I see it has been some two months since I last posted, which is utterly unacceptable especially given the fact that I have more "free" time than I had back then. Of course there's also little movement from both of our professional sports teams and even college football season is a full two months away. This is a time for outdoor drinking, golfing and camping, not sitting around complaining about the Sabres and the draft or the Bills schedule. However, I'd like to think we won our little Trending Buffalo vote for reasons that didn't involve going months without posting, and when The Scizz even finds time to make a couple of posts, it's time for me to step it up, even if this disjointed post turned into complaining about the Sabres draft.
I'd like to talk about a team; a team with only a couple aging veterans with any memory of playoff success; a team filled with prospects barely removed from the minors; a team forced to cut ties with it's most loved and most successful coach, a team for which 2007 seems exponentially farther in the rear-view mirror than it has in six years; a team chosen by the local and national press, not to mention its die-hard fans, to find themselves chained to the basement of the division for years to come. This is a team that claimed to make offers to the top-flight free agents but for whatever reason continued to be turned down, as most speculated that the team brand had been tarnished, or at least that other franchises held much more appeal. Although the stars of this team are still capable of showing their brilliance when not struck by injury, it had become apparent months ago that those players were unhappy with management as well as the direction they felt the team was headed in. It's a team that is coming off their most disappointing season in well over a decade, whose fans were approaching this season just hoping for any reason to believe the team was heading in the right direction and maybe, two or three years down the row could simply return to the postseason. As for success there, well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
As if you couldn't tell, this is obviously a post regarding the American League-leading Boston Red Sox.
First of all, if you haven't checked out Scizz's Bills/Pats preview - DO IT.
Ok, moving on...
Last night, the DGWU Sports Crew gathered at The Barrister's apartment to record another gem for your ear holes. After a slow week of written content at the site, it was nice to sit down and discuss all the many goings on in the sports world. Don't lie - we know you're excited.
Our first segment was almost exclusively devoted to debriefing the Bills game in Cleveland last weekend, as well as our thoughts about Buffalo's two delightful, injured running backs. Segment two gave us an opportunity to look ahead to the game this weekend against the Patriots as we were joined by the Deeg's Buffalo correspondent, The Outlander. That's right - steaming hot takes spit all the way from the 716. Outlander stayed for the third and final segment while we talked Dickey's 20th win, the Orioles' playoff hopes and the tire fire that is the the Boston Red Sox. We close out with a brief discussion of our plans to #OccupyBridgeport for an AHL game this fall. More on that to come in the next few weeks...
As always, the CrapTastiCast is brought in by the musical vomit of the Jambrones. Additional interludes include Kansas, Seal (I KNOW! AND YOU'RE WELCOME!), and Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross.
Stream below, subscribe on iTunes, download here
, or check our podcast page at Libsyn
The Outlander Garbage.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been chomping at the bit for something to get worked up about and post about. I mean it doesn’t take much, but I’ve found the current storylines swirling around here in Buffalo have been so meaningless, so trivial, that to try and put some 1,000 word diatribe about them would be so transparently fraudulent - not to mention really difficult for me to do - that it would frankly unbecoming of me. I don’t have many standards when it comes to what I’ll write about, but faux-outrage (copyright: national media, November 2011) - or blatant trolling if you will - is the lowest point of blogging you can reach (Ed. Note: We've all been there). I’d rather read hot takes on what the French Connection statue should look like, or an in-depth post on whoever the other punter in Bills camp is. Vince Young? Who cares? Tarvaris Jackson? Ditto. The NHL lockout? That’ll be worth discussion in a month, when the first slew of games have been cancelled but for now, the two sides are speaking so far past each other they can’t even bother being insulted, and neither should we. Shane Doan? My once raging doaner is now flaccid and sad.
The one place I didn’t expect to provide inspiration was my baseball team, the pitiful (go ahead, drink that word in) Boston Red Sox. I wrote about them
some thirty games into the season (respectful post on the Youk notwithstanding
) and until a week or so ago, nothing had changed. They still sucked ass, their roster was still filled with a bunch of egomaniacal tools and, frankly, why subject you, our refined readers, to Red Sox garbage when this baseball season has been so captivating otherwise. God knows you’ve had enough shoved down your throat by ESPN about Pedroia v. Bobby V
, and “can they turn it around” crap that attempted to take you away from the Pirates (!?!), the Nats (!!), the A’s (!!) and R.A. Dickey
that I felt no need to pile on. You deserve a summer without Red Sox talk, and with the team wallowing in mediocrity, what better summer than this one?
Last Sunday I was lying on my couch, generally incapacitated from the type of Sunday hangover that comes but a few times a year ... or whenever your girlfriend leaves town for a weekend to visit family and you suddenly become indifferent to the amount of vodka you’re consuming during pre-gaming. My credit card was at the bar so my attempts to order pizza had failed, and my car was still at a bar from Friday so until after dinner I was stranded in the house. Luckily the Red Sox game was on, so I stared at it in the way negligent parents will throw on a Pixar movie to keep their kids quiet and distracted for a couple hours. From the start, something was different. On his first at-bat Youkilis got a standing ovation, which the TBS broadcast team referred to as “bizarre,” but I found completely logical in the context of trade talks heating up and Will Middlebrooks’ emergence at third base, and the resulting possibility that any game could be Youk’s last in a Sox uniform.
That David Wells passes for a television broadcaster in today’s pathetic media landscape is bizarre. The crowd reactions on Sunday were not. But I digress.
After a couple more standing ovations and a triple that could easily have been scored an error, Bobby Valentine lifted the former all-star to give him a chance to enter the dugout with all the Fenway cheers for himself, punctuated with a couple of curtain calls for good measure. While the broadcasters once again could muster nothing more than confusion, any reasonable fan could discern that Youk either had been traded or was about to be traded, but was nevertheless done in Boston. I knew I was supposed to feel something for a player that had been one of the best hitters in the league for so many consecutive years; certainly I knew my friends that rooted for the Yankees were happy to see him go after I spent years hearing how much they hated his “stupid face” in the way I hate Teixieira’s stupid horseface. But really all I could muster as he sank into the dugout and disappeared down the tunnel was one thought: It’s over already?
Don’t get me wrong, I loved his intensity, I loved his hustle and believe me, when you cheer for someone nicknamed the “Greek God of Walks,” you gain a certain affinity for watching four pitches land outside the strike zone. Sure there were injuries, yet he was dependable despite them in a way, where you knew if he was in the lineup, you would be getting his best. Maybe he was cursed by the era he played for the Sox, arriving just as the fan base started expecting a dynasty, just as anything short of a World Series championship became a massive disappointment for a city that was already beyond spoiled. He was clutch in his own way, coming alive in the final three games of the 2007 ALCS, hitting a bomb off CC Sabathia in game five, but still, those three games are remembered by me for JD Drew’s only big hit as a Red Sox and the Indians’ collapse. Sure, he played seventy-some games in 2004 but I think few fans would think of him as a member of that team. Which again leads to my bewilderment at how fast the time went.
In the movie High Fidelity
, John Cusack’s character "Rob" is left by his long time girlfriend for another man. After a period of soul searching they get back together and while there is no longer that excitement, that crazy head-over-heels feeling, he describes things as “just…good.” In the end, for Rob, that was enough.
To me that was Youkilis. He never did anything that left me in awe, he never made me feel like the team couldn’t survive without him, but he got the hits, sparked the clubhouse, and - mercifully - never drove me to such frustration that I wanted to drive my car over a cliff. He was just…good. There’s nothing wrong with good. I loved Manny Ramirez, for instance, as he would do things that I still think about to this day. But I can also picture him having two errors in one inning of Game One of the 2004 World Series, leading me to unleash a torrent of obscenities from my mouth that gets me angry typing this eight years later. Now that - that’s love, with its highs and its lows. Youk, on the other hand, was dependable. Never flashy and never had moments that endeared me to him in that same, intense way, but I’ll always be thankful that he was on my team during that time. That - that’s comfort, complacency. But after being in that place with crazy highest-highs and lowest-lows love, one can really appreciate comfort and complacency. One can really appreciate just…good.
In a way, maybe he got screwed by 2004. If Dave Roberts gets tagged out in Game Four, the Yankees complete the sweep and, assuming the Red Sox get it done in 2007 as they did, Youk is remembered as one of the heroes of the organization, the guy with the clubhouse intensity that pushed the team over the Indians to reverse the curse after 89 years.
Instead you’ll have fans unable to remember his name 20 years from now, while at the same time will roll off “Mark Bellhorn” without difficulty. That sucks for him. And it's what sucks about feeling that feeling I had on Sunday about the time passing too quickly. I still wanted him to be able to do more, to get another ring, to hit that walk-off in the playoffs. To have that twilight, legacy-cementing moment that would ensure he wouldn’t be forgotten. Instead he’s in a White Sox uniform and now I’m left to define his career around one World Series and a myriad of relative disappointment, especially 2008 and 2011, years when those around him should have put the finishing touches on a dynasty and instead faltered against teams that never approached them in terms of talent.
Is that unfair to Youk? Of course it is. Fans, especially those who root for Buffalo teams, should appreciate great talent even when it comes on a team that doesn’t win it all.
Fair or not, watching him walk off the field on Sunday left me wishing, for a moment, that there was more time for Youk. There's no question he deserved it, but eventually time decided for him, assisted by a young third baseman hitting the ball all over the place and demanding a spot on the field, just like he did eight short years ago. And even if I never loved this player with the kind of passion - both highs and lows - with which I have loved the Red Sox greats of the past decade, part of me wanted Youk to have a chance to bring me there. A chance to prove that "just... good" can sometimes be more than enough.Follow me on Twitter @MattyRenn
I wasn’t going to write this post today for two main reasons. One, I lost the notebook with my outline. I didn’t used to outline my posts, but I can be very forgetful (see: missing notebook) and there’s nothing more frustrating than staring at a blank page knowing you had ideas, or staring at a finished product and knowing it could have been much better than the pile of shit you slapped together. (Ed. Note: this is NOT a pile of shit. Keep reading!). The second reason was when getting ready for work I pulled something in my back, collapsed in a pile of screaming agony and am still in pretty intense pain as I type. But then I told myself that unlike Josh Beckett, I can play through it and not be an overweight insufferable jackass…
Whenever I tell people that I’m a Red Sox fan I immediately see the condemnation in their face. Not the condemnation that says that person is a Yankees fan, or a Rays fan (the latter is a joke, Rays fans are a myth like Noah’s Ark or Brad Boyes’ 40 goal season), but the condemnation that says I must be a bandwagon fan, one of those post-2004 assholes who claimed the Red Sox as their own simply because winning is more fun than losing and it’s easy to make fun of A-rod. I loathe bandwagon fans more than I loathe terrorists (some terrorists; bandwagoners would go ahead of Al-Qaeda but below the 1980’s IRA in my power rankings) and if I were the decider over such issues I would move all bandwagoners to Florida - the Mecca of such wretched souls - and give them a TV package that only gets Royals, Blue Jackets, Bobcats and University of Indiana football for all of eternity.
Bandwagon fans are the Mississippians of sports fans.
Anyway, as a tot in the early '90s I found myself able to choose who would be my baseball team, an option that had not been afforded to me in football and hockey. With a similar opportunity my friends chose teams like the Indians, Blue Jays, Pirates, teams that were merely hours away from home, in many cases televised locally, and more importantly played some of the best baseball in the league. I cheered for these teams myself until I watched Ken Burns’ “Baseball” on PBS. Now in hindsight, “Baseball” is nothing but propaganda designed to push the viewer towards the Red Sox - or Yankees - corner, but that, coupled with my grandfather being a Boston fan, did the trick and I became one of those “tortured Red Sox fans.”
That term means something entirely different than it used to. For my grandfather, it meant watch Dent’s home run or Wilson’s dribbler down first. For me, it meant a watching Boone’s home run in a room full of Yankee fans, heading out to get shitfaced on Crystal Palace, Keystone Light and rage, coming back to my dorm the next morning to see my AIM away message was still “5 OUTS…”. But now, it means reconciling your love for the Red Sox through childhood, your teens, college, and today with the fact you share that love with a bunch of meatheads who believe Tedy Bruschi could kill Seal Team 6 and that Sam Adams counts as a microbrew, and who have diligently worshiped the Bruins ... since April 2011. The last decade has made Boston fans insufferable and it sucks to have your team loyalty and you as a fan tainted by such douchebaggery, and to share your rooting interest with the guy that rained homosexual slurs at you for two hours in TD Garden just because you paired your Sox hat with a Mogilny jersey.
O-ver-rate-d!! *clap* *clap* *clapclapclap*
That may be why I’ve greeted this season - this incomprehensible flaming garbage heap of a season - with what could only be termed as a morbid eagerness. I imagine this must be how one watches the running of the bulls from a second floor balcony in Pamplona, with a beer cracked, ready to get on with the carnage. It didn’t help having an offseason full of discussion of the most mundane, incomprehensible crap, arguments about beer and chicken
, or having your superstar blame the worst October collapse in two generations on God and night games
. Believe me, Red Sox haters, I empathize with you. I hate that ESPN spent the entire winter talking more about Theo Epstein than anything going on in the NHL, and I hate that the Boston media inexplicably made the eating habits of pitchers who weren’t starting the story over the pitchers actually starting who were taking a massive dump on the mound every day in September. I hate the pink hats, the wave and I hate that “Sweet Caroline” still gets sung when my team is losing by six runs. What I will do is tell you that many Sox fans, this one included, will be- or should be- entertained by the farce of the 2012 just like you.
I’d like to think any true Red Sox fan saw this coming a mile away. Did anyone who either watched John Lackey or owned him in fantasy really think he was the answer when Schilling and Pedro moved on? 2007 may have reaffirmed to the front office that they had the formula to success but that title may have been a little more luck than being head and shoulders above the rest of the league. The idea that CC Sabathia and Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona) would bring their “C” games a win away from the World Series seems laughable today (maybe not so much w/ Hernandez/Carmona), but it happened in back-to-back games of the ALCS. The Rockies got the wild card in a one-game playoff thanks to a very questionable call in extra innings, were rightfully swept in the World Series by Boston, and wouldn’t have fared any better against the Indians.
All-Star teams don’t work, and when you comprise that All-Star team of washed up pitchers, mercurial injury prone former all-stars and superstars that are used to playing in front of 2,500 fans a game, you have the potential for a disaster. Sometimes you can get by on talent alone, like the Red Sox did from May-August last year. But eventually the chips are down, your 160 million dollar asshole is half-assing to a shallow line drive against the fucking Orioles and the Yankees are keeping Rivera glued to the bench because he threw all of four pitches the night before. Suddenly you’re watching the worst fan base in baseball pretending they were pounding those cowbells in their Longoria jerseys all season and the media is blaming it on KFC and the manager, not the fact that your GM gave 160 million dollars an outfielder you didn’t need who was perfectly happy playing to crowds smaller than those seen by the Elmira Jackals. (I may still be bitter about Game 162.)
The point is that the real ills are still there and we’re seeing them continue. Gonzalez may ultimately not be a major market player - someone better suited in San Diego where he can be blissfully removed from national television for his career. Youk might not be a leader - someone better suited to lead a “25 guys, 25 cabs
” Sox team from the 60's than some lovable idiot reincarnation of 2004. Valentine may be better off cracking jokes about Japanese culture from the press box than trying to handle a pitching staff already held together with two hands and duct tape. Marlon Byrd has a problem with being good at hitting a baseball. Josh Beckett is an asshole. If you’re relying on Vicente Padilla and Aaron Cook to do anything other than actually set themselves on fire while on the mound, your expectations, not their play, is the problem.
Sure there are positives - Will Middlebrooks, the ageless David Ortiz, the four game winning streak among them - but I’m just not buying it. Through long stretches of this season the Sox haven’t looked any better than the worst team in the league, like some real-life montage from a sports movie where the team is chucking the ball into the dugout, the pitcher’s getting shelled and their superstar is mired in an unfathomable slump. At least those teams are usually filled with lovable characters.
Seasons like this are the natural progression of sports, when a team is holding onto its past, attempting to repackage it in a substandard wrapper, caught between what they once were and what they will be. We saw it in the final years of the Kelly-Thomas-Reed Bills teams, or in the '02-'04 (and to a lesser extent '08-'09) Sabres teams, or this season's Mavericks, having won a title at the back end of their window. And now we’re seeing it with the Red Sox, who have chosen to sign players they don’t need, scapegoat those who are not at fault, and give the press and the ignorant fan base red herrings through which to channel their anger and frustration.
My advice to other Red Sox fans: enjoy it! The team has a fundamental flaw (lack of unity) that isn’t going to be fixed this season, barring a Rachel Phelps style “win the whole fucking thing” plotline, and other major flaws (pitching, hitting) that are unlikely to be corrected to the extent needed for them to make the playoffs. So, laugh when Beckett lets in seven through three innings, or when Gonzalez strikes out swing at a fall at his feet with the bases loaded, or when Bobby V looks like he wants to murder anyone who told him this was a solid career decision. Talk about how terrible of a signing Carl Crawford was, or how the Bailey trade isn’t going to work out, or how Youkilis needs to hang it up. If anything, do it to pre-empt the Yankee fans and the rest of the Red Sox haters who group us in with the pricks who inundated twitter with racial slurs after Joel Ward won game 7 for the Caps. Do it because you laugh when people trip over the sidewalk, or even because from September-January the entire Boston region roots for fucking Tom Brady
. Justify it however you can but, please, enjoy the ineptitude and the hilarity of unencumbered failure, because folks…
It’s not getting any better.
Follow the Outlander @MattyRenn