Thursday, October 30, 2014

One Year Ago!

It’s hard to believe that the best Red Sox game I’ve ever been to was just one year ago!

So much has happened since then, including the Sox falling back to the bottom off the division. In some ways that championship feels so long ago.

But, it so many others, it seems like it was only yesterday. There are so many reminders of that wonderful night all around me. Even though they didn’t perform as well, most of the key players were still in Boston this season. Living proof that the championship actually happened. There are videos of it on youtube all over the place. Ways to see the game over and over.

Of course, my house is packed to the gills with championship memorabilia. Every time I see a piece of it, I’m brought back to that game six. Especially one picture. Like everyone else at the game, I had the camera in heavy use the entire ninth inning. During the final at-bat, it was even more rapid fire trying to catch a memorable image. Every time Koji wound up, the clicks went off. Once the game was over, the clicks went crazy again. I really wanted a pig pile picture for the wall, after all. In all the excitement and bouncing around, I never got one that didn’t look like everyone was underwater. I’m actually glad I didn’t. If I had taken the time and made the effort to get a really good shot, I would have missed out on the celebration of the moment. All that emotion would have been hidden away. That would have been a shame.

Besides, I was able to get a better shot.

As luck would have it, my little camera caught the very final swing of the series. Pedroia is airborne as he completes his pre-pitch hop. Koji is in the follow-though. The bat is a blur just over the blur of the pitch crossing the plate. The exact moment of the strike out. Sure, it’s not a professional pic. It even takes a bit to realize that you can see the ball and the bat. But, it’s the moment. The exact moment it became the best game I’d ever been to.

How can I not look at that every day, and smile?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

One Last Day

Yup. Today is the final day this season that the Red Sox will be reigning World Champions.

It a little sad, and a little exciting. Sure, it’s sad because you’d prefer they were still “defending” World Champions. But, alas, a title defense was not in the cards. Things never seemed to get going the way they needed to. We all kept waiting for everything to click into place, but it never did. Once the team was sure of that, they threw in the towel. Hit the do-over button and cut their losses. While it was a smart move, it did not make for exciting September baseball. Which means it’s been a while since the Red Sox have been playing games that mean anything. I definitely preferred the last World Series to this one, for that very reason.

It’s also very exciting. Although by the end of the night they will have lost their crown, they can finally start the process of getting it back. Since we all now know that going from worst to first is possible, it’s exciting to be able to get to see them try again.

What will they do? Who will they sign? Who will they trade? Who will be left? What will the team look like?

All those questions can start to be answered as soon as the World Series concludes. Red Sox fans can stop slogging through a lost season, and start ramping up for the next one. With so many spare parts, this has to be one of the most interesting off-seasons in recent memory. The have to make at least one big trade, just to clear room on the roster. They’ll need to sign a free agent or two, just to fill holes.

They’ll need to decide on a direction for the team. Is this a full-blown youth movements with all the warts that come with it? They could certainly do that. Start a rookie or second year player at about six starting positions, and trade away some veterans. There may be some bumps along the way, but it could be interesting. Or, trade away most of the youth for a veteran team that would be very competitive right now, if not for the long haul. Or a combination of the two with so youth, and experience combined into a single unit.

I can’t wait to see which direction they choose. And it all starts after game seven is over.

Go Royals!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ten Years!

It’s still unbelievable, even if looking back it shouldn’t have been. Do you remember how you felt when that flip landed safely in Mientkiewicz’s glove? My reaction was a little surprising to me. After all, when Luis Gonzalez’s single reached the outfield grass in 2001, I jumped up and danced around the room. That wasn’t even the Sox winning. But, this time, while everyone else was jumping up and down on screen?

I exhaled.

That’s all. I gave out a “phew” and just sat there. Sat there and felt the relief. Sat there watching. Sat there as everything changed around me. Sat there and enjoyed every second of it.

And, everything really did change. I’m not usually one to relate events on a sports field to real life. I get that Curt Schilling wasn’t a “hero.” Being at a no-hitter shouldn’t be the best moment of my life. But, this was different. This was life-altering.

No, not in the “what do I do now?” way that some people actually suggested. I wasn’t once worried about what I would do without the misery of cheering for a loser. I was very happy to transfer into cheering for a Champion. When they did it again a few years later, I knew exactly how to enjoy that one as well. I seamlessly switched to cheering for the top dog, as opposed to the underdog. That wasn’t it.

It was everyone else. Some people thought Boston fans were weird for putting all this stock in a supposed “curse.” We didn’t. Sure, we might have had some fun with it every now and then. But it was everyone else that kept making it a “thing.” After Foulke flipped it to Meintkiewicz, that all had to stop. Yankees fans had to stop that annoying “1918” chant. I never really understood it. Either you were the defending champs, or you weren’t. Everything else was just extra. I guess other than Yankees fans themselves where past success matters. But, for everyone else it didn’t matter how long it had been. Once it got to a few years, it was all the same. But, that was over. They would at least have to come up with a new annoying chant now. Or a new way to hang “K” signs instead of using Babe’s face.

And the networks. Maybe I could watch a nationally televised game again without them harping all over how much bread cost in 1918. How much had that become the easy way out when it came to a Sox broadcast? FOX actually tried to resurrect it last season by making up this streak of not clinching a championship at home since 1918. They already had the stories and the graphics, they just needed a way to work them into the broadcast. Because that’s how long it had been since a home clinch. Get my point? At least they had to try harder now, and be a little bit creative. It all changed.

It was stuff like that, and all the other stuff too. The world was a different place. No more curse of Ruth. No more Buckner replays, like that was in game seven or something. The Red Sox, and me as their fan, had to be treated like every other team and every other teams’ fan. I didn’t once feel like I lost an identity. I felt like I gained a new, better one.

The aforementioned 2007 championship was the perfect example of that. When the Sox went up 3-0 on the Cardinals, I admit that a SMALL part of me had a thought. Wouldn’t it be just like them to be the first MLB team to ever come back from being down 0-3, just to become the second team to ever blow a 3-0 lead, in the very next series! But, I had none of that in 2007. The Sox were down 1-3 to Cleveland, and it was OK. Of course Beckett would be overpowering the next game. He wasn’t going to pitch well during the season only to give it up at the end. Why would he? He’s not Clemens. The past had nothing to do with it. It was all about that team, and what they could do. It was wonderful. It was freeing. It was different.

It was life changing.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

First Fairfield

I went to Target the other day, with a burning desire to open some packs. I looked at the current offerings, and couldn't find anything to strike my fancy. The choices on the shelf seemed a little stale. That's when I noticed the Fairfield repack sitting on the shelf. I had seen other bloggers mention repacks. I mostly saw them talked about as stacks of old cards packaged together. That never really appealed to me. But, these were repacks of packs. That was just what I needed! And, not just packs. 20 packs! Plus, apparently, a hit of some sort. All for the price of a blaster. So, which packs were inside? Here's a look.

Not a bad selection. A little more recent that I was expecting, with a vast majority of the backs from 2013. One thing I was looking forward to as I opened the packs was the prospect of getting some Red Sox inserts I don't have. Since I buy most of my Red Sox cards in set form, the inserts tend to elude me. This was a chance to get some that I had missed.

So, how did I do from those packs? Here are the Red Sox cards that came to me.

Yeah, I don't see any inserts either. Oh well. Certainly can't complain about 2013 cards of the ALCS and World Series MVPs. I love the Hanrahan card too. Remember when he was the Red Sox closer? 

So I didn't make a huge dent in my Red Sox wantlists. I had a lot of fun, and that's really what counts. Because, with these repacks, you can never tell what you're going to get. Check out the lone pack of 2012 Topps Chrome.

I know, those RC aren't worth millions. But, for a pack I didn't know I was getting, I got probably the two best base cards available. Funny how things work out.

Wonder how they'll work out next time.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy 36th John Lackey!

The Red Sox have had several players over the years that have had their relationships with the fans change over the years. An overpaid slug can become a hero with one game six grand slam. An icon can become an outcast after some well-place propaganda. It’s nothing new. But, I’m not sure any player was on quite the roller coaster of John Lackey.

When he was signed, he was seen if not an ace, at least a top addition to the rotation. His first season was pretty mediocre. It was definitely an underwhelming year. The next one was even worse, as he might have been the worst starter ever, statistically speaking. Then, it turned out he was hurt, so suddenly there was a bit more sympathy for the numbers. Then he came back and was the ace of a World Series winner. From adoration to hate to legend. What a ride.

It looks like I was at Fenway for seven Lackey games during his Red Sox career. A couple of them stand out above the others, as I’m sure you can imagine. Specifically two October games.

I had the pleasure of being at the ALDS Game 2 last year when Lackey took on David Price. Lackey pitched well as the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the series.

But that’s not my favorite Lackey start.

If you’re looking for a peak in the roller coaster that was Lackey’s time in Boston, look no further than Game 6 of the 2013 World Series. I was in the stands as Lackey made our dreams come true. He was everything you wanted from a starter in that situation. He even convinced John Farrell to leave him in the game at one point. When he walked off the field to a loud standing ovation, the transformation was complete. I always said I was amazed that JD Drew gave us a curtain call after his 2007 grand slam. If I were him, I would have told the fans to stuff it. The same definitely was true with Lackey. His tip of the cap as he walked off the field was something I’m not sure I could have done. I’m not sure we deserved it. He certainly deserved the ovation, though. He deserves one every time we see him from now on.

A birthday wish is the least we can do.

Happy 36th John Lackey!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Giant Royals

Baseball is back!

That little break since the NLCS has been pretty annoying, hasn’t it? But, finally we get to have baseball again. Even if it’s just for a little while longer.

Not only do I not have a rooting interest in this series, I don’t really have a strong desire for either team to win. It will be a different way to watch a series.

Sure, if I’m pressed, I want the Royals to win. There are quite a few reasons, really, although none of them are particularly great. They haven’t won it in a while, so that would be a better story. It will be nice for the people of Kansas City to feel that again. They’re also the AL team. Unless it’s the Yankees, chances are I’d rather see the AL team win. (Well, maybe if it was the Rays.) The real draw for the Royals, though? The giants currently have two World Championships this century. The Red Sox are the only team with three. So, I’d prefer that the Sox keep that lead. It’s also nice that a Royals win will mean yet another team will have one championship in the century…just like the Yankees.

Like I said, they’re not great reasons.

But, that means I can really enjoy the series. No, not as much as I enjoyed last year’s series. But, I can allow myself to get caught up in the moment, no matter what that moment is.

I’ll also be able to enjoy the fact that neither of the two teams seems to have much of anything that the Red Sox don’t have. I said at the beginning of last year that the 2013 Red Sox seemed a lot like the 2012 Giants, and I couldn’t see why the Sox couldn’t win the World Series as well. The 2014 Royals and Giants make me believe that the Red Sox won’t be too far off in 2015. Neither one has Pedro Martinez as the ace of the staff. So, maybe the Sox can go out this offseason and build a rotation after all. The offense are both solid, but we’re not talking about the 2003 Red Sox here. A key improvement or two might be enough for the Sox to make up the ground. It’s comforting, really. Maybe a worst-to-first-to-worst-to-first isn’t all that far-fetched. I’ll be watching the series to see just what the Sox are missing in order to compete with these two teams.

I don’t think I’ll find much.

Monday, October 20, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2001 Topps Hobby Masters

I’m not sure what qualifies someone as a “hobby master.” But, I’m quite positive that Pedro Martinez met those requirements in 2001. Coming off two of the best seasons a pitcher has ever had, he was a major force in the hobby. Assuming, I suppose, they’re referring to the “baseball card collecting” hobby. The model train collecting hobby? Maybe not so much. But, as far as baseball cards, he was one of the most popular players in the game. So, naturally, Topps included in this insert set.

Which makes sense. The set is so uninspired, it’s only logical that the player selection would be obvious choices. You know someone made a list of the players that they thought would sell cards. Then, instead of trying to sort them into theme sets like “blazing fastballs” or “power packers” they just lumped them into one set. That meant that the design had to be pretty generic, and  it is. Pedro set against some squares and colors. No rhyme or reason. Just background clutter.

The photo selection? Bleh. A generic shot of Pedro getting ready to pitch. Just something Topps had sitting in a file cabinet somewhere. Again, Topps feels that the name of the set is the most important part of the set. Pedro’s name is in the tiny type. Can you find it? Now, hoe about the name of the set? Do you see that? It’s impossible to miss as it takes up about a quarter of the card. Terrible.

And to think…people were supposed to “chase” these inserts.