Nine innings: 03.06.06
Playing nine innings while wishing the Rocket's kid had charged the mound . . .
1. Let's see . . . David Wells says he wants to stay, and a lefty with the capability of winning 15 games is always welcome. Manny arrived when he said he would arrive, with his new George Clinton hairdo and jacked and pumped physique. Curt Schilling looks and feels marvelous. Coco Crisp is Mr. Popular off the field (Gordon Edes says no one is more tireless in signing autographs) and was electric in his debut on the field, and no one is longing for his predecessor, Johnny Damon. The pitching staff is so stacked that Bronson Arroyo and Jonathan Papelbon may start the year in the bullpen. So I guess I have to ask: With everything down in Ft. Myers pretty much following the Camp Tranquility script, at some point the 'EEI banshees will abandon their pre-packaged, yowl-for-four-hours "storylines" and start talking some actual baseball. Right? Oh, I know its probably wishful thinking - What about Beckett's shouldah! What about Foulke's knee, callah?! The Blue Jays got bettah! That's not what I said! - but if you can't be hopeful during the spring, really, what's the point of paying attention at all?
2. Three reactions to Yankee Manager Joe Torre's insistence on calling Johnny Damon "John":
a) That's just how New Yorkers pronounce "Judas."
b) The deprogramming, shaving, and labotimizing of Damon's "Idiot" persona is nearly complete. All that's left is the official neutering.
c) How can we expect Empire employees to get players' names correct when they can't even spell 'Yankees' right?
3. I will agree with Georgie Porgie on one thing, however: Some prominent player is going to get seriously hurt in the World Baseball Classic. (I've got the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez in the pool. He's a Tommy John surgery waiting to happen, and you just know he'll get macho and overthrow during this silly thing.) Personally, I'm rooting for a three-way collision between Team USA heroes Damon, A-Rod and Jeter, one that registers at least a 6.0 on the Richter scale and costs the Yankees, oh, 486 man-games this season. Sure, I'm pulling for Team USA and all that, but first and foremost I pledge my allegiance to the Red Sox, man.
4. Sad to see Pokey Reese go out on such a mysterious note, if indeed his abrupt walkout on the Florida Marlins does spell the end of his big league career. While Reese might be the Sox's all-time leader in Popularity-To-Production Ratio - slick with the glove and always smiling, he was beloved at Fenway despite the fact that his bat was a prop - his legacy is secure if only because he fielded Ruben Sierra's feeble grounder for the final out of Game 7 of the 2004 American League Divisional Series. Our grandkids will be seeing that highlight. Here's hoping he can overcome whatever is troubling him.
5. Got the TV on for background noise here, and I could swear Hazel Mae just referred to the Devil Rays' Carl Crawford as the "Crazy One." Now, either my iPod-abused ears are failing me, it was a simple verbal misstep by the usually solid NESN "SportsDesk" anchor, Crawford headbutted an umpire last summer and I simply missed it, or Ms. Mae is one of the lucky ones who have no idea what the despicable Carl Everett put Sox fans through during that dreadful summer of '01.
6. You can pretty much separate Sox fans into two categories: 1) Those who think trading some combination of Trot Nixon, Matt Clement and Arroyo to the Nationals for the astoundingly overrated Alfonso Soriano is a great idea. 2) Those who have a damn clue. Soriano is a fantasy league stud who does very little to help a real, live major league baseball team besides hitting the occasional home run. He hasn't improved in years, he still can't lay off the low-and-away slider, his range is Todd Walker-esque, he's delusional about his own abilities to the point that he thought he should have been playing shortstop for the Yankees, he's careless, and he's about the last player Theo and his minions would consider bringing to the Red Sox. To put it another way: If Soriano ever calls Fenway Park home, I'll dip Boomer Wells's sweat socks in A1 sauce and eat them for lunch.
The Giants? Huh. I would have pegged Aretha Franklin as a Detroit fan.
8. If you haven't clicked the link to the "Maple Street Press 2006 Red Sox Annual" over there on the right side, well, what the hell are you waiting for? Check it out already, Corky. I think you'll find that the Annual, which runs about 100 pages, is more in-depth and insightful than just about any preview-type publication you will find at your local Borders; I like to think of it as a "Baseball Prospectus" strictly for Sox fans. The book is the brainchild of Sox nut Jim Walsh, the founder of Maple Street Press, and he's done it up right; I really believe he's onto something special and unique here despite his exceedingly questionable choice to write the Sox preview and individual player capsules. (Hello there.) Seriously, this is an excellent companion to the new season, and it's worth your time, not to mention your 10 bucks. Give it a look. Thank us later.
9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
His fall from grace was as swift and stunning as any athlete's this side of Brentwood, one more example of the dangers of deifying a human being we don't truly know. But for whatever demons Kirby Puckett wrestled with off the field, I will forever believe the unbridled, contagious joy with which he played baseball was genuine. Having first noticed him as an ascending member of the Toledo Mud Hens in '84 - with his fireplug body and uncommon grace, even in obscurity he stood out - I admired the ballplayer greatly, a sentiment pretty much every fan of my generation would echo. You couldn't help but like Kirby. Even knowing now what we didn't know then, his death today at the far too young age of 45 has left me feeling terribly sad, and perhaps a little bit older, too.