The Mild Card
8.12.04: The Marlins and Angels have won the Series with "backdoor entry", while the Sox have only rare post-season play by any other avenue since its inception, but there is something particularly unsatisfying about groveling for a wild card with this team and it's not even my $120 million.
Certainly, all will be forgiven if a playoff and October white-wash emerges, but looking at it from the investment and return perspective of...say...a billionaire options trader, a finish equivalent or worse than last season seems money poorly spent, with heads to roll in consequence.
Start with the talent brain trust, which added one of the best pitchers and relievers in the game, re-signed one of the best power hitters cheaply, but botched a mega-trade that left bridges burned and ultimately necessitated a trade, further undermining any sense of this team's development relevance.
In that, there are a mere handful of Sox players who actually worked for the club in the minors and while this may be par for the MLB now, i.e. you trade to success, this year's result may again indicate such a temp staff road is also paved with nothing more than good intentions.
The mid-season discovery that the Club lacked gloves, omitting a fix for the still questionable 3-4-5 slots and relief woes, struck me as disingenuous from the molders of this team and possibly worse -- cheap. While it's nice to see double-digit ass-kickings of late and a fire lit under a previous offensive underperformer, whom do you trust to start in game three of any playoff series -- Wake, Lowe or Arroyo? Depending on the day, you could get a no-hitter or softball game.
I see little chance Lowe will be resigned, which may preclude postseason starts should it happen, but that digresses from the view that somebody -- in a suit -- gets whacked for this season if the fund does not show better returns on year.
After all the navel-gazing about ALCS Game 7, was the managerial selection a tremendous step up from Grady or a trump card in placating new acquisitions on the future Fenway house approach?
Close games still are not going the Sox way, which means either strategic, talent or motivational weaknesses or likely all three. Our closer had 43 saves last year, while at this point in August has 18; is this just the nature of how the current team wins or the fact that it is not in a position to win too frequently? Rising E.R.A. for all starters indicate more latitude extended to get the W, but at what cost? Yippee, Wake gives up six bombs and wins, but the decision to keep him out there in a wildcard race, regardless of middle relief woes, boggles the mind. Francona is managing to win player trust, not games, and that is a liberty the Sox do not have.
Similarly, the traders of John Henry's account must continue to execute whether a deadline has passed or not, using the same arbitrage that brought starters and relievers late last year. Just getting to the dance, as noted, is not enough, and the fund managers should expect termination or worse - comparison to their predecessors - if returns are not up on year.
What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted
(adapted from Jimmy Ruffin)
As I walk this land with broken teams
I have visions of many things
Lowe's happiness is just an illusion
Filled with wildness and confusion,
What becomes of the broken-hearted
Iím the shortstop now departed.
Theo I've got to find
Defensive peace of mind
The money tree grows all around
But for me it comes a tumblin' down.
Every day heel aches grow a little stronger
I can't stand this pain much longer
I walk at shortstop
Searching for light
Cub all alone
No Fenway in sight,
Hoping and praying for someone to care
Always moving and going nowhere
What becomes of the broken hearted
With my glove Iím now departed
Theo you've got to find
Defensive peace of mind
I'm searching though I wonít sign now,
But someone look, there's a growing need.
Oh, I am lost, there's no place for beginning,
All that's left is an unhappy ending.
Now what's become of the broken-hearted
With my bat Iíve now departed
Theo I've got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
I'll be searching everyday
Just to find someplace to play.
I'll be looking, Doc fixed me,
Iím worth the millions, Sixty.
Nothings gonna stop me now
I'll find a way somehow
I'll be searching everywhere
No Crying in Baseball
Who smiles through life Ė
except when crossed?
Who knows, or thinks he knows the most?
Who loves good things: baked,
boiled or roast?
7.25.04 - In A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks reminded the ladies that "thereís no crying in baseball." After watching the first two games of the Red Sox Ė Yankees weekend confrontation, it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, "I wish I didnít know now what I didnít know then."
Although some might argue that these games had entertainment value, that exists only in the same sense that NASCAR collisions serve to amuse the patrons. Once again, the Red Sox proved themselves totally incapable of playing professional defense. This weekís atrocities included Johnny Damon staggering around in centerfield, infielders doing soccer imitations on ground balls, and pitchers simulating drunken sailors throwing to bases. Not since Matt Young have such defensive indiscretions appeared at Fenway.
Enough about the results, can plausible causes exist? First, since itís a homestand, that eliminates the most heinous boozing and womanizing rumored so rampant on the road in MLB. Any sensible players would have long adapted the militaryís slogan Ďdonít ask, donít tellí, or remained single, although not celibate in the tradition of the clergy. Just kidding. They can't have exhausted themselves with early tee times, because frankly, the weather hasnít cooperated.
What about some legitimate, logical possibilities? Of course, some terrific new movies have hit the big screen, and with luck, players can catch the late showings. Iíve heard that some players wouldnít go to the movies for fear of damaging their eyesight. Health problems? Canít be that, as Ramiro Mendoza has just come off the DL, and the return of Nomar and Nixon hasnít exactly been nirvana. Aside from bad haircuts, the local nine appear hale, although not hearty.
Maybe itís a management problem. Sox skipper Terry Francona was born April 22, 1959, making him a Taurus. ďTaurus personalities tend to be ruled by their affections.Ē Darn, another players manager. "Taurean people tend to be slow, practical, methodical, and reserved." That sounds like exactly the ticket for robo-organization. Could it be biorhythms? Terryís intellectual biorhythm has mostly been down in July and his Ďmasteryí rhythm is just coming off a low.
Must we consider the most invidious possibilities? There may be no crying in baseball, but gambling certainly exists. No, with the cheese these guys pull down, we need not consider that. Could the Sox fortunes coincide with the stock market? We know about the relationships between skirt lengths and Super Bowl winners and the stock market, but could the stock market somehow be linked to the Sox mediocrity. Herald beat writer Tony Massarotti argued the Sox were like a Fortune 500 company, making a fortune and playing .500. Clearly contemporary players donít have to throw nickels around like manhole covers. I canít picture Manny Ramirez on his cellphone all day long to some Merrill Lynch guy asking about semiconductors.
Gotta listen to the players, Derek Lowe citing Dire Straits,
Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Money for nothin' and chicks for free
Now that ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain't dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb
All of which brings me to my two greatest fears about the Sox. First, Alien Abduction. You must remember the Betty and Barney Hill story. That would explain how the April start vanished when substitutes replaced the originals. At least according to ESPN, I, Pedro does bear a resemblance to I, Robot. We are the closest franchise to the global alien landing zone, Exeter, New Hampshire. Although Iím not aware of an entire team being spirited away, it could happen. Sports precedent exists. Have you taken a look at Sam Cassell?
Of course our biggest concern has to be the simplest. Schilling and Pedro are the alpha and the Omega, as in Schill and Pedro and pray for snow. The bullpen wears thin from constant usage. The Sox have proven for four and a half decades that hitting alone canít get it done, and as they say in court, Ďthe defense rests.í
Blame Francona, blame Theo, blame John Henry, blame the grounds crew. Player accountability doesnít exist. Never has in this town. Probably never will. Theyíre our boys.
The Sox just arenít that good, and if they are, to paraphrase Billy Beane, "if theyíre so good, how come they donít play better."
Can't Take a Joke
7.21.04: Abe looks like someone just woke him up from under a bridge. I can't believe the Red Sox organization would post this picture of this guy... this is embarrassing.
How can we (the fans) "Keep the Faith" with half assed efforts, gangsta getup, and managerial/organizational mis-steps??? What the hell is going on over there?
As a fan, I want to see a sincere effort from all levels of the organization... I'm getting sick and tired of the enabling and listening to the manager and Larry make weak excuses for the $130 MILLION mediocre cry babies.
These guys really need to suck it up and play baseball... crooked dirty hats are not helping any of them play better. How about getting back to the basics and focusing on the fundamentals of the game.
(In fairness Michelle, Abe is legally blind in his left eye, and the tilted cap keeps the glare off his good eye and gives him better peripheral vision.)
"Nothing you could do could change
anything now..." If the New York series and the midseason
break are catalysts for major personnel changes on the Bosox, at
least the heartbreak isn't waiting until autumn this year. After
extra-inning losses in which run production seemed like attempts at
unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions, the team was so adept
at leaving the lonely at third (and other bases) I barely could keep
my eyes on the meter.
A "Killer Instinct", if it ever existed,
has morphed into a "Victim Mentality" with the wait before losing
and recriminations on "Oprah" unbearable. And that is the point.
Even truly mediocre teams that jumped out to April leads in the
early 1980s only to flounder by June created at least the desire to
watch. This squad, with huge payroll and marquee off-season
acquisitions, cannot make a double play (it certainly can hit into
them), cannot win by a run (it certainly can lose by one) and shows
all the gutlessness, poor management and indifference that have
ended seasons of lesser Boston nine.
Calling anyone out runs the risk of
omission, while hacking just for the sake of renovation is not
enlightened policy either. With Nomar, the depths this relationship
has sunk to would only be measured by an idiotic trade that in one
version adds Carlos Delgado; here is a 2003 softball star with bad
wheels joining a team stacked with DHs. Solve the riddle of why this
squad doesn't work, Theo, but don't bullshit us for three months
with occasional homerun fireworks and bandaged wounds. Despite years
of conclusions to the contrary, we are still stupid enough to want
to believe, but taking us for fools will not be tolerated.