Congratulations to the Phillies, and a tip of the cap to the Rays

Ah, Cole Hamels. I had no idea, shooting you back in March of 2007, that you’d someday be World Series MVP!

And congratulations to all the Phillies!  I’m particularly happy for Jimmy Rollins, though I can’t back it up with my own photos, as well as Hamels, and Ryan Howard.

looking monstrous next to Tek, also March of 2007…

… and looking stylish next to Gentleman Jim Lonborg at the Boston Baseball Writers’ Dinner, January 2007.

I’m happy for the Phillies, and for Philly in general, and for a couple of friends of mine who are devoted Phillies fans, and I raise a glass to all of you!

But I also toast the Rays.  I’m still growling and grumbling about Boston fans dissing Rays fans, but I’ve already griped about that so I’ll pass on it here.  It was a terrific season for the Rays, and there’s little shame in losing in the World Series.  Congratulations to Joe Maddon and his team; we’ll see you on Opening Day at Fenway in April!

Congratulations to the Rays

So I had it in my head that if the Rays beat the Red Sox tonight, I’d write a post of congratulations; that I’d write through my disappointment, toast the Rays on having succeeded in what I think will actually be their toughest postseason challenge, and post a few photos from the ALCS that show off the Rays better than the Sox.  Then I found that within moments of the end of the game, at least one Rays “fan” was already trolling Sox sites; I guess you’ve finally hit the big time when you get to be an idiot in support of your team?  Ah well.  (Cyn, bless her heart, is good with the delete key, too!)  [Edited the morning after to add:  you know, in retrospect, that was probably just a garden variety troll, and not a Rays fan.  I blame the grey fog of disappointment for that not being immediately obvious!]  So it’s dimmed my benevolent spirit a bit.  But I do realize that there are plenty of deserving fans out there as well, and I offer good wishes to them, and congratulations to Joe Maddon and his team on earning a World Series berth.

I’ll have several posts in the coming days to toast my own boys; it’s a fine achievement to have made it as far as they did, and I love the Red Sox–these Red Sox–without qualification.  Their salutes, and photos, will come.  For now… a few from October 13, Game 3.

From batting practice… is that the Baldelli family nose, or what?

Not sure if that’s David Price, but he certainly demanded a high jump!  Carlos Pena was willing…

… but Dioner Navarro…

“… ah…”

“Hey, look, it’s your armpit.  Woo.”

Hope no one got hurt in the pigpile (Jake Peavy waves, weakly).  ^_~  Congratulations.

How many days until pitchers and catchers report?

ALCS Game 5: I’m a believer!

I went into Game 5 knowing that it would either be a wake or a party, and that whichever it was to be, I had to be there.  An excellent omen: I called the box office that morning to find that one of my favorite field box singles was available!

I made my way in in time for BP, of course.

Josh Beckett and Dustin Pedroia.  “Don’t bite your fingernails!”

Kevin Cash, Gary Tuck, and David Ross trek in from the bullpen.

Devern Hansack, Justin Masterson and Manny Delcarmen, waiting too far out in center to have to do much of anything.

The Sox spared no opportunity to remind us of past comebacks pregame, not only in the montage from 2004 that still leaves me sobbing, but in bringing out history in the flesh for first pitch!

Curt Schilling.

Daisuke Matsuzaka took the mound for the Sox, and the battle began.

Akinori Iwamura and Jason Varitek.

It didn’t start well for the Sox.  Aki singled…

And BJ Upton homered.  Two batters, two runs.

Carlos didn’t fish for that one, but he did strike out.

The switch to Scott Kazmir might have given Sox fans hope, but he would pitch six scoreless innings.

Even Dustin Pedroia, the littlest MVP, could get nothing going.

The wind whipped the flag and the banner.  “Don’t forget,” it challenged us.  “Keep the faith.”

But Carlos Pena wouldn’t strike out his second time up.

And Evan Longoria followed with a home run of his own.

While Jed Lowrie grounded into a fielder’s choice…

… to be stranded on second with nothing to show.

Hideki Okajima came in after Aki walked to pitch the fifth and sixth, allowing no runs.

But Manny Delcarmen walked the two batters he faced in the seventh…

… resulting in the call to Jonathan Papelbon.

After a double steal, Paps allowed both of Manny’s runners to score on a BJ Upton double.  7-0 Rays, top of the seventh.  Backs to the wall.

But Fenway’s an amazing place.  And you could feel the spirit of the park stir.  No cowbells, no thundersticks, no exhortation from the scoreboard to “Make some noise!”  Just the passion and the life’s blood of the faithful, the ones who love and support this team, the ones who believe.

Kazmir gave way to Grant Balfour.  Jed Lowrie got it started with a double.  Tek and Kotsay flied out, but Coco singled, Pedie singled (knocking Lowrie in), and then came Big Papi.

And after a three-run homer, the drive was on.  Papelbon had three up, three down.  Jason Bay would walk on  four straight pitches from Wheeler before J.D. Drew drilled a pitch out of the park.  Lowrie and Casey made outs before Mark Kotsay doubled to center field.

And then came Coco.

Coco Crisp.  Overlooked, perhaps, in the rush to anoint Jacoby Ellsbury prince of center field, but a gamer and a man possessed of a fierce and determined heart.  Coco had a magnificent at-bat, working a full count, fouling off four consecutive pitches, and finally lacing a single to right, scoring Kotsay and tying the game.  Fenway was in a frenzy of Dionysian proportions.

We’d had Papelbon for all he was worth–but we needed a closer.  And we turned to Justin Masterson.

Jason Bartlett singled, and got a lot of attention at first,

but instead of bunting him over, Aki flied out.  Upton walked, but Pena hit into a marvelously scripted double play.

How to explain the ninth?  Pedie, our MVP, grounded out.  Ortiz, our heart, struck out.  Then came Kevin Youkilis, who gutted out a ten-pitch at-bat that ended in an infield single, thrown away by Longoria to put Youk on second.  Jay Bay was intentionally walked… in order to face J.D. Drew.

It seemed as though Drew might not get a pitch in the strike zone…

But he did.

And Fenway erupted.

Who knows what tonight will bring?  I only know this–I’ll be there for my team until the last pitch is thrown.

I’m a believer.

On watching the ALCS

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I’m a firm believer that any fan who blogs, or even posts on
a message board, should do so to express his or her own thoughts.  And as a result, I’m sometimes hesitant to
comment even on the thoughts of people I know personally when I think they’re
out and out wrong.  I find that October,
in addition to bringing pumpkins, bats (the flying kind) and the scent of
burning leaves in the air, seems to find me spending a lot of time biting my
tongue.

 

Allow me, then, to use my own blog for the purpose for which
it was intended.

 

I really respect the Rays. 
And I’m sick of Boston
fans bashing them.

 

First of all, I’m tired of Boston fans complaining about Rays fans.  You know what?  The vast majority of Red Sox fans I know were
born into it.  They’ve been following the
Sox for as long as they can remember; they had family members and friends to
nurture that commitment all along.  Even
latecomers to Red Sox Nation had history to draw on, so much to know and
appreciate about the team before pledging undying devotion.  Rays fans have never had that.  They’re a relatively new franchise, and they
started under the cloud of an owner whom Jerry Remy just called, if I heard
correctly, “a despicable human being.”  You
want to call Rays fans “bandwagon” fans, Red Sox Nation?  You’re looking at a fan base pulling
themselves up by their bootstraps when you started off two thirds of the way up
the ladder.

 

And I don’t see how Sox fans, beneficiaries of two rings in
the preceding four seasons, can be so surprised that the rest of public
sentiment falls to the underdog Rays.  If
you’ve ever spoken of the Yankees’ payroll, don’t be surprised that Tampa’s vs. Boston’s
comes up in the discussion!

The fight with Coco?  Coco had a point, believe me–but if you don’t think the Red Sox don’t have passionate enforcers who would have taken some shots at another team’s hothead (I say that endearingly) who charged one of our pitchers, then you’re crazy.

 

Yeah, I don’t like the cowbells any more than you do; but in
the context of what’s done at parks across the nation to get the fans to make
noise, I’m not sure it’s as horrific as it seems.

 

I love Joe Maddon.  I
believe in managers for teams.  I think
Terry Francona is perfectly placed with his front office and his team.  I think Joe Girardi may never find a better
match than his team of baby Marlins.  And
I think Maddon is both a fascinating and delightful guy and an unsurpassed motivator
for a team that had to find a way to put it together to achieve.

 

And I really like the Rays themselves, which has been evident in my shooting!

Carlos Pena, of course

Aki Iwamura


After losing an argument–Pedie was safe, to Aki’s chagrin!


Playing Twister with J.D. Drew

Dioner Navarro

Andy Sonnanstine

Jonny Gomes

Scott Kazmir

Matt Garza

Cliff Floyd

Evan Longoria

After years in which facing the Yankees brought bad blood from all sides, it’s refreshing to me that this year we have two talented teams vying for the right to represent the American League in the World Series.  Whoever wins will have earned it.  I hope it’s my beloved Red Sox.  But if the Rays should triumph, I’ll support them wholeheartedly, and I’ll hope they take home the biggest October prize of them all.

Something’s not right

And no, I don’t mean the recent struggles of the Red Sox!

Sure, September down-to-the-wire pennant races are exciting… in theory.  In reality, they’re excruciating ulcer-provoking exercises in slow-motion surgical dissection of your hearts.  And I would say that even if we hadn’t just lost a heartbreaker and a heartstomper in Tampa Bay. 

So let’s take a look instead at a lighthearted rite of fall: rookie hazing!

I’d never had a chance to stake out the Red Sox before, and I suspect Cla Meredith

Josh Barfield

and Paul McAnulty

would be happy if I could say the same about the Padres!  (those from September 2006.)

But this year I was prepared to stake out the buses for the Red Sox as they headed out for their last road trip!  I expected, of course, to learn just a little more about our rookies–whether they could carry off spaghetti straps, for example.  But who knew I would learn so much about High School Musical?

Pitcher Chris Smith.  Really, if you went shopping for a dress for Chris I don’t think you could do better.  Fit perfectly and showed off his legs to perfection!

That’s Jeff Bailey back behind Chris.  Not sure the cheerleader outfit is what I would have chosen, but I always did like Jeff a little scruffy, so the hair works!

Blonde ringlets and hairy cleavage.  Does it get better?

I had high hopes for Justin Masterson–surely, surely he’d be in a wig, yes?–and have to confess some disappointment with his outfit.  I was greatly heartened when he expressed a similar sentiment–that the guys in skirts were having all the fun–to Dan Roche!

George Kottaras managed to hide behind security, but fortunately he couldn’t hide his face and his new chest at the same time!

Jonathan Van Every.  When we first met Jonathan back at the PawSox Hot Stove Party, I can’t say I was aware of hiw much I’d enjoy seeing him in a skirt.  Another tidbit from Dan Roche:  JV himself realized he’d look better in the ponytail!  I’m sure he’d have found better shoes if he’d been able, too.

Devern Hansack (and Dave Pauley, who had the same outfit) pretty much lucked out. On the other hand, Devern’s done this three times, so I think he earned the right to wear shorts!

Not so easy walking around with those things, huh, JV?

Jed Lowrie.  It’s amazing to me how different he looks in this wig!

Speaking of wigs… Chris Carter makes a rather striking dark-rooted blonde!

Check out my LiveJournal post if you want to know who’s who in the world of High School Musical, thanks to my readers! And check out WBZ for video! (You might need to poke around a bit, but there are at least three clips.)

Looking back

Road trips and off days… in some ways they make me restless, since I can’t pick up the cameras.  But since I’m always, always behind on editing, it does give me a chance to try to catch up!  So if you will, let’s set the wayback machine for June 15, in Cincinnati…


A beautiful Sunday morning!  Justin Masterson smiles at Daisuke Matsuzaka wielding a bat.


More smiling! Jacoby Ellsbury with some warmup throws.


It’s officially an epidemic! Sean Casey with a big grin.  One of my favorite things about seeing the Red Sox on the road is actually what I’m documenting here: a full BP session, which usually starts with stretching and joking around.


Mike Lowell continues my theme.


Manny and Alex Gonzalez.  I miss Gonzo.


… Does Gonzo miss me?


Well, he gave me my belly shot!


Looking at these then, I was nostalgic for these two as teammates; now there’s a different edge with Manny gone.


Bronson Arroyo inspects Coco’s cornrows.  Sorry, Bronson, he’s got you beat there!


Justin fields a tough hop.  (He seems to have a tough audience back there, but you’ll notice that they’re all far enough out not to have to do much!)


Whoops–looks like Justin’s got critics in the infield, too!


I can’t tell if Kevin Cash is laughing with Dustin Pedroia, or at him!


More nostalgia, since Brandon Moss now calls Pittsburgh home.


Bartolo Colon, not satisfied with three balls in hand, goes for a fourth.


Dusty Baker’s son threw out the first pitch.  (Dusty tried to leave him out there too long, of course.)


Uh oh.  The real action is starting, and Mike Timlin will not smile.
 

There’s a part of my heart reserved for players I ought not to have any connection to, like Homer Bailey.  I just like the kid.


Ells with a successful slide into second.  It’s hard to shoot anything else when he’s on base!


Josh Beckett on the mound.


Mmmmmmm… Jason Varitek samples his batting gloves.


Coco Crisp with a biiiig swing…


… followed by a nice lope around the bases…


… and a helmet skritchie from Tek.


Not to be outdone is Jacoby…


… with a big swing and a lope of his own!


Tek in his Father’s Day accented gear.  I’m sure you’ve noticed the ribbons and the blue eye “black.”


Pedie has a big swing to end all big swings…


… but it won’t be quite enough this time.


Josh Beckett at the plate.  I was hoping for a home run…


… but had to settle for Coco looking philosophical about being left on base.


More laughter!  And here a little sympathy for Julio Lugo, despite my love for Jed Lowrie.


I admire many things about Jacoby Ellsbury’s game, but there just no point in denying that he’s alarmingly photogenic, too.


David Aardsma.  Note that it gets a bit easier to shoot this angle when the fans thin out a bit.


A skip ahead to postgame; Manny attempts some unexpected therapeutic massage on Colon, with a baseball. 


Have I been busted?  Javy Lopez smirks, Gary Tuck smiles, Craig Hansen… well, hang in there, Craig, in six weeks you’ll be safe from me!

Jason Bay

Thursday, at the trade deadline, I could feel a whirlwind of emotions.  Relief that there was resolution.  Shock that there had really been a trade (my heart knew it had to happen, but my head thought the deal would never go through).  Apprehension at a team without Manny.  And anticipation to see what we had in Jason Bay.

I had a ticket for Friday night, and while I was a bit disappointed I hadn’t had one for what turned out to be Manny’s last game, I was very happy to have one for Jay Bay’s first!

I was delighted to see that there were already T-shirts for sale–and already people wearing them!  Not to mention one young man in a Sox hat and a Bay Pirates jersey.

It had to be overwhelming for him, but he already seemed to take it in stride.

And I was very moved to be part of the first ovations for him.  I’d been a little anxious about the fan response, but it was a magnificent showing of the best that Boston has to offer.  And he himself looked both moved and a touch uncomfortable, in a very endearing way, to be receiving accolades before he’d even had a chance to show what he could do.


Accidentally shot with the shutter speed too slow, but I kinda liked the effect!


Oof!  Well, it’s one way to get on base…


Of course, he went to score the first run–the one that looked like it might be enough, especially if we had good defense…


…like the kind he showed on a magnificent sliding catch, for which he’s getting a pat from Lowrie here.  And it was at that moment that I realized I was smitten, in a baseball sense.
 

Perhaps it would have been the perfect capper if the ball he hit high off the Monster had cleared it, but as a longtime fan of Jed Lowrie, I guess I’m not sorry that they could both celebrate!

I couldn’t be at the park for Saturday’s heroics, though I did see Sean Casey that day and he was effusive in his praise of Jay Bay.  But I was back at the park Sunday, in my brand new Bay 44 shirt!


Youk pointing something out.  I’d like to think it’s the hawk.  “And if you see that… just make sure it’s not carrying its lunch.  Sometimes it likes to… share.”


Pregame warming up.


I took a shot like this Friday but he looks much better here; it could be a better seat and better light, but I’d like to think it’s my growing affection!


At the risk of undermining my baseball credibility, I have to note that Jay Bay’s got a very nice, er, stance.


Too late, Rob Bowen!

We’re no strangers to embracing new players midyear in Boston, of course; 2004 is enduring testimony to that!  But I’m a little surprised myself by how happy I am to have Jay Bay in the fold.  No, I don’t think we’re going to win out the rest of the way, of course.  But it’s funny how a solid, capable, down-to-earth guy has made my Sox-loving heart soar again.