I started the morning off at the verge of throwing a temper tantrum.
ESPN wasn’t broadcasting anything. Dad had logged onto slingbox, but was using his tiny laptop screen and hovering over it himself. My Internet was being hogged by him. I couldn’t assemble the right cables to plug his laptop into the tv. Mum was being overly placating. And this was one of the few times I actually have time to watch a full game. If I had access.
After calling up the front desk in desperation to ask them to call the cable company, I continued sulking until I was surprised about 20 minutes later to see the game suddenly pop up on my formerly blank screen.
Highlights, from the 6th:
– Most gasp inducing moment: watching Drew be beaned very close under his head by a wild pitch.
– Most pleasing moment: Youk’s long hit to get the second rbi.
– Most disappointing moment: Having bases loaded, and left stranded.
– Most unbelievable: Dice-K’s endurance in this start.
– Masterson has improved immensely from his spring training performances.
– This is the first time I’ve seen Papelbon pitch in a long time. I’m still boggled out of my mind how low his pay is in comparison to the other pitchers.
– Tampa Bay demonstrated a lot of composure and perseverance for a young team.
My star of the day: In spite of myself, I concded that it is Dice-K.
Red Sox 2, Tampa Bay 0.
What a rally tonight.. although just short. Those are the good but difficult games to watch.
My pessimistic Mum is throwing blame left and right and I’ve just reached the point of impatience where it’s not even fun watching with her. On Mother’s Day, of all days.
– I rather liked the pink bats. Quite a charming touch. Gestures like this really endear me even more to MLB.
– The pink armbands, though, eh, jury is still out on that one.
– I’m dying to find a Youtube clip of Dice-K’s out-of-hand wild pitch that landed two feet in front of the mound. It still makes me chuckle. Anyone have any luck?
– Watching moments of brilliance by Crisp reminds me why he’s a Golden Glove and why the Red Sox would want to hang onto him.
– Cora I missed. With the team weak on shortstop players so far, he’s looking quite fresh and superb.’
– I’m not sure I like Tina’s replacement.. Heidi. Seriously…
Whatever that bug is, it’s felling quite a lot of otherwise sturdy professional athletes. Beckett, Varitek, Delcarmen, Colon…
Newest victim: Dice-K. So much for a starting pitcher. Lester will be working with only three-days of rest. We’ll see how he does.
So, yesterday was an exceedingly excellent day for the Sox:
– Dice-K pitched phenomenally, taking in a win
– Youkilis ties his error-less streak record, meaning the odds are he’s going to set the new record if he continues just one more game
– Beckett is slated to pitch on Sunday, finally
All this aside, I couldn’t find a single game featured on tv last night. It didn’t even have to be the Red Sox. Any team would do. Baseball is baseball and I’m still a baseball fan. Argh. And I forgot to pack my XM radio to tune in. After being able to watch a couple of games earlier this week, I’m beginning to get used to the idea of watching baseball on tv. I don’t know how I managed last year- listening to XM and watching the mlb website with those virtual recaps of each pitch. Word, I must have been nuts.
Final thoughts before I hit the sack.
The Red Sox has four games to play in Japan. Two exhibition games against Japanese teams and two against the A’s as the season opener.
A lot of the focus has been on Beckett and his back problems and how he might not be pitching in the opener against the A’s. There there’s the speculation on who fills in the “ace” slot and well as who gets the honour of taking the first game.
All this comes down to symbolism, really. The concept of an “ace” is identifying one individual who is deem the “best” and the one to get the team started on the right foot. It’s no guarantee that he will get the team a win. It’s no guarantee that there is one clear ace in a team.
For the Red Sox, there was. Beckett had the only 20 wins in the majors last year (it pleases me to still see his stat sitting on the mlb.com page with the gigantic number 20). He was the pitcher that gave the team their few wins in the end of the month when the team went through a slump of sorts, dropping the 10+ win lead over the Yankees down to periously close to 0. His second game led to the pivotal turn-around on a losing streak against the Indians for the ALCS. There’s something about the way he pitches and the way he works that encourages the team and makes them think they can win. It is Beckett that made me understand the term and the meaning of an “ace.”
Part of it, I suspect, is psychological. Yes, he pitches well. But even the games when his pitching was not as clean as it could be, the team’s offense would be more aggressive and the run support would start coming in. There’s something about the assurance of having one of your strongest teammates playing side-by-side with you.
So, back to the opener. No one has mentioned who would pitch in the exhibition games. Well, technically, they don’t count towards the season, yes, but those are more of outreach or ambassadorial functions, aren’t they?
Dice-K: By default would probably have had to pitched at one of the two games against the A’s, partly because he’s in Japan, and mostly because he still remains a Japanese symbol and MLB wants to convey the gesture of appreciation and friendship by giving the Japanese another chance to watch their greatest star play one more time. But all that is trumped by his expecting his second child. As a woman, I say, good for you to get your priorities straight.
I have to ask: is he *that* good? I have watched him pitch only a couple of times, even on tv. I had not been impressed. He’s not bad. But I find that he’s not all that awe-inspiring, to be honest. I am more impressed by his compatriot Okajima.
Lester: I’m glad he is given the consideration. He truly is one special kid. And inspiring. Looking beyond all that emotional stuff, though, he has provided very solid outings lately in the spring training games. He’s delivering and he’s delivering as a starting pitcher. He already showed that he could by finishing off the World Series for the Sox. It would be oddly nice to have him pitching the next official game, the opener, wouldn’t it?
Wakefield: Is, to me, the true star of the spring training season. I was lucky to watch his start last week. Crisp, solid, clean, confident are words that come to mind to describe his performance. So far, two appearances, five innings, 0.00 ERA and 2 hits. The best of the batch. Remember the heart-breaking news last fall that he would not be playing in the World Series? Remember how his shoulder injury was gut-wrenching news to the Red Sox fans? Especially after an impressive 17-win season, at age of 41. Few fans know the Red Sox long enough to remember a team without Wakefield. He first joined the Sox in 1995. He has been on the team the longest- now, in a world of trades and free agency, *that* makes his a true Red Sox player both in heart and in uniform. And he intends to stay to hold the record as the most games won, pitching for the Red Sox. He currently ranks second with 154, trailing to Cy Young and Clemens’ 192. If I haven’t made my case on how he is a Red Sox lifer- he just did for himself. He probably wants to shoot for 200 and he wants to stay long enough to do that.
So, with all that, if it can’t be Beckett, Wakefield deserves the honour to start the opener. Ace or not, Wakefield has poured his heart and soul for the Sox longer and more sincerely than anyone else. And I would love to see him given the nod.
Remember all the talk about how Wakefield will need to pitch before the games move to Colorado because of the thinner air resistance?
I didn’t even pay attention to that. Instead, I was remembering back when I used to go to Denver for a project several times a year. I spent so much time there that I know that area better than some parts of my homestate. My clients there even joked that they will clear out a broom closet for me to store my ski gear so I don’t have to lug it back and forth every single time. When my cousin was stationed in CO Springs, we met up up in Denver and *I* would be the one showing her around.
With all the traveling I did, I made effort to work out lightly but regularly. Business trips can take a toll on the body. Knowing that impresses on me how baseball players have a toughness about them to be able to endure the constant traveling and the long season of almost daily games. Despite many of their seemingly portly appearances, those athletes have to be healthy to maintain that kind of a grind.
I was floored every time I go to Denver how quickly the altitude would affect me, an avid skiier. Skiing isn’t all that bad in terms of cadiovascular effort. Gravity does most of the work. Jogging, on the other hand, can completely undo me even thought I’m a cold-weather jogger.
Now my big question is how ready is the Red Sox for the altitude, physically? Mentally, the altitude didn’t defer me until my body came to a screeching stop and panted “wait. a. minute. o.x.y.g.e.n! N.e.e.d. o.x-” Granted, baseball is not a heavy endurance, high energy activity like basketball and football, or long-distance runs, but with only one day to travel, little time for the body to acclimate, do we know how our athletes will react? Given the different leagues, Coors Field is not a regular visiting place for the Red Sox.. it’s not something I would imagine the trainers focusing on during the regular season (I don’t know if they do in the other NL teams, for that matter, either).
Add Dice-K to the recipe, who can throw an amazing game but has lately been showing that his endurance is not that high. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not expecting altitude sickness to be a factor, but I don’t want people to underestimate the effects of altitude. We just may see more long balls but also a couple slower runs. I’m happy to be proven wrong, but I’m not ready to dismiss climate changes.
That is why I feel better with Red Sox going into Denver with a 2-0 lead. I’m not ready to dismiss the Rockies. Not when they have the homefield advantage. At least we can make it back to Fenway if we need to get to that point.
So it’s a bit early and I can’t call it a game yet but I am cheering at every hit the Sox makes.
I talked with Dad this afternoon and we agree on one thing. Of this series, the most important game for Boston to win is tonight’s.
Sure, rivalry-wise, I would just love to see Schilling beat out Clemens. How sweet would that victory be? Two seasoned and excellent pitchers. One who defied physical pain and helped us win the Championships versus one who snubbed us in declaring he wants his Yankee jersey in Hall of Fame even though his best was in the Sox uniform. Geez.
And for the younger pitchers’ face-off tomorrow, to have two of the best AL pitchers face off not just for the AL lead in wins but potentially the Cy Young. I am definitely finding a bar to watch that game out. Even if it means facing hostile football fans to hog the television.
Yet, for the Sox and the fans, I think tonight carries a lot more importance. Dice-K has not done well in his recent starts. He needs this win. The Sox needs this win. With the post-season coming up and a high likelihood that the Sox will make it to the play-offs, the team needs the boost and the confirmation that Dice-K has what it takes to be a starting pitcher.
So, top of the 6th and the score, NYY:1, BOS: 5. Good news. As any Red Sox fan knows, anything can happen in three innings. But, one can’t help but hope.
So, Friday evening finds me still frozen at home. Glass of wine in hand and ear pressed very very close to the radio, listening to the game. Phone lies within reach so I can call family and friends back in Red Sox Nation territory to replay pieces of the game that I didn’t catch clearly over the broadcast.