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

The Damn Yankees

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I am a Red Sox fan.  As a convert (I have rooted for the Dodgers, Phillies, and Atlanta Braves through the years), I am pretty rabid.  The one thing all those teams have is a dislike for the Yankees.  So last night as I watched the Yankees come back in the 9th I couldn’t stand to watch any more.  Around the 11th I turned off the radio, too.  I should have stuck it out for one more inning.  Instead I started thinking about the musical Damn Yankees.

Damn Yankees was a Broadway hit in 1955 with Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston.  It is the story of a middle-aged Washington Senators fan who sells his soul to the devil for a chance to bat and beat the Yankees.  In the movie version, he turns into Tab Hunter so I remember it well.  Anyway the cursing of the Yankees goes way back and not just for Sox fans.

What happened after I stopped listening was both thrilling (Detroit won!) and sad because Derek Jeter (the only Yankee I like) broke his ankle in the top of the 12th.  His season is over and we can only hope it isn’t the end of the career.

Derek Jeter injured his ankle in the top of the 12th inning.

Fans everywhere wish him a speedy recovery.  But I for one hope that this is the end of the damn Yankees for this season.  I know that baseball executives want a major market team in the World Series, but I’m hoping for Giants-Tigers.

Photograph: Barton Silverman/The New York Times