Posts filed under ‘Baseball’

Fenway frustration, soccer salvation?

Yeah, I’m impressed the Boston Red Sox scored 10 runs in an inning. And yeah, I’m impressed they ultimately put up 19 runs in their victory over the visiting Texas Rangers. But c’mon … do we need games like these?

Maybe they remind us what a delight good pitching is. We certainly didn’t see much of it from either side — although kudos go to Hideki Okajima for providing some bullpen stability in the late innings. And the game, being so long, showed us baseball’s power to make players both hero and goat in the same game, like Kevin Youkilis, who delivered the game-winning homer in the bottom of the eighth, and whose error in the top of the ninth resulted in what eventually became the Rangers’ last run.

I like baseball and I’ll be a Red Sox fan despite the team’s history of heartache (or maybe because of it). But I’m thinking of changing my ways.

Let’s see. Where could I find a sport where there’s …

a) Relatively little scoring to make spectators appreciate the scores their team gets?

b) A defined time limit so fans don’t have to stay up late, persevering through pitching changes?

c) The willingness to say, “Okay, this game’s gone on too long, we’ll call it a tie”?

Someone get me tickets to Gillette Stadium for a Revs game, pronto!

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August 13, 2008 at 5:56 am Leave a comment

No-hit wonder by Lester

Add Jon Lester to the list of Boston Red Sox pitchers to have thrown no-hitters this decade, joining Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, and Clay Buchholz. Another sign Sox fans are getting spoiled. After Dave Morehead threw one in 1965, no Boston pitcher (OK, Matt Young) achieved the feat for the rest of the previous century. While I lament the homer-happy offenses of today’s teams, I don’t mind seeing pitchers dominate. Especially pitchers who have prevailed against personal adversity, which has been the case with Lester, a cancer survivor.

May 20, 2008 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment

Remembering Jackie Robinson

Sixty-one years ago today, Jackie Robinson began playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League. Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues and is justly celebrated for doing so. Members of current big-league rosters, including three representatives of the Boston Red Sox, will wear Robinson’s retired number 42 today.

It is right that major-league baseball recognizes Robinson, and yet it seems that the big leagues — and the Red Sox — can do more. Stories in the Boston press referencing the Red Sox tribute can note that the Robinson anniversary of April 15 comes a day before a more odious anniversary — that of April 16, 1945, when the Sox staged a sham tryout for three African-American players (including Robinson) at Fenway Park. Pressured by Boston city councilor Isidore Muchnick and sportswriter Wendell Smith, members of the Sox front office watched three potential pioneers … and then did not sign them. Even worse, instead of becoming the first major-league baseball team to integrate, the Red Sox became the last (in 1959, when Elijah “Pumpsie” Green took the field at Fenway).

A few parting points: First, the media acts arrogantly when it claims that Robinson broke the color line for all of baseball. Media members imply that the only legitimate system of professional baseball in the US in the early 20th century was the all-white major leagues, but during those decades, Negro League teams also earned respect and fans. Because they did not survive the integration of the American and National Leagues, the media’s memory evaporates concerning the Negro Leagues. Why doesn’t organized baseball celebrate the first white player to play for a Negro League team (Eddie Klepp, Cleveland Buckeyes, 1946) as much as it celebrates Robinson’s belated debut?

Secondly, one critique of the Red Sox for their delay in signing African-American players is that had it done so, it might have broken the Curse of the Bambino sooner. This does not get at the reason why it was wrong for the Sox to postpone signing an African-American player: It ought to have been about justice, not about winning. Players deserve consideration for a spot on a major-league team based on performance, not on their background. Was Ernie Banks any less of a ballplayer because he never won a World Series? The focus of media members and fans should be on fairness here.

April 15, 2008 at 4:33 pm 1 comment

Opening Day at Fenway

Spring is officially upon us. The defending world champion Boston Red Sox inaugurate the home portion of their 2008 regular season with a 2:05 p.m. game against the Detroit Tigers.

What’s new about this team and this game? After 86 seasons without a ring, the Red Sox have won two World Series titles in the past four years. And after a century of pretentiousness about our national pastime being worthy of a World Series, baseball bloviators finally have a point: The Sox visited three countries — Japan, the US, and Canada — during their 19-day season-opening road/plane trip.

What’s stayed the same? Fan perspective. The same folks who grouse about the Sox entering Fenway Park with a last-place record in the American League (3-4 after a sweep by the Toronto Blue Jays) don’t seem to realize that things could be worse. Boston’s opponent, the Detroit Tigers, is 0-6 to start the season.

Go Sox!

April 8, 2008 at 4:59 pm 2 comments

The Papelbon effect

Looks to me like a relatively controversy-free Red Sox spring training thus far. Yes, closer Jonathan Papelbon wants a new contract — the poor shayne ingele only makes $425,000. “I feel a certain obligation, not only to myself and my family to make the money I deserve, but to the game of baseball,” he said. I’m sure he’ll be commanding Mariano Rivera numbers — or better — sometime soon.

Papelbon is a symbol of a Sox strength: the farm system. Pap, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester — these players helped the Sox win their second World Series in four seasons, just like the Yankees used their own farm system to develop stars like Derek Jeter and Rivera.

Granted, the Sox wouldn’t be in their current enviable positions without big-name deals and signings. Their last World Series MVP, Mike Lowell, came in a trade that also brought star pitcher Josh Beckett, while the team got the eventual 2004 Series MVP, Manny Ramirez, through free agency. A good farm system, however, can provide a team with solid players that it knows well, as opposed to gambles in free agency or trades. Strong minor-league programs also help when a team feels ready to make a big trade — Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez for Beckett and Lowell worked well for both the Sox and Florida Marlins. And farm systems provide valuable insurance; when a team loses the services of a Carney Lansford or a John Wetteland, there’s a reliable understudy waiting to step in and star.

So whether he gets a big contract or not, here’s to you, Jonathan Papelbon — and more importantly, here’s to the system that produced you.

March 6, 2008 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment

Spring training — the political version

Hey there, all you snowbound New Englanders. Want something to take your mind off winter? Your Boston Red Sox are in spring training in Florida. Want something else to take your mind off winter? Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton are duelling it out in another warm-weather locale — Texas, site of Thursday’s debate. Bob and Susannah discuss these two different kinds of spring training — baseball vs. political — in a vacation-themed “Running Gags”!

Merci to my muse for the idea.

February 22, 2008 at 8:44 pm 2 comments

Steroids and silliness

Suddenly, we’re in Joe McCarthy territory again, only this time it’s former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell producing an infamous list — of steroid abusers in major-league baseball.

“In total, the report names 77 players, both past and present,” Newsday reported

Like the Communist “threat” Tailgunner Joe pursued, the big-league steroid scandal is largely a chimera. Yes, steroid abuse suggests unfairness on the playing field, and Americans love their sports stars to obey the rules. But such scrutiny only invites a charge of hypocrisy.

After all, would that fans were equally fond of athletes challenging the rules. The uproar over Barry Bonds and his home-run record would sound a tad more convincing if there was a similar outcry against every benchmark set by every Hall of Famer who played in a whites-only atmosphere (pre-1947; this means you, Babe Ruth!).

December 13, 2007 at 8:01 pm Leave a comment

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