david-ortiz-topps-archive-2012My reaction was pretty typical. Travis Shaw hit that last fly ball into right field, it was caught and I turned off the TV. That was the end of the series, the end of the season and in that situation, I’m not typically into watching Cleveland celebrate the end of another year on the Fenway field.

Mostly, I wasn’t in the mood to watch others celebrate while David Ortiz’s career was now relegated to the past tense.

The last few weeks of the 2016 season have felt like a gauntlet, a “this is your life” played out every third or fourth day whenever Ortiz happened to be playing his final game in that particular stadium. And it was nice. Some of it was hokey, some of it was in pitch-perfect taste, some of it was overblown in that special way that every Red Sox ceremony is horrifically overblown. But they were all reminders that the clock was ticking. Sooner rather than later, Ortiz wouldn’t be in Boston’s lineup. (more…)

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Hanley looked more than ready to swing the bat last night.

Hanley looked more than ready to swing the bat last night.

Matt Barnes has been on the cusp of being a blazing option out of the bullpen for nearly a year and a half now. He can hit the upper 90s on the radar gun and on pure talent, he could be a starter or a shut-down closer.

He’s been stuck in between, though. And on the most ridiculous night in what has already been a rollercoaster season, he was summoned to the mound in the sixth to clean up Tommy Layne’s mess in an especially messy game. Drew Pomeranz cruised through three innings against the San Francisco Giants and was given an 8-0 lead before falling apart in the fourth inning. Soon enough it was 8-5, and three pitchers and two innings later, it was 8-7 and up to Barnes to get the Red Sox out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam.

Ultimately, he was brilliant, pitching three full innings, striking out two and walking none on his way to helping Boston to a 11-7 victory. And his first bit of brilliance was triggered by Hanley Ramirez starting a double play that wound up being just one of maybe five or six great moments for him on this night.

On any other night, Barnes going three innings to bail out the bullpen and shutting down the best team in baseball would be the story of the game. But it’s hard to ignore Ramirez whizzing around with the glove, hitting three home runs and putting the team on his back in a way we haven’t before seen. (more…)

Mookie Betts certainly knows how to make an entrance.

Mookie Betts certainly knows how to make an entrance.

In the second inning of Fenway Park’s Opening Day, Mookie Betts came to bat with Xander Bogaerts and Sandy Leon on base and sent a pitch that ricocheted off the third row of seats above the Green Monster. It was 4-0 so quickly that it felt like Pedro Martinez’s ceremonial first pitch was the one Betts rejected over the wall.

It’s served as a microcosm of his ascent from promising minor league infielder to starting center fielder for the Boston Red Sox in just one calendar year. He’s shot past so many other highly rated prospects to force his way onto the roster in the middle of a lost season last year, and today, he kept adding to his myth. It feels like he’s a character out of every sappy baseball script. He’s feeding every trope and cliche, smiling and hitting and leaving everyone wondering if this is history unfolding. (more…)

David Ortiz, the constant through all the upheaval.

David Ortiz, the constant through all the upheaval.

I called in sick to work for the first time in months on Friday. I’d been fighting some seasonal nonsense all week, and finally, I just needed a day to stay in, keeping my path no more ambitious than the bed to the couch and back.

In the middle of the day, there was a Red Sox Spring Training game on TV. I watched a couple of innings before losing interest. I was so out of it and so far from having baseball on the brain that I couldn’t focus on who was playing and why.

Thanks to a historic and depressing winter, this has been a month where all my old baseball rituals have flown out the door.

March has been thrown all out of whack in the Boston area thanks to freezing temperatures threatening to creep into April and the slogging weather exhaustion that affects everything. My girlfriend and I haven’t gone out to eat as much, or even on walks around the city, as much as would be typical for now. It has snowed every weekend for the past 10 weeks, a stretch that dates back to the first January blizzard. It’s always cold here, of course, but this has long gone past absurdity, and among the casualties has been any kind of usual baseball excitement.

The most basic of exercises would simply be watching Spring Training games on TV. Rather than serving as some kind of escape, it’s just a drag, with no enthusiasm coming in to the experience. Despite the calendar, it’s still winter, we still have plastic up on the windows and I don’t feel like watching sun-baked fans under palm trees casually enjoy Clay Buchholz going through his reps. I haven’t spent any kind of time scribbling out possible 25-man rosters in notebooks. I haven’t even watched Bull Durham yet.

So, what’s there to pull me back into baseball mode? If nothing else, there’s David Ortiz. (more…)

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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…)