March 7, 2014
Jeffrey Loria (artist’s rendering).
There aren’t many storylines in Spring Training that deviate too far from each other. Most of the time, they fit neatly into one of these categories:
1. Player A in best shape of his life
2. Player B outperforming expectations, may make team.
3. Player C suffers bizarre injury.
4. Team has new manager/general manager/players and is changing club culture.
5. Player D is still without a home.
Looking around, there are probably plenty of players who could fill the first category (I know David Ortiz is looking especially trim these days). It’s a little early for someone to fill the second, Jake Peavy has already given us the third by almost cutting his finger off, a few teams have new managers and overhauled rosters, and Ervin Santana and Stephen Drew are easily the best unemployed baseball players in the world.
And so it goes for Spring Training, which is typically five weeks of watching games in sunny locales with palm trees in the outfield and players with ridiculously high numbers taking the field. Soon it’ll be Opening Day, real games will start and real complaining can begin.
Unless the Miami Marlins are in the equation, that is. (more…)
February 7, 2014
I don’t really know why, but I think I’m keeping this.
There’s no denying my first impression. I was impressed and intrigued.
As David Roth writes in only that way he can, J. Corey Stackhouse is on a mission to collect every Tim Wallach baseball card ever printed. And when I first read that without finishing to the end, I thought, “interesting. I’m trying to do the same thing,” for a few guys, anyway — Jason Varitek, Pedro Martinez, Dwight Evans, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice, to name five. I’ve even got a few doubles and triples that I’ve held onto.
But that’s not it, of course. He wants every single one ever printed. And he’s documenting the process. (more…)
January 20, 2014
As painted-on uniforms go, this one isn’t bad.
I’ve been off the baseball card game for a while. Not that it’s a huge change; the days of buying complete sets and boxes are about 20 years past, and the deteriorating quality of Topps (and the fact that Topps is the only company in the game now) have left the urge to buy lots of packs or splurge cards minimal. There’s always nostalgia, but that only goes so far.
But I still have my Red Sox binder, and the urge to keep accumulating players as they pass through Boston is still strong. It’s more of a scrapbook than the investment portfolio I thought I was assembling when I was 10. Alas.
So in the throes of winter and this typically weird New England cycle of mild, sunny days in the 30s and near-blizzards with highs of 4 degrees, I’ve renewed myself a bit to picking up some of the Red Sox cards from the past season. It was a memorable one, of course, and having certain guys in the binder became important. So joining the stalwarts David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek and curiosities like Darren Bragg, Corey Bailey and Darryl Irvine are Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino and even Joel Hanrahan. And of course, Koji Uehara. (more…)
December 31, 2013
I used to joke that Josh Beckett was the best pitcher alive in the odd-numbered years, and until his arm disappeared this season in Los Angeles, it seemed to mostly be true. He was a monster in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and even 2011, seemingly using up all his energy in one year that it took him another 12 months to recover.
I used to think that about myself a little bit, that the even-numbered years were were it was at. 2004 was great, 2009 was a nightmare, and so on, but that idea has disappeared. Since 2010, I don’t have much to complain about, and I’m not about to complain about being mostly content. The idea of trading in that zig-zagging chart for more consistent attempts at success is appealing.
2013 was great on a number of personal levels, and to go into them here now would be unnecessary. But to address the baseball side of things, 2013 was flat-out amazing, led by the resurgent Boston Red Sox playing the game with vigor every night, led by Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli and Jon Lester and Shane Victorino and, most of all, David Ortiz. (more…)
November 20, 2013
Moving on, to another day.
I keep a Pedro Martinez figure on my desk, depicting his days with the New York Mets, walking off a mound with his gloved left hand and his right index finger pointed to the same spot in the sky where his head has tilted. It’s impossible to say whether he’s stepping away from a win or a loss, if it’s tied or if he’s just given up a three-run homer and is being lifted for a lefty.
I have other figures around me — my girlfriend calls them “your little people” — of varying shapes and sizes. Late 1980s Starting Lineup renditions of Mike Greenwell and Wade Boggs anchor the two external harddrives I keep, with a miniature Ichiro atop them. Cam Neely and Tim Thomas represent different and concurrent eras of Boston Bruins history. Two Red Sox figures, of Jason Varitek and Pedro Martinez, are here, too, but they’re usually obscured by my laptop screen.
I found Pedro, circa 2005, online for $4 a few years ago, and I keep him in a key spot, not far from my right hand and usually just behind where I’ll rest a glass. Pedro was among my favorite athletes ever, because he was the single most brilliant force on a baseball diamond I’ve ever seen, for sure. But also because that otherworldly talent abandoned him midway through his career, yet he didn’t fold or succumb to time immediately. He kept pitching, and he was good much more often than he was bad. And because he’s painted in his Mets uniform, it’s a reminder that he had an interesting life and career after he won a World Series and left Boston. (more…)