Saturday, August 29, 2015

Day at Fenway - Johnny Cueto Edition

Maybe its the dreadlocks, or maybe the Luis Tiant-style hesitation in his windup, but the boys love Johnny Cueto.  Do they know that he won 20 games, led the league in strikeouts and came within a hair (no pun intended) of winning the Pitching Triple Crown in 2014?  Probably not, they just know that he dreadlocks and funky windup.  In either event, once they found out that we got tickets to go see the Red Sox and the Royals play, and that Cueto was going to be the starting pitcher, the boys were in.

DLG was ambivalent "Do I have to watch another baseball game?" she tells me picturing more AAU games in her head.

"We'll buy you ice cream." I answer back.  Although I stop short of allowing her to bring her stuffed animal snake, she seemed satisfied that it was actual baseball being played.

"Who's Johnny Cueto?" She asks.  Of course she would not have spelled it correctly, but in either event the boys groan

"You don't know who Johnny Cueto is? G asks startled.  He did answer the Reds when I asked him his previous team, so maybe he does know a little bit.

Boston, MA.  6pm.  We finally arrive in stadium to watch the Royals take batting practice.  Everyone is getting antsy, but the security guard tells us to wait 30 minutes because the Red Sox will come out to stretch.  He mentioned that Brock Holt signed autographs the night before so we might be lucky.  David Ortiz and Xander Bogearts elicited a response from everyone, but it was Johnny Cueto walking to the bullpen in the distance that caught C's eye.  Too far to get an autograph from him and too close to the protective net to get BP foul balls, we returned to our seats in the RF Roof Deck.  These are our favorite seats when we come to the ball park.  It's generally not as busy and the field perspective from perched high above is breathtaking.  The tickets are more expensive than in past years, I guess it's not our secret any more.

Once we sat down, we finally started talking about the Red Sox.  Henry Owens was going to be starting.  The lanky lefty was still finding his way through a major league order, but he showed enough in his previous 3 starts to earn more time, event though Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly were coming back (and coming back strong!).  Owens was going to have his hands full tonight since the Royals were one of the top hitting teams in the American League and riding a 5 game winning streak.

The Red Sox were looking a little stronger themselves.  Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. were both hitting the cover off the ball.  Rusney Castillo and Blake Swihart were slowly getting the averages and OBP up.  There was less emphasis on Ramirez and Sandoval too which I think was part of the reason that the Sox showed some signs of life.

Tonight was no different.  Utilityman Jeff Rutledge hit a home run, Betts had three hits and Swihart has 4 hits in a 7-2 drubbing.  Cueto was chased after giving up 7 runs in 6 innings in his worst start as a Royal.  On the other hand, Owens only gave up 1 earned run in 8 strong innings.  We left as rain drops started hitting us, but it was another great game at  Fenway.

We stopped at the souvenir shop of course after the game, event though we left with the idea of beating traffic home, and spent hundred bucks on some meaningless trinkets.  I think I've already thrown out the things that G bought.  But everyone was still excited and DLG found her stuffed Wally the Green Monster animal.  There you go.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Thoughts on Pedro Martinez

1999 was a special year.  The Red Sox, despite three appearances since Bill Buckner, had not won a play off game in 12 tries over 3 playoff series.  The Indians and the Red Sox were facing each other in the ALDS and in a normal year, I would not expect anything different.  The Indians were led by a (still normal) Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Roberto Alomar and Harold Baines.  The Red Sox had Nomar, and really not much else.  It seemed so long ago.

The difference this year was palpable.  One thing, I mean one Pitcher, slighter than my 13 year old son made this all different, all special.  Pedro Martinez won 23 games, had an ERA of 2.07 and led the league in Strikeouts with 313.  He won the Cy Young that year and was second in the MVP only because a couple of sportswriters decided not to put him on the MVP ballot (Thanks George King!!).  He was the difference this year that we did not have in 1986, 1988, 1990 or 1995.  Yes we had Roger Clemens, but he usually shrunk in the playoffs.  Not Pedro.

His Game 5 appearance, while hurt, while on fumes after leading the team this far, was one of the greatest performances in big league history.

That's what I was thinking while watching his Hall of Fame Speech and number retirement 16 years later.  He's a little pudgier.  He's a little more humble.  But Number 45 was still his huge personality self.  He was speaking off the cuff.  People hated that he didn't seem prepared.  He was still pissed about that 1999 vote and people were pissed about that.  But he was being himself and that what most of us loved.

Although he was only with the Red Sox for 7 years, they were 7 ELECTRIC years that we will never experience again.  Not many righthanders could do that.  And that is when the boys perked up.  All of a sudden, they were interested in Pedro.  The best righthander in Red Sox history?  All of a sudden, 1999 doesn't seem so long ago, when the boys are interested.

More importantly, he is a Red Sox for life.  And that is what's important to me.