All aboard. All aboard!
Last month I kept rewriting lyrics to Tom Waits’ song, “Big in Japan.” He sings in his throaty growl, “I got the stripes but not the tie, got the boat but not the lake, got the sizzle but not the steak. I was hearing, “got the pitchers but not the pitching, got the bats but not the balls, got the bodies but not the souls.”
I think it was John Kruk two nights ago who said, “[t]his might be the Red Sox train on the move.” Shutting down the Rays two games in a row, and adding more heat to our bbq’d rays platter, makes me feel like the cruel days of April are long gone. My oh May what a month it has been. How does one player go from a .286 slugging percentage to a .792 in a a month to month comparison? More than resounding is Papi’s answer to his you-can-now-eat-crow critics. One wonders if the passionate blues ballad to Amalie in the Globe’s all you can quote buffet of Papi was exactly what the doctor prescribed. Call it good therapy and let’s all move on, because if we don’t we will miss our train, non-stop to the All-Star break, when our place in the standings will look like the landscape we want to photograph from our chosen window seat. All aboard!
Wait, there are a few pieces of baggage you might need to leave behind on the platform. . .
There were no streakers at our graduation ceremony but there were a few loud hecklers, one student whose voice might have been the equivalent of a liner off the Green Monster, voicing her opposition to the New Jersey Governor’s cuts in education. Overall, it seemed like a good mixture of poise and passion, a combination of what I read today after having to miss everything baseball due to commencement activities.
The two guns I have been relying on, Clay and Lester, gave us security and confidence in victory, for which we have been longing, sometimes desperately. In the passion arena, Professor Benjamin wrote a strong story, with more contentious reader comments than I have seen in a while. One thing I am worried about is the same line so many readers responded with vociferous opposition: “People change you.” I worry that the article, and Papi’s off field blasts therein, will stick and for too long. Remember “I am the straw that stirs the drink?”
I have faith in Papi and I want him in the lineup. He is more than a straw. He can be the whole martini shaker. Is it poise & passion, or poisonous passion?
I needed to change things around. You know about my superstitions. Can you blame me? You see how many pitchers take that little leap over the first base line chalk. I put away my Papelbon jersey, the one I was wearing on Monday night, as well as my Red Sox rocks glass, and took more painkillers in the 5th inning and then turned the damn game off. Then I picked up David Halberstam’s book, The Teammates, and got in bed. The friendships of Williams, Dimaggio, Pesky, and Doerr lasted over 50 years! Of course I am mad to have missed the second night’s drama. I saw it all on highlights this morning when I turned on the TV to check the weather. I would have slept a helluva lot better. What a wild and crazy 18 innings of baseball. I don’t know what else to say, except the grit of a comeback has got to lift us up. Also, my voodoo had the right effect.
In the news cycle there was also something about last night at Wrigley Field: Todd Helton hit his FIRST home run of the year. On May 18th. As he made his way around the bases, Mitch & Associates on the MLB Network were talking about the loyalty and patience the organization has for a player like that. So this is a franchise player, with an entire career on the Rockies, who once hit 49 homers. So his numbers have declined. So he hasn’t hit one yet this season, until last night. Nobody is calling him Todd Hell or anything else disparaging. He is a leader on the team. As he rounded third with that squarish, muscular, slow trot, that seemed to take up the time in which I might eat a pepper and sausage sandwich, I thought of a Red Sox player whose trot is close in kin. On Nomar night, Nomar said he had a family because he put on a Red Sox uniform. We might hate each other sometimes and turn a few dinner plates upside down, but it’s always nice to know those familiar faces when they come off the plane from a trip.
PS. More Rockies: yesterday, I saw Mr Rockpile Ranter’s gracious comments and inclusion on his blog of an email I sent to him after my trip to Denver. He was even generous enough to include my amateur photo, taken with an ancient digital camera(not an oxymoron these days). Thanks D!
It is a lot easier seeing Johnny Damon in a Tigers’ uniform. Baseball celebrates the past, by its very nature, but then I find myself wondering what might have been Last night during the game, while the Detroit announcers(Long Live the beautiful voice of Ernie Harwell) were recalling the days of Ortiz-Manny and commenting on how much more difficult it was then to pitch to Papi, I started wondering what would have happened had we kept Manny, despite everything, Unrealistic perhaps.Then I wondered how feasible it was to keep Damon away from the Yankees. What’s the difference in having a Mike Cameron than keeping a 36 year-old Damon, one Globe reader asked. Good question. The Tigers talk about how important he is in the clubhouse. Maybe Manny’s antics were more of a disturbance to the team after Damon left. I can’t pretend to know these things but I often wonder.
I recently mentioned Roger Angell’s amazing essay on the home run, “Homeric Tales,” and last night’s game was a great addition to the Tales of Papi. Two blasts, or as he called them, “lasers.” Nick Cafardo writes about the quicker, shorter swing employed by Papi. It is magnificent to watch. Then there was Bill Hall’s shot.The pinch-hit homer is gratifying in a unique way. (As a side note, did anyone see the behind the plate camera view in replays? Why doesn’t MLBtv use that more often?) Angell writes about the most famous pinch-hit home run in baseball history. (You know what it is.)
What is your favorite Red Sox home run?? My choice, for now, is Johnny Damon’s grand slam in Game 7 of the ALCS. That’s when I knew we changed baseball history.
According to Formosa and Hamburgers’s Baseball: Field Guide (An in-depth illustrated guide to the complete rules of baseball), the STRIKE ZONE is a “three dimensional area the exact shape of home plate. If the ball passes through any point in the three dimensional space it will be called a strike.” I have often wondered about the angle at which umpires set themselves, better known as “the slot.” Dale Scott gave me pause, and a sick stomach, yesterday, with possibly the worst call on a strike I’ve seen all season, and maybe longer. I am not one to question too much after a call. I love baseball for its fallibility.I don’t really like the replay review for home runs. The call is a call, however imperfect. Baseball is a game inches, right? Yesterday it was a game of feet, as the ball that trailed off the outside of the plate had to nearly reach half a foot, which would have led to Ortiz on first, then a pinch-runner and possibly the tying run. Ok, I will let it go. That’s the nature of the game. But then Beltre’s check swing gets called for a strike. Back to Formosa and Hamburger: “If the batter is able to stop the swing before the head of the bat crosses the foul line, it is not considered a full swing.” I hate to complain,as you can see by the more optimistic tone of most of my entries,but Diddly Brains Scott didn’t even ask for help from the first base umpire. A seeming dictatorial move in a tense situation. Send him back to the minors.
On another note Dan W. a reader on NBC Sports Hardball Talk wrote that Dale Scott knew he blew the call and gave Ortiz a lot of leeway when Ortiz did his dance.
We have been waiting for Big Papi to break out with some power displays and last night he showed that swing with two long balls. In a small park much farther from Boston than Baltimore, Red Sox 44th round draft pick broke through with power of his own. After a two-run triple last night, Thomas hit a towering home run today against UCF in Orlando, his first of the year. His teammates reported the blast went about 400 feet. Thomas said, “I didn’t get to see it but I knew it was gone off the bat.It felt good.” UCF’s announcer said, “That is gone, no doubt about it. A long home run for Thomas,” as the bat rang–not my favorite sound in college baseball. A much better sound was the wood bat’s crack when Thomas hit a long ball off the Green Monster(just above the Covidien sign) on July 2 during the Fenway Classic Game, driving in three runs