Saturday, September 29, 2007

I Moved to Pittsburgh and All the Red Sox Got Was This Lousy Divsion Title

Greetings from the home of the gayest mascot in the history of sports (except for Queerus Maximus, the mascot of the Rome Gladiators, the Yankees of their day). And how about that guy with the yellow checked shirt and the hard hat, huh? Buh-dum-dum.

Seriously, I am now a resident of the Keystone State, which I think is a red state, as if I care about such things. Will post more later, after we get milk shakes at Eat and Park. Oh, and the first song I heard on WDVE as I approached Pittsburgh was "Crazy Train." Ah, I'm home.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Up and Down Haiku

Magic number: three.
Last day at work with many
friends. Sad wins today.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Quicky

Dear Terry Francona,

I know I make fun of you a lot. I hope you forgive me. But I have one small request. Can you still try to win the division, please? Thanks.

MattySox

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Vote for Pedroia!

Have you ever wanted to wear a crappy t-shirt thought up by me? Well, this is your lucky day! How awesome would you look in this shirt? Only you and your most honest friends can answer that, but I think you'd look goooood...

I don't even like "Napolean Dynamite," but this just seemed like it needed to be done. If you agree, you can get your very own shirt here. I spent all spring giving Dustin crap. This is the least I could do...

(Update: I guess I should've checked. Turns out there's a company called Zazzle.com selling a very similar shirt that was created by some company called Wicked Awesome tees or some such. Their's has a 15 on the back and their logo. So I'm not the original guy I never thought I was. Either way, MY shirt is still for sale for those who want to buy it without the creator makin' a penny on it. Or at least until I get sued or slapped with a cease and desist order. Whichever comes first.)

Low

The magic number to get into playoffs is three. Whoop-de-fucking-doo. Is anybody else excited about just getting into the playoffs? When this season finally goes up in flames in the, I'm guessing, ALDS, am I the only one that would take some little measure of comfort from the fact that we had won the division? Finally? Am I crazy? I understand the meaninglessness of a division title without winning beyond that. Afterall, we've all been slagging the Yankees for doing that every year of this millenium. But still. I just want to finish ahead of them.

Obviously, I want the Sox to go a lot farther than that. Call me pessimistic, an unbeliever, an unwashed member of the negative talk radio masses, whatever you want. Just don't call me naive. This season, once so promising, has such a negative vibe to it now. It feels like last year. Inconsistent starting pitching, big injuries, underachieving free agents, imploding bullpen, wishy-washy indecisive management. The only difference is we had a huge lead in the division (Ha! Remember that?) Didn't the Yankees just sweep Toronto? And now we've been swept by those same Blue Jays? Did I just imagine that? Is there anybody who really thinks that's meaningless?

What exactly is a team's responsibility to its fans? To get to the postseason? To win as many games as possible? To win a division title? Obviously, the ultimate responsibility is to win the World Series. But what of the goals along the way? A baseball season is a really long haul for everybody- the players, coaches and fans. This Red Sox team makes the season even longer, at least to me, because I don't get the feeling it's being run to win every day. I think it's run to win enough to get to October and hope everything lines up there for one good streak. Should that be enough to satisfy me as a fan, as someone who, even in a very limited capacity, spends money that helps fund the operations of the team? Or instead, for my contributions to the team, both emotional and financial, am I owed more than that? I think I deserve to know that the team I seem to care more about than the team seemingly cares about itself at times is doing everything it can to win as many games as possible.

Now, if we're lifting the Series trophy at the end of October, am I gonna care that we finished second to the Yankees again? That we had to go out to Anaheim (again) for the first two playoff games? No, probably not. Maybe a little after the hullabaloo of winning dies down. Then I might say, "Still woulda been nice to win the division..." But it won't really matter.

But am I gonna be pissed as hell if we're in a 2-0 hole before we ever get to play a postseason game at Fenway? Fuck yeah. If we don't get our heads out of our asses now and start winning some games, we're gonna be hitting the road. And all you statheads out there can roll out all the numbers you want showing that the home-team advantage is overrated and all that. And maybe the numbers support that. But here's a little something I believe about the players- they usually don't know the numbers as well as Joe Fan. They obsess about trying to hit a Scott Kazmir slider; we obsess over home and away splits and the last five year's combined win-loss records of road underdogs playing afternoon games on grass. I really believe that players, at least those with a discernible pulse who care (and that certainly eliminates about a third of our starting lineup), need every psychological edge they can get. Does playing at Fenway give the players an edge? The offensive stats point to yes, the pitching stats point to no. But overall, we've won more games at Fenway than away from it. Sometimes people make baseball too complicated. Call me a simpleton, but I want to play more games where we've won more games.

If you don't understand the disconnect between rooting for your team, and being realistic about your team, please don't give me a hard time about my pessimism. I love the Red Sox more than anything in my life besides my family. I WANT them to do well, to win the World Series again. If you're the sort of fan that does well with blind faith, then good for you. I'm not. I enjoy my cynicism. Two-thousand and four did nothing to discourage me from keeping my guard up. That's how I operate as a fan. That doesn't make me less of a fan than the guy who says, "I always believed! I never lost faith...even after going down three games to none, I knew we'd do it..." Bullshit. He hoped we'd do it, but he didn't know we'd do it. And that's where I'm at. I hope we win the World Series, but I don't know that we will. I'm not even sure we'll get there. Guardedly optimistic, I remain. Just not foolishly naive.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Terry

Just got off the phone with Terry Francona, and here's tonight's starting lineup:

1. Julio Lugo, shortstop
2. Eric Gagne, goalie
3. Coco Crisp, DH
4. Dustin Pedroia, second base
5. David Ortiz, first base
6. Mike Lowell, right field
7. Jacoby Ellsbury, center field
8. Kevin Cash, catcher
9. Brandon Moss, left field

When I asked Tito about some of the more obvious eccentricities of the lineup, this was his explanation:

"Since Gagne, and I just found this out about fifteen minutes ago, is Canadian, I decided maybe he'd be a better goaltender than a pitcher; I think it plays more to his strengths, and I'm just trying to put guys in a position where they have the best chance at success. Ortiz, I'm giving him some time at first, because that makes it look like I'm trying to keep him sharp in the field in case we make it to the Series. Which we won't, but this makes it look like a real possibility to the guys, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell 'em what I really think. Tek needs a day off, and Mikey's been looking real sharp shagging flies in the outfield during BP and he said he's kinda sick of third base. I was gonna give him a day off, but Hinske doesn't feel that his goatee is up for tonight's game, so you know, I'm just trying to put out the best lineup I can. Also, are you sure it's 'Jacoby?' I thought it was 'Jacob.' Huh. What a weird first name."

When I mentioned that no one is penciled in at third, he said, "Well, Julio's got great range at short, and let's face it, you don't need an extra guy over there when balls are flying into the gaps and over the wall all night...I know Buch's goin' tonight, and he's been real solid for us, but we'll just see how it plays out. If need be, maybe we can move Gagne over there. It'll be tough for him to start the 5-4-3 with the blocker pad on his throwing hand, but I think we'll be fine."

As for me, I'm just pissed Lugo is leading off. I thought we were past that...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Do-do-do, do-da-do-do-da-do

If you don't have a two and a half year old of your very own, I say, "Go get one!" There is no other creature in the world that feels the important and unexplainable need to wear a Steinbrenner backpack, containing roughly, oh, 30 Pez dispensers, around for the whole afternoon. But, MattyKid1.0 does, so here she is, in a manner that will not alarm the Punkymom into thinking our child will be stalked in an internet-related manner...


On a related note, here's a blurry picture of a mailbox painted to look like R2D2. It's located outside of the McPherson Square metro station near the intersection of 14 & Eye Sts NW.

On a completely unrelated note, here's a picture of me drinking beer in 2005 in Seattle. (And I just realized I'm wearing that same shirt as I type this...)


Finally, here's a sweet picture the Punkymom took inside the ruins of Killmallock Castle in Killmallock, County Cork, Ireland...
Of course, the purpose of all of the above is to take your mind off the fact that, despite what all the "optimistic" bloggers out there say, the Red Sox are on the 5:48 to second place...And do you know what I just realized? (Serendipitous blog moment alert...)
All these pictures tell the future! (Overdramatic blog moment alert...) We'll soon be chasing the evil empire, the Sox are mailing it in, it's causing me to drink and our season is collapsing into ruins! Help us Obi-Jon-Lester! You're our only hope...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Matty to America: "Please Shut up Now"

I'll be the umpteen-millionth person to say it: that game last night should have been videotaped. Because the Patriots completely, utterly, undoubtedly, unequivocally and decisively DEMOLISHED the wannabe-Super Bowl-contender Chargers. It was as strong an ass-kicking statement one great team has wrecked on another supposedly great team in quite some time. The San Diego Times-Union called it "humbling." Matty called it "freaking awesome."

In attendance at the MattySox condo last evening were the Punkymom, the Mattymom, the venerable "Jets Suck" Kimmy, the Brownie Jimmy, Niki the Colt and The Big Ry. Bang-ass chili, cornbread, brownies and cake were consumed by all, as well as much beer and the two smallest gin and tonics known to man. We had the Pats game on in the living room, and I had the Sox game on in the bedroom. We called it "The Panic Room," although the Pats left little to panic about, nor much reason to escape the living room. Turns out the Sox created all the panic in the bedroom.

Well, not panic so much as great concern. I hate losing to anybody, especially the Yankees, and especially when, once again, Terry Gump fails to utilize our bullpen in the manner in which I see fit. The last Yankees' series, I felt that in games one and two, Beckett and Matsusaka were left in an inning too long. And I feel like Curt was left in a couple hitters too long last night. I still don't get why we put this great 'pen together, but leave it in the hands of a manager who can't commit to using it the way it's intended. Was Terry still nervous because of Friday night? I don't know. But Curt made a horrible pitch (which he, characteristically, admitted to after the game) and Jeter hit one of his typically Jeter opposite field cheap bloops into the second row of the Monster seats. Right, Jere? I made the joke in the bottom of the 9th that Sox-Yankees games have a real scripted, WWF feel to them. Then lo and behold, we get back to within one, we load the bases, and, Oh My God! Big Papi is striding to the plate. Seriously, that didn't feel scripted to anyone else? Unfortunately, all the writers must live in New York.

The Sox loss dampened my excitement over the Pats game for, oh, about one minute. The Pats needed to win their game a whole hell of a lot more than the Sox needed to win theirs. Now, thankfully, I don't have to listen to a week's worth of people saying we can't win without cameras. Whatever edge they may have given, we sure didn't need it last night. The Patriots were awesome, and I hope that all the people who were riding them into the ground all week were watching. The rest of America can shut up and move on now. The Pats have, and now they can keep moving on. Any team between Foxboro and Glendale, Arizona had better watch out. For the rest of us, roll tape. This looks like a season worth keeping.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Takin' Lumps

So I guess the 2000 Patriots were the 1991 Barry Bonds? A steady diet of illicit videotape "cream and clear" just happened to pump us into three-time Super Bowl champions? This whole story is fucking ridiculous, and so embarrassing to me, and every Patriots fan out there. One stupid, arrogant, reckless decision has stained everything this team worked so hard for, and everything its fans waited so long for.

I've written on a number of occasions about the "institutional arrogance" of the Patriots, but man, this is so over the top. At the end of the day I don't really care if Belichick fucked his Giants secretary, or whether he pushed a camera guy, or whether he's just an irascible, pseudo-mad-genius, prone to blowhardity and vanilla bean blandness. Because, really, that just makes him look like a jerk. Now, though, anybody that's ever worn Pat Patriot, or the Flying Elvis, will be subjected to skepticism and derision. And what comeback do we have?

Are we all positive that NO against-the-rules maneuvers were used to help us win three Super Bowls by a combined nine points? I'm sure the Pats aren't the only team to use less than proper methods to get an edge, just as I'm sure Barry Bonds has a couple hundred colleagues as guilty as he is. But they've got the biggest bulls-eyes on them because they're the highest profile examples of their kind. Now we know how all the San Francisco Giants fans have felt these last few years when their star has been tarnished by UNPROVEN allegations. Well, they've got something on us, then, because apparently the NFL can prove these allegations.

Just the other day I was watching the Super Bowl 36 dvd, and I got chills again just watching Brady and company launch that final, historic field goal drive against the Rams. How can I ever watch that again without wondering if we knew something we shouldn't have? Do I think that this "espionage" is the main ingredient in our success the last few years? Hell no. I still think we've got some of the best coaches and players in the league, and I think the incredibly hard, dedicated work they do is responsible for a minimum 99% of their success. That said, I liked it a whole lot more when I knew for sure it accounted for 100%.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Let's Go Patriots!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

15

As usual, I saw bits and pieces of the game at work, but did glance up in time to see Daniel Cabrera going crazy...What's with these done-nothing hacks thinking they're Bob Gibson? First fat Jub-Jub, now this guy? Throwing at Dustin "That Pitcher Sucks!" Pedroia...I love what DP said after the game, wishing Cabrera had stayed in because he's 9-15 and Dustin wanted to line another hit up the middle off of him. Seriously, I'll say it again: How could I have ever doubted Dustin Pedroia? He is on the verge of taking a spot in the Matty's Favorite Red Sox Player Hall of Fame...

One additional note on Thursday night's Red Sox outing, and I can't state this clearly enough: The Big Ry was there with us, if only in spirit and drooping eyelids by the sixth inning. Sorry to leave you out, buddy...

Now, on to the Pats...The Brady jersey is on, as I currently type this, continuing my tradition of wearing my jersey the day before and the day of the game. The Punkymom and I will be out at, most likely, the Lucky Bar tomorrow so that she can watch her beloved, albeit cheapshot artist, Steelers most likely beat the Browns and so that I can watch something that gives me pleasure second only to the Yankees losing to the Sox. That, of course, is watching the Jets lose to the Patriots. No Harrison, no Seymour, no problem. I am super psyched to see what our recharged passing game can do. Remember- if Brady goes deep to Moss on the first play from scrimmage, you heard it hear first. One sidenote- if you're the gambling kind, I won't be mad if you take the Jets and the six and a half points...kind of a weird line. The Jets are at home, and we are without two defensive starters, so the line seems a tad large. That said, I still think we'll win by 21. That's the kind of asshole I am...

Here's to hoping the next post title is "13"...

Friday, September 07, 2007

16

Well that was sweet. A fine final game (for now) at Camden Yards. It took us almost two hours to get to Balty from Alexandria, but we found a street spot(!) just a couple blocks from the stadium- nice job, Ronnie. We hit the Wharf Rat for a few or three beers then got to our seats by the bottom of the first, after the lightening quick top of the frame. Our seats were actually too good, or so we joked after both Millar and Coco's shots went about three rows behind us. We had to sit behind a family of Yankee fans in town to visit their Bernie Williams-shirt wearing daughter or some such, but they were ok. We made fun of Bernie's age and jazz cd and the Yankee's division deficit and other stuff...

Definitely a weird game. Wake had nothing, but the O's starter is, I think, mentally retarded. I hope that's not doing a disservice to mentally retarded people...How do you throw to the wrong base TWICE in one inning? It was amusing to watch the three Oriole fans there just throw their hands up in frustration and resignation. It was like watching Jose Oquendo just walk away from the Suppan baserunning debacle in '04, Game 3. Humorous to say the least. This game had everything- a few good defensive plays, homers, The Patented JD Drew Rally Kill, Double-H setting a fire then putting it out with a little help from the Doctor, Coco's huge jump in the ninth and Tek's clutch, pinch-hit single. Then Paps was just lights out to close it. Eleven pitches. A thing of beauty. And considering that the game featured thirteen runs, twenty hits and ten pitchers, it moved by at a pretty brisk clip, coming in at only three and a quarter hours. We were home by midnight.

So it's six and a half with 21 to play. Can everybody relax a little and just enjoy these last three weeks?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Camden Retrospective- A Long, Alcohol-Soaked Story

The idea of moving to Pittsburgh is making me very nostalgic for some of the things I'll miss about living here. I suppose that's completely normal, but it is strange how certain things are hitting me every day. Like when I saw my friends Ben and Esther the other day. They're two people I've known for six years, hung out with a lot for two, and have seen infrequently for the last four. But when I saw them in the restaurant last Saturday night, I thought, "Jeez...will I ever see these people again?" So that's the sort of cheesy, nostalgic vibe I've been carrying around, seeing random things and wondering, "Will I ever see this again?"

Well, tonight I'll be at one of my favorite places on earth, for what will most likely be the last time for awhile. It's a place I've been probably 50-60 times, with lots of different people over the last 12-13 years. It's Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and I'm going to miss the hell out of not being only 45 minutes away from it.

Camden Yards is, for my money, still the best stadium in baseball. Granted, I haven't been to all of them, but I've been to enough of them over the years to have a real appreciation for it. PNC Park comes close, but I don't have near the memories there that I do of Camden Yards. It is nearly the perfect ball park. Easily accessible downtown location? Check. Lots of bars in the neighborhood for pre- and post-game revelry? Check. Beautiful views from nearly every seat in the stadium? Check. Cool downtown background? Check. Good food and beer selections? Check. Friendly staff? Check. Relatively cheap tickets? Check.

When Camden opened, it was touted as a retro park for it's old-school red brick construction, assymetrical dimensions and natural grass field. Now, it's retro because it's an older stadium where the highest ticket price is still "only" $55, I think. And if you need the VIP action, most club level seats top out at $40, and the club at Camden is great- sweet bars, loungy areas for rain delays, the sweet Guinness/Harp cart behind section 248, the way the usher at the bottom of the escalator looks at your ticket and says in an old-timey voice, "Yes, sir! Club Level...up the escalator, sir!" that makes you feel like a big shot.

When I was in college, I dated a couple native Marylanders who were born and raised O's fans, and I also had more disposable income then, so from '96-'98, I probably saw 40 games at The Yard. It was just something to do on a day off; weekend afternoon games were the best, especially when LightRail used to run late on the weekends. You could catch a morning train from Union Station in DC, catch a game, go barhop till late and catch a train back. Now, with no late train service back to DC, some of the fun of making a whole day of it is gone. But it's still a great time. Even though I don't get there nearly as much as I used to, I still look forward to the same things: a pint of the cask-conditioned Best Bitter at the Wharf Rat, my sausage from one of the great street vendors outside on Howard Street, the walk through the crowd on Eutaw Street after entering by the Babe Ruth statue (which I always flip off), finding your seats and realizing, once again, there's not a bad seat in the house (except for way back in Terrace level, where you lose fly balls above the upperdeck overhang), the Maryland Microbrew cart and a cold Clipper City Gold or Degroen's Marzen.

So, some highlights, lowlights and anecdotes from the ballpark I've been to more than any other...

I don't remember exactly what my first game there was. The first game I really remember, although the memories are pretty hazy, is an O's-Yanks game in probably August of '95, with my old friend Loren Keldsen. I remember it being brutally hot, and we'd been drinking Captain and Cokes in the parking lot for awhile before the game. About the seventh inning, I was feeling awful, we were arguing with some Yankee fan dicks way up in the upper deck on the third base line, and I think Loren might have puked into a nacho tray. I have no idea who won the game.

I think '96 was the season I saw the most games there, probably about 20, most with a rabid O's fan chick I was dating who would argue till she was blue in the face with anybody who denied the greatness/hotness/non-gayness of Brady Anderson. But the three biggest games I saw there that year were with my dad. We were there on Labor Day afternoon for Cal's 2,129th consecutive game and we walked around to Eutaw Street at the top of the 5th and stood under those big numbers they kept changing on the warehouse. That was pretty cool.

We were also there for the first game of the ALDS against the Indians (who we were still mad at for sweeping away the Sox in '95). The aforementioned not great/not hot/probably gay Brady Anderson led off the the O's first with another one of his juice-aided homers (that was the year he hit 50), BJ Surhoff cranked two, and Bobby Bonilla hit a grand slam.

And we were there for game four of the ALCS against the Yankees. The thing I really remember from that, aside from Daryl Strawberry's 93-minute circling of the bases after a moonshot homer in the 8th, was the walk from the Inner Harbor to the stadium. It was a Saturday night, and I think we'd eaten at the Uno's at the Harborplace. As we were walking down Pratt Street towards Camden, we saw/heard a commotion up the block. As we got closer we saw about ten of Baltimore's finest breaking up what appeared to be a pretty big fight between opposing fans. One Oriole fan was in handcuffs and yelling, repeatedly, "Fuck the Yankees!" It turned out to be a guy named Shane I worked with at Bennigan's; we stopped and I said, "Shane, what the hell are you doing?" And he said, in a real "Duh!" tone of voice, "Kicking some Yankee ass!" We laughed, wished him luck and started to walk away, but then he called out, "Hey Matty- call work- tell 'em I'll probably miss my lunch shift tomorrow..." Turns out he did; he didn't get out of Baltimore lockup till Monday morning.

On April 26, 1997, I was sitting down in the left field lower boxes when Robby Alomar hit three home runs to help beat the Red Sox 14-5. Later that summer I was at a game in July with a girl named Martha who got annihilated and wandered off during an argument. Took me about four innings to wander the stadium and find her- she was in Bambino's Pub in the Warehouse, knocking back more shots; should've thought to look there first.

In '99, I had a streak of five consecutive games I went to that featured a rain delay. It wasn't until '01 that the legendary Tim Wakefield streak started- ten Sox-O's games in a row I saw there featured Wakefield. The streak lasted into '05. Turns out Wake's pitching tonight-seems appropriate.

In '02, I took my wife there for her first Sox-O's game. We went with our friends, Rita and Declan. We got some sweet box seats near the Sox dugout from some guy in the Scalp Free zone (one of Camden's best features) and I got some terrific pics of Nomar back when he was still a happy guy. That was the legendary "Danny the Beer Man" game, which I've mentioned on this blog several times. That was also the night I kept yelling at Manny until he gave me the double Manny Point during a pitching change.

In 'o3 we went with Rita and Declan again, sat right behind the Sox dugout, and got Todd Jones to throw us Bazooka gum and sunflower seeds during yet another rain delay. My friend Kim was there too, with Jimmy C. I remember Kim using an upside down nacho tray to keep her shiny coat dry as we scurried for cover and realized that a rain delay in the seventh would keep the bars in the stadium open longer.

In '04, my wife, my brother and I were at The Yard on July 29, again to see Wakefield pitch, in a game that got rained out before it became official. It turned out to be the last time Nomar actually played on the field for the Red Sox. He didn't play the next night in Minnesota, then was traded on Saturday to the Cubs.

By '05, we had my daughter, so the games were fewer and farther between. On April 21, my dad and I saw Matt Clement (!) blank the O's 1-0. That game was the nightcap of our two-game/two-city double dip, as we'd seen the Braves beat the Nationals, 2-1, at RFK that afternoon. In August that summer, there was the ill-fated attempt to take my wife and six-month old daughter to a Sunday afternoon Sox-O's tilt with my cousin Mary and her boyfriend, who were living in Baltimore at the time. Turned out to be in the high 90's, and our seats in section 76 turned out to be too hot for the wife and kid. The crowd turned out to be too loud for my daughter, as well. When Trot went deep in the second over the out of town scoreboard, the roar from the partisan Sox crowd scared the crap out of her and she started crying. We left shortly after and listened to the Sox lose on the radio on the way home.

Last year I only got to two games- one with Essam the Mad Moroccan on April 9 (God, retrosheet has been handy for this), which turned out to be a 4-1 Sox win behind the pitching of Wake (again) and some rookie named Papelbon. That game was the closest I ever came to getting a foul ball at Camden Yards. We were in the first row of section 248, and Ortiz fouled a ball back at great speed that hit the facade of the club level right below my feet. Later that spring, on May 16, The Gatman and I sat in great seats in Section 14, five rows off the field and I got Ortiz to acknowledge my incessant yelling at him with a double point of his own. Schilling coughed up a 4-1 lead in the fifth, but was bailed out by RBI singles in the sixth by Mark Loretta and Big Papi. Papelbon saved that one, too. That game was also memorable because it featured the legendary diary, with the "My dad spends too long in the bathroom" entry that had me and Gat in stitches for about two innings. You can read the original version of that story in the comments here at Jere's place.

That was the last game I was at in Baltimore, until tonight. While I've been typing this, my tickets arrived from Stubhub (finally). Four beautiful orange tickets, in Section 78, row DD, seats 5-8. Left field lower boxes, one of my favorite spots in the stadium. Good fans, good view, always a chance at a homer. It was where a friend of mine heckled Jay Gibbons mercilessly by calling him "Gingerkid!" for nine innings. Good spot, good times. I also love the first few rows of Upper Boxes 326-334, up high behind home plate- one of the best views of the stadium and the skyline behind it.

After tonight, the next time I see the Sox in person will most likely be next season at the Jake in Cleveland. That's the closest AL city to Pittsburgh. Fortunately, my brother-in-law, Micah, lives there, so we're already planning a quick trip out there next summer to see him and catch a couple Sox games. I've never been to Jacob's Field, so that'll be cool. And I'm sure, at some point, I'll make it back to Baltimore and Camden Yards again. But for now, I'm just looking forward to tonight- my hot sausage, a cold beer, about 20,000 other Red Sox fans and over a decade of great memories.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

17

I've always loved "the magic number." To me, it's always been one of the coolest stats in baseball. Baseball is a game without a clock, without a deadline, and yet, as the season winds down, there's the magic number, just there, just ticking along to an endgame some love and most dread. It's really the only "clock" that baseball has. Simple math tells us that, at some point for every team but one in each division, there comes a point in the season where all the impossible dreaming is simply rendered impossible- the dreaded mathematical elimination. The games may go on a few more weeks for those teams, but all they can do is play the mythical spoiler. Earl Weaver used to relish the spoiler role; to an eliminated team, nothing beats knocking out some other hope-filled team and its fans. It was his own little sweet revenge. That's why I hope the Orioles beat Tampa Bay Wednesday night. Their magic number to be mathematically eliminated from the division title is two. If we win and they win on Wednesday, then a Sox win on Thursday, when I'm there, eliminates the Orioles. Sweet revenge for those years in the 70's when the O's broke my dad's heart late in so many fruitless seasons.

At some point, and I feel the Red Sox are almost there, the magic number is the glorious, long-awaited light at the end of the long, dark, 162 game tunnel. The promised land, the goal from the first day a pitcher slings it to a catcher when most of us are still slinging snow from our driveways. To the chasers, and Lord knows how familiar we are with this role, the magic number becomes four walls, claustrophobically, methodically closing in on you, until finally, all light is extinguished, all hope is lost. The last thing you hear is the sad, plaintive cry, "Wait till next year..." That's the thing about the magic number- it doesn't matter how much you win, if the team you are chasing keeps winning, too. It's not completely your own destiny to control. There's a helplessness to watching your team's late season winning streak equaled by your hated rival; nothing you can do at that point is good enough. That's what's so depressing about it- even your own perfection is useless when reflected back at you in that mirror.

So here we sit, longing for a combination of Sox wins and Yankees losses that equals 17. And here I sit, hoping that somewhere tonight, right now, some Yankees fan is starting to sense the walls closing in. I hope they pick up their paper tomorrow and see how their team blew out Seattle tonight, then see that we won also. Fruitless. I know they are improving their chances of making the playoffs, but I also know that it will kill them to finish second to us at anything. Maybe we will see them again on some crisp October evening, and maybe we won't. But for now, I hope they're at least getting a little short of breath. It's getting darker, the walls are moving closer, all the time.

18

After dinner, I checked the score and saw that it was 10-1 Sox. "Oh jeez," I said. "Finally some run support for Dice. Even one of his patent-pending, signature Dice innings can't screw this one up..." Then I popped a beer and we watched "Zodiac" on demand. (Which was pretty good; the whole thing had a really wet, claustrophobic, creepy quality to it, and some pretty good performances by Mark Ruffalo and Jake Gyllenhal.) Anyway, after the movie, I checked the score just to see what the blowout final score was and man, was I surprised: 13-10. My first thought was, "Am I glad I missed this one?" I'm not sure if I could have watched that game and not lost my mind and or woken up the kids...I'm sure some of you out there have shorter fingernails this morning.

I can't remember the last "elite" pitcher who could so quickly let an inning get away from him...He's almost Lowe-ian in that regard. He has innings that you can almost feel getting ready to run away from him. He's unpredictable and inconsistent, and that makes me nervous come October. I know that he's leading the team in quality starts, but man, what a misleading stat. I think the Sox should make every effort down the stretch to rest him an extra day whenever possible. Use some of the young guns to spot him a day off or two. At this point of the season, energy-wise, he seems to be in way over his head.

It looks like Wakefield will be ready to go on Thursday night, resurrecting my old "If Matty's at Camden, it's gotta be Wake" streak...I've missed him the last couple times I've gone, after seeing him something like nine straight games at Camden Yards. If anyone out there is going to the game on Thursday, drop me a line and we'll meet for a pint at the Wharf Rat before the game. I'm just thankful I won't be there on Saturday- that sounds pretty rough... My favorite part is how this guy says they are taking back their own stadium "if only for one night" and "if only temporarily." He understands the futility of trying to resist the influx of Red Sox fans and bandwagoneers. How did Caple and USA Today and all the other RSN bashers miss this guy? He's the poster child for all the whiny, over-matched and shouted down fans of all the pathetic teams whose organizations can't provide an on-field product good enough to elicit the sort of support that doesn't require a conscientious effort to reclaim your own stadium from a traveling band of ruffians decked out in red and blue. Rest assured that when I'm at the Yard on Thursday, and somebody's wife or girlfriend "initiates an activity that calls for taunting," my comebacks won't "be more mellow." Awrighty, hon?

Monday, September 03, 2007

19

I saw bits and pieces of the no-no on the tv at work, without even realizing that Clay had the no-no going...went back to the office about 9:30 for a minute, checked gameday, and saw he had the zeros working. My old friends Ben and Esther walked into the bar right before the start of the 9th...I knew that was a good sign, since Ben and I blew up DC after the Pats won their first Super Bowl...I said to Ben, "Something's going on here...I can't say what..." and Ben immediately understood; he just wanted to know who "wasn't" doing anything...the last hook to Mar-cock-is was devastating...then went back into the office a little later and watched the 9th on MLB.com with Don and Jerry on the call...I got the feeling Don had been rehearsing that call in his head since about the 6th inning. I thought he nailed it. I also loved Joe West's delayed, emphatic strike 3 call- well played, sir.

Yesterday's game I managed to watch bits and pieces of inside the toddler tornado that was my daughter's friend's second birthday party. Not easy to follow the pace of the game surrounded by running, yelling, smelly, messy kids ages 6 months to 5 years old. Left the game at 3-2 to walk down to the beach so the kids could go swim in the Chesapeake. Called my old man later to find out the score; I already knew the Yanks had lost, so a fine day it turned out to be.

Followed the Yank's score today while watching the Nats-Marlins game on TV...Wily Mo went deep, which always chaps my ass to see. The Yanks were down 7-1 in the 8th when we left to take the kids to the park. There was an old guy with a Mass. accent there with his grandkids who saw me and my daughter's Sox hats and asked me if I knew what happened in the Yankees game...I told him what I knew and he said, "That's good ta heah..." So I knew that was a good omen when I got home and checked the final. Six and a half and rising, as Jere says. Hope he's right.

I'm disappointed the game tonight's not on ESPN or something; they've got college football! Since when did colleges play primetime games on Monday night? Weird. Oh well; maybe I'll listen to some of it on the MLB radio thing while I'm making dinner for me and the Punkymom. Hope everybody had a good Labor Day...Here we go seven games...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Other Side of StubHub

The whole StubHub issue has been covered fairly recently on some other sites, and frankly, I don't have a real strong opinion either way about the "black" market for event tickets. I've bought from, and sold to, both SH and ebay; sometimes for a great deal, sometimes to make money, sometimes to overpay for something I really wanted to see.

Is it frustrating to get shut out of a concert at the 9:30 club and then see a third of the tickets for the show on ebay? Yeah, of course. So I applaud bands, like Smashing Pumpkins did, and like Bad Religion is doing for their fall tour, for doing a will-call only, non-transferable sale where the buyer has to pick up the tickets and go directly into the venue. That's really the only way to prevent scalping. I also don't think that's a viable solution for a 48,000 person event like, say, next Thursday's Sox-O's game at Camden Yards. And that's where Stubhub comes in...

Through the O's directly, the best seats available were right field box seats, near the right field corner, about 25-30 rows off the field for $40/ticket plus the extra charges. Well, I'll be at the game, three rows off the field in section 78, right behind the left field wall, home run territory, hopefully right behind Manny, or at least close enough to yell "Prettyboy!" at Markakis all night, for $18/ticket, all charges included. I bought them through Stubhub; these are face value, at least $25/ticket. So I win. And that's my point: occasionally, you can win with these sites. Like the time I was in the first row on the field just past first base at PNC Park with tickets I bought from ebay for five bucks under face per ticket. Savvy fans can actually *gasp* exploit these sites for their own personal gain! And not by overselling- you can do it by underbuying!

Call now, and I'll rush you the details explaining my proven, good seat getting system...Remember, you can't steal awesome seats to a Sox game unless you make the call...

Seriously, though, SH and ebay are like any other commercial, capitalist-based form of commerce. There will always be those willing to pay top dollar for something an unscrupulous person has the balls to sell for twenty times face value. And the rest of us can complain about that all we want, but the fact of the matter is, when I'm holding a home run ball I caught off the bat of Dr. Doubles, or Youk, or whoever, I won't really give a shit about the nefarious business practices of Stubhub. Instead, I'll be pitying the poor schlub Orioles season ticket holder that sold his tickets for half of face value and I'll be glad I live in a country where I can take advantage of that guy with nothing more than a few mouse clicks.

Is it hypocritical to complain about all the U2 tickets being on SH ten minutes after Verizon Center sold out, then turning around and buying Sox tickets from the same business? Yeah, probably a little. But I'm okay with that. Like Roger McGuinn said, to everything, there is a season, a baseball season under heaven. And heaven to me is saving seven bucks off face to see one last Sox game at Camden Yards before I move to Pittsburgh. So viva capitalism. It's only a game...