Late Summer Baseball

If you are still following Boston’s baseball team, the Red Sox, you are well aware that the odds of a post season this year are slim to none. In a town that’s grown entitled to having their professional sports teams play meaningful games late into their respective seasons, losing becomes a hard pill to swallow. Nowhere is this more prevalent than with the members of Red Sox Nation.

Winning a World Series in 2004, again in 2007, and then the improbable championship run in 2013 has only heightened expectations among its fan base. However, when you look at the reality of baseball played in places like Cleveland, Arlington, and San Diego, the carping about Ben Cherington and Red Sox ownership on sports talk radio ought to cease. It won’t, but winning championships nearly every season isn’t the norm—except perhaps if you are a follower of one particular franchise whose players are adorned in black pin stripes—a club with 40 World Series appearances. Dare I utter “the New York Yankees” in these parts?

I wouldn’t call myself a rabid Red Sox fan. I don’t have any interest in fantasy baseball—a digital, pixie dust approach to baseball that seems to be popular with a certain type of beta male. And while my fortunes don’t hang on every pitch made by this year’s group of sub-par hurlers assembled in Beantown, I’ve been enjoying the team the past few weeks in a way that I hadn’t earlier in the campaign.

Since what I’ve just written doesn’t jibe with the state of Red Sox fandom these days, let me at least put out some of my own baseball bona fides. I played the game through college and later, logged seasons toiling on Maine’s baseball diamonds with town teams and later, old-men’s leagues like the SMMBL, which in recent seasons has gotten much younger. I’ve also coached summer college league baseball in the Twilight League, one of North America’s oldest amateur baseball circuits—a league that’s well over 100-years-old. These days, I am a baseball umpire, spending my summers serving as the game’s arbiter. Oh—I also wrote a book about the history of the game in Maine.

Baseball is deeply embedded in our culture.

Baseball is deeply embedded in our culture.

I list all this to say that I have some experience around baseball. I also recognize that the game may not hold the same sway for today’s young kids—socialized by screens and gadgets—as America’s pastime had on my generation.

And yet, baseball still remains the perfect capstone to a day of work and challenges, IMHO. Its pastoral pace and rhythms hearken back to a time that wasn’t so frenetic. A time when the pace of life was more human and less frenzied.

So while other New England sports fans divert their attention to football with September’s approach, I’ll continue to catch Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo, doing the games on NESN, or tune in games on my portable radio, enjoying Dave O’Brien and Joe Castiglione’s calls.

The Red Sox are likely to lose 90 games again this season (they lost 91 in 2014). But wrapped in that futility is a silver lining. Young players like Jackie Bradley, Jr., Travis Shaw, and Rusney Castillo will (should) get to play every day. In fact, Bradley’s performance over the last week has been hopeful. An amazing defensive player, with a host of highlight reel catches to his credit, Bradley has yet to prove he can consistently handle Major League pitching. However, those of us still watching got to catch a glimpse of what might be possible with the 25-year-old outfielder this past weekend.

Jackie Bradley Jr. making another amazing catch.

Jackie Bradley Jr. making another amazing catch.

 

For the first time, Bradley’s put together a week of offensive consistency that indicates he might be part of a brighter baseball future in Boston. And then on Saturday, his five hits—including two home runs and seven RBI—put him in the Fred Lynn category, at least for one magical afternoon.

5 thoughts on “Late Summer Baseball

  1. I’ve not listened to one baseball game this summer. Red Sox Nation might revoke my temporary membership card…I had better tune in my radio to a game or two this week and get my late summer fill of Joe and Dave’s comforting voices. It’s just what I need as the “dark days of August” cloud the horizon.

  2. @JAB Time to break out the transistor! Joe and Dave on the radio is as good as it gets. Two veteran announcers who are passionate about the game, as well as knowledgeable. Red Sox games on the radio are perfect for those “hot August nights that Neil Diamond sang about.

  3. I remember when Curt Gowdy and Ned Martin were the Sox radio announcers in the 1960s. That was for a year or two. Then Martin got teamed up with Ken Coleman. They were great. The Sox lost 90 games regularly through the 60s and then they had the miracle impossible dream team in 1967 with Jim Lonborg and Yaz.

    Winning is a new thing for the Red Sox, at least winning the world series.

    They fired Cherington. Owners had to blame someone. Lots of money being forked out for another 85 or 90 loss season.

    I’m enjoying Bradley in the outfield. I’m really surprised by Shaw.

  4. @jon I remember Ned Martin and Ken Coleman. They actually were the radio guys through much of the 1970s and into the 1980s, I think. Both were terrific.

    I think Sox fans, given the three World Series in a decade, have become entitled and different fans than what I remember Boston fans being like, let’s say after the 2nd WS title, in 2007.

    I love watching Bradley and he’s been hitting of late, which is great.

  5. I am still with them. Difficult not to gravitate towards football with current record. But they have scored almost 10 runs per game in the past 7. While it is not fun to be at the bottom; watching the likes of Bradley, Holt, Shaw and Bogaerts keeps it interesting. Watching ‘Manny being Manny’ was fun too. However, ‘Hanley being Manny’…. Not so much.

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