Detroit Tigers


Here's Fred Lynn, in a uniform a lot of people don't remember him wearing.

Here’s Fred Lynn, in a uniform a lot of people don’t remember him wearing.

At this very moment, I’m not watching baseball. The Red Sox are hosting the Angels at Fenway Park and apparently Mike Napoli has already hit a home run, but I don’t think watching a game is in the cards for tonight.

Instead, I’m sitting here, reading about other experiences loosely tied to the game and listening to Elvis in my newly rearranged living room, realizing that I’m not quite writing about the game, or anything else, with the kind of frequency I’d like. I still write enough, in whatever that sense may be, and I’m still following along, watching as Hanley Ramirez tries to hit through a bad shoulder and the Sox continue to let great performances by a suddenly rejuvenated starting rotation fall by the wayside. They’re struggling. It’s reality and it’s not ideal but I’m comfortable with that.

But it’s in this moment that I wanted to write about baseball, even if the urge to watch a game they may or may not be winning is, at the moment, nonexistent. Just something to reflect on this thing that’s here for half of the year, just about always when it’s needed, always present regardless of whether or not I’m paying attention. (more…)

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Sizemore was good, but he didn't quite match Evans' Opening Day record.

Sizemore was good, but he didn’t quite match Evans’ Opening Day record.

At this point in the season, it may finally be safe to assume that all Opening Days, save for the home openers of individual teams that may not have happened yet, are finally in the books. Overseas, Sunday nights, the real thing Monday, the Yankees and Astros finally playing a game on Tuesday, and then teams even getting in a second and sometimes third or fourth game as of yesterday. Baseball is back, officially back, standings count, statistics are being accumulated, and so on.

Focusing squarely on the Monday Opening Day, when most teams played their first game and played most of them in the day, there was no shortage of highlights amid the excitement. Neil Walker hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Pirates a win over the Cubs. Old friend Alex Gonzalez gave his new team, the Tigers, a game-winning hit against the Royals. The Mets game was delayed when they didn’t have a first baseman on the field, so they’re already in mid-season form.

And here, Grady Sizemore, playing in his first Major League game since 2011, hit a home run in what became a 2-1 loss in Baltimore against the Orioles. Where Opening Day is a time to quickly survey the rest of the league, most of Spring Training was focused on the Red Sox, and Sizemore’s phoenix-like comeback had been the focus. Seeing him already playing well in his first real action seemed like a good harbinger for the upcoming season. (more…)

Moving on, to another day.

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…)

Xander Bogaerts had a team-defining at-bat in the bottom of the seventh against Detroit’s All-World Max Scherzer.

With Jonny Gomes standing on second base after a Green Monster double and down 1-2 in the count, the camera zoomed in on Bogaerts’ face, and his expression was almost a complete lack of an expression, except for something that almost looked like a smirk. It might just’ve been the way his face naturally rests, but regardless, it displayed an absolute lack of fear or panic at the situation. The Red Sox were losing 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning of an American League Championship Series game with one perhaps the best pitcher in the league on the mound, and Boegarts was unmoved. (more…)

I bought one pack of baseball cards all year, and Jonny Gomes was inside. I should've known.

I bought one pack of baseball cards all year, and Jonny Gomes was inside. I should’ve known.

There’s a high of 59 degrees today in Boston, with a low of 51, partly cloudy, the kind of weather where I’ll pull on a flannel shirt with maybe a thermal underneath, depending on how cold it feels. And that will all be in anticipation of tonight, when I head out to watch the Red Sox host the Tigers in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

It’s been a long time since it’s felt cold for a meaningful Red Sox game. They were eliminated in short order in 2009 by John Lackey and the Angels, so the last big games to take place at Fenway in the autumn chill featured Jason Varitek behind the plate and Mike Timlin in the bullpen. And the odds against this being the season where they would be in the final four with a shot at the World Series seemed slim, to be sure.

It’s exciting, and this has been as likable as the Red Sox have been since the idiots ruled the world in 2004. Jonny Gomes led the charge on that front, not just with the beards but with the mindset of playing all-out baseball at all costs, for teammates to get to know each other and to make the most of every inning. And he’s walked the walk this year; Four of his 13 home runs have come in pinch-hit situations. The odds never seemed to matter to him, and he’s spread that fearlessness to the rest of the team. This team, of course, was never supposed to be this good.

There is a 75 percent chance that this season will end in heartbreak and disappointment for the Red Sox and, in a selfish vision, me. But at the start of the season, there was only about a 97 percent chance that Boston could finish the season with the World Series trophy, and that’s operating under the assumption of a completely level playing field where all statistical anomalies are normalized and reduced. It’s almost impossible, save for the fact that one team ends the season with a thrill.

That 75 percent is huge. Only four teams get to play for a pennant, and they’ve found themselves on top. Now it’s up to them to play as they’ve played all year, and, in my tunneled world, I just have to keep my heart out of my throat and enjoy everything that’s come so far.

That, and remember to stay warm. It’s getting chilly out there.

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