Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Audacity of Yankees Fans: Part 2

Some of you might remember from this post that I have a class with a rather abrasive Yankees fan (he's from Jersey, so I expected nothing less). Today, I came into class, minding my own business, and sat down.

(him): So, what's your magic number now? Three? Two?

(me): We clinched last night, actually.

: Wow. It's about time.

: Do you remember the last time the Yankees won the division, and the Sox took the Wild Card?

: Yeah, but what was that... way back in 2003?

: 2004, actually... You know, the greatest choke-job in the history of professional sports.

: *dirty look*

I definitely won that argument (which, I would like to point out, I did not initiate). What I would have liked to say to him, and to all Yankees fans, is just a bit more involved.

If the Yankees win the World Series, who cares? They should win, and anything less is a FAILURE. They dropped nearly half a billion dollars on three players over the offseason, and play in a billion dollar launching pad of a ballpark. Last season, the spoiled baby-Steinbrenners missed out on the postseason for the first time since 1993 (not including 1994, when everyone missed the playoffs). They panicked and authorized Brian Cashman to go out and buy anything he needed to field a winning team.

That's exactly what happened. It started with CC Sabathia, who obviously did not want to come to New York. CC had specified early on that he wanted to play for a National League team on the West Coast. Of course, the Yankees are neither of those things, so they made up for their shortcoming in their usual way: with money. The Yankees opening bid for Sabathia was worlds away from the next highest (rumored) offer. CC wasn't convinced, and he left New York's contract offer on the table for more than a week. Cashman saw that other teams weren't willing to come close to the first offer, so he bid against himself, adding more years and dollars so that Sabathia realistically had no choice. AJ Burnett came next, and he was easier to convince, though Cashman made sure there was no doubt by offering more than most GMs thought he was worth. Everyone knows about Mark "My Wife Has My Balls in a Vice-Grip" Teixeira, but his contract came down to money, too.

Don't get me wrong. I know that the Red Sox are hardly a struggling small market team. The point I am trying to make is that no one can compete with the bottomless budget that Brian Cashman is equipped with. The Yankees 2009 payroll is $214 million. That's $75 million more than the next highest (Chicago Cubs, $139 million). The Red Sox, for contrast, are obligated to pay their players $133 million this year. Our highest paid player, JD Drew, is getting $14 million. Alex Rodriguez alone is owed more than the entire roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I'm not advocating for a salary cap (at least, not now - that's another post), but I do want to make the point that the Yankees should win. If they do: so what? If they don't, it's a flop of massive proportions. This is the reason fans like the one in my class get under the collective skin of baseball fans everywhere: they feel entitled, and they're not shy about expressing it. It's grating, to say the least. But you really can chalk New York's success this year (and over the last few) up to economics: if you buy up the best talent, you should win. Seems like a bittersweet victory to me.
"Yo Angelica, I'm really happy for you, and I'mma let you finish... But Yankees fans are the best spoiled brats of all time! OF ALL TIME!"

Thanks, Angels.

So we're in. Thanks to a collapse by the Rangers and a late-season surge by the Halos, Soxtober is about to begin once again. Maybe this wasn't the way you wanted to clinch a playoff spot? I'll admit, it isn't exactly what I had envisioned either, but Tim Wakefield had something to say about that. I don't know about you guys, but when Timmy Wakefield speaks, I listen.
"There's so much work that goes on, from the offseason, into spring training, with one goal in mind: to get to the postseason and win the World Series. It doesn't matter how you get in, as long as you get in."

Truer words were never spoken. I know watching Kevin Youkilis watch strike three was painful, especially after mounting what seemed like a magical comeback that would carry its momentum all the way through the World Series. And now, it's likely that we'll see a parade of second-stringers and late-season call-ups so that the veterans can get their rest in before the meaningful games start up again next week.

Though the ending left something to be desired, last night's game was exactly why I love baseball. It was suspenseful and exciting to the very last pitch, despite a less than encouraging performance by starter Clay Buchholz. I'm going to take the view that Clay is getting all the suck out of his system now, when it doesn't really matter, and that with a healthy Becks, Jonny Lester, and Daisuke, our playoff rotation will be formidable. I suspect we'll see more about the playoff roster in the coming days, and while most of it is already determined, there are a few mysteries I'm waiting to see solved: Tim Wakefield or Paul Byrd as a longman? George Kottaras or Dusty Brown as the third catcher (or no third catcher at all, should Tito choose an extra arm instead)? Is Nick Green healthy enough to be the utility guy, or will we see Jed Lowrie?

I know I'll continue to watch the games in the next few days, despite their apparent lack of meaning. Sooner than I want to admit, the World Series will be over, the champagne will have dried up, and another lucky city will have its celebratory parade (cross your fingers). And after that? Nothing. No baseball until spring training. Since those months without baseball are a sort of torture in my opinion, I plan to watch until there's nothing left. See you at 7:10!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oh, You Red Sox...

I didn't know what to write about today, so I decided to go with another picture post. I was looking through my random saved pictures on my computer, and noticed how many of them were Red Sox pictures (shocking). I picked out my favorites, imported them to the blog, and here they are, for your viewing pleasure:

Old friend Bobby Kielty, Youk taking a swig, Manny and Papi, and No Feelings Drew, all, for whatever reason, posing with wine in the clubhouse. Epic win.

You know Paps was thrilled to capture Wakefield in such a position over the All-Star weekend... I for one am just pleased they managed to capture this moment for posterity. Wake's got a little Captain in him. (Just not as much as Heidi. Oh yeah, I went there.)

Oh Pedey. I love you so. Now, of course, the "Daddy" on his chest can be taken literally. At the time? Not so much.

"The Curse of Big Papi" at the new Yankee Stadium. Was it just me, or did the guy who buried the jersey seem just a little... stupid?

This picture needs no words to quantify it's awesomeness: the Captain, and Captain Hook. (Maybe Tek would hit better if he had a hook? No?)

The closest JD Drew has ever gotten to a fight. I'm willing to bet this encounter with Pedey caused a hangnail and a 15 day trip to the disabled list.


The intensity makes this picture. And the fact that Dustin fits easily inside his locker: he's travel-sized for your convenience.

Inter-rivalry bromance. Damn you, World Baseball Classic, and your propensity for making my future husband all buddy-buddy with the enemy.

Ahhh the Youk-Fu. It made a brief appearence in Spring Training, then disappeared for good after Youkilis went 0-for-4 with an error and two strikeouts in a ST game. Bad facial hair=bad luck.

"It's not how you start... It's how you finish." That's what Papi's shirt says in this picture from April at Yankee Stadium, and he's right. I approve of the way he's finishing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. Red Sox

Here's to Mr. Red Sox! Johnny Pesky is ninety years young (yesterday)!

I Remember When Hell Froze Over

Does anyone else out there remember what happened last time the Yankees clinched the AL East while the Sox "settled" for the Wild Card? I do, and you can break out your favorite cliche, because October 2004 was the month that pigs flew, and Hell froze over, and the rest is history.

For my final cliche of this entry, I would like to note that a picture is worth a thousand words:To me, and thousands of Red Sox fans world wide, this picture is worth much more than a thousand words: it's worth our sanity. This photo represents the end of the "1918!" chants, the end of the "lovable loser" mentality, and the beginning of a wonderful new era.

Sure, Varitek is a shell of the man he used to be, and Foulke (obviously) is no longer with the team, but I use this picture to remind the panicking segment of Red Sox Nation that nothing is impossible. In 2004, the Yankees went 101- 61 in the regular season, and the Sox finished at a respectable 98-64. We were the underdogs going into the ALCS, and, especially after Game 3, people were lining up on the Tobin Bridge. The Yankees were Pedro's Daddy, Schilling had a bum ankle, and hope seemed lost. You all know what happened next, and it led to the party to end all parties throughout New England.

Why the pseudo-history lesson? Sure, it sucked to watch the Yankees celebrate yesterday (I assume? I turned off the television when Golden Boy made the final out.), but the alarmists within Red Sox Nation are freaking everyone out, and there's just no need for that yet.

The Sox magic number is two. They have seven left to play (three against the Jays, and four against the Indians). The bats will get hot at the right time, the starting pitchers are hitting their stride, and the bullpen will have time to rest before the playoffs start.

And, just to leave you with a smile on your face, here's another priceless picture from that magical month in 2004:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Today's Match-up: Daisuke vs. CC

Last night was painful, on more than one level. For Jon Lester, the pain was physical, as he got absolutely nailed by a vicious liner off the bat of Melky Cabrera in the third inning. For fans, the pain was mental, with all of New England gasping in tandem as the newly announced Game 1 starter for the presumptive playoffs crumpled to the ground. Even when we heard that the X-Rays on Lester came back negative, most of us couldn't bring ourselves to care too much about the score following his exit (to an ovation from the surprisingly classy Yankee Stadium Crowd), as we were all too busy worrying about Red Sox Nation's prodigal son.

Tonight is a totally different matter. In the light of day, with more and more reports coming in that Lester might even be able to make his next start (scheduled for Thursday at Fenway Park), we turn some of our attention to this afternoon's match-up: the inimitable CC Sabathia, and the enigmatic Daisuke Matsuzaka.

First, for CC. Despite all the fat jokes that get made about him, Sabathia is the real deal. He leads the league in wins, and his ERA is no laughing matter. However, there is a silver lining: some of our hitters seem to fair relatively well against him. Kevin Youkilis, for example, hits .333 off of CC (he also hits Doc Halladay very well..weird.), and Papi hits him at a .304 clip. Strangely enough, Chris Woodward has pretty good numbers against CC (.273 BA).

Stripes aren't slimming, CC.

Daisuke, on the other hand has relatively good numbers against the Yanks. The only players on the team with significant at-bats against Daisuke that hit him well are Jorge Posada, (.500), and Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter, who both hit .333 off of him (Mr. Leigh Teixeira is 1-for-2). However, Matsuzaka is a totally different pitcher since coming off his extended DL time than we've seen. The guy that showed up for Daiuke's last two starts is more like the two-time WBC MVP than the frustrating 18-game winner (with only 5.7 innings per start, I'd like to award half of those wins to the bullpen) of yesteryear.

Unfortunately, we have to watch this intriguing match-up while listening to Tim McCarver ballwash Derek Jeter for nine innings. I hate FOX.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Baseball as a Coping Mechanism

"Surviving cancer is, and will always be, my toughest battle. I laugh when people talk about how tough it is to deal with the boos of the fans or the high expectations of big market baseball. Hah! You want to know what tough is. John Kruk knows. Andres Galarraga knows. And Jon Lester has come to find out. When cancer comes calling, baseball takes a backseat. Having forty thousand people at Yankee Stadium tell me I suck is a nice diversion." -Mike Lowell, Deep Drive

Cancer took my mom last month. Today would have been her sixty-second birthday.

When I came back from boarding school with a renewed obsession for baseball, my mom humored me, watching all the games with me (with intermittent naps), and even picking a favorite player (David Ortiz). After I read Mike Lowell’s book, I knew she had to read it, too. The above passage caused Mikey to replace Papi in her affections.

The Red Sox were something that we shared. She didn't have any real affinity for professional baseball before I did (though she grew up in rural Connecticut, so the Sox would have been a logical choice), but she started paying attention because it was important to me: I loved the Red Sox, she loved me. Therefore, she loved the Red Sox, too. The other members of my family are what you would term "casual fans," they don't know very much about the players, don't really watch on TV, but, like all good New Englanders, they have Sox hats and are happy when the home town team does well.

When we were in the hospital last month, the Red Sox were on the telev
ision every night. The first night we were there was the night of Victor Martinez's two-out, go-ahead double in the ninth inning, and when he hit it I leaped out of my chair, feeling that I shouldn't yell in a hospital. My mom felt no such qualms, and shouted her excitement. She then looked at me and said, quite seriously, "You know, I really liked Justin Masterson... but this new guy looks promising." I couldn't have said it better myself.

The Red Sox provided an escape these last few years when I needed one, and they were something for my mom and I to enjoy together when we could. Her first trip to Fenway was last June, and Tim Wakefield pitched the Sox to a win over the Diamondbacks. We went twice this summer, once to see Jon Lester pitch 7+ perfect innings (and a complete game) against the Rangers in June, and once to see Brad Penny toss a gem against New York the next week.

"I never thought I'd get to go to Fenway Park," she told me more than once. I'm so glad that she did.

Even when I was away at school, she would watch the games so she could talk about them with me (and, as a lifetime coach and phys. ed. teacher, she had a deep love of sports). I have a saved voicemail on my cell phone from April 26, 2009. She called me during the game, while my phone was off, and left the following breathless message: "Wow, Kayla, I really hope you're watching the game, because Jacoby Ellsbury just stole home, and it was AMAZING!" As soon as I got the message, I called her back and we discussed it at length.

My mom valued sportsmanship highly, perhaps because of her keen awareness that life isn’t fair, she expected sports to be fair… She even infamously pulled out a rulebook in the middle of a field hockey game last season in order to correct the referee. As those she coached well know, she never advocated arguing with the umpire, so if she was upset, there was something very wrong. Sure enough, she was right, and another person learned that it’s very unwise to doubt Deryl Fleming when it comes to field hockey. She taught me to always respect the umpire, and the only time I ever saw her visibly upset over a call in MLB was last year. Mikey Lowell, whose book she had just finished, starting arguing balls and strikes with the umpire. "Well," she reasoned, "Mike never argues, so if he thinks it's a bad call, it's a bad call."

I can't thank everyone enough that helped her and our family through everything: all the food, and the rides, and the support, meant more than anyone will know. I wish there was some way for me to thank the Boston Red Sox, and specifically Mike Lowell, for giving her, and me, something to believe in and hope for right up until the end.

She had always wanted to swim with dolphins, so we went to Florida in March. As you can see, she was rarely without the Sox hat I gave her.

I Love the Mayor

This man was on FIRE last night (in a good way):I googled "sean casey on fire" and this came up... weird?

I'm going to go on record and say that Sean Casey is my favorite one-and-done Sox players of all time. How could you not love the Mayor? This post is dedicated to one Sean Casey, and will consist of his best lines of the night, as captured by all of you Sox fans on Twitter:

brentitude Sean Casey: "Pretty good looking guy over there on first base" hahaha #redsox

Ehh... Billy Butler is okay, I guess.

bmertel22 @royalspostgame Red Sox announcers currently joking about starting a brawl with Lefebvre next door. Sean Casey says he could take him.
You know, Don might actually be able to beat this guy... But I have a sneaking suspicion they'd be friends: they have the same awkward shirts.

mikethebado "Where's Orsillo? Everyone else is getting dominated out here, and he's getting pizza"... Sean Casey #RedSoxDon Orsillo's weapon of choice in a basebrawl.

LoveSox15 Sean Casey just equated himself to Braveheart. #feedseancasey

Sean Casey=Mel Gibson? Eh, alright.

shelley1005 "Some people had to dress up in a Hooters outfit and walk 16 block to the Weston" -Sean Casey "I can't get it out of my mind!" - DO. LOL.Alas, I couldn't find any pictures of Casey dressed as he described. But, given this photo of the Cubbies' rookies, I'll leave you to your imaginings...

shelley1005 Sean Casey. I double dog dare you to go ride the carousel. #RedSox

Honestly? I want to ride this, too. Kauffman Stadium looks great! Hats off to the Royals front office! (maybe they should have used some of that money to buy good players...)

kevinmolive "Failure is only failure when you fail to learn." - Sean "the mayor" Casey on NESN. @redsoxAnd what did you learn from this, Sean?

redsoxgirl46 Sean Casey is basically inserting dialogue into random places. I like that. #redsox

Theo: "Is Casey still talking?"
Tito: "You signed him... You have to listen to him."
Theo: "Yeah, but he hasn't been with the team for almost a year..."

shelley1005 Sean Casey can turn any conversation into a conversation about food. Ahh, I've missed ya Casey. Big time. Big time. #RedSox

For all the time Sean spends talking about food, there are NO pictures of him eating... So I went with this one. I would pay SO MUCH money to have been present for this conversation.

valleyparade Sean Casey on JBay: "You're gonna have to pay him, but why wouldn't you pay him?' So true. #redsoxSeriously? SIGN JASON BAY! (The Mayor told you too.)

I love Sean Casey. It has become my life's ambition to meet and befriend him. I want to be BFFLs with Sean Casey. I believe he mentioned working the World Series...? Hopefully, with a bit of luck, we'll be seeing him again in a few weeks.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Top Tweets

By popular demand, I bring you the Top Tweets of last night, in no particular order, with accompanying photographic support. Without further ado:

RedSoxRedShoes: YoukFact: In the off-season, Kevin Youkilis serves as UN Goodwill Ambassador to Saturn. #redsoxThis is a sign of respect in many foreign countries... I hope.

redsoxftw Drew was like "eeeww, cooties!". #redsox
"Circle, circle, dot, dot, Drew now has a cootie shot."

redsoxftwI have no clever things to say about Heidi's outfit tonight, except that I kinda miss the Snuggie. #redsoxUnfortunately I was unable to find photographic evidence of the "snuggie," but you'd think someone hired to be the token "pretty face" would wear better clothes.

AmalieBenjaminFrancona on football vs. baseball: "They're 300-pound men trying to kill each other in practice. We're taking grounders." #redsox
Come on, Tito... They don't do this at your practices? Weaksauce.

redsoxliz1980Come on Plastic Boy! #redsoxElls was demoted to Plastic Boy for lackluster performance in the early innings... He might be back up to Bronze by now...?

soxaddictHaha, the stabbin knife has come out RT @LoveSox15 DO NOT HIT PEDEY. I WILL CUT YOU!The tweet says it all. How can you not love this man?

farfromfinishedA "win" and "loss" is a terrible stat. You can throw a no hitter and lose. You can give up 18 runs and win. How can W/L tell you anything?
mikethebadoI thought debates over the relative usefulness of stats was a Sons of Sam Horn exclusive... @kdawg1313 @LoveSox15 @shelley1005 @BrianAdExec
Mostly I try to stay out of Twitter arguments... But in this case, I had to argue for QS over wins as a means for evaluating pitchers.

redsoxftwI would not wear a jersey with my last name on it if my last name was Kuntz.
shelley1005@redsoxftw I would. I would wear it...often.Sweet name, dude.

shelley1005Josh Beckett. The bats love you. Or...the bats fear you. Either way. Awesome. #RedSoxIf I were a bat, I would fear this man.

Surviving_GradyRoyals suddenly remember they're the Royals. Excellent. ::maniacal laughter:: #redsoxPoor Kansas City... Hey, nice ballpark, though.

redsoxftwYoukilis making a fashion statement with his glove on his head. Watch out, Heidi.
This is as fashionable as Youk generally gets.

werbiefitz@LoveSox15 I know what you mean! There are few as classy as Wake! #redsoxClassy enough not to tell Varitek that he sucks worse at golf than he does at hitting.

soxnfinsfan A #redsox fan just gave a ball to a young #royals fan! Damn! REDSOX fans are classy!!!I said the fans were classy, not necessarily the closer...