Tag Archives: World Series

The Red Sox have Boston singing in the streets

Unlike the at bats of a Red Sox hitter, I will keep this short and sweet. But then, I may just foul off a few pitches, lay off a tough pitch just outside the zone, and work the faithful into a frenzy with a timely hit.

It occurred to me recently, as I sang along with the words that I think I know from “Tessie”, that Boston loves to sing.

From McGreevey and the Royal Rooters from more than 100 years ago all the way up to the Fenway Faithful belting out “…every little thing is gonna be alright…“. Quite often I will sing the National Anthem with the twins to start our day on the way to school. Boston loves to sing the anthem too. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Boston sang. The Garden sang. These still bring tears to my eyes. Okay, actually they make me cry, completely.

Then for fun, I sing, “Take me out to the ballgame” with the kids all the time. And, for fun, Boston sings some more. Then there’s “Sweet Caroline”. A lot of people don’t like that Boston fans sing these songs. But, then I remember, it’s a game, it’s fun, and letting moments wash over me in my favorite ballpark ever, are better for me than had I not experienced them. Boston, all summer long, nightly, sings. Then there’s “Dirty Water” and “Shipping up to Boston”, and even “God Bless America”. Then there are fans who sing on the field. This video has been seen around the world. There are so many more.

Last night Boston was treated to something that had not been seen in 95 years, the home team winning the World Series on their home field. The Red Sox won their 3rd Championship in ten seasons and there was singing in every corner of Red Sox Nation through the night.

Last night I sang from my family room with the Dropkick Murphy’s as they sang the National Anthem. I shouted along with my TV when Victorino came to the plate. I participated in singing “Sweet Caroline” during the 8th inning. I celebrated and strained to hear The Standells above the roar of Fenway after Carpenter went down swinging. I watched the celebration and listened to player after player talk about, team, work, approach, belief, trust, and the will to win. Then I dozed off, smiling, and respectfully thinking of the players, fans, and generations that never saw any such thing in an 86 year span.

This morning started like most others do. Everyone scurrying to get to where they need to be, on time. On the ride to school the twins asked me to sing my special song, which is the National Anthem. I sang it, they filled in words where they knew to, or copied me. I smiled a little brighter and a little longer between words this morning, because I am a Boston Red Sox fan, and my favorite team won the World Series. Later today, if the mood strikes me, and I think it will, I may just bust out a few lines of “We are the Champions”. #bostonstrong

Who will win the World Series?

Baseball – I

Close your eyes. I mean, really close them. Let yourself drift off to another place. Clear your mind. As Billy Chapel says in For Love of the Game, ” clear the mechanism.” You’re sitting outside, leaning back in a rigid but somehow, tolerable seat. As you let your eyes close for a moment, your other senses heighten. You feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Somewhere a switch has been flipped and your sub conscience seeks out all that is right with the world. Now smiling, you notice that your seat is more comfortable than it was a minute before, and you slouch a little easier into the seat you are glad, now, that you chose. You smell the renewed fragrances of spring. Your senses come alive as if recovering from a long winters nap. Birds nearby sing their spring song and only now you notice. You hear the enthusiasm in voices from a distance, but those are merely background for the unmistakable sounds of wood meeting rawhide in a full-speed collision. If the trained ear listens close enough you can tell which direction the rawhide sphere is headed without even opening your eyes or disturbing your sun-seeking perch. For a split second you want to open your eyes but you decide better of it as if opening your eyes would end this pleasant dream state. So, you clench your eyes tighter still and put your favorite ball players faces from yesteryear into this dream. The sounds are the same in so many ways. And the crash of the round bat into the round ball echoing around the old yard could be the sound of Ted Williams ripping a long home run, or its Henry Aaron sending a line drive through the box, or maybe its Mickey Mantle launching a towering blast, from either side of the plate, that requires patience and a good ear to hear if it ever comes down.

You are at a ball field, it is spring, and every player, every team, shares in the renewed hopes of spring. It’s a new season. It’s fresh. It’s refreshing. It’s spring. And then it all hits you, there is no place you’d rather be. Your eyes close a little more tightly, and the sounds fade a little further into the distance. Images appear in your mind as your body shifts and gently jolts almost voluntarily when the memories behind your eyelids appear larger than life. You feel like you can reach out and touch the vivid scene you see, but then you remember for a millisecond where you are, and you think better of raising your arm to swipe at the warm empty air. And you drift back into the scene that hides behind your sun-warmed eyelids. Now you’re smiling from ear to ear, eyes still closed. It’s baseball, in some elementary ways, the same as it’s ever been. A stranger makes his way to a seat nearby, he notices your smile with eyes closed, and he understands. He hurries along to his seat so he too can dip himself in the warmth of the magical transformation that only ball fields bring and clasp tightly the memories of boyhood dreams.

There you are back in your yard, at your school field, or sandlot, wherever you first dreamed of the game and played in the spaces you could find, to win all those World Series titles. When you played everyday because you loved the game, you couldn’t get enough of the game. You knew all the stats, who batted 1 through 9, who would hit for whom in the 7th, and every member of the bullpen. You knew who would pinch-run, whether it was to steal second base or score from second on a base hit. You remember the uniform you wore, right down to the trim, and the wayward stitch or two. You lift your leg for second and shake your foot remembering how fleet afoot you felt every time your old spikes were securely fastened to your stirrup laced feet. Somehow it seems like just yesterday when you would wipe the sweat from your brow and tug the bill of your cap a little lower to shield that bright game day sun. Your hands and fingers fidget slightly as you recall your ability to grab a baseball time after time and have your index and middle fingers perfectly aligned across the seams. Now your palms practically ache just to hold that old wood bat you took thousands of swings with. You can still feel the grain and the way the barrel tapered back to a handle that was much thicker than today’s bat handles. Listening closely to the sounds you fabricate in your mind, you swear you can still hear the ‘swoosh’ your mighty swing once created as it carved through the warm air.

Then, sitting a little more upright now, you roll your shoulders a few times, still clenching your eyes shut as not to disturb the calm and comfort found inside this daydream. Today there are no aches and pains, tightness won’t be thought of here, or at least not until you have to rise from your seat the next time. You recollect the days when you felt so strong, felt so right, you felt like you could throw all day, even throw hard all day. And you did. You think for a moment, trying to figure out how difficult it would be were you to try to calculate how many pitches you threw on any given summer day. Then you just smile, knowing it was in the hundreds, and it was nearly every day. A rest day back then was eating dinner, going to sleep, and going to school for several hours the next morning. Then it was a sprint to the ball, glove, and bat as soon as time would allow.

For me, it was my yard. After school it was the place I couldn’t wait to be. I recall thinking about scenarios that were soon to unfold in my yard while I was still on the bus riding home. Actually it started when I was a young boy and it continued throughout my school years. Often times, my desk in some classroom was just the place I dreamed from. My teacher could have just as easily been any Major League public address announcer. My reality was more often a slice of my imagination playing out the details of me playing, competing, and winning, than not. It’s almost all I ever thought about, and it would have been 100% of my thoughts were it not for school, church, and the occasional conversation. In my mind, in my yard, I was the greatest there’s ever been, yet I revered and respected the greats who came before me. I shook hands with Babe Ruth on the field at the old Yankee Stadium. Hank Aaron was there to acknowledge my gracious demolition of his home run record, and maybe we chatted on the field at the old Tiger Stadium where my record homer was still climbing as it crashed into the overhanging upper deck in right field. Ted Williams marveled at my swing while we talked baseball in South Florida in between his fishing days. At the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore I sat in the seemingly vertical upper deck behind home plate and talked with Brooks Robinson who couldn’t believe my range, and I was a lefty, to boot!

On rainy days, when I could throw the ball from just inside the dry cover of our garage roof overhang, I was being congratulated by Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton as a pitcher that was among the all-time winners and clearly the most accurate of all time. Walter Johnson and Bob Feller asked me just how hard did I throw. Ron Guidry asked me my nickname, because even though he was a Yankee, he had a pretty cool nickname in, Louisiana Lightning. After I had twirled yet another complete game, especially on those rainy days, I would grab my wood bat and start to swing. I remember vividly looking down at the broken cement of our garage floor and checking out the shadow of my swing. My swing had to be perfect, both left-handed and right-handed. I would swing at top speed. I would swing in slow motion. I would swing that bat hundreds of times over. I imagined the ball jumping off of my bat and clearing fences all over the major leagues.

After church on Sundays it was a battle for me. I had to decide whether to take the extra few minutes to change my clothes or just go for it in whatever I was wearing. I knew full well that within minutes a ball would carom off of the garage door, too far to my right, and I would have to dive headfirst on the green grass to make the spectacular play. Then I would immediately regret the choice I made, not to change my clothes first, at least for a second or two. Of course, had I not hustled right out to make the play, then someone else would have been in the lineup, so, I was right, get out there and play. Worry about the clothes later. I mean, that was just a double that I robbed down the line. Shouldn’t that cover a for a few grass stains? Some how my mom never put as much stock in my defensive genius in the yard as I did, and as my thousands of fans in the imaginary stands around my yard, did. Neither were wrong, I was, but what’s a boy to do? Somebody’s gotta go out and win the World Series, and I felt that somebody had to be me.

Figure it out!

As the baseball season winds down and new names are written into the great history of post-season baseball, I can’t help but grow increasingly upset with the NHL. After all the momentum hockey has seen in recent years, with HD TV, original six teams winning Cups, TV contracts, and young stars emerging, they shoot themselves in the foot…again. Three work stoppages under one regime? For all the positives, players playing the game of hockey is whole reason there is a league. C’mon guys! Figure it out! Under Bettman there has been the equivalent of 1.5 full NHL seasons not played, cancelled, or otherwise lost. It starts at the top, with leadership, or at least the people in leadership positions. I know these professional leagues are a business. Remember, without the games itself, there is no business.

So, as baseball’s Fall Classic moves into the home of Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, and Nicklas Lidstrom, I will continue to enjoy our national pastime, trying not to think of the NHL season that isn’t. If, there is a hockey season, I will watch my Bruins, maybe. I love hockey that much. I won’t be buying the NHL Center Ice package, I won’t go to any games, nor will I buy any NHL merchandise. For now, it’s still baseball season and I hope this series is epic, while reminding Detroit and every other NHL city that within the competition of sport greatness is achieved.

Closer to the truth?

Let me start by saying that I am a life-long Red Sox fan. Watching post season baseball this year makes me wonder how the Red Sox even won as many games as they did this season. The teams still playing, and I stress the word T-E-A-M, look like they’re head and shoulders above and beyond the Red Sox especially when it relates to competing for World Championships.

Anyways, this isn’t about the Red Sox, I wanted to comment on the 2012 Yankees. The Yankees won more games than any other American League team. They slugged their way to 95 victories while belting 245 home runs. They lost their soon to be Hall-Of-Famer closer, Mariano Rivera, just a month into the season, they struggled some in the second half, and lost more 1-run games than they won. I’m not a Joe Girardi fan by any means, but I think he deserves a lot of credit. He managed his team, arranged his personnel, utilized his pitching staff, he worked through the ebb and flow of 2012 Yankee baseball, and won the AL East with 95 wins. After watching the debacle that was the 2012 season for the Red Sox, it was apparent to me that Joe Girardi was an integral part of Yankee success this season. Going a step further, I would dare say that the three strongest managers in the AL East are, by far, Girardi, Showalter, and Maddon. They all won 90 or more games this season, more wins than the Tigers or Cardinals, who are still playing ball. I wonder if John Farrell will join this group of top-notch managers by signing on with the island of misfit attitudes in Boston.

Honestly, listening to the press conferences after games, I was often impressed with the way Girardi handled questions. His cut-and-dry answers were honest, accurate, and rarely snide. He reminded me of Terry Francona when, at his best, he didn’t talk it up, but answered questions within the personal comfort of his baseball brilliance. Girardi managed. He made in-game decisions, as he should, and wasn’t afraid to make the move he thought was best for his club, regardless of popularity. And, until another Hall-Of-Famer to be, Derek Jeter, went down with a broken ankle bone in Game One of the ALCS, it seemed like Girardi and the Yanks would make every right move, wiggling out of trouble time after time. The Jeter injury, from here, appeared to be the official unplugging of the life support that the Yankees were clinging to. I know it was only Game One, but the Yanks were fortunate to have beaten the feisty Orioles.

Unproven, super closer of 2012, Jim Johnson, of the Orioles, assisted the Yankees to the ALCS almost as much as any of the Yankees own pitchers did. Johnson did convert two of three save opportunities in the series, but even that’s deceiving. In the other appearance that was not a save opportunity, he blew up, lasting one-third of an inning, allowing FIVE runs, and earning the loss. In the series, the Yankees battered the AL Saves leader (51) by hitting .316 against him and drove his series ERA to 10.38. What really stuck out to me was the gross lack of execution of pitches in so many of those at bats. I know guys get hits on high quality pitches from pitchers at times, then there are times when hitters would be at fault for not hammering pitches that were blatantly served up mistakes. In the last 20 seasons only two MLB Saves leaders have gone on to win the World Series in the same season that they led the MLB in saves, Brian Wilson with the Giants in 2010, and the great Mariano Rivera with the Yankees in 1999.

When we think of baseball, we think of numbers. When we remember baseball, we remember numbers. When we argue baseball, we argue numbers. So, here are some numbers. These numbers, in my opinion, show (contrary to Yankees GM, Brian Cashman) that the 2012 Yankees were closer to the second half Yankees, and the post season Yankees that we saw. During the season, the Yankees averaged an AL leading 3.32 extra base hits per game. In the post season that number dropped to 2.33 per game. Okay, maybe not earth shattering, but the teams’ post season leaders in XBH (extra base hits) were Raúl Ibañez, part-timer, with four; Ichiro Suzuki, signed as a part-timer, with three; Eduardo Núñez, part-timer who wasn’t even on the original ALCS Roster, with three. More numbers. The Yankees struck out 7.2 times per game in the regular season. In the post season that number jumped to 9.2 times per game. That’s two-thirds of an inning more per game that they didn’t even put the ball in play, and when they did it was with one less XBH than they were getting most of the year. In regular season play, the Bronx Bombers averaged 9.02 hits per game, or one an inning. In the post season they averaged just 6.67 hits per game. Ichiro had as many XBH in the post season as Robinson Canó and Mark Teixeira combined. Curtis Granderson followed up a stellar season of batting .232 while obliterating his own Yankee Team Record with 195 strikeouts by batting .100 with 16 strikeouts in the playoffs. Twenty, yes, twenty times a Yankee has hit more than 43 homers in a season, but with regard to whiffing, not even Danny Tartabull, Alfonso Soriano, or Jesse Barfield ever came close to the degree of swinging and missing that Granderson has each of the last two seasons. I wonder how Austin Jackson and Phil Coke are doing. Anyhow, the Yankees were playing post season baseball when most others were not, and numbers, or not, Joe Girardi should get an awful lot of credit for their run. I mean, he didn’t even come to bat in the post season, and still had as many XBH as A-Rod and Eric Chávez combined.

The Yankees won 95 games, which in the old days, would have been good enough to win the AL Pennant and an automatic trip to the World Series. In one seven game series, maybe the Yankees would have been good enough to win title number 28. Over the last 43 years, the Yankees are 7-4 in the Fall Classic, which is still impressive. Compared to the previous 48 years though, when the Yanks went 20-9 in the World Series, the last 43 years look pretty thin. Even so, this year they played in the ALCS, to me, it was through the ‘dog days’ and into the post season, that these Yankees looked a little closer to the truth.

Sox outlook for 2012

How do you think the Red Sox will finish in 2012?

If you had to guess today, before any more moves are completed, what would your answer be?

Send this around to your friends, and other fans. I would like to hear from as many of you as possible.

Select your choice below.

Sox-Go-Round

I am not sure this piece needs to be any longer than the title. I just wanted to share a few thoughts as a life long Red Sox fan who knows a lot less about them than many of you. First, as the list of accomplishments were read, listed, or discussed as Terry Francona was shunned from the organization, it was apparent to me that this guy won in Boston despite the ownership group. Francona and Bill Carrigan are the only two managers in franchise history to win two World Series titles. Carrigan had a 20-year-old kid named Babe Ruth hurling for him in 1915. Ruth was 41-20 on the mound over those two seasons. Francona won more games as manager of the Red Sox than anyone else with the exception of Joe Cronin. In this age of instant gratification, and what have you done for me lately, Terry did a pretty good job considering he didn’t pick the players and personalities that were brought to Boston. Now Francona might need to buy a ticket to get into Pink Hat Park at Fenway Amusement Central. I will get to this later.

Second, Theo Epstein now heads to the North Side of Chicago with hopes of reversing another curse, or six (the goat, the black cat, ball through Durham’s legs, Buckner’s batting glove, the dropped fly ball, Steve Bartman). Sorry Cubs fans, but my family and I already had to deal with 86 years of this stuff. Even with the signings that completely back fired while Theo was here, his resume is still impressive. I also wonder how many of these acquisitions were handed down to him from ownership and how many were him performing as a good GM, or as a bad GM. It’s hard to tell from where I sit.

Third, David Ortiz talks of the drama in Boston when asked about his future. Think about this for a minute, Ortiz was Mr. Clutch in Boston’s Championship runs in 2004 and 2007. Over those two post seasons he only hit .386 with 8 HR’s, 29 RBI’s, 27 Walks, 29 Runs scored, in 28 Games played. He was our Mr. October, the guy who could do no wrong. The player that would be welcome here forever, right? (That’s what we thought about Francona too) He’s still a fan favorite in Boston, but given that he’s a free agent DH, who hits left-handed, and just lost his biggest advocate in Boston, where do you think he will end up? Oh and did I mention that the Yankees were in the bottom half of almost every single offensive category for DH’s? True. By the way, Boston and Mr. Ortiz were ranked first in many of those same offensive categories. Just some food for thought.

Fourth, I love Fenway Park. But I am thinking I love the Fenway Park that was introduced to me when I was a kid, not the one entering its 100th season next spring. I can still remember walking up the ramp towards the light of day, emerging from the cool, concrete depths, the hard, cold hand railings, and rising up above the field. As I neared the ramp top, I could see the net come into sight, then the Green Monster, and it was all green. I saw the green, green grass, the greenest grass I had ever seen. The brown infield dirt with the infielders whipping the ball around the horn like a blur. Back then they still took infield before the games like the rest of America still does all the way through college ball. The playing field was pristine, the rest of the park was not. Why should it be? Smokey Joe Wood, Tris Speaker, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Yaz, Luis Tiant, Carlton Fisk, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Nomar, Pedro Martinez, Manny, and thousands others all played on that field. The greatest collection of baseball talent ever assembled came together for an impromptu meet and greet with the greatest hitter who ever lived on that field before the 1999 All-Star Game. It’s an old ball park and I am glad it’s still there, but it’s been through a lot. I mean, Ted Williams actually hunted pigeons in that old ball yard. I wish all the old ballparks were still around even if the Major League teams weren’t in them. Countless memories are attached to those old ballparks. And sometimes it’s okay for something old to look old, as long as it is here and still functions.

Fifth, I have no problem with the idea of pink hats at Fenway, or anywhere else, for that matter. I know many people who were wearing pink Sox hats long before the term was coined, and these folks are as die-hard Sox fans as I am, if not more so. We shouldn’t always paint with such a broad brush, because there’s beauty in the detail of individuality. There’s also beauty in the simplicity of something designed just right. Something that stands the test of time and becomes an icon for those who have interacted with it. That something is Fenway Park, not the monstrosity it has become. The Sox sell out every game as they draw from all over New England. Many of these sellouts consist of a family who makes a pilgrimage from not only New England, but from around the world just to see Fenway. Many of these people can afford to come see a game there just once, or once a season.

Sixth, Fenway was a destination for most of us without seats and suites all over the place. We went to the park to see the home team play in their sanitary home whites and those unforgettable red numerals on the back. We came to see the ball slam off the monster and how an opposing left fielder would play it. We came to see our generation’s ace on the mound and we didn’t need a radar gun to know how overpowering he was. We came to see a ball rattle around in the door on the left field line, or a ball hug the base of the wall and roll forever in the right field corner. We came to see speed and courage run a ball down in the triangle. We came to see our favorite players, our baseball heroes play a kids game on the pristine playing surface sunken between massive green walls. Knowing full well who had come before them and sensing how those heroes past looked on that same green sanctuary. We came to hear the unmistakable sound of the bat meeting the ball. We came to sing one song that we all knew, our National Anthem. We came to hear the umpire yell, “Play Ball !” Because after all it was baseball that brought us in.

I know that managers, owners, coaches, and players come and go. I also know that the Red Sox fan base, as large as it is, can be a tough group to answer to. Good organizations are good because they have good people in key positions throughout their structure, not because analytic’s generated in a bubble overlooking reality, spit out a player’s name to go and get. The Red Sox just lost two good people in my opinion. Best wishes to the new manager and GM as they stake their livelihood on spreadsheets and computers. People make the world go ’round, and good players win ballgames, but good people who can play well together win championships. I am not ready to say Terry and Theo were the problem yet. I may never say it. Because I love the Red Sox and when they resemble an actual team again I will be here watching and cheering. I just wonder how many fans will lose their grip over the cold winter, and fall off the Sox-Go-Round.