Posts Tagged ‘red sox’

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The Impermanence of Baseball

November 13, 2011

It has been reported that Jonathan Papelbon will end his six-year stint with the Red Sox and head to the Phillies. I want to thank him for his excellent work, especially ensuring leads for the ’07 World Series champs, and wish him the best. I am glad the Red Sox understand that closing is not usually a position worthy of tons of cash–the skill set is easily replicable, and as it’s been said before, getting three outs just isn’t that hard (was it Cleveland’s Doug Jones who admitted that?). The Sox will move up Daniel Bard from the set-up role, and he’ll provide the same kind of psychological safety net for the next Boston manager.

Papelbon’s exit, and the current vacancy in the Sox’s manager’s office, highlight a deeper truth about baseball: its impermanence. I’ve been a fan of this team for over four decades, and it’s easy to think of the Sox as a single entity. Same ballpark for a century, almost no change in the uniform (the current bright-red jersey reminds me of the shift to the two-tone cap in the ’70s), and incremental changes to the roster–all give the illusion that the Sox are an unchanging institution. But it isn’t. The roster doesn’t stay the same for a month, let alone a year. The uniforms are made of different materials, the ballpark gets renovations and repairs every year, and the front office personnel changes too. I am especially aware of this impermanence this winter, as GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona have left the Sox. Theo, with his deep analytical understanding of the game, and Francona, with his firm-but-friendly style and his apparent awareness that the manager’s chief role is to put the best players out there and let them play, have given me a false sense of security. I felt like, in their hands (particularly Theo’s), the team would keep finding good players, develop them, and give them a chance to succeed in Boston. My certainty is now gone. As Jerry Seinfeld said, if you’re a baseball fan you’re actually just rooting for the laundry.

This idea of impermanence is vital to Buddhism. As we look deeper into our experiences, we see that permanence is illusory. My thoughts come and go; the cells of my body are replaced regularly; my personality can show different sides at a moment’s notice; and my desires and interests can be just as fleeting. So it is with the world around me: my family, my home, my neighborhood, can look the same on the surface while they are changing just as frequently as I am.

Good luck to Theo and Pap. Hope you find a job, Tito. Thanks for reminding me that nothing stays the same–even the team my grandfather helped me learn to love.

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Get well, Yaz!

August 20, 2008

As a Polish-American kid growing up in New England, I idolized Carl Yastrzemski (I could spell his name just now without having to look it up!). He was the best hitter on some pretty average Red Sox teams, but also won the Triple Crown and led the previously hapless Sox to the 1967 AL pennant. No one has won the Triple Crown since. He played in another World Series in 1975, but was unfairly blamed for the team's failures in between. I remember hearing fans boo him in Fenway in the early 70s–I guess he was supposed to win the Triple Crown every year.

But he was widely adored in Red Sox Nation during the last years of his career–I remember the Patriots showing his at-bats on their video board during his last game in 1983–and has assumed his rightful spot in the Sox eternal constellation of stars, just below Ted Williams. My parents gave me a Yaz autographed baseball for Christmas a few years ago and it is one of my most treasured posessions.

Yesterday Yaz had triple bypass surgery. He is almost 69–just a year older than my mom. I wish him a full and speedy recovery.

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Why I Don’t Like Watching National Baseball Broadcasts

October 22, 2007

OK, I admit I'm a bit edgy, because the Red Sox and Indians are about to play Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. Although I won't be that upset if the Sox lose, because my great friend Jeff Blair is a huge Indians fan and I'd like to have him experience his team winning a World Series (as I got to in 2004), I have to admit that I am not feeling as charitable tonight.

National baseball broadcasts drive me nuts because the announcers talk as if most of the people watching have not heard of baseball. They also say lots of stupid things. I'll update this list as the night goes on.

  • In the pre-game, in-studio analyst Kevin Kennedy described Cleveland's catcher, Victor Martinez, as a "switch-hitter who bats from both sides." Not to be confused with those switch-hitters who only bat right.
  • Pre-game, play-by-play man Joe Buck: "Game 7 of the LCS … for excitement in sports, it doesn't get any better than this." Really? Game 7 of the World Series wouldn't be more exciting? Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals?
  • Top of the first, Buck and color guy Tim McCarver: Buck: "Two nations hanging on each pitch: Red Sox Nation and Japan. 13 hours ahead." McCarver: "Monday morning rush hour in Tokyo; 9:30 am." In case you weren't sure how to add 13 hours to the current time. The Sox starter is from Japan, hence the lesson in sychronizing your watches.
  • Bottom first, Buck: "Beckett is in the bullpen for the Red Sox. … Beckett is in the dugout." So where is he?
  • Bottom second: Beckett shown walking to dugout.
  • Top fifth. "Timlin is getting loose, but it is Okajima who is warming up." The contrast is … ?
  • Top seventh. Dugout lurker Chris Myers: "I don't know if you can draw offense from the way your pitcher is going …." This is a common myth of "baseball people," Chris. You can't.
  • Top 8th, Buck (he does this a lot): "And the Indians come right back, getting their lead-off guy on." Down three with six outs to go, getting a guy on first is not coming right back. Now if the next guy hits a dinger, they've come right back.

OK, that's not such a bad night–but I was distracted by talking with my family and IMing with my dejected buddy Jeff.The announcers say some good things, but too often they say things just to fill the air.Hey, who cares, right? Now it's Sox and Rox for the whole shebang.

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Saw Sox Spank Braves

June 25, 2007

I am a Taurus, grounded, which means I don't like doing things on the spur of the moment. So when my brother Matt called on Saturday and said, "Let's meet in Atlanta to watch the Red Sox play the Braves," all I could think of were the reasons not to. But, spurred on by my family and by my desire to hang out with Matt, I said I'd do it. So I spent 6 hours driving to Atlanta Tuesday, and another six back on Wednesday, to watch 3 hours or so of baseball. The result–totally worth it.


My brother Tom, despite living in Vegas now, was able to score us some great seats behind home plate–but far enough back that when the game was briefly delayed by rain we didn't have to move. Matt and I were joined by my cousin's husband Dave and my Vervago colleague Lee. They were a great group to pass an evening with. The crowd was almost half Sox fans, and we went home happy with a 4-0 win. Matt and I (and dozens of other Sox fans) stayed at a Holiday Inn walking distance from the park.

Turner Field is a gorgeous park, and I enjoyed my evening there. But visits to other parks almost always reveal what is so special about Fenway. On our way into Turner the ticket-taker says, "Welcome to a real park," to which I replied that we (the Sox) invented real parks. I mean, does he think that his retro-new park, which is starting to look like the other parks of its generation, is somehow more original than Fenway, one of the parks (along with Wrigley) all these retro-new parks are trying to emulate?

Then there is the noise. There is no trust that the fans sitting in the stands are going to be entertained by the actual competitive event they supposedly bought a ticket for. So instead we get bombarded with video board messages and audio–music, that obnoxious mechanical hand-clapping, etc–every moment there's not a pitch being thrown. I can tolerate this most of the time–even my beloved Carolina Hurricanes do this, and hockey has much more going on to capture one's attention than baseball does–but at Turner Field it was really loud, so that we could really only talk to one another when the game was going on!

But the last straw for me was Coco Crisp's diving shoestring catch of a line drive–which the Braves' video crew found unworthy of a repeat showing. Red Sox fans are great baseball fans, and not only would, say, Andruw Jones making the same catch get replays at Fenway, the locals would also applaud the great play. This idea that the hometown fans can only appreciate good things by their nine, while any evidence of competence by the visitors may make them reconsider another visit to the ballyard, is ridiculous. I understand that today's fans, with short attention spans, needs lots of stimulation to stay interested, but please trust that the beauty of the game itself can generate some of that stimulation.

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