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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.
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
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.
The cynic in me says that the Johnny-Manny show, over nine games at Fenway with the very first on April 11, won’t deliver as much ticket revenue as they did last year, since fans saw the return of their former heroes on separate occasions. After all, part of the ticket lottery for the Sox reserved games against the Dodgers, Manny’s first visit in June. But even as I write that, I realize that the appearance of the two is far greater than the value of the pieces in the dramatic puzzle. As readers might know, the cynic in me rarely visits, as I am a more optimistic fan and the values of the game afford endless reward and pleasure, even with defeat’s agony.
The images of Manny & Johnny in other uniforms will always be like Hank Aaron in Brewers’ colors. Perhaps a slight exaggeration and too much imagination at work, but each players memorable moments were played in a Red Sox uniform. This is not merely about possession but more about joys each of them delivered. So perhaps the nine games will pass more fluidly and fans won’t endlessly debate whether to cheer or boo, not to mention unleashing racial slurs towards Manny and his fans. Here’s one for time passing and memories sweetened by it. This may contradict and repeat other entries here, but we all know the buzz around the park on April 11 might be more fitting for Hollywood than the classic park we know as Fenway.
. . .BUT THE RED SOX ARE
by TRENNA FIELD
(This is an excellent piece of writing by a former student of mine. I have been waiting for the right moment to include it on the blog, as she has so graciously agreed to publish here for the first time. As Red Sox nation feels the bitter pain of the Patriots loss, I thought now is the right time~~~Thomasox)
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away between those life-and-death matters lies love–a love for the Red Sox,
which surpasses the generality of a love of the game. A love that becomes
tattooed on the heart, a love that outlasts the rollercoaster of emotions
related to baseball and life. The Red Sox have their ups and downs just the
same as their fans but the love fans have for them is the kind quite capable of
becoming a life and death love.
a 2006 slump, where the losses began to outweigh the wins, added to injuries
piling up, the Red Sox were on their way to destroying their successes. Before
it could get worse their season ended 11 games behind the AL East Champions,
was the rebound year. It had to be. They had hit a wall in 2006 and now their
option was to adjust their style of play or spend another 86 years in a coma of
changed their game.
their game changed on the field, changes were brought about in the lives of
their fans. On August 25, 2007, my brother asked me if I wanted to watch the
Red Sox play the White Sox with him and his girlfriend. The first girl he
wanted to introduce me to. Though they had only been dating three weeks, it
must have been serious. The plan: order pizza, watch the game at our house, and
relax while our parents were away in New York for a wedding.
plans for the evening made, my brother left the house for work at 7:00 am, “I’m
so tired, I just want to sleep forever,” he said walking out the door. We
laughed off his comment and went our own ways for the day.
as the nine innings never go the way they are planned, neither do the days.
afternoon, I was called into work. The restaurant was shorthanded and I agreed
to go in. Once there, another woman asked if I would trade cuts with her. I
switched with her because it meant more money in tips. I was now the closer and
obviously missed the Red Sox game, but it was okay because my brother also
worked late to help a friend build a patio.
I called my brother at
8:54pm to let him know I would not be home until later. We devised a new plan
of watching a movie and getting ice cream. He still wanted me to meet his
girlfriend. The next night was our sister’s birthday so we were glad to move
our plans of watching the Sox and getting pizza until then.
have a clever way of becoming the pathways for unintended circumstances. As the
Red Sox and their fans know, one can prepare and plan for the best outcomes but
the all the preparation will not amount to much if fate deals a bad hand.
finally let off of work around midnight. At my brother’s earlier request, I
called to let him know I was on my way home. I called. No answer. I called
again. No answer. Again. No answer. The last time we spoke, he had said he
would most likely be home, but if not, he would leave a light on.
home, I passed a car accident. It was not his car but horrible thoughts flooded
my mind. “Please let him be okay”, I worried. But I have a tendency to over
think and worry too much about things.
down our dark, dirt road. No lights. I pulled into the driveway. Mine was now
the only car in it. My stomach sank. That’s not like him, the lights should be
on. As I fumbled with my keys in the doorknob, I noticed a note stuck in the
frame, “Lynn and Mike please call me or go to Cape Cod Hospital. Kegan was in a
car accident, it doesn’t appear to be bad.”
inside, straight to the blinking red light on the answering machine. Two new
messages. One from the police officer who left the note in the doorway. One
from an emergency room doctor. Both saying, “Please contact Cape Cod Hospital.
Kegan was involved in a car accident and arrived at the Hospital around
of my actions, my mind blank, and my body, both tense and numb, I drove to the
hospital. Oblivious of my surroundings, I navigated the windy, wet roads. They
were extremely slick and the fog hung over the ground so heavy it was
impossible to see more than ten feet in front of the car.
racing into the hospital I sat in a small room with my sister. Around us lay
scattered pamphlets on coping with loss. It was 12: 42am on August 26, 2007,
officially her birthday and we had just learned that our brother’s car slid off
the road and hit a tree at 8:57pm. Three minutes after I had spoken with him to
rearrange our plans. He was in a coma, and brought to the hospital by ambulance
at 10:00pm after the med flight could not depart for Boston due to the fog.
later, I saw my brother, sleeping, just as he had wished that fateful morning.
He remained in a coma for seven days. A square was cut into his skull and tubes
stuck out in every direction. He looked nothing like himself. His face was
swollen and black and blue. Dried blood covered his body where scratches and
cuts began to heal.
thing recognizable was the Boston Red Sox tattoo on his uncovered chest. Two
red socks dangling above his heart.
the last days of summer, before returning to college, breathing the recycled
air in the Intensive Care Unit. I slept in the conference room of the hospital
with two chairs pushed together. I sat by his bed and watched the Red Sox. I
met his girlfriend during an airing of a game–no pizza though.
finally woke up and asked what the score of the game was. The score of the game
on August 25, the game Tim Wakefield pitched and the Red Sox beat the White Sox
14-2. The game we had planned to watch together.
On the day
the Sox began their series against the Baltimore Orioles, I left for school. I
returned home in October when the Red Sox were playing the Colorado Rockies in
the World Series and my brother was able to return home from the rehabilitation
center. My brother, his girlfriend, and I finally ordered pizza and watched as
the Red Sox won another World Series by sweeping the Rockies.
off-season winds down, and the Red Sox begin to ready themselves for Spring
Training, the team can do their best to plan for the season, but it will be in
the hands of fate to determine if they have a 2011 success story. After last
season, one might think they will be on the rebound for something great. Either
way, the love fans have for the team will be reaffirmed in the passionate
discussions as the season begins.
Red Sox are more than a baseball team. In the unpredictability of life, they
offer a symbol of hope for fans. In moments when life’s plans go awry and the
world feels like it’s crashing down, the Red Sox illustrate for fans that it
could be worse, it could have been 86 years instead of 7 days.
people that the love fans hold towards the team are a life and death kind of
love. A desperate love where hope is never truly lost, even when the losses are
mounting, even when the odds are not in their favor.
years after his accident, my brother has found that kind of love, not only
towards the Red Sox, but also towards his girlfriend. The girlfriend he became
engaged to on New Year’s Eve, the one he wanted me to meet, the one who shares
that same desperate love–the kind that becomes tattooed on the heart.
Following a stretch (0-4 in the last month) none of us imagined, Doc Lester brought a whole new bag of prescriptions to aid not only the “struggling” Sox but also the mess of blues-riddled fans like me. There are very few times this season when we have seen this kind of pitching, where our best bullpen lights-out combo did exactly that, and at Yankee Stadium against a fearsome lineup. When Teixeira hit that bomb into the second level on a 96.5 fastball (to be precise), I thought . . .1) here we go again 2) I am going to lose my lunch and 3) we should have signed Mark.The home run analysts of the All-Star Home Run Derby explained that home runs are produced by bat speed, mostly, and not by pitch speed. When I see a shot like that, I have to manufacture a false degree in Physics and say, well, you guys are wrong. Alas, I stray off-track.
Back to the 0-4 stretch. Lester had 30 strikeouts over those four games and over the last five, he mastered 36. We also know that the Sox batters offered a meager 9 runs over those four games. With numbers that our bats have sprung this season, another highly unusual result. Perhaps a relatively smaller anomaly was Lester’s pitch count, 115 or higher three games in a row. The only time that has happened this season. Now then, I contradict myself with this entry’s title. There were some new things, one of which was luck in our favor. Yes, Lester was sharper against a great lineup, but many other factors fell perfectly into place. Two central characters in our bullpen drama made us believers yesterday. Imagine if the Bard-Pap combo could be executed daily. Back to reality. Why did we ever let Wagner go away? To make room for Oki-jokey? I know I missed something there.
Finally, back to what matters most. A win against the Yankees and, oh yes, Lester is a new dad. Most sincerely, I offer my congrats to Jon & Farrah and hope that baby Hudson starts throwing soon. Being the competitor Jon is, I know there is another baby he wants to hold onto again, no matter the odds.
I am eating crow.
And I am listening to the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up To Boston.” It’s appropriate that this song was part of the soundtrack of the great movie,”The Departed.” The Departed? Is that our Red Sox lineup perchance? What else has departed after Sunday night’s game. One thing that I know hasn’t gone anywhere is the Yankees lineup and their excruciating ability to pull apart a pitcher, and a defense I might add, until the very same pitcher we thought was our ace has departed for the showers.
I am eating crow pie. Not that I bet any money. I only invited a colleague and friend, and huge lifelong Yankee fan, over for the game. As I am always saying, the rivalry brings out the best and worst in us. And yet, we need each other, right? I mean, imagine if we were playing in the NL Central. Would our blood boil against the Brewers? Even more, it gives a charming thrill to a Sunday night game in August. She’s always been a good sport and while my cable was out three years ago, she let me watch Game 7 of the ALCS, when the Yankees were on vacation already.I did have to survive some off color remarks but the victory more than sweetened those finely tuned insults.
So I didn’t “only” invite her over. I decorated several places of our viewing area with Red Sox gear and blankets I was dreaming of the end of the game, when I could play my Sox mini soundtrack. “Sweet Caroline,” “Dirty Water,” etc. . You know the drill. It was fun while it lasted, which wasn’t very long. All I can say now is that I was messing with forces and karma I ought to have left entirely alone.Mea culpa.
It wasn’t completely barbaric. I managed to find the Yankee Snoopy someone gave me as a joke, one for which I haven’t found a suitable reply. I am open to suggestions. So there I was, smiling, before the game, with my ice cream man hat, and with ample reading material on the table in front of us. It is some kind of divine joke, perhaps that on the cover of one issue of Red Sox magazine is Kevin Youkilis. By the end of the game, I starting dismantling the various shrines. And this morning, one of those smiles is gone, too, which was surgically removed by a doctor better known as 7 runs. We miss you, Dustin. We miss you, Youk.
Professor Daniel Gilbert(a real professor as opposed to my nicknamed Globe journalists), a professor of psychology at Harvard, wrote in the NYTimes about the mind’s workings under pressure, as in the case of Rodriguez’s 600th home run. In his opening sentence, he says “The Boston Red Sox haven’t given their fans much to cheer about this summer, so we have had to take our pleasure where could find it, for example, by watching Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees struggle to hit his 600th career home run—again and again and again.”
I am not about to take on a Harvard Professor, especially one who has written excellent books on the subject of happiness. After reading his bio, I realized I didn’t know he also has a tv show, “The Emotional Life,” to top off his achievements. His essay, “The Weight at the Plate” is illuminating. But it’s that first sentence that has got me stirring this morning. Some may say, well that’s because it’s true and the truth hurts. Not only that, these injuries, especially Youk’s thumb, hurt like hell. But is all this swelling going to silence us? Are all these broken bones enough to choke our cheers?
I wrote about an article earlier in the season that challenged Red Sox fans to stop acting like Yankee fans. With 27 rings, the Yankees have come to expect a championship every year. That’s natural, even if some think that the way they got there is unnatural. So be it. With two rings in the last ten years, are we spoiled and greedy? First, we love this rivalry. And any great play or better, any victory over the Yankees, gives us something to cheer about. Will this be a Bronx massacre that desecrates our entire season? Well, maybe.
I keep thinking about the tickets I bought for October 2 at Fenway. The second to last game of the season AND it’s against the Yankees. Some somber fellow Sox fans have said to me that the game will be meaningless, why bother going. I won’t write my dissertation on why i love baseball here. I will say that there is a long list of moments this season where I have thrown my hat into the air in celebration, some of which are listed in my first-half highlights list. Yesterday I saw a surfer with a t-shirt that said, “The Journey is the Destination.” Somewhat of a cliche these days, bur you know that phrase stuck with me through the day. I don’t mean to get too mystical, but I do intend to convince myself, or even you, that this season is not even close to over.
Right of the Pesky Pole Notes:
After yesterday’s entry on Youk’s thumb, I started thinking about a list of things we need in place of Youk’s thumb, or more literally, his absence.
In no particular order:
Drew’s clutch hits
Please add more to the list. . . .
Thomas’ Trolley Top First Half Highlights
10) Big Papi Winning the Home Run Derby: Meaningless but memorable
9) Darnell’s first at-bat home run and game-winning sac fly: Who’s there? Darnell I am
8) Opening Day Comeback against the Yankees: Full Blossomed Optimism, which vanished faster than Jayson Werth’s liner back to Dice-K on May 22, which leads me to . . .
7) Dice-K’s One Hittter against the Phillies, May 22: Dreaming in Technicolor of the old Dice-K
6) Clay Buchholz’s Complete Game Shutout against the O’s, June 4th: Masterful Season in the making.
5) Big Papi’s 2 homer, 4 rbi pounding of the Tigers, May 14: Meaningful & memorable May
4) Papelbon’s save against the Yankees, May 18th: Saving the game and our souls
3) Nomah Night, May 5th: The Past is the Present, or something like that.
2) Dustin’s 3 HR Laser Show, Colorado, June 24th: Fans required to wear protective gear in the left field stands.
1) Daniel Nava’s First-at-Bat Grand Slam: The story with many stories, like Tolstoy.