Saturday, June 30, 2012

Decisions, decisions, decsions

It goes without saying that the Red Sox have a lot of decisions to make in the next few weeks. For example, what are they going to do with Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and Ryan Sweeney---a.k.a. the guys who have played their asses off and played well---once the big-money guys with the big contracts and the big agents, Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury come back from their sabbaticals on the disabled list? Do you go with the dirt dogs who have scraped the Sox out of the gutter with their hustle and grit, forsaking the glory? Probably not. Realistically, when the money boys come back, the guys who salvaged the season are either going back to AAA, or they'll be traded for prospects, or possibly a journeyman five starter? 

Oh decisions, decisions. These things will be solemnly discussed and dissected in thousands of bars throughout New England for the next month until the trading deadline. At times, it will become heated; perhaps, a few fists will fly in defense of Daniel Nava. This is important business, and we're all bar stool general managers.

But here's the thing: This seems to me to be both the beauty and folly of sports' fans.

Everyday we all struggle with decisions, most of them trivial: Should I wear this loud shirt to work? Should I cut my hair? Should I spend a dollar more for the organic product? Some are more dire: Should I marry this person? Should I take spend the money on grad school for an MFA? Should I spend the children's college funds on a lap dance?

Sports, however, allows us the luxary of entertaining decisions in which we have no bearing on the results. And, ultimately, what is decided has no bearing on our lives whatsoever. It's refreshing.

Then we go to polls---or sadly decide not to go---and we make decisions that will affect our lives. Should I vote for the person who endorses a socialized system of health care, amnesty for immigrants living in this country, equal rights for gay couples? Or the person toting gun-rights according the Second Amendment, lower taxation, the preservation of conservative ideals?

It's so much easier to think about Daniel Nava.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The boy and his baseball

My son was draped over the fence on the first-base line, his arms hanging down and his baseball mitt secured to his left hand. Not even twenty yards from him, the pitchers in the New Hampshire Fisher Cats' bullpen sat on an aluminum bench next to a bucket chock full of the things my son wanted most in this world: baseballs.

For a 7 year-old boy, still half a decade away from discovering curves, the desire to procure a baseball in a half-filled AA ballpark was more than a whim; it was a desire, a passion, a visceral yearning. However, by the seventh inning, he had resigned himself to nihilism (something he gets from his mother).

"I'm not getting a ball," he said, which might as well been translated to: Life just doesn't work out.

"Keep trying, Owen," his mother encouraged. "I have a good feeling about this."

Still draped over the fence on the first base line, Owen waited.

Then, as life's vicissitudes took charge, Owen was tossed a ball between innings from a player warming up the right fielder. That player was Koby Clemens, the son of the newly-acquitted and regionally reviled Roger Clemens.

Growing up, I had a poster of Koby's dad in my bedroom. In 1986, when Clemens struck out 20 Seattle Mariners (still a dubious distinction given that it was Seattle) in a game, won a Cy Young and an MVP and took the Sox to the World Series, he might as well been curing lepers, turning water into wine, resurrecting from the dead. Like millions of New England boys at the time, I worshiped Roger Clemens with the dogged naivete of an 11 year-old boy, who was still a couple of years away from discovering curves.

Of course, Clemens' legacy in Boston---and as an athlete in general---would be poisoned by his arrogance, hubris and general douche-baggedness. Would I possess the same level of rancor toward the man had he never donned a pinstripe? Probably not. But when I was a boy, The Rocket was beyond reproach, a hero. And here, over twenty years later, his son, with a simple flip of a three dollar baseball, did the same for mine.

For the past two nights, Owen has slept with the baseball that Koby Clemens gave him. Of course, someday the baseball will be lost or discarded, like my Roger Clemens poster, but for right now, my son is exhilarated. And sometimes, Owen, life does work out.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Dirt Dogs vs. Princesses

At the start of this season, I hated this Red Sox team like a penis hates sharp objects. They were a bunch of overpaid, entitled princesses playing the game with the enthusiasm one usually reserves for a colonoscopy. It appeared that no lesson was learned after their epic collapse last September, and we were going to have another season of lukewarm millionaires yawning in left field.

Early, something happened that turned the season around: The princesses started dropping like flies.

For starters, John Lackey was sidelined in the off-season to recover from a speciously-scheduled Tommy John surgery, and there was much rejoicing. Ditto Dice-K, but he recovered quicker---probably free-basing radioactive rock or something---and is currently shitting the bed in Pawtucket, poised to shit the bed in Boston. During spring training, the $20 million uber-dud Carl Crawford broke his finger picking his nose, and no one knows if or when he'll be back. Then Andrew Bailey, their purported closer, got a boo-boo on his baby toe and was placed on the DL before he even threw his first regular season meatball. In the shocker of the new millennium, Jacoby Ellsbury pulled an abdominal muscle ripping a fart and he's gone, again, until after the All-Star break. And, finally, in what proved to be the Sox most fortuitous injury, Youk went down and paved the path for his imminent successor Will Middlebrooks to come up and rake in the majors.

Now, the Red Sox are over .500 for the first time this season, and they're winning with a patchwork crew of dirt dogs, who not only play the game hard but are utterly affable to boot. I'd almost rather see the current line-up lose the rest of the season than watch The Red Sox with the princesses from the infirmary win a pennant.

So let's take a look at the dirt dogs.

So far, Daniel Nava is winning over fans with both hustle and a hot bat. Carl Crawford can kiss my ass. Let Nava man the Monster for the next five years. I'm down. Then there is Ryan Sweeney, a wild card from Oakland who was packaged with Bailey. Sweeney, who has earned a role as an every day starter, has made some incredible plays in the field---i.e. the diving catch in center where he concussed himself---and he's been putting up the stats on top of it. The aforementioned Middlebrooks looks like the real deal, infusing the team with youth, while even journeyman like Marlon Byrd and Scott Posednik play hard, which is the antithesis of the Beer and Chicken Bitches. Even Salty has come into his own and is putting up All-Star numbers with a hearty dose of toughness to boot. If Ellsbury got a cut on his ear, it would've been a potential career-ending injury. And Mike Aviles, hell, he's made a nice case for himself as an everyday starter at shortstop. On top of it, although part of the millionaire crowd, Papi has his mojo back, and Gonzalez has shown some real character by volunteering to play right field. And Pedroia is Pedroia: the muddy chicken and a consummate gamer.

Given the Pink Hats and the way the team presented itself to fans last season and the first month of the current one, I'd forgotten what it's like to really root for the Red Sox. However, with the team they're putting out now, I'm hoarse from cheering in front of the television. But, alas, while they take their sweet-ass time to heal, the princesses will return, and the Sox will go back to being the team that Theo built, a watered-down version of the Yankees. When the princesses are healthy, the front office will demand their babies get to play, and Valentine will either comply or get fired, and we're back to the same flat baseball that resulted in last September's disaster.

But for now, I'm liking these guys. A lot. Like a penis likes soft and wet...forget it. You get picture.