Saturday, April 30, 2005

Guest column: Welcome to the jungle

This column comes via the overworked keyboard of my pal and former co-worker Steve, a freelance writer based in the Maine hinterlands. As he explains in this piece, he's all for the Red Sox's exploding popularity, though, like me, he'd just as soon dangle goofy no-talent "Fever Pitch" star/faux Sox fan Jimmy Fallon from the Coke bottles and give him the pinata treatment. That's Fallon in the photo above, with, I believe, co-star Drew Barrymore. Man, she has really let herself go. Anyway, enjoy Missile's column, and if you want to drop him a note, you can reach him at or arod-is-a%#%& Either should work fine. - CF

By Steve Mistler

The word is out: The Red Sox are hip. A star-crossed franchise no more, the Sox have ascended to pop culture's peak. The center fielder/author's home is featured in all its tacky glory on MTV's "Cribs." The first baseman and the ace pitcher say everything but "no comment." And we won't even get into the "Queer Eye" thing.

While you're at it, Cowboys and Idiots, say hello to Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon - and please, be sure to tell Drew and that Pencil-Necked Poser to stay off the field next time, will ya?

If only Barrymore and Fallon’s staged scene after the final out of the 2004 World Series was the most annoying post-championship development for Red Sox fans. It's not. Now we have all these new fans, these outsiders, these . . . frontrunners.

You bet I'm being sarcastic. I mean, can you believe it. This is what some of the so-called diehard fans are howling about these days - that the Red Sox actually have more fans. Ridiculous.

You know the type to complain about such things as trivial as an expanding fan-base. They're the same nitwits who are always babbling about curses and some birthright to misery. They jumped ship after that awful Yankees series last June. They belittled the best manager in Sox history, calling him Terry “Francoma”. They bailed on Games 4, 5, and 6 of the 2004 ALCS, and carried enough darkness into Game 7 to rival a black hole.

This lonesome, loathesome group has been searching for misery ever since the bottomless reservoir of self-pity went dry last October. Tito’s got immunity now, at least for one more season. The “Wait ‘Till Next Year” cry that followed a three-game losing streak in April is obsolete. So is that fable they called The Curse.

So now what, jackals?

Enter the wide-eyed immigrants to Red Sox Nation, a hopeful bunch who caught the fever during last year’s playoffs and are sticking around to see what happens next. The sad-sack elitists have their new targets. The newcomers have been scorned, their enthusiasm doused by sad tales of entitlement, their shiny new New Era caps soiled by filthy mockery.


To the new Red Sox fans I say welcome. If a $23 bleacher seat doesn’t insult your sensibilities, go ahead and check out the old ballpark. Cultivate a disdain for all things Yankee. Applaud Mr. October (we call him “Papi”). Roundly boo A-Rod (we call him “A-Fraud”). Oh, and ignore the arrogant and entitled among us.

In fact, I’ll make this offer to any team you used to root for: "Give us your tired, your poor, your optimistic . . . we’ll give you our self-loathing masochists – straight up."

Of course, while we encourage new fans, we’d like to suggest a few guidelines. Nothing serious, just some helpful hints for those who plan on sticking around for, oh, the next 86 years.

- First, let’s divide into groups. Those who love Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon, please stand up. Good. Now, fans age 21 and older, please return to your seats and prepare for next week’s lecture, “Closing out a Best-of-Seven Series with a 3-0 Lead.” Review tapes of 2004 ALCS, Games 4 through 7. Discuss.

The rest of you remain standing.

And stop screeching.


Listen, we all love our resident rock star in center field, especially for his contributions during the last half of the 2004 playoffs. But let’s take the matinee-idol thing down a decibel or 10. The teenyboppers at Fenway, whose high-pitched squeals threaten to gather all the Atlantic’s bottle-nosed dolphins to the Back Bay, are beginning to sound like the infamous Jeterettes at Yankee Stadium. Besides, it’s doubtful the Sox will offer Johnny Be Bad the six-year contract he so covets. He may be the enemy soon.

- Speaking of Derek Jeter, Red Sox fans new and old are encouraged to mock his patented fist-pump and lack of range. But now that we’ve seen what makes a champion, there’s no shame in acknowledging that Captain Jetes remains one, even if his team does not.

- Scouting report on A-Fraud: Likes to align himself with Jeter, but outside of the boy-band looks, the two have little in common . . . can’t hit in clutch . . . obsessive sculpting of public image has revealed unbridled narcissism . . . favors purple lip-gloss.

-Dave Roberts, Derek Lowe, Pokey Reese, and all former 2004 Red Sox are to receive heartfelt ovations on all future visits. There is one exception: Pedro Martinez. Please greet the best pitcher in Red Sox history with a stunning chorus of . . . silence. Love-Me-or-Hate-Me Pedro will have no idea what to make of the indifference.

- We’re big Curt Schilling fans around here. However, when the Big Schill speaks, as he does way too often on way too many subjects, you’re not obligated to listen.

- Unless you want to pledge the fraternity of the Angry and Ignorant, WEEI’s “The Big Show” is not suitable for your virgin ears.

- Trying to learn more about the Sox? Choose your sources wisely. The Boston Globe is a sound pick. (The boss did not make me put that in.) A lot of other media outlets cover the team – too many – but some are motivated to get information first, rather than right. The others just don’t get it.

- I didn’t want that last bit of advice to segue to this one, but unfortunately, it seems all too natural. NESN’s Jerry Remy is the best baseball analyst in the country. I just wish his broadcast partner, the bland but likable Don Orsillo, knew half as much.

- Their status as icons makes this taboo, but I just can’t take it anymore. Jerry Trupiano and Joe Castiglione, WEEI’s radio broadcast team, assault the ears. Most baseball games are steady rhythms with occasional crescendos. Jerry and Joe call Sox games like a three-hour guitar solo at a speed-metal concert. Listen at your own peril.

That about covers it, greenhorns. Enjoy your stay, however long that may be. One last thing to remember. That pessimistic, self-flogging, irrational identity so often assigned to Red Sox fans is passé.

If that’s your bag, Yankee Stadium is five hours south.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

TATB Notebook: 04.26.05

Touching all the bases while wondering if Nomar wishes he hadn't surrendered to vanity . . .

- If you had April 26 in the When Will David Wells Go On The DL pool, congratulations. For the record, I'm sticking with June 23 in the When Will Wells Suffer A Mysterious Injury That Suggests He Got Clobbered With A Jug Of Boone's Farm pool. The Gout Recurrence pool is also going strong.

- Every time I see Miguel Tejada play, I'm reminded that he should have been in that A-Rod/Nomar/Jeter argument a lot sooner than he was. Not only is he a clutch masher at the plate, but he's got an arm that makes Rick Burleson's ol' cannon look like David Eckstein's pea shooter.

- When did Bruce Chen become, you know, good?

- Keith Foulke has allowed 5 home runs in 11 innings, and at least three of them are still in orbit as you read this. I wouldn't say I'm worried about the Sox closer - I'll never question his toughness/guts/fortitude/stones after his baseball heroism last fall - but let's just say he needs to do a better job locating his fastball, given that about five too many of them have been located somewhere in the vicinity of Saturn recently.

- The bank keeps telling me with its incessant commercials and billboards that "It's Your Garden. Again." Which kind of surprises me, since my Garden smelled like stale beer and sweat and had rats the size of goalies scurrying around in the shadows. This Garden bears no resemblance to mine, for it is so antiseptic you can practically smell the Lysol, and instead of rats it's populated by something far more vile: vacant yuppies who are there for entertainment, not a sporting event. Call it want you want, Bank Drones, but in New England's heart, there's only one Garden. And it ain't this one.

- Rick Carlisle is abusing Doc Rivers on the sideline in this series the way Doc Rivers would have abused Rick Carlisle on the court. Pacers in 7.

- Celtics have the ball. Final seconds. Game on the line. Any chance the next time they encounter this scenario, Rivers and his 16 assistant coaches might come up with a better play than the standard Isolate Pierce So He Can Fiddle And Diddle And Chuck Up An Off-Balance Three-Pointer? I say give it to Ricky Davis. He's better at creating his own shot at this point, and he's probably a better pure shooter, too. Plus, Pierce hasn't exactly been Jerry West in his game-on-the-line opportunities. More like Mark West. Or Adam West. But definitely not Mr. Clutch.

- I'm afraid the book is out on Mark Bellhorn (10 walks, 28 Ks, no homers in 83 plate appearances): Go after him. Make him swing the bat. Chances are he won't hit it. I wonder if that explains why he went from 27 homers in 2002 to 2 in 2003 while in the National League. Not panicking, mind you. Wondering. Panic comes after another week or two of this called-strike-three-game-over nonsense.

- Sox fans are getting tired of Curt Schilling acting as if he's the World's Foremost Authority On Everything. And if Sox fans are wishing October's savior would take a vow of silence, one can only imagine how those who share a clubhouse with him feel.

- So let me get this straight. They booed Mariano Rivera, the one player most responsible for their four recent championships. They cheered when Jaret Wright left with a shoulder injury. They've booed A-Rod, claiming he'd never earn his stripes. But now after one Freddie Lynn-esque 3-homer, 10-RBI night, A-Rod has now earned their cheers. I guess I'll never quite get this whole fickle "True Yankee" thing.

- I haven't seen "Fever Pitch," nor will I until one of the computer wizards at CGI or Pixar digitally removes all traces of that giggling pixie Jimmy (Adam Sandler Lite) Fallon from the film and replaces him with a better actor. Anyone, really. Jean-Claude Van Damme. Shatner. Seagal. Keanu. Charles Nelson Reilly. Hell, I'd settle for Affleck.

- Since I never got around to writing the column I wanted to write - sometimes life interferes with blogging, especially when life shows up toting a six-pack of Sam Adams - here are a few scattered leftovers from the NFL draft. Hope they're not too stale:

I waited 5 hours and 47 minutes for the Pats to pick . . . Logan Mankins? I'm pretty sure that's a stage name . . . But the wait was worth it for this reason: With the pick, the Pats officially emasculated Mel Kiper Jr. When Paul Tagliabue announced Mankins's name, the ESPN crew responded with a moment of stunned silence, followed by Kiper blurting something along the lines of "This is a reach," followed by nothing but effusive praise for the selection . . . You know he wanted to rip the Pats for taking a player he had projected as a third-rounder, but ol' Bouffant Head couldn't bring himself to do it, because deep down, he knows they know and he's pretending to know. Big difference . . . Remember when Chris Berman was praised for keeping quiet for 20 minutes during Cal Ripken's streak-busting game? Has he paused for breath since? . . . ESPN guest host Torry Holt looks like Sam Cassell's suave, bespectacled brother . . . Not one draft pick said to Suzy Kolber, "I want to kissssth you." A comedy opportunity lost, I say . . . The Colts have selected 13 defensive backs since 2001. Curiously, that's the season Tom Brady became a starter . . . I do think the Colts got the Patriots' guy in Michigan defensive back Marlin Jackson . . . And the Seahawks got my guy in Lofa Tatupu in Rd. 2. Rats . . . The downside to all the pre-draft hype: Aaron Rodgers, a possible No. 1 overall pick, slid all the way to the Packers at No. 24. It's the perfect place for him - he gets to play in front of the most loyal fans in football while learning at the feet of Brett Favre. He couldn't have stumbled into a better situation, yet because he was "projected" to go higher, what should have been one of the best days of his life became a disappointment . . . The last three quarterbacks selected by the Browns: Tim Couch, Luke McCown, Spergon Wynn. Poor Charlie Frye has no chance . . . Thank goodness for the Jets, who never disappoint Pats fans on draft day. This year, they took a kicker in the second round, Mike Nugent from Ohio State. Judging by the history of kickers who have been chosen high - here's to you, Russell Erxleben - they'd have been better off selecting Ted Nugent. I think they did it because they hate their fans . . . Mike Vrabel was an ESPN guest analyst, and he didn't shy away from sharing an opinion. He said Randy Moss could play for the Patriots anytime, and ripped the Chargers for spending a first-rounder on a kid who admitted he used steroids one time. But when Andrea Kramer pressed Vrabel on the status of Tedy Bruschi, the closest he came to revealing any information was when he said "Tedy will do what's in the best interests of him and his family." . . . Detroit's decision to select USC receiver Mike Williams with the 10th overall pick tells me that they don't think Charles Rogers can stay out of the MRI tube . . . Denver's decision to select Ohio State flunkie Maurice Clarett tells me that Mike Shanahan is still reading his yellowed press clippings from the days when people not named Mike Shanahan thought he was a genius . . . Cedric Benson looks like he could be Corey Dillon's kid brother . . . The ESPN crew started talking about draft winners and losers at the end of the second round. Coincidentally, I started watching the Celtics at the end of the second round.

And before I go have some snacks (and maybe a frosty Sam or two, too), today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Well, he was skinny.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Futility infielders: A brief Sox history

The 1970s . . .

The 1980s . . .

The 1990s . . .

The 2000s . . .

(New column coming Tuesday morning . . .)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Feeling the draft

Some quick late-night notes on that tribute to hype, excess and the Man-Bouffant . . .

. . . yep, Melvin, you can come out now. We're on the clock with the NFL Draft . . .

- A would-be linebacker from a Pac-10 school who is intelligent, fiery and always seems to be around the ball despite supposedly being too small? Funny, but the description of USC's Lofa Tatupi (top) sounds a lot like the description of a kid from Arizona named Tedy Bruschi 10 drafts ago. The Pats snatched Bruschi in the third round of the 1996 draft. Getting Tatupu in the same slot nearly a decade later seems somehow appropriate. I'll consider it a good day if the Pats end up with Mosi's kid.

- Now that I mention it, the desciption of Brusch and Tatupu also applies to another Patriot. Tully Banta-Cain is going to make that jackpot Warren-Wilson-Johnson-Klecko-Samuel-Koppen 2003 draft look even better, isn't he?

- What would the equivalent of Mosi's Mooses be? Lofa's Loofahs? (Man, that joke is so lame, I think Bill Scheft might have written it for me.)

- Probably won't happen, but it would only be appropriate if Oklahoma receiver Mark Clayton ended up with the Dolphins. If Dan Marino ever had to interview him, he might have a flashback to 1984 and start screaming at him for running the wrong route.

(No relation to the incoming Mark Clayton. But Marino doesn't know that.)

- If Randy Moss is Example 1A of the ideal Oakland Raider, then Maurice Clarett is Example 1B. They'll take him three rounds too soon, and he'll be a hell-raising bust. It's one of those things that simply has to happen.

- Whenever Mel Kiper Jr. starts yammering about a prospect's "loose hips," I feel vaguely uncomfortable.

- Words to mark: This time next year, the teams who pass on USC's Mike Williams will be lamenting their colossal mistake. He's Keyshawn Johnson with speed.

- None of us ever really know what the Pioli/Belichick braintrust is going to do in Rd. 1. (See: Ben Watson, tight end, 2004.) For what it's worth, the Globe's Ron Borges has them taking Michigan defensive back Marlin Jackson, whose profile sounds a lot like Eugene Wilson's two seasons ago: covers like a corner, hits like a safety, may have some character questions. If the comparison is legitimate, I'm all for it. Can't have enough Eugene The Hittin' Machine clones.

- Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers have a certain Trent Dilfer/Heath Shuler '94 vibe about them, don't they? Rather than taking one of these two future Arena Leaguers with the No. 1 pick, the Niners might be better off taking a flyer on this mysterious Ron Mexico character.

- The Vikings are looking to move near the top of the draft so they can select Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards. Word is Mike Tice is even willing to throw in a couple choice Super Bowl tickets to make it happen.

- Not only was Tom Brady a sixth-round pick in the 2001 draft, but he wasn't even the Patriots' first sixth-round pick. Knowing now what we didn't know then, it's hard to believe they chose to secure the immortal Antwan Harris first before taking the skinny kid from Michigan. Hell, it's hard to believe anyone went ahead of him, let alone 197 other players, plus Spergon Wynn.

- No matter whom they draft today, the Patriots are already assured of adding a couple talented young players into the mix next season. First-rounder Watson and safety Guss Scott (the 2004 third-round pick) looked like keepers, but both players suffered season-ending knee injuries, Watson in Week 1 and Scott in the preseason. After a season of watching and learning and getting acclimated to NFL life, both should make a more immediate impact than any hot-shot rookie.

- One Workout Warrior shoots up the draft board every year - remember Mike Mamula, Eagles fans? - and this year it's Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound athletic freak who supposedly ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash. Jones projects as a wide receiver or a tight end, and has shot up from a third-round prospect to an almost certain first-rounder in a matter of weeks despite never having played either position. It will be interesting to see where he winds up. One report had the Eagles, who pick 31st, sending six scouts to watch a recent workout. But I can't imagine he gets past Pittsburgh at No. 30. They've had great success converting college quarterbacks to different positions (Antwaan Randle-El, Hines Ward, even Kordell Stewart for a while) and with their deep roster, they can afford to take a flyer on such a high-risk, high-reward player.

- Anyone who gives your team a draft grade other than "incomplete" in the coming days is feeding you a line of b.s. You want a grade? Check back in three years, when these guys have actually set foot on an NFL for something other than a shuttle run.

- Virginia defensive end Chris Canty, a projected second-round pick today, stands 6-foot-7, weighs 290 pounds, and ran the 40 in 5 seconds. And every Patriots fan walking the earth has no doubt he would make a better NFL cornerback than his chain-smoking, dancing fool of a namesake.

- Do you think Mel Kiper Sr. has ever considered changing his name?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

TATB Notebook 04.20.05

Touching all the bases while waiting for Sam Malone to write a rap song about Nomar . . .

. . . Dated myself there with that Sam Malone wisecrack in the intro, didn't I? It's a "Cheers" reference, kiddies. No, not the bar. The TV show. Yeah, back in the '80s. Right, last century. No, the TVs were not black and white then. Enough already, children. Respect your elders, and listen to my TV Land-style explanation: Sam, an ex-Sox-pitcher-turned-bar-owner played by Ted Danson, attempted in one memorable episode to become a sportscaster. Like all sportscasters other than Fred Hickman, Sam decided he needed an idiotic gimmick, and so, in a horrific turn of events that eerily foreshadows the rise to prominence of Stuart Scott, he rapped his sportscast, including a particularly painful lyric about a "GR-GR-GROIN INJURY GR-GR-GROIN!" Nomar, of course, injured a groin muscle last night, hence my clever lead-in. And there's your explanation. Now if you don't mind, this old man is going to go O.D. on Metamucil.

- Regarding Nomar: It's going to be interesting to see Red Sox fans' reaction to this injury, which looked very severe. I imagine there will be more than a little schadenfreude in play, a "screw you, Nomahh, that's what you get" attitude since he departed on such bad terms and the Sox have enjoyed such sweet success since he left. Personally, I was as furious as anyone toward the end of his Sox career - he lost me as a fan that midsummer night in New York, when Captain Jetes and Pokey hustled all over the field (and in Jeter's case, off the field - INTANGIBLES!) while Nomar sat on the bench looking like a teenager pissed off at his parents. He was gone not long after, and the case can be made that his departure turned out to be the catalyst for the championship run. All in all, "Good riddance" seemed the appropriate remembrance of his time here. But in the joyous aftermath of last fall, I occasionally caught myself thinking about Nomar, and how he was the Red Sox for so long, and how beloved he was by so many kids in New England, and how he left it all on the field up until those miserable last few months, and how terrible he must feel to realize that it might have been him that was holding the Sox back all this time. And I decided I'd take the high road, and remember him for the icon he was and not the miserable grump he became. I was hoping he'd find happiness and good health with the Cubs, the fresh start he so desperately needed. Instead, it's more of the same, and now it's looking like he's the second coming of Ken Griffey Jr. Remembering what he was, it's so sad to see what he's become.

- The David Terrell signing is a typical low-risk, high-reward move by Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick, one that I think is going to pay off in a big way. Consider the pros, of which there are many: Terrell thrived as Tom Brady's favorite receiver at Michigan, and Brady vouched for Terrell and wholeheartedly endorsed the move; Terrell was a high first-round pick by the Bears in 2001, and there was much clamoring by fans and media for the Patriots to take him at No. 6 overall that year, so he does not lack for talent; he is 6-foot-4, which is roughly as tall as all the other Patriots receivers stacked on top of each other; he has played with six quarterbacks in the NFL, one named Rex, one named Kordell, and none named to the Pro Bowl; he's in the ideal situation for a reclamation, for the expectations are low yet he will not lack for opportunities, and at age 26, playing with Brady in a system that will utilize him properly, he'll never have a better opportunity to showcase his dormant-but-still-considerable skills. The cons? He's a dancing fool when he makes a big play, a braying jackass in shoulder pads. Bottom line: If he turns out to be the second coming of Donald Hayes, the Patriots will simply say "nothing ventured, nothing gained" and send him on his way. But I expect he'll have more reasons to dance than he ever did in Chicago.

- I know Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers helped the Celtics get to the Eastern Conference final three seasons ago, but man, the decision to trade Joe Johnson in that deal instead of Kedrick Brown is looking more and more like the Sox's decision to keep Scott Cooper instead of Jeff Bagwell. Johnson, just 23, had another fantastic all-around season for the Suns, the top-seed in the Western Conference playoffs, averaging 17 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He's second in the league in 3-point field goal percentage (47.7), and his value to the Suns is reflected in the fact that he's fourth in the league in minutes played. If Bob Lobel still followed sports, I think I know what he'd say here. "Why can't we . . ."

- You know "Saturday Night Live" is on its last legs when Tom Brady is funnier than any cast member.

- The last few days have been the epitome of the Manny Experience: Five home runs, including one the most majestic blast I can recall seeing, two Greenwellesque errors in left field, and a mysteriously tweaked leg muscle that caused him to depart two innings early from a 3-1 game that eventually turned into a loss. What's that line we use in these situations? Oh, right. Just Manny being Manny.

- Speaking of Manny, after seeing his Olympia Sports ad for the 2,004th time - you know, the updated version of the one where he "dreams" of being the World Series MVP, and yeah, it is neat how that played out - I think I would describe his acting style as this: The Dominican Keanu Reeves. Whoa.

- Seems my goal of writing something about every game this season is panning out about as well as Rick Ankiel's pitching career. I'm still going to try to write the GameDay pieces for the more newsworthy games, but it started becoming obvious that writing 400 words of wiseguy comments and play by play about an 8-5 loss to the Blue Jays was not as fulfilling or time-efficient as writing, say, this drivel. So those of you who had Game 11 in the When Will That Doofus Finn Abandon His Plan To Write About Every Stinkin' Game pool, step up and collect your prize, a genuine 1978 Topps football card of Cincinnati Bengals legend Boobie Clark . . .

Yes, that's right. It's a Boobie prize. Now stifle those groans, punks.

- I still can't believe Dominique Wilkins didn't get into the Basketball Hall of Fame. What more did he need to accomplish individually? He was voted one of the 50 Greatest Players of all-time, went shot-for-shot with Larry Legend and lived to tell, might have been the most gifted, electric, acrobatic dunker of all-time, mastered the lost art of the bank shot, earned a spot on the original Dream Team, and played a hell of a lot harder than he got credit for. I know, there's a catch - I said individually there, the word that haunts him to this day. He was an unconscionable (if damned accomplished) gunner, and he never won a championship, in large part because that he had the misfortune to play in the era of the great Celtics, Lakers and Pistons. And he did not go out gracefully - I'd just as soon pretend his season in Boston never happened. But his overall body of work cannot be denied, and until the Hall calls for 'Nique, I say there's a void on their roster.

- My cousin Kris The White Sox Fan stopped polishing his Ron Kittle figurine long enough to send along this Completely Random Baseball Card submission, one which is almost as comically hideous as the Buckethead Craig card from a few days ago:

Turns out Manny has a long way to go to earn the title of All-Time Goofiest Player Named Ramirez. Who knew?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Float on

No, Tim Wakefield hasn't always been a Red Sox - it just seems that way. Judging by the card above, he apparently pitched for the Pirates at age 12.

The media guide tells me Wakefield has been with the Sox since April 26, 1995 - 10 years next week. And after today's announcement that he has signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Sox that includes multiple team options at the same Filene's Basement rate, we can say this knowing that it's a realistic possibility:

Here's to 10 more, Knucksie.

I'll admit, I haven't always been a huge Wakefield guy. As a knuckleballer, he is prone to giving up home runs and walks, two characteristics in a pitcher that drive me nuts. And his pitch is inconsistent and unreliable by nature - hell, that's why the thing works - but it guarantees that his bad days will be maddening, if not gruesome. All in all, I'll take the fireballer over the knuckleballer just about every time. It's easier on the nerves.

Yet when I heard the news today that he'll be sticking around for as long as the Red Sox will have him, I had one reaction: Man, that is great news. Wakefield's staying. Thank goodness.

I'm not sure when exactly Wakefield won me over for good, but it was relatively recently. Maybe it was the shattered, I-just-want-to-cry look on his face after giving up Aaron Boone's homer, a look that was on all of our faces that night. Maybe it was his willingness to eschew his Game 4 start and a shot at personal redemption in last year's ALCS to save the weary bullpen in Game 3, a remarkably selfless act that helped spin the series on its axis. Maybe it's his sudden mastery of the Yankees, or the stories of his tireless charity work, or the fact that he makes half of what Matt Clement or Jaret Wright make with the promise of similar if not superior results.

Maybe it was last fall in St. Louis, when our affection for every last one of The 25 became eternal.

Or maybe it was something my wife said in the gleeful immediate aftermath of the World Series victory, something that's stayed with me since: "You know who I'm happiest for?" she said. "The guys who have been here the longest. Like Wakefield, and Lowe, and Varitek, and Nixon. They know how hard this is and how much it means to everyone. They understand."

I think that's it, the main reason among many to like Tim Wakefield. He understands what the Red Sox mean to New England.

And today, with one more selfless act, he told us that the Red Sox mean just as much to him, too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Nine innings 04.19.04

Playing a fast nine innings while waiting for Gary Sheffield to throw the ball in . . .

1) I watched the ring ceremony on TiVO for probably the sixth time the other night, and for some reason it struck me during this viewing that someone who should have been there wasn't. No, not Pedro, although it would have been nice. Pokey? Woulda been cool, too, but not who I'm thinking of. Nope, not even Jimmy Anderson. I'm talking about Maurice Vaughn. Yeah, Big Mo. The Hit Dog. The Patron Saint of The Foxy Lady. Don't you think he should have been out there with Rice and Lynn and Yaz and Pesky and all of the players that defined certain generations in Sox history? Make no mistake, he defined the '90s for the franchise, and for mostly good reasons: His hop-on-my-back-fellas MVP season in 1995 (seems longer than 10 years ago, doesn't it?); his kindness and generosity with the Jimmy Fund; his prominence in a time when the Sox clubhouse finally became a melting pot; his accountability even in his most disappointing moments; his love of dancin' girls and egg and and cheese sandwiches. Yeah, Mo was a definitive Red Sox, all right. He was basically Ortiz with some baggage. I wish he could have been there to share in the day, and I hope there is a good explanation for why he was not.

2) I know, I know, I'm always pimpin' the Portland Sea Dogs in this little corner of cyberspace, but . . . Go. See. Them. Now. Dammit. Their 10-0 start (now 10-1) suggests how loaded the Sox's Double-A team is, but it doesn't tell the whole story. This ballclub is the first real evidence that Theo Epstein's vow to build "a player development machine" is progressing nicely, and perhaps ahead of schedule. You already know about Hanley Ramirez, the precocious phenom shortstop with more tools than Home Depot. He is worth the price of admission and then some; in fact, I'm convinced that if the Red Sox make the postseason this year, he will be on the roster in a SuperSub role. He's that close. And there are others that have a big-league future. Starters Jon Papelbon and Jon Lester, reliever Manny Delcarmen and Cla Meredith, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, first baseman Jeremy West and outfielder Brandon Moss make this perhaps the most prospect-laden team in the minors. So go already. Get up there and check these guys out while you can. You'll have to pay a lot more to see them in a few years.

3) My wife, recoiling upon seeing Tom Brady's new buzzcut while watching footage from his 'Saturday Night Live' hosting debacle: "It's like the day the school nurse would come and check everyone for lice, and two hours later one kid would come back to class with a crewcut. That's what he looks like - the lice kid." (Editor's note: I know this is ostensibly a baseball column. I just felt like this good, old-fashioned lice talk deserved a place in the lineup. Editorial decision. Carry on.)

4) A day after fearless turtlenecked warrior Gen. Georgie-Porgie Steinbrenner-Patton gave marching orders to his $212 million toy soldiers, they put a 19-8 whuppin' on the Devil Rays, the elixir for what ails the rest of the AL East. Hmmm . . . wait a minute. 19-8. Score seems familiar. Why do I suddenly think Yankees are supposed to lose four in a row now?

5) Words to mark: One of these days, maybe in a game-deciding situation, Kevin Millar is going to get busted for taking his foot off the bag too soon. His sly little trick of skipping off the base to catch an infielder's throw - thus making it look like the ball is there sooner than it really is - is all too obvious now, in large part because Millar has the grace and footwork of a breakdancing hippopotamus. Time for Captain KFC to come up with another trick. Say, like hitting a fair ball out of the park once in a while.

6) The three sweetest righthanded swings yours truly's beady eyes have ever seen:

2) Manny Ramirez
3) Albert Pujols

My point: Hell, no, I wasn't worried about Manny's "slump" (39 at-bats without a homer), and anyone who was hasn't been paying attention. He goes through these brief stretches of Offermanitis every single year, and then - bang - he unleashes that powerful, elegant, absolutely perfect swing, and suddenly that slump is launched at a high speed toward the Mass. Pike. Then, with one homer in the bag, he inevitably goes on one of his patented tears where he looks like the greatest hitter who ever lived. (He's not, of course, but he's in the Honorable Mention argument.) Have I mentioned that he has four homers in his last 11 at-bats? Until he's stricken with pharyngitis or caught chillin' with Enrique Wilson, Manny should be the least of a Sox fan's worries.

7) Good news: David Wells and Matt Clement beat the Devil Rays. Bad news: Clement and Wells beat the Devil Rays. I have no doubt the Sox's new starting pitchers will get their share of victories against the dregs of the American League. But I worry about both of them against Team Evil, Wells because of their familiarity with his stuff, and Clement because he struggles to command the strike zone, a flaw the patient Yankees are adept at exploiting. It's nice to see each of them get that first win for their new employer, but I'm not ready to invest my trust in either just yet.

8) If Glenn Ordway and his band of Wonderlic-flunking boobins (yes, boobins) waste one more minute blathering about this Sheffield/fan altercation story, I think I might take detour off I-93, head to their studio, and pistol-whip every one of them with Terry Cashman's guitar. Listen, peeps: When all the opinions are spewed and all the words are spent on this insanely blown-out-of-proportion story, there is really only one question that matters: Who gets that House doofus's sweet seats?

9) And finally, today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Ah, Pat Dodson. The Bob Zupcic of first basemen. Or the Kevin Romine?

Monday, April 18, 2005

TATB correspondent Rodney "Buckethead" Craig

I trust you are unfamiliar with the legend of Rodney Craig. Feel no shame, friends. Judging by this here picture, I'm not even sure Rodney Craig could identify Rodney Craig.

Good thing I'm here to hit you with all of my knowledge of this TATB all-time favorite - beginning with the fact that he's the leader in the clubhouse for the The Worst Freakin' Baseball Card Of All-Time. Just look at it.

Other need-to-know info, some of which is actually true:

- Moments before the photo shoot for the pictured card, it appear he either just rolled out of bed or Jeff Spicoli's van.

- He owns a gold medallion, which he displays proudly above his Charleston Charlies jersey. Chicks dig medallions even more than they dig the long ball. Lucky for Rodney, since he hit a chick-repelling three (3) major-league home runs.

- He hit .385 in 52 at-bats with the God-forsaken 1979 Seattle Mariners, prompting Peter Gammons to mention Rodney in the same sentence as Harold Baines in his legendary Sunday Notes column in the Globe.

- While Gammons praised his talent, he broke Rodney's medallion-covered heart by failing to bestow on him Gammo's Highest Honor - the "very special person" tribute.

- He batted .238 in 240 at-bats with the God-forsaken 1980 Seattle Mariners. He finished his major-league career with 94 hits, 2,770 fewer hits than Harold Baines. Neither won the 1980 AL Rookie of the Year award. This guy did . . .

- Rodney batted .231 in 65 at-bats with the God-forsaken 1982 Cleveland Indians, where he battled has-beens, never-weres and who-the-hell-is-hes? such as Bake McBride, Kevin Rhomberg, Miguel Dilone and, yes, Not-So-Super Joe Charboneau for playing time.

- He did not earn playing time, and Charleston soon beckoned. But according to Terry Pluto's wry book "The Curse of Rocky Colavito," he did earn something else: a particularly cruel nickname:

The Indians brought up a player from the minors named Rodney Craig. He wore a batting helmet that was something like a size 9.

The players called him Buckethead.

He was also supposed to be a great pinch-hitter - he went 2 for 19.

- The above excerpt appears on Page 231. It is Buckethead's only mention in the book.

- As the starting right fielder for the dear, departed Maine Guides in 1984, he hit the first home run in the history of the Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, Me. Still one of my favorite baseball memories, and probably his too.

- In tribute, 14-year-old Chad Finn of Bath, Me., named his cat after him. (Rodney, not Buckethead.) Curiously, the cat also had a huge head and wore a medallion. Freakiest damned cat you ever saw.

- Rodney was once spotted trolling the neon streets of Old Orchard Beach with - wait for it - Otis Nixon, the duo dressed like refugees from the Jackson 5's Victory Tour.

- Rodney will be joining the staff of Touching All The Bases as our Ombudsman. His duties will include informing you of Finn's whereabouts when he hasn't posted for a while.

- He wants you to know that his boss will have a more coherent column posted sometime tomorrow. Now if you don't mind, Rodney, his size-9 melon, and his medallion are going back to bed.

(Editor's note: The stuff you think might be true probably is. And so is the Otis Nixon sighting.)

Friday, April 15, 2005

Safety dance

So let's get this ARod Saves Boy story straight. A world-class narcissist whose image is tarnished to the point of desperation "saves" an 8-year-old boy from a speeding truck on Newbury Street . . . and the boy just happens to be the son of a Yankees season ticket holder who just happens to make his living in public relations . . . and the act of heroism has no witnesses except for the kid's dad and two yet-to-be quoted Yankee players, despite it happening in broad daylight on a busy street with notoriously gridlocked traffic . . .and the story becomes public when none other than the $252,000,000 egomaniac himself happens to oh-so-casually mention his daring rescue to Yankees broadcaster/suck-up/mouthpiece Michael Kay in the clubhouse before the game?

Hmmmm . . . color me skeptical, color me cynical, hell, Color Me Badd, but, you know, I'm just not sure I'm buying this.

Although I do believe that A-Rod might have had his limo driver yell at the kid not to jaywalk or something. Possibly.

Update, 7:59 p.m.: Just snooped around the Sons of Sam Horn thread on this subject, and those loyal lunatics have dropped more hilarious lines than the Rick James episode of "Chappelle's Show" . . .

A few of SoSH's better wisecracks, every last one of which I wish I'd thought of:

(A-Rod) probably paid off a stunt driver, a midget dressed like a kid, and some anonymous onlooker, just to get a positive story about himself out there.

Did he yell at the kid to get a secondary lead?

I wonder what he billed the parents for the "A-Rod Experience" the kid was able to benefit from ...

Apparently A-Rod had to step in after Rivera blew the save.

Jeter would have anticipated the situation and kindly warned him to be careful and watch for cars. Jetes would have been a leader and made the kid a better pedestrian. That's what he does.

It's only because of Jeter's lack of range that A-Rod was forced to field the kid. That's the shortstop's ball.

I think A-Rod is a hero. Dale Sveum would have waved the kid across the street.

Who was driving the speeding car? Scott Boras?

I heard that - in the Ruthian tradition - A-Rod promised the boy he would hit a weak grounder to third for him.

Someone should explain to Slappy that "saving" a little kid does not include taking him back to the hotel and looking at magazines about gladiators with Uncle Derek.

I was going for A-Rod, not the kid. I have to learn to drive better.

Obviously A-Rod's maternal instincts took over.

Quite a change for Mr. Rodriguez since he threw 24 kids under a bus in Texas.

GameDay: Boston 8, New York 5

Just another chapter in the predictably unpredictable serial drama titled "The Champs and the Chokahs" . . .

Tonight's highlights (term used loosely):

~ Home plate umpire Greg Gibson was so stunningly inept, I expect him to take off his mask and reveal himself to be Lt. Frank Drebin from the "Naked Gun" movies. His squeeze job on Bronson Arroyo in the fourth inning - both Captain Jetes and Gary Sheffield drew walks on pitches that any reasonable man with two eyeballs would have called a strike - allowed the Yankees to dig out of a 4-1 hole and take a temporary 5-4 lead. It's almost as if he didn't expect Arroyo's curveball to, you know, curve.

In the bottom half of the inning, Gibson pulled off the rare feat of ticking off both the Yankees and the Red Sox in a matter of pitches. After an apparent strike to Jay Payton was called a ball, Johnson threw his next pitch to the exact same spot. Gibson, whose coin apparently came up heads this time, decided this one was a strike, causing the Yankees starter to wave his giant stork arm in frustration and mutter something under his breath. ("Don't talk back to me," perhaps?)

Then, Gibson called a strike on a down-and-in slider to the next batter, Bill Mueller, a pitch that was at least six inches low and six inches off the plate. Francona, who really doesn't need the stress of enduring a nitwit umpire right now, did the smart thing and got himself ejected, joining the previously tossed Ron Jackson in the clubhouse, where they could witness Gibson's world-class incompetence while at least knocking back a refreshing Pabst Blue Ribbon or two.

~ Mr. Unit gave up three home runs, including Jason Varitek's 100th as a Red Sox and Jay Payton's 1st. No truth to the rumor Georgie Porgie is making him go on "Extreme Makeover: Team Evil Edition" as penance.

~ Sitting in the front row along the first-base line, the ubiquitous Doug Flutie snared a foul ball. More than likely, he also snared the 2005 ESPY for Pro Athlete Nerdy Enough To Bring His Glove To A Game.

~ Edgar Renteria, whose anemic (.219) performance had him perilously close to hearing a "Ca-brer-a's bet-ter" chant, busted out in a big way, cranking a two-run homer off the Unit in the third and a go-ahead RBI double off Imbedded Red Sock Tom Gordon in the eighth. Both times he cranked what each pitcher would probably tell you with a straight face was a good pitch. He also made a Gold Glove-caliber diving-stop/throw-from-the-knees to get Tony Womack leading off the game. (In fairness, Womack should have been called safe.) Yes, it was reassuring to get our first look at how valuable Renteria can be. It's safe to say no derisive chants will be aimed his way in the immediate future.

~ And finally, what would a Sox-Yanks game be without a bizarre confrontation or two? Tonight's episode delivered, giving us some fan-on-player crime:

The details: In the eighth inning, Sheffield was lumbering after Jason Varitek's triple as it bounded along the base of the right-field fence when a fan took a swipe at the Yankees' rightfielder just as he picked up the ball. Sheffield shoved the fan, threw the ball back to the infield as two runs scored, then turned toward the idiot as if he were going to come back and finish the job.

Instead, Sheffield actually did an admirable job of fending off his cream-and-clear fueled urges and not pulling a Jeff Nelson on the fool. Security intervened quickly, and it could have been a lot uglier than it was, though I'm sure the WEEI banshees will give it their usual apoplectic treatment today.

Tom Caron summed up the strange night appropriately during the postgame show: "When these two teams meet, why does it always feel like Game 7 of something?

TC's right. It's way too early for this drama. The Yankees don't cross the Sox' path again until Memorial Day. Good riddance. And take the glass-eyed ump with you.

Yep, after this, I'm ready for some of that nice, easy Devil Rays action, pronto.

* * *

And just for the Hades of it, a short walk down memory lane . . .

"Hey Randy! Nice mullet!"


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

GameDay: New York 5, Boston 2

The final numbers on Curt Schilling's 2005 debut: 5 2/3ds innings, 9 hits, 5 earned runs, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, 2 homers allowed, and an 0-1 record.

They ain't, as the West Virginia Pittsnogles undoubtedly like to say, "purdy." And you know what? I'm cool with it. And you know why? Because I saw glimpses of the old familiar greatness in Schilling tonight, glimpses that reassured me that he's healthy and ready to be the ace again soon enough.

In the first inning, Schilling's fastball was "hot," as that wonderful wordsmith The Eck noted postgame. He overwhelmed leadoff hitter Tony Womack, then smoked two high fastballs by Captain Jetes - a rare occurence - before sending his overwhelmed Intangibles back to the dugout on a called strike three.

Schilling had his top-shelf stuff early, and the Sox went into the sixth tied, 2-2. Then, his fuel gauge hit empty, a less than shocking development considering it was his first legitimate mound foray since Game 2 of the World Series five months ago. He gave up a two-run bomb to Jason Giambi (things that make you go hmmm: Juicin' G is as big as ever) and a solo shot to the decomposing Bernie Williams, a surefire sign that he'd lost about four feet off his fastball.

Tito Francona lifted Schilling after 108 pitches - or about 20 too late. And while the bullpen acquitted itself well - Blaine Neal in particular, and, yes I think this guy is trying to mess with now - the Classy But Still Evil Yankees held on for the win.

It was Jaret Wright, tonight's Yankee starter, who earned the victory. He also earned something far more prestigious - frontrunner status for the Ed Whitson Award, an annual dishonor foisted upon the Yankee pitcher who has been successful elsewhere but melts like the Wicked Witch of the West (no, that's not a Suzyn Waldman reference) under the scorching Bronx heatlamps.

Past winners include Kenny (Know When To Fold 'Em) Rogers, Jeff Weaver, and last year's co-recipients, Javier Vazquez and Kevin Brown. Forget Jim Nantz's bleatings: this is a tradition unlike any other.

Wright throws peas, but when he gets in trouble, he starts stomping around the mound and overthrowing, classic symptoms of the often incurable malady Million-Dollar-Arm/Plug-Nickel-Head-itis. The Sox - particularly Papi, enduring a rare off-night against the Yankees - let him off the hook.

The Sox scratch out one timely hit, Wright's head pops like a bloated tick, and who knows how many crooked numbers they'd have put up on the scoreboard. That hit never came, but the Sox posse will catch up to Wright before the summer is through. And it won't be purdy.

So there it is. Schilling lost, Wright won, and Sox fans should be encouraged by all of it.

Yep, still April.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The best day ever

Two comments scribbled on my notepad while watching the TiVo'd replay of the Red Sox's ring ceremony/raising of the banner:

Good god, this feels as good as beating the Yankees and winning the World Series.


Man, I love every last one of these guys.

And there you have it - the melted heart of a card-carrying cynic. Yesterday's ceremony was that great, that magical, that special, that absolutely perfect that an entire fandom was engulfed by only the sweetest of emotions this afternoon. And we devoured every sentimental second of it.

Dr. Steinberg, you did it up right. Sox fans have been imagining this day for years - and damned if reality didn't turn out to be better than we ever imagined. (Okay, with one tone-deaf exception.)

Picking a best moment is like being asked to choose your favorite Seinfeld episode. There are too many classics to settle on just one.

Was it the unannounced appearance of Dave Roberts, who popped out of the dugout and rocked Fenway to its rickety core?

Was it the appropriate sendoff for Derek Lowe?

Was it Yaz and Pesky, the "8" and the "6" symbolically side by side, raising the banner we weren't sure we'd ever see?

The wounded troops delivering the rings and bringing tears to the jaded eyes of professional athletes?

The return of Terry Francona, the beloved ailing manager, or the return of Tedy Bruschi, the beloved ailing linebacker?

Bill Russell, back at Fenway for the first time in 40 years and signifying something so much more important?

The revelation that football behemoth Richard Seymour throws like a 6-year old girl?

It was so much to take in, to cherish, to absorb . . . it almost seemed surreal.

But it was real. And it was spectacular.

I wrote a few more things down on the notebook today, a few rants and a lot of raves. Here they are. I hope you enjoy them, and feel free to send me your recollections of the day. I'd love to hear them. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch the tape again. And again. And then one more time, and again . . .

~ The lowering of all the past Red Sox World Series banners onto the Green Monster - culminating with the 2004 World Champions banner that covered the entire wall - might have been the single most breathtaking moment in my lifetime as a fan. It was, to quote the great philosopher Billy Ocean, simply . . . awesome. They should leave that thing up there all season. I just want to stare at it. It can be like the baggie in the Metrodome. Except much cooler.

~ I'm a native Mainah, too stoic to shed a tear, but let's just say my allergies really kicked in when Derek Lowe and Dave Roberts brought the old house down. And the strange thing is, I don't even have allergies. And I absolutely loved Lowe's simple explanation for coming back: "To get it right." Dammit, I do miss the Gidget. In good times and bad - and he had his share of both, no doubt - he always appreciated playing here. The only good thing about Lowe being gone is we had the chance to welcome him back so gratefully.

~ Three words for John Kruk and Harold Reynolds, the dueling twits on "Baseball Tonight" who ripped Lowe and Roberts for putting on a Sox jersey when they play for other teams: You. Don't. Understand. And three more words, made famous by Archie Bunker: Shut. Up. You.

~ Co-master of ceremonies Don Orsillo is so square, he must have to wear a shoebox for a hat. Dude makes Joe Castiglione look like 50 Cent.

~ Okay, there was one blemish on the day, and I'm sure you know what I'm taking about. "This one's for Teddy Ballgame . . ." The best thing I can say about Terry Cashman's "song" (term used loosely) is that it was hokey. In the spirit of the day, I'll refrain from saying the worst thing I can think of, but I must admit it was so amateurish I was wondering if he was winging it . . .

("This one's for . . . uh . . . Garrrrryyyy Hancock.")

. . . hell, I'm pretty sure Brian Cashman could have put on a better show. If you missed it, WEEI spoofed here. This one actually intends to be funny.

~ If Dr. Charles Steinberg, the Sox P.R. guru who masterminded this production, intends to force Cashman's song down the Nation's throat like he did with Tessie, I can almost guarantee that an angry mob of Sox fans will string him up from the Coke bottles and leave him there until he promises to destroy every last recording.

~ Did you ever think there'd come a day where an appearance by Tedy Bruschi would deservedly overshadow Bobby Orr and Bill Russell? To see him in public for the first time since his discharge from the hospital was both heartwarming and devastating, and if you noticed his ever-so-slight limp, you know exactly what I mean.

~ Any explanation for why Tom Brady wasn't involved? Don't tell me he's still wearing that damn Yankees hat in private.

~ I'm not sure which is better, Johnny Pesky's unabashed, genuine and heartfelt emotion for . . . well, everything Red Sox, or the unabashed, genuine and heartfelt emotion Red Sox players so clearly have for him. While slowly making his way through the gauntlet of hugs, Pesky encountered former pitcher Curtis Leskanic, Pesky greeted him with a hearty, "Leskanic, you sunofab*tch!" If you don't love Johnny, your heart must be cast in charcoal.

~ By the way, did Leskanic join the Guardian Angels? Sweet beret, dude.

~ Another nice touch, having the former players wear the jersey styles of their generation. Flashing back after seeing Freddie Lynn with the old familiar No. 19 on his back, I halfway expected him to limp off midway through the ceremony with dislocated hangnail. I do wish they had done a better job telling us which alumni were in attendance. Was Pudge there, or wasn't he? And was that really Jody Reed?

~ I'll have to get Rob Neyer on the case, but I'm pretty sure Abe Alvarez has the best ratio of career-starts-to-World-Series-rings among any pitcher in major-league history.

~ Keith Foulke is just plain cool. The dude ambles. You can't fake ambling. I think John Wayne said that. And yes, I know I just qualified myself for the Tim McCarver I-Love-Mariano's-Gait Man-Crush Award for most inane fanboy smooching of a relief pitcher. I'll clear a place on my mantel.

~ Sox fans long ago became weary of being force-fed the Yankees' "class," but there is no other word to describe their conduct yesterday. My respect for them grew 26-fold, particularly for Joe Torre (for tipping his hat in tribute to Francona), Captain Jetes (for applauding when Johnny Pesky was introduced) and especially Mariano Rivera, who handled the Faithful's spontaneous, cascading cheers with pitch-perfect humor and grace. Plus, he gets bonus points for looking like he borrowed Matt Dillon's teeth from "There's Something About Mary."

~ The difference between Jeter smiling threw the boos and A-Rod pretending he doesn't hear them is the difference between four championships and zerozipnada.

~ Maybe if a juiced-up Jason Giambi didn't hit two homers in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Sox fans would be more forgiving of him in his current situation. As it is: Steeeeerrr-roids! Steeeerrr-roids!

~ A moment of silence for the Pope, followed by a moment of silence for a relief pitcher who retired 40 years ago. Only in Boston. And I say that with bemused admiration and pride.

~ There's a little too much monster-truck rally SUNDAY!SUNDAY!SUNDAY! in Orsillo's voice, especially when he introduced Schilling. I agree with Globe colleague Bill Griffith - it's days like these when Sean McDonough is missed most.

~ I was snooping around the Sons of Sam Horn message board yesterday, so I had a pretty good idea which players got the best ovations - Papi, Varitek, Schilling, the usual postseason-hero posse. But in watching the festivities myself, it was cool (if not totally surprising) to see some unsung Sox get rousing ovations: Bill Mueller, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Timlin . . .

. . . and then there was Ramiro Mendoza. Crickets. Nothing but crickets. Chirp!

~ What's the worse crime according to the Kangaroo Court? Mendoza, a current Yankee property, wearing a Sox jersey to get his ring? Or David Wells, a current Red Sox, wishing he were a Yankee?

~ It seems appropriate that Orlando Cabrera hit a game-winning home run for the Angels last night. On a day where we wished last year's team well, it was nice to see him doing well.

~ So Terry Francona is No. 47. Huh. I had no idea. Until yesterday, I also had no idea he wore the ubiquitous red sweatshirt because he gets chills from his heart medicine. I do know it was reassuring to see the best manager in Red Sox history healthy and happy and cheered like no Sox manager has ever been cheered. His embrace with Bruschi was clearly more emotional than either man intended, another moment - this one unchoreographed - that tugged at the heartstrings and the tear ducts.

~ Does Wilford Brimley know Lynn Jones stole his mustache?

~ Orsillo introduced Mike Myers as "Lefty Mike Myers," the only player to get a positional designation before his name. His he really that much of a specialist? Does his wife call him that?

~ Tim Wakefield's an emotional guy, always has been in his 11 years here. The look on his face after giving up Aaron Boone's homer was the most devasted look I have ever seen on the face of a professional athlete. Which makes it even more impressive that he maintained his focus through the ceremony and went out and mowed down the Yankees in Boston's 8-1 victory. I can't imagine anyone being more professional than Knucksie.

~ The calendar says 2005, as it has for some time now. But for Sox fans, 2004 didn't end until today. With today serving as the final act of closure, last year is safely tucked away in the scrapbooks of our minds. We can now move on, or turn the page, as last year's World Series MVP likes to say.

Now we can turn our attention to Renteria, and Mantei, and Clement, and the new Sox and the holdovers, and their chances of beating the Yankees. Again.

A whole new season - well, a whole new season minus 7 games - awaits. Who knows what joys and sorrows it holds, but I do know this much.

I wouldn't mind writing this column again next April.

Guest column: Change will do you good

My friend Jerry, a magazine editor and former Globie, always seems to get the good tickets - he's like the Forrest Gump of must-see Red Sox games.

Not only was he one of the 33,702 lucky loyalists to be in the house for yesterday's 86-years-in-the-making celebration, but he was also in the crowd the moment the Red Sox's emancipation began: July 24, 2004, the day Jason Varitek gave A-Rod the leatherface treatment and the Sox set a hip new trend by rallying to beat Mariano Rivera. You're damn right I'm jealous.

While being fortunate enough to have the inside and up-close view of these transcendent games, Jerry has also put his reporter's eye to good use, observing some subtler changes as the tide has turned in the Sox/Yankees rivalry.

Here's a short, insightful piece he sent me on the subject. Enjoy it, and remember: Beating the beejeepers out of Yankee fans is not a right. It's a privilege. - CF

By Jerry Fraser

What a difference a world championship makes. Last July 24’s flood-delayed game between the Red Sox and Yankees was, in the grandstands, about as mean as it could get.

The place rocked to the beat of "Yankees suck," and cops dragged ugly drunks down every aisle.

The brawl between A-Rod and Jason Varitek did nothing to lighten the mood. I’ve heard a lot of fans, most of whom probably weren’t at the game, say a new Red Sox psyche emerged from the dustup, but I’m not sure.

The mood at Fenway remained as dark and bitter as the sky, if the catfight between a blonde and a J-Lo look-alike in the bleachers in right, both sporting their team’s colors, was any indication, and the Yankees’ six-run sixth inning didn’t help. Neither did Ramiro Mendoza’s sterling performance in the eighth and ninth.

There was genuine joy in Mudville when Bill Mueller’s winning ninth-inning home run whistled into the stands, but there was an air of uncertain vindication as well.

I was back at Fenway yesterday for the opening day ceremony, washed in the bright sunshine that lay in right throughout the afternoon, and it was a different place ... a park, not a ring.

Everyone, it seemed, from Derek Lowe and Dave Roberts to the Yankee fans who peppered the stands, much less ado about their colors, seemed happy to be there.

Red Sox Nation was a land of winners. It turns out, as your mother may have told you, that nothing succeeds like success.

"We Believe" may have emerged from the ugliness of July 24, but yesterday it was, "We Are."

Monday, April 11, 2005

Beautiful day

I've been a Sox fanatic for 27 years, or since I was 8 years old and saw Butch Hobson dive headfirst into the bat rack during some random game early in 1978.

I later realized ol' Clell Lavern was likely hopped up on coke and greenies, but still, it was cool, Superman-style stuff, and I was hooked for life.

So by my rough estimation, I've been a fan for approximitely 4,000 games. I've probably seen at least an inning, a highlight, something from 3,999 of them. And of all those games through all of those years, today's raising of the banner/ring ceremony/thrashing of the Yankees ranks as my most magical, enjoyable, wonderful, you-pick-the-adjective day as a fan.

(Loophole: Game 4, 2004 World Series, and Game 7, 2004 ALCS, were at night. Hah.)

And yet, I haven't really experienced the day yet, not in full emotional force. I was en route from Maine to Boston during the pregame festivities, looking forward to being a part of the Globe sports department on such a transcendant day but lamenting that I had only Jerry Trupiano (yammering over the emcees on the field) to paint me the picture of an event we've waited a lifetime to enjoy.

Troop and his klutzy wordplay weren't enough, and I only caught an occasional glimpse of the festivities on the sports department's television. Fortunately, my TiVo was doing its thing, and I'll watch everything in its entirety when I get home tonight. Then I'll watch again. And maybe again. Then tomorrow, schedule-permitting, I'll come here and spew roughly 10,000 words about the wonderful things I saw.

Until then, 10,000 words' worth of pictures . . .

Great to see D-Lowe and D-Rob . . .

. . . even better to see Tito . . .

. . . and Tedy. Especially Tedy.


The all-time Mr. Red Sox . . .

. . . and the present-day Mr. Red Sox . . .

A worthy foe . . .

. . . a worthy target . . .

. . . and, 86 years in the waiting, the crown jewel.

Now all I need is a picture of ol' Butch . . .

. . . bat racks be damned, even he was part of the show today, along with past beloved Sox both obscure and legendary.

It really doesn't get any better, does it?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

GameDay: Toronto 4, Boston 3

Today's game? Missed the brunt of it. Instead, I spent this first legitimate spring day cleaning a winter's worth of Shipyard bottles out of the garage. It beat the hell out of watching Matt Clement go 3-2 on every Blue Jay from Reed Johnson to Damaso Garcia.

Clement (6 innings, 3 earned runs, 6 hits, 6 Ks, 5 freakin' walks) pitched all right according to the stat sheet (then again, that's the story of his sub-.500 career), while another newcomer, Edgar Renteria, delivered a two-out, two-run single in the ninth to tie the score at 3. Mike Timlin gave it up in the bottom of the ninth, Orlando (My G.M.'s Pimp Hand Is Strong) Hudson doubling in the winning run.

So it goes. The Sox are 2-4 and in last place in the AL East. Somehow, I think we'll be willing to look past that tomorrow, when they return for the home opener and the ring ceremony/banner unveiling that has been 87 years in the making. Six games into the new season, and the old season still dominates our consciousness. I suppose we can let it have one more day.

With that, a few scattered notes regarding yesterday, today and tomorrow:

- The AP story on Saturday night's Angels game noted that Orlando Cabrera "finally drove in his first run of the season after signing a 4-year, $32 million contract over the winter." If Angels fans are already clamoring for grittyguttyscrappylousy David Eckstein, they're as numb in the skull as the Sox fans who dumped on Renteria two games into the season . . .

- . . . and that condescending scolding right there comes to you from the same fool who wrote about yesterday's loss in game four of the season as if it were a spirit-crushing defeat in Game 4 of the ALCS or something. A word of advice: whenever I mix equal parts panic and hypocrisy in my writing, always assume that I picked a bad day to quit sniffing glue.

- From reader J-Lo (I'm assuming it's not that J-Lo. And if it is, you're out of luck, baby. I'm a Beyonce guy. Uh, and I'm married. Especially if you're a guy):

You mentioned yesterday that Frank Catalanotto is one of those average-type of players who gives the Sox a hard time. You were right on, but you should have mentioned that the Blue Jays seem to collect those types of guys. Take Reed Johnson. He sucks, but he always looks like an all star against the Sox. Same for Greg Myers (sucks) and Eric Hinske (sucks). And there was that Zaun guy (sucks) yesterday and Chris Gomez (sucks) hit a grand slam off Schill to win a game last year. And the weird thing is, it's kinda the same story when they play the Orioles. Guys like Jerry Hairston, Larry Bigbee and Luis Matos always seem to do great things against the Sox, and then remember that they actually suck against the Yankees. I can't think of the reason why this happens, but don't you agree it does?

First of all, congrats on shattering the Internet record for using the word "sucks" one paragraph. (I believe the previous record was held in an Amazon review of the Michael "No-Talent Assclown" Bolton Greatest Hits CD.) I do agree that this happens with the Orioles, too. B.J. Surhoff would be in the Hall of Fame if he played the Sox 162 games a year, and sometimes it seems like he does. Which I think backs us into the explanation for this - the Sox play their AL East foes so often, you become really familiar with their obscure or mediocre players, and if one wins a game once or twice in a season, it sticks with you. I've been waiting for Surhoff to retire for five years now. Or to start sucking, at least.

- Nice touch by the Sox public relations wizards, inviting back stars of the past to be a part of tomorrow's ceremonies. Johnny Pesky will be there - it just wouldn't be right without him - as well as Yaz, Lonborg, Rice, Rico, Eck, maybe Mo, Johnny Val, Chico Walker . . .

. . . okay, maybe not Chico, but still, it's wonderfully appropriate that these Red Sox legends are prominently involved in the festivities. They may not have been members of the 2004 team per se, but they were teammates in spirit. That becomes very apparent in the Faith Rewarded video, when Dewey Evans encounters Johnny Damon on the field before Game 1 of the World Series. Dewey says simply and sternly: "Win it. Win it. Win it." It's a touching, telling moment, and Dewey and the other great Sox who retired unfulfilled deserve to revel in the accomplishment, for they know better than anyone how difficult it is to achieve.

- Departed members of last year's team will be back, too, including one of my all-time favorites, Ellis Burks. D-Lowe will also be there, as will Curtis Leskanic, which reminds me: Any chance Leskanic can stick around, maybe pitch the eighth?

- Hell, yes, I'm glad the Yankees will be in the house to watch the Sox raise their banner. I can't wait to see the genuine look of disgust on the Captain's face, as well as the "Jetes isn't as good as me but he looks disgusted so I'd better pretend to look disgusted too" look on A-Rod's mug. I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to slap the ring off Bronson Arroyo's hand at some point. But I also know this is the sort of thing that could fuel the Yankees the rest of the season. If Torre is any kind of manager at all, he will be telling his players before the game to pay attention during the ceremony, because the Red Sox have what they should have had, and are rejoicing at their expense. Again.

- Finn's Vegas Odds on who gets the loudest ovation: Curt Schilling, 5-2. David Ortiz, 2-1; Tito Francona, 2-1; Alex Rodriguez, 252,000,000-1.

- I won't be able to watch the ceremonies - it falls during the meat of my 2-hour commute to the Globe - but TiVo will be setting it aside for me, and I'll be listening to Troop and Joe on the radio in the meantime.

And while I'm driving, listening and grinning (and swerving), I'll again be thinking of all the Sox fans in my little world who finally, finally, finally experienced that pure, unadulterated joy last October - and wasn't that the best part, that everyone you care about was just so damn happy for days? I'll think of my college buddy Yeast Boy in Florida, who flew up on a whim to catch the parade, just as I knew he would. And my editor friend Nuts at the Monitor, who, in the moments after Aaron Boone's home run looked like he'd seen a dugout full of ghosts, yet managed to kick me in my bitchy, shellshocked ass in order to get my "Sox win!" column rewritten into a "Grady must be tarred and feathered!" column before deadline, then cursed and grieved and drank with me for days afterward. And of course, my 64-year-old dad, who was so inspired by the championship that he finally got a Sox cap that fits his mammoth head. (Actually, it's a pup tent with a "B" on it, but hey, it fits and the old man is happy.)

My point of my sentimental stroll is this: Many of us waited a lifetime for today. Some, god rest their souls, waited longer. Please, savor this. It's once in a lifetime treat, for even when - yeah, I said when - the Sox win it again, it will never be so sweet as it is now.

Right. As if you need to be told.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

GameDay: Toronto 12, Boston 5

Might as well get the good news out of the way first. David Ortiz, who's swinging the bat like it's October and the season is on the line, cranked a three-run homer to dead center off Jays ace Roy Halladay, trimming the Blue Jays' lead to 5-4 in the sixth inning.

And there you have it. The highlight. As for rest of this one, it was about as ugly as a Randy Johnson close-up.

Begin with starting pitcher/2005 Imbedded Yankee candidate David Wells, who needed just 78 pitches to throw 6 1/3 innings - meaning, basically, that he was efficiently sh*tty.

Wells, pitching like he was feeling the effects of one too many Molson and Count Chocula breakfasts, gave up back-to-back-to-back homers in the third to his distant cousin Vernon Wells, as well as Corey Koskie and Shea Hillenbrand.

Wells's parting line: 6 runs, 9 hits, an 0-2 record, and an 8.44 ERA. Get well, Wade Miller. There may be an opening soon.

Wells was lousy - and yet, pathetically enough, he was the best Sox pitcher of the day. The bullpen pulled a "Mass Mariano," giving up seven hits and six runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Matt Mantei looked like a poor man's Curtis Leskanic, throwing straight smoke and having no clue where it might end up. The Jays' Frank Catalanotto - one of those marginal players who inexplicably and repeatedly torments the Sox - greeted Mantei with the go-ahead single.

John Halama relieved him 2/3ds of an inning and three hits later, only to shock interim manager Brad Mills by pitching like . . . John Halama. He failed to retire a batter, setting the stage for the worst offender, Blaine Neal.

Neal gave up a grand slam to Gregg Zaun - he of the 39 career homers and baseball-reference historical comparison to Damon Berryhill - a development that should result in permanent banishment to Pawtucket, R.I.

You might remember I sang Neal praises on the site several posts ago. Well, you forget that ever happened, punks. By the time you read this, I'll have deleted that nonsense and I'll forever deny its existence. I know the truth now. Neal has a good arm, but he couldn't make a friggin' Wiffle Ball curve.

In a related story, this young fella . . .

. . . makes start No. 2 for the Mets today. If he pitches as well as he did in start No. 1, and Sox starters continue to bumble along, the WEEI banshees will be screeching so loud, you'll be able to hear them with your radio turned off.

Matt Clement, whose gameday personality seems as jittery as his hoppin' fastball, goes today.

No pressure, kid.

GameDay: Boston 6, Toronto 5

Sox manager Terry Francona was released from the hospital today, his ailment diagnosed not as a heart problem but as an easily treatable "viral illness."

Which is a blessing of many sorts, including this small one: Had the ticker been Tito's problem, Keith Foulke's performance tonight might have sent his skipper right back into intensive care.

Tonight's ballgame began well enough. Bronson Arroyo looked like the best eventual No. 6 starter in baseball, Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon homered (Varitek's 400-foot blast landing somewhere between the moon and Quebec City) and the Sox cruised into the ninth with a 6-3 lead.

Tonight's ballgame ended well enough, too. But not before Foulke nearly pulled a "Mariano," giving up two runs and loading the bases with two outs before getting Orlando (Boss, I Meant 'Pimp' As A Compliment, Honest) Hudson to ground out to end it. A cheaper save you will be hard-pressed to find.

So then, a quick inventory of the day: The Sox are 2-2 and in a five-way tie for first in the AL East. Meathead Jaret Wright got shellacked in his first start for the Yankees, and by the pinstripe-fearing Orioles, no less. Francona is healthy, thank heavens, and interim boss Brad Mills remained undefeated.

Not a bad day, Sox fans. Not a bad day at all. Seems to me the only way it could have been better is if Jimmy Fallon had spontaneously combusted.

Maybe tomorrow. Hey, spring is the time for hope.

Friday, April 08, 2005

"Americano got the sleepy eye . . ."

If the No. 7 Falcons jersey with the name 'Mexico' across the shoulders isn't an NFL Pro Shop best-seller next year, then dammit, football fans don't have as sick a sense of humor as they should . . .