Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why I give to the Jimmy Fund

Today, the Red Sox are hosting the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon to raise money and awareness about the Jimmy Fund. The following is a re-post of my September 25, 2009 entry entitled "Baseball as a Coping Mechanism," which should explain why even a broke college student like myself makes sure to give every year. 

 "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.  

To give, call 877-738-1234, go to, or text KCANCER to 20222 to give $10. Every little bit helps.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why are we using the CLOSER with an ELEVEN-RUN LEAD?!?

Snappy title, I know, but I'm legitimately lost for words. Can someone please explain to me why the hell Terry Francona decided that he needed to use the CLOSER when the Red Sox were sitting on an ELEVEN-RUN LEAD?  He couldn't have waited to see if Matt Albers could finish the thing, and only made the call to Paps if he started giving it up big? After, I don't know, six runs or so?

I'm really trying to understand the logic here, because I'm always the person trying to tell people that there's a reason Francona is the manager and not Joe "WEEI Whiner Line" - and it's because Tito generally knows what he's doing.

But I'm seriously struggling to understand this.  I know that the save is one of the most useless and overrated statistics in the history of baseball, but this was nowhere near a save situation, or even approaching a "high leverage" situation where you would want your best reliever out there (whether Paps is the Sox's best reliever can be debated, but for the purposes of this post, we'll say he's one of them).

Yes, Albers gave up a run in the eighth, but it was hardly time to push the panic button. WE HAD AN ELEVEN-RUN LEAD. Statistically, you could have thrown a postition player out there on the mound, and you would still have had a damn good chance of winning the game (is Nick Green available? I believe his ERA is still at 0.00...).

What's the harm, you ask? We won the game, you say, so quit your whining. Yes. Yes we won the game. We passed the Yankees, who lost to the Athletics, to take sole position of first place in the AL East.  But what happens if we need Paps tomorrow? Not unlikely, since we'll still be playing the Rangers.  And then what if we need him against Oakland? What if we need him for the next three games? What if we need him for more than three outs?

I know, I know... "You don't save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain." - Leo Durocher.  But I also adhere to my own radical school of thought about situations like this: don't waste a pitcher today when you have an eleven-run lead, tomorrow Andrew Miller might get shelled. 

Okay, so Durocher's quote is slightly less specific and more poetic than mine, but I literally just do not understand why you would put Paps in the game tonight.  If any of you can shed some light on this for me, do tell (in the comments, via Facebook, etc.), because I'm literally baffled.

Win-win for Red Sox fans

[This video has always pissed me off a little, since I feel it implies that female baseball fans are somehow unable to appreciate the nuances of a pitcher's duel, and can only pay attention to the fireworks of homeruns.]

Anyway, you all know that THIS female fan has a place in her heart for games of all types, from no-hitters to blowouts, they all have something to offer, and tonight's game had a little bit of everything.

Josh Beckett went six innings, allowing four hits and one run (a longball by Mike Napoli that this "chick" certainly didn't "dig"), then Franklin Morales came in and tossed a perfect inning with two K's, and Matt Albers came in for the eighth, giving up a single run on two hits and a walk.  For some inexplicable reason, Jonathan Papelbon entered the game, recording a one-two-three ninth inning, though it was nowhere close to being a save situation.

The bats were alive and well tonight - finally - as Adrian Gonzalez went deep for the second straight game, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford notched homeruns of their own.  Crawford, Marco Scutaro, and the newly returned David Ortiz all struck doubles, and Ellsbury swiped his thirty-fifth stolen base. 

When it was all over, the Red Sox had scored thirteen runs, and everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit.  Tonight's game was a win-win for Sox fans - whether you dig the longball, splendid pitching performances, or inexplicable calls to the bullpen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dustin Pedroia!

As you all know, Dustin Pedroia is my favorite baseball player. In fact, he's top ten favorite people, ever.  Today just happens to be his twenty-eighth birthday, and so I thought, what better way to honor Pedey than by publishing a list of my favorite Pedroia-isms and videos [sorry the formatting is weird]:

"When you have a physique like this, when you're shredded and everything, something might happen."

“I’m probably a 3 looks wise, but my personality is a 12, so it takes me to about an 8.” 

"To be able to say that i play for the Boston Red Sox is an honor in itself."

"I want to be here. I want to play for the Red Sox and I don't want to play for anybody else...We're going to have an opportunity to win every single year. The fans are the best, the city embraces their team. So why not? It fits."

"I always wanted to be a miniature badass."


Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Where has all the bitterness gone?"

I'm watching Baseball Tonight on ESPN, and one of their commentators wondered what had happened to the days when every Red Sox-Yankees series was fraught with animosity, and not just in the stands.  What happened to the brawls between Fiske and Munson, or Tek and A*Rod, or even Pedro and Don Zimmer?

Parity happened.  In the last 11 years, the Red Sox and Yankees both have two Championships each, and they've been relatively evenly matched.  Right now, for instance, the two teams have identical records in the AL East, and they're tied for first.  Only one of these teams will leave Fenway tonight with first place, and the best record in the American League.

Just seven years ago, a series like this would be overshadowed by the constant threat of beanings, brawls, and general enmity.  Now? Well, I'm sure you've seen Nick Swisher showering praise on Josh Beckett, and David Ortiz unabashedly bestowing hugs upon pinstriped rivals during batting practice.

Even among fans, some of the hatred has abated.  There are certainly Yankees fans that I avoid like the plague, but for the most part, I can respect their devotion and knowledge, just like I would with any other sports fan (however, anyone who chants "1918!" or utters the number "27" isn't worth the time. Let's talk about contemporary history. Kthanks).

So is this better?  It's less nerve-wracking, to be sure, but the lack of open hostility makes things just a little bit less exciting.  While it's good to be able to be confident that Jeter won't throw a sucker punch  a Gonzo when the latter rounds the bases, the games are certainly less of an event than they once were.

That said, I would NEVER want to go back to the way things were, because the animosity was so intense because the Red Sox (and we as fans) had a monkey on their backs, and we were reminded of it every time the two teams met.  Back then, we were still eighty-six-year losers, perpetually looking up at New York in the standings.

Now things are much more even, and if the price of that is that the edge comes off of the bitterness and rivalry a bit, I'll certainly take the tradeoff.  I'm calling for a Sox win tonight, on the back of one Joshua Patrick Beckett - he's given us no reason to doubt him, and I don't plan to start now.

Friday, August 5, 2011

(Not so) Bold Predictions

Erik Bedard's first attempt at a win in a Red Sox uniform was thwarted yesterday by his own bullpen and former Sox pitcher Justin Masterson.  The game wasn't pretty if you were rooting for the local nine, especially since it means we're in a tie for first with the Yankees, who are (conveniently) at Fenway RIGHT NOW for a three game set.

This man is pitching tonight - I think he can take them.

I'm going to go on record here and predict that the Sox take two out of three, with the Bronx Bombers taking the middle game (CC Sabathia over John Lackey).  Jonny "K" Lester should have no problems taking care of Bartolo Colon (remember that time he swung the bat so violently he was on the DL for the rest of the season, and then didn't want to come out 'pen so he ran home early? Good times.). 

Sabathia is likely to be his brilliant self, and since I've learned to not expect much from Lackey, I'll concede that game (CC is on my fantasy team, so at least there's that).  I'm counting on Josh Beckett to take his recent excellence to the mound to take on Freddy Garcia - no slouch himself at 10-7.

If the Sox can take two of three, it puts them one game ahead of New York in the East - and every game counts.