now the radio stutters. snaps to life.
some sour song that sets it right.
and when London falls
he’d like to call
but the stars collide.
they’re beautiful and much maligned.
in a universe where you see the worst,
and it’s up to you to fix it.
I’ve written before of my mixed feelings about Manny Ramirez, but it certainly seemed to me that over the last few weeks the pendulum swung very, very far toward the “tired of Manny” end. And in the last days, I couldn’t envision any scenario in which the Sox didn’t trade Manny. So I battened down the hatches, said my prayers over the players I least wanted to lose in the collateral damage (including you, Mr. Masterson, and you, Mr. Bowden), and held my breath. As everyone knows, as the minutes ticked by it looked less and less likely that a deal would happen, but as with the Nomar trade in 2004, the word finally broke after the deadline, and Manny was gone.
What’s hard for me to understand is that no few media people reported that for the first part of this year, Manny was as happy as they’d ever seen him–and my photos seemed to bear that out.
Opening Day: why high five when you can touch fingertips? April 8, 2008.
Cavorting with Youk, pregame, April 13, 2008.
With the two teammates I think were best for him: Lugo and Papi.
Getting into it Manny-style with the Royals, May 22, 2008.
Home Run #500 in Baltimore, May 31, 2008.
June 3, 2008.
“What do you mean you got traded?” Cincinnati, June 14, 2008.
With Alex Gonzalez, Cincinnati, June 15, 2008.
After Youk’s grand slam, making light of their supposed issues, July 12, 2008.
I can’t help but think that Scott Boras had something to do with this relatively dramatic change. After all, Manny’s new agent wouldn’t have been in line for a payday if the Red Sox picked up Manny’s option, and what better way to make sure Manny made sure he wasn’t wanted than to make him think he was disrespected?
Regardless of why things broke down so irrevocably, it wasn’t just Manny who experienced the consequences. Manny’s off to Los Angeles, but two of my favorite youngsters are off to Pittsburgh.
If you’ve checked out sittingstill.net in the past, you’ve probably noticed that Craig Hansen has been a favorite photo target of mine. I couldn’t help it; I’m not sure I can think of another player where I think my snaps are so much better than anything out there from the pros!
September 25, 2005
March 15, 2006
With Paps, July 31, 2006.
March 3, 2007
May 30, 2008
July 9, 2008
I did shoot him pitching too, honest. But of course, he struggled a bit. He was probably brought up too fast in 2006, and it seemed to me that the resultant up-and-down year, plus some tweaking the Sox tried to do with his mechanics, left him not knowing which way was up. Spending all of 2007 in Pawtucket seemed to be the right plan, and he did pitch well, if inconsistently, for the Sox this year. My hope for him is that a fresh start and the National League work some Cla Meredith-like magic for him.
And we also lost Brandon Moss.
March 7, 2007.
Wreaking havoc with the Fenway scoreboard, September 2, 2007.
Defeating Mirabelli in rock-paper-scissors, September 11, 2007.
Collecting his World Series ring, April 19, 2008.
Evading man-monster Richie Sexson, June 8, 2008.
My hope for Mossy is that, like David Murphy, a new team will provide new opportunities, and he’ll stick on the major league roster. He’s been one of the nicest players I’ve ever had a chance to chat with; Dan Hoard, one of the PawSox radio guys, named him with Sean Casey, David Murphy, and David Pauley as members of the all-time list of nicest professional athletes. I know good character doesn’t always translate to success in the big leagues, but I hope that in this case he looks back at today as a positive turning point in solid career.
Jason Bay… better put your best face on tomorrow night. You’ve got a big role to fill, but I promise I’ll always try to catch you in good light.
Throughout the history of sittingstill.net there have been players who have played major roles in my photography and in the site’s character, though they’ll likely never know it. And as another July draws toward a trade deadline close, and I develop my yearly ulcer worrying about the names that get bandied about, I keep coming back to pitching prospect Michael Bowden.
March 9, 2007
The first time I saw Bowden pitch was my last day at Spring Training in 2007. There was no Sox game the day we flew out, so we decided to hit the minor league complex before heading to the airport. This was my first trip to the complex, and I had had no idea how much fun it would be. Players of all levels, everywhere! We watched some workouts, and then they called together a minigame where Clay Buchholz pitched against Michael Bowden. And I knew, instantly, that this would be a day I’d never forget.
By this time I had a full week under my belt with the new Canon, and the only challenge I had was finding clear shots through the openings in the chain link fence! Everything else was ideal–the bright sun, the chance to run around for different angles, the pitchers I’d read so much about and was dying to see.
While Bowden was on the mound I went to the far end of the “dugout” on the third base line. When he finished the inning, he and the pitching coach came right to where I was. It’s relatively rare that you get to see a pitcher up close right off the mound. I’ve never been so aware of what work pitching is as seeing Bowden walk in, in the Florida heat, flushed and breathing heavily–and unhappy with himself. The coach was telling him he was hitting his spots, but he was clearly not pleased with his results. It was at that point that both Bowden and the coach seemed to realize I was there. The coach shot me a look that said “I’m not sure you should be this close.” And Bowden shot me a look that said–well, “said” is the wrong word; you’d need a wordless visual, say, a volcano exploding in flaming lava. It suddenly seemed like a really good idea to shoot from the first base line. And perhaps to run to get there!
Terrified or no, I had a great day of shooting, and when I got home and posted photos, the minor league shots were so well received that I realized I had another calling. I’d already found that the sorts of photos I enjoyed taking of the major leaguers were the candids, the offbeat shots, the ones not being published in most media–but there was hardly anything being published of the minor leaguers at all. While I had fewer opportunities to see games in the minors, I tried harder to shoot when I went to Pawtucket, or when call-ups had their first looks at Fenway, either with the big club or at Futures at Fenway (where the starter for Portland in 2007 was none other than Michael Bowden!).
August 11, 2007
And this year at Spring Training I tried hard to document as many different players as I could–including young Mr. Bowden, of course!
With Kyle Snyder and Justin Masterson, March 2, 2008
March 3, 2008
With Justin Masterson, March 6, 2008
March 7, 2008
March 8, 2008
But over the offseason, I also had a few chances to encounter him in very different settings. First was at New Stars for Young Stars, at which he could not have been more charming and gave me no impression at all that he might possibly kill me with a look alone.
Next, he was one of the players tapped for the Rookie Development Program, all of whom signed for the adoring masses who filled the Team Store. And finally, he appeared at McCoy Stadium for the PawSox Hot Stove party, foreshadowing what we all supposed would be a midyear callup from Portland.
With Jed Lowrie, January 19, 2008
He put up terrific numbers with the Sea Dogs this year: an ERA of 2.33, K/9 rate of 8.71, K/BB 4.21, WHIP of 0.92 with batters hitting .192 against him. I suspect he was held in Portland until midseason in order to earn his All-Star selection and sort some things out with the PawSox roster. But as I expected, he got his mid-July call. His first start, sadly for me, was on the road (though we did get to see him in uniform on July 20).
July 20, 2008
And it may not have been the debut he’d hoped for, giving up 3 runs in 4 innings–but I suspect he’s glad to have it out of the way.
As I could have told you from my first encounter with him, Bowden’s extremely intense on the mound, and it’s hard to find a piece about him that doesn’t refer both to his competitive fire and to his love of baseball. The Sox sent him to API last offseason, and while I could never see where Clay Buchholz supposedly added those ten pounds, Bowden certainly looked more powerful this year. And his early struggles in Portland this year, followed by the hard work and breakthrough that led to a dazzling string of games, encourage me that he’ll make the adjustment to AAA and then to the majors. Like Justin Masterson, he’s a young pitcher I not only believe in but want to believe in. For now, I’m looking forward to seeing–and shooting!–him in Pawtucket!
The first real win is in the books, and my login here finally works again! Thought I’d celebrate by posting a few smiles I captured down in Fort Myers this spring…
Dave Pauley, cheerful even between laps.
Brandon Moss, one of today’s heroes, shares a laugh with one of the college players.
Even Mike Timlin smiles!
Javier Lopez, Kyle Snyder, and Bryan Corey make light work of shagging BP flies.
Jason Varitek–not an easy smile to catch!
Julian Tavarez, whose inclinations toward on-field massage will have to be chronicled separately, and an amused Hideki Okajima.
Kyle Snyder, deserving of a second look!
Clay Buchholz, who was laughing as MDC teased the fans with a ball.
Jed Lowrie. (I can’t put all my smiling photos of Jed here; I’d run out of room.)
Finding himself between two of the best smiles on the roster–Coco Crisp and Justin Masterson–I’m sure Joe Thurston had no chance at all to stay solemn.
You can just barely see Bobby Kielty’s smile, I suspect it’s a mirror of Ron Johnson’s!
Jon Lester and Craig Hansen.
Justin Masterson, after a good pitch.
It seemed like a pretty good bet that Beckett wasn’t hurt too badly, since he left a lot of smiles in his wake!
Nick Hagadone appreciates the fun of the parachute run!
While Hot Stove talk goes on from the end of the World Series to the start of Spring Training, it’s nice to get a midwinter taste of the real thing; the boys of summer may not take the field, but here in Boston we’ve had a very full month of rookies, prospects and veterans alike! Needless to say I’ve been snapping away… click thumbnails below for larger photos!
Sunday, January 6 marked not only the eve of the Red Sox Rookie Development Program but the annual Hot Stove concert at the Paradise. In years past players have appeared, but this year we made do with some Sox brass
prominent Sox fans…
and one former player!
On Saturday, January 12, the Jimmy Fund held their third annual New Stars for Young Stars fundraiser at Jillian’s, right down the street from Fenway. Gabe Kapler, now signed by the Brewers, appeared in something of an elder statesman’s role, while Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester represented the 2007 World Series Champions. A selection of Sox prospects–Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden, Jed Lowrie, Bubba Bell, Ryan Kalish and Nick Hagadone–rounded out the bill. It was a delight to meet Bowden and Masterson in particular, and Jed Lowrie’s long been a favorite of mine.
Jed Lowrie and me, photo by the Red Sox Chick. Thanks!
Next up was the benefit for the Red Sox Foundation at the Team Store on Yawkey Way, featuring the twelve players selected to take part in this year’s Rookie Development Program. Since last year’s event I’ve suspected that while this is a treat for the fans and a nice fundraiser, it’s also an illustration for the rookies of the invigorating but potentially oppressive lunacy of Red Sox Nation. This year my suspicions were confirmed…
Meg Vaillancourt, executive director of the Red Sox Foundation, was
happy to help the future stars try to get accustomed to the intensity
that is Red Sox Nation.
"This teaches them what to expect when they get here, how to handle
being bombarded by fans, sign autographs and how to deal with having a
sore hand afterward."
Even Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie looked a little apprehensive as they walked in
but they seemed to relax a little as they figured out that none of us were actually dangerous.
Thursday night brought the biggest event: the Boston Baseball Writers Association of America awards dinner at the Westin Waterfront. Judging by audience reaction Mike Lowell reigned as king for the evening, though his court included Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Theo Epstein, Dave Magadan, and John Farrell at the head table while the rookie development pups sat at tables right up front.
Saturday, January 19 it was time to celebrate the minor leagues, as the PawSox held their Hot Stove party in the inner sanctums of McCoy Stadium. Showing no signs of flagging enthusiasm, Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden, Jed Lowrie, Dusty Brown and Jonathan Van Every joined PawSox manager Ron Johnson in greeting fans and signing autographs!
What I enjoyed most about this series of events, aside from spending time with baseball friends and acquaintances, was getting a chance to meet the young men on their way up in the Sox organization. I often cite Theo’s statement that to become Red Sox GM he had to give up being a fan, and I know that in some ways my belief that the Sox should hang on to Lester, Masterson, Lowrie, Bowden et al. is indeed that of a fan. But this is a remarkable group of prospects, in talent and in character, and I have to say that if I had a vote, I’d hang on to every last one of them.
I came into September with tickets for three of the six games on the final homestand for the Sox, and realized about mid-month that that wasn’t going to do. Hit ebay and Stubhub, and managed to cover all six games. Tuesday I brought my friend Cindy to see Curt Schilling. Wednesday I had a loge box single from which I hoped to see Clay Buchholz pitch in relief of Jon Lester, but ’twas not to be. Thursday we drove toward a possible clinch of the AL East… but again, not in the cards that night.
Friday I had a loge single way out in left field–quite a challenge even to get into the section! It was quite a good game–good pitching from Daisuke, quality offense, and a satisfying win. Not to mention a quick one! I’d spared a few glances at the scoreboard, enough to see that the Yankees had a pretty good lead on the O’s. But I was still delighted when, a few bars into "Dirty Water," the PA cut out and the Yankees/O’s game was suddenly on the scoreboard.
About two weeks earlier I’d had a thoroughly wonderful evening at Fenway… on an off day. The Red Sox Chick had invited me to a benefit for the Angel Fund, a charity supported by Mike and Dawn Timlin. The benefit was terrific; getting winked at by Mike was even better. But perhaps best was going on a brief tour of a dark Fenway and sneaking off to the far end of the Monster to gaze over the mysteriously unlit park, and later eating dinner perched in the Pavilion over home plate, again, gazing into a familiar home seen literally in a ddifferent light.
So I thought of all that as the fans sitting around me left and I settled in to watch the televised game. The Orioles threatened in the bottom of the eighth, but failed. Many of the fans who did stick around headed out. I looked in toward home, and seeing that many who were left had clustered around the Sox dugout, I moved down to the first row between the visitors’ dugout and home.
The O’s held the Yankees in the ninth, and then the fun really started. I hadn’t dreamed I’d hear an enthusiastic "Lets go Orioles!" chant at Fenway–let alone that I’d be participating! Jay Payton came through with the stunning tying triple, and I started to think that maybe this could happen after all. In the tenth, we screamed our hearts out for Millah, but it was Melvin Mora who came through with the bunt and sealed the clinch for the Red Sox.
I hadn’t allowed myself to think about it, but I got out the camera…
Mike Timlin with his new tee!
Beckett watches Dustin Pedroia.
Jon Lester on the receiving end of a cold beer down the spine.
Jason Varitek, who had left the park, returned after the clinch, and received an extra-thorough dousing as a result!
Jonathan Papelbon points to Alex Cora up in the PA booth.
Lots more photos on this page. Enjoy!
Going to ten games in the 11 days from September 1 to September 11–in two states–has wreaked havoc with my ability to get photos up in timely fashion. But here’s a couple from Sunday, September 9 at Camden Yards…
Clay Buchholz stretches…
… and throws.
Announcing the changeup.
Two fingers means…
… well, in this case it meant “I’m going to throw it past you and scare the daylights out of the fans.” Note Clay is laughing.
Josh Beckett was the first to see the descending alien mothership.
Never hard to pick out a hatless Bobby Kielty.
Tek with a wistful look back. “Are you sure he wasn’t out?”
Clay acknowledges his admirers as he returns to the dugout.
I think I first saw Clay at Fenway last September, when he received the Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year award.
September 27, 2006
and again at the New Stars for Young Stars event to benefit the Jimmy Fund.
January 6, 2007. After the signing he had a pretty serious game going against Kason Gabbard!
I finally got to see him pitch on a magical day last March when we went to the minor league complex at Spring Training after the big club had decamped but the full-on games hadn’t yet started up.
Had to follow Clay at a distance for a while after that, though we were lucky to see some games televised (including his start on Memorial Day). He went up against Clemens and outpitched the Rocket. His numbers in Portland made it clear he was ready for Pawtucket. And off I went to see him…
July 22, 2007.
July 22, 2007.
And then came the call to Fenway, and I scrambled to get a good seat!
I have to be honest here–as I scrambled to get a better seat for his debut, I fantasized about a no-hitter. Unlikely, sure, but dreams usually are…
I’d had a good pair of tix for Saturday, September 1 in hand all season. Even a few days before the game I hadn’t asked anyone to go. If Clay got the call, I was thinking I’d see if any of the guys who follow him over at soxprospects (an invaluable site for following the minors) wanted to go. But Tavarez got the call. I knew that my great friend Cyn, the Red Sox Chick, was awaiting Mike Timlin’s 1000th appearance, which he might or might not see Friday night, so Friday afternoon I offered her the ticket. In about an hour, Wake was scratched, Tavarez was moved up, and Clay got the call.
And, perhaps not incidentally, the Sox took a tough and injury-laden defeat. They, and we, were reeling. A good night to go with friends (not just Cyn but fellow fans Nancy and Brenken!) whose passion for the Sox is steeped in support and, yes, love for our team!
How to talk about a no-hitter? I’d been close once before; Chris Young took a no-hitter to the first out of the ninth at Petco last September 22. The night before Clay’s start I’d actually turned away from the Red Sox game to watch Scott Baker try for a perfect game. I think I first had the thought in the third. By the fifth I was starting negotiations with the Powers That Be for a large charitable donation if he got through the game unscathed. In the seventh the Powers came back with a counter-offer, which I had no choice but to accept. Anything to do with Pedroia’s magnificent play? You’d have to ask the Powers. (Having seen both Buck’s press conference, in which he described knowing at that moment that something was going on, and having seen the replay, where you can clearly see that epiphany in his expression, well, I’m typing through my tears right now.) And Coco, Coco, throughout making exceptional plays we are coming to take nearly for granted.
And this is where going with Cyn–and having good fans all around us–comes in. Cyn and I didn’t talk of the no-hitter. We talked of Brian Roberts’ range of interactions with Sox players at second base (less flirtatious with Lowell than with Drew, for example). As the runs mounted–but the time dragged out, and we were thinking of Buck in the dugout, waiting for his next opportunity to look destiny in the eyes, we decided Joe West was being far too stingy in calling strikes on Coco. Great offense, but it seemed to take forever until Clay took the mound again.
But he finally did. And he seemed calm, though he took that extra moment to compose himself. Tek, I may never have appreciated you so much as I did watching Clay look to you for the signs, for instructions on how to make history. I’ll never forget Fenway, already in a frenzy from the seventh on, all on our feet, screaming as one. I’ll never forget that pause before Joe West rang up Markakis.
Congratulations, Clay. Congratulations.
Clay walks in with John Farrell.
Composing himself before the first pitch.
Nothing to be worried about, son…
… a message that was clearly imparted.
Nice pickoff move to first that busted Brian Roberts.
Gazing in at Tek in the ninth.