I happened to be in Denver last Saturday and found my way to Coors Field:
It’s a beautiful place. The Rockies were playing the Mets, and the batters on both teams were having fun: the final score was 12-11 Rockies. (The Rockies’ home batting average is something like 40 points higher than that of any other team.)
Here are some differences from Fenway Park:
I saw a bunch of girls wearing prom dresses — what’s up with that?
There were incessant contests between innings — very annoying.
The Rockies manager pulled a double switch. The DH is OK, but figuring out the strategy around pitchers batting is one of the joys of baseball.
Fenway Park doesn’t have vegetation in the outfield:
Here was the scene after a Rockies grand slam:
There was a bit of a Boston flavor to the game: the Rockies starter was ex-Red Sox Franklin Morales, who was terrible. And the Mets’ middle reliever was old friend Dice-K Matsuzaka, the most annoying pitcher who ever lived. Luckily, he didn’t have one of his four-walk, three-strikeout, 40-pitch innings that made you want to swear off baseball forever. Maybe middle relief is where he belongs.
Still, there’s precious little reason to think the Red Sox are going to create much excitement this season. Mike Napoli and Ryan Dempster and Jonny Gomes may be good players and good guys in the locker room, but they aren’t going to sell tickets and make you turn on NESN.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was going to create the excitement. Except that Jackie played a bit at the start of the season and proved that he wasn’t quite ready for prime time. (Oddly, I was right about the new players not selling tickets — the team rarely sold out Fenway.)
Anyway, it’s nice for a championship to come out of nowhere. And it’s nice to feel that that the ghosts of the past have been completely exorcised. When Farrell came out to talk to Lackey in the seventh inning and left him in, my Twitter feed exploded with references to Grady Little. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you haven’t been a Red Sox fan for long enough.) But nothing bad happened, the Red Sox won, and the Duck Boats ride again.
Time to change out my header image and return to our regular programming.
I would think that, the older I get, the more blasé I would become about the World Series and the Superbowl and all the other sports playoffs. It’s only a game. And it has nothing to do with me. But I find that the games are getting harder and harder for me to watch. Because the stakes are so high for the players. And they are people too.
I blame 1986. People in my neck of the woods remember the 1986 baseball playoffs mainly for the Bill Buckner error in Game 6 of the World Series. Here’s a guy who had an illustrious career ruined because he had a bad back and couldn’t make a routine play when it mattered the most, so the Red Sox had to wait another 18 years to win the World Series. That’s bad enough. But then there’s Donnie Moore. In the ALCS, the Angels were within one strike of defeating the Red Sox and advancing to their first World Series. And then:
The pitch…To left field and deep, and Downing goes back, AND IT’S GONE! Unbelievable! Astonishing! Anaheim Stadium was one strike away from turning into Fantasyland! The Red Sox lead 6-5! You’re looking at one for the ages here. The Red Sox get four runs in the ninth on a pair of two-run homers by Don Baylor and Dave Henderson. —Al Michaels, ABC-TV
Donnie Moore, an All Star that year, made that pitch. He stayed in the game and eventually lost on a Henderson sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th. I remember watching that game. What a thrill! The Red Sox then went on to win two more games back at Fenway and advanced to the ill-fated World Series.
Moore was never the same pitcher after that. Angels fans booed him every time he took the field. Three years later, out of baseball after 14 years in the Major Leagues, he shot his wife in front of his children and then killed himself.
This is serious stuff. I no longer remember the names of the Tiger relief pitchers who threw the pitches that Ortiz and Victorino hit for the grand slams in the ALCS. I just hope those pitchers survive to enjoy the kind of reception that Bill Buckner had on Red Sox opening day in 2008:
Here is Gillette Stadium in Foxboro at around 7:30:
Here is Fenway Park in Boston about four hours later:
A guy at work has season’s tickets for both the Red Sox and the Patriots. He went to the Saturday night game where the Red Sox managed just one hit, and he left the Patriots game before Brady’s spectacular pass. And he gave away his tickets to the now legendary Big Papi Grand Slam game. That’s life . . .
I forgot. But anyway, here we are, in a photo taken by the Cassini spacecraft from the neighborhood of Saturn’s rings — 898 million miles away. Makes you realize that the Red Sox loss tonight really wasn’t that big a deal. (Just kidding.)
The Boston Globe recently ran an article about the increasing length of baseball games and what could be done about it. I made some suggestions about ways to improve baseball a while ago. Surprisingly, none of these suggestions have been adopted. The article mentions a good rule they had in the minors for a while that I hadn’t heard of–a strike was called if a batter stepped out of the batter’s box if he hadn’t swung at the previous pitch. Great idea! Nothing came of it. And nothing has come of the existing major league rule that a pitcher has to deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds if there’s no one on base. Why don’t umpires enforce this rule?
Even at its best, baseball is a deliberate game, with far more pauses than action. At two-and-half-hours the game is delightful; at three-and-a-half hours you can only have the game on in the background while you’re doing something else–blogging, for example (Aceves has just walked the bases loaded vs. Tampa).
And then there’s hockey. Bob Ryan of the Globe said the last minute of Game 4 of the Bruins-Penguins series probably took two years off his life, and I have to agree. Hockey has its own problems, but lack of action is generally not one of them.
Let’s see if I can survive the Stanley Cup finals.
Recently the polling group Public Policy Polling (PPP) polled Massachusetts residents about the upcoming senate race, and threw in other random questions while they were at it. PPP found that the disapproval rate for Red Sox manager was 1%, an inconceivably low number. This may change if he keeps saying stuff like this (from today’s Boston Globe) about Jacoby Ellsbury’s base-stealing ability:
It changes the whole complexity. When you’ve got that kind of base-stealing threat at first, the attention is split by the guy on the mound, potential mistakes on location at the plate. We can potentially capitalize on those situations.
The baseball wisdom is unexceptionable; however, the use of “complexity” instead of “complexion” will not win him any fans among language snoots. The Red Sox had better do well against the Yankees this weekend. Red Sox fans, as well as language snoots, are a fickle bunch.