Being fired

It is the summer of being fired.  The man who made the phrase “you’re fired!” was fired from a bunch of stuff:  The Apprentice, Macy’s, NBC, and the list goes on.  But Donald Trump has not been fired by the Republican Party.  There is a way to go before the first caucuses and primaries so there is time, but as long as he stays at 25% of the Republican vote it will be hard to fire him as a candidate.

But there was another Don fired this summer in Boston.  Don Orsillo, the Red Sox television play-by-play announcer.  The public announcement was made in a very ungracious way by NESN and the Red Sox brass while Don was on the air.  We can only suppose that he had been told in advance.  Chad Finn wrote in his column for Boston.com

We’re veteran bickerers and dedicated cynics around here – hell, it’s why two sports radio stations are not just sustainable but successful in Boston. We can’t get a consensus on which glove Hanley Ramirez should take to work each day, and yet the support for Orsillo is overwhelming. It says something about the man, I think. It’s a remarkable tribute.

The genesis of the consensus and the disappointment is fundamental. You feel like you’ve lost a friend.

Orsillo has been a television voice of the Red Sox since 2001 and the sole TV voice since 2005, when the excellent Sean McDonough’s tenurecalling the team’s games met a similarly graceless end.

To add the icing to the not so edible cake was the lack of comment from the Red Sox management.  When Tom Werner finally spoke he basically said nothing.  Steve Buckley wrote in the Boston Herald

It was going to be impossible for the Red Sox and NESN to move the popular and talented Don Orsillo out of the television booth without there being a major public outcry.

Still, the situation could have been handled better — with better timing and a whole lot more candor. But the news of Orsillo’s ouster was leaked out, as often happens in these cases, and then Red Sox/NESN management got quiet instead of getting out in front of the story.

Which brings us to the question of the day: Why, exactly, is Orsillo being replaced?

The answer, in the opinion of Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and NESN president/CEO Sean McGrail, is that they believe Dave O’Brien, currently the play-by-play man on the radio side, will be an upgrade.

Don Orsillo

Don Orsillo

I listen to the radio quite a bit and, yes, Dave O’Brien is good.  But the combination of Orsillo and Jerry Remy is what I call entertainment.  I don’t want to debate the merits of various play-by-play announcers, but to pay tribute to Don Orsillo.

Don Orsillo has stayed on the air without betraying any of the bitterness he has a right to feel.  Unlike the Red Sox owners, he is a consummate professional.  He will land on his feet somewhere and that will be Boston’s loss.  I wish him well.

 

19 Innings

Last night I came home from a wonderful concert to find the Boston Red Sox up 1 on the Yankees.  I watched for an hour or so  as the Sox held on to the 3-2 lead.  The Boston Globe reports

The Sox took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Edward Mujica, filling in as closer in place of Koji Uehara, got two outs before falling behind Chase Headley. Mujica left a 90-mph fastball up and over the plate, and Headley lined it into the second deck in right field.

It was a terrible pitch in any situation, but especially with the game on the line.

It was the first earned run allowed by a Red Sox reliever this season, the streak ending at 10 innings. Uehara could be activated off the disabled list as soon as Monday and his return will be welcomed.

The New York Times reported it this way

Three times the Yankees scored in their last at-bats to keep the game alive, beginning with Chase Headley’s two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth, but they could not do it a fourth time when Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts scooped up Garrett Jones’s smash up the middle and started a game-ending double play.

The game dragged on so long that Mark Teixeira, who was 34 when it began, had turned 35 by the time it was over. By the end, there were only several thousand hearty souls in the stadium, which was so quiet that when a few fans broke out “Let’s go, Yankees” chants, they carried far enough for the players to hear.

Soon after the Chase Headley homer, I retreated to bed and to the radio.  At some point I dozed off and woke up to a report of a conference of the umpires that no one could explain.  I thought maybe someone had discovered some long forgotten curfew rule.  But no, it was the lights.  Because they went out first behind the broadcasting booth, the radio guys couldn’t tell.  The Times writes

As if the game were not already long enough, it was delayed in the 12th inning when nine banks of lights went out at the stadium, leaving the field dimly lit. It took 16 minutes for the lights to regenerate and for play to resume. The Yankees said the outage had been caused by a power surge through the stadium.

In inning 16, David Ortiz hit a homer breaking the tie and putting the Sox up.  But then as the Globe reported

Switch hitter Mark Teixeira [the Birthday Boy], batting righthanded against the righthanded Wright and his knuckleball, homered to left field in the bottom of the inning to tie the game.

I turned the radio off after the Teixerira’s homer.  The game, however, continued.

The Sox went up, 5-4, in the 18th inning on an RBI single by Pablo Sandoval. The Yankees tied it on a double by Carlos Beltran that Hanley Ramirez misplayed in left field.

Luckily, the Sox have some young guys.

Two young players had enough energy to win the game for the Sox. Xander Bogaerts, 22, singled with one out in the 19th inning. After Ryan Hanigan walked and Esmil Rogers threw a wild pitch, 22-year-old Mookie Betts delivered a sacrifice fly to center field.

Bogaerts, who was 4 for 4 in extra innings, easily beat a weak throw by Jacoby Ellsbury.

“I’m glad I was able to do something,” said Betts, who was 1 for 8 and had struck out four times. “I’m just glad we won. That was the best thing that could have happened.”

Bogaerts also helped end the game in the bottom of the inning. With Ellsbury on first and one out, he made a smooth pickup of a ball hit by Garrett Jones to start a double play.

Xander scores the winning run in the 19th.

Xander scores the winning run in the 19th.

Alex Speier from the Globe collected some stats from the 19 innings.  Here are a few.

The 6-hour, 49-minute affair was the longest in Red Sox history and the longest home game in Yankees history. That duration doesn’t include a 16-minute delay for a brief light outage.

■ Xander Bogaerts entered the game with a robust .364/.462/.545 line. Through the first nine innings, he dropped that line to .267/.353/.400. He then reached base in five straight plate appearances — all in extra innings — with a walk and four straight singles in extra innings, boosting his line back up to .421/.500/.526.

■ Per Elias, Bogaerts is the first Red Sox player since at least 1947 with four or more hits in extra innings. Alex Rios, in 2013, was the last big league player to do it.

Betts and Pedroia each had 10 plate appearances, tied for the most by any team member since at least 1914. They joined Jim Rice, Jerry Remy, and Dwight Evans as the only Sox players to hit double-digit plate appearances in a game in that 102-season expanse, with the trio of Rice, Remy, and Evans having done it in a 20-inning, 8-7 home loss to the Mariners on Sept. 3, 1981.

Starters Wade Miley (90) and Nathan Eovaldi (94) combined to throw 184 pitches. Each bullpen then threw more pitches than the two starters combined. Yankees relievers logged 238 pitches. Members of the Red Sox bullpen combined to accumulate 206 pitches. “That’s crazy. That’s insane,” said Miley. Wright got to 78 pitches in his five innings of work for the win. Rogers tallied 81 pitches in 4 2/3 innings.

■ The Yankees bullpen pitched a mid-game shutout, working nine consecutive scoreless innings from the seventh through the 15th inning.

■ The Red Sox left 20 men on base, tied for the fourth-most in a single game since 1945.

I suppose a true fan would have made it to the very end, but I was happy just to wake up this morning and find out the Sox had won.

Photograph:  BILL KOSTROUN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Writer’s block

I’ve been quiet for a few days.  Have lots of things I’m thinking about and have started some posts, but not finished any of them.  Is it because I am depressed and anxious about the upcoming election?  (I keep reading about the evils of a Republican takeover of the Senate and fear that voter turnout will be low.)  Or is it because there is no fall excitement with the Red Sox in the World Series?  (Although I have to say the games have been exciting with the Royals and Giants.)  Maybe I’m suffering from sleep deprivation since I have a cat who has decided she needs attention at 10:30, 11:30 and between 12 and 1 am.  I think she may be having delayed moving anxiety.  Whatever.  I still don’t sleep.

Then I came upon this humor piece from the New Yorker by James Thomas  

Well, here you are, looking at this, trying, hoping, floundering, scrabbling, wishing, dying to find out the mystery of “how to” write a sentence. Or possibly you have tried write sentence and failed utterly.

Ideally, you’ll aim to begin on the left (in this case, with the word “ideally”), head right (through the middle of the sentence), and stop at the far end of the sentence (in this case, right here).

Sentences have been around since the dawn of paragraphs, and indeed since before that, for sentences are essentially the building blobs of a paragraph. Right here, if you’re looking closely enough, you may notice that what you are now reading in fact is a sentence. But also—some will have noticed even more well—what you are reading is a paragraph. And I could go further than that, even, to declare that you are also reading words, letters, and indeed this entire page. Nobody thought you could do it, but here we are now and aren’t you having a good time?

All I need to do according to Mr. Thomas is write a bunch of sentences and blob them into paragraphs and before you know it I will have a post!

Even furthermore, you’re reading everything that has ever been wrote, but you’re starting with just this bit, because reading everything at once would be too much for anyone to attempt. Too much words in one go is unacceptable, and your writing should reflect that. Keep it concise and don’t stuff your sentence with unnecessary, superfluous, gratuitous content that smothers your prose, muddies your intentions, confuses the reader, clogs up the page with excess text, pads out the work with inelegant drivels, irritates the eye, examines giraffes, and renders your point unclear.

Also, keep your paragraphs short.

How importan is spelling? Well, very important. I don’t know why anyone would even ask that. If you have any sef-respect, you ought to be diligent about and with regard to spelling. If words are the bulding blocks of a sentence—and I would argue that yes, they are—then spelling is the stuff that holds them togteher.

Maybe tomorrow, after absorbing all this advice, I will finish one of my draft posts.  After I finish planting my bulbs for the spring.

Lady writer

Illustration from Mindy’s Muses @ mindysmuses.blogspot.com

 

Blaming the victim – and the family

Last August in a Boston suburb, a man stabbed his girlfriend to death in front of their child and other witnesses.  This is an all too familiar occurrence all over the country, all over the world.  What made this especially big news in Boston was that the perpetrator is the son of a former Red Sox second baseman and long time television commentator, Jerry Remy.

Yesterday the son, Jared Remy, pled guilty to first degree murder.  According to the Boston Globe story reported by Eric Moskowitz

Remy’s admission means he will spend life in state prison without the possibility of parole. His plea, entered before Middlesex Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman, spares friends and family of Martel and Remy the added anguish of a protracted trial and the airing of even more gruesome details. It also means Remy will forgo what the judge called his possible “partial defense” of anxiety, depression, and steroid and prescription drug use.

“I would like to say, ‘Blame me for this, not my family,’ ” said Remy, the 35-year-old son of Jerry Remy, the celebrated Red Sox infielder-turned-broadcaster.

Rising to speak in handcuffs, Jared Remy delivered in a gravelly voice a two-minute statement in which he called himself a “bad apple” and imagined Martel watching over their daughter from heaven while playing with the couple’s late chihuahua, Buddy.

Though he said he wanted to “take responsibility for what I have done,” he also put some blame on Martel and on his “love for drugs.”

In another part of the proceeding, Remy clearly blamed Jennifer Martel for her own death.

When the prosecutor finished, the judge asked Remy if he understood and admitted to all those facts. “Yes, I do,” he said, before protesting one point. “She had a knife in her hand, and she was threatening me about my daughter,” he said. Authorities have never indicated they had evidence suggesting Martel had a knife.

Yvonne Abraham wrote in her Boston Globe column today

What a bizarre mix of contrition and blame-shifting we saw in Middlesex Superior Court Tuesday. What a spectacle of the depths to which people can sink. What a vividly detailed map of the wasteland brutality leaves behind.

Standing in that low-ceilinged, fluorescent lit courtroom, Jared Remy called Jennifer Martel, the woman he murdered with gruesome force at least partly witnessed by their 4-year-old daughter, “an angel.”

He’s the one at fault for killing her, he said. No share of the blame should go to his parents, who his lawyer said had been unfairly maligned, held partly responsible by some for not doing more to rein in a violent son who had been spiralling blatantly out of control for years.

For a man surrendering to fate, he was maddeningly defiant. He said he murdered Martel after she picked up a knife and violated a clear rule he said he had set.

“I always told Jen she could leave,” he said. “But do not threaten me with my child. That night, Jen had a knife in her hand and threatened me with my daughter, so I killed her. I don’t think it’s right when women use their kids against their fathers.”

Abusers have rules.  We’ve heard about Jared Remy’s need to control Martel just as we’ve heard it countless times about other abusers.  It is one of the primary signs of abuse.  Unfortunately, many women just think it is a sign of “masterfulness” as if we were  living in a novel set Victorian England where women were still property.  Jennifer Martel broke one of Jared Remy’s rules so she had to die.

Jennifer Martel and Arianna Remy

Jennifer Martel and Arianna Remy

 

But there is also the question of the blame which some think rests on father, Jerry Remy’s, shoulders.  Margery Egan wrote this morning another in a series of columns she has written on the subject  in the Boston Herald.

Jared Remy has spared his daughter Arianna and Jennifer Martel’s family the anguish of a gruesome trial. He has also spared his father Jerry and helped him keep his job behind the NESN microphone broadcasting Red Sox games.

Sox fans are clearly divided over whether the sins of the son should be visited upon the father. But they might feel differently about Jerry Remy’s lighthearted banter if they heard Martel’s murder described in stomach-churning testimony by neighbor Kristina Flickinger Hill.

Hill watched Jennifer Martel crawl across her patio pleading for help. Hill paid for her funeral. And she repeatedly said Phoebe Remy texted Martel the day before the killing begging her not to pursue criminal charges against Jared.

I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that the Remys tried to help their son and to help the mother of their grandchild.  It is a matter of record that two of their other children have also had legal problems.  I have read that the Jerry Remy persona we see on TV is very much at odds with who he is in private.  From things said during broadcasts, I believe he is a loner who has suffered from depression as after his bout with lung cancer. He probably was not an easy parent.

According to Egan and at least one woman who called into the radio show Boston Public Radio yesterday, the Red Sox broadcasts are taking a hit because women in particular, don’t want to hear Jerry.  I personally think they are taking a hit because the Red Sox can’t seem to win and it is painful to watch, but I digress.

Egan continues

No one is blaming Jerry and Phoebe Remy for murder. What I’ve blamed them for is enabling their son to evade responsibility for brutalizing five girlfriends over 18 years. And when I’ve written that Jerry should quit his NESN job, it wasn’t about taking away his right to make a living. It was about facing the tragic reality that his jokes in the Red Sox broadcast booth just don’t work anymore.

Let’s be honest. The enduring loyalty to Jerry Remy in this town is about the double standard enjoyed by beloved sports figures and, to a lesser degree, by fathers.

Jerry’s defenders say he did all he could for his son. I don’t think many would say that if it were Phoebe Remy’s career on the line. If a mother spent thousands of days on the road while all three of her children were having run-ins with the law, they’d say she abandoned her children, cruelly and selfishly, when they needed her most. She’d also lose her job in a nanosecond.

There is a lot to think about here.  The image of an admitted killer still blaming his victim.  A famous father with a job that puts him in the public eye almost every night during the baseball season.  A broadcaster who has built his reputation not only on shrewd analysis but his ability to poke fun at himself, the team and his broadcast partner.  I don’t blame him for his son, and Margery may well be right about the sexism that allows him to keep his job, but for me it was just weird to hear him before Jared pled guilty and now that he has it will just be painful to hear Jerry.

Photograph from BostonHerald.com

 

Shortstops: Jeter and Bogaerts

So maybe it is premature to mention Derek Jeter and Xander Bogaerts in the same breath, but I can’t resist.  Jeter just announced that this coming season will be his last and Bogaerts is preparing for his first full season.  But there is something about them that seems to be to be so similar.  Maybe it has to do with demeanor.  Maybe it is just being Red Sox fan hopeful.  Whatever it is, I was struck by the comparison.

Derek Jeter is the Yankee that even Red Sox fans admire.  Tyler Kepner wrote in the New York Times about his retirement.

The greatest compliment we can give Derek Jeter, as he prepares to leave the grandest stage in baseball, is that he never let us down. He has made thousands of outs and hundreds of errors and finished most of his seasons without a championship. Yet he never disappointed us.

This is no small feat for the modern athlete, in an age of endless traps and temptations.

From cheating to preening to taunting — even to defensible acts, like fleeing to a new team in free agency — the hero, almost invariably, breaks our heart sometime. Not Jeter.

He grew up beside a baseball diamond in Kalamazoo, Mich., dreaming of playing shortstop for the Yankees, and that is what he has done. He has never played another position, never been anything but No. 2 for the Yankees. But this season, he announced Wednesday, will be his last.

“The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward,” Jeter said in a statement on Facebook, adding later: “I could not be more sure. I know it in my heart. The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball.”

Derek Jeter in 2008 after breaking Lou Gehrig’s mark with his 1,270th hit at Yankee Stadium

Derek Jeter in 2008 after breaking Lou Gehrig’s mark with his 1,270th hit at Yankee Stadium

If Frank Sinatra were around, he could sing “My Way” at Jeter’s retirement.

Jeter is perhaps the most secure, self-confident player in baseball, a sharp contrast to the disgraced Alex Rodriguez, whose season-long suspension means that he will never again be teammates with Jeter. Groch [Dick Groch, the scout who signed Jeter] said he noticed these traits while scouting Jeter, who smiled under pressure and showed the leadership skills of a chief executive.

Derek Jeter always knew who he was and never acted out of character.

And what of the Red Sox rookie?  Xander Bogaerts, the kid from Aruba who speaks four languages (Dutch, English, Spanish, and Papiamento [the official language of Aruba]) also grew up playing baseball.  Even though he was called up last August, he remains eligible for rookie of the year for 2014.  Peter Abraham profiled him in today’s Boston Globe.

Xander Bogaerts took a few ground balls at third base last Friday. That ended when Red Sox manager John Farrell arrived at JetBlue Park over the weekend.

“He told me to go to shortstop and not to worry about third base,” Bogaerts said Wednesday after a lengthy workout. “I hope that means something good for me.”

As it stands today, Bogaerts is the shortstop. But that could change if the Red Sox sign Stephen Drew, who remains a free agent on the eve of spring training officially opening. Until Drew signs, Bogaerts can’t be sure exactly what role he’ll have.

“Nobody has said anything to me about it,” Bogaerts said. “It’s definitely not perfect, but I have to play baseball no matter what. I can’t worry about it too much. I’m working at shortstop every day and trying to get my reps in and get ready.”

I think the Sox need to forget Drew, even if he is a great fielder, and go with Pedroia, Middlebrooks and Bogaerts. Time to see how the kids do.

Xander Bogaerts during the ALCS vs. Detroit

Xander Bogaerts during the ALCS vs. Detroit

We will need to see how he matures but Bogaerts seems, so far, to be cast in a Jeter mold.

But with players now on the field, Sox officials have been more measured with their comments about Drew and seem ready to start the season with Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base.

That the two arrived at camp early and have been working hard with infield coach Brian Butterfield doesn’t hurt their chances.

The 21-year-old Bogaerts is certain to make the team regardless. He hit .250 in 18 regular-season games last year before emerging as a starter in the postseason. Bogaerts started eight games in October, entering the lineup for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series and staying there.

Bogaerts was 8 for 27 (.296) in the postseason with four extra-base hits and nine runs scored. Teammates marveled at how unaffected he was by the atmosphere.

“I learned so much about the game last year, the preparation you need,” Bogaerts said. “The other teams will find your weakness right away. I need to get better at everything, especially recognizing pitches. But I know I can do it.”

Last October, Joon Lee wrote a long profile of Bogaerts for Red Sox blog, Over the Monster.  One quote stood out for me.

“I’ve always been a pretty quiet guy,” Xander said. “I don’t really go out a lot so I try to stay out of the most trouble as possible. Nothing good happens at night so that’s why it’s good to stay at home.”

Not a wild and crazy guy.  Yes, I know, Jeter didn’t exactly stay at home, but he never talked about his personal life.

Derek Jeter and Xander Bogaerts:  The past and the future?  We shall see.

Photograph:  Jeter, Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Photograph: Bogaerts, Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Random thoughts about the Red Sox and the World Series

I am exhausted.  Let’s face it the sixteen games played to take home the World Series Trophy (our Mayor Menino calls it the World Series Cup) have been emotionally draining and the cause of much sleep deprivation.  And I don’t have to get up and go to work!  Tampa Bay, Detroit, and St. Louis were all tough opponents.  (By the way, one of my predictions finally came true:  Sox in 6.)

Here are a few random thoughts about the Sox.

Bib Papi hugs manger John Farrell

Bib Papi hugs manger John Farrell

David Ortiz was the MVP of the Series.  He had a ridiculous batting average of .688 and we got to watch him play first during the games in St. Louis as if he played there every game.  People were whining about the rules that took away the DH, but in the end it didn’t hurt the Sox.  Maybe it did make Mike Napoli a little rusty at the plate but he did get a hit last night.  The thing about Ortiz is that he is the first non-Yankee to win three World Series with the same team (2004, 2007, and 2013) since Jim Palmer with the Baltimore Orioles (1966, 1970 and 1983).  I learned that from a Tweet from Peter Abraham.  Big Papi is probably going to play one more season and then retire.  What a hole that will leave!

If you don’t think a manager makes a difference just study the styles of Bobby Valentine and John Farrell.  One had respect from day one and it produced a winning team.  I don’t know for a fact, but I suspect that Valentine was forced on general manager, Ben Cherington.   Nick Cafardo wrote in today’s Boston Globe

Ben Cherington hit .400, won the Triple Crown for general managers, and then won the World Series.

He picked the right manager, the right players, and still had an eye for the future. He traded only redundant players, such as Jose Iglesias in a three-way deal for Jake Peavy, knowing he had Xander Bogaerts.

Cherington deserved the bucket of champagne, let alone the bottle, as the architect of the 2013 World Series champions.

,,,

While the perception is Bobby Valentine was forced on him, Cherington was able to decide to fire him and deal for Farrell, the manager he wanted all along. He allowed Farrell to name his coaching staff and continue pretty much what Terry Francona had done with the team prior to the September 2011 collapse.

Cherington cleared out the poisonous players. And then he watched it. Maybe it wasn’t completely like he mapped it out, but close, real close.

“Once we got into the season you don’t know what the outcome was going to be, but this was a different group of people,” said Cherington. “They were completely selfless. It was a lot of fun to be around. It’ll sink in two weeks from now.”

He combined the desire to prove everyone wrong, the players with chips on their shoulders, with some new chemistry. He hit the jackpot.

Carlton Fisk, sporting a phony beard, and Luis Tiant, with a real one, threw out the first pitch.

Carlton Fisk, sporting a phony beard, and Luis Tiant, with a real one, threw out the first pitch.

And then the Sox had history.  Having former players like Jim Rice, Pedro Martinez, Mike Lowell, Dennis Eckersley and many others hanging around the team even if they weren’t formally coaching has to have been a plus.  Even Carlton Fisk entered into the fun.

Someday soon it will all seem real.  It will be hot stove time and Ben Cherington will have to get to work.  Will Jacoby Ellsbury give up boat loads of money and do what Dustin Pedroia did and take the hometown salary to stay?  What about Napoli?  Will Salty take his longest name on a jersey and move on – and more important – do we want him to stay?

But those are questions for another day.  Bring on the Duck Boats and let’s have a parade!

Photograph:  Ortiz and Farrell, stan grossfeld/globe staff

Photograph:  Fisk and Tiant, Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

The World Series: beards and music

Superstitious, I guess.  I didn’t want to write about the Red Sox in the World Series for fear of jinxing them.  Not that I have any such power, but with the baseball gods one never knows.  But now each team has had one horrid game – the Cardinals were worse than the Sox – and the Series is tied.  The Sox need to win at least one game in St. Louis to get back home team advantage.  This is beginning to feel like the games with Detroit that got them where they are.  That turned out OK, so we can still have hope.  All we need is for Jake Peavy to live up to his hype and for some combination of Clay Buchholtz/Felix Dubrount to pitch well and there is a chance for two wins.  And then we get Lester again.  So I’m feeling OK about the situation.  I feel badly for John Lackey who has had a great pitching year, but can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to run support and wins.

The player who did his job last night was Koji Uehara the accidental closer.  Once more.  3 outs on 10 pitches.  The beardless one.  I think we all assumed he didn’t have a beard because he couldn’t grow one.  We were wrong.  A few days ago, this story was in the New York Times.

Long, bushy beards have become the unifying trademark of the 2013 Boston Red Sox, but the most valuable player of their American League Championship Series victory stands out for more than his pitching.

The series M.V.P., the cleanshaven closer Koji Uehara, was given a pass on the team’s unofficial pro-beard policy because most of his teammates thought he was incapable of growing one.

But that is hardly the case. Well before the Red Sox’ shaggy faces entered the national consciousness, Uehara was a longstanding member of the antirazor brigade.

Until January, when he shaved it off on Japanese national television, Uehara had one of the most famous beards in Japan: light, Fu Manchu-style scruff with a wraparound beard connecting to his sideburns. It was considered ugly and brutish by many of his friends and countrymen, but he wore it defiantly for several years after coming to the United States in 2009.

Koji in Baltimore

People must have known.  I watched him pitch when he was with Baltimore, but I guess the beard never registered.  He also had a beard with the Rangers.

“I just didn’t know where I was going with that beard,” Uehara, 38, said through an interpreter Saturday afternoon before the final game of the A.L.C.S. “So I thought it was best to shave it off. It was a good time to do it, and I think many people were happy. They said I looked younger.”

Without facial hair, Uehara posted a career-low 1.09 E.R.A. in the regular season and had 21 saves after taking over as Boston’s full-time closer June 26. In the playoffs, he has been just as good, allowing one run in nine innings over eight games. He has five saves this postseason: two in a division series against the Tampa Bay Rays and three in the A.L.C.S. against the Detroit Tigers, including the save that clinched the pennant Saturday night.

But has shaving made him a better postseason pitcher?

“I don’t know,” he said, shrugging. “I am not sure about that.”

Whatever.  If being beardless got him MVP for the ALCS, then it is good for him and for us.

In one way, it makes sense that Uehara is now clean shaven in the midst of players who look like desert-island castaways. He originally grew his beard to stand apart from his teammates in Japan and from Japanese players in the majors, many of whom did not have facial hair.

Now that he is with a rowdy band of bearded Red Sox, he is distinguished in a different way.

“If I had a beard now,” he said, “I would not stand out.”

Meanwhile the symphony orchestras in Boston and St. Louis are getting in the act.  Even if you don’t root for either team this clip is wonderful.  I have to concede that the brass from St. Louis are better trash talkers, but the BSO has Seiji Ozawa.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_k8oICRBH4&feature=youtu.be

By the way, Boston in six.  With ZZ Top on our side, how can we lose?

Photograph: Mark Duncan/Associated Press