Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Where to start? How about with the Red Sox? (Surprise!)

Taking 2 of 3 from the Empire in Yankee Stadium was certainly nice, especially after the beating the Sox took in Toronto. They may have even swept the series, but they had two (!) runs cut down at the plate on Friday night, so they ended up with only one run off five consecutive hits against Randy Johnson. Needless to say, Dale Sveum was getting killed by the Fellowship of the Miserable on WEEI the next morning, and he probably deserved to be.

That was followed up with a 17-1 beating by the Red Sox on Saturday, and then a win by David Wells on Sunday. Wells looked great after giving up 2 home runs in the first inning. He completely shut down the Yankees from then on, giving up only one hit until he gave way to Keith Foulke with one out in the 9th. After Boomer's last two poor starts, it's good to see him pitch a gem. Let's see if he can keep it up.

I'm off to Fenway tomorrow night for a visit to the Monster Seats against the division-leading Orioles. I can't wait. The Monster Seats are, in my opinion, the best seats in baseball. This will be the third time I'll be sitting up there since they installed the seats in 2003. I'll have a report on Thursday.

Memorial Day is customarily one of the checkpoints of the Major League Baseball season, so I was perusing the standings to see how things stood. Here's a short bit of commentary, by division:

A.L. East: Pretty much everyone, except Tampa Bay, is still in the running here. Baltimore leads the pack, the Yanks and Sox are 4 back and the Blue Jays are a half-game behind in 4th place. I still expect it to be the Yankees and the Red Sox battling it out at the end, but Baltimore's offense could keep them in it if the pitching continues to be even half decent.

A.L. Central: The Twins trail the White Sox by 4 games, while the Tigers and Indians languish 9+ games back. The Royals aren't even worth talking about, as new manager Buddy Bell certainly has his work cut out for him. This will be a fun race to watch, as both Minnesota and Chicago are good teams. They will also both be dangerous in the wild card race, since both teams get to play the woeful Royals 19 times each.

A.L. West: The Angels and Rangers start off the day in a virtual tie for first place, with the Mariners and A's way off the pace. The Angels appear to be the better team on paper, but the Rangers could hang tough with that great infield if the pitching doesn't wilt in the Texas heat.

N.L. East: Everyone is still in this one, as only 4.5 games separate first and last place. The Braves have that 13 year division title streak going, and they still seem to be the team to beat. They go into today tied for first with the Florida Marlins. The Mets and the Washington Nationals are 2.5 back and even the last place Phillies are only 4.5 games back. I see this coming down to the Marlins and Braves, although significant injuries to any of these teams, especially in the starting pitching, could really tip the balance of power in the division.

N.L. Central: The defending N.L. Champion Cardinals are already 7.5 games ahead. The only other team in the division that is even over .500 are the injury ravaged Cubs (anyone see that ball bounce off Mark Prior's elbow? Ouch!). It's amazing how quickly the Astros have fallen, going from being one game away from the World Series last year to being 14 games under .500 less than two months into the season. Unless the Cubs get healthy quickly, I can't see any of the teams keeping pace with St. Louis.

N.L. West: San Diego leads the Diamondbacks by 3 games, and are 5.5 games ahead of the fading Dodgers. The Giants are going to have a tough time competing without Bonds in the middle of the lineup, and the Rockies are in Royals territory. I see San Diego taking the division, although the additions that Arizona made over the winter are certainly helping. I think the Padres Jake Peavy is a teriffic pitcher. Next time he pitches on TV, I'm going to go out of my way to watch him.

Bizzare occurance of the weekend: I was getting my patio set out of the basement, and I was carrying the glass top of our table upstairs when it suddenly just exploded in my hands. Little bits of glass just all over the place. Fortunately, I was wearing sunglasses so my eyes were protected and I escaped with just a couple of nicks on my hands. I don't know if it was temperature change or stress on the wrong spot or what. So it took an hour to clean up all the glass, and then we found a nice new table on the cheap at Grossmans Bargain Outlet. You'd never know that it wasn't the table that came with the set (unless you read my blog, of course...)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster

You must read this blog.

If you like Star Wars at all, it's a must. It is truly one of the most brilliant things I have ever read. If George Lucas could write like this, Episodes 1 and 2 would have been a hell of a lot better.

Even if you only have a passing interest in the series, you need to read this. It gets inside the heart and mind of Lucas's tragic hero Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, like nothing you've ever seen.

So what are you waiting for? Go read it!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I'm just finishing up one of the worst sports books I've ever read. Yes, it's "Juiced", by Jose Canseco.

It's really terrible. It's poorly written, and he advocates using steroids throughout the book. He says that "properly used", they can be a great benefit. He can't understand why they're classified as a prescription drug. Guess what, Jose, it's because people abuse them! They can damage your health if you don't use them properly!

My favorite inconsistency is this one. Jose complains that, in the late '80s, he lost a million dollar endorsement deal from Pepsi because Thomas Boswell wrote in the Washington Post that he was on steroids. Which he was. So he lost the deal for something that he was actually doing. I'm having a difficult time having a lot of sympathy for him.

Anyways, stay away. The only upside for me is that I got it out of the library and didn't pay $26 for it.

I saw Revenge of the Sith on Monday. Liked it a lot, but I'd like to see it again before I do a long review.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Another nice day at Fenway today, and a much better result for the Sox. They won 5-2 over Atlanta, taking 2 out of 3 from the Braves. Matt Clement pitched an outstanding game, going the whole nine innings and pretty much shutting down the Braves, except for a rocky 4th inning, when the Braves scored their only runs. Manny Ramirez was the offensive star, going 3-for-5 with a two run homer that really put the game on ice. Hopefully this is the beginning of Manny breaking out of his slump, as Manny entered the game hitting .229. Today's performance increased his batting average to .242.

I went to the game with J., my father-in-law and my brother-in-law. We had a great time. J. is at the age where he is really into following the game. I'm teaching him to score the game, and he is actually enthusiastic about doing it. Two exciting things that happened: we found another stand with a World Series ring, and he got to try it on. He got a big grin on his face, which was pretty cool. He also got his face flashed up on the JumboTron between innings, and we all got a big kick out of that. We had great seats, just to the third base side of home plate, although we were in the next-to-last row of the grandstand. I can't complain, though. We had a great view of the field and no poles were blocking the field. Not as plush as the .406 Club, but I felt a lot more like I was part of the game.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I got to try on a World Series ring tonight.

The Red Sox are raffling off three World Series rings to raise money for the Red Sox Foundation. I already bought a few chances, but they had a table selling the tickets outside the .406 Club. There was a little crowd around the table, so A. and I stopped by.

Well, not only were they selling the tickets, but they had a ring that you could look at and try on. So I waited my turn and then slipped it on my finger. It was big and heavy, inlaid with diamonds, sapphires and rubies. I was a little weak in the knees after giving it back. It was an amazing feeling.

A funny story, while I'm on the subject of the ring raffle. A couple of weeks ago, I was watching a Sox game with the kids when they ran a promo about the raffle. J. asked me if we were going to buy any tickets, so I told him that I already had. So then he asks, "If we win, can I have the ring?" So I explained to him that if we won the ring, it would have our family name on it and it would be a family ring.

Of course, what went through my head was, "You can have it when I'm not around any more."

The game, unfortunately, wasn't nearly as good as trying on the ring. The Sox lost to the Braves 7-5, as they got shut down by rookie Kyle Davies, who had just been called up from AAA Richmond to replace injured starter John Thompson in the Atlanta rotation. Davies gave up no runs in five innings, while Tim Wakefield was knocked around for 6 runs in five innings, including four in the 4th. The Sox got a few runs late against the Braves bullpen, but it wasn't enough. Trot Nixon made a couple of great plays in right field, including diving into the stands for a foul pop down the line, and making a leaping grab of a line drive over his head.

This isn't the first time the Sox have had trouble hitting a guy just up from AAA in the last few years. It almost seems like if they haven't seen hours of video on a pitcher, they can't hit him. You'd think that a great hitting lineup like the Red Sox would go to town on these guys, but they never seem to do it.

The .406 Club was nice, especially tonight. It was cold and rainy in Boston, and the game got underway about 1/2 hour late. A. and I got there to have dinner at the pricey, but very nice buffet, and were able to munch on free popcorn and soda refills during the game. So we were warm and dry, which made up for the fact that we weren't outside with the crowd.

Back to Fenway tomorrow for the rubber match of the series. We're back out with the real people tomorrow, so hopefully it'll warm up a bit.

Friday, May 20, 2005

I can hardly believe it, but I blew off Star Wars Episode III: Attack of the Clones tonight.

I'm finding that with the thyroid replacement I'm currently on that I don't have a lot of stamina. I have good days and bad days, and today at 8:45 AM I was already dragging, so I emailed The Hey to tell him that I probably wouldn't make it tonight. So I'm sitting here watching the Sox-Braves and feeling slightly sorry for myself.

Once I do the radioactive iodine (around the end of June), they'll put me on a different thyroid pill which should work a lot better. The surgeon told me this was not unusual, and that once I get on the permanent pill I should feel better. It's still frustrating, though.

Well, I have to get a good night's sleep tonight, because I'm going to my first two games at Fenway for the season over the weekend. Tomorrow night, A. and I are going to see game two of the Boston-Atlanta series in the .406 Club. My boss gave me the tickets (and a parking pass!), so we're getting a babysitter and are going to enjoy the night in style. I'm not a big fan of the .406 Club; being behind the glass up there is kind of like watching the game on the biggest, clearest TV you've ever seen. But it's fun once in a while.

Sunday I'm going back with J., my father-in-law and brother-in-law. J. is really looking forward to it.

The next month or so is pretty baseball filled, actually. After the two games this weekend, I have the Monster seats on June 1, the Pawsox luxury suite on the 4th, our first Worcester Tornadoes game on the 12th and then back to Fenway to see the Sox play Cincinnati on the 15th. Should be fun!

Last night was Art & Author night at the kids school. The kids both produced an illustrated book, and we also got to see some artwork that was posted outside their classrooms. Both of the kids books were great. J.'s was about his favorite sports, baseball, soccer and Tae Kwan Do. R's was about my recent birthday. My favorite part of R.'s book was where she wrote that she was dreaming of cake, then drew a picture of her in bed with a thought baloon over her head with a drawing of a piece of cake it it. Very cute.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Can someone please explain to me where the heck John Garland came from? He was projected as the White Sox number 5 starter before the season started. Now he's 7-0, and he's currently got a 5-2 lead over the Rangers in the last of the 8th, so unless the White Sox bullpen blows it, he'll get his 8th win. The game was on the INHD channel tonight, and Garland looked really good to me.

Baseball in HD is definitely the next best thing to being there. In some ways it's better - the beer and food is a lot cheaper, and my couch is a lot more comfortable than any ballpark seat!

A few quick thoughts on the Enterprise finale. Apologies to those of you who have seen this before. I'm too lazy to rewrite it, so this is cut and pasted from the USS Christa McAuliffe mailing list.

It wasn't as terrible as it could have been. To be honest, to me it seemed more like a TNG episode than an Enterprise episode, which explains Jolene Blalock's "appalling" comment better than anything. I can certainly see why the Enterprise cast might be annoyed about this, but the episode was more of a sendoff for Trek's 39 year run than for any particular series.

Aside from the fact that Frakes and Sirtis looked a hell of a lot older than they did when "The Pegasus" episode was first filmed 11 years ago, I could live with the whole framing thing. It was just sort of limp. I thought the Terra Prime two-parter was more of a true Star Trek episode than this was. It had a detestable villian, a solid message about bigotry, some funny stuff (Malcolm and his air-sick bag was priceless) and everyone in the crew got something good to do (even Travis, who hasn't done much of anything other than drive the ship for 4 years). It was pretty easy to tell that Terra Prime had been done by the Reeves-Stevenses and Manny Coto and the finale was written by Berman and Braga.

It was nice to see the Enterprise-D again, especially in HD in what I assume was a CGI model. She looked great! The "Space, the Final Frontier" bit at the end with parts from Picard, Kirk and Archer was very nicely done.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Star Trek ends tonight.

At least for the time being. I have no doubt that Star Trek will be back at some point. Given that Hollywood loves to recycle old ideas (Dukes of Hazard movie, anyone?), it is inevitable that Trek will be back eventually.

So, what do I think killed it? I think it was a combination of things. First, I think the "leadership" of Rick Berman, who has run the Trek franchise since Gene Roddenberry passed away, has been seriously lacking. Berman is not a man of vision. He's a suit. He took the formula Gene developed with the original Star Trek and The Next Generation and continued it on through Voyager and Enterprise. (Deep Space Nine is the exception, and that is the "modern" series that Berman had the least to do with.) Even the quality of Enterprise episodes took a big step up when Manny Coto took over running the show during the 4th season. Coincidence? I think not.

Second, and a lot of people don't agree with this, but I do think there is an element of "franchise fatigue" here. I said before Enterprise premiered that Star Trek needed some time off. People just don't get as excited about a new series anymore. If you eat ice cream every day, even if you love ice cream, you will eventually get sick of it. I think there's an element of that in 18 years and about 700 hours of Star Trek since The Next Generation premiered in 1987.

That said, when Star Trek does return, I think it's critical that Paramount hire a whole new creative staff with a new vision of the Star Trek universe, while still remaining true to Gene Roddenberry's core beliefs. A Star Trek focusing on some kind of apocolyptic future (like the new Battlestar Galactica, as good as it is), just isn't Star Trek. The basic optimistic view of humanity's future has to be there.

We survived a whole decade of no Star Trek in the '70s (except for the animated series). I think fandom will be OK if the show takes a few years off.

So, farewell, Star Trek. I'm sure we'll meet again.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

You sometimes hear people complain about the generic quotes most professional athletes spout to the press. You know the type: "I give 110%." "We played a tough team tonight and we just caught the breaks." There are about a hundred more. Well, as far as I can tell, this guy may be the king of the generic quote.

As you may know, Tino Martinez of the Yankees has hit home runs in 5 consecutive games, an incredible feat (the record is 8 consecutive games). Here's a quote that appeared in today's Globe about his recent success:

"I feel good at the plate and I'm seeing the ball well," Martinez said.

Gee, thanks, Tino. We may not have figured that out if you hadn't told us. :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Today was a beautiful day, the nicest of the spring so far. Mid '70's, crystal clear blue sky and the Sox were playing the A's at Fenway. So why was I at work instead of in the bleachers with a beer in one hand and a hot dog in the other? My priorities are seriously screwed up.

Another day, another walk off homer for the Sox. Today it was Jason Varitek, bailing out Keith Foulke (who blew a save in the 9th). It was almost the same scenario as last night, too. The Sox were down by a run in the bottom of the 9th. Big Papi was walked by Dotel, then Millar made an out. Varitek comes up next and hits the game winner. Foulke got the vulture win, but it was really deserved by Matt Clement, who gave up one run in seven innings.

Isn't the term "vulture win" a great one? It's just so descriptive of the situation when a pitcher gets a win because a reliever blows a lead, like Foulke did today.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What an ending for the Sox! Down 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th, Ortiz walks with one out and then Kevin Millar hits one over the Monster off the A's closer Octovio Dotel to win the game. Amazing!

I seem to be continuing to recover from the surgery. I went to work the last two days and worked a pretty full day. I'm tired by the end of the day, but not in need of a 2 hour nap when I get home. I see the doctor for a follow up on Thursday, but as long as things continue to improve I feel pretty good about it.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

I'm watching the Dodgers-Reds game on ESPN and the Reds starter, Eric Milton, just hit a home run. Kill the DH!

J. and I went to see The Hithchhikers Guide to the Galaxy yesterday. It was well done, although I think that someone who wasn't familiar with the whole Hitchhikers mythos would have had a hard time following the story. They did include a lot of the best gags from the books, so I really enjoyed it. J. seemed to like it as well, even though he's certainly not familiar with the stories.

There were a couple of nice nostalgic touches. In one scene, they used the theme music from the original Hitchhikers radio show, and the Marvin robot suit from the original TV show was in a scene as well.

I recommend the movie if you're a Hitchhikers fan, but I can't say you'd enjoy it if you're not.

Friday, May 06, 2005

My two favorite phrases: "World Champion Boston Red Sox" and "Last-place New York Yankees".

I know the Yankees probably won't stay in last place long, but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

I went back to work yesterday and made it through most of the last couple of days. I'm really worn out by the end of the day, so I'm seriously considering taking Friday off and having three more days of rest. Hopefully by Monday I'll be feeling closer to my old self and be able to get through a whole day.

I'm greatly enjoying the Fall of the Evil Empire. The Yankees are fighting to stay out of the cellar against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays tonight, and they're currently losing 3-2 in the last of the 5th. The Yankees haven't been 5 games under .500 since 1995.

And Aubrey Huff just drove in a run to make it 4-2 D-Rays.

By the way, doesn't Aubrey Huff have just about the worst name for a baseball player ever? He sounds like he should be an English butler, not a first baseman.

Bronson Arroyo spun a gem for the Sox today, bringing a no-hitter into the 7th and getting a 2-1 win over the Tigers in Detroit. Big Papi came up with an RBI double in the top of the 9th to break a tie and get Arroyo the win. Keith Foulke pitched a 1-2-3 9th for his 3rd save in three days. It's great to see Foulke getting back to form, since he had been stuggling the first month of the season.

I did listen to Bruce Springsteen's newest album, Devils & Dust. It's a great album, but you won't find any "Born in the USA" type rock anthems. Springsteen's songs are very personal and sung in a variety of styles. I really enjoyed it, and I recommend it if you're a fan of The Boss.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Jeremi Gonzalez has looked pretty good in a spot start for the starting pitching depleted Red Sox tonight, holding Detriot to 3 runs in 5 innings so far. He's facing Jeremy Bonderman of the Tigers, which has got to be one of the few times two guys named "Jeremy" have faced each other in a major league game.

Actually, I'm really annoyed that it's raining in New York. Pedro was supposed to pitch for the Mets against the Phillies. It was really my first opportunity to see him with the Mets, but it's been pouring rain and the game has been delayed since 7:00. It's 9:15 now and I doubt I'll be awake even if they start the game.

I slowly continue to recuperate from the surgery. I did toss whiffle balls to J. in the backyard for about 40 minutes, and I was pretty tired after that. This was after a two hour nap this afternoon! I'm planning to go back to work Wednesday. It'll be interesting to see if I can make it through a full day. Even so, I'm only going to work the "normal" 8:30-5 shift for the rest of this week instead of my normal 8-5:30 or 6 day. At least I can snooze on the train if I need to!

Speaking of J., I forgot to mention that he actually caught a fly ball in his Peanut League game last weekend! Given the scarcity of fly outs in his league, it was pretty impressive. I guess all those pop-ups I tossed him in the back yard paid off!

J.'s team is named after the Everett (Washington) Aquasox this year, so we're going to go see a game when we go to Seattle on vacation this summer. We discovered that they are only about 30 miles from Seattle. They play in the short season Class A Northwest League, similar to the Lowell Spinners. So I'll get to add two more ballparks to my inventory on that trip, including our trip to Safeco against the White Sox.

I downloaded Bruce Springsteen's new album, Devils & Dust, off of iTunes today. I've heard lots of good things about it, so I'm looking forward to listening to it. I'll let you know what I think next time.

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