Saturday, April 30, 2011

Something's gotta give. Right?

Okay.  Enough is enough. The Red Sox may be a better team than they've been showing, but until they start putting their proverbial money where their mouths are, I'm done predicting their success.  The raw talent is obviously there, but something is clearly not clicking.  Can they do better than this? Certainly.  WILL they do better than this? I'm no longer so sure.

After tonight's travesty of a game the Sox fall to 1-7 against he Orioles, Mariners, and Indians.  This is unacceptable, especially in a division like the AL East.  to get to the playoffs the Red Sox must win about 95 games, and the easiest way to do that is to win series against mediocre teams like, I don't know, the Orioles, Mariners, and Indians.  If you can't even beat the Indians, how do you expect to beat the Rangers? The Rays? The YANKEES?

Again, this is clearly not a question of talent. The talent is there.  It's at every position, and in most cases that talent is backed up by awards like Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, All Star selections, and MVP votes.  But something isn't clicking. The Red Sox hitters left runners in scoring position tonight like it was going out of style (let's hope that's the case), and it's old news at this point.

During the first skid of the season, Dustin Pedroia called out the Sox pitchers for not living up to their potential.  He had a point, and now the tables are turned, so which Sox hurler has the gall to make a statement? My vote is on Josh Beckett - he's never been one to keep quiet about his feelings, and if the lineup wastes a good start of his like they did Lackey's tonight, heads might roll.

Either the Red Sox step up, starting immediately, or this season starts to slip out of reach. It's hard to dig yourself out of a hole like this one when you can't even beat the perennial cellar-dwellers of the American League.  Something's gotta give. Let's hope it gives soon.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Lester is a champion (especially against the O's)

The Red Sox were just 9-9 against the Baltimore Orioles last season, 4-4 against the Cleveland Indians, and 1-6 against the Chicago White Sox.  Beyond the 2010 Parade of Carnage, this poor performance against mediocre and bad teams was a large part of the reason that the Red sox missed the playoffs.

Thus far, the 2011 Sox are 1-2 against the Orioles, and 0-3 against the Indians (they are 10-8 against everyone else), and they need to do better. Jon Lester set the tone by turning in a 2-run, eight inning performance even when, according to Adrian Gonzalez, "his command was not quite there, but he still goes out there and gives us eight innings and two runs. He’s definitely a Top 5 pitcher in the league."

 Interestingly enough, Jon Lester has never lost to the Orioles, owning a 14-0 record with a 2.33 ERA.  You could chalk this statistic up to the Orioles now being a very good team while Lester's been in the league, but he certainly has notched losses to other mediocre teams, so it's likely an anomaly.  The southpaw did note that he enjoys playing at Camden Yards, but that's hardly reason for his ridiculous run of success against the O's.

I had to monitor the game on ESPN Gamecast last night, since was busy hating on me, and worked only for a very short time during the bottom of the second inning.  However, it was clear that Lester was battling, and he was finally supported by the bats.  Dustin Pedroia's RBI squibbler in the seventh inning to score Carl Crawford put the Red Sox on top for good, and then RBIs by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury (2) settled the final score at 6-2.

The Sox head home starting tonight, and will play the Mariners, Angels, and Twins, before heading out on the road again.  I see the turnaround starting now... for real this time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Crumbling Clay?

So maybe my predictions were a little TOO optimistic, but I stand by what I said.  I'm entirely unsurprised that the Red Sox bas were stifled by left-handed rookie Zach Britton (who I have now added to my fantasy team), as thy've been struggling mightily against lefties this season, and Britton has been quite effective thus far.

However, things are looking up: the Orioles have two righthanders going for them in the next two games, and the Sox have Josh Beckett and Jon Lester on the docket, two of the hottest starters on staff - though, to be fair, the only starter NOT on a roll seems to be Mr. Clay Buchholz...

And speaking of Clay, he was very impressive at points last night, despite the four runs and 12 hits he gave up in 6.2 innings.  Three of Baltimore's runs came on sacrifice flies, which is interesting, even if it doesn't absolve Buchholz of any blame (he is, after all, the one who let the runners get to third base).

The most impressive moment, in my opinion, was in the second inning, after Matt Wieters hit that squibbler down the first base line that should have been an out but bounced off the bag and scored the runner.  Clay buckled down and struck out the next two batters he faced, a beautiful sequence of pitching.

So why didn't this dominance continue throughout the game?  Obviously, Clay Buchholz has the physical tools to dominate any lineup, and he was able to do it last night, at least in short bursts and flashes.  When asked about his performance, Buchholz mentioned "tipping [his] hat" to the Baltimore lineup, intimating that he had executed his pitches, and all TWELVE of their hits had been due to their own prodigious skill and not any mistkaes of his.

Sorry Clay, but I'm calling shenanigans on that.  The Orioles just aren't that good.  Sure, they don't look to be the laughingstock that they once were, but they're also no Murderer's Row.  Perhaps the focus just wasn't there last night, or maybe he needs more time to get a handle on his stuff, but the four runs given up last night were not luck, and they weren't a fluke.  Buch should take a leaf out of Beckett's book, and admit when he doesn't have his best stuff.

I do recognize that if the bats hadn't been so effective;y silenced by Britton this post would look very different: we would be celebrating the Red Sox' triumphant turn to .500 (which must now wait at least two more games) and their sixth straight victory.  So yes, the lineup takes some of the blame for this loss - scoring 5 runs is not out of the real of possibility for this team, and they were shut down by a hotshot rookie.

But I'm less worried about the hitters on this team than I am about Buch.  Not that I'm SUPER concerned about him, I think he'll get back on track, but at the very least I think he should be honest and look back on what wasn't working last night. Growth and improvement comes from reflection.

Sadly, I'll be missing tonight's matchup between Beckett and Jeremy Guthrie, because I'm attending a tango lesson in Buenos Aires (I know, tough life).  However, my thoughts, as always, will be at Camden Yards with the Red Sox - tonight should be better than last night.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Looking ahead...

Tonight, the Red Sox will head to Baltimore, where they will play a 3-game set against the free-falling Orioles, and then return home to the friendly confines of Fenway Park to play the Mariners (3 games), Angels (3 games), and Twins (4 games).  As of this afternoon, these teams are 38-49, a combined record well under .500.  However, since the Red Sox are currently ALSO under .500 (10-11), we know you can't take an April record and say what caliber team you have.

In the last 10 games, the Red Sox are 8-2, tied with the Marlins for best in the Majors in that span.  They are a different team than the one who started off 0-6, and thank goodness.  The Orioles are 2-8 over the last 10 games, and 5-7 at Camden Yards.  Their pitching for the upcoming series includes one lefthander (tonight) and two righthanders, and if the Sox can beat tonight then the Sox might be able to complete their second sweep in as many series.

Not to be overly optimistic, but if all of the Red Sox pitchers can continue to toss the ball the way they did during the last turn through the rotation, we might even pick up a few games on the Yankees and forget the horrible start that had all of Red Sox Nation reeling just a week ago.

I'm feeling optimistic, so I'm going to make some bold predictions:

1. Carl Crawford will take the next two weeks and pull himself above the Mendoza line - and then some.

2. Jed Lowrie will continue to rake.  Perhaps not at the ridiculously torrid pace he's been setting, but the numbers will be respectable nonetheless... Tito will be making some tough decisions, soon.

3. Adrian Gonzalez will knock a few more homers.  The much-heralded first baseman's rather slow start has gone unremarked upon because of the struggles of Crawford... but we've been saying all winter how perfect his swing is for Fenway - we'll start to see that now.

4. The Red Sox will finish this upcoming road trip (and 3-game series at Camden Yards) with a 10-3 record, bringing them to 20-14.  I know that's optimistic, but with everyone playing the way they have been, I can't help it - I know this team is that good.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lackey turns hurt pride into increased drive

John Lackey turned in his second excellent start in a row yesterday, becoming yet another cog in a Red Sox rotation that is turning out to be a well-oiled machine.  One starter after another has turned in a great start over the last week or so, and Lackey was no different yesterday afternoon, tossing eight shutout innings, and giving up just 6 hits and one walk with 108 pitches, 73 of which were thrown for strikes.

According to Lackey, he was able to use the slight of being skipped in the rotation back on April 13th as motivation (to be fair, it was rained out, and instead of pushing everyone nack, he was skipped).  And why not?  The anger and annoyance of being underestimated and overlooked has been motivation enough for teammate Dustin Pedroia to build a ROY/MVP/All Star career on, so it should certainly work for Lackey.

Lackey reported that the skipped start "pissed [him] off," and when asked if he used that as motivation, he quipped, "What do you think?"  It seems that Lackey's got some snark, but it seems to be working for him.  Personally, I could get on board with a bit of sarcasm from the big righty: I find it wildly entertaining when Josh Beckett shuts down reporters (ahem, Heidi Watney) with his snipe.

The fact is, Lackey has always been a quality pitcher: he has a career record of 118-84, with a 3.92 career ERA, and he tosses an average of 219 IP per 162 games.  That's certainly nothing to sneeze at, and Lackey knows it, but he also knows that the expectations in Boston are a bit higher than they were out in southern California.  With the Angels, Lackey won more than 14 games just once, with 19 in 2007.  In his first year with the Sox, he went 14-11and tossed 215 innings during a Parade of carnage that saw nearly all of his teammates miss some time to injury.

But still, the fans howled: "We didn't pay $80 million for a 4.40 ERA!"  Lackey's paycheck is neither here nor there.  It obviously hasn't stopped the front office from going after other high-price talent, and the thing about rooting for a big market team is that they can afford to overpay when they deem it worthwhile.

It's certainly been worth it, in my opinion.  Clearly, Lackey is capable of brilliance, as he's shown us over his last two starts (giving up just one run in 14 innings).  Like Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey seems to have found something to motivate him to turn in his very best every five days: anger.  If all it took to get John Lackey to turn into a bona fide ace was a few days of hurt pride, I can certainly support that.

[Quotes in this post found on the Extra Bases blog,]

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fear: A powerful motivator for Daisuke Matsuzaka

Who was that man last night (and the start before, for that matter), and what has he done with Daisuke Matsuzaka?  In all seriousness, over the last two starts, Matsuzaka has given up two hits, and no runs in fifteen innings.  It's especially impressive when you consider that his first two starts of 2011 saw him giving up ten runs in seven innings.

So what's the deal?  Well, we may finally be seeing the pitcher that we thought we were getting: the one who's been missing for three years except when he's wearing the Team Japan WBC uniform.  Matsuzaka has pitched brilliantly of late, mixing speeds and pitches, and attacking the strikezone - you know, all those things John Farrell and now Curt Young have been trying to get him to do all along.

Apparently, Daisuke Matsuzaka is totally aware that these last two starts have been probably the best he's had with the Red Sox, but the surprising (and vaguely infuriating) thing is that he remarked after Monday's game in Toronto that "he was motivated by the fear of losing his spot in the rotation." (via's Extra Bases.)

So basically, until he thought he might lose his job (something Tito says was never a possibility), the Red Sox were never important enough to Daisuke to really buckle down and give it his all.  Personally, I always suspected that the Red Sox and MLB came in at a distant second on Matsuzaka's list of priorities, far lower than #1 Team Japan.  In a culture where personal and national honor is the most important thing in a person's life, this is unsurprising, but still disappointing.

It's clear that hoisting the WBC trophy for Japan, and then the WBC MVP trophy was a much bigger point in Daisuke's life than holding the World Series trophy in 2007.  Perhaps we should be proud to have this sort of player on the team: one to which honor for his country and himself means more than $50 million - a rarity in today's world. But it IS sad that only fear of losing his slot in the starting rotation could truly motivate Matsuzaka into pitching to the best of his ability, but I'll take whatever works, at this point.

As Terry Francona said, "If that’s the case I’ll go out and threaten him.”  If it would help, I'll be happy to do the same.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Five-minute Musings (Live from Buenos Aires!)

The Red Sox won again yesterday afternoon, and slowly but surely seem to be emerging from their funk.  Though the team is just 6-11, 4.5 games behind the firs-place Yankees, they seem to be coming to life.  So since I'm sitting in class on a day when the entire country of Argentina is on holiday (again, BEST STUDENT EVER), I'll leave you with five semi-related points:

1. Clay Buchholz notched his first win of the season.  Sadly, I forgot to put him in my fantasy league starting roster for yesterday, so I didn't profit from his fortune.  I was unable to catch the beginning of the game, so by the time I tuned in Clay was out, but from what I hear he was pretty good until the sixth inning, when he loaded the bases with one out, which leads us to...

2. Daniel Bard: The Stopper.  Saves are a wildly overrated statistic.  Without Bard's brilliance in the sixth and seventh innings yesterday, Jonathan Papelbon would not have had the chance to give us all heart palpitations getting the save.  Bard came in with the go-ahead run at the plate and one out - a much more high-pressure situation than the one Jonathan Papelbon dealt with (bases empty, 3-run lead, no outs).  Bard is clearly capable of being poised under pressure, and I'm glad he's on our side.

3. Jed Lowrie is a champion.  The 27-year-old is demanding that terry Francona find a way to put him into the lineup every day, with his .462 batting average, 3 homers, and 11 RBIs in just 13 games. The beauty of Lowrie is that he can play all four infield positions (though only 19 innings in his career at first base), and so Tito can utilize him at a variety of positions to get his potent bat in the lineup.  Clearly, this crazy hot streak can't continue, but if Lowrie continues to produce better than Scutaro, something's gotta give, so stay tuned for that.

4. Despite struggles, the Red Sox CAN be successful against lefties.  Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez is a southpaw, and yet the Sox managed to score four runs off of him.  Notable lefthanded hitter David Ortiz was sitting, though part of that was the shuffling required to get red-hot Lowrie into the game (Youkilis DHed, Lowrie played at third).  However, lefties Carl Crawford, JD Drew, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jacoby Ellsbury were in the lineup, and they managed three hits and two RBIs between them. However...

5. ...Looking ahead, the Sox have a lot of right-handed opponents.  The Angels have four right-handed starters on the docket for this weekend, according to the match-ups just posted on's extra bases Blog, and the Sox have Josh Beckett, John Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and John Lackey ready to go.  With the wealth of good left-handed batters on the Sox' roster, this weekend could be a slugfest - hopefully our pitchers can build off the success they had during the last turn through the rotation.

I see good things ahead for the Red Sox.  Sadly, I won't be watching much, as I'm still an hour ahead of Eastern Standard time, so today's and tomorrow's games won't end until after 2am for me... Hopefully Saturday and Sunday will find me watching some baseball.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Red Sox are turning things around...

Buenos noches, amigos!  No, that's not my Jerry Remy impersonation - this blog post is coming to you from Argentina - my homestay in Buenos Aires requires that I speak exclusively Spanish, so I thought I would practice on you.

But enough about me [though I'm happy to share travel stories via Twitter, Facebook, or email if any of you are curious] - this is a Red Sox blog.  Since I was last able to post, the Red Sox have won three straight, and actually look as though they WANT to win.  So what's been the difference?  What's making everything click?

1. The renaissance of Joshua Patrick Beckett.  Coming into 2011, countless journalists, bloggers, and sportscasters (including yours truly) predcited that Beckett would be the key to the season.  If we could get the vintage Beckett circa 2007 it would mean big things, but if we got the Beckett of 2008 and 2009 it would be a long haul.  Of course, there's a lot of games left to play, but Beckett's last two starts have been downright dominating.

2. The continuation of the Daisuke Matsuzaka roller coaster.  Two starts ago Matsuzaka gave up an ungodly amount of runs, and it was the last straw for a number of commentators.  There was more than one piece online calling for Matsuzaka to be traded, even if the owners need to eat a ton of money and get only middling prospects in return.  In his last start, Daisuke was brilliant - and in the Patriots' Day spotlight, no less.  Now, if only we could be somehwta sure he could show us that level of expertise on a semi-regular basis... dare to dream.

3. Jed Lowrie is an absolute BEAST.  The man is totally raking this season, and it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone.  It's easy to forget the trials of Jed Lowrie in the exciting acquisitions that came this past offseason, but the 27-year-old was a highly regarded prospect (and a former 1st round pick) for a number of years.  Then, of course, the plague struck: first it was the wrist injury, which then recurred.  Last year, the poor man was struck down by mono, and out until the end of the summer.  Now he's looking to make up for lost time... I for one have capitalized on his ambition by adding him to my fantasy roster.

Of course, there are other reasons as well - some of this is simple dumb luck, and some of it is the fact that things seem to finally be clicking.  I'm not going to analyze this any more now - the Sox are playing and I can ATUALLY WATCH THEM, so I'm going to do that - but updates should be more frequent now that I have reliable internet at my homestay.  Adios!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Off day thoughts...

Since I've last blogged, a lot has gone down in Red Sox Nation, most of it bad (I'm sorry for neglecting my duties here, but I'm on Spring Break on a beach in Africa, and internet is hard to come by). The Sox have yet to win their third game, and they currently have the worst record in baseball.  I know we all keep saying that they're too good for this, that something's gotta give eventually... but when is "eventually"? And how do we get it to come faster?

Sadly, I don't have any answers for you (other than this fantastic list of suggestions compiled by Peter Abraham over at the Boston Globe), but at this point we have no other recourse but to keep believing in this team.  We know they're better than this. THEY know they're better than this.

What needs to happen immediately, though, is for everyone to start hitting.  Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, JD Drew, David Ortiz, and, strangely enough, Jed Lowrie, are all hitting at an acceptable clip (Lowrie is leading the team at .438 in 7 games).  As for the other members of the team? They need to get their act together - soon, and preferably with runners in scoring position.


The pitching rotation can take a lesson from Mr. Joshua Patrick Beckett on how to be a badass who beats CC Sabathia by stymieing a Yankees lineup that might be aging but is still formidable.  Jon Lester did a passable job the other night, holding the Rays to just three runs, but if the bats aren't going to get it done, three runs is too many.  Perhaps a rainout and day off will get things back in order: John Lackey will be skipped this time through the rotation, so he has extra time to get his act together while the other hurlers stay (mostly) on schedule.

They will snap out of this skid. They HAVE to snap out of this skid.  If it were possible to will a team to victory, Boston's devoted fans would make sure the Red Sox never lost a game, but we live in the real world.  The games have to be played, and the players have to prove themselves.  We're 4.5 games out of first with 151 left to play. I'd day it's definitely doable.

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's more than "just a game."

[Image from]

Here we are. Six games into the season.  I have yet to see a single one of these games, but from all accounts, I’m not missing much.  Despite the fact that Jonny Lester pitched a gem yesterday afternoon, the bats couldn’t scrape together one measly run to get him the win, while Daniel Bard walked the first man he faced, only to have that very runner come around to score on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze.

The play is aptly named, since I’m sure hordes of New Englanders (and current Red Sox Nation expatriates like myself) were ready to hurl themselves off the Tobin when they looked at the calendar and realized that we’re now a week into the season and about to head home to play the Bronx Bombers, still looking for that elusive first “W.”

My head is telling me that this is a good team, and that a six-game losing streak in June would be cause for mild concern and not the panic that bubbles in my stomach when I think about the 0-6 record that will soon be displayed upon the Fenway Park scoreboard.  My heart, on the other hand, is much less reasonable, and demanding an explanation that doesn’t seem to exist.

It’s times like these when I turn my lonely eyes to one Dustin Pedroia, and as usual, the scrappy second-baseman didn’t disappoint: “last year… it kind of took us a while to get into the flow of things. We don't want that to happen here this time. We're going to try to come out and do what we do. Have good at-bats. Carl [Crawford]'s a game-changer, Adrian [Gonzalez]'s a run-producing machine. We just need the guys who have been here to do what they normally do, and those guys will fit in well because they're such good players.”

He also mentioned how much this team needs Fenway Park right now: "We've just got to relax, man… Get back home, get our fans into it. We miss them. We want to play in front of those guys. Get the new guys a nice big ovation. It will be good. We'll be good to go."  Well, we’d like to see you all play in front of us at home, too, but don’t expect too big of an ovation if things don’t turn around in the very near future.

This is serious business – you don’t take baseball lightly in New England.  For all of the people on my abroad program poking fun and telling me to “lighten up – it’s just a game,” I have something to tell you. It’s WAY MORE than just a game to me.  It’s a huge part of my life, and I’m doing everything I can to make sure that I can make it my job when I leave college.  Telling me that I shouldn’t care so much, that it’s only a silly game, makes me realize that you just don’t get it – or me.  My devotion to the Red Sox  is hardly a secret, and anyone who dares make light of this skid or tell me I shouldn’t care so much doesn’t care enough about me to pay attention.

My devotion to the local nine borders on the religious (I’m willing to bet I know more about the Sox than many church-goers know about their religious tract of choice), and I will lead a crusade in their defense if that’s what it takes.  Hopefully the Red Sox turn things around before it comes to a holy war – after all, Jesus jumped ship for New York six years ago.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I'm not ready to jump yet...

But if the people on my program don't lay off I might just throw one of THEM off the Tobin Bridge.

Seriously.  It's not like I've made my love for the Red Sox a secret in the last eleven weeks, and I'm willing to take some good-natured jabbing, but this is totally out of hand. Everyone knows what a big part of my life this team is, and being so far away from access to them is hard enough without having to deal with the endless jokes and jabs about their poor performance.

I KNOW they've sucked, but it's NOT A JOKE TO ME.

End rant.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Help - I'm getting taunted by a Cleveland fan!

This is getting out of hand.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m confident that the Red Sox will eventually turn this thing around – they’re easily capable of rattling off a ten game winning streak, and then we’re sitting pretty at 10-4, and everything will be right with the world.

In the meantime, however, I’m in Senegal, getting taunted by a Cleveland fan (I would say Indians fan, but baseball isn’t the top of his list, really).  The sad thing is that I have no retort for him.  The Red Sox are 0-1 against the Tribe so far this year, and his half-joking threat that we’re about to get swept by the lowly Indians is still within the realm of possibility.

I’ve not been able to watch a single game, between the time difference and lack of reliable internet, and I’m honestly on the verge of blaming myself for this extensive losing streak (though I’m hardly the superstitious type).  This is just unbearable – I know 4-game losing streaks happen, even to very good teams, but it’s twice as hard to bear when it happens at the very outset of the season.

I know that we’re better than this.  All of the players know that they’re better than this.  However, with the exceptions of David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, and Dustin Pedroia, the entire team is hitting below the Mendoza line, and the pitching rotation has been a mess.  It has to get better, because I just won’t be able to handle it getting any worse.

I’m currently typing this during class (yes, yes, I know, I’m a terrible student), and the aforementioned Cleveland fan is showing me highlights of last night’s game on his computer, and then smirking repeatedly.  Please, Red Sox, give ME something to smirk about - this can only end badly, otherwise.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Red Sox Fan in a Foreign Land [Part 2]

Back in 2008, an bitter Hank Steinbrenner took a shot at Red Sox Nation: "What a bunch of bullshit that is.  Go anywhere... and you won't see Red Sox hats and jackets, you'll see Yankee hats and jackets."  As much as I hate to say this, old Hank was right.  To a certain extent in Delhi, and to a much larger degree in Dakar, you see Yankees hats everywhere.

This wasn't completely unexpected, but I was curious as to why and how all of these people became Yankees fans (and why all of the people wearing Red Sox, Marlins, Cardinals, Mets, White Sox, A's, Braves, Rockies, and other hats came to have them).  Very few people here speak English or Spanish (French and Wolof are the official and most common languages), and to the best of my knowledge there has not been a single Senegalese Major Leaguer.

This man dd not understand why I wanted a photo with him. Then, he told me he loved me.
So when I had access to a translator for a class project (yes, I actually have to do work on this program), I decided to ask a few people.  Not a single one of the men I asked knew that the interlocked NY on their caps meant New York Yankees, all five of them thought it simply stood for New York, and, by extension, the United States.  The one man I asked with a Red Sox hat owned it because his surname started with a "B," so this phenomenon is hardly unique to the Yankees.

Some people wearing such hats wear them to look like American rap stars Jay-Z and 50 Cent, contemporaries of Senegalese cult-hero Akon, who was born in the US to Senegalese parents but spent his formative years in Dakar.  All in all, I would hazard a guess that 99% of the people in Dakar wearing MLB paraphernalia have no idea that it's a team logo, and they don't care.

However, that doesn't mean I don't get excited when I see a Boston hat (all the Yankees caps are enough to drive you insane).  Yesterday, we went to a wrestling match, and when one of the famous wrestler emerged from his car to cheers, a member of his entourage had a shiny, new, flat-brimmed Red Sox hat on (backwards, of course).  I immediately started jumping up and down in excitement (I was hardly alone - wrestling is a BIG DEAL here - people were literally fainting from excitement all over the stadium).

The sight of the Sox hat was enough to make my day, even though the match was anticlimactic (it actually ended in a tie) and I was rushed to the hospital late at night because I am apparently allergic to mangoes.  Hopefully, the Red Sox will soon start playing well enough for this kind of excitement to be justified... I think a series at Cleveland is JUST what the doctor ordered.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Everyone CALM DOWN.

So here we are, one series and three games into the 2011 season, and 3 games behind the first-place Orioles (yes, the Orioles), and people are starting to panic.

Why did we drop so much money and so many prospects for a splash in the offseason only to see the 2011 version of the Sox immediately fall into a tailspin in Texas? First of all, there are a lot of factors that go into these three losses.

(1) The Rangers are not to be taken lightly. These are not your father’s Texas Rangers: they’re under new ownership (hello, Nolan Ryan), and, lest you forget, they are the defending American League champions. Yes, they’ve lost Cliff Lee, but one player does not make or break a team.

(2) The Red Sox had a terrible spring. I understand that Spring Training is essentially meaningless, but the lackluster record and laissez faire attitude from that period seems to have carried over. Hopefully, they snap out of this funk sooner rather than later.

It’s only April 4th! I know, I know, these losses count just as much as losses in July or September, and if we lose out on the playoffs by less than three games, I will go back and eat my words, but while a three-game sweep to Texas, IN Texas, would be a cause for concern in mid-June and are the reason for outright panic at the start of the season. Say it with me, folks: SMALL. SAMPLE. SIZE.

Look, I understand the panic. I get it, the start of a new season is a rebirth in many ways, and no one wants their personal time of renewal to be sullied by bad experiences (and three losing scores of 12-5, 5-1, and 9-5 certainly fall into the realm of bad experiences).

But just like the triumphant graduating senior who can look back at his botched freshman year with nostalgia, I am confident that we will be able to look back on these three days and laugh, for they will not shape the entire season. Baseball is a marathon, there are 160 games still left to be played, and it’s unlikely (practically impossible, in fact), that the Red Sox will go 0-162 – though that would certainly be a memorable season, for all the wrong reasons.

It’s going to be okay, I promise… there’s a lot to look forward to: David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez are already RAKING; Matt Albers, Bobby Jenks, and Dennys Reyes have a collective ERA of 0.00; no one is injured yet; AND WE GO TO CLEVELAND NEXT. Things are going to look up – our starting pitching can hardly get worse, and the return to friendly Fenway on Friday should do us a world of good (even if we’re returning to play the Yanks).

It's not the 2010 Parade of Carnage, so everything will be okay.

So back away from the edge of the Tobin Bridge, Red Sox Nation… this should still be a season for the ages, and you would hate to miss out because you jumped ship in April after one lost series.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I'm missing everything!

This photo almost made me cry.

This is harder than I had initially imagined… Before I embarked on this semester abroad, I calculated just how many Red Sox games would be played during my absence, and while I understood on some level that I would really be missing a lot of baseball, I had it in my head that I would be able to keep up somehow, and maybe even watch a game here and there.

At this point, that seems pretty unlikely. My homestay here in Dakar, Senegal, does not have internet, and the games are broadcast at times when I am certainly expected to be home. Next week, I leave for Spring Break, and the resort presumably has WiFi, but most likely not enough to stream games. The one light at the end of the tunnel might be Buenos Aires. We arrive in Argentina April 17th, and because the time difference there is just one hour (!), it’s possible that I might be able to watch the occasional Red Sox game, whether or not my Argentinian homestay has internet.

When I’m at home, the only times I wake up without knowing how he Sox did the night before are when I fall asleep watching them on the West Coast… and I just missed Opening Day (which, apparently, was not the triumphant return we had all imagined) and Game #2. Every morning when I get to someplace with internet, I immediately check the scores, but it’s not the same.

I feel like there’s a physical hole in my life: Opening Day is about renewal and new beginnings, and I missed out completely. My own personal Opening Day will be May 23rd, when I return stateside, and you better believe the first thing I’m going to do is watch the Sox.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Let's Burst his Bubble: CJ Wilson and Opening day

Despite the fact that Texas starter CJ Wilson is seemingly unimpressed with the 2011 Boston Red Sox, I have a good feeling about today (plus, I have Wilson and Neftali Feliz on my fantasy team, so if all goes awry for the Sox, at least I'll get something out of it).

I'm a pretty big Wilson fan, but with all due respect, his comments sounded like overcompensation - perhaps for nerves? Obviously, the lefthander is an elite talent, and he's only saying what any pitcher would say. You can't expect him to publicly cower from the almighty Red Sox - that would hardly inspire his teammates to give him much run support. The fact is, the Red Sox did only make 2 additions to their lineup, but they're two of the best players in the game. Sure, the fact that both Crawford and Gonzalez are lefthanded, and Wilson has been absolute DEATH on lefties, but I still think the Sox will pull this one out.

And even if they don't? There are 161 games coming after today, and these Red Sox are built for the long haul. Assuming they can avoid another Parade of Carnage like last year, it's easy to imagine baseball in Boston well into October. It's hard not to look at the first few games of the season under a microscope: if the team goes 0-2 or 1-3, well, there goes the season. Likewise, if the team starts off hot, it's tempting to start designing those World Series rings in April.

But it's just so pretty.

The checked-in fan does neither. Yes, the games happening in April count for exactly as much as the games that will happen in late September, but they also count only as much as those lazy June afternoon games that so many of us miss while we're at work. A little perspective goes a long way in baseball.

CJ Wilson's perspective is that he needn't worry about the Sox this Opening Day - I say we give him a reality check.