I don’t know if you are a baseball fan who’s been following the seemingly endless series upon series upon series to get to the Mother of all series-es, the World Series. Who knew that with all these “wild card” playoffs, and second chances that baseball would go on so long into October? I’m not really complaining because the Red Sox are still winning after so losing last year. They won as many games as they lost last year and with all the beard-growth, seem to be having a lot of fun as teammates playing baseball. In fact, the Red Sox with 97 wins this year, have tied the existing record (St. Louis) for winning the most games in a season! This year’s triumph is so surprising and that much sweeter coming back-to-back from last year’s shameful letdown.
Much has been written about reconstructing a winning Red Sox team this year. Some say it’s due to a new business strategy (Ben Cherington, the GM, gets credit for it) of paying more short-term money for proven no-name baseball players who just want to play baseball and win for the Red Sox. Players like Joe Napoli, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, are newcomers to the Red Sox roster and have done well enough so that we now recognize their names, even if we can’t always recognize their features behind some of those beards. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltimacchia have all contributed to the wins (although Salty strikes out as much as he hits.) David Ortiz hits home runs just when you need him to but I’m always nervous when Clay Buchholtz is pitching, aren’t you?
In any case, the reason I’m writing this post is that the Red Sox clinched the latest playoff with the Tampa Bay Rays last night, as described by Jacoby Ellsbury, “It’s mentally draining to play Tampa Bay but they’re a great group of guys.” Shane Victorino, one of the new guys this year, was key to their winning last night’s game, both running and hitting. In fact, Joe Maddon, the Tampa Bay Rays coach was quoted as saying, “Shane Victorino, he just drips intangibles.” I laughed out loud when I read this description, both because: a) I’ve never heard anyone described as such; b) I don’t really know which ‘intangibles’ he’s referring to, baseball-wise, and c) for it to come out of a coach’s mouth was surprisingly erudite, if you know what I mean. Here’s the actual context:
Ellsbury was stealing second on the pitch and continued to third when the ball rolled toward the backstop. Victorino beat out a slow chopper to shortstop, putting the Red Sox ahead 2-1.
“Victorino really adds a different dimension to that group, and you saw that again tonight. He just drips with intangibles,” Maddon said.
This is why I watch baseball. It’s like watching a chapter of Greek mythology playing out before our very eyes. For example, in the space of a year, we witnessed the debacle of last year’s team and coach, Bobby Valentine, burning to a crisp together in a crucible of egocentric individuals eating chicken wings and drinking beer in the locker room. Now, the Red Sox have risen from the ashes into a “One for all, All for One” bearded team (who knew beards mattered?) who seem to love helping each other out. David Ortiz was quoted as coaching his team players to “hold out for the fast ball” in the second or third playoff game with the Tampa Bay Rays. Here’s a Designated Hitter, coaching his fellow teammates how to hit the pitcher, rather than being content with being the best hitter on the team.
Hey, come to think of it, if the Los Angeles Dodgers end up winning their playoffs, last year’s Gone, Baby, Gone Trio trade (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett) may be on the field playing against this year’s bearded Red Sox team for the World Series. Now that match-up would really drip with intangibles, don’t you think?