Tagged: Opening Day

Game 8: (The Last) Opening Day, 2008

Still can’t believe I was there…

The whole thing’s been covered endlessly, so I won’t waste space recapping what’s freely available elsewhere.  So here are a few things I took away from the day:

1) I learned a very valuable lesson.  As it turns out, it’s not so much
the heat on any given day that will give you a sunburn, it’s the sun. 
So despite being about 45-50 degrees, I managed to get a sunburn on the
left (and only left) side of my face.  I look ridiculous.  I feel
ridiculous too.

2) I was surrounded in the stands before the game with people who seemed like they wouldn’t be able to enjoy any aspect of their life until Coco Crisp gets traded.  I’ve been over that before so no need to say the same thing 500 times, but I really don’t get it.  Has nobody been watching the brilliant defense he put up all through 2007?  I’ve never seen anyone play center field that well, he should have won the Gold Glove, and I’ve heard enough of people bashing the poor guy.  No wonder he wanted out; how could you want to stay on a team when everyone’s already counting down the seconds til you leave?  But for better or worse, I stand by my assertion that Jacoby Ellsbury isn’t quite there yet.  He’s undeniably the centerfielder of the future for the Red Sox, but I’m not positive that that future has begun yet.  Coco’s defense is still miles above Ellsbury’s (all the speed in the world doesn’t help you if you don’t know the best routes to the ball or how to read the hit off the bad), and I don’t think he’s going to be the .350 hitter that he was in limited appearances last year.

3) They have volunteers collecting recyclables in-between innings, which is a great idea, but I’m baffled that they will only take plastic bottles, and not the zillions of plastic cups that beer gets sold in.  I should point out that the beer cups have big “recycle” symbols on them too!  I truly hope that whoever came up with that boneheaded restriction will rethink it before the year’s out.

4) Seeing Eric Gagne’s name (in this case, announced during the ring ceremony) still infuriates me.  Hey, I hated that trade when it was just a rumor; it was a bad idea before it even happened, and that was going on the assumption that he’d actually play well.  He sucked, and he cost us Kason Gabbard, a lefty I happened to like.  With some of the current uncertainties on our current pitching staff, having someone like Gabbard around would have been a good thing.

5) I wonder if that hawk’s gonna show up over the weekend when the Yankees get to town.

6) Apparently the section that I was sitting in knew nothing about defense.  I’m sitting there, surrounded on all sides, listening to people talk over and over about so and so not hitting and so and so not being any good.  It amazes me how some people see this game as all about hitting and scoring, and forget that defense is at least half the game.  So what that Kevin Cash isn’t known for his hitting?  That’s not what he’s there for.

7) Doug Mirabelli looked like a pimp.  Rock on, Dougie!  I agree with the team’s decision to cut him from the roster, but that doesn’t make it any easier on the guy.  And speaking of cuts, I hope that Kyle Snyder lands somewhere soon; he’s one of those guys that I’ll be rooting for regardless of where he ends up.  Snyder and Julian Tavarez basically serve the same role in the bullpen, and if I needed to free up a spot, I probably would have done the same thing.  Tavarez gives you everything Synder does, and he’s also got one of those rubber arms where he can start a game with practically zero notice, and that’s a valuable commodity.  Plus he’s amusing as all hell to watch play.

8) The newly-recorded Neil Diamond “Sweet Caroline” video played on the scoreboard during the 8th inning was an embarrassment.  Completely cringe-worthy.  Shameless.  And not in a good way.  I felt icky just watching it.

9) Between innings, they played the White Stripes’ song “Icky Thump” over the PA; last season I listened to that song on my baseball playlist, frequently using it in the same way the team did.  I think I should be getting some kind of royalty on that.

10) A magnificent ceremony.  I never thought I’d hear the Boston Pops covering Dropkick Murphys, but there you have it.  Really touching to see Bill Buckner getting a standing ovation.  Now that it’s over, I’m looking forward to baseball as normal resuming, meaning more than two or three games in a row without a day off, back to back games with normal start times, and just some great baseball.

Games 5, 6, 7: These count?

Swept by Toronto.

No, dear reader, it’s not September 2007, although one couldn’t help but remember that disastrous trip up north last fall.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this team (well, counting last year’s too) looking more out of it.  Another flight, another trip through customs, another opening day ceremony… now I’m just watching all of this on TV and I’ve had enough of it, I can’t imagine what it must be like to be on the Red Sox, having to go through some out of the way travel only to arrive for seemingly endless hours of ceremony before a single pitch gets thrown.  Though no one on the team was going to come out and complain, this is a team that very badly needs to get some equilibrium back, and the best way to do that for them is to go home.  Fortunately, that’s up next.  It’s somehow weird to me that these games are even counting, since it’s been a pattern of games that don’t count followed by games that do followed by games that don’t followed by more games that do… you figure somehow these might not count.  The Sox haven’t even had a consistent schedule… couple here, couple there, these count, those don’t, etc.  I gotta say, just from a fan’s point of view, that I’m sick of all the interruptions.  One of my favorite things about baseball is that it’s always on, that tomorrow’s always another day, that after a loss you come right back and win one, or after a win you wake up with a clean slate and look to keep it up.  This weekend we had three games in a row, and that’s the longest stretch of uninterrupted games so far.  I’m looking forward to having more than two or three games without a day off in between.  Then we’ll see some momentum.

FRIDAY: WAKEFIELD VS. MARCUM
Gotta say, this was the best of the three games to watch.  Marcum pitched a great game for Toronto, and Wakefield was quite good through the first five.  It’s really hard for me to go into panic mode watching a good team get played by another good team, and watching hitters get stifled by a pitcher who’s got everything working that day.  Plus, it was the Blue Jays’ home opener, and maybe it’s just me not wanting to mess with karma since I’m going to the Sox’ home opener, but I can’t begrudge a team for winning their first home game for their fans.  It was an exciting contest and I’m looking forward to seeing Wakefield’s next start.

SATURDAY: BUCHHOLZ
Disappointing, but not a terrible outing from Buccholz.  Sean Casey’s error at first really killed them.  You hate to put it all on one player, but sometimes it just works out that way.  If Casey doesn’t goof up, the game’s still winnable.  I’m not ready to take away his #22 just yet.  He’ll have a better day.  The irony, though… Kevin Youkilis breaks the all-time record for consecutive errorless games at first, and then he gets a day off and what happens… yep, an error at first that kills the game.

SUNDAY: BECKETT RETURNS
Beckett looked fantastic through the first three, a little tired but still good in the fourth, and out of gas in the fifth.  He’s one Manny Delcarmen pitch away from not finding himself on the losing end of this one, so what can you do?  For a guy that hasn’t had a chance to pitch competitively basically all spring, who hasn’t really faced major league hitters yet, I think he did well.  Next start should be back to normal.

THANKS, LUGO!
Three errors in one game on Sunday, one on Friday, can’t really hit worth a damn… this was the guy they spent millions to bring to Boston?  I don’t think he’s the worst player I’ve ever seen, but coming a year after Alex Gonzalez, the best defensive shortstop I’ve ever seen, Lugo’s deficiencies are glaring.  Maybe I’m being too hard on the guy, but my heart still skips a beat whenever things set up for Lugo to make a routine play.  Since Lugo hasn’t exactly done a great job of hitting, the decision to sign him long-term looks even sillier now.  You really wonder what’s gonna happen to him if this keeps up, barely hitting above .200 and continuing to play a below-average shortstop.  I wonder if Jed Lowrie will find his way up in September a la Dustin Pedroia in ’06.  Something tells me that Lugo doesn’t finish out  his four-year contract (three remaining, including this one) in a Boston uniform.

Which brings me to my next point, which is the Lugo and J.D. Drew signings.  I don’t recall hearing any big hype around either of those guys before they were signed and overpaid, and I’m still not sure what the front office saw in these guys to make them overpay so drastically.  They’re not bad, but they’re average… neither Drew nor Lugo has provided the team with anything that they couldn’t get for ten times less.  And if Drew hadn’t been signed, there wouldn’t be a logjam in the outfield.  Coco Crisp would play center, Ellsbury would play right, Bobby Kielty would be the backup, and in a couple years when Crisp’s deal ran out, Ellsbury would move to center and Brandon Moss could take over in right.  Alex Gonzalez could have been signed to an extension after ’06 (did I mention I loved that infield that year?), and Lowrie could have taken over some point this year or next.  Lots of money saved, more homegrown players on the field (which I prefer over high-priced imports, just more fun that way to watch them grow up), win-win for everyone.  Whenever I have this conversation with people, they point out that being a top rated prospect is not a guarantee of success, and that’s true… but I’m not asking any of these minor league kids to step up and be Manny Ramirez.  I’m asking them to hit better than Lugo, or to look more alive than Drew, and either way, that doesn’t seem like too much of a tall order.  Long term free agent signings aren’t a guarantee either (see: Yankees, The, 2001-2007).

Tomorrow’s opening day, and I’ll be there… hopefully with some cool things to write about afterwards!

Don’t wanna sound like I’m bragging…

…but I just found out I’m going to Opening Day at Fenway on April 8th!

I went to an opening day once before — the New York Mets home opener at Shea Stadium against the Atlanta Braves, in 2001.  They had previously made it to the World Series in 2000, but lost in five games to the Yankees.  It was certainly an event, more so than just any home opener — they did have a National League pennant to celebrate, and the World Series loss didn’t seem to be hanging over the whole place.  It was a good game too, in that the Mets destroyed their rivals, the evil Braves, to the point where the entire crowd started doing the Braves tomahawk chant to mock the boys from Atlanta.  A good time was had by all.

This should be different.  There are trophies, there are rings.  One last time to formally celebrate 2007’s accomplishments before forever moving on.  Going up against the Tigers, it’s certainly not a sure thing that they’d be able to win, and that’s probably as it should be… two great teams facing off.  One wonders if Josh Beckett will be held back to start at Fenway, or if it’ll be someone else.  Either way, it’s going to be a terrific amount of fun, an extra day off from work, and maybe I’ll even get a few fun things to write about.

Speaking of the Mets, I just called my cable company (RCN) to subscribe to the MLB Extra Innings package.  Without going through the specifics, it felt like it should have been a lot easier to call and add a few channels to my cable service than it actually was.  But with that all taken care of, I look forward to being able to check out some Mets games.  I’m really glad that the Sox didn’t trade for Johan Santana (and frankly, I know he’s a great pitcher, perhaps an outstanding one, but I still think he’s enormously overhyped), but I am really glad the Mets picked him up…. as far as teams that could afford him go, they needed him the most, and somehow got away with giving up the least.  The Red Sox had a better offer to the Twins for him, so did the Yankees, but the Twins had to settle for what the Mets were willing to give, and now the Mets have that staff ace that they’ve been so desperately lacking for at least a season, if not longer.

It seems strange to have watched two official games that played out much like glorified Spring Training matches, only to have some more actual spring training matches before playing another "real" game.  How do you get yourself pumped up for Tuesday/Wednesday 6am contests in a foreign land, bring yourself back to earth for three games that don’t count for anything, and then fire it all back up for games that once again do count?  Still trying to figure that one out…

Welcome to 22 Talks!

Hello and welcome to 22 Talks!  My name is Josh, and I’ll be following the Red Sox 2008 season right here, from spring training to the regular season and (hopefully) beyond.

I’d like to begin this with an apology to Sean Casey.  Shortly after I picked out my blog name, I discovered that he’s going to be wearing #22 this season.  22 has been my lucky number for as long as I’ve had a lucky number, so it seemed a natural choice to me.  It’s an outstanding number if I do say so, and I hope Mr. Casey has room in his heart to share it.  From what little I know about him, it seems as though he’s one of the good guys, so I’m not too concerned…

The idea for this blog has been floating around in my head for a while, and with a new season about to begin, it seemed as good of a time as any to formally launch it.  In an odd way, this blog is the indirect result of friends who really were getting tired of listening to me talk about the Red Sox, as well as coworkers who always seem to gravitate towards my desk whenever they need their fill of Red Sox chatter.  As this is a work in progress, I encourage you to offer suggestions, comments and feedback.

Soon I’ll be posting my first thoughts on the 2008 season, as well as some "leftover" blogs from the 2007 postseason, because hey, reliving the joy of last year is a totally legitimate way of passing the time until March 25th.  So please, sit back, relax, bookmark the page, and join me for what promises to be an exciting season of Red Sox baseball.