Bartman and Boone

I can’t believe that it has been ten years since this happened.

Which also means that it has been ten years (plus two days) since this happened.

If neither of these cruel things happened, we (most probably) would have had a Cubs – Red Sox World Series in 2003. Remember, that this was before the Red Sox went on to win the World Series in 2004 and 2007. If Twitter existed back then, it would have exploded. The thought of the Cubs and their (then) 95 year World Series drought against the Red Sox and their (then) 85 year World Series drought was a baseball story line that even the most sadistic sports writer could not have conceived would ever actually happen. Would there have been any doubt that the series would have gone seven games? The despair of two tortured fan bases and the thought that one would continue to suffer for who knows how much longer would have played out before our eyes.

There was a nice piece in the Times about how Steve Bartman has basically lived a life of exile within the Chicagoland area. And in many ways, the fate of his beloved Cubs has followed him into a state of exile. In the 10 years since that mid October week in 2003, the two franchises have moved in radically different paths with the Sox winning 2 World Series and are close to making it to a 3rd, while the Cubs have only made it to the post season twice and in both cases, were unceremoniously swept in the League Divisional Series.

The Cubs now have new ownership and they even took Theo Epstein from the Sox in the hopes that his ‘magic’ (which some observant Sox fans may question) would rub off on the Cubs 105 year championship curse. If I were them, I would have Steve Bartman ride into Wrigley Field on a Billy Goat from center field, stop at home plate and shotgun a can of Old Style. If that doesn’t exorcise the demons of Clark and Addison, there is always next year!

Toe The Line

With all the trash talking coming out of the NY Jets camp this week in advance of the big Jets – Patriots NFL Playoff game, Wes Welker (New England WR) may have had the most fun with the situation.

As you may have heard, videos leaked online that supposedly¬†depict Rex Ryan sharing a fetish for his wife’s feet. He all but implicated himself by saying that the videos were “a personal issue”.

So this week, in a hilariously subtle set of tweaks, Welker made no less than 11 references to feet during his press briefing.

Q} How do you approach the young guys about what to expect in the postseason?
A.) You just talk to them. It’s a playoff atmosphere and you can’t just stick your toe in the water, you’ve got to jump right in and make sure you’re ready to go and make things happen. In a playoff atmosphere that’s what you have to do

Q) How valuable is it to have a guy like Tom Brady standing in the huddle, especially in the intense situations of the playoff atmosphere?
A.)Having Tom in there, it goes without saying, the guy is who he is and he does a great job of making sure everyone is on the same page and putting their best foot forward going out there and playing well and doing what they can out there.

Q) What makes Revis as good as he is?
A.) I think he is very patient. He has good feet. He moves around really well. He understands the game. He gets his hands on you pretty well. [He] understands what you’re trying to do to him, so he definitely is a tough guy to really set up and get open against. You’ve got to be on top of your game and make sure that you’re doing everything possible to get open.

And so on. Ah, Rex Ryan…the loudmouth that keeps on giving.

Baseball’s Magic Mud

If you’ve ever played baseball, you know how using a brand new, slick baseball can be an adventure unless you “rub it down” and take the shine off. A time honored pre-game ritual in the majors is to rub new baseballs down with mud. Here’s a great article from CNN about where baseball’s ‘magic mud’ comes from and the story behind the tradition:

On August 16, 1920, Ray Chapman, a shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, was crowding the plate in the top of the fifth inning when he was struck in the head by an underhand curveball from New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays. Days later, Chapman became the first and only player killed by a pitch in Major League history.

From that point forward the umpires were looking for a way to get a better grip for the pitcher on a new baseball,” Bintliff says. “They tried tobacco juice, shoe polish, dirt from the infield and all of those things scarred or damaged the leather.”

Lena Blackburne, a manager for the Philadelphia Athletics, had an idea. He cured and aged mud from a fishing hole near his home and took it back to the Athletics clubhouse.

September will be Interesting

I will try not to get ahead of myself. I will try not to look too far down the road…if this happens, if that happens. One day at a time, I remind myself. But last night was just one of those nights in baseball when you have to believe in the stuff from movies like Field of Dreams. In the past two weeks, the Red Sox have cut 7 games off of the Yankees lead in the AL East. And not only did the Sox pick up a big win against the Angels but the Yanks got crushed by the Indians 22-0. Dan Shaughnessy from The Boston Globe said it best in an article today:

With the Red Sox, a measure of restraint is always in order. There’s always the seed of doubt that the Sox are merely setting the region up for another mind-bending, soul-crushing disappointment. A Sox ticket to a September game should come stamped with a surgeon general’s warning. Maybe flashing Cleveland’s 16-0 lead over the Yankees on the center-field board in the Angel eighth was a little over the top.

I think this is the perspective I need to take. This is the Red Sox, you know. I will try not to look too far ahead. But man, last night was a good night in baseball.

Damn Yankees

Once again, the Red Sox have been trumped by the Yankees as the “Evil Empire” agreed with the Texas Rangers to pick up Alex Rodriguez, not 8 weeks after the Sox could not get it done. Its just typical. I am bitter. Different Red Sox ownership, same result. Yanks get the best of the Sox. The Sox made some great moves this off season picking up Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke, and they did pull out all the stops to land A-Rod, which I must commend them for. And lets not forget that this is the reigning MVP of the American League. But at the end of the day, this season, and all the remaining 7 seasons that A-Rod is a member of the NY Yankees, will be evaluated in part relative to the Sox’ failure to get the A-Rod for Manny deal done this winter. Nothing less than the Red Sox winning it all sometime soon will do. Otherwise, ownership and management will always be questioned – What if they did get A-Rod?

What this deal really does is illustrate a system in baseball that is woefully out of whack. The Red Sox have a new system in place where they value production and some level of fiscal sanity, which I definitely respect, but that was the deal breaker in the A-Rod negotiations (Larry “Evil Empire” Luccinno did not help any, but that’s another story) and from this fan’s perspective, the reality is that the Sox did not get it done and the Yankees did. Don’t get me wrong, the Red Sox are big spenders too, but they are still being out-spent by $70 Million!! The Yankees will now have almost a $200 Million dollar payroll for its team. That is 300% more than the Florida Marlins and 400% more than the Milwaukee Brewers. They have 6 of the top 15 salaries, and in turn, players, in Major League Baseball. That is just wrong. Baseball needs to fix the system now. It needs to take the blueprint from the NFL and replicate it, word for word, line for line, dollar for dollar.

I think the most frustrating thing is that I am residing in the NYC area watching all this go down, and all I hear and read is about A-Rod and the snickering of the Yankee fans towards the Red Sox. That is the most frustrating. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself since the game needs to be played on the field, and I am confident that the Red Sox have a solid team that is actually better than last year’s team. But all the good work that was done by the Red Sox this off season was blown away by the Yankees in one week and now we have to watch A-Rod play for the Yankees for the next 7 years and wonder “What if…”. This is a tough pill to swallow.

Update (2019) – It is amazing to read this 15 years later and just laugh at how things shook out for the Red Sox, the Yankees, and for A-Rod’s legacy. Everyone knows what happened in 2004. With the exception of a fluke 2009 World Series, the Yankees have been, dare I say, pedestrian. And A-Rod turned into one of the most polarizing players ever to wear pinstripes, much less play baseball.

Patriots World Champs!!

New England Patriots

New England Patriots – Super Bowl XXXVIII Champions What an amazing and thrilling game! I was impressed at the amount of points that each team produced, especially after the slow start that the game had in the scoring column and the quality of both Defenses. You have to give Carolina some credit as they really played a great game, although I also think that the Patrots’ Defense was not nearly as sharp as when they played the Colts for the AFC Championship. But in typical style, Tom Brady led the Patriots down the field and did what needed to be done to win the game. It was just an great game, and that’s even without the additional exposure that Janet Jackson got at halftime along with that streaker.

Update – You can purchase Patriots Super Bowl Champions t-shirts online. The Patriots pro shop has all sorts of nice stuff.

Go Patriots!

On the eve of the Patriot’s second trip to the Super Bowl in three years, I am amazingly calm. I guess its the fact that they have won it already. But if they win tomorrow, they can really put themselves in some elite company in the history of the NFL. I am confident that they will win but I fear it is going to be a closer game than people anticipate.

Red Sox Nation Suffering

Oh boy, did my Red Sox blow a doozy last night. That was a tough loss to swallow, I must say. Aaron Boone!! Aaron f****** Boone!! He was hitting a buck twenty five (.125) in the playoffs! I would have rather lost by 15 runs than lose that way. That’s the thing about the Red Sox, they always find the most miserable ways to lose. And to do it against the Yankees is just painful.

The Red Sox just did not get it done. And you could just feel it as the game progressed. They had the lead and they let it slip away. In this case, it was completely inept game management by Grady Little, the Red Sox manager. He should be fired by next month. He should have brought in Alan Embree from the bullpen in the 8th to take over for Pedro. The bullpen was pitching great – Timlin was fantastic, Embree was solid as was Williamson. It was so obvious. Is he really that dumb? Doesn’t he realize that any player is going to say “I’m fine” no matter how they really feel? And putting in Wakefield was not exactly the best move either. Yes, the Sox would not have been there without him after his two amazing performances eariler in the series, but he was just not the right pitcher for that situation.

But the Sox were playing with fire throughout the playoffs and it finally came back to haunt them. The only reason they were in the ALCS was because of the ineptitude of the Oakland A’s and their failure to close out the series. And between Millar, Ortiz, Mueller and especially Nomar, I think they were barely at the “Mendoza Line” (batting average of .200) with maybe 15 RBIs collectively . And Manny Ramirez could not drive in runners in scoring position to save his life. As always, good pitching trumps good hitting and that was especially evident for the Red Sox in these playoffs – not just against the Yankees but against the Athletics as well.

Sadly, the dreams of a Cubs vs. Red Sox series went up in smoke in the most painful of ways for both cities and both franchises. And the worst part is that now I have to deal with those blasted Yankee fans.

Go Florida!!!!