Saturday, July 30, 2005

I came out of radiation isolation in style last night as we took a family trip to Fenway Park for last night's matchup between the Twins and Red Sox. It was R.'s first ever game at Fenway, so it was a very exciting evening for all of us. Both of the kids had a really good time, and I was reveling in having the family around me after several days of basement exile. R., like her brother, was really into scoring the game, and I was enjoying passing the tradition down to her.

The game itself was very entertaining. Bronson Arroyo started for the Sox and pitched very well, giving up three runs in 7 and 1/3 innings. He kept the Twins pretty much off balance all night. He was followed by Timlin, then a very ineffective Mike Myers in the 9th. Myers gave up a 2 run homer to Jacque Jones, which made it 8-5. Happily, Curt Schilling came in to shut the door and get the save.

On the offensive side, the Sox opened up the scoring on the bizzaro play of the year. With two on, Johnny Damon hit a single off Carlos Silva (who pitched quite well). Jones missed the cutoff man and the ball skipped by catcher Joe Maurer, scoring Bill Mueller. Silva backed up the play and threw wildly back to Maurer to try to get Tony Graffanino. The ball went over to Justin Morneau, who threw over to third baseman Luis Rodriguez to try to catch Damon, who was about 1/3 of the way down the 3rd base line. Damon ran toward home and Rodriguez throw bounced off the back of Johnny's helmet. Damon scores. A hit, two errors, three runs and Ron Gardenhire's worst nightmare, all on one play.

The other big blows were a solo home run by Bill Mueller, and an 8th inning grand slam by John Olerud off J.C. Romero in the 8th. Romero had only given up 11 extra base hits in 469 appearances by left handed batters over the last four seasons, so it was quite an accomplishment, and gave the Sox some breathing room, which they ended up needing in the 9th.

Of course, swirling over all of this was the latest Manny Ramirez controversey. To give you the short version, first Manny refused to play in Wednesday's finale of the Tampa Bay series, citing a previously promised day off. This despite the injuries to Trot Nixon and Matt Clement, and Terry Francona asking Manny to play with the Nixon situation being what it was. Then a report surfaced that Manny had asked to be traded, citing a "lack of privacy" for his family in Boston. Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino confirmed the report on his regular Thursday segment on WEEI, saying that this had been an annual event since the Henry/Werner/Lucchino group had taken over the team.

Given all this, the reaction to Manny last night was decidedly mixed. There were certainly a number of boos from people who thought Manny had let the team down on Wednesday, but also a lot of cheers in his support.

Now reports have surfaced that the Sox are trying to trade Manny in advance of the trading deadline tomorrow. The big rumor is a three-way deal involving the Mets and Devil Rays where Manny would go to New York, the Sox would get Mike Cameron and Aubrey Huff and the Rays would get a basket of prospects from both the Sox and Mets. Manny was even scratched from the lineup tonight with all the rumors floating around.

My take? First, there is no question that Manny should have been out there playing on Wednesday afternoon. Even though the Sox ended up winning the game, with Nixon out they were offensively weakened at both of the corner outfield positions with Millar playing left and Adam Stern playing right. Manny needed to be in left field in support of the team when they really needed him, not selfishly sitting on the bench.

As far as trading Manny? I have mixed feelings. There is no way to get equal value. Manny is a better hitter than practically anyone you are going to get to replace him. This doesn't even compare to the Nomar trade last year. Although Nomar was probably an even more popular player with the fans than Manny is, he simply wasn't producing at anywhere near Manny's level last year.

Of course Theo Epstein showed last year he'd be willing to do anything he feels is necessary to improve the team. It's going to be really interesting to see what, if anything, happens between now and the trading deadline tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

OK, so I can be a bit of dope sometimes.

I have been trying to go for a walk every day so that I don't turn into a complete blob with my slo-mo metabolism over the last few months. Today I was feeling pretty good after my first pill, so I decided to walk a bit further than I normally do. It was also very hot - in the '90s and humid. I'm guessing you can see where I'm going here.

Yes, I made it 2/3 of the way through my walk and my left leg started cramping up. I couldn't go any further so I had to call A. to come get me. I was really embarrassed and felt really stupid. At least now I know what I can handle, so I'll adjust. But I still feel pretty dumb.

A few other topics to cover:

- Matt Clement took a scary line drive to the head last night off the bat of Carl Crawford. Unbelievably, he seemed just fine today. I just saw him interviewed on NESN and he said if he was cleared medically that he wanted to take his next start! With a couple of off-days coming up, I wouldn't be surprised to see him skip his next start as a precaution.

- Last night was really a gut check game for the Sox, though. They gave up a 5-0 lead after Clement left, but wound up winning 10-9, with Johnny Damon providing the late game heroics. Damon made a spectacular game saving catch in the 9th, then hit a home run leading off the 10th. The Sox could have easily become distracted after what happened to Clement, but they managed to shake it off and take it to the D-Rays.

- Today, Tim Wakefield came up big with 7.1 bullpen saving innings. He looked great, giving up one run before giving way to Chad Bradford and Schilling. Alex Cora even hit a home run!

- How comfortable can it be for Phil Nevin in San Diego? They trade him to the Orioles for Sydney Ponson, and he exercises his no-trade clause and vetoes the trade. I also can't figure out what the Orioles were going to do with Nevin. They have Palmiero at 1st and Melvin Mora at 3rd. I would imagine they had something else set up to get some pitching, but it just seemed kind of odd.

- I finished reading Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince over the weekend. More excellent stuff from J.K. Rowling. She's constructed such an intricate, believable universe for Harry you really got sucked right in. I literally couldn't put the book down for the last 150 pages. I'm not going to give out any spoilers, but she's really set things up for the ultimate final battle with Voldemort in the last book. The only thing that stinks is that we'll probably have to wait two years for it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Well, I'm back from my overnight at Mass General. The results of the scan I had last Thursday did not show concentration of the radioactive iodine on the left side of where my thyroid used to be, so the doctor split the difference on the dose and gave me 125 millicuries of radiation.

The whole experience was actually pretty boring. A. and arrived at the hospital around 1:00 and I got sent right up to my special lead-lined room. Everything I was likely to touch in the room was covered in plastic sheeting except the bed. An intern came in and gave me some tests. A. left around 3 to get the kids from camp, then the radiation safety guy dropped by and instructed me in what to do at home and when he would be able to let me go home. Basically, the more I drank and the more radiation I urinated out, the quicker I would go home. So I sucked down lots of apple juice and spring water. The doctor stopped by at around 5 with the dose and I drank down the radioactive iodine mixed with strawberry Kool-Aid.

Then I was essentially locked in the room, with only the nurse dropping by occassionally to see how I was doing. I had a bit of an upset stomach and I'm even more tired than usual, but other than that I'm fine.

The radiation safety guy stopped by this morning, scanned me with a Geiger counter, and told me I was safe to go home. I'm once again exiled to the basement until the kids get home from camp Friday afternoon, but he told me that I was already 75% less radioactive this morning than I had been the previous afternoon when I had taken the drink. I've already downed another 2 liters or so of water since I got home, so I'm assuming this number is even higher now.

Tomorrow I get to start taking my new thyroid replacement (175 mg as compared to 50mg before the radiation - no wonder I was tired!) I'm also off the diet! I'm looking forward to a bagel with margarine for breakfast and pizza for dinner. I haven't figured out lunch yet, but it will be something cheesy. There will be some ice cream mixed in there as well during the day. The radiation safety guy told me that the top three things people want after being on the diet are seafood, pizza and ice cream. I'm not a big seafood lover, but I'm there on the other two items.

Next up is a follow up scan on Monday. A. is going to come in with me so we can discuss what the next step is with the doctor. The choices are either to go in and biopsy the suspicious area now, or wait two months, let the radiation do it's thing and do another ultrasound. My inclination is to give the radiation a chance rather than do more surgery, but I need to better understand the risks of doing that before making a decision. I'm glad A. is coming with me, since her medical background helps her to ask questions I won't necessarily think of right off the bat.

Friday, July 22, 2005

I happily returned from exile in the basement today and was able to spend some time with the kids this afternoon. I'l still too tired to actually do a whole lot, but it was nice to be around them and collect lots of hugs and kisses. I have to stock up, since I'll be radioactive again next week!

Watching the Red Sox and the White Sox. Boston got lucky last night as Pale Hose 3rd baseman Joe Crede dropped a Manny Ramirez foul pop in the top of the 9th (Crede's first error in 50 games). Manny took prompt advantage of the error and hit a home run on the next pitch, breaking the 5-5 tie and winning the game for the Red Sox.

Jerry Remy mentioned that the papers in Chicago are treating this as a "show me how good you are" weekend for the White Sox. Even though they are 62-32 entering tonight's game, a lot of people think they are getting fat against the AL Central and haven't really played anyone yet - "anyone" being the Red Sox and Yankees. A bit unfair, if you ask me, but if the Red Sox take three out of four, I'm sure it'll place some doubts in Chicago fans minds whether they can hang with the big boys.

Of course, the White Sox haven't been in the World Series since 1959 - their only appearance since the 1919 Black Sox, so I can see why they might be a bit skeptical.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

James Doohan passed away today.

Doohan, of course, was immortalized as "Scotty" on the original Star Trek. Scotty, to me, was always the "regular guy" on the crew. He was the guy you could see yourself sitting down at a bar with or having a chuckle over dinner in the mess hall.

I had the great good fortune to meet Jimmy a number of times when I was heavily involved with Star Trek fandom in the '80s and '90s. I shared several meals and drinks with him, and he always had a wealth of stories to tell. Jimmy used to say at conventions that Scotty was "1% accent and 99% James Doohan." It was really true. If he fell into the accent (which happened more frequently after a couple of glasses of Scotch - yes, he really did drink it) you could begin to forget a little bit that you were talking to Jimmy Doohan and not Scotty.

Much like Scotty, Doohan had his heroic side, too. He was wounded during the D-Day invasion, having a finger blown off his hand and was hit by five other bullets. One was aimed at his chest was stopped by a silver cigarette case

The legacy I think Jimmy was most proud of was the thousands of young people who were inspired to be engineers by seeing Scotty on Star Trek. Many of those engineers ended up working for Jet Propulsion Labs or NASA, helping to bring the fictional world of Star Trek a little closer to reality.

Warp speed, Mr. Scott. Godspeed, Mr. Doohan.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Not a good day today.

I spent the last two days doing testing related to my thyroid cancer, and I met with the doctor today.

The ultrasound showed some troubling results. There's about 10 millimeters of my thyroid left. There were some white spots on the ultrasound that could indicate that the cancer is still there. The thyroid scan I did today showed some unexpected results - it didn't pick up any of the trace dose of radiation I had yesterday. He seems to think the scan was screwed up, but the full body scan on Thursday should show something more definitive. Once he gets those results, plus the blood work I had taken yesterday should give him a more complete picture.

What happens after that is this. I will almost certainly have the radiation dose on Monday and spend the night at the hospital. If the scan and the blood tests support what he saw on the ultrasound, he will increase the dose from 100 to 150 millicuries. That should kill the remaining thyroid and cancer cells.

If it doesn't the worst case scenario at this point would be more surgery to remove the offending tissue. I'm praying we don't have to go down that road, but we'll see.

So my spirits aren't the best today. I'm actually looking forward to going to work tomorrow and reestablishing some bit of normalcy to my life. Sitting around at home and moping isn't going to help anything. I'm also slightly radioactive, so I can't be around the kids until Friday after work and I've been banished to the basement.

I'll know more on Sunday night/Monday AM (the doctor is out of town over the weekend). I won't have the laptop at the hospital Monday night, but I'll update things when I can.

Monday, July 18, 2005

OK, I almost wrote this last night, but I was too pissed off. I'm a bit calmer now.

What was Terry Francona thinking?

The Sox lost to the Yankees again last night, 5-3. Once again, it was the way they lost more than the actual loss that has me up in arms.

Let's set the stage. The Sox are down 5-1 in the bottom of the 9th. Manny leads off against Tom Gordon and blasts one over the Monster to knock a run off the lead. Millar follows this with a walk and in comes Mariano Riviera to shut things down.

But things don't go quite right for the Yankee closer. Trot Nixon grounds one to rookie 2nd baseman Robinson Cano, who tosses a double play ball into left field. Now it's 1st and 3rd, nobody out. Varitek pinch hits for Mirabelli and singles, driving in Millar. Mueller bloops a single to right, loading the bases. Red Sox Nation is in a frenzy, including me in my family room.

Now, up comes the .199 hitting Alex Cora. He had come in for Bellhorn earlier in the game after Bellhorn had hurt his thumb diving for a ground ball. Cora has never faced Riviera, maybe the greatest closer ever. Fortunately, the Sox have one of the great professional hitters of the last two decades, John Olerud, sitting in the dugout. So he's coming up to face Riviera, right?

Sorry, not tonight. Thank you for playing.

Whaaat?!?! You have got to be kidding me. I'm shouting at the TV, "Where the [bleep] is Olerud? How can you let this guy hit?"

So I settle down a bit and start saying, "Cora, you can do anything but ground into a double play. Strike out, pop out, whatever. And if you do hit into a double play, you damned well better get the run in from 3rd."

Of course, what happens is predictable. Cora grounds to A-Rod, who throws to Posada for the force at home. Posada throws to first, just beating Cora with the throw. Two out. Damon grounds to second. Game over.

So, Terry, the press asks after the game, where the heck was Olerud? Here's the quote from today's Boston Globe:

''Who would take his place at second [if the game went extra innings]?" Francona asked. ''If you have a guy I'll listen."

A reporter suggested Mueller play second, with Millar moving to third base, where he made 28 appearances when he was a Florida Marlin.

''We've talked to Billy," Francona said. ''We're not going to put Bill Mueller at second anymore."

What the hell does that mean? Bill Mueller will refuse to play second base in an emergency situation? Millar won't play third? Doesn't sound like there's much Cowboying Up going on there if that's the case. Olerud gives you a vastly better chance of even getting to the 10th inning than Cora does. If you never get to the 10th inning, it doesn't matter who plays second, third or anywhere else!!!. You lose!

And you know what? Francona would probably counter that if he had done that and the game was lost because of a poor defensive play later on, we would be on him about that. And yeah, a few dopes who called WEEI might have said that. But I think the vast majority of Sox fans would have understood the situation and would have applauded Francona for taking the risk, and would have loved Millar and Mueller for playing out of position in a pinch.

But that's just me.

OK, rant over. Let's see if we can get well against the Devil Rays tonight.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Things are not looking good for the Sox. They're down 4-1 to the Empire in the top of the 7th. They've already lost 2 out of the first 3, and if they lose tonight it'll be 6 losses in their last 8 games against division rivals Baltimore and New York. so we need a comeback tonight or it's really going to be bad news.

I finished the Dan Shaughnessey book, Reversing the Curse yesterday. It's a great review of the 2004 season, far better than Faithful. Shaughnessey is the guy who really popularized the whle "curse" thing with his 1990 book, Curse of the Bambino. He does a nice job of summing up the season, with chapters for each month, and then one chapter for each playoff series. There is lots of behind the scenes stuff, especially some really interesting bits with "Theo and the Trio" of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. I highly recommend the book for anyone who wants a concise, interesting look at the miraculous ride of the 2004 Red Sox.

Next up on the reading list: none other than the blockbuster of the summer, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I'm about 80 pages in and it's really good so far. A full review when I'm done.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Look At His Butt!

Remember I said a couple of days ago that I wanted to expand my podcast listening past some of the corporate stuff I had found? Well, I was puttering around on iTunes and searched on Star Trek (Surprise!). Nothing really grabbed me except one called "Look At His Butt!" The description was "Trek like you've never heard it before." And it was marked Explicit. Explicit basically means there is swearing and possibly some sexual innuendo. Apple won't post anything pornographic through iTunes.

I had to check this out.

So I subscribed, downloaded the podcast to my iPod and listened on the train yesterday. It was hysterical. The two women (JK and LT) who do the podcast are big Original Series fans, and are apparenly in love with William Shatner (his butt in particular as it seems). They are really funny, really know Star Trek and really seem to be having fun doing the podcast.

If you're a Trek fan, you can check out the podcast at the link above, or subscribe through iTunes. I listened to the 5th episode, but I'll probably check out the others over the next couple of weeks. Excelent stuff!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sox are starting the second half the same way they started the first. Against the Yankees. They're leading 5-3 in the 4th as I write this.

A couple of quick All-Star thoughts:

- I was really pleased to see that some relatively unheralded guys won the ballotting. Mark Teixeira, David Eckstein and Derrick Lee were among those who deserved to start the game this year. And, of course, Scott Posednik beating out Jeter and Matsui for the last spot in the fan ballotting put a smile on my face.

- Did it bother anyone else that the Cardinal's new shortstop (Eckstein) was starting the game while their old one (Renteria) was watching at home.

- The game started too damn late. The telecast started at 8, but by the time they got through the player intros, the national anthems and such it was after 8:30. I caught about the first 3 innings before I needed to go to bed.

- Everyone else has said it, but I'll say it, too. I know the Home Run Derby is really glorified batting practice, but Bobby Abreu's display Monday night (24 homers!) was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. He wasn't just hitting home runs, but he was hitting them all over the ballpark.

- It was nice to see Francona in his uniform top instead of his oil changing sweatshirt for a change.

I downloaded iTunes 4.9, which has built in podcasting. I had toyed with iPodderX, but it's nowhere near as elegant as the iTunes solution. Subscribing to a podcast is as easy as buying a song, and the ones you download are automatically updated when there are new 'casts. I need to subscribe to some more offbeat stuff - I have a Disney podcast, one from ESPN, a New Music Tuesdays one from Apple. The most useful one is a podcast that updates CNN headlines every two hours. I upload it before I leave for work and I get fresh news while I'm on the train. I also subscribed to a Star Wars podcast from which is pretty nicely done.

Well, it's now the 6th, and the Empire has tied it up 5-5. The Sox have two on and none out in the last of the 6th. Go Sox!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Tough finish to the first half for the Sox, as they drop 3 of 4 to the Orioles down at Camden Yards. I always love the All-Star Game, though. I won't be able to stay up for the entire game, but I should be able to make it through a couple of innings.

I was watching the A's-White Sox game on INHD this afternoon. INHD is a cable channel that shows only HD stuff and they run MLB games a few times a week. They don't have their own announcers, so they use the home teams staff.

The thing that astounds me is how many team's announcers refer to the team as "we"; as in "We've lost 2 of our last 3." That's really taboo here in Boston. Even an obvious homer like Joe Castiglione never refers to the Red Sox as "we". Not even Boston's greatest homer play-by-play guy, the late, great Johnny Most of the Celtics ever did. So it's a bit jarring to hear these guys do it.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Well, the doctor wasn't kidding when he said "excessive fatigue". It's been a rough week since I came off the thyroid replacement. I'm only able to do 6-7 hours a day at work (a normal quarter end workday would be closer to 10 hours), and I'm in bed by 9:30 (10:30-11 is standard). Needless to say, I haven't been catching the end of many Red Sox games this week!

Other than that I've been holding up all right. A. has been doing a fantastic job of keeping me fed while I'm on the low-iodine diet. She even made homemade bread and bagels! Who couldn't love a woman like that.

Been an interesting week for the Sox, too. There was almost too much going on to keep up with. Clement and Timlin were kept off the All-Star Team in favor of Bartolo Colon of the Angels, which caused some grumbling in the clubhouse. Then Jay Payton apparently popped off at Francona about playing time once too often and was left behind in Texas. He was designated for assignment and the word is he'll be traded to Oakland for reliever Chad Bradford. The real big news of the week had closer Keith Foulke going on the DL with knee surgery (hopefully the cause of his recent ineffectiveness) and the news that his replacement will be none other than Mr. Bloddy Sock himself, Curt Schilling! Schilling is working on getting himself ready to relieve down in Pawtucket, and he may be ready after the All-Star break. Then came Johnny Damon's reaction to Schilling's new assignment, with the head Idiot saying that "the whole team" thought it should be Timlin or Arroyo taking the job instead. Finally, there were rumors that Kevin Millar had asked for a trade, and Ramon Vazquez was traded to Cleveland for Alex Cora in an exchange of weak hitting infielders.

Did I miss anything?

Finally, a note of condolences and support to the people of London who are suffering through the terrorist attacks on the city's subway and bus system. The British, as always, are showing great resolve in the face of danger and we can only pray that these attacks will be over someday and the cowards responsible are brought to justice.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Baseball is full of odd statistics. Here's one of them.

Manny Ramirez hit his 20th career grand slam tonight, putting him in 2nd place behind Lou Gehrig's 23. After Manny hit the homer, NESN flashed the list of top 5 all-time in number of career grand slams.

Gehrig 23
Manny 20
Eddie Murray 19
Willie McCovey 18
Robin Ventura 18

Robin Ventura?

You have three Hall of Famers in the top five, and one who will likely go. And then you have Robin Ventura, who was a nice player, but not in the same stratosphere with any of these guys.

I mean, where is Babe Ruth? Hank Aaron? Willie Mays? Frank Robinson? How did Ventura, with only 294 career taters happen to hit that many with the bases loaded? It just doesn't make sense.

But it is Baseball.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Independence Day!

We had a quiet day. A. took the kids to the pool for a bit, while I rested. We saw fireworks in Natick last night, and we had a nice time. Thanks to Bismo for the primo viewing spot.

One of the things we celebrate today is the freedom to which we are all entitled as citizens of the United States. These freedoms are enumerated in tbe Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Unfortunately, one of these freedoms is under attack from a group of people who should know better. In fact, this group was elected to office in order to defend those freedoms, not undermine them. Of course, the group I'm talking about is the U.S. House of Representitives.

A few days back, the House voted to pass an amendment to the Constitution which would make it possible to pass laws to prevent desecration of the United States flag. 286 Congressmen thought it was more important to protect a piece of cloth than to defend one of the key principles, freedom of speech, that flag is intended to represent.

The Founding Fathers put freedom of speech into the First Amendment for a very good reason. They wisely realized that the republican (that's small "r") form of government they proposed would not work if the government had the power to outlaw dissent against it. The concept is so basic as to be obvious.

229 years later, the House has seen fit to undermine the basic right of free speech. In voting for this amendment, 286 members of the house have shown that their lack of understanding of how our government works is so profound, that they would undermine one of our most sacred rights.

It's far more offensive to me to outlaw the burning of the flag than it is to burn the flag itself. The flag, at the end of the day, is simply a piece of cloth. It is the ideals behind the flag that give it it's power as a symbol that nearly all Americans revere. Undermining those ideals, even for a seemingly "good" reason, does far more to damage the flag than any number of radicals burning it.

The amendment goes to the Senate next, where 2/3 of the Senate has to approve it before it is sent to the states. So if you want to do your part for freedom on this Independence Day, write to your Senator and tell him or her to vote against the amendment. While you're at it, you might want to write to your Congressman if he voted for the amendment and tell him or her that you'll be voting for a more thoughtful candidate next time.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Tomorrow is the day - I'm off the thyroid replacement and on my low-iodine diet. I prepared for the loss of dairy products last night by stopping at Cabot's Ice Cream in Newton, MA for a coffee frappe (or a coffee cabinet in Rhode Islandese.) Cabot's is a classic old ice cream parlor, and going in there is like stepping back into the '50's (except for the prices, which are definitely 21st Century.) They make a great frappe, which you can't say about a lot of places around here.

So my frequency of posting may go down a bit, since the letter I got from my doctor claims I'll be experiencing "excessive fatigue" due to hypothyroidism. Sounds like fun. Between the fatigue, the radiation and no ice cream in July it's going to be a tough 23 days, but I'm just going to have to suck it up and tough it out.

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