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Week 1 Thoughts

In my first account, Theophilus, I wrote about things the Red Sox did on Opening Day and back in 1986. I’ll touch on 1986 a bit and discuss some things about Week 1.

We’re all in.” – Kevin Youkilis in a NESN promo

Poker lingo in baseball goes back to the early days. When Alexander Cartwright and the rest of the Knickerbockers played, outs were hands lost and runs were aces. The Red Sox might not have drawn a 2-7 unsuited, but the start of the season was inauspicious. The Texas Whipsaw Massacre led to Boston pitchers craning their necks far too often to watch balls fly into the stands. And the bats were dead in Cleveland. Through Friday the 8th, the team is batting .205, reaching (On base average) .286, and slugging .306. That’s a 592 OPS. Glenn Hoffman’s career OPS was 623 in a lower scoring era.

Lou Gorman passed away on Opening Day. A poster at BTF wrote a good summary of his Boston tenure. He was the architect of both teams in the 1986 World Series. (I thought about writing a book bout that season, but never did. Mark Simon over at ESPN is running a retrospective of that year as this season unfolds. Check it out.) Gorman came from the fertile Baltimore front office. I took a continuing ed class in March over at Manchester Community College on baseball in the Sixties and was reminded of the awesomeness of the Oriole Way. Earl Weaver was a great manager (and lent his name to my favorite baseball video game. I’d spend hours playing EWB with my brother Martin.) His coaching staff spawned a number of other managers including Billy Hunter, Cal Ripken Sr., and George Bamberger. There was leadership on the field as well. Frank Robinson would don a mop as a wig and preside over a Kangaroo Court. This tradition was passed on and Don Baylor brought it to Boston in 1986. But Harry Dalton was perhaps a more vital cog. His general manager tree includes Lou Gorman, John Schuerholz, Sal Bando, Frank Cashen, and Dan Duquette. Pat Gillick was elected to Cooperstown over the winter. I think Dalton might be a better candidate. He got the Brewers to the World Series. That’s an accomplishment.

Speaking of Baylor, he ended his career with Oakland and played with Jose Canseco. Early in his career he played with Pete Hall who was a teammate of Hank Bauer. Bauer was a Yankee with Phil Rizzutto. Rizzutto provided play by play on Meatloaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” Meatloaf and Canseco are both on this season’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Elsewhere on Opening Day, Robert Redford threw out the first pitch for the Chicago Cubs. Who’s older, Redford or Wilford Brimley? Brimley is, but only by a couple of years. Despite this, Brimley was Pops, the manager while Redford played Roy Hobbs in The Natural. I saw this movie in senior English class. We had a teacher named Miss Sisk and Will and I called her Doug.

There was some college basketball this week. It is a sleazy sport, but that’s not why I didn’t watch it. I’ve had to prune my sports tree over the years and that’s one branch that was lopped off College hoops is a bachelor’s sport anyways. Basketball (and football, for that matter) should be watched in bars; bars where there are bunch of instant refs (just add alcohol.) You know, the guys who think that they can interpret the rulebook better than the officials even though they are viewing the game through a haze of Marlboro Light smoke and light beer belch. Also some folks who nervously step outside to get reception for their cellphones so they can communicate with their bookies add to the ambience. I used to hang out at a place called Elmo’s before mobile communications became ubiquitous. There’d be a line at the payphone full of decrepit types waiting to call their guy looking to parlay their winnings of go double or nothing on the late game. They didn’t know Joey behind the bar. He’d book action on the frickin’ Hula Bowl.

The Red Sox can take some solace in the fact that the UConn Huskies prevailed. They won it all despite a rough patch. Theirs happened to be in the middle of the season instead of the beginning. And the ’98 Yankees faltered out of the blocks. Some think that they may be the best team ever.

I was going to watch Wednesday’s game. I was willing to sacrifice my eyes and watch Dice-K pitch. But NESN had a meaningless Bruins game on. I tried to go to the NESN Plus channel, but accidentally selected an HD channel. I don’t have an HD TV and that fried the cable box,

Thursday was Getaway Day in Cleveland and the game started early. I tried to catch it on radio, but it is difficult to do at work when the phone rings and your mind is at least partially focused on work. It was a pitcher’s duel through most of the game. Lester struck out nine and Fausto Carmona bounced back from his dreadful Opening Day start. But I had a webinar that started before the game ended. I caught the rest of the game on Sox in 2.

It was foggy in Cleveland Thursday, It reminded me of a time in, that’s right, 1986. It was so foggy one nite at old Municipal Stadium that the Indians Red Sox game was called. Bobby Bonds was a coach in Cleveland at the time and he hit fungoes that disappeared into the mist. The umpires had seen, or couldn’t see enough and the game was called. Despite the weather, some players like Marco Scutaro were wearing shades. Choo on the Indians was even wearing lampblack.

In years previous, NESN would introduce the teams defenses by putting names in the nine positions over a backdrop of a baseball diamond. This year, they show head shots of the infield, outfield, and battery that look like baseball cards. NESN treats the games in a fashion that is too lightweight for me. I don’t mind Jerry Remy bantering about his life with Don Orsillo during a blowout, but I don’t care all that much that, for instance, he’s having computer problems or that the flight to Cleveland was bumpy. And they cut away to Heidi Watney in mid-inning. They have plenty of time during the pregame show to talk about chicken and waffles at Progressive Field. Do they really need to do that feature over an at bat? I went to Progressive Field three years ago and wasn’t all that impressed. Out of the new mallparks, I prefer Great American in Cincy and Oriole Park at Camden Yards. But I did like the Stadium mustard they have there.

The game isn’t as interesting if you know the result in advance. I had heard that the Red Sox lost their sixth straight. I didn’t know how, but I knew that the damage was done later in the game, so I read while the first part of the game played on my TV. It turned out that the Indians beat the Red Sox with small ball in the eighth. Adam Everett walked. Why would Josh Bard nibble with Everett? He stole second and two bunts scored him. Who said that industry in the Rust Belt is a thing of the past? That was a manufactured run. The Sox had a chance in the ninth with the big bats coming up, but Youkilis and Gonzalez couldn’t get the ball past the infield. David Ortiz walked and was replaced by Darnell McDonald. JD Drew made weak contact. The Red Sox caught a break when it bounced of the pitcher Perez’s leg, but Darnell McDonald needs to learn how to brake. He overran second base and Adam Everett alertly threw the ball to Cabrera. McDonald slipped and didn’t retreat to the bag in time.

The Sox have been making mental errors like this in the early going. Varitek didn’t tag a runner the previous nite when the force was no longer in effect. It was no sure thing that the Red Sox would have tied the game or gone ahead. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was up next, after all. But McDonald’s gaffe guaranteed a loss.

Finally, Boston won a game once they returned home. I’ll have more thoughts later on the Yankees. It was another day game that I listened to and watched the replay. One thin I will mention is this: I believe that Saltalamacchia is the first player in Boston history to sport a Cool-Flo helmet. He doesn’t wear it at bat, but he does wear it under his amsk while catching. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

‘Til next time, Happy Baseball.

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