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Driving home around 4 p.m. yesterday up the Southeast Expressway, I realized I needed to buy new windshield wipers. The levels of snow and salt and frozen rain and more snow have taken their toll, leaving giant streaks that immediately smudged and fogged up and took the already limited visibility of the early stage of what is now our fourth major snow storm in the past three weeks (plus all those little 3-5 inch jobs in between) down to almost nothing. I have to think I used most of my windshield wiper fluid cleaning up as I drove the final 10 miles home.

So, windshield wipers are on my shopping list now. I’ve already bought four new tires, road salt and extra long johns to wear underneath all the other layers that have been somehow even more necessary that usual. After I got home, the latest blizzard really got to work, and I woke up this morning to the most snow I’ve ever seen. Seven feet of snow have fallen in Boston and practically none of it has melted. February in New England is never a picnic, but this is insanity.

And so begins the search for little victories in this never-ending blizzard. There are a lot of movies to catch up on. We try to get out for a drink every couple of nights just to get out of the apartment. We caught a Celtics game a week ago, which was a blast and a nice taste of normalcy in this psychological experiment disguised as winter. (more…)

Pedro Martinez, in the midst of doing what he did.

Pedro Martinez, in the midst of doing what he did.

If I glance to my left from my desk at work, I can see various things taped up: concert setlists, band photos, album covers, little trinkets to keep me motivated and feeling like I’m at home. One of them is a Pedro Martinez baseball card, circa 2003. He’s pumping his fist, probably after another strikeout.

Thanks to a quick decline in baseball card quality the past couple of seasons, the collecting bug that I rekindled around 2010 has flamed out again, leading me back to the occasional, nostalgic purchase. I still seek out individual Red Sox each year, and I pick up stray cards of players I like on the cheap. In terms of space and money spent, it’s a much more affordable existence.

This weekend, I was tooling around again for the first time in a few months, and sort of instinctively started looking for Pedro cards. Soon enough, I found a 10-card lot of ones I mostly didn’t have, priced around $3 total, and took the plunge. The entire exercise probably took around 10 minutes.

Tomorrow afternoon, there’s a very good chance that Pedro is going to be announced as a 2015 Hall of Fame inductee, along with Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio and maybe a couple of others (John Smoltz? Mike Piazza?). It’s a feather in the cap of an incredible career, and it feels nice to know that he’s being acknowledged for his work. But that’s not what I was thinking about when I went searching for those cards, because I don’t think much about the Hall of Fame anymore. (more…)

At the end of the day, Kevin Youkilis enjoyed the game.

At the end of the day, Kevin Youkilis enjoyed the game.

Kevin Youkilis had a temper.

That much was obvious enough when he nearly got into a brawl in the dugout with Manny Ramirez in 2008, or when he charged the mound and threw his helmet after being hit by Detroit’s Rick Porcello in 2009. He was fiery and pissed off and sometimes mean about his at-bats. He grimaced and sweat and dug in for every pitch he could possibly see. In 292 at-bats, he saw a 3-0 count and never once swung the bat at the next pitch. He was in for more and not looking to cheat himself out of a possible hit.

That’s the general picture of Kevin Youkilis, the baseball player, I have in my head. But for specific memories, I usually zoom in on a more genial one that showed Kevin Youkilis, the guy who got his kicks playing a kids’ game.

The Mets were in Boston to face the Red Sox on a Friday night. About 3,000 miles away, I was sitting in R.T. O’Sullivan’s in Mesa, Ariz., with friends to watch the game — the 4 p.m. start always meant an excuse to head out of work a little early for happy hour, plenty of appetizers and a taste of home via the Sox.

In the fifth inning, Johan Santana pitched inside to Youkilis and clipped him on the elbow. Youkilis dropped the bat, grabbed his arm, and walking towards first base with a smile, he let Santana know what he thought:

“Shit, man. That hurt!” (more…)

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I feel like I’ve been droning on about Madison Bumgarner in faux poetry for days now, but after racking my brain for all the other fantastic pitching performances I’ve seen in October and otherwise — Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Chris Carpenter — nothing compares to what this guy has pulled off.

What he accomplished in just this World Series is legendary, and just by the numbers. In three games, he threw 21 innings, gave up one run, one walk, struck out 17 and kept his ERA to 0.43 en route to two wins and his incredible five-inning save in Game 7. Factor in his entire World Series career, and the numbers get even more ridiculous: a 0.25 ERA, still only one run, five walks and 31 strikeouts over 36 high-intensity innings.

The numbers are for the historians and analysts, who will take into account the era in which Bumgarner pitched — one of pitch counts and controlled innings and proper rest between appearances — and place him among the greats like Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Sandy Koufax.

But we watched this in real time. We saw Bumgarner carry the Giants through the Wild Card game, control the Cardinals in the NLCS and then dominate the Kansas City Royals with ease in Game 1. He topped himself in front of a home crowd in Game 5, shutting them out and finishing what he started. And then, after a shaky start to his first batter, with just two days of rest after throwing those nine innings, he settled down, firing nails into the championship dreams of every Kansas City Royals player, coach and fan. (more…)

Madison Bumgarner made his mark immediately as a rookie.

Madison Bumgarner made his mark immediately as a rookie.

Why is the World Series such a great event? One reason is that, every year, without fail, someone seizes control of his own destiny and makes the most of the chance. Last night, that was Madison Bumgarner.

Watching Bumgarner meticulously pick apart the Royals for nine innings in his last start of the season was one of those coronation-type moments. The reality and depth of his October career have already been established — he beat the Rangers as a 21-year-old in the 2010 World Series and has just gotten better from there. But this season has cemented him in that higher plane of October warriors, starting with his dismantling of the Pirates in the Wild Card game and right through to last night’s Game 5, pushing the Giants to the brink of another World Series trophy. (more…)