Friday, September 29, 2006
Keep Your Sox On: Especially given your background as a baseball fan (grew up a Mets fan, now rooting for the Marlins), why the Red Sox? Obviously, there's a history there, but why not the Cubs, for example?
Howard Camerik: Hmmm…the Cubs…what if Bartman’s ticket to that game is one row back, and Alou catches that foul ball…sorry about that, just thinking about something …
Why the Red Sox? Why not the Red Sox? Where else would an aspiring sports novelist turn to make his literary bones? It was shortly after Bucky Dent dropped that pitiless, black-hearted bomb when John Cheever famously said, “all literary men are Red Sox fans,” and it was just weeks prior to the infamous Game Six when Martin F. Nolan penned in the Globe, “Fenway is the ultimate protagonist of the lit’ry life, a survivor.” So if I wanted to be one of those men, be part of that life, enter the Forbidden City where the men of letters sip tea and gaze at their navels, it was only natural to look toward the sports franchise long regarded as something of an allegorical tale.
And besides that, there are a lot of publishing houses in Boston, so I thought it would make it easier to sell.
KYSO: Given the number of historic collapses over the years, why 1986 specifically? 2003, for example, seems like a viable candidate.
HC: If I can take the second part first…I first outlined the basic contours of the story, and began researching, back in 2001, before the Aaron Boone atrocity was even remotely foreseeable. Time travel only really works fictionally – I couldn’t actually do it.
But really, if you’re going to use the novel form to re-write Red Sox history, is there a better candidate than what Shaughnessy called “the denouement?” The tenth inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series probably stands out as my sharpest baseball memory, the “where were you when” story [for the record, I was a law student watching in an Ann Arbor, Michigan apartment]. I really thought a story about 1986 would evoke the most emotion, and have the most resonance … and make the best movie.
KYSO: The attention to detail in your book, especially your descriptions of life as a minor leaguer, are absolutely fascinating (and might even make a few people reconsider a pro baseball career, given how difficult the minor leagues sound). Is there some personal history there, or did you dig all this stuff up through research?
HC: Personal history? Would that it were so. [Note on usage: this seems to be a popular phrase these days, so I used it to sound hip and modern. But it is one ponderous collection of words awkwardly cobbled together, isn’t it?]. The baseball career I yearned for stalled after high school, aided and abetted by chronic elbow tendonitis. I did make a triumphant comeback, however, first, in baseball fantasy camp [see book author photo], followed by several seasons in the Men’s Senior Baseball League [which I write about] before being felled again, this time by a torn rotator cuff.
No, the description of life in the minor leagues was purely a product of my imagination, which I suppose was internalized from years of reading, thinking about baseball, and just paying attention. And re-watching Bull Durham on cable. After I had fully drafted the manuscript, I read a book called Inside Pitch: Life in Professional Baseball written by an anthropologist (and former minor leaguer) named George Gmelch, and even I was stunned at how accurate my conjured portrayal was.
KYSO: Where did you come up with the character of Pat McCarvill?
HC: I combined the two starting guards on my junior high basketball team (Pat Badolato and Jimmy McCarvill) who I played behind. But you probably didn’t mean just the name.
I consider Curse to be more plot than character driven, and so the character was really built around the story, his history and personality traits specially designed to snap into the puzzle and facilitate the plot. In addition to baseball, I follow politics very closely, so combining the two in Pat’s character – mayor-turned-ballplayer – came particularly easy to me. At some point, I became so convinced that the role was calling out to Ben Affleck, I think I actually started writing dialogue that I could envision him delivering [Ben, if you’re out there … call me, babe].
KYSO: You've mentioned in other interviews that you got the idea for the book from an accident suffered by a teammate in a softball game, but how much did you know about Carl Mays before you were inspired to write the book? Did your idea for a plot change at all as you did more research?
HC: That’s actually a long-winded discussion that I’ll sharply edit so as not to bore your readers. Truth be told, the original manuscript, entitled A Pitch in Time, had nothing to do with a baseball curse. It was otherwise the same story, built around the Chapman incident (as inspired by my friend’s softball concussion), but with little substantive to do with Mays.
But I had this idea floating around as I was writing about the Mays angle, his Red Sox connection, etc. Ultimately, with the prodding of an editor (I hired the guy who edits the Dune series), I began to research and develop it, and without sounding too corny, I was astonished to learn how interwoven Mays was with Ruth, the 1918 Red Sox, and the Frazee purge. With that, the new “curse” element almost wrote itself. I swear, at times I felt as though I was discovering a story, not creating it, with the almost spooky way the pieces fit together.
I did take some literary license with an aspect of Mays’ career that I was surprised to learn of. It’s commonly assumed that he was denied enshrinement in the Hall of Fame because of the Chapman incident, and Curse plays it up that way. But the Chapman pitch was probably not the real reason. Many believe that Mays actually threw a game in the 1921 World Series (as a member of the Yankees). Common lore teaches that the Black Sox scandal of 1919 put an end to such things, but apparently, the break wasn’t as clean as Hollywood would have us believe. Mays was never charged, but enough sports writers believed it to be so that the taint is likely what cost him the votes he needed. I’ll bet you didn’t know that.
KYSO: Howard, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions about your book – we wish you the best of luck with its success.
HC: Thanks for inviting this kid born in Queens to spend some time over here in Brooklyn. As of now, the book is available only on the internet booksellers like Amazon, and, I submit that reading it would be an uplifting thing to do during October while that useless post-season is going on. If any of your readers have follow-up questions, they should feel free to contact me at Howard.Camerik@yahoo.com. See ya.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Boston Red Sox 0, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 11
Going into the game, things looked pretty good for the boys from Boston. TBay starter Tim Corcoran was on his way to tying for the worst record by a starting pitcher in the last 50 years since the all-star break (0-10) and he was facing Josh “Jekyll & Hyde” Beckett (about 33 ERs in his starts the Sox win, 81 runs in the other games). This is a formula for success right? A home game? Against a guy who isn’t exactly Cy Young? All right, no problem; should be a win, right? Alas, it was not meant to be, and the Sox get shutout for the 8th time this year with…5 hits?!? That’s all we got, 5 goddamn hits?!? I know it’s game 159, the Sox aren’t in the playoffs and the players are ready to hit the golf course, but 5 hits, against the FREAKING D-RAYS?!?!?!?!
But of course we believe in optimism, so here are some positive thoughts going forward:
- Josh Beckett threw 200 innings for the first time in his career. He didn’t get hurt (no blister, no shoulder issues) at all this year – now he has the goal of getting 200 quality innings.
- The Sox defense showed up, making no errors for a record 108th time this year. We have defense, if the pitching had shown up all year, things might have been ok (this means you Josh, and the Larry, Mo and Curly representing the 4th and 5th starters).
- Wily Mo Pena didn’t spike himself in left field. It’s a small step, but a positive one.
- Hanson, Delcarmen, and Lopez didn’t give up a hit between them. True, it was 11-0 at the time, but it’s the thought that counts.
- And lastly, with this game out of the way, the end of the season and the Pats playoff run is one day closer. Go Sox!
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Boston Red Sox 5, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1
We did it! We clinched! I couldn’t believe it at first, but then when I realized that projections had the Sox clinching a spot in the playoffs around this time, I knew it was true! It’s gotta be true!
And what a game! Schilling was ON! 7 innings of awesomeness and only one run. Francona better rest him so he can start game one against the Twins. It’s all about setting your rotation in the short series. I called Eric all excited about this, but he acted like I didn’t know what I was talking about. What a loser! Does he even follow baseball?
The bats were ready to go too! Papi hit his 54th big fly and he is well on his way to the MVP. That whole “we don’t give it to the DH” is right out the window this year because his HUGE homerun and RBI numbers carried us into the playoffs! WOO HOO! Why is everyone so depressed around the Boston press? Let the champagne flow!
Could they do it again? Only two years removed from that glorious parade… could they go all the way and prove my devotion valid and just once again? All I hear is the voices of angels telling me “SOX WIN! SOX WIN!” The sweet sweet music!
Oops! Got to go! The nice men who loosen my straps and feed me pudding are on their way. They beat the crap out of me last time they caught me online… but it’s worth it to see the glorious victory of the Red Sox! They laugh at me, they call me crazy… but they’ll see… they’ll all see. Then we’ll see who’s laughing!
GO SOX!! GO SOX!! No… no… not the needle! Go Sawwwwwcks….
Boston Red Sox 0, Toronto Blue Jays 5
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are at war. A war between the men of Boston and those weirdos from the North, with their less valuable dollar and their strange accents (, eh) and their beer with a higher alcohol content. A war, my friends, over who will take second place and who will be stuck in the huge gap between second and those lowly Baltimoreans. It will be a short, brutal war, because there isn’t much time (five games, just five more and this dismal season ends!) and by God, Toronto may have the miniscule advantage at this time, but with two games against Tampa Bay and three against Baltimore, I know we shall triumph and preserve (for our own personal pride, because no one is going to remember the Sox finishing second in 2006 in 10 years) the record of second place finishes held since 1997.
Tonight, Schilling against Tampa Bay, home of angry managers. And yes, he’s going up against all of Tampa Bay, like Moses throwing down against the Red Sea. Even though the Sox are at home for the rest of the year. It’s complicated. Let’s try and go out on a high note, boys. GO SOX!!!
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Boston Red Sox 4, Toronto Blue Jays 13
Well the first game of the NULL AND VOID 2006 season was pretty much just like the ones that counted: disappointing and over before I had a chance to get drunk. Just end already! We know we’re out and can’t win with Kyle Snyder and the AA crew. This is just an insult to the many injuries.
Now I’m left trying to find a good slogan that sums up this season. Here’s what I have so far:
The Bataan Death March
The Curse of the Gorilla Suit
2 Years Removed
How Bout Them Pats?
Failure to Launch
Yeah it’s not much. But it’s too depressing to really think about.
Up next… are you even watching anymore? Sox… go… ya know.
Boston Red Sox 3, Toronto Blue Jays 5
To the tune of End of the Night
Take the highway to the end of the season
End of the season, end of the season
Take a journey to the playoff elimination
End of the season, end of the season
Realms of bliss, realms of light
Some advance to sweet post-season
Some go on to that sweet delight
Some must live to wait for the 2007 season
Into the night, into the night
End of the season, end of the season
Realms of division, realms of wildcard
Some advance to sweet post-season
Some go on to fight the bigger fight
Some must live to wait for the 2007 season
Through the long winter nights
End of the season, into the night
RIP 2006 Red Sox playoff chances; RIP 2006 season…for real, now. Nothing left but to play lame duck to other lame ducks in the final games of the year. Go Sox.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Boston Red Sox 7, Toronto Blue Jays 1
Ok, let me get this straight: Julian Tavarez threw a complete game (one run no less) for the win over Toronto. This is the guy I called a “pox marked psycho” and “Manny’s friend from prison”. Are we sure this is the same guy? Didn’t Tavarez punch a wall before the 2004 playoffs and then punch a player before the 2006 season… both for questionable if not moronic reasons? This is the same guy right?
How does this happen? Do teams decide who is “more done” before the game starts? Do managers get together and work out who should have an amazing day on a spreadsheet before the players take the field? Did Tavarez have his number come up today, or did he threaten to stab someone?
I am just a bit taken aback. I am stunned that this castaway from the bullpen was able to pull something like this together. It almost makes me wish that the season wasn’t 100% down the tubes and that the Sox had a chance to continue the season into October. Oh well. I guess I just have to enjoy what I’m stuck with. An amazing win by Tavarez (with help from the defense and divine intervention I’m sure) should be enough to pacify the shaken nerves of a downtrodden fan.
Next up is some AA guy I have almost never heard of (Hansack? HandySnack? Ramsack?) vs Burnett and his huge salary. Good thing he doesn’t pitch with his wallet. Go Sox.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Boston Red Sox 6, Minnesota Twins 0
Well, that was unexpected. If you had come to me before the start of the season and said, on September 21st, Josh Beckett and Johan Santana will face off in the last game of the season between the Twins and Red Sox, I would have predicted a pitcher’s duel. If you had come to me a few weeks ago and said the same thing, I would have expected a good game…if Beckett pitched smart. I would not have picked Santana to be by far the losing party in a head-to-head contest and I don’t think I would have expected Beckett to go solid innings and give no runs on six hits. But that’s just what they did.
Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Tonight was one of those magic nights at Fenway, a night where the baseball gods of old seemed to speak from on high with the thunder and the fury that’s made this team great in the past – the team we keep coming back year after year to see. If Josh Beckett can come out with all guns firing, then of course: David Ortiz should take the first pitch he sees from Johan Santana into the Boston night, a middle-in fastball that should never have lingered in the danger zone and deposit it into the right field grandstands like God’s own slugger, further enshrining the legend of Big Papi with the new Boston single season record. And being Big Papi, there’s always room for more: how number 52, in the seventh inning, off Matt Guerrier. The season might literally be over tomorrow; this game might have been the last blast of Indian summer before the harsh reality of October sets in, but we always have these moments to savor as we wait for the spring and for that we are fortunate.
Tomorrow night it’s the final games against the Jays: a four game set in Toronto, with Hulian against former Sox nemesis Ted Lilly. The homestretch awaits, dear friends. Let’s go out with a bang. GO SOX!!!
Boston Red Sox 2, Minnesota Twins 8
Big Papi hit his 50th homer of the season to tie Jimmy Foxx for the all time Red Sox record. Now I’m not sure, but I think every other thing that happened yesterday was AWFUL. Let me check… yup… totally horrible.
The Sox got beat by some guy named Boof (are you kidding me? Boof?) and the bullpen crapped the bed SO badly that even I was taken aback by their ineptitude. 7 runs over the last two innings. Those are justifiable homicide numbers.
Meanwhile, the Pinstriped Gestapo was busy in their locker room dousing each other with wine coolers and Zima. They won the American League East division title for the 9th time in a row… but we saved money not getting Damon back and didn’t trade our future away trying to get more pitching in the off season or at the trade deadline. Yeah. Whatever keeps you warm at night.
OK, I’m not saying this is the Apocalypse… I’m saying the Apocalypse already happened, we were judged, and this is Hell. A week and a half left of this mess. The end of the season can’t come fast enough.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Boston Red Sox 3, Minnesota Twins 7
I had a thought two nights ago, a nightmare vision that only a Red Sox fan could have the arrogance of seeing and the greater arrogance of claiming as his own: who’s going to stop the Yankees in the playoffs, now that the Red Sox are out of it? Because the Yankees are a game away from clinching the AL East, so they’re going unless something very, very odd happens or there are a few extra games tucked away that I haven’t heard about.
Who does anyone see doing it? The Tigers? They’re not exactly hot stuff against New York (or the Athletics either, really – they might be in trouble). Chicago? The Twins? Chicago has to get there first and neither team has a winning record against the Yankees. I’d say my money is on Oakland, but they always seem to fall apart in the post-season…and they could always end up playing Detroit first. If the Angels were the AL West champions, things might be brighter, but all I can think about right now is the Yankees winning the pennant and going on to face the Mets (yes, I said it: the Mets. No other division in the NL is going to produce a team worth anything in the playoffs, unless Philly grabs the wildcard and even then, when does a pitching staff led by Jon Lieber and Jamie Moyer really dominate?) and winning it all just to spite me. Sure, I’d love to see a World Series parade here in New York (did I mention how I want the Mets to win?), but not with guys in pinstripes on the floats.
So I had this vision and then I thought about how nice it would be to play spoiler some more, after Boston spent the weekend getting some revenge for August and how the Twins were there, ready and waiting for some spoilage. And then tonight happened. Timmy Knuckles may be back, but his pitches aren’t yet; maybe not surprising for a guy who never gets hurt coming off a ribcage fracture and certainly not unexpected, given how this season has gone, but still disappointing. Who doesn’t want Tim Wakefield to do well?
Speaking of wanting to do well, congrats to ‘Tek on getting the award for catching more games than anyone else in Red Sox history. 1,000 starts behind the plate is pretty hard to put into perspective, but how about this one: the Red Sox acquired Varitek (and Derek Lowe) for Heathcliff Slocum from Seattle ten years ago and I’m still laughing all the way to the bank on that one.
So no spoilage for tonight, but tomorrow…tomorrow man, Schilling’s back. Or the probable pitchers thing on redsox.com isn’t working properly, but it appears that the Ace will get his shot at win number 15 tomorrow night against Boof Bonser, who might have the best name in professional sports. Certainly not the best stat line, though. GO SOX!!!
Monday, September 18, 2006
Game 149: Boston Red Sox 6, New York Yankees 3
Game 150: Boston Red Sox 5, New York Yankees 4
It was 11:45 PM, the crowd slowly filling out of Yankee Stadium, Frank Sinatra blaring over the loudspeakers even though Mike Myers, Kyle Farnsworth and Jorge Posada conspired to give Boston their third straight win and I found myself at the tail end of a fantastic day for any New England sports fan. 10 hours earlier, I had left Brooklyn and traveled to the Meadowlands for the 4:15 contest between the Patriots and Jets, where the Pats took an early commanding lead in the first half, graciously allowed their hosts to get back in the game in the third, before reclaiming the game in the fourth. By the time my father and I left the Meadowlands and started north on the hell that is the post-game New Jersey Turnpike, it was approaching on 8:00. We knew the Sox won game one but with the journeyman (to put it kindly) Kevin Jarvis on the mound against Mike Mussina, a sweep of the doubleheader didn’t seem in the cards. “At least we don’t have to worry about an elimination party,” I thought.
10,000 years later, we arrived in the Bronx and started looking for parking. During our trip: a shaky first inning where the Yankees scored a run, with Boston striking back with a two run shot by Nixon in the top of the second. Miguel Cairo tied things up in the bottom of the inning with a sacrifice fly to score Bernie Williams, prompting Sterling and Waldman to have a minor orgasm over the ability of both Cairo and Nick Green (who moved Bernie over from second to third with a sacrifice bunt) to get the minor things done when it counted. It was now the fifth inning and we were discovering how incredibly difficult it is to get to Yankee Stadium an hour after the first pitch.
Finally we get in and all bitterness about arriving two-thirds of the way through the game, about having to drive 20 minutes to find a parking spot, about having to walk half a mile to get inside; all of it washed away when we discovered how awesome these seats were: first baseline, level with the first base umpire, maybe 15 rows back…it was an incredible place to be. Sure, the Yankees might have taken the lead with another two runs just minutes after we arrived and I might be contemplating “Splitsville” for a post title, but if we were going to go down, it was going to be in style. And then the eighth inning happens.
Loretta singles. Mike Myers comes in to do the one thing he’s on the Yankees to do: get out Big Papi (who by the way is the most popular person in the Bronx right now), who had already hit home run number 49 earlier that day. Myers walks Ortiz on four pitchers. Torre, perhaps as a punishment, leaves in Myers to face Lowell to get to Nixon. Lowell hits a blooper that falls in front of Abreu in right, moving Loretta to third. Somehow this plays gets ruled a fielder’s choice and Lowell ends up on first. Kapler pinch hits for Nixon, but Torre opts to stay with Myers and gets payoff when Kapler pops out. With two outs, up strides the Captain. Yankees fans, sensing the end of a comeback, start chanting “Season’s over!” but Varitek smacks a single to score Loretta, knocking the lead down to one run.
Pinch hitter: the Stud Who Hits Bombs, in place of rookie David Murphy. This move makes absolutely no sense to me; maybe Mirabelli gets the call because he’s got more experience hitting sidewinders than Murphy. In any case, three pitches later Belli leans into one and takes one off the shoulder. I’m now screaming something about key players getting the job done. Dustin Pedroia, who looks like a little kid next to the average baseball player, gets the job done himself when Posada flubs a pitch in the dirt, allowing Lowell to score. And yes, getting out of the way of a pass ball is getting the job done - the kid didn't strike out in the process (Wily Mo - take notes here). Sure, Pedroia grounds out with the next pitch, but Boston ties the game. I am now a ball of barely compressed excitement.
Javier Lopez somehow survives the bottom of the eighth unscathed, an even more remarkable feat in these times of bullpen insecurity. He gets a major boost from Coco Crisp’s leaping ability, as the much-maligned center fielder robs Posada of a two run home run with a leaping catch that plucks the ball from the air just as it’s about to sail over the wall. Johnny Damon, eat your heart out. It’s now clear to everyone in the park that the baseball gods have preordained this win to go to Boston, a feeling underscored in the top of the ninth when Carlos Peña greets Farnsworth with a double. Crisp moves pinch runner Cora to third on a bunt and Loretta knocks in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly before Farnsworth is able to get the final two outs.
The final three outs of this marathon day: Timlin gets Williams on a ground out, but then makes things interesting by giving up a single to Damon. A-Rod, comes to the plate, ignores the urge to hit into a double play (the Yankees fan in front of me pleading with him to “pretend it’s the fourth inning and you’re up by 10 runs”) and pops out instead, igniting such a rain of boos that I almost felt bad chanting “A-Fraud” as he rounded first base. Almost. When Melky Cabrera ended the game with a fly ball to left, it wasn’t surprising, it was destiny. Hell, for Red Sox fans, with little left to look forward to in the next couple of weeks, it was destination. GO SOX!!!
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Game 147: Boston Red Sox 5, New York Yankees 2
Game 148: Boston Red Sox 5, New York Yankees 7
I called my father as soon as I stepped off the D train at Yankee Stadium.
“I feel like Job.” I told him.
It seemed apt. When I had first made these plans to see this double header (thanks again Mike) the race was close. Hell, the Red Sox had a 3 game lead and looked like they were about to step into a groove. That groove turned out to be a rut. The SOX gave and the SOX taken away.
Now I must endure the trials before me. The pain, suffering and anguish and in the end STILL profess love for a team that seems to have forsaken my devotion. Sundered dreams fading away as I clutch them to my chest. Even worse, I must bare witness to this misery in the home of my enemy. I must watch, my depression hidden, as my champions are victimized by a group of ner-do-wells while the pinstriped zealotry laughs in malicious triumph.
So I had a feeling this could suck.
All in all, this series means very little. The Yankees are too far ahead to be in real trouble and the Sox are too far out of the wild card race to have a real shot. It’s been this way for weeks… so will the bad blood even be a factor?
Ummm… yeah. Papi’s comments on the whole MVP thing (as misquoted and taken out of context as they were) have made him persona non grata in Yankeeland. Even A-Rod wasn’t booed as bad as he got it today. Fans screamed their heads off, chanting “JETER, JETER, JETER” and “BOSTON SUCKS” and etc., etc., etc. Funny thing is, the lack of Manny in the lineup affected Ortiz more than all that ruckus. He was 2-2 (2 doubles), but was walked 3 times. I guess Wily Mo isn’t much in the way of protection. In fact, we wagered on who would have more strikeouts Wily or Wang (push at 3 a piece).
But today it was about the rest of the team (see: scrubs) stepping up and helping Beckett get his 15th win. Murphy, Belli and Hinske all had big hits in the win. The bullpen’s lackluster performance (I now watch Foulke and Timlin with my hands over my eyes) was just enough to finish it out. I can’t believe it! They won!
But unfortunately, that’s where my ride stopped. I had some unforeseen work things to do in the PM, and my friends were taking off, so the second game wasn’t graced with my presence. Evidently, that was quite fortuitous for me.
Tavarez got rocked JUST slightly less hard than Johnson, but the Sox pen found a way to lose thanks to combined crap efforts from Hansen and Breslow. To top things off, Wily Mo managed to hurt himself in the 9th inning. Wow, am I glad I didn’t stick around to see this one. It would have been brutal for my already bloodied and ravaged soul. Dodged a bullet.
Tomorrow is another endurance test. Again with the day/night double header? Why must we face these trials? Lucky for me I share this duty with Eric. As a special treat, he will be in attendance behind enemy lines to view the same spectacle I witnessed. Why do we do this you ask? Why do we subject ourselves to this torture? Because we’re SOX NATION. And besides…. We got no place else to go! GO SOX (have fun Eric).
Friday, September 15, 2006
Boston Red Sox 6, Baltimore Orioles 5
Quick summary: Red Sox offense > Baltimore bullpen < Red Sox bullpen > Baltimore starter Adam Loewen < Red Sox starter Lenny DiNardo. You follow all that? Basically, Lenny DiNardo is the weakest link, but the bats triumph in the end and another series ends with a win. Fun fact: playing Baltimore this year is fun, even when the games don’t count.
But let’s talk about what really seems to matter to the people these days: who’s going to be coming back to the team next year. Robin has some ideas, some of which seem quite foolish to the normal, logical person that he laid forth yesterday for all to see and for DC to mock. Now it’s my turn. I’m basing the list of free agents off of this handy tool I found at mlb4u.com, which seems to be pretty trustworthy. So, here goes (and make sure to put your own thoughts on the matter in the comments section):
- Keith Foulke: You want Paps in the rotation next year? You need people in the bullpen. I’m not saying Foulke is going to be closing again in 2007, but there’s only so many people you can get rid of before you’re understaffed, even with Boston’s farm system.
- Alex Gonzalez: Sure, his hitting isn’t so great, but that’s one heck of a glove out there – and one not easily replaced. The only other good option of the market this year is Julio Lugo and I think the Dodgers will probably want to hold on to him.
- Gabe Kapler: A Sox game without the Hebrew Hammer on the bench is like a day without sunshine or a nuclear assault without the radiation. One of the happiest days of the 2005 season was the day Kapler came back to the bench from Japan and by God, he should be on that bench in 2007.
- Mark Loretta: You can’t get rid of the Pro, part 2! This shouldn’t even be a matter of discussion.
- Doug Mirabelli: Timmy Knuckles will be a Red Sox until he retires, he gets sick of Boston or someone in the Front Office pulls a dick move and doesn’t renew his yearly option. I think we’ve seen what happens when someone else tries to catch Tim Wakefield.
- Tim Wakefield: See Doug Mirabelli.
- Alex Cora: It’s been a good two years, Alex “Don’t Call Me Joey” Cora. You’ve had some clutch hits, stolen some bases and generally done a good job as a utility infielder. However, Pedroia’s here to stay and although he’s probably not ready for the primetime at second base, he can fill your role quite well and for cheaper.
- Mike Holtz: You, Richard Hurtz and Michael Hunt should start a band together. Get it? Get it?
- Kevin Jarvis: A.k.a. stopgap pitcher. ‘nough said.
- Javy Lopez: Wait, I thought they released you. Also, your agent’s name is Chuck Berry, which is probably the funniest thing I’ve seen all day. Johnny B. Goode, but for the Sox, Javy B. Terrible, so even if you’d stuck around I don’t think you’d be coming back in 2007.
- Trot Nixon: It’s been a good long run, but I think we all knew your time in Boston was up when the Sox traded for Wily Mo this Spring.
- J.T. Snow: Are you even playing baseball anymore?
- Mike Timlin: Will Ted Nugent be playing your retirement party?
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Boston Red Sox 0, Baltimore Orioles 4
Welcome back Tim Wakefield. The place is just like you left it. No runs for you to worry about, more injuries than you could shake a broken rib at, and big losses to under .500 teams. Yeah the unearned runs are new… but I think they really bring the room together.
Bedard was unstoppable. Mowing down sox hitters like a scythe through so much wheat. Wait… no… more like a farmhand digging crap out of the stables. That works better. Conversely (or concavely?) Wake wasn’t too sharp on his first day back (10 hits in 5 innings) and the defense wasn’t helping him any. Gonzo and Belli helped put a bad game into a new realm of awful.
Days like this makes you want to think about the future. What will next year hold? In the last post I commented about how I don’t think some folks are going to be back. I don’t think everyone agreed, but I think I can make some compelling cases.
Timlin: Over the hill? More like OLD as the hills. The WBC may have put the coffin in the ground, but the nails were already pounded in.
Clement: Will ONLY be around if they can’t find a sucker to take him. Picking him up was the worst decision since Custer said “I ain’t scared a no Injun”. Come on, you telling me he wouldn’t look good in a Royals uniform?
Foulke: Depends on his health and the money, but I’m thinking both will be too complicated to deal with. I loved you in 2004. Don’t look at me like that. Let’s move on.
Loretta: Maybe. He’s preformed great in the 2 slot and is a wiz on defense, but Pedroia is ready and needs to start some time. Besides Loretta won’t go for another 1 year deal. It’s about bucks people.
Trot: The ship has sailed on this dirtdog. Wily Mo is primed to take his spot in the outfield and the lineup. Godspeed wherever you may end up Trotski.
Gonzo and Cora: Meh… they both can’t hit, both CAN field and both are primed to be replaced by a knee-jerk reaction trade or signing. I bet one OR the other is wearing different laundry next year. Besides, you can’t have 2 guys in the infield with the same first name. That’s just confusing.
Lowell: Had a great year (MUCH better than advertised) but what can we expect for a guy as old as he is and one year removed from one of the WORST performances ever? I am thinking the front office dangles him and the last year of his contract as trade bait.
Keep in mind that this isn’t what I WANT to happen, but what I think WILL happen. How will they replace the entire infield? Beats me. Trades? Calling up the young guys? Who knows? I just think these guys are expendable or already gone… they just haven’t been told yet. Feel free to tell me how crazy I am.
Back to the matter at hand, let’s end this series with O’s on a good note. DiNards is back (but I bet he won’t be next year) and is going to TRY and not suck in the finale. Good luck. Go Sox.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Boston Red Sox 6, Baltimore Orioles 5
Except for the hiccup in the ninth inning (Robin called me before Javier Lopez at last recorded the final out and I asked him if he was hyperventilating), I do so love games against the Orioles. Boston’s playoff hopes may be just games away from complete elimination, the rotation’s success may be pinned on three guys who weren’t even on the radar for starting games in April, the bullpen may be a hit-or-miss affair, one guy might have frickin’ cancer (which still boggles my mind) and Boston might have a terrible record against the Kansas City Royals of all teams, but at least we still have Baltimore. And by God, we better still have Baltimore by the end of this series, or I’ll only have Papi and the 50 home run record to keep me from committing ritual baseball suicide.
You know what we don’t have, though? A consistent Mike Timlin. Tonight the old hunter was responsible for Baltimore’s final four runs, all scored in the ninth inning, mainly as part of a three run blast by Ramon Hernandez. Robin wants me to write an epitaph because, like Fredo, Timlin is dead to him, but the stats, while they don’t show the guy who started out in April (after starting out in March for Team USA), don’t exactly write him off either – four runs in about 11 innings since August 23, with about 1.5 hits surrendered per outing.
Timlin brings another point to mind: as much as I loved the World Baseball Classic, it does seem to have taken a bit out of the players who played in it. I don’t have the statistics in front of me (maybe someone out there has done an analysis already?), but anecdotally it seems like every major league who played for his country this year hit the hard part of the stretch a bit more worn-out than usual. Do the Sox have a healthy Varitek, a sharper Timlin, a Papi without heart problems if those players had not gone WBC? Who knows for sure, but it’s certainly a handy conspiracy theory to hang the hat on.
Tomorrow night, Wake’s back! Coming off the DL for Game 2, Wakefield’s facing Erik Bedard, who’s got the double honor of being the Orioles’ best pitcher and looking absolutely nothing like his player photo. Hopefully Timmy’s issue with no run support vanished with his DL stint and we can look forward to a little win streak. GO SOX!!!
Monday, September 11, 2006
Boston Red Sox 9, Kansas City Royals 3
While most of Boston was watching a different team win their game on a safety (can you freaking believe that?) the Red Sox were desperately trying not to be embarrassed by the worst team in the AL for the second time this season. Our salvation rested in the pox marked hands of Julian “I don’t tip my hat for Bitches” Tavarez. In a related note, rumor has it they now spike Fenway beers with valium. Watching a game through clenched fingers and hoping your pitcher doesn’t kill anyone can almost be bearable if you got something to take the edge off. Sweet chemical release.
Luckily the offense came through on this reliever with a heavy showing. Lead by Ortiz (48th HR, 3 BB, 3 runs and 2 RBI) the bats made it so people around New England could open the sports page on Monday and not immediately skip to the football section. And yet, it’s hard to feel good about being 4 and 5 on the year against the Royals. Those are figures you want to file under “suppressed memories”.
Off the field, some other tidbits popped up this weekend. On a serious note, some fine Sox fans started The Lester Project that sells bracelets and donates the money to the Jimmy Fund in Jon Lester’s name. Cool thing guys.
And on a totally not serious and goddamn that’s geeky note, Schilling and Todd McFarlane (of Image comics fame) have started a video game company called Green Monster Games. Yeah… there are just no words to describe this one.
Orange birds up next. Go get em Gabbo. GO SOX.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Boston Red Sox 4, Kansas City Royals 10
What else is there to say? If your bullpen can’t hold back the Royals and you give up 6 runs in the 12th inning, if every game in September seems like a roll of the dice and they’re not even close to loaded on your side, if things are starting to give you (me?) flashbacks to 2003 but without the big lift at the end, maybe things aren’t going to happen.
About a year ago I called 2005 the Theo Epstein Experiment; he had a world championship and the love of Red Sox fans everywhere under his belt and it was time to start playing around with the composition of the team to simultaneously prove his ability to build a winning team with unusual parts and save his team owners some money, to get a return on their investment. My statement about the experiment failing was clearly a bit premature; 2005 was just the start, a point underscored by Theo’s press conference at the end of last month. Nick Cafardo’s article this morning was as much a post-mortem about this year’s failures as it was a summary of last night’s game, but implicit in this article and any other examination of this year is that something’s wrong with the Red Sox organization and its General Manager.
One of the things that bothers me most about the Boston media (and blogs like Boston Dirt Dogs) is the focus on the 162 season year; anyone who pays half a mind to the game of baseball knows how such a viewpoint is ridiculously shortsighted. However, after this year, it’s clear that with a team that’s simultaneously devoted to a long-term rebuilding (and actually committed, not using the term as an excuse for sucking) and forced to play parts of that rebuilt team before they’re really ready to play, even looking at one season isn’t enough of a long view. It’s something to keep in mind when the off-season really starts and every armchair GM in the country starts wondering about resigning Loretta and Gonzo, about what to do with Pedroia, about whether Josh Beckett will ever really use his head to pitch, about the composition of the bullpen next year and decides that maybe Theo Epstein doesn’t really know what he’s doing.
Final game of the series this afternoon, Tavarez versus Mark “I’m an All-Star” Redman. Let’s try to avoid another sweep to the Royals, ok? GO SOX!!!
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Boston Red Sox 9, Kansas City Royals 10
This is how you DON’T make it into the playoffs. This is a perfect example of how you make a fan base crazy and quit on you. This season is circling the toilet bowl and the bullpen is jiggling the handle. Brutal. Timlin is OLD and done. I would not be surprised to see him in another uniform next season (I’m thinking Wal-Mart or UPS).
I also won’t be surprised if Ortiz goes on the DL with a sore back… cause he is CARRYING this team. He was a home run away from the cycle and had 4 RBI including the 2 go ahead runs in the 8th. But they couldn’t hold it… and now Timlin owes him a beer. Damn I miss you Papelbon.
This is getting old. Can they PLEASE not get swept by the Royals again? Is that too much to ask? Go Sox.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
I’ll admit: when I first saw a description for Howard Camerik’s The Curse of Carl Mays, I was a bit skeptical, especially when I saw the book involved the 1986 World Series, the subject of that flop-written-all-over-it movie from last year, Game 6. Successful Boston mayor has baseball dreams left over from his aborted playing days, blames the 68 year World Series win drought on an ornery Red Sox pitcher (Carl Mays, a headhunter who supposedly learned his malicious ways from a Red Sox manager, sold by the Sox to the Yankees in 1919 and then went on to accidentally kill a player by hitting him in the head), plays for a senior league charity game in Yankee Stadium the day of Game 6, gets hit in the head Matt Clement style and then strange cosmic events occur? I tried describing the concept to Robin after I started reading the book (and had decided I liked the ways things were going) and it still didn’t come off well; Robin looked at me like I was nuts.
However, odd concept aside, once I started reading I found myself drawn in very, very quickly. Camerik is writing historical fiction, something I’ve always liked when well done and The Curse of Carl Mays is a great example of the genre for two reasons:
- Research: everything in Camerik’s book, from the layout of the Polo Grounds in 1920 to the political views of Bill Lee to the names of minor league baseball players with peripheral interest to the plot is meticulously researched, something that’s vital to any good piece of historical fiction, where attention to detail is very, very important. In the case of a book like The Curse of Carl Mays, where the main character (Boston mayor Pat McCarvill) is a fictional character inserted into highly documented situations like mayor of Boston and member of various minor and major league baseball teams, this amount of research is absolutely vital to making the plot work at all.
- Description: going along with the attention to detail in The Curse of Carl Mays is a good deal of description for characters, places and events, which help the reader to visualize exactly what’s going on. Description is certainly helpful in any piece of fiction, but it’s even more important when you’re writing about the past.
Another laudable element of Camerik’s tale is his use of flashbacks to tell the story of Pat McCarvill, both before and after the accident at the charity game that is the center point of the story. Doing so actually makes the whole book easier to digest than if Camerik had written everything in a linear fashion, as you have a few moments to switch back to the tense situation of the present (Game 6 of the 1986 World Series) before embarking on another flashback that fills in another vital detail of McCarvill’s life.
The one area I had a bit of a problem swallowing was the concept of the time traveling ambulance that changes the whole course of the story (yes, there’s a time traveling ambulance and yes, it’s actually vital to how things go down, so stop shaking your head like you’re losing faith in this book – it’s actually really good). To be honest, though, it’s not the concept of time travel itself that bothers me; I think the issue here is that Camerik has done such a good job establishing a reality in the first half of the book that changing that reality so drastically is a bit jarring.
On the whole though, if you’re looking for an exciting story about baseball, the Red Sox and more importantly, being a Red Sox fan, you can’t go wrong checking out Howard Camerik’s The Curse of Carl Mays.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Boston Red Sox 1, Chicago White Sox 8
Damn you, Jose Contreras. Damn you straight back to the hell from which you emerged when you went to Chicago and suddenly learned how to pitch again. Back in the day, when you were a Yankee, facing you was like facing one of those blow up clowns with the weighted bottom, the one you can beat on and beat on and even though it keeps coming back for more, you know you’re on top because you beat that things up, man. But not today. No, today you went eight innings, gave up four hits and a solo shot to Coco Crisp. The best thing the Sox managed to string together against you was a single and a walk in the first…and then you got Papi to fly out and struck out the next five batters. You were ridiculous, you were the opposite of Kyle Snyder’s day and you broke up our sweep attempt. We needed this, Jose. For the good of the Nation, you might have followed history, followed your performance this second half and bit the bullet.
And you, the Chicago offense. What the heck, guys? You absolutely bite it for two games against two pitchers who have no businesses shutting you down and today…well, not so much. Starting with Jim Thome going four for four and finishing 8 runs and 6 pitchers later, tonight was definitely your night and my aspirations be damned. I’m very disappointed, guys. Very disappointed. I thought we had an understanding and you leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth as you flee gleefully off to wherever it is you’re going next, trying to get into the playoffs yourself.
Anywho, day off tomorrow. Whatever will you do? Well, don’t worry: we’ll have a special treat for you, like we’ve been doing over the past few months. Just remember: it’s because we love you, very, very much and want you to be happy. Or we just want the page views. Oh and congratulations Anibal Sanchez. I’ll ignore the fact that you were Red Sox property at the start of the year, because we know these sort of things don’t happen in the AL East. GO SOX!!!
Boston Red Sox 1, Chicago White Sox 0
Ok, so Papi didn’t wield the BIG bat tonight (it was just good to see him) and maybe the rejuvenated lineup didn’t have the best night (3 hits), but somebody stepped up when they were needed:
Yes I am talking about Kason “Gabo” Gabbard and his amazing arrays of double plays!
Great night from Gabo and Timlin (combined 4 hitter) and that one run Crisp batted in during the 4th inning held up so I don’t have to make any more empty threats. Life is good.
Along with this win there is a lot of other Sox news coming out this week. Some I care about… some… not so much.
Care: Papi’s return. Thank you lord.
Don’t Care: Trot’s back. Yeah he scored the run today, but isn’t he already packed to leave?
Care: Papelbon JUST has a strained shoulder. The savior may yet rise again.
Don’t Care: Tavarez didn’t tip his cap. Ok… so? He’s crazy! I’m glad he didn’t stab anyone.
Care: Schilling will miss more starts. More tears and fears.
Don’t Care: Manny could be touch and go. Is this mentally or physically?
Care: Called Hansen back up. Prove yourself kid.
Don’t Care: Van Buren DFA’ed. Move yourself (and your 18+ ERA) kid.
Ok enough apathy and sympathy. Beyond my rage/sadness/craziness about this past month I do think there is a chance (however slim… you know… real slim) that the Sox can make the playoffs. Man that looks crazy when you write it down, but I heard somewhere that we should “Keep the Faith”. I think it was a fortune cookie.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Suddenly everything stops. People stop gambling, all the side fights stop, the bar tender looks up and stops serving and people stare slack jawed. But what really gets everyones attention (and it tells you that something badass is about to go down) is when music cuts out because the piano player is stunned and quits playing.
Well... The piano player just stopped playing.
Papi is back.
Game 137: Boston Red Sox 1, Toronto Blue Jays 6
Game 138: Boston Red Sox 3, Chicago White Sox 2
Robin’s response to yesterday’s game: “it’s not apathy…what’s you call it when you just don’t care? Oh, that’s right. That is apathy.” Anyway, that’s all we’ll say about game 137.
Tonight though, that’s something worth talking about. Did anyone think before tonight that Julian Tavarez, one half of the now disbanded Wonder Twins, would get a standing ovation in Boston? I mean, maybe before the season started (although I seem to recall Robin muttering curses about Tavarez back in March and it wasn’t like he was so impressive against Boston in 2004), but certainly not since late April. But there he was tonight, doing a spot start for Curt Schilling, throwing out of his mind, yelling at his infielders to throw to the bases where they were, in fact, already throwing and in general having a great time. It was something to behold, especially from a guy who’s had, at best, a mixed bag year with the Sox. Ok, I’m being kind. There were many times this year I wanted to kill Tavarez with my bare hands, as he gave up the one run he couldn’t give up. But tonight…well, tonight it was beautiful.
Plus, we had something close to a normal lineup tonight. Not close enough to get the opportunities we could have had off of lucky Jon Garland, but good enough to knock in the first run in the sixth when a timely Nixon (!) RBI single drove in Youkilis after a double play nearly killed another rally. And good enough to drive in the tying run in the ninth when Lowell hit double number 40 of the year, scoring the intentionally-walked Manny. Oh and, just to cap it off, good enough for Carlos Pena (who hasn’t learned the Big Papi trick of flipping off your helmet before you get to the plate to avoid a concussion of joy) of all people to come in as a replacement for Kevin Youkilis in the top of the tenth and then lead off the bottom of the tenth with a solo shot to right, ending the game. It was surreal, it was magical, it was a pretty sweet way to end Labor Day weekend. Sure, we’re nine games back of New York in the AL East and six games back of Minnesota in the Wild Card. But as Varitek told the press in a conference before the game, Tavarez pointed out that it’s only six games…and anything can happen. For some reason, I still believe.
Tomorrow night, Javier Vasquez versus Kason Gabbard, who you remember from such appearances as, “I’m still looking for my first major league victory” and “I’d really like to record a win, please.” GO (Red) SOX!!!
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Boston Red Sox 1, Toronto Blue Jays 5
Writing about games like this one is always pretty frustrating because overall, you can’t really assign blame: Burnett pitched as expected when the Jays grabbed him last winter and shut down the Boston bats in the process. What was pleasantly surprising was Kevin Jarvis, who pulled a five inning, 97 pitch, three run effort out of nowhere (seriously; the guy given up a less than impressive 14 runs in about 7 innings), followed up by an equally strong inning and two thirds by the now-health Lenny DiNardo. Sure, Jarvis got the loss, but when the heart of your order is Loretta, Youkilis, Lowell and Hinske, not scoring many runs isn’t surprising.
But partial relief is right around the corner: Gonzalez, Nixon and Varitek completed their rehab assignments yesterday and should be available to play today, although only Gonzo will make the start. Still, with all of the terrible things that have happened to Boston over the past month, getting anyone back is huge. Plus, Papi is feeling good and pushing to come back early next week, even if his doctors are making noises like they think he’s crazy to want to play. And even if Tavarez is probably going to start for Schilling tomorrow, even if Papelbon is going to spend his labor day getting an MRI, even if the Sox will spend the rest of the season as a spoiler to the various American League contenders, the dark month of August is starting to fade away. Or so I hope.
Later this afternoon, Beckett goes for win number 15 and the series win against the tricky Gustavo Chacin. We’ll see what sort of lineup ends up fighting this one out today for Boston. GO SOX!!!
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Boston Red Sox 2, Toronto Blue Jays 1
On almost any other day after a Sox win, especially one behind a strong performance by a nobody (Snyder), I would be jumping for joy and saying that there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. However, it seems the tunnel has been bricked up from both ends. Sox fans will slowly waste away in this de-facto tomb, never seeing the light of day, succumbing to loss and loneliness and eventually passing on to a place that isn’t any better. From there the metaphor gets depressing.
Papelbon left in the 9th with a shoulder injury. What was ONCE thought to be only a strain might now be rotator cuff problems. As you know, Lester has cancer and may pitch again in a couple years if he gets better. Oh, and Schilling is having shoulder troubles and will miss HIS next start. All of this on top of the laundry list of injuries that has TANKED the Red Sox 2006 season. After pouring over these facts, I can only come to one conclusion:
The Red Sox have pissed off some old GYPSY and now the team is dying under her dark voodoo magic.
I mean what else could possibly explain all this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! This is like some a quickly and poorly written Steven King novel… just END ALREADY! I can’t take the horror and the pain anymore. It has gotten to the point where I want the season to end so the players can go home and be with their families before MORE awful things befall them.
So tonight some 37 year old wash up named Jarvis is going to be pitching for the Red Sox. If things keep going this way, he will be killed in the 5th inning when an anvil falls on his head.
GO (into the witness protection program) SOX!
Friday, September 01, 2006
Speedy recovery, Jon...I hope this lymphoma doesn't slow you down.
Boston Red Sox 6, Toronto Blue Jays 4
What did I say about losing streaks coming in sixes? While I was out celebrating my wife and her two coworkers saving their jobs (and the school they work for) by working their tails off over the past few weeks, eating so many buffalo wings that I woke up in the middle of the night because my stomach had decided it was packing up and moving out of my body because it was tired of the abuse, the Sox were having a celebration of their own. Heck, even Alex Rios was celebrating, even though he’s on the wrong team: he tipped the ball into the right field seats to give Alex Cora his first home run since August 15, 2005.
By the way, as a sidebar: watching the replay of that home run, it looks like the Larry Bird versus Michael Jordan Big Mac ad: off the bat, off of Rios’ glove, off Rios’ hand, nothing but right field box. I’m not sure what’s funnier about the home run: Alex Cora’s double take when he finds out what happened or Don Orsillo’s on air reaction (“that’ll…get out of here, it’s a home run!”).
All in all, an excellent ending to a terrible August for the hometown team: Lowell hit a three run bomb in the first to break things open against the always deadly Doc Halladay, Cora’s home run put the Sox on top for good, Pedroia and Kapler made excellent defensive snags that kept the Jays from coming back in the late running, the Sox frickin’ won, Papi’s out of the hospital and might be coming back this weekend and Lester has enlarged lymph nodes and nothing more (and, according to Tito, is understandably pissed about Massaroti bringing up the Big C in his article yesterday).
The front office also officially turned Boston from contender into spoiler (after the losses to the Yankees and the teams on the West Coast did the same thing unofficially) by trading David Wells to the Padres for a player to be named later, giving Wells a shot to push his hometown team into the playoffs. Rumor has it that the player to be named is catching prospect George Kottaras, who’s apparently got a good glove – good thing, because he hasn’t exactly been tearing things up in Triple A. Thus ends the era of the Boomer, which is a little sad. No more jokes about eating, or being fat and he was the only guy left on the team who you could really make drinking jokes about, too. Still, getting something for Wells was a good move – Boston’s not going anywhere in 2006 and this way we have something for the future.
Tonight, Kyle Snyder faces lame duck Ted Lilly, going for (dare we hope for it) another win. Lilly’s actually been hittable against Boston this year, so I’m not ready to write another game off quite yet. GO SOX!!!