Thursday, July 30, 2009

Disappointing, but not surprising

Disappointing, but not surprising is the overall sentiment circulating Red Sox Nation Thursday, as news of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 seeped across New England and beyond.

A fair sentiment indeed.

Where to start? Shame on you if you’re actually surprised by the New York Times report. We already knew about Manny. And Papi’s quest from mediocrity to superstardom in the span of one earth rotation was a bit fishy, wasn’t it? It crossed your mind, you just didn’t want to believe it.

The first question is: Does this tarnish the 2004 and 2007 World Series won by Manny and Papi in their primes? A difficult question, the answer being yes and no.

Yes because one day we’ll have to explain to our kids how exciting the end of the drought was in 2004. And they’ll laugh in our faces and tell us that that was when everyone was cheating so it doesn’t count. And they won’t be entirely wrong.

I want the answer to be no, but quite frankly, it isn’t. I want to say, “it’s not a big deal,” but it is. Because it was. Remember how important it was? No seriously, do you? Because I follow the Red Sox probably more closely than you do and I had to think hard to remember.

Remember the “here we go again feeling” when Bernie Williams ripped that double down the right field line, then Posada hit that blooper and stood on second clutching both fists, with Pedro’s head staring at the Yankee Stadium infield?

Remember choking back the tears when Aaron Boone sent Tim Wakefield’s knuckler into the night in the bottom of the eleventh?

And choking back the same tears when Gary Sheffield dented the Monster with the 15th double in a row off Bronson Arroyo in Game 3 in 2004?

And your dad yelling at you to “go to fucking bed, they’re toast” at 12:30 during Game 4.

Remember your heart racing in your throat when Dave Roberts slid in safe at second by the width of your hair?

And Bill Mueller.

And Papi. Twice.

And the grounder to Pokey Reese.

Then the final grounder to Foulke?

It mattered, so don’t say it doesn’t now. It mattered to us like no one else can ever imagine, except maybe Cubs fans. My roommate from L.A. told me recently, “Boston is crazy. High school girls know when Jonathan Papelbon is pitching.”

Good example, Jordan. He’s the closer. But you get the point.

Of course, there were at least 102 others, including Alex Rodriguez who were cheating in 2003, too. It’s not as if the Red Sox were the only ones breaking the rules en route to champinshipdom. It wasn’t an equal playing field in relation to other eras, but if as many players were doping as we think there were, the playing field was equal, just artificially raised to a new level.

Still, the purity of reversing the curse is all but gone, along with Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire’s dignity.

Aside from that, there are two other subplots that bother me as much as the now-tainted banners that sit in Fenway Park.

One is “the list.” Why is it OK that A-Rod, Manny, and Ortiz’s names get leaked and no one else’s? To their defense, this list was supposed to be confidential, created by Major League Baseball to find out how big of an issue steroids were in order to clean up the game. I think that the confidentiality of the list is utter bullshit in the first place, but a deal is a deal, and that was the agreement. But as soon as A-Rod’s name was leaked, it instantly became unfair – as much as I despise him – that he was singled out, merely because of his name and $252 million contract.

It’s only fair to see the rest of the list. Time to make it public.

Second, I fear hypocrisy about to reek in Red Sox Nation. We laughed at the “Mannywood” signs and how the LaLa Land dwellers accepted Manny back so quickly, so easily. We thought it was a joke. “What do they know about sports, in L.A.?” we thought. “He cheated!”

Now what? We’d be hypocrites to forgive Papi in an instant after scoffing SoCal for doing so with No. 99. But you know what’s coming. Look what happened when he hit the game-winning homer Thursday.

Irony? You couldn’t have scripted it any better.

And now we’re left feeling empty once again, with 101 unknown names left to uncover. Are Damon, Pedro, Schilling, Trot Nixon included? Does it even matter anymore?

Thursday was another sad day for baseball. Sad because we can’t turn the page and even worse for Red Sox Nation, as 2004 and 2007 will forever be tarnished, at least in the minds of the objective ones.

We suspected but we never knew for sure. We wanted David Ortiz to be the one clean one, as he’s insisted so frequently and so adamantly. Nope, we were wrong.

But don’t say you didn’t see this day coming. You did. We all did. We just never wanted it to be true.

Thursday's NESN links:

NFL Notebook: Will the Giants Reign Supreme in the NFC -- or Will the Cowboys Finally Get it Together?

Jones Reports to Jets Camp, Washington Doesn't

Wednesday's NESN links a day late:

Wherever He May Go, Halladay Changes Playoff Picture

Patriots Ready to Go Camping

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yankees Have New Hole to Fill in Center

Note: This was written to view on, but I essentially forgot about Melky Cabrera. But I thought I'd show it here, in case Cabrera catches the swine flu and this somehow becomes relevant before Friday's deadline.

Brett Gardner’s broken thumb has opened up a spot in the Yankee outfield, specifically center field. The question now, is: how do they fill that void?

The first option is that the Yankees could do some shifting from within. Both Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher have center field experience, but neither has played there since September of last season. Damon used to be an everyday center fielder, but his range isn’t half what it used to be when he was in a Red Sox, Royals or A’s uniform. And Swisher can play just about anywhere on the diamond, including the pitcher’s mound.

"I could do it," Swisher told, in reference to playing center field. "I don't know about every day, but I could do it."

If the Yankees were to move Damon or Swisher to center, it would then open up either left or right field, respectively. That spot could either be filled by recently acquired Eric Hinske or the aging Hideki Matsui. Neither seems like an ideal everyday solution fort Joe Girardi’s first-place club.

The Yankees currently have eight pitchers in their bullpen, but one could easily be replaced by a Triple-A outfielder to take Gardner’s place in order to keep Damon and Swisher in their respective corners. Shelley Duncan, Ramiro Pena, John Rodriguez and Austin Jackson could all be promoted from Scranton to play center field in the Bronx. Jackson is Scranton’s current everyday center fielder and one of the Yankees’ top non-pitching prospects. He is hitting .313 with four home runs, 39 RBIs and 17 stolen bases with Scranton this season.

Or, of course the Yankees could trade for a center fielder before Friday’s trade deadline.

There are no obvious center fielders on the trade market that could immediately be worthwhile for the Yankees to acquire in the next three days. But, because of the team’s financial situations, Rays left fielder Carl Crawford’s name has come up as possible post-2009 trade bait. But it is unlikely that Tampa Bay will unload the league’s stolen base leader in the midst of a pennant race.

However, while the Yankees are in Tampa Bay, CC Sabathia is joining Crawford on Wednesday in an event aimed at encouraging young African Americans to play baseball.

But even if CC convinces Crawford that he’d look good in pinstripes, he’ll have to coax Rays GM Andrew Friedman that Tampa Bay can still compete without Crawford and his .308 BA, 65 runs and 47 steals, not to mention his gold glove-caliber defensive skills.

Don’t count on it.

Tuesday's NESN link:

Could Mets Really Be Buyers at the Deadline?

Monday, July 6, 2009

I need your help

I'm compiling a list for NESN of sports blogs and sites that cover teams in the same divisions as Boston sports teams, especially New York teams. So if you read about the Yankees, Orioles, Maple Leafs, 76ers, Senators, Knicks, Blue Jays, etc. send me the best destinations via comments here. Thanks for your help.

Busy preparing for the NESN relaunch

Thus only one link today:

Even after win, Tiger in queue behind Federer