November 2010

CARLIN KNEW WHAT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT

     The late, great comedian, George Carlin is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant and insightful comics of all time.  One of his signature bits was a comparison of football and baseball.

     “Baseball is played on a diamond in a park. The baseball park.  Football is played on a gridiron in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.”

     “In football, you wear a helmet, in baseball you wear a cap.”

     “In football, the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy, despite the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun.  With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.  In baseball, the object is to go home and to be safe!  I hope I’ll be safe at home!” 

     The reason I quote Carlin is because I am looking forward to the Monday Night Football Game between the Patriots and the Jets (My Yankees of football. I hate them just as much!)  In baseball, if the Sox and Yankees are getting ready for a series, usually all the quotes are politically correct.  Maybe every once in a great while, someone will say something that would be considered “bulletin board” material, but not usually.  Terry Francona and Joe Girardi (and Joe Torre before him) all act with a great deal of decorum.  So polite, in fact, they all might be invited to Prince Williams’ impending nuptials (If not Prince William, maybe Prince Fielder).

     Rex Ryan, the brash, oafish head coach of the Jets is the perfect villain.  He may as well be wearing a top hat, while twirling his mustache and plotting to tie Giselle Bundschen to the railroad tracks.  Hate Rex and the Jets with a white hot passion that I usually reserve for Jeter and the Yankees.  I am, however, tremendously amused by his quote concerning Coach Belichick and the Monday Night matchup.  Ryan told the Boston Globe- “As much as I respect and admire Bill Belichick, I came here to kick his a**, and that’s the truth.”  As much as he rubs me the wrong way, that’s cool.  No mincing words.  No “coach-speak”. No misinterpretation.  Rex Ryan was refreshingly candid.  Maybe you can only speak this way in football.  I don’t know.  I’ve never heard a baseball manager say anything like that.  Guys like Francona and Girardi usually try to diffuse the situation.  Old Rex is pouring gasoline on the fire.  Other shots may be fired across the deck before the game.  That is to be expected.  I really hate to admit it, but I respect Ryan for telling the truth.  He reminds you of a college frat brother, who is always mouthing off.

     “Dean Wormer” famously told “Flounder” in the movie Classic “Animal House” that “Fat, drunk and stupid was no way to through life .”  I don’t know if Ryan drinks at all, and I really don’t think he’s stupid.  He has rekindled the rivalry between the Pats and Jets.

     You know I LOVE baseball.  But you have to admit, George Carlin knew what he was talking about. 

NO NEWS IS BORING

     By now, we’ve gotten over the disappointment of Victor Martinez signing with Detroit.  Soon, we’ll have to get over Adrian Beltre signing with another team.  For now, we must be content with the Sox plucking Jordan Parraz from the waiver wire scrap heap.  Something has got to happen.  I guess we trust Tito when he tells us to “let the winter play out.”  If you’re bored, I don’t blame you.  Thank goodness for the Patriots and the Celtics.  Unfortunately, those two teams don’t play every day like the PawSox and Red Sox.  As a result, I find myself bored to tears most nights during the offseason.  Sunday is good because there’s plenty of football to watch.  Monday night, you have the NFL and college basketball.  After that, Tuesday night I watch “Chopped” on the Food Network.  Four chefs compete for a ten thousand dollar prize by preparing an appetizer, entree and dessert with a basket of mystery ingredients.  It isn’t odd to find an ostrich egg, popcorn or squid in the basket.  Hey, I know, but I am bored.  Wednesday, I watch whatever game is on.  Thursday night I play “pitch” with a group of guys at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Middletown, RI.  (I am currently the leading point getter in the league.  Unfortunately, I have no chance to win the points title, since I miss the final two months of the card season, when baseball restarts.)  The weekends are again good for college sports on Saturday.  If it sounds dull, it is.  Although I’m not ready to start up yet with baseball, by New Years Day, I will be.  The Holidays keep me busy, but by January 1, I am chomping at the bit.

     As you may know, I enjoy going to the movies.  “Due Date” with Robert Downey and Zach Galifianakis is the best one I’ve seen lately.  Very funny.  Look forwad to watching my all-time favorite movie very soon.  Now that Thanksgiving is over, I feel like it’s ok to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”   I’ve seen it at least a hundred times.  Love it and never get tired of it.

     Had a nice Thanksgiving.  Hope you did, too.  Been busy this fall.  My father Tom celebrated his 85th birthday in October.  My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in early November and my mother, Lucille just had her ??th birthday.  Lots of good times.  Nice for a change.  Be that as it may, I’ll be happy with some baseball news.  It’ll give me something to blog about. 

    

THOSE ARE OUR GUYS

     Even though the season has been over for months and the Hot Stove really hasn’t been stoked up just yet, I am itching for some kind of baseball news.  I don’t know about you, but it’s getting to be about time for a tasty, juicy, hunk of good baseball news.  For example, when will the Red Sox name a successor to Torey Lovullo in Pawtucket??  Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Famer, was just named the manager of Lehigh Valley, the Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Sandberg has done a great job where ever he’s been.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on the Red Sox radar.  Supposedly, “Ryno” wanted to return to the organization that originally drafted him as a player.  What is it with these guys wanting to come “full circle?”  Who needs symmetry.  Life is messy with loads of gray areas.  Not everything is black and white.

     Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners was named the American League Cy Young Award winner for 2010.  His record was a very mortal 13-12.  “King Felix” lead the A.L. with a tidy 2.27 ERA.  He also lead the junior circuit in innings pitched, was second in strikeouts and held hitters to a measly .212 batting average.  Hernandez outdistanced David Price of the Rays and the Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia in balloting.  I guess Hernandez couldn’t be held accountable because his team stunk.  I’m not sure he deserved the award, but I stopped getting upset about things like this years ago.  I was thrilled to see that a pair of former PawSox standouts finished in the top six in the voting.  Jon Lester was fourth and Clay Buchholz finished sixth.  That is so exciting, to think of the pair that will be the nucleus of the Boston rotation, just a few short years ago, pitched at McCoy.  Lester went 19-9, 3.25 and lead the league with 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings.  Buch was second in the A.L. with a 2.33 ERA.  He boasted a 17-7 mark.  Those are our guys.  

     Heard from my friend Josh Wetzel, radio voice of the Rochester Red Wings.  Told me that Jeff Bailey signed a free agent deal with Minnesota.  More than likely, Bailey will play some for Rochester this year.  Bailey, was the I.L. MVP in 2008 after a standout season as a member of the PawSox.  Jeff spent most of 2010 in the Pacific Coast League with the Arizona organization 

RANDOM THOUGHTS

     As ideas of turkey, stuffing and cranberry have already started creeping into my mind, so have some of these thoughts…..

     The acquisition of Andrew Miller from Florida may be a steal.  The former North Carolina teammate of Daniel Bard has been an underachiever since he was drafted in the first round (#6) in 2006.  The Sox ferried Dustin Richardson off to South Florida in exchange for Miller.  Ironically, this past season, former PawSox manager Torey Lovullo was asked about the greatest prospects he’d ever seen.  He said Ryan Kalish was the top position player he’d managed and he said Miller was the pitcher that ranked #1 in his mind.  Ironically, Torey is now with Toronto and won’t have a chance to manage Miller.  That’s ok, but I wish John Farrell was still around.  He seems to have a knack with young pitchers like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.  As for Richardson, he seemed to “fail” his audition with Boston.  I’ve noticed over the years that the Sox unload you at almost the moment they think youi’ll never help the Big Club.  Richardson, the stoic Kansan, once appeared on an ESPN reality TV show, while a student at Texas Tech.  The 6’6 Richardson was a finalist on “Knight School”, competing for a spot as a walk-on for Bobby Knights’ basketball team.  Of course, I hope Richardson flourishes in Florida and Miller enjoys a renaissance with the Sox.

     Anybody know where Theo Epstein is spending Thanksgiving this year?  Hopefully in Arksansas with Cliff Lee.  I understand that they enjoy roasted “roadkill” on that day.  The fondest wish is for a meaty animal like a raccoon or possum.  No one could cook that stuff up like Granny on the “Beverly Hillbillies.”  (That Irene Ryan was a beautiful gal!!!  Frances Bavier , a.k.a. Aunt Bea is still my favorite, though!)

     Anyone else tired of the NFL’s recent crackdown on “hard hits?”  We train our athletes to become as strong and as fast and as violent as they possibly can and then fine them for doing their job.  I understand the whole “helmet to helmet” thing and we should protect against injury, concussions, etc.  I’m glad that baseball doesn’t fine you for hitting the ball as hard as you can.  While I’m taking shots at other sports, anyone dumb enough to fork over $60 to watch the pay per view fight Saturday?  For much less than that, you can come to McCoy Stadium and watch the PawSox play.  You’re guaranteed nine innings, and the pay per view doesn’t come with snacks.   

I HATE IT WHEN I’M RIGHT

     As the old saying goes- “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”  In this case I wish I wasn’t right, but as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, after John Farrell was hired by the Blue Jays as their manager, there was a very real possibility Farrell would hire his friend Torey Lovullo as a member of his coaching staff.  It has happened and for the second straight year the PawSox will have a new manager at McCoy.  I spoke to Torey on Monday night and he was understandably excited.  “It’s a great opportunity.  The Blue Jays are an organization on the rise and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

     Torey quickly apologized to me for not getting in touch with me sooner.  “I couldn’t talk to anyone for a couple of days.” He explained.  “I knew what was happening and I didn’t want to lie to anyone.”  While the veteran manager is excited to be returning to the Big Leagues, there are some mixed emotions. “It is bittersweet.  I loved the opportunity I had in the Red Sox organization, but I am returning to the Major Leagues.  That is obviously the goal for anyone in the minor leagues.”  Torey and his wife Kristen were looking forward to a second season in Pawtucket.  “We had already been planning to return to Cape Cod again during the All Star Break and were looking forward to the annual team outing in Newport.”

     This stop will be Toreys’ fourth different city in as many years.  His final season in Buffalo was followed with a season in Columbus, then a year at McCoy and now the Majors.  Farrell didn’t need to do much of a sales job to get his friend to agree to join him.  He knew exactly what buttons to push.  “He pointed out how much closer Kristen would be to her hometown, Buffalo, New York and her mother.  The Lovullos spend the offseason in Torey’s native Southern California. 

     Lovullo’s departure is just the latest move in what has been a tumultuous offseason for the  PawSox.  The death of owner Ben Mondor and the departures of Lovullo and hitting instructor, Gerald Perry to Oakland, will clearly give the old ballpark a new look in 2011.  Torey assured me to have faith in Mike Hazen, the director of player development for Boston.  “Hazen’s a smart guy.  He will hire a good manager to take my place.”  After a year with Buddy Bailey and one with Torey, with 5 seasons with Ron Johnson sandwiched in between, I am afraid my luck is about to run out.  How many good guys are left??

     This should be the final step necessary for Torey to prove he has what it takes to be a Major League manager.  He had been interviewed in the past for such openings.  The knock was that he didn’t have coaching experience at the highest level.  He will get that in the extremely competitive American League East, battling Boston, Tampa and the Yankees on a nightly basis.

     Personally, I am very fond of Lovullo.  While I am thrilled for him, I feel the same way I felt when Bailey was fired in 2004 and RJ got promoted a season ago.  I will miss the rapport we developed and the daily contact, talking about baseball and life.  “You know” He told me.  “We never say goodbye in baseball.  We just say ‘see ya later’.  It’s true.” he continued.  “Our paths will definitely cross again.”  I hope so.     

HALF A CENTURY

     Lately, I’ve been thinking about the span of the last 50 years.  I am closing in on my 50th birthday (August).  My parents, Tom and Lucille are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this week.  That is an incredible length of time.  My entire lifetime.  Think about it.  About three weeks before my parents tied the knot, Bill Mazeroski hit his historic home run against the Yankees and Ralph Terry.  Ted Williams retired and shortly after that, Carl Yastrzemski began his brilliant career in Boston.  They had been married about 6 years when the “Impossible Dream” season unfolded in 1967.  It, of course, ended in heartbreak as the Cardinals and Bob Gibson took the crown.

     My folks had been married about 15 years in 1975.  Arguably the greatest World Series ever took place  between the Reds and Boston.  Fred Lynn and Jim Rice burst upon the scene and the Sox and Big Red Machine battled for 7 games.  In fact, Carlton Fisk hammered his 12th inning home run against Pat Darcy on my fathers’ 50th birthday, October 21, 1975.  I vividly remember my mother worrying that  no one would care about the party, because the game was going to be on, after being postponed 3 days by rain.  The party was a hit, and so was Fisk.

     The year of the heartbreak of 1986, as the ball was rolling through the legs of Bill Buckner, my folks were closing in on their 26th anniversary.  I prematurely popped a champagne cork, as I wanted to “Savor the moment”.  I have never heard the end of it.  Families all have their inside jokes.  Because of that, I have been the butt of that joke for the last 24 years.  As my partner Dan Hoard s often likes to point out.  I am still the only one who hasn’t forgiven Buckner.  A grudge I’ve now proudly held for about half my life, or half my parents’ marriage. There have been good times and bad times.  Wins and losses, ups and downs.  I guess that’s life. And baseball. 

     My mother and father have lived through managers Grady Little, Butch Hobson, Joe Kerrigan and Jimy Williams.  Pumpsie Green, Dick Stuart, Carmen Fanzone have all worn the most beautiful uniform in sports during the last half century.  The Sox, like my folks, have settled into a pretty good routine, with Terry Francona and Dustin Pedroia and the gang.  They listen to the PawSox broadcasts every night while watching the Red Sox on NESN with the volume down.  A lot of things have changed over the last 50 years.  Some things haven’t.  Our love for the Sox, their love for each other.  Happy Anniversary, Mom and Pop! 

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