Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally

No, I'm not talking about Jim Bouton's sequel to the irreverent Ball Four. And I'm not disparaging the job Terry Francona has done with an injured lineup, a starting rotation only now coming together, and a bullpen solid at the back end and largely sordid at the front end.

The Boston Red Sox 2010, intriguing, playing hard, but crippled by injuries and an untimely West Coast trip that made fans (the ones not on vacation) tune in to bedtime not baseball.

This might be the best starting rotation the Sox have had in my lifetime, with a potential someday Hall of Famer in progress (Jon Lester), two very high end starters (Beckett and Lackey), a guy with absolutely filthy stuff (Buchholz), and the enigmatic but talented foreign important, Matsuzaka.

The excitement on the bases has been a no-show from injury and half the 'soul' of the team (Dustin Pedroia) kills himself to get back on the field, but can't hurry the process. It's a season where the fans have drunk the "devil's Kool-Aid" and wonder whether it's worth coming back for seconds.

Yes, the road trip had its moments, from a three game sweep of the Halos, to a potential 5-4 forceout turned into a 5-4-3 fielder's choice without an out, to a pair of Big Papi homers in a game to an erstwhile perfect game by Jon Lester torpedoed by AAA defense.

The Sox aren't totally boring...the pitching is decent, ninth in ERA, and the defense seventh in fielding percentage. The offense excitement, even without a catcher who could hit for what seemed like forever, and with assorted other absentees, still generates the second most runs in the AL and the highest OPS.

Let's face facts...Sox fans are used to stars, and four-letter words like Cash, Hall, and Nava aren't...although Bill Hall has filled in admirably all over the field. Too bad he couldn't play catcher. Darnell McDonald and Eric Patterson are fine as fill ins, but don't satisfy adrenaline junkies in Baseball's Athens.

Neither the joy of baseball, nor specifically "The Nation" has vanished; it's more like the excitement has behaved like dry ice, with excitement cooling via sublimation. Perhaps only the truest baseball aficionado can enjoy the 'sublime' play of overachieving reserves. If that's the case, then I'm simply not that enamored with a child's game played by too many men who don't seem to care enough and too often hide in the shadows when terms like performance enhancement come up. You'd think that the guys who don't cheat would be begging to be proven clean and bring the playing field level. I guess mostly, we'd think wrong.

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