Friday, September 28, 2007

We do not learn our lesson well in this house

9/27/07: Twins 5, Red Sox 4

One of us was at the game last night and one of us was at home watching (or, at least, watching as soon as it became clear that "The Office" is no longer must-see TV). The following conversation is reconstructed from post-game
text messages and kitchen table analysis, minus a whole lot of "oh my God" and "why?"

Caroline: /gently thwaps Beckett upside his head.

[half an hour later]: /violently thwaps Beckett upside his head.

At least I got to see a Tek homer? Also, I apologize to all other fans for daring to go to another Beckett start. I get it, he hates me, I'll never go to one of his starts again.

Yeah, I'm sure you could see Tek moving arond behind the plate from where you were sitting, 'cause Becky was not throwing the ball anywhere in the vicinity of where Tek was setting up. Almost like he was intentionally avoiding the glove, and why would you do that? I mean, apart from A) being A-Rod, or B) hating us, since you'd think he likes his teammates more than he hates us.

What he apparently likes is throwing BP fastballs. In hitter's counts. Over and over. And over. Again.

And that throwing error? Like to have killed me, or at least driven me into the arms of Michael Scott.

Oh, God. That was when I knew I was being punished for returning to Fenway after Papi gave us such a great send-off. Message received, okay, baseball gods and mean girls?

I guess at least it was a close game where we got beat by a good closer. We know that other teams don't inherently suck because they can't get hits off Papelbon, right? (Of course, Paps says, "Hell, yeah, they suck!" and fist-pumps, but then, he's not exactly a member of Mensa.)

Jennifer: Still, there were Twins fans on the T. A whole family of them, even. Ew. I pay too much for a Charlie Card to ride next to Twins fans.

Caroline: Ew. That sucks. Does not suck: Jason Varitek. Okay, he's not Papi and you can't put the whole team on his back, but a monster home run and the strike 'em out, throw 'em out DP?

Jennifer: Yes! That was pretty great to see! Of course, then he assisted in the suicide of the ninth-inning rally. For which he is obviously beating himself up plenty. Five bucks says he tells NESN he "got himself out."*

Caroline: At least he didn't make two outs on that, Mike Lowell. I was actually sitting in front of the TV thinking, "Captain, if you really, really need to strike out, just do that, babe." Because it could have been more painful.

Jennifer: I just had to explain to a Yankee-rooting coworker who thinks all the Red Sox are ugly and horrible that Mike Lowell may be last night's GIDP king but he is still, as officially sanctioned by People Magazine, muy sexy.

Caroline: It's nice to educate people on baseball fundamentals. You make a good ambassador.

Jennifer: Great, where are my free tickets?

Caroline: Not so fast. For an actual Red Sox Nation government position, you'll have to wait until after the election. And the recount.** But then maybe Remy will consider your resume and assign you a diplomatic post somewhere.

Jennifer: Please, not Philadelphia. I'm allergic to Phanatics.

*He didn't actually say that, but "Personally, I didn't--wasn't able to get the job done" is close enough that one of us owes the other one a fiver. If that man stubbed his toe he would probably apologize for not seeing the floor well.

**It's a funny feeling, but this whole "Tim Russert moderates the presidential debate" thing has us understanding, with deep shame, what makes other baseball fans hate us. Yet, at the same time, we're still extremely amused by Remdawg's attempts to use a history of Dodgers fandom to Swift-Boat Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

We do not hunt for Red October in this house

9/22/07: Red Sox 8, Devil Rays 6

The TROP. Visitor's clubhouse. Doors closed to the media.

The goddamned playoff-bound BOSTON RED SOX (!)
George, a MOUSE

[Enter the team.]

LOWELL: Hey, put a chain on the door--otherwise Tina Cervasio might chew her way in.

HINSKE: That's a bad thing?

LOWELL: You need to get out more.

VARITEK: Does everyone have some champagne? Good. Guys, at this time I think it'd be appropriate to make a little toast--

RAMIREZ: To being Manny! [Raises glass, pulls oblique muscle.] Ow. Not to being Manny.

TIMLIN: To our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

YOUKILIS: Seriously? I'm sitting right next to you.

TIMLIN: [Passes Youkilis a Chick tract and a cigar.]

PAPELBON: Um, I wanna make a toast to the Cap'n, 'cause he hit a roundtripper, and more importantly, he kicks ass, which you can tell 'cause he's my catcher and I kick so much ass. [Fist-pump.] Oh, and I hope the Yankees get attacked by robot dogs.

VARITEK: Paps, that's enough.

PAPELBON: Or robot mooses.


PAPELBON: 'Kay, I'm done. [Downs champagne.]

VARITEK: Well, that was all very entertainin', but I have a couple things to say. [Raises glass.] First off, good game tonight. We played good baseball. That's important. That's what we have to keep doing for the rest of the season. And, you know, into October.

[Everyone cheers.]

VARITEK: It's real nice to be in this position, but don't forget that this is just the beginning. We worked hard all year and we want the division. We want home-field advantage. We, uh--well, we want bragging rights.

[Everyone cheers louder. Pedroia jumps up and swings around on the ceiling fan.]

VARITEK: Guys, seriously. Let's not get carried away. And Schill, let Beckett up outta the ice bucket already. He's turning blue.

[Beckett emerges from the ice bucket with a stream of obscenities which not even this blog can reveal.]

VARITEK: We deserve to celebrate. We've come a long way. But we still need to keep our eyes on a higher goal--

[Pedroia flies off the ceiling fan and roundhouse kicks Varitek in the chest protector. Since he weighs about 130 pounds, he bounces off and lands on his ass at Varitek's feet.]

PEDROIA: Soccer sucks!*


[Drinking commences.]

VARITEK: [sits down in the corner with a sigh.] Well, I hope they can at least behave in front of people.

MOUSE: Squeak.**

VARITEK: Yeah. [He grins.] Why start now?


*We at Respect the Tek do not share this opinion. We respect soccer, too. Maybe we should make a blog called Respect the Wambach.

**Translation: "Whatever. I was told this party would have cheese."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We do not want to have to say, "we told you so" in this house

9/17/07: Red Sox 1, Blue Jays 6
9/18/07: Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 4

What did we say about Eric Gagné?

Okay, fine, Jason Varitek tells us "we need him," and normally that'd be enough for us. Normally, we'd say, "fine, let's stop calling J.D. Drew 'Nancy' and start trying to cheer him on." Normally, we'd say, "well, Tek says some of those balls were borderline and with another umpire might've been called strikes, so obviously Eric Gagné is not a ticking time bomb on the mound." But "normally" flew out the window a few losses back, and we are reeling. Of course, judging from the video footage, so is our captain.

In other news, we may not have mentioned it, but in our spare time we also root for the Mets. It's been a long stretch, is what we're saying. A painful stretch. A stretch in which we've watched our beloved pirate gang falter and our captain struggle at the plate, a stretch in which Pedro Martinez* pitched a commanding six innings only to have it tossed aside by a continually shaky Mets bullpen. A stretch that makes us way too excited about tonight's season opener of America's Next Top Model, we tell you what.

Look, we get that Manny's Being Injured and that, without him, the team is not at full offensive strength. We get that Joe Torre's Operation: Take Out the Youk finally came to fruition with one pitch from Chien-Ming Wang, thus leaving us with Eric Hinske** at first. We get that everyone's tired, we get that the Blue Jays are much better than you'd think from looking at their record, we get that the Canadian National Anthem has some sort of hypnotic suggestion in it that makes our guys unable to win ballgames. That said, raid Tavvy's cooler of Red Bulls, guys, and put some earplugs in whenever someone starts to sing, "O Canada! Our home and native land!." Get out there and play. Get out there and win.

*Stay tuned for our Guide to People You Meet at Fenway, featuring Angry Dude Who Can't Forgive Pedro Martinez for Giving Up that Homer to Aaron Boone in 2003 Because Pedro Destroyed Said Angry Dude's Hopes and Dreams and Possibly Even His Ability to Have Children and Cool Woman Who Said, "Um, Wasn't That Wakefield?" and Agreed With Us That Wake Is Totally The Man.

**We actually love Eric Hinske, but we'd rather Youkilis at first than anyone else at this point.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

We do not leave games early in this house

9/7/07: Devil Rays 4, Red Sox 5

This is going to be hard for us to blog about in any coherent way, because how do you reduce the ecstasy of a perfect Fenway Park experience to words on a screen? (Unless you are Beth, who channeled it perfectly.)

I. Pre-Game

For once in our sweet, short lives, we made it to Fenway in time for batting practice, a fun ritual elevated by two sightings: 1) Manny's first live BP since the oblique strain, and 2) Save: J. Papelbon filming the latest Friendly's Scoop. Naturally, the latter drew us down close to the field* and we got to hear him rant about how Tito is a cheatin' manager who better watch his back (we admit to being paralyzed with fear for a moment before realizing he was talking about fantasy football).

Plus, we can now provide a tantalizing sneak peek of future Scoops: Paps inaudibly interviewed Manny Delcarmen and then audibly botched saying his own name three times in a row while taping the intro. So our new favorite saying is, "This is Jonathan Papa-blah-blah." Okay, it's not that handy as favorite sayings go, not as easy to drop into conversation as a Seinfeld reference, but love will find a way.

Jonathan Papelbon: oh, he's real, and he's spectacular.

II. Unsung Heroes

Jon Lester's first-inning peccadilloes definitely gave us chills. And nausea. You know, vague symptoms like Mike Lowell's.** Credit where it's due--once he got out of the inning, even though he continued to terrify us and rack up the pitch count like a pinball score, he didn't allow another run. But this is not a story about starting pitching and its desertion of the greater Boston area. This is not a story about shame.

This is the story of Julian Tavarez and his Moste Merrie Pirate Companie. When Lester departed in the 4th, a tourist standing near us asked, "Are we clapping because he did a good job, or clapping because they're taking him out?" We patiently explained that it was a little of both, and a little bit because we were scared of what might happen once Tavvy had the ball. But he got a quick out to end the inning and followed it with a pair of 1-2-3 innings at lightning speed. The tone of conversation in our little bit of grandstand changed from, "Oh dear, Tavvy time" to "Julian Tavarez, bitches and gentlemen!" He got a standing O for his trouble, and there was no mistaking the intent; that was love.

Daddy Delcarmen and Okajima-Okey-Dokey were both reassuringly effective, and we expected Okajima back to begin the ninth, but then the opening chords of "Wild Thing"*** blared out, and that's when the game really turned around. Papelbon jogged in and paused, prayerfully, on the edge of the infield, and the feeling began to spread through the stands that Francona was doing the right thing**** by sending in Mr. C. Ocho, save or no save. As hapless as the Sox had seemed to that point, the game suddenly seemed to be ours for the taking.

III. Mr. Clutch Is Back

When Papi hit one over the bullpens in the fourth and made the score 4-3, we said to ourselves, "Well, if nothing comes out of this game but the scarring humiliation of losing a home series to a team that wears vests, at least we got to see a classic Ortiz home run." We had several innings to think about what a nice memory that would be, and how we'd hold onto it through the long dark teatime of the off-night. We were prepared. Maybe even resigned.

Then Lugo drew the walk to lead off the ninth, and we started to wonder.

Papi comes to the plate, one on, one out, and of course every one of our 37,000 friends is thinking it.***** But we're all hedging our bets, reminding ourselves that Papi's already blasted in the few runs we have, and we can't expect him to actually single-handedly carry the team. We're thinking that a double would be really nice; that even a long single that got Lugo to third would give us a solid shot at tying the thing up. We're remembering Coco knocking Tek around from second a month ago off the very pitcher we see before us, and we're on our feet hoping that at least it doesn't end here with a double play.

The count goes to 3-1 and we figure they'll just throw him another ball and try to make Youk ground into a double play. But this is not a story about double plays.

Papi hits the ball about a mile in the air, and it just stays up there, floating, doing some kind of crazy dance, with all of us craning our necks and holding our breath to see where it might come down. From our vantage point (and apparently Tito's) it looks like it'll make the seats, but possibly fall foul. (We didn't realize until we saw NESN's replay that the ball was so close to catchable.)

Finally the ball drops, and drops, and disappears. For a split second, nobody is sure where it landed, or maybe nobody's sure they can trust what their eyes tell them they just saw.

Nobody relaxes until we realize that Lugo and Papi are running the bases, and the rest of the Sox are leaping the dugout fence to meet them at home plate.

Pandemonium. "Dirty Water." Hugs. High-fives. Beer. Magic.

This is a story about baseball. In baseball, one swing of the bat can clear away three and a half hours of doubt and depression. In baseball, a bullpen that keeps a stuffed parrot as a mascot can pull together for what really should be credited as a combined win. In baseball, there's no such thing as running out of time.

The moral of the story is that we love our Papi and he loves us.

Sweet dreams.

*Here, have a crappy cell phone picture.

**"Activity from both ends." Ugh. Thanks for sharing, Tito.

***Which are also the opening chords of "Louie, Louie." They are actually the exact same song.

****And that's an unfamiliar feeling in any game which features Eric Hinske at first base.

*****Okay, maybe not every one. We did spot a grand total of two people wearing Devil Ray gear. But we can't say for sure that they weren't being ironic.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

We do not negotiate with headhunters in this house

9/6/07: Red Sox 7, Orioles 6
9/7/07: Red Sox 4, Orioles 0
9/8/07: Red Sox 5, Orioles 11
9/9/07: Red Sox 3, Orioles 2

Hey, Boston, we're officially done with the Os for the season! Everybody set your Kevin Millar phasers back to "gently stun."

Four notes on a four-game series:

1. One of these games is not like the others. One of these games just doesn't belong.

2. Seriously, not to dwell on the single loss, but Dice-K's performance was on par with Britney Spears' trainwreck on the MTV Video Music Awards tonight. Sure, we weren't expecting perfection, but we also weren't expecting a deer-in-the-headlights gaze, slow-motion movements, and the overall sense that the star of the show had abandoned all hope.*

Britsuzaka, get yourself to some kind of "wellness clinic." We're all pulling for you. We hear Bronson Arroyo is already arranging the benefit concert.

3. After being rattled by Toronto, the bullpen was lights out at Fenway South. With the exception of Tavvy (and seriously, they've gotta stop listening to him when he claims he can throw with a two-minute warning and a Red Bull--or else, hook the man up to a Red Bull I.V.)**, our bullpen band did not give up a single run in these four games. Even though we spend a lot of this space giving love to Paps and Oki and dancing for Mike Timlin,*** we sometimes take it for granted. It's nice to pay as much attention to their "routine" dominance as to their rare mistakes. It's nice to see question marks like Lopez and Snyder and bullpen newbie Buchholz shutting down everyone in their path, and even nicer to see Paps getting his save on with an efficient-yet-badass dozen pitches. Can they all win the Cy Young together and share custody?****

4. The bottom of our order stepped it up this series. The Man Papelbon Calls Cap'n came through twice in key late-inning situations, and today he even took a little extra time out for sexy defense; Coco Crisp had a homer, tall socks, and today's game-winning hit. Even J.D. Drew (not technically in the bottom third of our order, but let's not beat around the .383 SLG) contributed, with the bat and on the basepaths. We really want to be pulling for Slim J.D., at least until such time as we have the wherewithal to actually buy the team and start auctioning contracts off on eBay. This week he made our lives easier.

Of course, it's always easy to root for Tek. The hard part is watching him strike out and make a face like he'll never forgive himself, and unfortunately we had to see that a bunch this series.***** We hope he's taking comfort, post-Orioles, in what he did accomplish. And figuring out which of his gloves will best fit Britsuzaka's face.

You know. Tough love.

*They also did about the same amount of lip-synching.

**Someone should also tell Tavvy not to try and be the voice of reason in any sort of fight situation. Did you see him approach the mound to talk to crazed Daniel Cabrera? Did you, also, expect him to pull a shank from his sweatband? When he didn't, weren't we all the tiniest bit disappointed?

***Yes, it still works. Bam-a-lam!

****Can they also have a Grammy? Come on, whatever they were playing, it must be better than the award-winning "My Humps."

*****Blame the umpire, Tek! Mike Lowell totally has your back.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

We do not have anywhere to run in this house

Once again, actual baseball has foiled our plans to blog about something fantastic and trivial.

Original plan: A "Welcome Back, Kotter"-themed tribute to Doug Mirabelli. (Now starring J.D. Drew as Horshack!)*

Instead, one studly at-bat into the game, we got the first fifteen seconds of this:

Kevin Millar played the Morey Amsterdam role.

Get well soon, Mr. E. Fresh! Next up on Respect the Tek: if you take the good, you take the bad, indeed, if you take them both, what do you have?**

*Drew is a very old and respected name. It means, the baserunners are dying.

**Survey says: A) the facts of life, B) a lot of brain cells wasted on Nick at Nite, or C) Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

We do not say "no" in this house*

We intended to take it easy on the baseball this weekend, and we were planning a whole post about the team's imaginary expedition to see The Simpsons Movie, with Mirabelli smuggling epic quantities of food into the theater for everybody (Tek: "Dougie, I'm sorry but I just don't want chicken parm that's been in your pants, okay?") and Papelbon throwing Skittles at Mr. Burns.

And then Clay Buchholz had to come and distract us from the funny with actual baseball.

Thanks, Clay.

No, seriously, thanks. From the heart. We'll post more about the game tomorrow when the giddiness subsides. For now, Clay, just let us know--do you want a drink, or a baby, or anything?

*Until after the final out is official and the pitcher's celebrating with a nice mug of hot cocoa and a story--no, two stories--before bedtime.