Monday, April 04, 2005

Nine innings: 04.04.05

Zipping through nine innings while wondering how yesterday's shocking steroid revelation will affect Alex Sanchez's Hall of Fame chances . . .

1) In any other season I'd jump all over David Wells, Edgar Renteria and the rest of Sox for looking like they weren't ready for the season opener tonight, but the truth is this: I wasn't ready, either. It just seems too . . . soon, especially to be playing the Yankees again. I don't know about you, but I am still mentally celebrating and savoring and lingering on the memories of last season, and I don't know how long it's going to be before all of my attention is focused on this new one. Could be tomorrow. Could be next Monday, when they get their rings. Could be September. I'll care about this year soon enough. Just not tonight.

You know all those people who said Sox fans would change after a World Series victory, that they wouldn't know what to do with themselves anymore now that they no longer the old familiar agony to beeyatch about? Well, they were half-right - we have changed. We are goddamn thrilled to have experienced something none of us were sure we'd ever live to see, only to find out once it happened that it's better than our scarred hearts ever dared to imagine. Say it again: The Sox won the World Series, and along the way, they pulled off the greatest comeback in sports history against the bleepin' Yankees. Tell me you don't read that and smile.

We are happy, dammit, and it's not an emotion I'm ready to discard just because the Sox looked lousy on opening night. Funny, we used to say wait til next year. Now all I'm saying is, can this year wait?

(Aside to shrill Yankee radio shill Suzyn Waldman: You can call this Game 8 all you want. It was not. The last series ended after seven games. Believe it or not, the Yankees lost. Gruesomely, too. Might be time to get some therapy for your denial issues.)

2) Scribblings on the notepad in between trips to the Frigidaire: Jason Giambi looks much larger than he did last year . . . Alan Embree looks much smaller . . . There is no Yankee that Sox fans respect more than Hideki Matsui, Captain Jetes included . . . One game in, and I'm already sick of the painfully unfunny W.B. Mason commercials. Fortunately, we'll see them just 1,610,000,000 more times this season . . . When Millar walked in the sixth inning, I raised my beverage in a toast to Dave Roberts. You too? . . . Tom Werner seems like the kind of guy who has owned more franchises than baseball cards . . . Bill O'Reilly, Donald Trump and Regis Philbin sat together. In a related story, the seventh circle of hell has been located . . . Bernie Williams, gray-haired and a dead ringer for Omar Minaya, looks like he aged 10 years in the offseason. Where'd Carlos Beltran end up, anyway? . . . Why is Jim Leyritz sitting behind homeplate, wearing a cheesy leather jacket with a bunch of MLB logos on it? Is he still waiting for Jason Varitek to give him his job back? . . . It's weird seeing Jay Payton wearing No. 44. That was O-Cab's number . . . Is there any short-timer in Sox history who left a lasting legacy like Cabrera's? Dave Henderson, maybe? . . . I wonder if it bothers legendary Yankee public address announcer Bob Sheppard that, in the moments he's not adding class to the proceedings, the incessant bells, whistles and sound effects make it sound like an Orlando Magic game has broken out at The Stadium . . . Matsui's homer makes it 8-1. G'Night. Time for me to pull a Stewart O'Nan and go to bed before the game's over, even though I'm supposed to be writing about it. Hell, yes, you bet I resent him for writing that book. Go chase balls, Stu. Leave the game to the true fans.

3) If you missed Ken Rosenthal's hatchet job on A-Fraud in The Sporting News, here are a couple snippets I guarantee will make you gleefully click on the link for the rest of the story:

Alex Rodriguez scores on Hideki Matsui's bases-loaded double, and Gary Sheffield follows him down the third base line, ready to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

"Run him over! Run him over!" Rodriguez yells at Sheffield, imploring him to barrel through Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.

Sheffield scores, and Varitek turns to Rodriguez. "You would never do it," Varitek replies sneeringly.

Beee-yoootiful. And one more. Try not to snicker:

During Rodriguez's tenure with the Rangers, he occasionally would make like a Little League coach, shouting basic instructions at his younger teammates. "Get a secondary lead!" he would yell to a runner on first. "Get a secondary lead!" After Rodriguez left the team, one prominent American League veteran asked a younger Ranger with a chuckle, "How are you even able to play without A-Rod telling you what to do?"

That same veteran speaks disdainfully about the way Rodriguez and Jeter race each other to the top step of the dugout to congratulate teammates and celebrate important plays. He makes Rodriguez sound like a know-it-all valedictorian, observing sarcastically, "He's trying to be the perfect player."

Great stuff as usual by Rosenthal, for my money one of the best and most underrated national baseball writers. As far as A-Rod goes, he's done the impossible around here: he's made Jeter seem likable and sincere, at least by comparison. I was talking about this phenomenon with my buddy Nuts the other day, and he made the point that, while Jeter's mannerisms make you want to pimp-slap him (like being a little too overzealous in his congratulations), at least he plays the game the right way and scares the living beejeezus out of you in the clutch. Plus, he has gone out of his way to be gracious and congratulate the Sox this spring, a classy gesture if there ever was one. A-Rod? He doesn't play the game the right way, he is not clutch, he is not gracious in defeat. So he's 0-for-3 - or about what you'd expect from the purse-carrying pitcher-slapper in a crucial game. How much do you love that the national media is on to his act now?

4) I get great joy from watching the Sox with my wife, not only because she's sweetly showing an interest in something I care passionately about, but also because her commmentary is more insightful than, say, Joe Morgan's. It's also a lot more colorful. Two of her beauties from last night:

Her (during pregame introductions) : "Wow, Trot really does look like an inbred, doesn't he?"
Me: "Yup. Saw about 50 guys that looked just like him in Ft. Myers. Must have been his brothers-slash-uncles."
Her: "Yeah, I bet he has a big family."

Then there was this observation as tenor Ronan Tynan jogged off the field after his usual 14-minute, 58-second rendition of God Bless America:

Her: "He can run with no legs. That's pretty good."
Her: "How come he doesn't have legs?"
Me: "I don't know."
Her: "You don't know? How come you don't know? You should know. You work in sports."
Me: "He sings for the Yankees. He doesn't play for them."
Her: "Yeah, but he doesn't have legs. You should know why."
Her: "He's pretty fast."

(Note from the publisher: I did the Google thing, and Tynan had legs amputated at age 20 after a car accident. The tragedy considered, I apologize to anyone who's sense of humor is not as sick as mine. The dude does run pretty well, though. Definitely could beat Posada down the line.)

5) After striking out David Ortiz in the seventh inning, Yankees reliever Tanyon Sturtze muttered what I'll abbreviate thusly: FU, MF. Why the harsh language? You'll recall Ortiz landed a few quality shots on Sturtze's oversized and underutilized noggin during the Tek/A-Rod brawl. I'm not naming names, but I think a certain talentless, ferret-faced relief pitcher from Worcester still harbors some resentment. Ask me, he's lucky Papi didn't finish the job.

6) If there's one superstar-caliber player stupid and arrogant enough to keep using steroids, my money is on Gary Sheffield. He was on his best behavior last year, but I suspect Yankee fans are about to find out why such a talented player has played on so many teams. Hint: He's a world-class jackass.

7) The more I hear and see of Johnny Damon this spring - and his performance last night was Dwayne Hoseyesque, not a good sign coming off his Johnny Hollywood offseason - the more truth I find in the title of his book.

8) An update for all you Dirty Dozen denizens who were kind enough to offer Rot League draft suggestions:

I ended up hitting the jackpot, getting Albert Pujols, the consensus best player in the draft. The rookie picking first took A-Fraud, then Santana and the Unit went 2-3. Took me about .00000092 seconds to make my pick. The rest of my draft? Not bad, but I wouldn't mind a do-over in a few spots. Got future MVP Miguel Cabrera in Rd. 2, which was cool, and Victor Martinez (by far the best catcher now that P-Rod is built like Pokey Reese) in Rd. 3. which was cooler. Then I took Mark Mulder (if healthy, he'll win 20-plus for the Cards), Mark Prior (&*$#$ you, Dusty) . . . and then the mickey one of my fellow owners apparently slipped me kicked in, because I inexplicable took the San Francisco Steroid in Rd. 6. I'm regretting the Bonds pick already, in part because I expect him to jump of the Golden Gate Bridge any day now (then swim to the surface, back from the dead, just to blame the media), but especially because both of the Marlins' future Cy Young winners (Beckett, Burnett) remained on the board. Other picks: D-Lowe, Jon Lieber, the Wells Twins (Boomer and Vernon), Cordero (Francisco, not Chad or Wil), Tahd Walkah, Bobby Crosby (huge sleeper at short, especially in a power-oriented league), Nick Swisher, Reggie Sanders, BJ Ryan, Bill Mueller, Morgan Ensberg, Clint Barmes, and a bunch of other roster fodder. I knew I was getting sleepy when I took someone named Jorge Cantu in the 17th Rd. Good thing the laughter woke me up.

And that concludes the Let Me Bore You Into A Coma With News About My Rot League Team segment of this program. For all that sent me suggestions, thanks. For all that didn't, I blame you for the Bonds/Cantu picks, and you may bite me now.

9) Best thing about the opener? Hearing this guy again . . .

Welcome back, RemDawg. Your raspy, pack-a-day tones and the Fall Rivah accent is our annual reminder that summer isn't too far away.