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.
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.
A few samples from Clay’s winning debut on August 17 against the Angels; more photos to be found here.
Congratulations, Clay! May it be only the first of many, many wins.
Took me a few games, but I finally managed to get the diminutive Dustin Pedroia with lanky Seattle first baseman Richie Sexson on May 3.
May 8, 2005 was Mother’s Day. The Seattle Mariners were in town, and I surprised my mom with the best tickets I’d ever had to see the Sox. Little did I know what was in store for us, though. A rainout the night before was played as the opener of a Sunday doubleheader, pushing our game’s start to the late afternoon. Checking SoSH before we left I learned we had called up young Cla Meredith, who’d scarcely acquired a roster number in Pawtucket after being lights-out for Portland.
The game started badly. Bellhorn played shortstop and made an error on the first ball he touched. It was cold, and wet. I bought Mom a ten dollar poncho. But the skies were gray, and the air held more mist than should have been possible, and when the winds tore through you would have sworn there were ghosts in the lights shining on the field.
Wade Miller pitched well, but Halama struggled a bit, and in the seventh young Meredith was called in with two outs and a runner on second. He very uncharacteristically walked his first batter. And his second. The rain fell, the wind swirled, the ghosts hovered and dipped… and Richie Sexson came to the plate.
Perhaps on any other day Meredith would have had what he needed, would have been ready for his Fenway debut. Perhaps he was rushed; perhaps there were ghosts in the sky that night that knew his time had not yet come. However it happened, the wind took a long fly ball from Sexson, carried it out and wrapped it around the Pesky Pole, and the Sox could not come back.
And neither, for the moment, could Cla Meredith.
It’s a huge jump to the majors under the best of circumstances. The pool gets smaller, the competition harder. Maybe you were something special at a lower level–suddenly you look around and everyone is at least as good as you are. At least. And so you fail in a way you’ve never actually failed before.
My thinking at the time was that his brief foray into the majors before he was prepared cost Meredith a year. And indeed, he went back to the PawSox and did all right, but not better than that. The momentum from his ascent from AA was gone.
I got to see Cla in Spring Training last year:
March 14, 2006
March 16, 2006
but he didn’t make the club out of Spring Training. Back to Pawtucket.
In the first few weeks of the season, as Josh Bard struggled to catch Tim Wakefield, Theo Epstein decided (perhaps too hastily) that the best solution was to bring Doug Mirabelli back from San Diego. With the Yankees also short on catchers, Brian Cashman could plausibly put forth an offer to SD, and Epstein added Meredith to the deal. I was glad I was already a Padres fan!
May 13, 2006 was the day before Mother’s Day. I was in Chicago to see the Padres. It was cold, windy and rainy. Have you heard this story before? The day before, Woody Williams had suffered a calf injury, and called up to patch the bullpen was Cla Meredith.
May 13, 2006
This time Cla came in for the eighth with his team losing, and this time he pitched well. Mike Piazza put the Padres ahead in the ninth, Trevor Hoffman came in for the save, and almost exactly a year after his ill-fated debut, I watched Cla earn his first win.
Cla went back to the minors for a while, but as fate would have it he was called up on July 2 just before my trip to see the Padres on July 4. (Incidentally, that was also the first day I used my new telephoto adapter…)
Shooting into the bullpen during a rain delay.
July 4, 2006
Cla pitched two innings and picked up the loss this time, but he was with the big club to stay–and, as everyone knows, went on not merely to be one of the top relievers in MLB but to set the Padres record for scoreless innings! I was able to see him in Washington
July 8, 2006
July 9, 2006
in Cincinnati, even if he didn’t pitch
(I joke all the time about getting busted when it appears players are looking at me, but there was no one within twenty feet of me for this shot, so I really was!)
September 14, 2006
and back in San Diego.
Whoops. Looks like Cla’s better pitching than just tossing the ball back after catching…
September 22, 2006
Holding the game steady so Trevor could come in for his record-setting save.
September 24, 2006
Trevor’s day of history was the same afternoon as the Padres set off on their last road trip, with the traditional surprises for the rookies, so this is my lingering memory of the last time I saw Cla…
As Dorothy, September 24, 2006.
Most of my other favorites are gone from the Padres roster now, but as long as Cla is there they’ll have a piece of my heart. I got to speak with Cla a couple of times during the year and he was unfailingly polite and genuine, a real sweetheart. And it was interesting to watch the change in his reflections on Boston, from his memories of being booed at Fenway and a certain willful arrogance about whether he’d been ready for what he faced that day to a growing understanding as he achieved success with the Friars of how far he’d come and how only now he truly was ready.
Who knows if he’d had the season he had if he had stayed in Boston? Sometimes our setbacks and disappointments are as important to our ultimate happiness as our triumphs and successes; sometimes it’s the unexpected upheavals life throws us that land us where we were supposed to be all along.
(P.S. Yeah, I know, the song says “Norfolk.” A little slack, OK?)