Talkin’ Baseball: Rox and Sox

We went down to Brockton last night to see the independent Can-Am League Brockton Rox play a team from Northern New Jersey.  We’ve been taking in a couple of Rox games a summer for the last 4 or 5 years.  Great seats for not a lot a money, a nice little ballpark, no hassles getting in and out the park, and entertainment between innings.  (little kids running the bases and trying to beat mascot K-O the Kangaroo and stuff like that. ) What more could you ask for?  By my reckoning, the Rox have a winning record when we go.  To prove what fans we are, we have bobbleheads of Bill Murray (yes, that Bill Murray) and Saul Bustos.  I’m hoping that when slugger Melvin Falu retires, we can get his bobblehead to add to the collection.  Bill Murray is the Director of Fun for the team and, although no ones says, I assume a financial investor.  The Rox blew out Sussex Skyhawks last night winning 13-2.

Part of the fun is watching the little scoreboard where they post the Sox scores.  I looked at it at one point and it is  the 9th and the Sox are still down 4-2.  Then suddenly, the score is final and the Sox win 5-4.  People around me pulled out their phones to see how the Red Sox pulled it out.  (David Ortiz hit a walk off double with the bases loaded.)

And yesterday was the trade deadline.  While we were driving to Brockton, the new broke that we had picked up another catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  I remembered him from having the longest name on a major league jersey.  Saltalamacchia is going to Pawtucket to play some Triple A.  I believe he is the guy who developed some weird thing where he was unable to throw the ball back to the pitcher.  This is not a good thing for a catcher.  I assume Theo Epstein has some assurance that he is over that now.  Saltalamacchia is young and Veritek is about to retire so it may turn out to be a good move.

Bob Ryan writes in the Boston Globe today

There is no doubt massive disappointment among the Red Sox faithful. There were no blockbuster deals, only the acquisition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, plus the addition-by-subtraction expunging of Jeremy Hermida and Ramon Ramirez, the former being designated for assignment, the latter sent to San Francisco. Instead of producing a familiar name belonging to a veteran, Sox management has settled for picking up a catcher who has failed to fulfill his promise and by promoting prized prospect Ryan Kalish from Pawtucket.

The Sox needed a veteran reliever, and they still need one. Theo Epstein was quite obviously unwilling to sacrifice a valued prospect, and you know what? Good for him. Sometimes you just have to accept that it’s just not shaping up as your year, and you simply focus more on the future.

So now we are waiting for Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Veritek, and Dustin Pedroia to get better and rejoin the Sox.  This has been a rough year and we have lots of games with Tampa Bay and the Yankees to win if the Sox are to make the play-offs this year.

Finally we have this nice story.

Perhaps Pawtucket Red Sox management was psychic.

In the nine years the team has held a bobblehead doll night promotion, never before had a former PawSox player appeared in a game that his bobblehead was given to fans at McCoy Stadium.

Jacoby Ellsbury put his name in Pawtucket’s “record book’’ last night when he played six innings in the first of two games against the Durham Bulls and went 2 for 4 with a run scored.

I think he is on his way back.  Maybe the Red Sox have a chance.

Rafael Nadal as a role model for young athletes

I’ve just come back from visiting my mother a 90 year old tennis fanantic.  I picked up last week’s New York Times Magazine and there, on the cover, is Rafael Nadal, the curremt number one in men’s tennis and as well as the current heartthrob for women.  I look at Nadal and Federer as Borg and McEnroe:  Borg was the pin-up but they could both play tennis.

What really stood out for me in the Times article by Cynthia Gorney is the discussion of Rafael Nadal’s character. Like many professional tennis players,  he has little formal education but he is educated in ways that are perhaps more important.

He signs the balls and the bare arms and the T-shirts. He rumples small boys’ hair. He waits while people press up alongside him to pose for snapshots. The Nadal personality stories that circulate among tournament fans are all variations on a single theme: the young man is educado, as they say in Spanish, not so much educated in the formal sense (Nadal left conventional schooling after he turned pro at 15), but courteous, respectful, raised by a family with its priorities in order. Nadal may have the on-court demeanor of a hit man, as far as the party across the net is concerned, but you will never see this champion hurl his racket during a match.

Nadal is coached by his uncle, Toni Nadal,  and still lives in Majorca in a small town surrounded by relatives.

“It’s about respect,” Toni told me. “It’s really easy for these guys to start thinking the world revolves around them. I never could have tolerated it if Rafael had become a good player and a bad example of a human being. I was at a symposium recently and a trainer said to me, ‘Look, if you ask a young player’s father which he’d rather get at the end of this process — a courteous person or the French Open champion — you know what that father is going to say.’ And I said: ‘No, that’s all wrong. Because if that player is brought up courteous, brought up as a respectful person, he’s got a better chance to reach the championship of the French Open — because it’s going to be easier for him to accomplish the hard work.’ ”

This is what is missing in someone like Kobe Bryant  who appears to think that live evolves around him.  It is not missing – although I think it came close to be missing – in Paul Pierce.  People talk about the current Red Sox team and call people like Jason Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dustin Pedroia boring, but they appear to have the sense of self that is missing in so many “stars”. 

Rafael Nadal spent three year ranked second in the world with only Roger Federer ahead of him. 

Nadal was a phenomenal No. 2. His No. 2-ness was heroic and inspirational, and he was known to mention it quite cheerfully in press conferences: “I’m not the best, but I am a very good No. 2 in the world.”

The world needs more of this kind of attitude from both the talented kids – and from their parents.

Barack and Jacoby

The Social Security Administration has released their list of baby names for last year.  Not surprisingly, Barack  is becoming a popular name.

Jumping more than 10,000 spots — from number 12,535 in 2007 to 2,409 in 2008 — it’s by no means one of the top titles for tykes. But 2009 could see an even bigger spike, perhaps putting the name in the top 1,000 for next year.

Barack Obama

Kinda like when a bunch of baby boomers were named Dwight, after the President and General Eisenhower.  But it does change the perception of the name, Barack, when there are a lot more of them running around and lots of people know a child with the name.  I used to be unique with the name Maya until Maya Angelou gained a lot of recognition.  I had a very brief encounter with her in 1977 when we both remarked how interesting it was to meet another Maya.  Now Maya’s are all over the place.

And then there is the growing popularity of Jacoby.

Though Jacob was the top name for boys, its variation, Jacoby, jumped 200 spots to number 423, drawing inspiration, no doubt, from Red Sox rookie centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Perhaps these kids will be stealing bases like number 46 when they start T-ball.
Jacoby Ellsbury

I should also note that for some reason Emma was the top girl’s name with Olivia holding steadyand Miley moving up.

Ellsbury Steals Home

Jacoby Ellsbury, the best base stealer I’ve rooted for since Maury Wills, got his first straight steal from home and took the wind out of the Yankee’s sails.  I know they were hoping to avoid a sweep by the Red Sox in this first series of this year, but that was not to be.  The Sox won all three super long, super exciting games.

As a commenter  named ” af”  on the New York Times blog, Bats put it,

Stealing home is a slap in the face
To allow it is just a disgrace
These poor Yanks are so old
That their bones have grown cold
And they can’t seem to keep up the pace

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Jacoby Ellsbury stole home as part of the Red Sox’ three-run fifth inning against Andy Pettitte.

Have to say that the Sox are looking good but it is a long season and they have to win on the road as well as at home.  But it is always good to beat the Yankees.