The Baseball Desert

Friday, September 15, 2006

Before the evening steals the afternoon

It seems strange to think that exactly four weeks ago today I drove home like a madman to catch the first game of the Yankees-Sox series, confident that we would take 3 of the 5 games, hopeful that we might actually take 4 and praying to the gods of baseball to grant us a magical 5-game sweep. It would be fair to say that that didn't happen, and that since then the Red Sox' season has pretty much been flushed down the toilet. You can look at the numbers and tell me that, on paper, the Sox are not yet eliminated, but to quote my Dad (who no doubt stole the quote from someone else): "They don't play on paper - they play on grass," and the Sox are, to all extents and purposes, cooked.

So the question is: "What's left?" The obvious answer is that there's Papi's chase ofJimmie Foxx's home run record, but these last few days have had me thinking beyond that, and even beyond the Sox. I looked at the schedule earlier today, and there are 16 games left - that's all there is left of 6 solid months of almost daily baseball. There will of course be games beyond Sunday October 1st, but unless hell freezes over between now and then, they won't involve the Boston Red Sox, and although I will - like Paul - be watching them, I won't be watching them with the same interest and enthusiasm with which I watch Sox games.

Last night I watched the Dodgers vs. Cubs game, and as I write this I'm watching the Reds play the Cubs (Bronson shutting out the Cubs and throwing his breaking ball for strike after strike after strike - keep moving folks, there's nothing to see here, no lingering regrets, nope, none at all...). After a baseball-free week, these games have helped me to take a step back and just appreciate all the stuff that attracted me to baseball in the first place, but it's not the same as watching your guys. And for me that is true whether they're doing well or not, whether they're playing in the ALCS or just playing out September in the hope of salvaging some seriously wounded pride.

The Red Sox are not going to be playing playoff baseball this year, but the issue for me is less one of prestige and success than it is one of there simply being no more meaningful games in just over two weeks' time. I love this game and this team - enough to get me out of bed in the middle of the night something like 80 times since April - and I'm just flat out depressed that the season is coming to an end, and a premature one at that. I don't follow football or soccer or hockey or whatever other sports are out there over the winter, so all I see ahead of me are five-plus months of waiting for spring training. Those months are easier to get through and seem much shorter when the team has had a good season. My only consolation this winter will be that this train-wreck of a second half could only have been avoided with some serious divine intervention. The front office has taken a lot of heat for failing to make the big signing at the trade deadline, but not Bobby Abreu nor indeed any major league baseball player in the history of the game could have dug the Sox out of the hole they found themselves in in August. Pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong, so the only reasonable thing to do seem to be to gently close the book on '06 and look forward to whatever '07 will hold for the Sox. And so I'll do what I can to savour these last 16 games - starting with the Yankees tonight - taking from the oasis of summer whatever is needed to help me through five long months in the baseball desert.