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The Nation Speaks

August - October 2001

Thursday, October 25, 2001

Subject:  Bad Bets

Baseball and gambling have been nefariously linked since the days of the Black Sox and Shoeless Joe, but wagers involving Boston and New York have been my undoing over the last six years.

At the end of the 1995 season, a lifetime Yanks fan and I bet that the first of the teams to win the World Series would force the other to go to Cooperstown and buy the last championship mug of the other's team. The Hall of Fame has a porcelain stein for every team and at that time about 70 years separated championships of the two. Looking at the two clubs at the end of 1995, the Sox seemed on the way up while the Yanks hardly resembled a dynasty in the making; if anything, the blind bet looked set for years to go without a winner. Well, now you know the rest of the story and now Derek Jeter is running out of digits.

Anyone who has driven to Cooperstown will probably say it was a scenic country drive through rolling hills and small hamlets; that is true but ignores its disconnectivity, the speed traps and the general pain in the ass that a pilgrimage to baseball's Valhalla is. In Japan they say everyone should climb Mt. Fuji once, but only a fool climbs twice; this was my second trip and with no intention of returning, I bought the 1918 mug as my own road sore memento.

That squad managed by Ed Barrow featured the Babe, Harry Hooper and a host of ghosts with names such as Bullet Joe Bush and Sad Sam Jones. Ruth was the winning pitcher in two of the four wins; I don't believe in curses but bad luck is not beyond the pale; when my buddy offered another bet for 1997, I politely declined. As fate would have it that would have been the only wager over the last five years to have been made.

And now in 2001, he offers a suckers bet: the Yankees at the start of the playoffs to go all the way, with a case of beer (perhaps for the steins) as the spoils. At 2-0 in the A's series, I'm sending emails asking that all 24 beers be put in large gun belt holes to be slung over both shoulders like the Frito Bandito. And then depression sets in; the Yanks come back to beat the A's, they humble the Mariners, and the usual chorus of how great the Bronx Bombers are emerges from the Monday morning analysts and bandwagon legions of the obnoxious.

After the Oakland series, he offers to double the bet to 48 beers. Knowing this is a push and swearing the Yanks are not that good, I rashly accept with images of Sojo, Brosius, Knoblach, Soriano and Martinez as five reasons that they should lose. But it has indeed come to this: their failure would be the only mild source of my and the Sox's success. Ah well, go Diamondbacks and for god sakes, can we please pick up some decent free agents?


Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Subject:  The Blame Game

People here in New York ask me how I can root against the Yankees. They say "the city needs this... it can lift up our spirits." They say that as if the Taliban was bankrolling the A's.

We as a nation need to move towards getting back to normal. That which was important to us on September 10th must be important now... and hating the Yankees has always been a virtue I cling to. My knights in Green armor failed me. And now I have to endure more self righteous metaphors from people who say the comeback represents the spirit of the city. Like rooting for the Mariners is like taking a dump on ground zero.

How do the Yankees always wrap their championships with an aura of self righteousness?
Root for the Yankees or Frank Torre will die!
Root for the Yankees because Darryl Strawberry has cancer! (Remember that one?)
Root for the Yankees for Paul O'Neill's dad!
Root for the Yankees because if you don't you friggin' hate America!

Screw that! I want a NEW American hero... Like Ichiro Suzuki.

But in the end, I blame me. I made the crack when they were down 0-2. The Jeter Sunday tee time crack. And this whole horrible turn of events which is making me sick to my very core is all my fault. I turned karma in the favor of the Yankees. Not Mussina's pitching, not Oakland's errors, not Jeremy Giambi's inability to friggin' slide, not Derek Jeter getting automatic entrance into the Hall of Fame on his defense in this series.

I caused the Yankees to win. And I may never be able to live this down. But I can never root for the Yankees... if I do, they'll lose and the Red Sox will have a dynasty.

I wish someone would make that sacrifice for me

Monday,  September 17, 2001

Subject:  Finale

Rarely in the 25 years of daily following the Red Sox have I cared so little about developments in the wake of an obvious lost season as this one.

What began with such promise - Nomo`s No-No and Manny`s beating Rivera and hitting dingers a`plenty, ended with a bunch of future non-Sox cleaning up the detritus of team contractual obligations. Usually there has been the emergence of some star, some hope for the future, some obvious grasp at improvement that leaves you clinging through the long cold winter. Granting that they overachieved in the late 1990s and until August this year with some good signings and yeoman seizing a chance, there was something particularly odious about the demise of this season besides the raft of injuries and all the crap about playing time among a horde of so-sos: as times got tough few seemed to really want to play with anybody.

The last lineup for 2001 was Darren Lewis, Jose Offerman, Joe Oliver, Troy O`Leary, Dante Bichette, Lou Merloni (stop me if you think someone will or should be back) - that leaves Nixon, Daubach and Stynes (Add Shane Hillenbrand and still not a current or future All Star among them at positions that beg for better numbers); the departures of Everett, Hatteberg and Lansing will mute the chorus of mutiny but who the hell is going to play on this team next year and why did it come to this?

Of momentary optimism - the starting pitchers hung until the bitter end (with the exception of Pedro), but Cone is rumoured to want out, Nomo to need more money and if excitement is supposed to emanate from Derek Lowe on the mound once every five days, I might as well take the Rolaids out of the childproof bottle.

There are rumours of Mo Vaughn coming back and it will be interesting to see what if anything Jurassic Carl elicits. But as 2001 mercifully comes to a close, I have haunting memories of Nomar on the Red Sox dugout in recent years after one of 83 consecutive failed championship efforts clapping for the Boston fans who supported the team, the mighty Yaz walking through the stands with a bottle of champagne at the end of his career, and the Kid, and all say this team and this result are not worthy of such history, patronage and concern and amends should be made immediately.


Monday,  September 10, 2001

Subject:  Red Sox Falling

...this the lowest point imaginable. We have never been in an abyss such as this. Can the hope of new ownership, a good house cleaning from the front office to the puddles of spit at the foot of the bat rack bring any hope? Can the warmth of the early March Florida sunshine bathe a rejuvenated, healthy and happy Petey, Nomar, and Manny in a swath of perennial promise and redemption?

Oh yeah, the lockout.

Tuesday,  September 4, 2001

Subject:  Nomar and Negligence

Nomar has just not healed yet. Next year is now the idea.  It seems that his wrist had few problems at first, but now is causing him discomfort because of his daily routines. Nomar is a workout freak, and baseball has put extra strain on his wrist causing it to become inflamed. The problem I have is that no one knows for sure the true details, i.e., if he injured it further. The wrist is swollen, which makes it hard to find out if there is any additional damage. The doctors' opinions are that he should sit for the rest of the season, which is over after not being able to score runs on the Yanks when we get good pitching.  Regarding the Pappas ownership affecting his decisions about rehab stints which in turn affects the sales price, many agree with this theory. The healing process can take a while and cheating the body will only lead to more aggravation.  A negligence lawsuit could be filed as there are so many pissed-off people and something should be done, but it's going to take someone with a lot of courage... possible words from Varitek to somebody could work.  Its a far fetched idea, but it is floating around. Changes will be made, but we don't know when.

Monday August 27, 2001

Subject:  Will Pedro Be Pedro Again?

...regarding his ability to be a 9-inning, full-season pitcher, the deal is he's too small.  Eating more and running a little extra does nothing for him in the off-season.  Pedro is not exactly Jerry Rice when it comes to working out.  From the opinion of doctors, he has to be able to tone it down.  ESPN did the story, and was right on, which is that if he lowered his velocity a little he would still be great.  He doesn't have the frame needed to support his abilities.  Pedro's oblique muscle is his kryptonite. When he pitches he comes around so hard that each fastball at 96 or over will put a serious strain onto that muscle. What needs to be done is something along the lines of a Michael Jordan routine where certain workouts are geared to his success, while not changing his mechanics.  We don't want a Canseco-like Pedro, just one with enough strength to support himself.  Yes, Pedro pitched Sunday, but how well he does after that it is hard to say.

Monday, August 13, 2001

Subject:  I've got a Pappas story...

Back in 1965 a little girl was born in Dorchester with a deformed hip socket.  Dr. Pappas performed the surgery and corrected the deformity.  Her father was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, her brothers had scholarships for baseball and hockey to their respective colleges and she was the best athlete in the family.  That little girl became the captain of a local woman's hockey team and lead them to a national championship in Lake Placid in 1982.  That girl was my sister...

I guess he had the Midas touch back in 65.  I wish he could sprinkle some of that magical dust that says "super human" again.  Maybe we all should dangle a chicken leg in front of our TV's during the game and pay homage to the gods of injury!  That might slow down the errors we've been bleeding in the last three straight games!

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