It is often said that baseball’s most prestigious feat is the elusive perfect game. After all, only 20 have been pitched in all of baseball’s history–18 in the modern era. To retire 27 batters consecutively is certainly majestic, and it guarantees baseball immortality. Many perfect games have been thrown by notoriously dominant pitchers–Monte Ward, Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson, Roy Halladay, and Catfish Hunter, to name a few. Their reputation almost demanded one. However, for some pitchers, their perfect games are the only redeeming factor in an otherwise disappointing or mediocre career–perhaps Kenny Rogers or Dallas Braden.
I would like to argue that there is an even more illustrious feat in baseball; one that has not been accomplished since 1967: 43 years. The largest gap between baseball’s perfect games was 34 years. The feat that I speak of is baseball’s triple crown, in which a hitter must lead his league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs. It has only been done 16 times in baseball’s history, 13 in the modern era. The last man to win the triple crown was Carl Yastrzemski.
No one has ever pitched a perfect game twice. It is probably nearly statistically impossible. Two men have received the triple crown twice. The Cardinals’ Roger Hornsby in 1922 and 1925, and the Red Sox’s Ted Williams in 1942 and 1947. This is precisely what makes the triple crown even more impressive.
A perfect game does not guarantee a Cy Young Award. It is nearly unheard of for a player not to win the MVP if he has also won the triple crown. After all, MVP considerations are heavily affected by those same three statistics. To every rule and theory, there is always an exception, and Ted Williams is the exception to mine: In 1942 and 1947, he came in second place for MVP votes, losing to Joe Gordon and Joe Dimaggio, respectively.
A perfect game is one game; there are 161 others. To win a triple crown, the hitter has to be consistently superior in three outstandingly difficult categories. Every player who has won the triple crown in the modern era is currently immortalized in Cooperstown. Pitchers who throw a perfect game are perfect for 27 outs. Those who win the triple crown are spectacular 4,374 outs.
With a couple of legitimate Triple Crown contenders this season in Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, and Miguel Cabrera, I wanted to try and figure out why there has been such a disparity in Triple Crown winners since Yastrzemski last did it. I decided to look at and compare various eras within baseball’s modern era (since 1900) and I think I have come to a reasonable conclusion.
It surprises me that there were any triple crown players in the dead ball era (1901-1919), which was defined by small ball. Pitchers were allowed to use altered balls and trick pitches, and starting pitchers completed their games more than half the time. Then again, it doesn’t surprise me that the two men to hit for it were Nap Lajoie and Ty Cobb.
The Lively Ball Era (1920-1941) followed in which a rubber-core ball was universally used, and trick pitches were prohibited. Pitcher’s completed their game less than half the time, and the average amount of runs scored per game was nearly ten. Also, in 1930, the National League’s batting average as a whole was over .300. Five men hit for the triple crown in this era: Roger Hornsby (twice), Chuck Klein, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Joe Medwick.
Then came the Integration Era (1942-1960), catalyzed by Jackie Robinson. Many players were involved in World War II, which some argued diluted the level of play. Two players hit for the triple crown: Ted Williams (twice) and Mickey Mantle. The changes in this era went beyond the game itself, but I’m assuming the pitching was able to adjust to the new rules established in the Lively Ball Era.
The Expansion Era (1961-1976) followed, which came with an enlarged strikezone, and predictably, a reduction in offensive output. Only Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski hit for the triple crown in this era, and no one has done it since. Perhaps the defining characteristics of the eras that follow offer some explanation.
The Free Agency Era (1977-1993) was characterized mainly by outrageous contracts. About one-third of teams used artificial turf which took emphasis off of the home run ball and resulted in more extra base hits.
The era that I have lived through–the Long Ball Era (1994-2005)–has been characterized by a remarkable increase in home runs. This is attributable to not only steroids, and parks more conducive to home runs.
I’m not sure what era baseball has transitioned into since 2005. Some say the steroids era (though testing was implemented in 2004, so that isn’t really valid). With no-hitters, and even perfect games, becoming more of a commodity, I’d like to call it the era of the pitcher, but this might just be a unique year.
It does not really make sense that no one has won the triple crown since 1967 if offensive production has sky-rocketed. I think that the use of steroids have had an obvious effect on the statistics. It’s no longer one person dominating the league for a year. Many players are capable of hitting copious amounts of home runs and RBIs and hitting for a high average. It seems like guys are continually beating each other out. At the end of the season, Carlos Gonzalez might be leading in batting average, Pujols in home runs, and Votto in RBIs–and the disparity might only be one or two points.
I would like to see one of these guys hit for the triple crown, especially now that baseball has transitioned out of the steroids era. It would not have felt right had someone hit for the triple crown in the steroid era because nearly nothing was pure. I see Pujols, Votto, Gonzalez, and Cabrera (the main AL contender) as pure baseball players that embody what baseball is supposed to be about. 2010 has been an amazing year for baseball. We have seen no-hitters, perfect games, a perfect game that should have been, and a triple crown would be the icing on perhaps the most exciting baseball season I have ever had the pleasure of watching.
I think that I speak on behalf of many baseball fans when I say that my favorite day of the year is Opening Day. Because, well, there’s something about opening day. I have a second favorite day of the year, though: September 1. In fact, September might just be my favorite month of the season.
Towards the end of August, it becomes quite clear which teams are in the hunt for October. The month of September is all about the final push. I see it as the most crucial month of the season. However, that doesn’t mean that the games in September are any more important then they were in, say, May, for example. I think what I’m trying to say is that each team is in a certain position at the beginning of September. What each team has done until that point has affected their respective playoff berth chances. Some teams have an almost definite chance at making it, some teams are on the line, some teams’ hopes are slowly, painfully dwindling away, and some teams simply won’t make it. From that point at the beginning of September, the outcome of each game will affect where you are in October: on the field, or watching from the couch.
I won’t beat around the bush here: the Red Sox have a very slim chance of making it into October. I know that there is nearly an entire month of baseball left, but statistically speaking, it is highly improbable. Not only would the Red Sox have to win nearly every game from here on out, but also, the Yankees and Rays would have to cooperate and lose some games, which they simply don’t do.
Regardless of whether or not the Red Sox make the playoffs, I will not consider this a wasted season, or even a disappointing season. Rather, I would consider it frustrating. The Red Sox are in no way, shape, or form a bad team. They are a very unlucky team. Everyone I have spoken with this season is absolutely flabbergasted by the copious amount of injuries. I’m usually not one to make excuses; in fact, I’ll be the first to admit if the Red Sox play bad baseball, which they sometimes do. However, when Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia–4/9ths of the opening day lineup–are out for the rest of the season, that certainly hurts. When Josh Beckett–the man considered by many to be the staff’s ace–is out for 10+ weeks, it doesn’t help.
I won’t blame everything on injuries though. I’m happy to speak of instances where the Red Sox haven’t played smart baseball. I’m not here for harsh criticism, I’m here for constructive criticism. When you have runners on first and second with no outs, there is no excuse for not bunting. Small ball wins games. You sacrifice an out to get two runners into scoring position. Also, the Red Sox have been absolutely sparse on the base paths. As soon as Ellsbury comes out of the lineup, we stop stealing! There have also been some mental slips on Francona’s part as well. One of the most obvious instances, in my opinion, was when he brought Clay Buchholz out for the eighth inning when he was over 100 pitches. Next thing that happens? A home run to tie the game. He has done that on many an occasion this year.
Francona also is obsessed with lefty-lefty match-ups. I have discussed this with @TheRealMBB many a time. We don’t hire Francona to read a book full of statistics. I can do that. We hire him to trust his gut. Baseball goes beyond statistics. You go with the guy who is throwing the ball the best, and that is final.
A playoff berth is improbable. But in baseball, things that are improbable tend to become probable more than often. Take yesterday (Sunday), for example. The Red Sox took a 5-3 lead into the top of the ninth. In fact, they had a two run lead in the top of the ninth with two outs, and their storied closer, Jonathan Papelbon, was on the mound. Be honest with yourself. When you were watching that game, you thought the Red Sox were going to win. There was no way the White Sox were going to come back and tie that game–let alone score four runs.
I always say that I like baseball because anything can happen. Literally. Anything. That came back to bite me in the **** yesterday. The Red Sox are 10 games back from first place. They are 7.5 games out of the wild card. Statistically speaking, it’s improbable. But as I said earlier, baseball goes beyond statistics. There is so much in this game that goes beyond baseball. Anything can happen.
There is another thing that I really like about September, though. Perhaps even more than the hunt for October: expanded rosters. This is where my projects come in and make a difference, just like I predicted all the way back in Spring Training. This is when I feel like a proud mother every time I get a tweet saying that somebody is en route to Boston.
It’s surreal for me to see Dustin Richardson, Felix Doubront, Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava, Josh Reddick, Lars Anderson, and Michael Bowden (soon, anyway) on the roster at the same time. It’s even more surreal to realize that I’ve had a conversation with each and every one of them. I had the chance to tell them, in person, that I was impressed with what they had done in the minors, and that I knew that they were going to be good, and that I had faith that they would be up in Boston soon. I feel like a proud mother. There is nothing in this world that could top that for me.
The Red Sox have had a copious amount of injuries this season. Because of all the casualties, many minor league prospects, and some veterans, have been given the chance to show what they can do. Had Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, and Jeremy Hermida maintained a relatively healthy season, there is no way that the Red Sox would have seen Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava, or Ryan Kalish. Sometimes I wonder if these guys–in the back of their minds–hope for injuries so that they can have a shot.
To be honest, I never expected Ryan Kalish to be up this year at all. Not because he is a bad athlete or anything, but because how meticulous the Red Sox are when it comes to development. He started the year in Double-AA Portland, and he was performing at a very high level. No doubt that he was going to be moved up to Pawtucket, right? Kalish transitioned seamlessly from Portland to Pawtucket–considered by some to be the toughest jump. I think Kalish was called up because the Red Sox were unsure of what they had in Reddick. Believe me, I think that he is full of potential, he just hasn’t had the at-bats to prove it yet. He has been producing exponentially better since he changed his mechanics after the All-Star Break.
The point I’m trying to make is that Ryan Kalish started the season in Double-AA, and now he is in the big leagues. I like to think that I have taken a similar path over the past couple of months. As you know, I worked in both Pawtucket and Portland this past summer. I was afforded unbelievable opportunities that gave me incredible access. I never expected to have that kind of access in the major leagues for a really long time.
Those of you who have seen my pictures on Twitter and Facebook may be wondering how I got that kind of access. Basically, Subway is sponsoring this webcast that is going to be an app on Facebook and on youtube called “High School Heroes” (that might just be the working title). I think what they are trying to do is find kids around the country who are just really passionate about something, and they are just really into it. So they wanted to follow me around at a baseball game and kind of see what I normally do. Stalking a stalker, right? Here is the catch, though. Somehow, Subway was able to get me an all-access (minus the clubhouse) media pass for before the game, and even an interview with a player to be named later (my favorite expression…) I was allowed on the field during batting practice.
I think the objective was for me to have easier access to the players to ask for pictures and what not. The only thing is that when I get a press pass, I switch into professional mode, but this was kind of difference. This press pass wasn’t to get me the kind of access that I got when I was at Pawtucket/Portland. This press pass to get me the kind of access I had at, say, the minor league complex, but with the major league players.
The first thing I did with this access was finally show Dustin Pedroia my Dustin Pedroia salsa. I didn’t have him sign it, though, because I was still kind of figuring out exactly how I was supposed to behave (for lack of a better word) with this pass. It was mainly an opportunity to discuss it with him.
I decided to ask Big Papi for a picture. Never hurts to ask, right? There were some fans with pre-game access badges behind home plate, and he was over there as well, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to ask.
Then I asked Jacoby Ellsbury for a picture. Obviously, he wasn’t playing in the game, but he was still taking batting practice. He was one of the nicest guys I met that day. It seemed like he cared about who I was, he wasn’t as dismissive as some of the other guys were (understandably so).
I also got a picture with Victor Martinez. It was absolutely surreal to be less than a foot away from these guys. I wasn’t separated by a fence, and security could not do anything to me. There were tons of fans around hoping for autographs too. Because I was where the players were, I now know that yes, they can hear you, but they choose to ignore you. It’s understandable because they have a job, it’s just annoying realizing that some of my efforts of the past have been futile. Luckily, if you’re on the field, they don’t ignore you as much.
Emperor Felix was also kind enough to pose for a picture on his way back from shagging balls in the outfield. Unfortunately, Michael Bowden was sent down that very same day, which was really frustrating because I had been really looking forward to talking to him. I wanted to tell him that I plan on writing my college essay about my first interview with him. The prompt is to describe a significant experience and its impact on you. I didn’t realize how big of an impact it had had on me until I was writing the essay.
As Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish were jogging in, I asked them for a picture, and they said they would do it after batting practice. Before Nava went to batting practice, though, I was able to tell him how I was at his Double-AA debut. I was even able to show him the notes that I had from the game. We were talking about the first hit he got on that level and he said, “the ball found [him]” which I thought was really cool.
Darnell and Clay
(click the link for the picture via @RedSoxDoll, check out her blog here)
The interview with the “player to be named later” was Darnell McDonald. I was so excited to interview him, but at the same time, I was really nervous because I had no time to prepare the questions. I had found out about it about an hour and a half before. Luckily, I had my notebook filled with various questions from my interviews in Portland.
McDonald is honestly one of the best guys I have ever interviewed. He is such a great conversationalist, and he seemed really genuine and sincere about everything. You can listen to the audio here:
I asked him about his favorite major league experience. I assumed it would be either Opening Day with the Cincinnati Reds in 2009, or his debut with the Red Sox, so I listed those two options, but I obviously left it open for something else. He said his favorite moment was at one of the San Francisco games this past summer. In fact, I was at the game. Before the game, a young boy with cancer had given him a blue band, which he was still wearing. In his very first at-bat that day, he hit a home run. I remember being there for that home run, but I never realized it had that much significance to him. That was certainly beyond baseball.
I had access to the press box during the game as well, so that was incredible. I had never been in a major league press box, and I didn’t expect to be in one until after college. This was a nice taste. In the press dining area, I had the chance to speak with Amalie Benjamin, a writer for the Boston Globe. She was very genial, and she told me that she went to Northwestern (currently in my top two choices). Although she didn’t go to the Medill School of Journalism, she used all of its resources. I really enjoyed talking to her because I admire her writing, and she is someone that I look up to considering she is a successful female sports journalist.
I did not feel all that lost in the press box considering I had been in one a couple of times before. The only thing was that I didn’t have my laptop, but I was fine. I tried to keep track of all of the pitches in my notebook, and I kept score as well. I am definitely getting used to this.
There was only one bad part of the night. The fact that Scott Atchinson gave up a walk off home run to Dan Johnson. My father and I had driven four hours to see the Red Sox lose, and then we had to drive all the way back after a pretty devastating loss. It was such a great baseball game to watch, though. A great pitcher’s duel between Garza and Buchholz, and just back and forth baseball that kept me on the edge of my seat (even though I had to maintain some level of objectivity in the press box). I think the pros outweighed the cons in this case.
The kinds of opportunities that I have been getting for the past few months have been out of this world. I can’t thank the people of the various media relations departments enough to trust that I will be responsible with this kind of access. I don’t know if it all has set in yet. It’s really hard for me to believe that all this is happening, but I just try to go with the flow. I really think that it’s all a matter of taking every opportunity that you can get.
Sorry for the lack between entries. I intended to write about my Portland adventures much sooner, but I went on a fairly impromptu trip to North Carolina to visit some colleges. I have to tell you, I absolutely loved everything about UNC Chapel Hill: It’s a beautiful campus, Franklin Street is just the kind of “downtown” I’m looking for, its school spirit is unparalleled, and its journalism program is fantastic.
but I mean it’s not really… I can hit every pitch, it depends on how they throw
it, when they throw it, where they throw it… If they throw a slider away, and I
don’t recognize it. Just depends where it is, when it is, the quality of it.” I really hope this isn’t a “breach of trust” or whatever. The only reason I’m publishing it is because when he said it, I was thinking: ‘Wow, his confidence is impressive. He’ll try anything.” If he had said a specific pitch, I would not have written it.
not set, and he throws it, and youre not set, and well don’t swing cuz youre not
gonna be able to do anything with it, but there’s times when I’ll just look at
it and try to time it.
fastball for the most part, gear up for fastball, lookin for it, if it’s not
there you just swing thorugh it or don’t swing
starter I’ll try to see a couple more pitches my first at-bat just to see what
he’s like. But the relievers, I mean guy is in the bullpen for a reason. They
don’t have the stuff that starters do. I don’t want to say easier, but you like
to get to the bullpen.
E: Is there a mentality change for you if you have men on base, if there are a certain amount of outs in an inning, or if there’s a difference in the score?
AR: Guy on third, if a guy leaves an offspeed pitch up, I don’t
care where it is, I’ll swing so I can drive him in. just get a fly ball to
center or wherever. One out, two out, just try and get on base.
E: If you’re trying to get a fly ball or a ground ball, do you swing differently?
AR: Pitches up ball, fly ball, down, ground ball
E:Favorite ballpark? (Majors, then minors)
AR: Fenway/Hadlock Field
E: If you could play catch with any player of all time, who would you choose?
AR: Babe Ruth
E: Biggest transition from aluminum to wooden bats?
AR: It’s weighted differently,
the wood bats. But in high school I swung wood bats a lot, so it wasn’t really
E: Hypothetically speaking, if you’re in a slump, how long do you want before changing your mechanics?
AR: It’s really all mental: slumps. It’s nothing mechanical for
the most part. Guys got here cuz they’re good. You can’t be too mechanical or
else you’re not gonna succeed. It’s really mental.
E: Favorite video game, movie, and food
AR: Call of Duty 4, Superbad, Pasta (rigatoni)
E: Favorite restaurant in Miami?
AR: Cafe Bella Sera
Ryan Khoury Interview
E: Favorite team growing up?
RK: Seattle Mariners
E: Favorite player?
RK: Ken Griffey Jr
E: Did you try to emulate his stance?
RK: Not really as far as stance, but I had a Ken Griffey Jr
outfield glove as my infield glove when I was 11, but I just had to have it
because it had Ken Griffey’s name on it.
Like Anthony, I also asked Ryan about his easiest and hardest pitch to hit. He also said straight fastball for easiest, but he did have an answer for the most difficult pitch to it, so I won’t mention that. That doesn’t mean he is any less of a ballplayer, it just means that some pitches are harder to hit than others.
E: Does the count have an impact on your at-bat?
RK: Once you move up to higher levels here, and especially
triple-A, pitchers obviously have more control and they’re willing to throw
off speed pitches in counts when they’re behind and you’re ahead. Like maybe a
2-0 count. But in college ball and in the low minors you’re pretty much gonna
see a fastball 100% because they want to throw something that they can throw a
strike with. But when you move up that starts to get less and less. When youre
in the lower minors you can kind of figure out what they’re gonna throw by the
count. Usually if theyre behind in the count they’ll come with a fastball cuz
they don’t want to walk people but it definitely has an impact and obviously
the scouting reports we have on guys we keep track of what they throw when
theyre ahead in the count, behind in the count so that helps us out a lot.
E: Hardest level transition?
RK: My first year I went from Lowell to Pawtucket cuz one of the
guys retired so I was supposed to go in for a day or two, but it ended up being
longer so that ended up being interesting. But I guess I’d say from High-A to
Double-AA. It’s just kind of what I was talking about before, just that they
pitch you a little bit differently, they have more control, and they’re able to
throw their offspeed pitches for strikes and they’ll throw it at any count. Kind of low minors you see straight fastballs and up here you see cutters and
two seamers, which is still a little bit of a fastball it just has some
movement on it, so that’s probably the biggest difference
E:Does it take you long to adjust to a new manager?
RK: Every manager that I’ve been with has been pretty much the
same they just kind of let you go and do your thing, and they’ll help you out a
little bit, but I haven’t really had anyone that I’ve had to adjust to or they
make you adjust to them
E: Difference between facing starters, relievers, and closers?
RK: Starters for the most part are they have a little bit higher
arsenal of pitches obviously because they have to face more batters so they
need to get through the lineup once or twice at least where as middle relievers
only have to face only have to go one inning or two, they’re only facing you
one time so they don’t need to have you know the four or five different pitches
and then closers obviously are probably gonna go with their two best pitches
maybe a third because they just need to get three outs so theres definitely a
difference in kind of their pitch repertoires.
E: Is there a mentality change for you if you have men on base, if there are a certain amount of outs in an inning, or if there’s a difference in the score?
RK: We work a lot on when we are in those pressure situations
how we deal with pressures to not really think of the situation. I mean obviously if there is a
guy on third and no outs you change your approach a little bit to where you
want to get a flyball to the outfield or to get a sac fly if you don’t get a
hit but as far as changing your approach we try to stay fairly similar in our
at bats in those different situations.
E: If you could play catch with any baseball player of all time?
RK: Ken Griffey Jr. or Bob Gibson
E: Favorite video game, movie, food.
RK: NCAA Football/Step Brothers/Enchiladas or chicken and rice or sushi
E: Biggest fear?
RK: Not having fun in life and not really getting out of life
whatever comes your way. I mean I don’t really set specific, exact goals of what
exactly I want to do because life is always kind of changing. Kind of not
appreciating life and not having fun and living in the moment.
pregame Expo Interview.MP3: This is the interview that was on the radio before Weiland’s game. I was able to interview Weiland the day following his start. I didn’t want to interview him just because he threw so well. I had wanted to interview him before because I think he is highly underrated and constantly overlooked.
Kyle Weiland interview
E: Favorite food, movie, book, video game
KW: Prime rib/Bull Durham/Scar Tissue/Call of Duty 5
E: Biggest fear?
E: Impact of having an extra day off, or having to sit through a rain delay on your mentality?
KW: You just have to make adjustments especially in this league
especially early around theres a lot of switching around it’s just something
you have to get used to. Don’t let it affect you. Same approach next day. Delay
keep your mind occupied until it’s time to get after it.
E: Do you change your approach when pitching from the stretch?
KW: Last year was when I learned actually pitching with guys on
base it’s something you acquire to be able to hold baserunners on and be able
to make quality pitches still from the stretch. Something I worked on last year
and this year it has kind of become second nature instead of something that’s
on the back of my mind.
E: Did you ever bat in college?
KW: I got one at-bat in college. I’m batting 1.000 in college. First
pitch I went up there swining. I got a base hit through the hole in left. I hit
a lot in high school I was probably a better hitter than pitcher in my senior
E: Do you miss it?
KW: Not watching these guys in this league pitch I don’t think
id be very successful in the box
E: How is running the bases different from sprinting (theoretically)?
KW: I think you can accidentally just go a little overboard and
not know it just because adrenaline is going and it’s not something youre used
to do it and youre gonna give it all your effort.
KW: If I wear a certain pair of socks the start before and it was
a good outing then I wear them the next time.
E: I noticed your changeball working well last night, and you were getting a lot of outs with it. Is that your out pitch?
KW: I would definitely say that my curveball is the out pitch.
My changeup was working last night and that allowed me to use my fastball and
E: Sox Prospects describes your curveball as a “slurve.” Do you agree with that? How do you describe it?
KW: It depends on the day. Sometimes it’s more slurvely,
sometimes it’s more up and down. I don’t fight to get a certain pitch one
outing. Whatever comes up that day that’s what I adjust to.
*This is where my makeshift recorder dies*
E: I’ve seen so many pitchers throw badly, why do you think that is?
KW: Probably adjusting from a 60 foot throw to a 30 foot throw.
E: Difference between facing batters with aluminum vs wooden bats?
KW: If you jam guys with aluminum bats, they can still muscle it out in college, but it breaks in pro.
E: Toughest level jump and why?
KW: Toughest was the beginning because I skipped Greenville. I put too much pressure on myself. I learned how to pitch last year.
E: What do you mean by that?
KW: Basically making adjustments if a pitch isn’t working. Especially at this level.
E: Biggest thing you got out of spring training?
KW: Watching the big leaguers.
E: Hobbies in down time?
KW: Video games and guitar
E: If you weren’t playing baseball, what would you be doing instead?
KW: Finishing my anthropology major.
I started to become a lot more comfortable sitting in the press box. I was all set up with my laptop and my notebook. I would look up statistics before a game, and the starters’ arsenal, so I could identify each pitch. They give you a lot of resources in the press box like game notes, which give you interesting, misc. tidbits about the game. It’s really quite helpful to look through it before a game.
Everyone in the press box was very kind. I even got to meet Dick Berardino, who is currently a player development consultant for the Red Sox, and has been a part of the organization for a long time. Carl Beane, the PA announcer at Fenway, as also around, so I was able to meet him as well.
What I really appreciated from Mr. Cameron and Mr. Antonellis was not only how welcoming they were, but how much they seemed to trust me. They really let me do a lot of hands on things. The fact that they trusted me enough to write official game stories and do pregame interviews really meant the world to me. And let me tell you, the view from the press box there is nothing short of spectacular.
“Is this heaven?” John Kinsella asks as he takes in the flawless baseball field.
I’ve experienced a similar scenario with speaking with players. When guys like Dustin Richardson and Michael Bowden are called up, they still remember me from spring training, and I think that really helps with the trust/comfort factor.
Well, it has certainly been a while. I am actually writing this from the press box at Hadlock Field–where the Portland Sea Dogs play. I have a lot of stories to catch everyone up on, the next few entries won’t really correlate with what I’m doing at the moment. I was lucky enough to spend July 19 and 20 in Pawtucket. The first night I shadowed radio broadcaster Steve Hyder, and the second night I shadowed ProJo reporter Brian MacPherson. I swear I learned more in those two days in Pawtucket than I did all year (and I’m sure Portland will offer a similar experience). I had my first press pass, and that basically gave me all access. I was able to go into the clubhouse and locker room, sit in on press conferences with PawSox manager Torey Lovullo (and even ask him a question), as well as sit in on interviews/talks with Lars Anderson, Josh Reddick, and even Jeremy Hermida (who was there on a rehab assignment). Unfortunately, I was not able to see Michael Bowden or Dustin Richardson. Bowden was called up the day before my first day in Pawtucket, and while I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see him, I am more than thrilled that he is getting his well-deserved chance to be in Boston’s bullpen. Richardson was optioned to Pawtucket after my last day.
and it was only $10. Granted I bought it from a street vendor about a block away from the park who may or may not have been sketchy, but it was irresistible.
It was a pretty significant day in the baseball world today. Felix Doubront made his first career start for the Red Sox. Stephen Strasburg made his third major league start (overkill, I know). Mike Stanton, who is living in Strasburg’s shadow (in a way) hit a grand slam. Oh, and Manny Ramirez stepped up to the plate at Fenway Park.
Emperor. What do you guys think?
The last time the Red Sox were in Miami was
the summer of 2006. The closest they have been since then is when they played
the Orioles, whose facility was in Fort Lauderdale, in Spring Training last
year. Then they decided to make my life difficult by moving to Sarasota. Otherwise, the closest the Red Sox have been is Fort Myers, which is about
two-and-a-half hours from where I am. And those games don’t even count. So if I
want to see a Red Sox game in Florida that actually counts, I have to drive to
Tampa unless the gods of Interleague play decide to work in my favor.
Those of you familiar with the Florida terrain
know that any drive across or up the state is absolutely boring. There are no
hills or mountains, no really big cities that you can see from the highway:
nothing. You might see a group of cattle every now and then. And no, driving
through the Everglades is not cool. You will not see a panther, nor will you
see an alligator. You will only see trees.
A four hour drive through this kind of terrain
doesn’t sound fun, but the ends clearly justify the means. A normal person
would have spent the night in Tampa, and maybe driven back the next day. It’s not that I’m not normal, it’s just that I didn’t have that option. You see, this series came at probably the most
inconvenient time for me: finals week. I decided that my best option was to go
to the last game of the series, on Wednesday night, because I only had my
French final the next day.
So after my Pre-Calculus final, my dad and I
hopped in the car and we were off. Google maps says that the drive is about
four-and-a-half hours. Somehow, we made it in about three-and-a-half. We
arrived before the gates opened, so we waited in line for a bit. When they were
checking my bag, they almost didn’t let me bring my Dustin Pedroia salsa
inside, but it ended being alright.
Those who work at Tropicana Field are very
clever. They open the inside of the stadium itself at 5:10 pm, but they don’t
let you in to the seating sections until 5:40. Basically, they want you to buy
stuff. Honestly, I do not feel like I’m in a baseball stadium when I am at the
Trop; I feel like I’m at some stupid carnival. It’s air-conditioned, and
it just doesn’t feel like a real baseball stadium. My father and I didn’t
weight our options quite well enough for food. We basically stopped at the
first place we saw, and we got these sausages with peppers and onions on top.
They were fairly decent, but nothing like the sausages at City of Palms
We were finally let in to the seating bowl, I
went straight to the dugout. I’m pretty sure that the security guard decided I
was mildly insane as soon as I put my Dustin Pedroia salsa (which expired in
February) on the dugout. Well, Dustin Pedroia did not sign my Dustin Pedroia
salsa. But I was able to get Darnell McDonald’s signature (he was the only guy
that signed). His signature looks a little bit different now than it did during
the Spring, but not by much.
We had great seats: twelve rows behind the Red
Sox dugout. I found it a bit weird that we were row ‘W’ though, yet we were 12
rows back. The Rays clearly do not know their alphabet. Luckily our row was
filled entirely with Red Sox fans, and they were absolutely great to converse
with. Even the two Rays fans in front of us–season ticket holders since
1999–were very kind. The cowbells weren’t even that obnoxious. I’d be willing
to bet that opposing teams, and especially opposing pitchers, hate playing at the Trop.
I really just do not like Tropicana Field. I understand the necessity of retractable roofs for stadiums located in areas where it always rains. But a dome? Baseball was not meant to be played indoors. Billy Crystal says, “There’s a very peaceful thing: it was created and played in pastures and
meadows. There’s grass, there’s outdoors, there’s everything that people though
was American and feel about America.” The Trop just does not make me feel like I’m at a baseball stadium. I wonder what the players think of it; I’ll have to ask one of them. They even give you a weather update, and I’m just sitting there asking myself, ‘How is this at all relevant?”
I was really hoping that the Red Sox would win
the game because driving back four hours after seeing a loss would not have been fun.
I was hoping that Lackey would continue in the streak of stellar outings from
our starters (at that time). He didn’t pitch a gem like Matsuzaka’s one-hitter, or Lester’s
gem, but he pitched well enough for the Red Sox to win, and that’s what counts.
Lackey’s main problem was that he was inefficient with his pitches. Nevertheless, his balls to strikes ratio was significantly better than Matt Garza’s that night.
Adrian Beltre was absolutely on fire this
game. He hit two home runs (the first of which is pictured above), and he was a
double shy of the cycle. He may make errors sometimes, but his bat has been such a valuable part of the lineup. He is among the league leaders in batting average, and has generally been great with runners in scoring position.
David Ortiz hit an opposite field home run, which was great to see. He really turned it around in May, but I still think mild skepticism during April was appropriate (maybe not during the first week, but after that). He simply was not seeing pitches well in April, and he was always getting behind in the count. Ortiz has struggled during June though. He was something like 1-for-24 on this road trip. Some people (like Jon Lester and Mark Teixeira) just aren’t April guys, and maybe Ortiz is just one of those guys now.
Being at that game was such a great birthday present. The Red Sox offense was just so in sync. By the time the game ended, everyone around me was wishing me luck on my French final. I’m pretty sure that the vast majority thought that I was a bit nuts for being in Tampa when I had a final four hours South the next day.
On our way back, my dad and I picked up some 5-hour energy. My dad drank it to keep him alert on the long drive home, and I saved it for the next morning. Believe me, that stuff works, and it actually doesn’t taste too bad. I don’t blame you if you think I’m a little bit crazy for doing this, but I don’t regret it for a second. When my response to “Why do you look like a zombie today?” was “Oh, I was in Tampa last night”, I got some strange looks. If I can’t bring the Red Sox to myself, I’ll bring myself to the Red Sox.
I’m kind of upset that my school wouldn’t let me rearrange my finals though. They let other people do that if they were leaving on vacation, or going to their brother’s graduation… but they wouldn’t let me rearrange my finals for this? This is my life. It disappoints me that some people just cannot accept that this is more than just a game for me. Who are they to decide what has more merit? Going to a baseball game or going to a graduation? It’s completely subjective! Passion is relative.
This is beyond dedication; this is beyond baseball.
“Fate! There is such a thing as fate, but it only takes you so far. Then it’s up to you to make it happen.”