Monday, August 30, 2004

We’re almost at the end of August, and after one month it looks like the Nomar trade is an unqualified success.

The Sox just ripped off their 6th win in a row yesterday, completing a four game sweep of the Detroit Tigers at Fenway. They’ve pulled to within 4 and 1/2 games of the Yankees, bringing back a glimmer of possibility for the American League East race. After playing .500 ball for May, June and July, they’ve been winning consistently in August (20-7 this month) and looking good doing it.

What happened? I think the big change is the defense. Orlando Cabrera and Doug Meintkiewicz are huge defensive upgrades over the injury slowed Nomar and the Kevin Millar/David Ortiz combo at first base. Cabrerra makes all the plays over at shortstop, has tremendous range and can make the spectacular play, too. Meintkiewicz is amazing at first - he just stops everything that comes in that direction.

The proof is in the pudding. In the first 76 games this year, the Sox gave up 60 unearned runs. In the last 27, they’ve given up six. The pitchers have more confidence and are going deeper into games since they only have to get 27 outs in a game, not 29 or 30.

Now we go into what may be the most important stretch of the year, with nine games against Anaheim, Texas and Oakland, the three teams in the Wild Card chase with the Sox. The Sox have done a great job beating up on the Torontos and Detroits, but this is really where we see if the new look Sox have what it takes. 6 wins in the next 9 games would go a long way toward convincing me.

Barry Bonds is just a few home runs away from 700, an astounding achievement whether it’s steroid enhanced or not. Only two other men, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, have ever hit 700 taters in a career. As much as I’m not a Barry Bonds fan, it’ll be interesting to watch the chase as the season winds down.

Summer finally arrived this weekend, one week before Labor Day. This was the first truly hot, muggy weekend we had all summer, with temps in the high ‘80s. We spent Saturday at the pool with my parents. They’re heading back to Florida right after Labor Day, so we’ll see them again next weekend. They may come here in October for a few days before they go to a Bat Mitzvah in New York - other than that the next time we’ll see them will be for our trip down south during the Christmas break.

Yesterday was another hot one, but me and the kids went back to Lynn for our second North Shore Spirit game of the season. It was a bit uncomfortable, but we still had fun. The Spirit won the game 6-0. We took some of the middle innings off to play in the playground, go on the moonwalk and do the speed pitch. R. tossed the ball up there at 4 MPH - I didn’t even know those radar guns could measure at that speed! J. threw at a respectable 25, which seemed to be consistent with other kids his age. He’s really gotten into baseball this summer. He’s always up for a game of catch, and his throwing has gotten a lot stronger and more accurate over the last few months. We’re thinking about sending him to an after-school baseball skills program over the winter. As you can imagine, it thrills me no end that he is inheriting my love of the game.

R. managed to screw up her courage at the end of the game yesterday and go for a run around the bases. As you might remember from my
July 20 blog entry, she was a little nervous about going out on the field by herself and running the bases. This time she got herself out there and returned with a big grin on her face. It made me glad to see her do it.

One week until we have to go back to suits at work. I’m still not happy about the prospect - I think it’s ridiculous that employees that don’t face customers have to wear formal business attire. However, there’s nothing I can really do about it besides grumble, so I’ll just deal with it. I still need to buy at least one more suit and a couple of more shirts, so I’ll do that over the next few weeks.

Had an interesting experience with our cable company today. There was an article in yesterday’s paper about the fact that Comcast was making Tivo-like cable boxes available to customers. I asked A. to call Comcast today to see what the deal was and to schedule an appointment to get the box hooked up if it all sounded reasonable. So she called this morning and told me that it would actually cost $2 LESS per month to have the same service with the Tivo box than without. Go figure. So, the cable guy is coming Thursday to hook it up. I had her look into how much it would be to add a Tivo box on our second TV ($4 less? I don’t know), but Comcast said they’re only offering one per household until they see how the supply and demand goes. I’ve heard great things about Tivo, so I’m looking forward to trying it out. People say it changes the way you watch TV as much as the iPod changes the way you listen to music.

The Republican National Convention starts in New York this week. Somehow they seem to be managing without quite the amount of disruption that beset Boston at the Democratic convention last month. Protesters, who were virtually invisible in Boston, seem to have saved themselves for President Bush. The largest protest march ever at a convention happened yesterday. Hopefully, the protesters don’t do anything stupid or destructive. They should make their voices heard loudly, but peacefully.

I think this is shaping up to be a very divisive election. There are a lot of people who would never vote for Kerry and a lot who would never vote for Bush. There are some in the middle who will be the ones to swing the election. I think that it will really hinge on how the economy goes for the next couple of months and the continued prosecution of the War in Iraq and the War on Terror. It’s going to be an interesting two months.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Well, looks like the big winning streak we've been waiting for from the Red Sox is finally here. If the 9-1 lead the Sox currently have over Toronto holds up, the Sox will have won five out of six on the road trip. It's about time.

It's been a tough year for the division races. Barring a major collapse in September, five of the six divisions are already decided. The only one that's really still contested is the AL West, where Anaheim trails Oakland by 1/2 game and Texas is 1 and 1/2 back. The next closest contender is San Francisco, 5 back of the Dodgers in the NL West.

Even the Wild Card races are getting narrowed down. There are really only three teams with a serious shot in either league. The Sox, Angels and Rangers in the AL and the Cubs, Giants and Padres in the NL. For all the talk of parity this year, not many teams survived the dog days of August.

I've been playing a highly addictive computer game called Wingnuts. It's based on the old arcade game Time Pilot. The story is that you fly around a plane and destroy enemies from throughout time. As you advance through each round, the enemies get tougher and are from later time periods. The first round starts with Wright flyers around 1909 and I've made it through the 7th round, which gets you to the early part of World War II. If you're interested in trying it, go to Freeverse Software and check it out. There's a demo available for both the Mac and that other OS.

I was invited to a party that some old members of the Boston Star Trek Association are holding at the World Science Fiction Convention over Labor Day in Boston. The BSTA was a very big part of my life during my college years and I met a lot of good people, many of whom I've lost touch with over the years. I'm hoping to be able to go - it's the night of the Hillies game and I'll be pretty beat after driving to Pittsfield and back. I'm going to do my best to make it though. It'll be fun to catch up.

If you're interested in finding out about the BSTA (and searching the archives for some truly scary pictures of me!), go to the BSTA Archives Web site.

Last but not least, there is a new Wahconah Park Web site out there. Archives of news stories, park history, a bulletin board and other interesting stuff.

Friday, August 20, 2004

We went to this amazing restaurant tonight - Casey's Caboose on the Killington Road near the ski resort. It's a train themed restaurant, but the real highlight is the table we sat at.

Part of the building that houses Casey's is an actual, old caboose railroad car. Casey's has preserved part of the car as a dining area like you would see in an old train. When we arrived for dinner, the hostess asked us if we wanted to sit in the caboose. We said sure and she took us to the most unique restaurant table I've ever experienced.

The tables replicate an old dining car, but they are in the part of the caboose that juts above the rest of the car. So, you have to climb this set of stairs and step across to the tables - two seats on each side. You have a small table with leather chairs. The waitperson comes up the stairs to take your order, bring drinks, etc. The kids loved it. We loved it. The food was good, and they had Long Trail Ale on tap. We're looking forward to going back on our next trip up here.

It's our last night here in the house in Vermont. We've cleaned out most of the stuff - I'm making one last run to the dump tomorrow morning, then I'm returning myself in September a few days before the closing for a local battered women's shelter to pick up the remaining furniture. We decided to leave a day early, since the weather hasn't been great and we're running out of rainy day stuff to do. We've had a great time, though. The only negative was that we only got to spend two days at the lake, but we did manage to find other fun things to keep ourselves occupied. I always feel relaxed and refreshed when I leave here, and what else can you ask for from a vacation?

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

We had to stop at K-Mart a couple of days ago to get something. I was standing in line at the register waiting to pay. The person at the front of the line was attempting to pay with a check (do people still use checks?) and was apparently unsuccessful. She then ran off and the cashier's light started blinking, indicating that she needed the supervisor. The supervisor told her that she should shut off her light and once the customer with the questionable check was taken care of, she should take her break. Keep in mind that there were three people in line waiting to be served!

It was at that point I started thinking, "This is why Wal-Mart and Target are eating K-Mart's lunch".

Monday, August 16, 2004

Been having a pretty good time on vacation so far here in Vermont. We went to the nearby state park on Saturday, which has a beautiful lake. The kids had a good time swimming and watching people fish off the dock. Sunday was supposed to be rainy, so I promised to take them to see Yu-Gi-Oh - The Movie. J. is very in to the Yu-Gi-Oh cards and such and really wanted to go, especially since they were giving away cards that you could only get at the theater. The movie itself was terrible - really nothing more than a 90 minute commercial for the cards and other paraphenalia. I kept looking at my watch and hoping it would be over soon. J. loved it, of course. R. thought it was OK, although a little scary in parts.

Today it really did rain, so we went to the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, right on the Connecticut River. This is a great science museum. I'd put it up against any one in the country outside of the major cities. It has great interactive exhibits and an outdoor area with more exhibits and nature trails. We had a great time and even managed to get outside for a bit when it wasn't raining.

I'm really starting to come to terms with selling the house now that we're here. As much as I'll miss this place, it'll be nice to be able to try some other places in the summer - we're discussing the possibility of the Cape or the Rhode Island beaches next summer. Also, we've picked up some brochures and it seems that we can rent a place for a week up here very reasonably, so we can always come back.

One difficulty with being up here is that it becomes tough to follow baseball. Having the laptop helps, although with dial-up access it's become an exercise in frustration - I've really gotten spoiled with the cable internet. We have a TV, but it's mostly for videos. We don't have cable or satellite TV, so we only get two fuzzy stations. Radio reception isn't much better. Of course, none of that prevents me from being pissed off that the Sox dropped two to the White Sox over the weekend. The ChiSox are a mediocre team at best, especially with Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas out of the lineup. How do you lose 2 out of 3 at Fenway to these guys? The accounts of Sunday's game just seemed like more of the same of what we've been seeing this year - blown opportunities with men on base and playing just well enough to lose.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Greetings from Vermont!

On our drive up today, we stopped at a rest stop just south of Concord, NH. J. and I inspected the facilities and then went into the lobby to wait for A. and R. As we were waiting, I heard someone call my name. I turned around and saw an old Starfleet friend, who I hadn't seen since a funeral almost a year and a half ago. It was a really odd coincidence. I mean, what are the odds you are going to meet someone you know at a rest stop in New Hampshire?

We were all pretty tired by the time we got up here. Between stops for lunch and grocery shopping, it took us the whole afternoon to get here. We also had to take two cars - I removed all the seats from the minivan so that we could take some things we wanted to bring home. It was a bit strange driving up here separately, although we were in contact by walkie-talkie the whole way up. We hit a couple of downpours coming up I-89 in NH, but other than that the ride up was without incident.

I'm looking forward to a relaxing week. More updates later!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

You've got to love Red Sox fans. They're such a cynical bunch. In today's game against Tampa Bay (which the Sox won 6-0 behind a complete game shutout by Pedro), two runners got thrown out at the plate in the 5th inning by the Woonsocket Rocket, Rocco Baldelli. So in the 6th, third base coach Dale Sveum holds Johnny Damon at third on a single. And what happens? The crowd cheers Sveum for actually stopping the runner! It was one of those classic, "only in Boston" moments.

Off to Vermont for a much needed vacation tomorrow. I can't remember the last time I needed my summer vacation this much. The stress of the merger at work and all the changes have taken a bit of a toll on me. I'm looking forward to hanging out at the lake, seeing some cows, drinking some Long Trail Ale and eating some Ben & Jerry's over the next few days.

Of course, it's our last family trip to the house there. The sale will be finalized in September, and we'll be spending some time cleaning out the house. I'm going back up a few days before the close to meet a charitable thrift shop that will be taking the bulk of the furniture, and then that's it.

I got the battery in my iPod replaced. After almost two years of constant use, it wasn't holding a charge for much more than 2-3 hours. Apple didn't make the iPod's battery easily user replaceable, and I'm not much good at these types of things, so I took advantage of MacResQ's iPod battery replacement service. It worked like a charm. They overnight you a box that holds the iPod snugly. You put the iPod in the box and overnight it back to them. They pop it open, change the battery and send it back. It worked like a charm. I got the box last Friday, mailed it out Monday and had the iPod back on Wednesday. It seems to work just fine. I'd highly recommend the service.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Well, this whole Nomar thing has gotten beyond ugly.

First there was the interview Larry Lucchino had about his phone conversation with Nomar after the trade. Lucchino claims that when he asked Nomar how his ankle was, Nomar said, “Well, it feels better now.” Nomar claims he was being sarcastic.

Then we had a lot of back and forth over who said what to whom about the extent of Nomar’s injury. The Sox claimed that Nomar said that he’d have to take more time off in August, including a potential trip to the disabled list. Nomar says no, that’s not what he said. He would just have to take a few days off here and there. Whatever was said, it appears that the teams understanding that Nomar would be missing a lot of games caused Theo to pull the trigger on the trade.

The rumor mill really got out of control yesterday. There were reports that Nomar’s Achilles tendon injury wasn’t baseball related, but happened as a result of playing soccer. Nomar playing soccer may or may not be prohibited by his contract; no one seems to know. Of course, “unnamed sources” came up with this one. So then the speculation starts about whether Nomar lied about the source of his injury and whether the Sox knew about it and conspired to hush it up.

This has gotten beyond crazy. Nomar’s gone, folks. If you have some hard evidence, or information from people who are willing to reveal their identities, let me know. Otherwise, lets focus on a team that still has a decent shot of making the post-season (they’re still only 1 and 1/2 game out of the wild card this morning).

Nomar’s a Cub now, and given the events of the last week, I bet he’s real happy about it.

We’re off to Vermont in a week to take our last vacation at the house. Part of this will be to clean out the place prior to the sale in September. Pretty much everything will be gone except the furniture when we leave. I’ll be going back in mid-September to meet a charitable organization that will be taking the bulk of the furniture. I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye.

The kids last day of camp is today, and they’re both pretty upset about it. They each spent six weeks at day camp this summer, and they both had a great time. They each went to different camps this year, but the logistics of picking them up in two different places became a bit much to handle. J will move over to R’s camp next summer. He occasionally complains that he doesn’t want to go to the other camp, but I’m sure he’ll forget that by next summer.

We still have yet to make it to the beach this summer. Both the days we tried to go were not beach days, and we’re tied up this weekend. Then we’re off to Vermont the next two weekends. Unless we get a good, hot day at the end of August it’s not looking like we’re going to make it this year.

Monday, August 02, 2004

So, Nomar’s gone.

Traded. To the Chicago Cubs in a four way deal. The Sox ended up with a replacement shortstop,Orlando Cabrerra from the Expos and 1st baseman Doug Mientkiewicz from the Twins.

I can’t say it was completely unexpected. Although Nomar said the right things for the most part, it had become obvious that he still harbored resentment over the Red Sox attempt to land Alex Rodriguez last winter. For whatever reason, Nomar was never able to get past that. It had become extremely obvious that the Sox would be unable to sign him to a new contract after the season. Also, you didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Nomar hated the media scrutiny in Boston. Nomar may love being a ballplayer, but he hates being a star and the invasion of privacy that comes with it.

I understand all the logical reasons for trading Nomar. Get something for him before he becomes a free agent. Upgrade the defense - Cabrerra and Meintkewicz are both Gold Glovers. The Sox defense is one of the worst in the league, and they’ve given up an astounding number of unearned runs. Theo Epstein and the rest of the Red Sox brass know as well as anyone that pitching and defense wins in the post season. Nomar, whether as a result of his Achilles tendon injury or mental distraction, has become average, at best, in the field since returning from the disabled list. Kevin Millar and David Ortiz are way below average defensively at first. Once Pokey Reese returns, you have Gold Glove players at 1st base, 2nd base and shortstop, and Bill Mueller is a good defensive 3rd baseman.

The fact that I understand all that doesn’t change the emotional picture, though. I loved watching Nomar play every day. He ran out every hit ball, charged every grounder and never dogged it on the field. He was a great representative of the Boston Red Sox. You could easily see him spending his entire career here, becoming the Ted Williams or Yaz of his generation, a Red Sox icon playing his way to the Hall of Fame.

Why haven’t the Red Sox been able to keep the great players they have developed over the last 20 years and have them end their careers with the team? The last one to do it, as far as I can remember, was Jim Rice. Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn are two good examples of this. What has it been about the Red Sox that eventually turns their greatest players against them and drives them out of town? Is it ownership? The fans? The Boston media? The traffic? I know that a player that spends 20 years with the same team, like Cal Ripken or Tony Gwynn, is a rarity these days, but is the problem with MLB in general or the Sox in particular?

Nomar may very well love it in Chicago. The fans and media are much less critical there. When I was at Wrigley Field last year, my brother and I saw a fan wearing a T-shirt with a Cubs logo and the words “...if it takes forever.” printed underneath. I told my brother that a shirt like that would never sell in Boston. The right words might be “I want it now!!!” or “86 years is too bleeping long!” I can easily see Nomar signing with the Cubbies at the end of the year and happily existing in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

I’ll miss Nomar’s funky little mannerisms in the batters box. I’ll miss the way he charges after a ground ball and throws to first without setting his feet. I’ll miss those long throws from the hole at short. I’ll miss the ovations every time he comes to the plate and I’ll miss the way he plays the game.

Good luck, Nomar. Maybe you can break someone else’s curse.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Nomar in a Cubs uniform. And wearing number 8 no less. It all seems just so wrong.

More tomorrow...

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