Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

I’m amazed to find it’s been a month since my last post. The ALCS went the distance after a Sox-typical comeback from 1-3 down to force Game 7, although, unlike other occasions, this time they came up short. Basically, short of hitting when pitching faltered.

The Rays had a fair degree of both, including hitting more home runs since,well, the last time some team hit lots of postseason homers.

The resulting World Series between the Rays and the Phillies was, almost literally, a damp squib with Game Five starting in steady rain and getting suspended in the sixth with the score tied. When the game resumed after a whole day missed, the Phillies wrapped it up and won their first title since 1983 (?).The game had lasted just over fifty hours.

The whole thing was yet another example of Selig with his finger off the pulse of the game. Either Game 5 shouldn’t have started in rain or it should have been called after five completed innings (with the Phillies winning) as any regular season game would have been.

The fact that there was little outcry might be a reflection of how little interest there was in this series.

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The really major event of the past month was my friend Cyn’s winning WEEI’s Next Great Sports Blogger competition. Cyn was one of ten shortlisted finalists from a very big field of entrants drawn mainly, I think, from New England.

Each finalist published three pieces on particular topics and people from all over voted for them. As a result of some shameless pimping on Cyn’s part (kidding Cyn :)) to pull in the votes and some obviously outstanding talent, Cyn took the big prize, a not-to-be-sniffed-at USD 5000 and a year’s blogging on WEEI’s website.

Well done, Cyn.

Cyn’s blog is linked on the right at Toeing The Rubber, presciently tagged as Simply The Best.

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Oh, and the other major event of the past month? Barack Obama became the first African-American to be be elected US President. Wow! Two Sox WS wins and a Black President. If I wasn’t so damn curious to see a third and to see how Obama turns out, I could die happy!

We’re No Angels

This set of ramblings was never going to be a daily
chronicle of Red Sox games.  There are
dozens of those out there that do a good job of Sox won/Sox lost/Sox was
robbed. But for the ALDS I thought I’d do a round up, largely for my own
benefit. Pretty soon they’ll be embroiled in the ALCS with Tampa
Bay and I’ll forget.

Over the past few days the Sox and the Angels played four
amazing and at times inept games, with the Sox taking both in Anaheim
when I and most everyone else would have settled for a split and returning to
Fenway to try to sweep them again.

Game 1

Because if the silly West Coast start times, I could simply
leave work early on Thursday to get to see the whole game. Jon Lester’s solid
seven innings and Jason Bay’s
2-run homer in his first ever playoff game led to a Sox 4-1 win.

Game 2

Saturday afternoon and Jason
Bay did it again to start game 2
with a three run shot and the Sox had a 5-1 lead by the fourth. Then they dozed
off and the Angels chipped away to tie at 5-5 in the 8th. Ruh-oh.

Then JD Drew, who might not have been playing in this series,
took their ace closer deep for two and Pap got the save.

Game 3

So back to Fenway for the sweep which was not to be. With
Ted on an Awayday from North Carolina, Cyn, Kelly and Tru representing, the Angels won in extras courtesy on an
awful fielding error which gave the Sox an undeserved lead, and some terrible
umpiring calls which, eventually, gave the Angels the win in the twelfth. A long, tense, scratchy loss.

Following last year’s play off superstition, I took a couple
of days off and headed for the skifields for some snow and to watch the game
away from home. Didn’t get to see much snow (the top of Ruapehu was covered in
cloud the whole time). I watched the game in a motel room in a town called Ohakune
which exists for skiers and snowboarders and, apparently, for carrots.

IMG_1657.jpg

Game 4

ruapehu.jpg

Picture from The Sydney Morning Herald

With the weather closing in again I decided the mojo wasn’t
working and headed home in time for the agony and the ecstasy of game 4 on
Tuesday at 1:30. This was the
twelfth Sox win in 13 postseason games against the Angels in their various
guises. How could we have doubted them?

Lester demonstrated again that he’s the ace of this team, pitching seven miserly innings and leaving with a 2-0 lead. No W though as the Angels pulled two back off Masterson who seemed overawed by the occasion.

Then AL MVP in waiting Dustin Pedroia got his first hit of the series and Jed Lowrie drove home the walk-off run scored by who else but Jay Bay. Can you say ALDS MVP?

Memorable play of the game: Tek chasing Willits back to third after a failed squeeze attempt.

Onward to Tampa.
I’ve just been working the schedule into NZ summer time and I get civilized
games on Saturday and Sunday but after that I may have to conjure up plausible
reasons for working from home for Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, with two starts around 1:30 and one at 9:30 a.m.

Season Over. Let’s Play Ball!

So, 162 games later the regular season 2008 is over for the
Sox. And they’re in the postseason again.

Where did the last six months (and a bit: don’t forget Japan)
go?

At the halfway point, I said I’d settle for a second half
repeat of the first 81 games. That would have had them at 98-64 and,
incidentally, winning the AL East. As it was,  they finished on 95-67 and second to the very
odd Tampa Bay Rays. Where did their
performance come from? Please tell me they can’t keep it going in the playoffs.

And now we await the playoffs although not for too long. The
Sox/Angels series is the TBS/MLB devised ALDS Series B, which has game 1 on
Wednesday in Anaheim at 10 p.m. Eastern, with game 2 on Friday and game 3 back at Fenway on
Sunday. That’s gameday, offday, gameday, travel day. I suspect it would have
been the same if the series was between, let’s say, the Angels and the
Mariners. Ted Turner has even more to answer for.

My broadband throughput cap will be severely tested as ESPN
here have no plans to cover either division series live or at all so I’ll be
hitting mlb.tv hard. At least I’ll get Don Orsillo for a few more
games.

I had a vague thought that I might revive last year’s
Internet Café mojo. Who knows, it might bring the Sox some luck and save my
download allowance for the ALCS.

Sounds like a plan.

Love That Dirty Water

I’ve been a fan of detective novels and murder mysteries for
years, from Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler to Patricia Cornwell and
Jeffery Deaver but in all those years, I’d never had the opportunity to read
one before publication.

 

Until now.

Sox fan Jere Smith (of Red Sox Fan From Pinstripe Territory) provided a number of his fellow bloggers with advanced
copies of Dirty Water, a novel he co-authored with Mary Ann Tirone-Smith, with
a request that we write a review, so here goes.

Set against the backdrop of last year’s pennant race, the novel exposes the
murky world of avaricious sports agents and the even deadlier world of
people-trafficking.

An infant is abandoned in the Red Sox club house early on game day. The baby’s
unfortunate young mother is discovered murdered in the Back Bay Fens in sight of Fenway
Park. A young ball player goes
missing. The Boston PD enlist the aid of the blogging community to help unravel
the mystery.

The plot skilfully blends real-world characters (David Ortiz, Jason Varitek)
and places in Boston, barely-disguised blog commenters (sadly not including
your Antipodean correspondent) and entirely fictional characters (Rocky Patel
the Gujarati Boston PD detective and the Mexican-American family at the centre
of the mystery).

As you may have gathered, I really enjoyed the read and would recommend it to anyone. I’ve already decided that my next pilgrimage to Fenway
Park might well include a stay at
the Edgerly Road B&B (the Oasis Guest House if I’m not mistaken).

 

The book’s official publication date is September 1st in the
US. God knows when
it’ll be available in New Zealand!

 

 Dirty Water by Mary Ann TironeSmith and
Jere Smith is published by Hall of Fame Press. ISBN: 978-09776240-2-7

 

You can buy it on Amazon, here: http://tinyurl.com/57spol

 

 

 

On an entirely personal note, I found reading a pre-publication
bound galley proof interesting. While I was out of work a couple of years ago,
I took a course in proofreading and I found myself spotting some things which I
hope don’t make it into print (the reference to square acres and the inversion
of the West Coast/East Coast time difference: lunchtime in Boston isn’t late
afternoon in LA).

Thanks, Manny

MannyHits1.jpgEight years after he announced his arrival in Boston with a 3-run homer, and following a fairly precipitous falling-out with the Sox Front Office, Manuel Aristides Ramirez is no longer a Red Sox player.

I’ve made my feelings about Manny very clear here and elsewhere over the last couple of years. He was the best, most naturally gifted right-hand hitter I and most of us will ever see.
 
Two months ago, I was in Camden Yards when Manny became only the 24th player to reach 500 career home runs and I became uncharacteristically emotional. In the intervening weeks,something happened to make Manny even more determined to leave and the FO even more determined to get some value for him.

I don’t much care what caused this. His departure sooner rather than later was inevitable, given the nature of his contract. I much prefer to remember the pleasure, the sheer joy of his contribution to the Sox over the last eight years. Yes. and the weird and quirky moments too.

He’s gone to LA to patrol the wide open spaces in left field at Chavez Ravine for the rest of the season (good luck out there, Manny, with no Green Monster to shelter in front of or inside), and to try to help the Dodgers into the playoffs in the god-awful NL West. After that, and the inevitable exit in the first round, Manny and his agent will presumably be touting his services back in the AL for next year and more. Just pray it’s not with the Y*****s.

So I’ll add my thanks to Manny for all he did for the Red Sox and for my enjoyment of RedSox baseball and for that magical moment in Baltimore in May.
 

Reflections

MeReflectedAgainstTree.jpg

After missing the chance last Summer on my South Island trip, I took a spur-of-the-moment weekend away to ride the Tranz Alpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth through the Southern Alps.

MountainsFrom Springfield Train.jpgThe run goes more or less due west across the Canterbury Plain which is really the Canterbury Wedge, rising from 6 metres above sea level to 300 or so at Springfield where the mountains are really close.
RiverBed.jpgThe train has around a dozen carriages, nicely air-conditioned and double-glazed and an open-air observation car, where this river bed pic came from. It was freaking freezing and I could only stand it for around ten minutes. This is th reason for all the reflections.

ArthursPassSignReflectedFullFrame.jpgThe high point of the trip is the tiny station at Arthur’s Pass, named for Arthur Dobson, who discovered it, by his brother George, who surveyed others and decided Arthur’s pass was the best!
ArthursPassSign.jpg737 metres is around 2400 feet, the surrounding mountains range up to 2300 metres/~8000 feet. The track depends for its existence on the coal truck in the background. If it wasn’t for coal, the line would have closed years ago.

SunTrainWindowReflection.jpg
The train guard who also acted as tour guide made a point about erosion, saying that without it the mountains would be 20000 metres high and there’d be no Canterbury plain. And if water wasn’t as odd a molecule as it is, there’d be hardly any erosion (I added that bit).

Mountain Peak Spindrift.jpgOn the run down the west side of the divide there are places like this lake front where land sections start around 450000 NZD (~ USD 300000) on which you can build your dream home (and, as it turns out, be without cellphone coverage, broadcast radio, mains drainage and all those good things) but the views are spectacular, as is annual rainfall measured in feet rather than inches.

LakeMountainReflection.jpg

The end of the line for this trip is the port of Greymouth where I wandered about for a while and got back on the train for the return to Ch.Ch.
GreymouthStation.jpgWhile setting up these pics, I came across some from the Baltimore series and this one sort of fits the theme here: Millar ‘reflecting’ Youk’s batting stance:
MillarBeingYouk.JPGHe did a pretty good job, including the high right hand and the bum wiggles. Please, Theo, find something for Millar to do on the Sox staff.

Halfway There

I had planned a post at the halfway point of the season which should be 81 games. For reasons I can’t fathom, the Sox have reached this point with today’s nice 5-0 win over the Diamondbacks. They are in first place with a 49-32 record, one game ahead of the Team Formerly Known As The Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The Rays are 46-31 on 77 games and that’s what I can’t understand. Nobody else other than the Sox has reached 81 games, in both leagues. Yes, I know the Sox started before everyone else in Japan but Oakland did too and they’re on 76 games. Odd, huh?

If you gave the Rays three of the four games, they’d be tied for the AL East lead. Will they never wake up and remember their place?

Anyway, with a fairly typical run of injuries, the Sox have stayed in serious contention for three months, with Papi due back imminently and Dice-K back this weekend in Houston after a disasterous return against St Louis.

The series loss to the Cards was their first home series loss this season and they’re still on pace for some sort of home win-loss record. They have an opportunity on the upcoming trip to get their road record to .500. Only the Angels, Rangers and the Y*****s in the AL have road records above .500.

So off we go into the next 81 games. It may be a bumpy ride but I’d take 98-64 come September 30th.

Balto, Bahston and Beyond

Sitting
in the back row of a United 757 en route to LAX, reflecting on my long weekend
in the upper hemisphere and four great ballgames.

 

The
three games in what the locals apparently call Balto where seriously good fun
including, as they did, Manny’s 500th and 501st career
home runs, a reunion with Kelly and Beth from San Diego last year and meeting
Cyn, Crystal and Brooke (Crystal’s sister) from SG.


Not
least of the new acquaintances was the legendary Steve who appears in a number
of these photos. He must be the most photographed stuffed ferret on Earth,
although some say he’s actually alive.

Steve's Harem (3).jpg


The
downer of the
Baltimore experience
for me was losing some gear to an opportunist thief who broke a window in my rental
car to nick an MP3 player and a GPS system. The Maryland Transit Police
couldn’t have been more helpful, which is more than can be said for the Hertz
tow truck guy, who took two hours to arrive and couldn’t find the Hertz lot for
another hour. The lot was less than three miles from where the break-in
happened. Dipstick.

 

Manny’s
500th came earlier that evening, after a day of torrential summer
rain and a brief palooze with Kelly, Cyn et al (who the F**k is al – Ed.) in
Sliders, a bar that contrived to run out of hamburger on what must have been
one of their busiest days of the season. Dinks.

MannyHits1.jpg

The
Manny shot was the most amazing thing I’ve seen in a ballpark, a no-doubter into
the centrefield bleachers that I followed for all of its flight. There is no other
sound like the noise which greeted its landing. The whole stadium exploded and
cheering, screaming and clapping continued well into the next at-bat. I have no
clue sitting here who pitched, what the count was, what the game situation was.
None of that matters. I saw a 500th home run. There have only been
23 before this and I was there, crying as it turned out.

 

I
was in the far right field club seats, level with the foul pole and had a great
view of the flight and the scramble for the ball, won by a true fan, a Mr Woo,
who immediately gave it back to Manny and will surely find a place in baseball
heaven.

RedSox500.JPG

For
the Friday and Sunday games I had seats with Kelly, Beth, Cyn and Steve. Apart
from Steve they are raucous, passionate, funny and delightful company. Steve
said little but always had a daft grin on his face. He knows when he’s well
off.

BethCynKellyCrysBrookeSteve.jpg

Sunday’s
game included a standing O for Manny and #501 and was followed, for me by the
Mount Vernon staff picnic,
held in the grounds of Washington’s home overlooking the
Potomac. I got to see
Kiana, her Mom Stacey, and my sister Anne and to savour the fabulous view and
an idyllic summer’s evening. Oh, and I persuaded the DJ to play Dirty Water.

MtVernon.JPG

So
much for Balto (its abbreviated that way on road signs and on the Light Rail system
maps) and on for a flying visit to Bahston. I had figured that, after coming
12000 miles, I couldn’t not go to Fenway.

MeFenway.jpg

The
highlight here, apart from returning for the first time in three years, was the
truly awesome standing O Manny got on his first at-bat. If the Sox FO don’t
exercise their options next year and in 2010, they should be taken out and
shot.

 

Paloozing
on this occasion took the form of a one-on-one session in the Cask & Flagon
with Josh Blue who can drink free Guinness like a native. (I kid, JB, if you’re
reading this). For some reason, probably not unrelated to the Sam Adams consumed, I have no photographic record.

No, no, Jon Lester

There have been 256 no hitters in MLB, 249 if you count only those thrown by a single pitcher. Red Sox pitchers have pitched a disproportionate 18 of them and the last two were by Clay Buchholz and, today, Jon Lester.

All the superstitions were in evidence: don’t mention the no-hitter, don’t talk to the pitcher in the dugout and so on. At the end, Lester was hugged by what must have been the entire Sox field staff including Francona who lost it and disappeared in tears. Almost incidentally, the Sox beat the Royals 7-0 and are alone in first a game up on the remarkable Rays with the NY AL team 6.5 games back and four games under .500.

And, after going three for three in Boston, Ted and Tex missed all the fun while flying back home. I was at work today, caught an inning or two at lunchtime then ran the whole game on mlb.tv.

It’s on Sportscenter right now and it’s still amazing.

Two Years On

This little outpost of Red Sox fandom celebrates its second birthday
today, although it started life as RSN UK. Back then, I was five months
into unemployment and a search for a job which eventually turned up a
few months later and it changed its name and your correspondent moved
halfway around the world.

Right now, the Sox are 24 and 19 and
in second place behind the team formerly known as the Devil Rays (of
all people) and the NY AL team are two games under .500 and propping up
the division, 4.5 games back. In 2006 at this point, the Sox were 23
and 14 but leading the division by a game from the Y*****s and we all
know how that turned out.

I’ll take what we have with this
team and believe they’re good enough to repeat, both in the Division
and in the playoffs. The Rays are playing waaay above themselves as are
the Orioles. The MFYs on the other hand are in some disarray with young
master Steinbrenner carrying on the family tradition of interference
and lunacy.

Meanwhile, Elmerpalooza is underway in Boston with Ted’s first ever visit to Fenway Park due on Friday, accompanied by quantities of SG commenters and sundry stuffed animals. I suspect it could get a little dusty around 5 pm EDT.

My
own pilgrimage this year is scheduled for the end of the month for the
4-game series in Baltimore and a quick side trip to Fenway for a game.
Scouserpalooza? Possibly, with a chance to meet Cyn, the inspiration for this little blog, and a reunion with Kelly and Beth from last year’s San Diego trip.

Can’t. Wait.

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