Monthly Archives: July 2009

Seven Signs of Summer

(Photo from Boston.com)

You guys? Jed Lowrie just wants to help. Lookit how anxious he is!

New NESN.com post in which I detail all the things we have to look forward to in the second half of the season including but not limited to Jonathan Papelbon’s complete break with reality and Dustin Pedroia’s bicycle chain necklace. Enjoy!
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America’s very rapid pastime

(Photo from NYTimes.com)

I don’t know about you, but I’m so used to All-Star games lasting many, many moons or going into extra innings or involving some creative bullpen management using airplane glue and smelling salts that a short game, clocking in at just over two hours and twenty minutes felt very odd to me. Seemed President Obama threw out the ceremonial first pitch and twenty minutes later, we were handing the MVP trophy to Carl Crawford.

Of course, the rapid pace of the game didn’t stop me from falling asleep during the later innings due to fatigue and what was, if we’re being honest, not a terribly exciting game. And since Fox was playing what sounded to me like the Jurassic Park theme music every time they cut to or back from commercial, it lead to some interesting half dreams on my part. HJ would tell you I’m prone to babbling complete nonsense in my sleep (seriously, he could tell you stories). And apparently last night was no different. Falling asleep on the couch, I believe I told him that I figured out how dinosaurs died out. It had nothing to do with meteors or ice ages but rather that they’d taken to grazing in the outfield at Major League Baseball stadiums and but since the professional groundskeepers were so good at their jobs, the grass wasn’t long enough to sustain the dinosaurs so they died out.

I believe I then declared that I had solved the mystery of the dinosaur’s extinction and therefore, science could focus on more important things now like those flying cars and robot maids we were all supposed to have by now.

Seriously. I said all of that.

Which leads me to believe that the All-Star game happening in my head may, in fact, have been slightly more interesting than the one that went down in St. Louis. Aside from Albert Pujols’ embarassing error in the first inning in front of his worshipping home town fans and Carl Crawford’s bacon-saving catch to keep Jonathan Papelbon from getting all cocky, it was mostly excellent ballplayers doing what excellent ballplayers do best. Except for hitting home runs. That didn’t so much happen.

And no matter what you may think of them personally, it was a little weird to have an All-Star game without Alex Rodriguez or David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez. It just felt somehow incomplete. Also, whither Tim Wakefield? I know that he was likely only going to get into the game if it went into extras or if something untoward was happening with the American League but I still really wanted to see Wake pitch. Maybe next year. Maybe he’s only getting better.

Despite the relative snooze-fest of the game, I did enjoy President Obama in the booth which added some much needed, you know, competence to the idiocy that usually goes on between Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. And though I don’t love the White Sox personally and I think Ozzie Guillen is a complete and total mad man, I appreciate the fact that Obama doesn’t pander to the electorate with a generic “Baseball” jersey or a jacket depicting a giant American flag or eagle or some such. The man is a fan of his team and I respect that. I mean, he flat out said that he doesn’t root for the Cubs. That takes some stones. That’s why he’s President. Honestly, I wish he could have stuck around a bit longer – as did Joe Buck as he practically begged him not to leave him alone with McCarver – but I suspect Rahm Emanuel was standing in the corner motioning for him to wrap it up because he was concerned about what prolonged exposure to the idiocy of Tim McCarver would do to the leader of the free world. The man has problems to solve.

Like that dinosaur thing. Someone should get on that.

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Insert royalty-themed headline here

(Photo from Yahoo! Sports)

It’s getting to the point where I honestly think the best part of the Home Run Derby is the fact that the camera frequently focuses on the kids of all the players running around on what I can only assume is a Mountain Dew high and acting like, well, like kids. Particularly adorable last night was Prince Fielder’s kid who just kept running around willy nilly and falling down for no apparent reason other than the fact that he’s, you know, a small child and probably got into Jonathan Papelbon’s Pixi-Stix stash sometime before the Derby commenced.

That said, I’m pretty sure ESPN and Major League Baseball as a whole are glad that professional baseball players often produce photogenic and hilarious children (D’Angelo Ortiz obviously being the most adorable in recent memory) as they’re occasionally stuck with the task of having to promote Nelson Cruz (who?) in the Home Run Derby. And since no one outside of Josh Hamilton is aware of the existence of Nelson Cruz, well…back to the cute kids running around in the grass it is.

All in all, it was a fairly nondescript Home Run Derby. I mean, good for Prince Fielder and all but it wasn’t terribly high on drama. Exciting though hearing about Fielder’s vegetarianism is, drama runs a little low now that he’s reportedly reconciled with his famous father and Joe Morgan was relegated to talking about…I don’t know. I try not to listen to Joe Morgan. I figure I’ll live longer that way.

I mean, Nelson Cruz? This wasn’t even like last year where the announcers could rehash the Josh Hamilton Redemption Story over and over again and take side bets with each other over how many times they could shoehorn the word “crackhead” into the broadcast without getting slapped with an FCC fine. (Turns out, a whole lot.)

But here’s a question I have: Since Carlos Pena replaced Dustin Pedroia in the All-Star Game due to Pedroia wanting to be with his pregnant wife Kelli who is undergoing labor complications, did Pena also replace Petey in the Home Run Derby? What I mean is, did the world miss out on Dustin Pedroia trying to jack home runs over the St. Louis arch while corkscrewing himself into the ground? Because that? Would have been AMAZING. And we are all the poorer for having to miss it. Let’s just see what we can do to make sure this happens next year in Anaheim, no? The world needs to see this. Also, if tradition holds, there will be a wee Pedroia roaming around the infield during such an event (yes, I’m aware that 1-year-olds don’t so much “roam” as they do “scoot and drool” but allow me this moment of poetic license), and the TV cameras will have something adorable to focus on when someone like Jason Bartlett wins the Home Run Derby.

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It’s always the nice ones…


(Wake goes Hollywood)

New NESN.com post up in which I discuss the ways Tim Wakefield is awesome and congratulate him on his first All-Star nod. Not that it hasn’t been said but for my money, Tim Wakefield can’t be over-appreciated.

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Not according to plan

(Photo from Yahoo! Sports)

Riddle me this one, kids. Does Brad Penny pitch every day or does it just feel like that because seemingly whenever I have time to actually sit in front of the TV and take in an inning or two, Brad Penny’s on the mound. Is that what’s happening here or is there some sort of space-time continuum vortex thingie that stops time or telescopes it or something (I don’t really understand all the Battlestar Galactica terminology), so that only Brad Penny’s starts are visible on my TV?

Because, and I don’t mind telling you this, I am getting kind of sick of Brad Penny. Especially since we’re allegedly trading him? Or not. Or maybe if someone wants him enough? No one tells me anything.

However, despite my mild fatigue with Brad Penny, last night’s loss to the Royals wasn’t even his fault. The bullpen, in troubling fashion, went all borky and started serving up runs to the Royals. This displeases me. Not least of which because they’re, you know, the Royals and while their fans are lovely people and I’ve heard delectable things about Kansas City barbecue and I really like that they get all attitudinal about calling a “New York strip steak” a “Kansas City strip steak” because, like, why should New York have everything named after it? Just because it thinks it’s so great?, I still am not fond of losing to what has been (save for the existence of the Pirates), kind of the punching bag of the AL. I mean, it wasn’t even Zack Greinke pitching, which loss I would have been able to stomach better. But I suppose, sometimes, the nerd fights back.

Of course, what I’m really not pleased about is the way in which this loss has dropped the Red Sox into a tie with the Yankees atop the AL East. Because I know we have read this book before and there are a few ways it could end but each of them involves me developing an ulcer, swearing at the television more than is healthy and drawing a line of demarcation down the middle of the couch as HJ and I take in the games from opposite sides of the living room. Not like we didn’t know this was coming, but personally, I was hoping the Yankees would continue to have chemistry problems for a bit longer and A-Rod would do something stupid again. Though I suppose there’s always time.

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::climbs up on soapbox::


I don’t often post links to other sportswriter’s pieces because I’ve always felt that it’s a big internet, you know what you like, and you can find it on your own. But every now and then something grabs my attention and I feel like I can’t just let it go by. Granted, I realize that by posting something that – at least in this instance – I fundamentally disagree with is just drawing more attention to the piece in question, but I’m also hopeful that it could open the lines of discourse on the subject.

So Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports has gone and written about Serena Williams. And lo, it is not pretty.

Whitlock begins by calling Serena Williams, excuse me, most recently crowned Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, an underachiever. Which is news, I’m sure, to those of us who will never win a single majors tennis title, let alone eleven, as Williams has. But, okay, I can almost see that point. If the argument is that if she worked harder, she could be even greater, I could see what Whitlock was getting at. While I don’t necessarily agree because, point 1) unless he trains with her daily, he has no idea how hard she’s actually working and, point 2) unlike most athletes out there, Serena has to contend constantly with the very real and ever-present challenge of her own sister – a champion in her own right. That, I’m sure, is pressure.

But here’s where Whitlock goes off the rails: “She’d rather eat, half-ass her way through non-major tournaments and complain she’s not getting the respect her 11-major-championships résumé demands.”

Oh, oh HELL no. We’re back here again, are we? We’re back at this debate. Despite her 11 major tennis singles titles, 22 major titles in total and two Olympic gold medals, accomplishments which should really speak for themselves to that whole “underacheiver” claim Whitlock makes, Williams is being derided for not being thin enough? Really?

Everyone remembers Anna Kournikova, right? Pretty girl, played tennis reasonably well, dated Enrique Iglesias for a while? Then the tables turned and she started getting slammed for becoming more interested in her modeling career than her middling tennis one. Serena Williams could eat her for breakfast. I find it interesting that while Whitlock is claiming that Williams could be even better at tennis if she’d just eat a little less and care a bit more about her appearance (the athletic equivalent of “she has a great personality”), he doesn’t once mention how so many sportswriters (and possibly even himself), railed against Kournikova for being a model first and a tennis player, oh, fifth, maybe. And yet he seems to be advocating that line of “training” for Williams.

I won’t argue that he’s being sexist for claiming that people like their athletes to look good. That goes without saying, though Whitlock does make the Tom Brady argument for me. I have and will continue to objectify professional athletes from time to time. It’s all part of being in the public eye. But to claim that if Serena Williams lost thirty pounds, she’d set every record known to man is pure nonsense. There’s a reason she’s so powerful. A lot of it comes from that “oversized back pack” as Whitlock so charmingly calls it.

Look, I’m not a tiny girl myself and never will be. And I don’t work anywhere near as hard as Serena Williams at my athletic endeavors (presumably Whitlock would also call me an underacheiver for failing to win a singles title by the age of 28), but I can tell you two things I’ve learned from marathon training. One, the more you run and the more you push it, those of us genetically pre-disposed to carrying our weight in our backsides are not going to see them get any smaller. And two, if you’re training for anything, any athletic activity at all, you’ve gotta EAT. Possibly Whitlock never passed basic nutrition class, I don’t know. But unless he’s standing next to Williams and weighing her food portions himself, he’d do well to keep his “nutrional” opinions to himself.

Seems it was just a few months ago when all anyone would talk about was Michael Phelp’s seemingly inhuman intake of 12,000 calories a day. And all the guy did was win eight gold medals. Surely Whitlock would claim he could have won ten if he’d just cut back on the pancakes.

What about Dan Marino? Widely regarded as one of the best professional football quarterbacks ever but not a single Super Bowl title to show for it. Probably because he just couldn’t put down those french fries, eh, Jason?

The fact is that the Williams sisters provide their own litmus test, of sorts. You don’t get much closer, genetically, than sisters and the physical difference between Serena and Venus Williams is obvious. Venus is taller and more sveltly built while Serena is heavily muscled and four inches shorter. But only one of them has a killer power serve. Hint: it’s not Venus.

The tendency in a situation like this is to go on the attack and start picking on Whitlock’s less than Adonis-like body. (And some of the Jezebel commentors surely have that taken care of). But that does no one any good. I also suspect he thinks he’s beaten us to the punch by claiming that he’s “fulfilling his destiny” because “sportswriters are supposed to be plump and lazy.” But in actuality, he’s proven exactly how lazy he is by resorting to a tired old cliche masquerading as an intelligent sports article.

And that, I think, is the tragedy here. Serena Williams is going to be fine. If anything, she seems perfectly happy in her championship-style body and good for her. Whitlock also claims that she’s too interested in pursuing interests outside of tennis and that she’s “happy to be photographed on dates with pro athletes and proud to serve as a role model for women with oversized back packs.” Yes, how DARE she? As to her outside interests? Good for her. In addition to the things she no doubt does for fun, she’s also actively involved in charities, to say nothing of the way she’s helped raise the profile of tennis in the inner cities and among African-Americans, especially African-American women. She’s using her “celebrity” that Whitlock derides to many good ends. And if she decided to quit tennis tomorrow? That is her right. She owes us NOTHING.

What we – and by “we” I mean not only the sports-loving public but also journalists like Whitlock whom, without athletes like Williams would find themselves out of a job right quick – owe Serena Williams, is some respect. She’s certainly earned it.

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The prodigal son returns

(Photo from Boston.com)

Because, come on, we totally know how to throw down a tribute in this town.

Look at the face on the woman in the bottom right. Like a proud mother. Which is actually how much of New England felt about Nomar for a long time. He was ours. We made him. We watched him spray line drives and perform his idiosyncratic batting glove and toe tapping routine in the batter’s box night after night after night. And while there aren’t many of us that would trade the, erm, trade of Nomar and the subsequent World Series championship, I suspect there will always be a little part of us that wishes he could have been here for it.

I have to wonder how it feels for Nomar to be playing alongside Orlando Cabrera now, the man who replaced him in the Sox infield for said championship. Maybe they don’t talk about it. Or maybe, as I hope happens, O-Cab occasionally mentions what a folk legend Nomar was and still is in Boston. I feel like he should know that.

Nomar always endeared himself to me personally by seeming to have such a complete and reverent grasp of baseball history and it’s place in the larger whole. He befriended Ted Williams (which, despite Williams’ legendary status, could not have been easy considering he was also a notorious curmudgeon), and always seemed to play the game respectfully, knowing that he wasn’t the be all and end all and there had been baseball for many years before he started playing and baseball would continue for many years after he was gone. Not every current day player can remember that.

So good on ya, Boston. You done me proud with your tribute. Your playing however? Yikes.

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