Monday, July 19, 2010

"The Godfather: One Of This Year's Ten Best!"

So it was between this obscure Field of Dreams reference and another Jay-Z reference/David Ortiz copyright infringement joke. I chose this one. This is what the theater marquee said when Ray Kinsella and Terrence Mann drove into Chisholm, MN and they realized somehow they ended up in 1972. This is how I feel right now. Sure, it's 11:24 PM and I'm watching the Red Sox and A's on my own large big-screen TV, the first game of a 10-game road trip. But I might as well be headed right back to the mid-1990s.

In the age of interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, the dreaded extended West Coast road trip is largely a thing of the past. The Red Sox only play the A's seven times this year, and it's not very often that they go out to the West Coast and play three or four West Coast teams at a time. They did this twice a year back in the 90s and it was an event. The last time the Red Sox played three straight series in the Pacific time zone was in August 1998. I was thirteen and it was an accomplishment to make it to the end of East Coast games without falling asleep. Broken headphones with Castiglione and Trupiano were placed under my pillow on a nightly basis, and I usually made it to the seventh inning.

When this was a twice-a-season thing, at least one of the times out there decided the season. I tried to listen to the first inning on my headphones, but often had to settle for NESN Sportsdesk the next morning. It was there that I typically learned the team lost like 13-6, Mike Blowers went 5-6 with three home runs, Dave Stewart outdueled Roger Clemens (AGAIN), or the team got shut out by Mark Langston or Chris Bosio. Right around the time the west coast trip happened, it seemed like the pennant race was starting to fall out of the Red Sox' reach, and by the time the trip was over, the season was decided.

Usually in the wrong direction.

In 1993, the team knocked themselves out of contention on the West Coast by losing five games in the division after a hot start. In 1994, they lost three games in the standings within six days and knocked them out of pre-strike contention. In 18 extended West Coast trips during my first nine seasons of watching the Red Sox, they lost ground in twelve of them. The two most notable exceptions were the 1995 team (who gained six games in the standings at one point) and the 1999 team (gained four games) - both of whom went to the playoffs. Even the 1998 Red Sox lost 3.5 games in the standings on the West Coast.

Flash forward to 2003. The West Coast trip, though shorter due to Bud Selig-related meddling, took a new life as I lived a new life of burying competitors in races, watching every game, striking out looking with girls like Manny Ramirez against Mariano Rivera, and inviting friends over for the 10:00 games. Schedules are a bit different when you're 18. However, I remember vividly watching Tim Hudson throw a 2-hitter against the 2003 Red Sox with my boy Mr. H. The team may have eventually fared well, but during an extended West Coast trip, things seemed to be slipping away as the Sox were in the middle of a 10-15 stretch against some less-than-distinguished teams. Different stage of my life, same old West Coast road trip.

Now here we are in 2010, and despite the fact that I write here 3-4 times a week, my days of staying up until 1AM every night are over. I will try to not fall asleep on the couch, just as I tried to muster the courage to not strike out looking, and just as I tried to last until the second inning with the Walkman headphones under my pillow. The situation with the 2010 Red Sox is very, very similar to the very situations that did in several Red Sox teams in the 1990s. The two recent Tampa series have to make you uneasy. The Texas series has to make you uneasy. Even Tony Massarotti said last week that it's starting to feel like it's slipping away. Of course it's time for the West Coast trip.

Plus, the Red Sox have a bunch of minor leaguers and DFA veterans on their roster. This weekend my boy Marino and I went to a party at a friend's house I hadn't been to for a decade. The Red Sox are playing ten straight on the West Coast with bad momentum and the season in the balance. Am I going to see any "Re-Elect Clinton" posters while walking down the street? Am I going to bend over and see a "97" inspection sticker on my license plate? Am I going to hear that the Red Sox' new bullpen addition is Ricky Trlicek?

If we aren't back in the nineties this week, I don't know where we are.

7 comments:

The GM said...

That was a rough at-bat for Coco Crisp against Bard.

The GM said...

Game. Good performance by Matsuzaka, and Beltre is going to hit 30 home runs this year. Going by the treading water barometer, after starting 2-3 after the break, this team needs to win five out of its last eleven. All I know and remember about these games in the Twilight Zone indicates that this will be at least a challenging task.

TimC said...

DV, good stuff, your post brought back some memories of trying to catch the Sox on radio, particularly during the '99-'04 stretch. I still remember reading about Kerrigan playing the infield deep in the Globe the morning after the Sox season, in hindsight, came to an end in Texas. (Now, that road trip was only one stop in PST, but at the time Texas seemed just as far. Plus, the game went 18 innings.)

Good result from Dice, but some of the locations of his pitches should be noted before everyone gets up to my level of excitement for the guy. It was a good move to yank him when Francona did because it was a matter of time before another of his pitches drifted into the middle of the zone or he threw one through Cash's legs.

Still, when Dice seems to believe that his fastball can cause hitters problems, he looks pretty good. Pundits will suggest that he needs to "get ahead" of hitters, as if this is something Dice is not doing of his own free will, but him getting ahead in counts usually just means he is throwing his fastball with confidence, keeping hitters off balance. It also helps, I suppose, to throw first-pitch strikes when you have a reputation for not doing so; batters will tend to wait.

The most remarkable thing about this game was the length: 2:40!!! And, Dice was involved. Baseball needs more games that moved like tonight's.

the gm at work said...

Tim C: There were some meatballs in there for sure. I'm not sure how you got to read it in the Globe though - they sometimes have to exclude coverage of the night games because of their print time.

Anonymous said...

DV

True story: Until 2004, I listened to 85% of the Red Sox games in the summer on the radio. Good times all around.

The West Coast trip is now a thing of the past (fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view) but this year's trip could very well go both ways. On the one hand, the Sox are scuffling a bit and clearly sending out a spring training line up every night. On the other hand, they are playing two bad teams and one mediocre team. It wouldn't surprise me if the Sox gained some ground or lost a lot on this trip. Here's hoping for the former.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

It wasn't long ago that NESN was extra on cable. I once got NESN for my birthday and a month later NESN became part of the free cable package.

The best part about the West Coast trip being a thing of the past is the fact that it's NOT a thing of the past anymore, as of this week. As far as playing bad teams goes, you are right, but the Red Sox of the 90s also played some bad teams out there. The ones that made the playoffs gained several games while they were out there, and the ones that didn't...didn't. Between 1992 and 1999, every trip out there six games or more except for one resulted in a division lead swing of over two games.

Expect the 2010 Red Sox to go down one of two roads: The one where they clean up out West and make the playoffs...or the other one.

Anonymous said...

DV,

Since you referenced me in your post, I feel I have to comment.

Sox are going 7-3 on the West Coast - 2-1 in Oakland; 3-1 in Seattle; and 2-1 in LA. I think last night's win was HUGE. If they win tongiht, I'll feel REAL confident in my 7-3 preidction.

Beckett, Martinez, and Lowrie are all (likely) back within a week. We're getting healthy. Our rotation is finally entact. It's time to be UPBEAT. These West Coast meltdowns are a thing of the past.

BTW, I wish I was old enough to have voted for Clinton.

Marino