The Hunt for Red October


Well, that makes two consecutive Boston sports-themed posts where I’ve cribbed from Clancy for the title. Fear not, Bear and Dragon fans. I can’t stand the Bruins.

The Red Sox, however, have my heart forever.

Over the weekend, the family and I headed North for our traditional Columbus Day Weekend getaway to Limerick, Maine. There, in that quiet hamlet just a shade south of Portland, rests Andi’s Dad’s lake house that has played host to her Dad’s extended family for an annual autumnal get-together for as long as I’ve been in the picture (and many years past).

Although the attendees change from year to year (we’ve missed a couple ourselves when weddings or other events have intervened), the trappings of the weekend remain the same. A lot of R & R dotted with apple picking excursions, boat rides across the lake and trips to our favorite breakfast emporium – The Potting Shed. As a bonus, her Dad shares my enthusiasm for ‘the sports’ so the Pats game becomes immediate appointment viewing augmented by whatever MLB divisional playoff game happens to be on at the time. If the Sox are in the playoffs, all the better, but no matter who is playing, we’re watching.

In years’ past, we’ve seen some gems there including the 1999 series against the Cleveland Indians where the Sox fought back from an 0-2 deficit (sans Pedro) to force that mythic Game 5 – where an ailing Pedro entered the game, and coupled with Troy O’Leary’s go-ahead Grand Slam, shut the door on the Indians’ hopes for further October baseball. Of course, we all know how the rest of that season played out – with a Game 2 embarrassment of Roger Clemens in Fenway Park being the sole highlight in an ALCS Yankee drubbing.

The point is, I always look forward to these weekends away, where I get to spend the daylight hours enjoying the fall scenery with the family and then get to hunker down alongside my Father-in-Law and bathe in the cathode glow while an entire galaxy above beams its brilliant starlight across the glassy lake surface. It’s great background scenery for watching The Big Show. With the crisp autumnal chill sending us to the ice chest every half hour or so for another heart-warming bottle of Oktoberfest, we drink in game after game of America’s pastime at the exact time of year when it tastes the sweetest. The comedic stilings of Dane Cook may be completely played out but the guy’s got one thing right.

There is only one October.

So, over the weekend, I was able to fully enjoy Games 2 and 3 of the Red Sox-Angels series. While Diasuke continued to give me fits, the bats buoyed my anticipation of this next round of playoffs. Remember when we used to make it to the post-season only to watch our clean-up guys get swept. The Mo and Conseco show was always ripe for cancellation. Now, we thrill to Manny and Big Papi vying for the role of Mr. October. And if you get beyond those two, you still have to deal with Mike Lowell.

Here’s a memo to Theo. Don’t pull another JD Drew out of your hat. Sure, you’ll feel obliged to pony up enough scratch to land the over-rated purple-lipped purse snatcher, but do we really need A-Rod and his ‘0 for the Playoffs’ record. Yes, you’ll have to pay a little more than Lowell should get but that’s how this market works. Very rarely do you get savings on the dollar. The Wakefield Home Town discount only comes around when you get that rare player who will do anything, including act as his own agent, to insure he can retire with the team – and town – that he truly calls home.

What I wrote earlier this season about Schilling, I’ll echo with Lowell. We don’t need A-Rod. We already have someone better; certainly when it all counts.

In October.

Regarding Red Light, Schill added ample evidence to my argument that we never needed to recover the Rocket as we already had a better model here on the team. In my opinion, Schilling’s Game 3 start on Sunday matched Beckett’s master class of Game 1 through the pure pleasure in seeing our elder statesman at the top of his game. And spare me the ‘Angels are a beat-up ball club’ argument. Before the series started, all I heard about was how the Red Sox were going to have their hands full with the Angels’ aggressive small ball. Beckett shut the door on that by keeping them off base (he would have done the same to whatever team he pitched against.) Then Schilling came in to close the barn door in Game 3 and despite that fact that the Angels had opportunities to scramble around the bases, Schilling kept them off the one that matters most. By keeping them off home, that’s exactly where he sent them packing.

I’m encouraged by the 1-2 punch of Beckett and Schilling. On that topic, I’ll echo the prediction I made to my Father-in-Law two nights ago. Just because the Baseball Gods love a good storyline, I see Beantown facing off against Schilling’s former home town, Arizona, in the World Series with two former World Series MVP’s (Schill and Beckett) joining forces to duel in the desert.

At least in the arid Arizona sands, both teams will be spared that plague of locusts that beset the Yankees and Indians during Game 2 of the Cleveland/New York series at Jacob’s Field. Geez, who knew the Yankee fans traveled so well?!?!?

I know this post has been a bit scattershot but I wanted to put into print some of the random thoughts that jumped in my head as we surfed from game to game throughout the weekend series’. One happy upgrade to the ALCS is we can now bid a long-overdue goodbye to that cable access telecast the Turner Broadcast System cobbled together for the various divisional series.’ Did Turner lay down so much scratch to the MLB that there was barely enough left over to staff the on-air talent?

For starters, who is Jose Mota? I couldn’t make heads or tails of anything he said and after awhile began to suspect that Sacha Baron Cohen was simply auditioning Borat 2.0. Did TBS mean to collar Guillermo Mota and simply rung up the wrong guy. One day you’re picking strawberries and the next, you’re giving color commentary.

“Americahhhh. Whad’ a country!!!”

And then there’s Alyssa Milano who was apparently hired to provide on-the-field reports simply because she has banged more Florida Marlins than anyone else in America. That does it. If this is how you get a job in primetime television, than I’m ringing up Dontrelle Willis to see if he has dinner plans.

Well, guess what MLB? You win. You finally got me to stop bitching and embrace the return of Tim McCarver when the Sox land on Fox for the ALCS. Don’t forget!!! Every time Tim calls Wakefield – Bill, or Beckett – Samuel, ya’ take a shot.

That said, can’t you just feel it? October Baseball is what this grand sport is all about. We spend half a season bitching about how long these seasons run and then when we get to these final four weeks, we wish they would run another dozen. Yes, football season rocks your socks off, and it’s in and out before you know it (and you’re knee deep in six inches of slush), but there is just something magical about baseball that when those spotlights draw on the final eight teams, we’re drawn to it like Lake Erie larvae to the world’s biggest bug zapper, Jacob’s Field.

And if it means having to sit through Dane Cook over-pronouncing AWEEE-CTOBER ad nauseum, then so be it.

I love this game.

Comments now closed (10)

  • I have to admit that, sadly, I was more excited about the Yankees losing than the Sox sweeping the Angels. What does that say about me? Other than that I’m a bad person, clearly.

    It was an interesting season. For the first half, the Sox were unstoppable. The second half was dominated by the AL race and the talk of how incredibly awesome the Yankees had become while the Sox were “declining.” But when we got to October (sans Dane Cook next year, please), the Sox and Yanks suddenly reverted to their first-half forms.

    Then there’s A-Rod–“A” for albatross. I remember there was a game a few weeks ago, when they were playing some other team during the end of the AL race, when A-Rod hit a grand slam to put the Yanks ahead by two or three points. Since my observation has been A-Rod does better the worse his team is doing, I thought right then and there that they’d lose that game. And they did. Heck, this article is from two years ago.

    I definitely don’t want A-Rod. I won’t pick on him for being bad in the postseason from a statistical standpoint. I just think he’s jinxed. With three years of the so-called Best Player in Baseball, to say nothing of the rest of their payroll, the Yankees haven’t even won a pennant, much less the World Series. The guy might as well have a muted trumpet doing that “waahnt waah” sound every time he gets out in a playoff game.

    I agree Lowell has had an incredible season, but I’m not sure it’s not a bit of an aberration. It is a contract year, after all.

  • Ed,

    I too am fired up for this ALCS and beyond. I think the Sox win in 6. Big CC looked shakey at home against the Yanks and threw a lot of pitches. The Sox are also patient and will get him at Fenway. Carmona scares the crap out of me. He shut Boston down once this year. Hopefully he reverts back to the pitcher who they tried using as a closer last year and got rocked by the Sox two games.

    As you said Papi and Manny are very hot and even JD Drew had a big hit last Friday. Speaking of Friday. Melissa and I were lucky enough to be at that game. Fenway went crazy when Manny hit that HR to end it. That was rocket. As soon as he hit it everyone knew it was out and went crazy.

    The Bullpen is rested and going to use Dice-K on the road where he seems to be pitch better.

    There is nothing like watching playoff baseball. I always get sucked in. I watch Rockies/Padres one game playoff game right to the end. I still can’t believe Trevor Hoffman gave it up. Even though Holiday was out at home. I also stayed up to watch the Yankees get eliminated. Although I think the Sox could have handled them, maybe easier then the Indians, I am still glad they are out. Too much would have been made of 03 and 04. Time for the Sox to stand out in front without being mentioned in the same breath as the Yankees. That is why it was important for them to win the divison. Plus getting home field right through the World Series if they get there.

    What a time to be NE sports fan. Pats, Sox and even the Celtic generating a buzz. BC playing great. The Bruins…. Well at least they won a game! It reminds of 86. I remember my Aunt who had a sweatshirt that read “Our teams are the balls” and had a Sox, Pats and Celtics logos’ on each sports ball. You have a love a 60 something year woman wearing a shirt like that. Maybe I will recreate and sell after the Sox and then the Pats go all the way!!!

  • Well, I’ll echo Chris’ thoughts that it is better to see them against the Tribe than the Empire, but I’m scared of going against two Cy Young candidates. CC and Carmona were every bit as good, if not arguably better than Beckett this year. Even though Schill pitched a nice game the other day, I wouldn’t say I’m expecting it again, although that would be nice. No, I’m hoping we split the first two games and I’ll take our chances against their 3 and 4 in Westbrook and Byrd. Wake/Lester and D-Mat match up better than them, or even CC on short rest, so it is my feeling we should take it in seven. Our bullpen is much better than theirs and our line-up is probably pretty even, so it will come down to starting pitching and defense, just like it should in playoff baseball.

    Even if we don’t win, I know it is going to be a good series and I’m glad it is not against the Yankees.

    As for TBS, thank gawd they drew the NLCS instead of the ALCS. The call guy sucked… hard. Why couldn’t they have used D.O. for the Sox instead of the Rockies? Conflict of interest? Maybe, but the guy is only calling the game, not an analyst and at least he wouldn’t screw people’s names up or simple facts. Their analyst wasn’t too bad (at least he won a Cy), but that Mota guy has to be loving life. What a clown.

  • Sean, I think Cleveland’s bullpen pitched pretty well against the Yankmes. But I would be worried having Browoski closing games if I were an Indians fan. That takes away from them big time. He is prone to the HR and we have Manny and Papi ready to hit homers. CC and Carmona are really good though. You just hope lack of big gam experince rattles them some. I hope CC pitches like he did in game one of the ALDS. If so Boston hits him. I would too will take my chance with their 3 and 4.

    Yes TBS was horrible. Not just the announcers, but the fact they could not get back from commerical on time. To miss an out in execusable. Plus your right. Let’s hire the guy who knows the most about the Red Sox and then let him announce… Rockie’s games! Huh??? I guess they probably thought he would be too much a homer. I would think he professional enought not to go there. It’s like he had Remy by his side and they could make fun Joe Castiglione for being scared of rats in Tampa Bay. I think he could have been neutral.

  • @Chris & Sean: Regarding Orsillo, there’s no doubt TBS moved Orsillo to the Rockies to avoid cries of homerism (cries of Homerism sound like this – Wah D’oh Wah D’oh Wah D’oh Wah). I think it was a calculated effort on their part to look ‘Big Time’ as they courted a national audience for the first time and I think it was a mistake.

    Look at Fox. Joe Buck called the ’04 Sox – Cards World Series game (Buck was also a St Louis announcer) and there were no cries of Homerism.

    So – again I say it – if Milano isn’t gonna’ show off her rack than we might as well get to stare at that boob McCarver.

  • First off, good line about Milano and McCarver. 😀

    Last night’s game sucked. I don’t blame Gagne for the loss though. I blame the 3-4-5 guys. They were being pitched to by Tom Mastny. Yes, he was their closer at the end of last year and he’s not bad, but still. Why doesn’t anyone ever dog Papi about not running balls out but are always all over Manny about that? Papi does it more than anyone and I don’t care if his knee is bad, this is the ALCS. Then, with Manny and Lowell, both were trying to end it with a HR. You know what boys? You both already hit one, so it seems less likely. Just get on base and let the guy’s behind you clean up. It has been how we’ve been scoring mostly so far. Filling up bases.

    As for Gagne, he had a wicked curve being thrown for strikes. He had his change going for strikes. Why so many fastballs, especially to a good fastball hitting team? Use those pitches to set up the shaky control of the fastball if it is going to be out of the zone. Was it Tek’s fault for not calling less number one? All he had to do was induce a double play from Cabrera or Nixon. Why put Lopez in to face Nixon when he’s not as good against lefties? You don’t think Nixon was jonsing to do something against his former mates, no matter how much he still likes them? Also, watching Baseball Tonight for a bit after the game last night, they made a good point. The Tribe are good fastball hitters, yet for some reason, Schilling started throwing more of them from the 3rd on. He changed his approach, which had been working fine thru the first two. Why?

    I know it is only Game 2 and going in I was going to be happy with a split given CC and Carmona, but we had this game all night and kept giving it back. It is just disappointing. I still say Sox in seven.

  • Well – if there is a plus to any of Saturday night’s marathon it’s the Cleveland pen could be getting stressed. They had to dig in early on Friday and then on Saturday they had guys going 2+ innings in relief. Granted, this was done by Wedge to avoid going to Borowski to soon (a tactic not matched by Francona for the sheer fact that Francona wasn’t staring down an 0-2 start). I know they had yesterday off so everyone gets a breather but we’ve seen what happens to overworked bullpens. If Cleveland says goodbye to their starter by the 5th this evening, things are going to get tense. Of course, with Dice-K on the mound, our guys will need to get all the beauty sleep they need this morning as well although the last time Dice-K pitched at the Jake he did pretty damned well – I believe he shut ’em out through 7.

    We all wanted to avoid the stress of a protracted 7 game Yankees series with its marathon sessions and it looks like by avoiding the Yanks, that’s exactly what we ended up getting anyway.

  • One NL note… they say that the NL is a AAAA league. Nothing proves that more to me than the fact that the AZ Diamondbacks fans consider Eric “Spicoli” Byrnes as their favorite / best player. At least that seemed to be the case from watching the 2 NLCS games in AZ. I think on most AL teams, he’s be a 4th outfielder (Well, okay, maybe a bit more than that, but still…) Considering a third rate outfielder your best player speaks volumes. In my mind, I’ll always remember him as the loser in the 2003 ALDS who slid into home, missed the plate, got up and angrily pushed ‘Tek (while ‘Tek was getting the ball) started walking to the dugout and then got tagged out by Tek. Loser…