baseball


Unless you’ve been in a cave, you know full well that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the second time in four years.

Of course, if you know that the Sox have won the highest honor in the baseball world, you know that there’s been some shakeups in the New York Yankees organization:

  • Joe Torre out
  • Alex Rodriguez gone
  • Joe Girardi hired as manager
  • Don Mattingly
  • Larry Bowa leaving

Before you know it, there will be other changes. Don’t bet on Ron Guidry coaching pitchers next year or even the staple of the Yankees four series titles, Mariano Rivera, even wearing pinstripes in the 2008 season. Add to that Jorge Posada leaving, and you could see a vastly different Yankees roster on April 1.

It’s clear that the Sox ascendency as the best team in the American League has George Steinbrenner and his son Hank in fumes (it has me in fumes and I’m a Mets fan). Therefore, the Steinbrenners, and their henchmen Brian Cashman needed a scapegoat and they got it in Joe Torre. (more…)

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I think the Sox are going to win tonight…Hate to say it.

 

and this guy

and certainly, this guy…

The Mets today won their second game in a row for the first time in nearly two weeks but of course the Phillies pulled it out in extra innings in Washington, D.C. against the Nationals. Freaking Phillies!!! Oh well, if they manage to get into the post season and the Mets pack their bags in early October then that will be because the Phillies have done what good ball clubs do, which is to take advantage of chances and play solid ball, not playing down to the competition. This is a team that really is the one to beat and in my opinion is the National League team of the future. I just hope my Metropolitians can pull it out. We’ll know by this time next week!

I hate to admit it, but I think that the Boston Red Sox are the team on which the smart money should be wagered for a World Series Winner.

Certainly, it’s disappointing to admit that they will be ones celebrating with champagne and beer, perhaps in the clubhouse of a National League ball club, but after all, it’s just baseball, right?

The Curse of the Bambino was lifted in 2004 and perhaps second to only the Chicago Cubs nearly century-long hex, the Yankees could be suffering the misfortunes of an owner who seemed to forget to reward some of his front office staff with their finger jewelry after the club vanquished my favorite team, the New York Mets, in 2000.

Yes, the Curse of the Rings could be true. I believe that their was if not a curse, some bad vibe that Sox fans brought on their team throughout the better part of the last 100 years, due to their persistent negativity, perhaps. Who knows. Or maybe it was just how the cookie crumbled each time that way, when the Sox blew a huge divisional lead in 1978, long before the days of the Divisional Series, Bob Stanley threw gasoline on their seemingly inevitable defeat of the New York Mets in 1986, or when Roger Clemens ran his mouth in the 1990 ALCS or Aaron Boone sent a ball sailing half way to the stars under a Bronx sky in 2003 (perhaps the most exciting game I’ve ever seen).

I just think now that the Yankees torch dimming. Like the Atlanta Braves who failed not only failed win their division last year, but also didn’t make it to the post season, it could be the Yankees who will be for years wanting for a divisional title.

Baseball is a strange game. From where they stand now, the Yankees are seven games out of first place and more than two behind Seattle for the wild card. Certainly if they are to overtake the Red Sox they’d better make it quick because with the first day of September closing in, time is running out.

I not only have to hold my nose and predict the Sox will win the division, but I have to believe that they are the most likely of all teams to win the World Series. They have great pitching with Beckett, Schilling and Matsusaka and a bullpen that is ridiculous (Eric Gagne could be its weakest link). If I was an honest bettor and had to put my team from Flushing up against the Sox, logic would tell me Boston would have the advantage. Last season, a much similar squad trounced the Mets in three straight at Fenway (Bastards! How dare they beat the team I like!)

If I have to take some good out of the Sox winning it all it’s that some good players and a solid manager will get their rings. Certainly, if there was one Red Sox that I didn’t want to see be trounced by Boone it was Tim Wakefield.

I hate to say it, but if I had to put my money on a team, it would be the Sox. It would be nice though if my Mets could meet them in the series and beat them in seven games on the Fenway greens! I guess you gotta believe, but first the Mets have to get there!

I know what they say, if you’re a New York Mets fan you’re supposed to loathe and despise the New York Yankees. It’s expected that if the crosstown Bronx Bombers are playing out in Los Angeles against the Angels, you root, root, root your ass off so that they suffer some type of on-field meltdown or catastrophe: Jason Giambi getting a golden sombrero, Derek Jeter jamming his shoulder sliding into third, A-Rod being emotionally too fragile to drive in the man from third, Mariano Rivera blowing a four-run lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. All these things can be kind of amusing when one is surrounded by obnoxiously over confident Yankees fans, but if it helps out the Boston Red Sox I want no part of it.

I’m going to say in the blogosphere what I’ve been saying to my insipid Yankee-hating, Red Sox fan roommate about his beloved boys from Boston: I will never, never, never root for the Sox over the Bombers so long as I live. That’s a promise.

All grudges are based on something personal, and I will be the first to admit that my hatred of the Boston Red Sox may have some personal foundations. For a while before I moved to Brooklyn (I live in Albany now), I was a college student in Boston and had to endure the constant whining, crying, self-important insistence that by virtue of the fact that the Red Sox hadn’t won the World Series since before radio broadcasts existed I was somehow an ass for not routing for them.

Going to Emerson College for two semesters, a school known for it’s not so manly guys, I was was familiar with the fact that many guys who move to the city to go to school adopt the Sox as their favorite team. They do it for several reasons: A) Their fathers never threw the ball around with them as a kid and it was their first time to really connect to a sports franchise, B) Being in the “Hub” they believe that they must root for the team that is most associated with Boston and C) That by routing for the Red Sox they are pulling for a team that is somehow more genuine, real, and less corrupted than the other profit-driven teams in Major League Baseball, particularly the “Evil Empire” in the Bronx, the New York Yankees.

Certainly, I will never admit to being a New York Yankees fan. For four years I dated a girl who lived on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx and we would have to agree to disagree about which team was more likable in New York. But never during our relationship and subsequent friendship have she and I differed over who we would support should the Yankees make the trip up the Mass Pike to Beantown or the Sox head down the Taconic Parkway to play one another. We were always on the same page: Go Yanks!!!

It disturbs me a bit when I hear fellow Mets fans say that they were happy when the Yankees imploded in the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Sox. Having watched every pitch of the 2003 series in my Bay Ridge apartment and nearly every pitch of the 2004 rematch, I’ll admit that I had a little too much invested in the Sox losing, but I must say that liking the Mets in no way should require one to root against the Yankees arch nemesis on Yawkey Way.

So where does this impervious and peculiar bedfellowship with the Yankees come from, particularly when in recent years the crop of Yankees players with their arrogance and cowardice (Giambi, Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield, Tom Gordon, Carl Pavano) have driven me nuts with a mixture of anger and glee? It comes not from a hatred of Red Sox players or fans, for to take sports that seriously is a little bit frightening. Rather, my dislike of the Boston Red Sox comes from an attitude imbued by Fenway fanatics that theirs is somehow a benevolent team cast unfairly against a heartless, soulless divisional foe that is resembles more of a comic book crime syndicate than a professional sports franchise.

The attitude that New England’s favorite sports team was worthy of a World Championship in a sport that embodies the spirit of capitalism and competition as well as baseball without earning it really bothered me. That spirit was conversely what caused the the Sox to win the Series to fairly and squarely beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Still, doesn’t mean I should ever have rooted for them. And so I didn’t. I never will. Ever. Did I say that already.

I think that a lot of the bitterness that exists from Red Sox towards the Yankees fans has less to do with baseball than it has to do with an alienation over the fact that New York City is a far bigger and influential town than the city of 500,000 on the banks of the Charles River. I’ll never forget being told over and over again by New Englanders at Emerson that New York City sucked, that New Yorkers were rude and arrogant and entitled, just like I’ll never forget during the 2000 World Series against the Yankees walking on Massachusetts Avenue wearing my Mets cap and being approached by guy with a Sox shirt who stopped me to say, “Fuck New York”, before walking away into the bittahness of his life.

(more…)

Anyone who deluded his or herself into the magical belief that by merely shutting their eyes or for that matter shutting off the television, they could somehow prevent baseball’s biggest pariah Barry Bonds from tying Henry Aaron’s all-time homerun record most open them up today and face the ultimate reality: he did it. At 756 homeruns Barry Bonds will become baseball’s all-time leader. The record that stood for more than 30 years, that held by one of the game’s most exciting players will be kapoot, gone forever. Goodbye. Barry may break it today against the SanDiego Padres. He may do it back in San Francisco soon. He may do it on the first day of September. Regardless of when he does it, he’ll certainly do it, and there’s no point in turning your back on the game or turning your satellite dish off to prevent it from happening.

As Hank Aaron has said, baseball is a sport of records that are meant to be broken. If for no other reason, baseball, the game of statistics ranging from concrete to slightly inane will always be one in which feats and hallmarks can be shattered. No matter how unbreakable a player or franchise’s individual record may be, there is always something looming in the future, a sniper of sorts to tear it down. And therein lies the solution to the collective depression of Barry Bonds, the bionically-modified slugger seems to have brought about in most ballplayers who live outside of the Bay Area.

The solution: A clever nickname coined to describe the man who may be baseball’s greatest living hitter: A-Rod.

Whether you like Alex Rodriguez or not  is of no importance. So long as you consider yourself a baseball purist–and let’s face it, steroids or not, baseball is about as pure as Jason Giambi’s syringe–the looming sniper of of someone breaking Barry Bonds’ homerun record is quite a sweet relief.

Sure, he may come across as the second most conceited player in the game (Barry is perhaps number one) but Alex Rodriguez has the best chance of anyone who has not been genetically enhanced of breaking Barry Bonds’ record. The excitement that surrounded Mark McGwire’s quest for 70 homeruns was replaced three years later with that of Bonds’ 76. How much sweeter will it be when the memory of the steroid era is diminished when Alex Rodriguez crushes something more than 400 feet into the screaming gallery of fans and attains–albeit for a finite time–baseball’s greatest acheivement.

Barring tragedy, A-Rod can do it. How sweet it was that on the same early August day that Barry Bonds tied Hammerin’ Hank, Alex Rodriguez reached the milestone that separates a career power hitter from a Hall of Fame member, crushing his 500th homerun.

I’m not a terribly big Alex Rodriguez fan myself. I root for the team that plays one borough beneath him, just over the Whitestone Bridge. I was dissapointed when he collapsed in the 2004 ALCS (although most people could never hit the way he did in the first three games) and I was even more angry when in Game 6, he smacked the ball from Bronson Arroyo’s hand. Regardless, he’s a great player and pretty exciting to watch. The fact that the Mets have had his number in key games endears me more to him.

Let’s face it, baseball will never be perfect. But if we are to hold it up as our nation’s pastime, then we should embrace the fact that like our country, Baseball must always have room to improve itself and that it is the duty of the game to look for better ways to become a more perfect sport.

Just because we have endured more than six years of some of the worst governance in American history doesn’t mean we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, for we can strive to do better the next time around by better vigilance and demanding more. To be a fan of Major League Baseball requires the same diligence and fortitude.

Last week, major league baseball inducted two great hitters from my childhood: Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripkin Jr. Both players were embodied the ethic that most baseball purists are perhaps missing when they see Barry Bonds on television.

Surely out there, somewhere between Brooklyn, NY and La Jolla, CA or wedged from Fargo, ND to San Antonio, TX there are kids who are working dilligently to develop themselves in the same mold of these two great players.

I believe that is the case. And don’t forget, baseball extends beyond the borders of the US to sleepy backwaters in the Dominican Republic to Venezuela and far beyond to East Asia.

Watching the tremendously talented Ichiro Suzuki, who made his Major League debut while Gwynn and Ripkin were calling it curtains must inspire something that gives baseball the redeeming qualities that must make us hold on for another season, another generation.

base 

I cleared out my car today. I mean really cleared it out. There were things that were in the trunk of my 2001 Sentra that I’ve been vowing to remove/store/throw away for months. It’s interesting to see how my life has been going just by looking through the layers of junk I have in there.

A Franciscan priest and geologist about two hundred years ago discovered that one could get an idea for how old the Earth was by studying the rock layers that built up on top of each other. His name escapes me now, but he made the significant guess that by taking into account the millions of years rock layers take to form, one could get an idea of how old the Earth was. Billions of years, he postulated.

My trunk is similar in one regard. You can tell a little about me based on the layers of books, clothing items and coffee mugs piled on top of each other like sedentary rocks.

You can tell that I bite off literary wise more than I can chew. I have novels I picked up at flea markets or my parents’ house or from library sales that I will never read. Ever! Roman Civilization, A History of the Middle Ages 1030-1398, some book by Graham Greene (Power and the Glory was one of the best books I’ve read). Then there are those mugs. What the heck was I doing with all those mugs? And where are the tops? I have no clue. As my mother says, “off to the world in a little green boat.” I guess if they ever find that boat it will need a viking’s funeral because I threw some of the mugs away. So you can tell I used to drink a lot…of coffee that is. Then there’s the spare tire that I’ve been too lazy to put back into it’s container. I’m not sure that says too much about me until you see it was pinning things down in my car. There were socks and some women’s shoes (I have no clue on that one).

My most recent find was three sets of 1990 baseball cards: Fleer, Donruss and Upper Deck are in binders. I used to collect baseball cards and I specifically remember the 1990 season, which was when those cards, which detailed the 1989 season, were produced.

I should have chucked them.  A friend gave them to me when he moved out of his house before its closing date. I don’t know why I took them. What’s a 27-year-old man to do with a set of cards from when he was 10 years old? Nevertheless, I couldnt’ bring myself to chuck them. So, I held on to them. They’re still in the back of my car, but it’s a lighter trunk, so I suppose they will make the first layer in the geodesic record that is my life!

 A few of those guys are still playing, too: Tom Gordon, Moises Alou, Barry Bonds, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Julio Franco, Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio and a few others come to mine.

 Maybe I’ll part with them when those guys finally retire. In Julio Franco’s case, I should probably not hold my breath.