Monday, April 10, 2006

I believe in yesterday

Shrewd move by Tom Werner or whoever makes the NESN programming decisions, showing "Faith Rewarded" in its entirety and commercial-free tonight. If that, the ultimate feel-good film of 2004, doesn't get you jacked and pumped for the home opener, I'm guessing you're probably decomposing already.

I have to admit, though, watching highlights from that magical, cathartic season has become much more bittersweet than I ever anticipated. It's not that I don't still savor the flashbacks - hell, the NESN broadcast of the ring ceremony would be on an endless loop on our DVR if Mrs. TATB would allow it - it's just that 2004 has begun to feel like a long time ago. I realized as I was engrossed in this tonight that my mental highlight film is already fading: I'd begun to forget how Pokey Reese played shortstop like he was made of plastic, and how Orlando Cabrera's arrival was like an immediate jolt of caffeine, and that Kevin Millar had three-homer game against the Yankees, and that Gabe Kapler made Tanyon Sturtze bleed . . . I guess what I'm saying in my melancholy way is that I want to remember all of the good times from the season I'd waited for since I was 8 years old, and not just most of them. I don't want anything about the 2004 Boston Red Sox to slip my mind. I suppose there is a simple solution, though, and it's a pleasing one: I'll just have to watch the video more often.

Okay, snap out of it - enough with the reminiscing. Let's take a look at today's headlines as we anticipate what a new season of tomorrows will bring. (Think another championship DVD is too much to ask?):

Coco Crisp will miss at least 10 days with a broken finger: Yeah, it's a bummer. The effervescent Crisp, who signs every autograph, smiles for every camera, and plays with a frenzied flair that suggests he's the evolved version of Johnny Damon, has already become one of the ballclub's most popular and recognizable players six games into his Red Sox tenure. His debut at Fenway was worth anticipating, and Sox games will be a little less fun to watch without him revving up the offense from the leadoff spot. But I think the Sox will survive this just fine, particularly if he's sidelined for 10 days and not the 6 to 8 weeks that one of the Boston TV stations breathlessly claimed late Sunday night. I never saw anything special in Adam Stern last year, but the Sox went out of their way to make sure they didn't have to return the Rule 5 pick to the Braves, and only a fool wouldn't give Theo Epstein the benefit of the doubt in that situation. Lo and behold, we finally saw a hint of what the Sox liked about him during his star turn for Team Hoser in the World Baseball Classic. And the more I saw of him this spring, the more I think he's going to be valuable, a high-caliber fourth outfielder, someone who hits a little, plays all three outfield positions well, has a strong and accurate arm, and can swipe a base or go from first to third on a single when the moment calls for it. To put it another way, I think he's going to be the player certain Sox fans wanted Darren Bragg to be, and I have no worries regarding his capabilities of filling in for Crisp for the next week-and-a-half.

David Ortiz signs a four-year contract extension through the 2010 season: Today was lovely spring day here in Southern Maine - it had to be at least 50 degrees - and for once I made the most of it. I took my 2-year old daughter (who, her dad is proud to say, already identifies Ortiz on sight as "Big Happy!", which I say is perfectly appropriate) to Wells Beach and the playground, puttered around the yard, shot some hoops, went to the bakery and got a cookie for pregnant Mrs. TATB. . . good, laid-back times. And on top of it all, I managed to completely avoid faux-controversy-driven "sports" radio all day. (I'm assuming there's no need for me to mention the call letters here.) So out of morbid curiosity, I've gotta ask: Who played the role of Turd In The Punch Bowl today? C'mon, I know someone did - it's what they do. So who took the completely ridiculous premise that there is anything wrong with signing the easy-smiling face of the franchise, the greatest clutch hitter of our time, the man who should have been MVP, the broad-shouldered hero who beat the Yankees twice in the same day when all looked lost, the best damn thing that ever - ever - happened to the Boston Red Sox, to one more below-market-value contract that all but guarantees he'll end his playing days exactly where he should? Who's the idiot/toady/blowhard who attempted to argue against all logic and common sense for the sake of a storyline and a $400 paycheck? Please, tell me, so I'll know to never waste a second giving consideration to their scripted opinion. Or maybe I'll just make a habit of tuning them out altogether. Heck, should the Red Sox change their flagship station in the coming months (crossing fingers), I'm sure I won't be the only one who flips away from that spot on the dial permanently. And that, sports fans, would be another lovely day.

Ken Rosenthal of hints that the Red Sox could be players for Dontrelle Willis: First let me say that in my quasi-journalistic opinion, Rosenthal is one of the good ones. He's an engaging writer and an accomplished reporter, and he digs up his share of scoops without relying upon needless rumor-mongering. When he writes something, I accept it as credible without a second thought. Which is why this item - which, unless I am interpreting it wrong, indicates the Sox would have a shot at Willis if they would part with Jon Lester - has me scratching my head. While Willis-to-the-Sox is a lovely idea, the likelihood of it happening falls somewhere between conjecture and fantasy. Consider: 1) While the Sox farm system is as deep as it has been in years, every single team in baseball would be interested in the talented, engaging, reasonably priced Willis, and there are other ballclubs (Arizona, for starters) who could offer a more enticing package than just Lester. Oh, sure, he's an immensely promising lefty, but it's highly unlikely to accomplish what Willis has by the age of 24; such a trade simply would not be "in the best interests of baseball," as Bowie Kuhn put it in '76 when he voided the sales of Vida Blue (the Willis of his day) to the Yankees, and Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to the Sox. I suppose the Sox could offer Lester and Craig Hansen and someone like Jed Lowrie . . . but I think Theo would quit his job to follow Bananarama on tour before he ever allowed that to happen. 2) If Willis ended up in Boston, there would be cries of collusion from the Bronx, among other places. While the Josh Beckett deal looks fair and balanced from both sides at the moment, the nature of the relationship between John Henry (the former Marlins owner) and Jeffrey Loria (the current Marlins owner who acquired the club from Henry after gutting the Expos) is certain to raise a few eyebrows should Loria make a habit of giving Henry favored nation status. And something tells me Bud Selig has enough worries rattling around in his carpet-covered skull already without worrying about cliques and insider trading among his owners. Bottom line: I'd love to see the Sox get Willis and have Rosenthal's little throwaway line prove correct, but common sense tells me it won't be showing up in the transactions agate any time soon.

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As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Now, I'm not sure if this is the work of a stoner Mets fan or an evil genius. But even as a Red Sox fan who suffered flashbacks watching this "RBI Baseball" simulation of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the '86 World Series, I'm leaning heavily toward the latter, though I suppose the two aren't mutually exclusive. Hell, whoever put this tour de force together - and your obvious history as a Met sympathizer has put you atop the suspect list, Schiraldi - even managed to synch it up with the audio of Vin Scully's famous call. (Little roller up along first . . ." NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! AAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE! ) I'm just wondering how one tops this masterpiece. A Tecmo Bowl version of the Pats-Bears Super Bowl, perhaps?