature, check out the new issue of The Southern Review, one of the top literary mags out there, which is entirely dedicated to Baseball. Art, poetry, fiction, and essays.