Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On the Road, Again

Your faithful and humble correspondent is bound for Richmond for the Southern Historical Association's annual shindig. I'll actually be making the commute between DC, where I'll be staying, and Richmond each day of the meeting. I'm sure I'll be able to be found most days wandering the book exhibit aimlessly, trying to appear as if I am not andering the book exhibit aimlessly. I'll post as possible, but things might be a little slow around here for the next few days.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Definitive Case Against Waterboarding

Small Wars Journal blogger Malcolm Nance has what I would hope is the definitive argument that waterboarding is torture. Nance's bio is impressive. He is "a counter-terrorism and terrorism intelligence consultant for the U.S. government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence agencies" as well as "a 20-year veteran of the US intelligence community's Combating Terrorism program and a six year veteran of the Global War on Terrorism."

This should be a no-brainer. In my own work in South Africa I have seen how simulated drowning and suffocation were a popular means of inflicting pain and suffering -- of torturing -- alleged enemies of the state. Examples abound of other totalitarian regimes -- regimes against which the United States has always tried to define itself -- engaging in similar behaviors. I can see no justification for waterboarding and its ilk, and I do not see how illegitimate, indeed evil, means help us fight legitimate wars, never mind highly contested ones.

Hat Tip to Christopher Orr at The Plank

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: World Series Champs Edition!

Thunderstick: Well, we counted down the magic number every time it changed from the beginning of April until we clinched the AL East and we counted down the wins for the past few weeks until the number went from 11 to 0, and we finally rolled to the World Series title. Sweet. What a game last night. And while there's no doubt that there was much less relief this time than in 2004, it was pretty f'in great none the less. You can go straight down this entire lineup and see where almost every guy on this roster had a hand in something over the past couple weeks. What a great feel good story last night to see Lester come in and go 5+ and not give up any runs.

There's a lot to go through and to rehash but for today, let's just bask in the idea that we were able to have a fun playoff run to a world title and not have to listen to the 1918 nonsense and all that stuff. As was quoted so many times during 2004, people wondered if Sox fans would be the same without having the curse attached to us and I think it's shown that we aren't the same. We're a much happier bunch that was really able to enjoy this run this year rather than in 2004 where as we've said many times, it was great, incredible, awesome, etc., but would we really call it fun? It was fun this time around.

Props to Mikey Lowell for getting the MVP. I love the guy. He's a throw in, so we eat his salary in the Beckett trade, but he comes through like this for the last two seasons. I know there are ARod rumors swirling and everything, but give me a high- character guy like Lowell who is central in the clubhouse and plays his heart out first to play third. I still think Pap should have won MVP--the story in game 2 was he and Okajima locking down that win (recall Pap came in with two guys on base and the Sox up 1 and he didn't let it get away). His part in game 3 was kind of minimalized, but he got the out that stopped the Rockies' late rally. And last night, with Delcarmen, Timlin and especially Okie looking shaky, he came in and locked things down in another one-run game. But these are arguments that are fun to have because you won. There's an offseason to talk about how well this team is set up for the long haul and what needs to be done in free agency and such, but we can spend a few days really relishing this and then we can throw ourselves into the C's opener, BC/Florida State and Pats/Colts. What a great time to be a Boston sports fan.

[Written a little while later] It is just so much better to be World Series champs than to not be World Series champs. I literally had no time to read the articles on ESPN or CNNSI or even in the Globe this morning until about lunch time and even then I read them hurriedly, but they were great to see. They are all variations on the same themes--sure the team spends money, but look at what the rooks did, how the Sox spent money wisely, how this is no longer a culture of fearing the worst and my favorite, how well the Sox are set up to make a good run at things the next several years.

Throw on that all the ARod stuff and it's a fun sports day. The ARod thing has me a bit perplexed I have to admit. All year I've always been of the mind that as much as I hate ARod, it'd be ridiculous to not sign him and I could instantly love him if he was in the Sox uniform. That said, I think if there's one thing we have learned from 2004 and 2007 is that team chemistry does count for something. It might not count for as much as a lot of people want you to believe, but I think it counts for something and it might be that little something that gets you over the hill in a 7 game series as opposed to losing in 6. And I'm wondering if it's worth signing ARod, particularly from the standpoint that we've learned that what isn't necessarily important is to have a guy that can hit dingers in the middle of your lineup--what is more important is that you have 9 guys that go deep into count and are just relentless at making pitchers pitch and I'm concerned that if you spend $30 million a year on ARod you can't get those 8 or 9 guys that batter pitchers, not to mention that even more important than all that is pitching and I'd much rather spend $12 million per year apiece on two stud pitchers than $30 million on ARod. It has been enteraining if only because everyone within the Yanks organization has bungled everything since the end of the season--from how they let Torre go, to Torre's whole "insult" thing after it was shown that he had incentives in his other contracts, to some of the statements by the younger Steinbrenner [Hank], to now this and the flak ARod is catching for making his announcement during the World Series, not to mention doing it on a day when he said previous committments kept him from coming to the game to get that award from Hank Aaron. This is more of the Yankees team that I know and love. It'll be really interesting to see how all this plays out over the next couple months.

dcat: Let's not worry about ARod or the Yankees or Boras or even the future. One of the big transitions after 2004 is that it has become too easy as a fan not just of the Sox but of Boston sports generally not to be able to appreciate what we have. We've been really lucky. And Sox fans are going to have to make a transition too: While the Sox will always be vitally important to us, to the rest of the world we are just another really successful sports team who they are coming to hate, and whose fans can make that hatred easy to cultivate. Sure, the Sox hold a vital place in the history of baseball. And the fan base is huge and loyal and devoted, far moreso than those of most teams. But the reality is that where 2004 was a great story, my guess is that most of the rest of the world is going to get really weary of the Red Sox. And I'm ok with that -- if people hate you, it means you're relevant.

I too believe Paps deserved the World Series MVP, though Lowell had a hell of a series, and in addition to his obvious numbers, he also scored a lot of runs, played great D, and made some brilliant baseruning decisions. But what I like about it is that it reminds me of 2004: When you sweep a World Series in such convincing fashion, inevitably everyone contributes. Had Dusty or Ellsbury or Paps on the MVP it also would have made sense. I felt that it should have gone to Foulke in 2004 and to paps this time, but the glory of it is that the MVP goes to someone on the winning team, and I doubt anyone on that roster cared in the end who won the MVP except to feel good for their teammate.

The Red Sox are the champions. Again. Looks like I'll happily be spending a lot of money in the next few weeks. And I slept last night with Sportscenter on a permanent loop on the tv in the background. You'll have to report to us from the victory parade. The Red Sox are just another team celebrating just another championship, something that happens every year in baseball, and many times a year in lots of sports. Isn't it glorious?

Sox World Series Champs! (Again!) [dcat Charity Drive Reminder]

I waited my whole life for the Red Sox to win a World series title, and as you all well know, it finally happened in 2004. Naturally this one feels different, but it still feels good. The Thunderstick and I will weigh in with some assessments in a little bit. But there is some business to address, and we may as well not let it wait:

Please don't forget the dcat Charity Drive. A number of you committed yourselves either in comments or in emails to donate money to charity based on various performance parameters for your teams. It's time to pony up. I will be sending $137 the way of the Jimmy Fund, which I'll round up to $150. Please let us know either in the comments or via email what you'll be donating so that we can have a tally for the dcat charity drive.

The Red Sox have now won two titles in a span of four years, are likely candidates for the fictive title of team of the decade, and we have every reason to believe that they will be competitive for years to come. This is not my grandfather's Red Sox team, that's for sure.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: Game Four, Let's Get It Done Tonight, Edition

My hope is that while we'll be able to write about the Sox in the next few days, this will be the last game preview of the 2007 season. Thunderstick kept his remarks brief and to the point:

Thunderstick: I think there was one big message in the game last night which was the Sox jumped out early and took control of the game, which is what champion teams do, and then when Colorado mounted a serious threat, not only did they not ever give up the lead, but when things got tense, they responded big and took their heart and finished the game with a big inning--another thing that champions do. We can go into the heroics of Ellsbury and Dusty and Lowell and Pap, but the big story here was that the Sox looked like the world champions last night. You go through the scenario--Colorado has a good shot to beat Lester tonight and then maybe if they can get by Beckett somehow and get back to Boston and maybe they catch bad outings from Schil and Dice, they could pull it off. But clearly these first three games couldn't have gone much better as the Sox have shown they can win a blowout, they can win a low scoring game and they can win one that is kind of wild.

dcat: Do you remember what we were like at this point in 2004? It was a combination of anticipation and disbelief and, frankly, fear. It seemed too good to be true and while we had seen the Pats win and can even remember the C's winning, and you had Duke basketball, we were entering uncharted territory with the Sox.

This feels different. It just feels good. Now as you say, we are not out of the woods yet. The Lester story is a great one, and there is something wonderful about him getting his shot to close out the World Series given the cancer scare from the offseason. But realistically he is also our weakest link. If there is any chance for the Rockies to snag a win and get that elusive (and maybe fictive) momentum going, it's tonight. But acknowledging that there is still important baseball to be played does not change the reality that we have controlled this series in every imaginable way so far. The lineup has been outstanding. Losing Youks and Papi for half a game each did not end up mattering. Dice was better-than-solid for five innings. The end of the bullpen faltered but did not fail. And when they closed the gap, we awoke and put the game out of reach again, with Paps closing the door yet again, and putting himself in the lead for the MVP discussion.

Get one more win. Do it tonight. This has been fun. I have no interest in drama of any kind. In this case, I am happy to win what I'm sure the rest of the country sees as a boring World Series rather than get caught up in an exciting one.

Go Sox!!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: On To Colorado Edition

Well, it was another damned good night to be a Boston sports fan, especially if you root for BC, as I do (and many in Boston do not, though the bandwagon is filling up fast). The Boston College comeback was beyond improbable and keeps them in the hunt for a BCS bowl and maybe, just maybe a national title. But as great as the win over Virginia Tech was in Blacksburg, it pales next to the Sox taking a 2-0 lead in the World Series over the Rockies. So let's hear what the Thunderstick has to say.

Thunderstick: Great win last night. Really they are all great at this time of year because they get you one victory closer to winning the whole thing, but everyone in the world was predicting a high scoring affair and the Sox were able to win a pitcher's duel. Schil did what he had to and Tito once again showed that he's a master at managing the pitching in the playoffs by knowing exactly when Schill had had enough and exactly how long he could go with Okie and Pap. Hell of a performance by those guys. Jimenez was better than I expected. He walked too many guys and that ultimately led to him not getting out of the 5th, but his stuff was either in the strike zone and nasty or out of the strike zone (and still nasty), so the Sox couldn't get a lot of good hits on him to drive in those walked batters. But they got it done and go up 2-0 heading to Colorado.

Two things after this game--one looking back, one looking forward. We've spent many emails and text messages the last 4 years discussing Schilling, talking about how we wished he'd shut up from time to time and discussing a lot of non-baseball-related items about him. But I hope that was his last start at Fenway because it was the perfect way to go out. Despite the extra stuff that comes along with Schilling, he's had a huge effect on this organization and region. When he came in 2004, it was his presence that kept Sox fans up after the Yanks got ARod in an offseason that came off of that brutal game 7 loss to the Yanks in the 2003 ALCS. And his attitude was huge as one of the personalities to drive that 2004 team. His heroics led to him never being quite right again, with two years where he really wasn't very good at all. But this year, he hasn't been overpowering and he hasn't been dominant, but he's gotten it done when he needed to--in game 3 against Anaheim and game 6 against Cleveland and again last night and his approach has typified this Sox team where he's just doing what he can, doing it intelligently and doing it effectively and he just keeps at it. You heard them talk about him and Ortiz leading that players-only meeting during the series with the Tribe and you see his thoughts echoed in the post-game interviews that are conducted with other players. I won't miss some of the stuff that goes along with Schill if this was his last start, but I will very much miss watching him pitch, particularly in October, even if it is this version of him that rarely goes over 90 and can only throw 80+ pitches a game and while it becomes fashionable to bash on Schilling for some of the stuff he says, it'll be nice to see the full appreciation of Red Sox Nation for him after he passes out of town when people tend to forget the non-game related nonsense and remember his performances.

Lastly, looking ahead--I mean, we can't get too overconfident, but I said after game 1 that game 2 was pretty damned important to the Rox if only because they had to figure that they aren't going to beat Beckett so if they lost game 2, it basically meant they had no margin of error in the 4 upcoming games that Beckett wasn't pitching because even though you might not know what you are going to get from Schill, Dice and Lester in these other four possible games, you have to think the Sox would win at least one of them, so by losing game 2, they might have doomed themselves. But we'll see. I'm interested to see how much the lineups are evened out with the loss of the DH. I'm also interested to see how Dice, who relies on a lot of ball movement, pitches in the thin air. The Rox will have a chance to get back in this, tomorrow night and Sunday night before seeing Beckett again, but I think if the Rox don't win both of these, the Sox will be popping champagne on Monday night. I have a feeling the Rox win one, if only because they are good enough, a young, upstart team that will get carried through one game by the emotion of being at home in the World Series, but I also think they win one because the stars of the 2007 playoffs have clearly been Beckett (for his masterful performance) and Pap (for his pitching, but also for his personality) and it seems like it's only fitting that it end with Beckett getting a win and Pap closing it down for him.

dcat: I wrote the following before Game One:

One factor in this series, I think, is that there will be at least two games when the winner will simply have to outscore the other team, and I don't mean that in the obvious way that teams to win always have to outscore the other. But given that we are talking about a World Series being played in Fenway Park and Coors Field, there are going to be times when the winner is going to have to put up 8-9-10 runs. I am not certain that the Rockies can beat us in a lot of those games. There will also be at least a couple of games when the winner is simply going to have to out-pitch the other team. I am confident that the Sox can win those games.

We know how these sorts of predictions usually work, but I think I had that one right. We've had two very different games, one a laugher, one a nail biter, and in both cases the Sox played better baseball and emerged on top. In the first game Beckett was spectacular, but he did not even have to be, as the lineup pounded the Rockies. In Game Two, runs were going to be scarce. We got what we needed and let Schill do his work, and then he handed the ball to Oki and Paps, who were simply astounding. In the NBA postseason, the ideal approach is to shorten the rotation. In the NHL playoffs coaches change the way they manage shifts. Well, in baseball, you do everything you can to maximize the time the ball is in the hands of the guys at the end of the bullpen rotation. In a game seven that might go out the window, but it is clear that in this series Tito is going to let Oki and Pap go multiple innings. These are the highest leverage situations, so we are going to maximize how we utilize those guys. They came through last night. Thankfully, we have the off day today. Still, we need some innings from Dice tomorrow.

I agree wholeheartedly with you about Schill, though there is a part of me that would love to see him close out his career with the Sox if the price is right. I don't care what Curt Schilling, or any of these guys, thinks about politics. But at this time of year I want a wily Curt Schilling both on the mound and in the clubhouse. If he wants to get bank for one last contract, I think we wish him well and cheer like mad when he returns to Fenway. But if he simply wants another year or two, is interested in being a mentor, and is not worried about being a number one guy, I'd be happy to have him back. There is, as we have seen year after year after year, no such thing as too much starting pitching.

Game Three will be the Rocks' last best chance to get back into this thing. And while Dice had been sporadic, I still maintain that he has not been bad, and the last game he was quite good. So far the Rockies have not been as patient as the Indians, have not seen as many pitches, have not shown the ability to wear our guys down. If we assume that Dice is going to have that one tough inning, and if it is likely to be the fourth, we have to hope that Dice can get to the 4th having thrown as few pitches as possible. We are going to get our runs. The question is if they can get to Dice and ride what will likely be a crazy home crowd thrilled to see their team in a World Series game.

I'm going to enjoy the off day. We have everything to be happy about. Two games down, two wins, and in very different fashion. Let's enjoy a Friday night without being glued to the television, and get back at it tomorrow.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: Game Two of the World Series Edition

Thunderstick: I think that first game confirmed a lot about what we thought might happen in this series. Beckett was awesome. Sox lineup is hot. Rockies look to be cooled off from the layoff. I think the talent is better on the Sox. I also think experience mattered last night--the Sox went in cool and collected and did what they had to. The Rockies couldn't get the last out when they had the Sox at 2 outs all night. Hell, in that 5th inning, that dude had 2 outs and nobody on and the next thing you knew the Sox had batted around and scored 7 runs and there were still 2 outs on the board. So clearly, if you want to draw up a way that game 1 should start that was it--decisive and demoralizing.

That said, it is still one game. It doesn't matter if you win 13-1 and then lose 1-0, you are still going to Denver tied at a game a piece. I still feel like I don't know this Rockies team at all. Helton is the only guy that comes up that I think gives the Rox a good chance to get a hit. I know Holliday was great all year, but I didn't watch the Rox and my only impressions were that he looked overmatched last night (granted it was against Beckett). I guess if you were an NL person and heard all year how great ARod or Haffner were and then you saw them in the playoffs with the performances they had lately, you'd also think "I don't get it--what's the big deal."

I'm always the kind of person that says a series really doesn't start until the home team loses, although I've abandonded that in the days of the 2-3-2 format because it's so hard for the home team to win those three games at home in the middle that I don't think it's the end of the world for the home team to geek one of the first two. So normally I wouldn't think tonight would be that big for the Rox, but now I think it is. They can't afford to lose tonight. Some might say "well if they lose 4-3, it'll show they are on their way back, have shaken off the rust, etc..." I don't buy that at all because Beckett is now 4-0 in this postseason and shows no signs of letting up. I think you have to assume that game 5 is a Sox win at this point, which means that if the Rox lose this one tonight, knowing they'll likely lose game 5, you might as well consider them down 3-0 and it'll be all but over. I know an older Schilling, Dice and LEster aren't the most intimidating pitchers to come to the mound, but you have to think the Sox win at least 2 of the 5 games with them on the mound, which means if the Rox want to win, they better start trying to avoid those two losses tonight.

I think if the Sox win tonight, you have two potential outcomes for the Rox. The best the Rox can hope for is to get that one home win a la the Mets in 2000 against the Yanks to make their home fans feel good that after waiting to see a world series game, they could also see one world series game wins. The other scenario is a 4 game sweep that they are never in like the Cards in 04 or the Padres when they played the Yanks that one year. The Sox had great pitching, worked counts and got big hits. The Rox have to show they can counter that tonight with something. It'll be interesting to see if this Ubaldo dude is up to the task--from what I understand about him, he's got a cannon but doesn't exactly have great command. He better hope to find his command tonight because the Sox pummel guys that don't have great command.

dcat: Not much to disagree with in your assessment of last night's game one. That was one of the dullest Sox blowouts I have ever watched. They made it clear that they were the better team, at least last night, and now I hope they have forgotten all about last night as they prepare for the second game. We saw that stat last night -- before the Sox' blowout, the largest game one margin of victory in World Series history had been 11 runs. Both teams went on to lose the series. That actually means nothing, except to say that there is no real momentum involved in even the most overwhelming win.

But where we might have momentum is with the bats. Our offense has been astounding the last four games. We have put double digits up in the run column and have been winning games by huge margins. Basically, in the last few games we have been running roughshod in a leave-no-doubts-who-is-the-best-team sort of way. If that keeps up it will take pressure off the pitching staff.

But none of that means anything tonight if we lose game two, and I know that enough guys in that locker room are aware of this fact. What i loved about last night's game, and what I have loved about the last four games, is that we have not had to rely on Manny and Papi to carry us. Dusty has come up big the last few games, and Youkilis has probably been as much of a postseason MVP as Beckett on a day-to-day basis. This is partially why I am not going to let myself get too concerned about the fact that we will lose one of the Lowell-Youk-Papi troika during the games in Colorado. Tito will make sure they all are worked into the lineup, but we don't rely on one guy to get it done. I'd love all three to be in the games. But if you were to tell me that rather than lose one to the absence of the DH we'd, God forbid, lose one to injury, would you wring your hands in despair? Me neither.

At this time of year there is not much new that we ask for from game to game. I'd like to see us continue our hitting streak. I hope Schill is in his postseason form, I hope the bullpen has made something of the rest they've gotten. Rinse, wash repeat. This is what I'll want on Saturday and Sunday too. What I think we lack right now is the sense of moral crusade or historical comeuppance. This is the brave new post-2004 world in which we live. We want the Red Sox to win it all because any fan wants their team to win it all, and we love the Sox unconditionally. But there is little subtext or metanarrative within which to couch this postseason run. And that's good. It is nice for the angst in this series to be the same sort of angst we would feel for the Celtics or Pats, if, because it's the Red Sox, a bit more intense.

I see no need to reconsider my belief that the Red Sox are going to win this series comfortably, if not easily. Schill will give us six strong and we'll score our share of runs. That will be enough. Sox 8 Rockies 4.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: Game One of the World Series Edition

Time for "Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: Game One of the World Series Edition." (I really need to speak to my headline writers.)

Thunderstick: Greetings from a rainy Massachusetts, site of game 1 of the World Series tonight!! God I love the World Series. Give me this championship over any other. The Super Bowl may be the biggest one-day event, but it's gotten much to corporate as compared to the World Series which still seems pretty pure. It's warm but rainy this morning, but that should all change by gametime. From what I understand, there may be some showers at the start of the game, but nothing that would delay things. But this rain is a result of the cold front coming through, so the temps will drop. In fact it was 61 when I came in this morning, but the news said that that was the warmest it was going to be all day.

It's a bummer that Wake is out of the rotation. But the nice thing (in a sense) was that I saw his interview last night and he basically said he was going to pitch a side session and then another session the following day and he couldn't even throw the ball. They thought he might be able to get through one start, but they said if he did he absolutely wouldn't be able to throw again in the series. Wake was pretty clear that this was the right decision so at least it's not like there is any question about this and you've got a player that is sitting there mad because he got left off.

As for tonight, I'm psyched, but I also am not all that concerned if only because I don't see it is a critical game. If we win, well, we were supposed to with Beckett. If we lose, well, we already know this team can come back from large deficits. I think the only way either team leaves Boston worried is if they are down 0-2. But I don't think that's a huge risk for the Sox. I put it the odds like this--45% that we leave Boston up 2-0, 45% that we leave 1-1, 10% that we leave down 0-2.

dcat: I'll keep mine short. One factor in this series, I think, is that there will be at least two games when the winner will simply have to outscore the other team, and I don't mean that in the obvious way that teams to win always have to outscore the other. But given that we are talking about a World Series being played in Fenway Park and Coors Field, there are going to be times when the winner is going to have to put up 8-9-10 runs. I am not certain that the Rockies can beat us in a lot of those games. There will also be at least a couple of games when the winner is simply going to have to out-pitch the other team. I am confident that the Sox can win those games.

We have our rotation set up perfectly, with the exception of the Wakefield situation, which is unfortunate given all he has done for the franchise, but which also won't be the deciding factor in these games. We have had a couple of days of rest, but not too much. the Rockies have not gone this long without playing baseball since pitchers and catchers reported. That is going to be a factor. Facing live pitching is a matter of having finely honed timing. That, as much as anything, makes these guys world class athletes. Now after nine days, the Rockies are going to come in and play an ALCS-tempered Sox team with Josh Beckett on the mound? I hardly can be accused of wishful thinking or of being a homer (ok, maybe of being a homer) when I am skeptical of whether the layoff won't play a role, at least the first time the Rockies go through their lineup to face Beckett.

This is what these last eight-plus months have been all about. The Red Sox are in the World Series. I have only been able to say that three other times in my life, once when I was four. It always feels good. Hell yeah, we believe.

Quick Hits While You Wait

Here are a few links to help you while away the seven hours and six minutes between now and the first pitch of the 2007 World series.:

Baseball first, of course: I would be willing to bet that no major newspaper in the country devotes as many editorials to its professional sports teams as does The Boston Globe in any given year. Yesterday's was their latest. My guess is that the conclusion that Sox fans deserve the title more than Rockies fans, however true it might be (and it is true) won't endear Boston fans to our growing legion of shrill and irrational critics.

Meanwhile, also at the Globe, Bob Hohler reminds us (as if we needed it) of the signinificance of 2004. Now forgive me while I channel Andrew Sullivan, but I can think of another guy who spent a lot of time in 2004 trying to figure out what it all means.

But enough self indulgence. john Donovan at SI has one of those position-by-position matchup charts that seems pretty reasonably to assess the relative talent levels of the two teams. All of the speculation becomes moot in a little while, though.

On to other matters.

Normally I restrict this sort of thing to the South Africa Blog (I really am full of myself today, aren't I?) but this feature on Thabo Mbeki's relationship with the media caught my eye this morning. Essentially the Mail & Guardian asked two prominent South African writers to assess that issue, and their independent conclusions are, I think, telling.

And since I am emphasizing media issues today, could the Jena 6 case prove to have an uncomfortable amount in common with the Duke lacrosse case? Craig Franklin, assistant editor at the Jena Times, argues as much in the Christian Science Monitor.

Finally, regular readers know that I am mystified by the
appeal of Rudolph Giuliani. Now this Washington Monthly piece simply adds to the suspicion many of us have about Guliani's inclinations toward a dangerous desire to centralize his own power when he has it.

Sox take Game 1 in Fenway tonight 7-2.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick, WORLD SERIES EDITION

After an often-taut seven-game series against the Indians, the Red Sox are returning to the World Series where they'll face the Rockies, which will now be lots of people's new favorite team. Boston, whether everyone who doesn't root for the Sox-Pats-Celtics-BC Eagles-or-hell-even-the-surprising-Bruins likes it or not (and I assume the answer is "not,") is the epicenter of the sporting universe, and that universe revolves around the sun that is Fenway Park. So now that I am back from San Antonio, let's have the first Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick WORLD SERIES EDITION.

Thunderstick: Hell of a ballgame. Obviously anyone who watched the game knows the game was much closer than the final score indicated. It was pretty gut wrenching for the first 7.5 innings. Even when Dusty's home run opened things up in the bottom of 7, Okie put those first two guys on and there were three guys coming up that had a chance to tie the score with one swing of the bat. But Pap knocked it down and the Sox blasted it open in the bottom of 8 and made the 9th pretty easy to breathe. But for 7.5 innings, my stomach was turning.

I'm hearing a lot this morning about how it was the experienced Sox team that won this thing because when the moments got big, they knew how to handle it. I certainly think that was the case in game 5 with Beckett being brilliant and in game 6 with Schilling getting through some early trouble to settle in and go 7 strong. But look at the key players last night--Dice, Okie, Pap, Dusty, Ellsbury, Youk. None of these guys other than Youk has any playoff experience and his is limited to sitting on the bench during the 2004 run and going out three straight to the White Sox in 2005. Not exactly a ton of experience from those guys, but they all came up big in their own way last night. Cleveland on the other side had a few guys play well--most notably Victor Martinez. But the story of this series for them is that Carmona, Sebathia, Hafner and Sizemore didn't really show up at all. You can win a couple games with your big guns not doing much (Papi and Manny barely got a hit between them in games 6 and 7) but it's tough to win an ALCS. I think the Tribe was flying high after game 4, but Beckett came in in game 5 and shut them down and all off a sudden they looked up and they were at Fenway and they were thinking "uh oh" and with everyone run the Sox scored and every out they made, that stage got bigger and bigger and the Tribe didn't have guys who were quite ready to handle that yet.

dcat: As always seems to be the case with the Sox, there were lots of tense moments last night, including an excruciating fifth-through-seventh before we broke it open. But in those last three games we outscored the Indians by, I believe, 30-5, which reveals both an ability to turn it on and the strength of our rotation and bullpen. All props to the Indians, they played a great series, and they have a great few years ahead when I hope we can beat them some more. My suspicion is that these were the two best teams in baseball this year, which will be confirmed if the Sox take care of the Rockies in the manner that I expect them to.

I would disagree with you on the experience argument to at least some degree. Yes, our productivity last night was not only predominantly from guys who were not there in 2004, but disproportionately came from our rookie troika of Dice-Dusty-Okie-Jacoby. But I think that experience helps in more ways than simply having been there before and knowing what to do. I also believe that the experience factor especially permeates the clubhouse. So while those guys had never been there in any meaningful way, Youks' getting to watch in 2004 notwithstanding, they got to draw their example from Schill and Papi and Manny and Tek and Waker and Timlin.

As for the Rockies, of course they provide a formidable challenge, and 21 of 22 is awesome, and they have made a run so far through the postseason unlike any team in the Wild-Card era. And of course they are capable of beating the Red Sox. And naturally the guys will take them seriously. And blah blah blah. But I still believe that the Sox are the best team in baseball, I believe that after the series with Cleveland the Sox are playoff tempered. I believe the Sox are much more talented. Naturally that could be setting myself up for a fall, but to hell with it -- Sox in five. And if it does go five, the odds are that I might take a crazy, whirlwind, epic road trip to Denver even though I have to be back by Tuesday and head to the DC area Wednesaday for a conference.

Go Sox!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick, Postseason Edition

I was away last weekend and did not get back until Monday evening. Then I left for San Antonio on Friday. This, not the mini-swoon the Sox undertook in games 2-4, explains the lack of Sox Talk the last few days. But we have a game seven upon us in a matter of just over three hours, and the Thunderstick has things to say:

Thunderstick: Sox stuff--first last night--obviously there are two big stories. First was Drew getting redemption for his whole season in one at bat, crushing that grand slam. Sox load the bases and you can hear the buzz, but after Manny and Lowell went down, you could hear the air come out of the place with such low expectations for Drew. It was dead silent. Then he cranks that grannie and the place didn't let up the rest of the game. Second big story was Schil coming through again in a game where they were on the ropes. He had to fight a bit in the third, but he fight he did and got through it and gave us just what we wanted--we got 7 innings from him and we got to use the two relievers we don't want to see at all in tonight to finish it up.

So we move on to Game 7 (cliche alert), the two most exciting words in sports. Here's why I like the Sox chances--they have the momentum, they have everyone in the pen rested and ready to go and I have trouble seeing us use anyone out of the pen other than Beckett, Delcarmen, Timlin. Okie and Pap unless we have to. If we do, we can use Lester and Waker. We should only see Gagne and Lopez if this game goes 16 innings. So it'll be (cliche alert #2) all hands on deck today and I like the hands we have ready to go.

I also think that you made a very astute observation last night--after Victor Martinez hit that home run in the 2nd and took about 12 minutes to circle the bases, I texted you and said "I don't mind him taking forever, but I better not hear anyone else on the Tribe whining about what Manny did after that display" to which you responded something to the effect of "yeah, that's why we're going to win, because we don't let shit like this get into our heads." In the 2nd inning of a game 6 yesterday with a chance to go to the World Series, but down 4-0, it was more important for Martinez to do something in response to a perceived slight from Manny than it was to circle the bases and pump his team up.

That said, here's why I don't like the Sox today--one word: Dice. I'm scared to death about him today. He's the one guy on this team that does seem to let things get into his head. I have no idea what his mental state is coming in to tonight. I have no idea what will happen if he gets touched for a run in the first. But it'll be a short leash tonight. I think if you see Dice give up 2 runs in an inning, he'll be out. So my prediction, we tag Westbrook for a few in the early innings. Dice probably gives up a few as well, but Beckett comes in in the fourth and calms things down and it's the 3 innings he pitches in the middle of the game that are the difference tonight--not quite as heroic as Pedro coming in in game 5 with an injury and throwing 6 innings of no hit ball, but it'll be remembered equally as fondly. That said, I'm praying that Dice finds it in himself to give us 6 innings of 1 run ball and that Westbrook doesn't continue this run that he is on. He's got a bit of the Derek Lowe in the 2004 playoffs going on where nobody expects much of him but he is very, very solid with some spectacular moments.

dcat: As long as we're praising one another's brilliance, and since you mention Lowe, I'll also point out that you were spot-on last night when you texted me that this is the situation where we really miss Derek Lowe. I am more aware than most that the sabermetrics types (from whom I borrow, but whose work I am incapable of replicating because of the whole math thing) deny that there is such a thing as clutch, but I think they are wrong. Clutch may not be a predictable thing, but it exists as something we can identify after the fact. We've seen it with Papi, and we saw it when DLowe came up big for us just days after being left off the ALDS roster in 2004. People forget that Lowe's name at the end of the 2004 regular season was, if not in a league with Gagne's right now, at least comparable to the way Sox fans have felt before last night about JD Drew. But when it mattered, when it truly counted, he came up huge. So my hope is that Dice, who has not been awful, but has been sporadic in a way that we cannot afford in the playoffs, will come though tonight in a DLowe sort of way. I'd love 8 innings of one hit ball. But really what we want is for him to come out, give 6-7 innings, and to avoid that three or four run inning. As we saw with Drew last night, ill fortune can turn quickly. I want Dice to come up big enough to keep us in the game into the fourth time around their order. If he does that, I think we'll win.

A few words about the Indians. They are a good team. They are, I suspect, one of the two best teams in baseball. I know that now is the time when everyone is jumping on the Rockies' bandwagon, and they have had a spectacular run, but I don't think they are all that good, and I believe that whichever team escapes from tonight will pummel them. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. There have been some annoyances in the series, of course, as will always be the case in any seven game series between closely matched teams, and I do believe that they have been less good at blocking out the extracurriculars and the distractions than we have. This should be a team that will make noise for a long time in the Central and the AL. Who knows, maybe we are even startinga new rivalry along the lines of the one that started to gain traction between the Sox and Indians in the second half of the 1990s.

But back to tonight. I think we win. I think Tito knows how to handle the bullpen in games such as this. I think we have the bullpen lined up perfectly, as you say, and that we are ready for any sort of game. I think that we now are back to where we want to be with the bats. I think we are the better team, if only slightly. If I'm wrong, I'll tip my hat to Indians fans, will mourn for a few days, and will enjoy the Patriots and BC and the start of the new NBA season. I'll rue at least four more games of hearing that insipid, invidious "Cleveland Rocks" song during inning breaks. But it does not feel like today marks the end of the 2007 Red Sox season.

Oh, what the hell -- just for old times' sake: We Believe.

Enjoy the game.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

South Africa 15-6 England

The Springboks are the World Champions after defeating England 15-6 in the World Cup finals in Paris. South Africa led 9-3 at the break. The Springboks were led by fullback Percy Motgomery's four kicks. This marks Amobokoboko's second time hoisting the Ellis Cup, as they also won in historic fashion in 1995.

An Emergency Situation

I'm in San Antonio for the weekend. This is not noteworthy. What is of vital import is that my sister/mother-in law do not have cable television, and two giant events, the finals of the Rugby World Cup, pitting the Springboks against England, and games six and seven of the Sox-Tribe series are taking place this weekend. A world without cable is a world in which the living envy the dead. I'll find a way to see the Sox game, at least, but I might have to follow South Africa's pounding of the defending world champs via the internets.

Predictions: South Africa 36-14 England. And I get the sense that we are destined for a game seven, if only because there is no way that God wants Tom and Don to have an enjoyable weekend. And he certainly enjoys watching me suffer, as we've seen in the recent past.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Veteran Presence

The Boston Globe has a story about the many ways in which veterans of the Iraq War are helping 2008 candidates for both parties. Naturally one of the main memes of the campaign will be an attempt to claim to be the most patriotic and pro-troops of all. While this story does not purport to be scientific or even representative, it does indicate that claims to speak for what veterans think will likely be a farce, as all of the candidates have drawn support, ranging from the ardently anti-war candidates to those who claim that only victory, as long as it takes, is acceptable.

Springboks v. England

The Springboks play defending world champs England in the finals of the Rugby World Cup this coming weekend. Here is a little bit of coverage from the South Africa blog, complete with a fearless prediction.

Where to Eat in the Airport

I'm back from the trip to Dallas to see the Pats annihilate the Cowboys. The weekend was too much fun. The pre-game atmosphere at Texas Stadium was akin to a festival. The best part of the weekend was, of course, seeing old friends, including my old buddy Pep and my prodigal colleague and pop culture maven Jaime, who was chaperoned by his boy Ben.

As for the game itself, the Patriots are truly awesome. (Ben -- you owe me five bucks!) Going undefeated is a tough task in any context, and given that the Patriots still have a huge game against a Colts team that's probably really sick of hearing about New England, and given that the Steelers and Redskins and other quality teams still loom, I'd say it is truly premature to speculate about an undefeated season. But the Cowboys are a good team, they were playing at home, and the Pats crushed them.

In the meantime, there is not much to say about the Red Sox. The Indians are simply playing significantly better baseball. If they pull this out, they deserve it. The Sox need to get into one game at a time mode, Beckett needs to come up big on Thursday night, and somebody outside of the middle of the lineup needs to come up with a timely hit. Otherwise this season will end up as another serious disappointment.

As I recover from the weekend, deal with a fairly major professional development process here at UT's little desert gem, and polish off the final draft of my Freedom Ride book -- which, by the way, has been accepted for publication by a university press, (details forthcoming), I would like to enlist the good folks at The Washington Post travel section to help us solve one of those age-old dilemmas: Where to eat at the airport? Usually the options range from the unappetizing fast food fare to the banality of another Chili's. Here are the best, and sometimes legitimately great, options in eighteen airports in US cities. Print and save, or simply memorize, if you travel a lot. Bon appetit!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sportsguy Slips

In his NFL picks column today Sportsguy wrote a paragraph that at first simply made my jaw drop because of its stupidity. But as the hours have passed I have become actively angry about it. Here is the offending paragraph:
So these past few years have been surreal for Boston fans: Three Super Bowl titles and a World Series title, the transformation of the Sox-Yankees feud into a full-fledged rivalry, and the evolution of the Patriots from a perennial black sheep to the undisputed villain of the NFL. Back in 1999, when the fortunes of our sports teams had sunk so low that Gerry Callahan dubbed Boston "Loserville," I would have happily settled for one contender to watch ... and I probably would have chopped off a pinky like Ronnie Lott to make it happen. Eight years later, we have three legitimate contenders. It's amazing.

Keep in mind a few salient facts. Bill Simmons is arguably the most popular, widely read sportswriter in America. He works for the unquestionable sports entertainment empire, the "Worldwide Leader" in sports. I'll guarantee he is making a huge income. And he is from Boston and demonstrably a huge Boston sports fan. And yet he wrote the following sentence: "Back in 1999, when the fortunes of our sports teams had sunk so low that Gerry Callahan dubbed Boston 'Loserville,' I would have happily settled for one contender to watch ... and I probably would have chopped off a pinky like Ronnie Lott to make it happen."

Bill Simmons would have "happily settled for one contender to watch" on the Boston sporting scene in 1999. In 1999 the Red Sox made the postseason for the second year in a row for the first time since the Babe Ruth era. They defeated Cleveland in a rather memorable series in which an injured Pedro Martinez came in from the bullpen to shut the Indians down over several innings.

"Back in 1999, when the fortunes of our sports teams had sunk so low that Gerry Callahan dubbed Boston 'Loserville,' I would have happily settled for one contender to watch ... and I probably would have chopped off a pinky like Ronnie Lott to make it happen."

The 1998 New England Patriots, whose season extended into 1999, made the playoffs, and the 1999 Pats were 8-8. In other words, the Patriots were a contender for postseason play in 1999, as for more than half of that year they looked back on a season in which they had just made the playoffs, and then when their season began in September they began 6-2. Heading into their November 15 game against the Jets, the Patriots were not only a contender, they were one of the best teams in the AFC.

"Back in 1999, when the fortunes of our sports teams had sunk so low that Gerry Callahan dubbed Boston 'Loserville,' I would have happily settled for one contender to watch ... and I probably would have chopped off a pinky like Ronnie Lott to make it happen."

And while I know that Sportsguy is not a hockey fan, that is hardly the fault of the Bruins, who won their first round series against Carolina and took the Sabres, who went to the Stanley Cup Finals, to six games before losing. In 1999.

"Back in 1999, when the fortunes of our sports teams had sunk so low that Gerry Callahan dubbed Boston 'Loserville,' I would have happily settled for one contender to watch ... and I probably would have chopped off a pinky like Ronnie Lott to make it happen."

The Celtics that year were terrible. The other three Boston professional sports teams were by any definitions contenders. Simmons' performance here is simply ghastly, and given that he writes for an online source, and that the research of the facts of this assertion about the putridity of Boston sports in 1999 is a fingerclick away, how can Simmons and his corporate overlords justify this sort of half-assed performance?

(He also misuses the word "irony" and both misuses and misspells the word "ubuntu." Where the hell is his editor?)

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick, Postseason Edition

Thunderstick thought we ought to post a preview of the ALCS clash between the Red Sox and the Indians. Who am I to deny what the Thunderstick, and surely the people, want?

Thunderstick: There's no doubt that as this week has gone on I've gotten more and more nervous about this series. There was kind of a period of, I'm not sure what to call it, not relief because I think we could have beaten them, but more like calm because no matter who we were playing and how good they were, it was nice to know that it wouldn't be the circus that Sox/Yanks would have been. I'm sure baseball fans of other teams that haven't been as successful as the Sox and Yanks have been the last several years would read that and toss a "you should be happy you root for a big market team that can compete every year and has such a great rivalry" my way. I have to say, I really, really am.

There are a lot of good rivalries in sports, but only a handful of really great ones and I feel very privileged to be involved with two of them--not just having grown up and currently living in the Boston area, but also having gotten to do my undergrad work at Duke and witnessing Duke/UNC first hand in Cameron. But it's like we've talked about several times--as great as the 2004 ALCS was, could you really call it fun? I don't really think I enjoyed myself during that until the last few innings of game 7. Sox/Yanks is so all-encompassing during the regular season that I just don't know if I was up for another 7 game series there at this time. To draw a Duke/UNC analogy, in 1991, both Duke and UNC made the final 4. UNC lost to Kansas in the first national semifinal that night and Duke upset UNLV and in the postgame press conference, Coack K was asked a question something along the lines of "how great would it have been for UNC to have won and to have had a Duke/UNC national title game?" to which Coach K responded something to the effect that "it would be the worst thing to happen to the rivalry, the losing side would never live it down and it would create a hostile rivalry instead of the great, respectful rivalry it is now". You see that with Duke and Maryland which was a pretty good rivalry before 2001 but after they met in the national semi and Duke came back to win the game, that rivalry has become more hostile than good-natured. Of course, Maryland fans are troglodytes, so maybe that was destined to happen anyway. I think that's what these ALCS's between the Sox and Yanks have done--not that it was the most civil rivalry in the world before that, but it's gotten downright hostile in the wake of the ALCS meetings and I don't think I was ready to go through that again and amp it up even farther.

My point in telling all that is to address the Cleveland fans. I know dcat's friends Tom and Don are big Cleveland guys and I guess there's the possibility that one of the other 12 people that read this site are as well, so I wanted to let them know, I got nothing but love for you guys! Should the Sox lose this series I will be on board the Tribe's bandwagon in the World Series hoping they can pull out a win over whichever of the Johnny-Come-Latelys comes out of the NL. My dad spent a good part of his youth in Cleveland. In our attic, he still keeps a pennant from the parade for the 1954 Cleveland Indians that won 111 games I think it was but got swept in the World Series that he ripped off one of the vehicles that was passing by during the parade and that he later got signed by Early Wynn. While spending the last 30 years in the Boston area has made my dad a Sox fan, I know there's a part of him that is hoping to see Cleveland go all the way and if the Sox should bow out, it would make me very happy to see him have a chance to see the Tribe win it all.

As for the matchups--I mean, what can you say. As I said earlier, I wasn't nervous in the beginning of the week, but I've got those playoff jitters now and they have to do with two guys--Sabathia and Carmona. Those guys are sick. But the Sox will counter with Beckett and Schil. We could have four games that match up the 3 best pitchers in the AL this year and the best postseason pitcher of all time. The other 3 games will be pitched on both sides with Westbrook, Byrd, Dice and Waker, guys that the teams really don't know what they are going to get out of them. I think the pens are pretty much even. I think you have to give the Sox an edge in the lineup, although not a big one and I think you have to give the Sox a big checkmark in the closer category. I wouldn't be surprised to see either team win in 5 or to see it go the distance, but I'll take the Sox in 6, if only because I have bad visions of Dice opening up game 7 and what that might lead to, so I'm hoping it's over before that.

dcat: Not even a decade ago, I couldn't stand Cleveland. The 1995 team beat the Red Sox in the postseason, as did the 1998 team. By 1998 I was in Ohio for grad school and of course found Cleveland fans to be insufferable, which is generally the case any time you have to deal with ardent fans of a team that isn't yours. But then Tom and I became buddies, I reconnected with Don, and the Sox and Pats went on their recent runs. So I've no ill will toward the Indians, and unless something happens to make me hate them this series, I'll be thrilled for those guys if the Indians can win it all.

But right now this is business, not personal. So in that spirit: Fuck the Indians. They have intimidating frontline starting pitching, but I think our starters go deeper. Their middle relief is tough, but their closer is heart-failure inducing, and that usually haunts teams in the postseason. We have quite good middle relief and a lights-out closer. And while I'm sure I'll get nasty phone calls from Tom and Don, I'm not certain that the Indians have three guys who would start for this year's Red Sox team. Hafner, of course, you'd have to find a place for (where, though?), and Sizemore too, though defensively I'm taking Coco right now. Victor Martinez had a better offensive year than Varitek but, please.

That said, this isn't fantasy baseball, and the Indians proved their mettle by beating the Yankees in every aspect of the game. As for what it means not to play the Yankees? It means the Yankees weren't good enough to get this far. I agree -- it's not always fun to play them in these series, but more importantly, on the field the Indians earned their way here. They tied for us for the best record in baseball this season. I firmly believe that these are the two best teams in the game right now. So it's the Indians I want to play. First pitch cannot get here quickly enough. Sox in five.

(And then tomorrow, I head to Dallas, as I have tickets to the Pats-Cowboys clash in Irving. We'll catch Game 2 somewhere fun tomorrow night and then will get ready for the clash of the undefeateds on Sunday. It's a great time to be a Boston sports fan. Pats 34 Cowboys 24.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Is life throwing you curves? Do you have a dilemma that is getting you down? Do you have a choice that seems impossible? If so, just ask yourself: What Would Riggins Do? Everything will be alright.

Hat Tip to the Thunderstick.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Travel Before Guidebooks

At The Guardian's Travel Blog, the cleverly named "Travelog", Michael Cross remembers global travel before guidebooks were standard fare. I tend to be pretty blase about guidebooks. I'll usually travel with one, and depending on the location they can provide anything from piece of mind to smart suggestions to useless and outdated information, but I'm also pretty comfortable going off book and letting the road take me wherever it leads. I don't see any particular virtue in either using or avoiding guidebooks. To locals everyone is a tourist outside of their own home town, after all.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick, Postseason Edition

I've no idea if all of the baseball playoff talk will cost readers or gain readers. But this is the most wonderful time of the year, and my personal hope is that we'll be doing these installments of "Dirty Water" through the end of October.

Thunderstick: Great ball game today. You know, you talk about momentum coming in to the playoffs and all those things, but the bottom line is that teams get hot and cold during the course of the season and it usually happens all of a sudden. We fretted about how this team played down the stretch and really for the better part of the last 3 months. But it looks like they've gotten to the playoffs and are on a roll. I know Anaheim is not really healthy and running at top speed, but as we say so many times during the regular season, whenever you take 2 of 3, even if it's against the DRays, that's about all you can expect. So to sweep anyone, especially in the playoffs, it's a solid performance and we look like we've been able to turn it on and get on a hot streak.

Not much to complain about in this series--Schil looked great today. Not the great velocity he's had in past years, but he had pinpoint control and really moved the ball around well today in the strike zone to keep the hitters off balance. We got big blasts from Ortiz and Manny and then we teed off on the bullpen and that was all she wrote for this series. You have to have a positive assessment in most phases of the game from this series. Starting pitching was excellent two nights and passable the third. Bullpen (for the one game they pitched meaningful innings) was excellent. Manny and Papi are getting it done in the middle of the lineup and the rest of the lineup made pitchers work and got some runs in. Dice was worrisome as well, but the make up of this team is such that we can hopefully ride some great outings by Beckett and have a hot bullpen so that Dice, Schil and whoever goes in game 4 will just need to get through 5 with us in the game and let the pen take us the rest of the day.

We'll hang tight until the end of the other ALDS series to discuss the matchups. Obviously both teams present unique challenges, be it the Yanks lineup or the Tribe's top two pitchers. But we've got the luxury now of having 4 off days before game 1. The pitchers will be going on substantially extra rest. We can roll Beckett in game 1 rather than later in the series which is great because you know he'll go game 1 and 5 and be available for at least a few innings in game 7 if need be. And they'll be at home so there's not even any travel involved between now and Friday night. So it's set up about as well as we can hope. Tribe started out well tonight, but as I write this, Lebron's Yanks have taken an 8-3 lead and it looks like we'll see a game 4. But we can sit back and watch these teams slug it out for as long as this goes knowing that the Sox are home resting up to take on the winner.

dcat: The first step is done. We won the ALDS in convincing fashion and in the eyes of most probably set ourselves up as the team to beat. Now we have a few days to get guys rested and to get ready to start with a clean slate. What happened in the last few days literally means nothing in the next group of games, whether we face the Indians, which seems likely, or a Yankee team that remonded us tonight of how dangerous they can be.

I echo your sentiments. It all starts with the rotation, and the starters are looking fine right now. I know you are nervous about DiceK, but I think he is going to be fine. he is incredibly inconsistent, and I expect one of these times he will show that flash of brilliance. He will give us seven innings and give up one run and take stress off the bullpen. If we get that from our number two (and after today de facto number three) we are going to win a lot of series. I also love the way Papi and Manny are taking over the games when they ahve to and how the rest of the guys are following their lead. I'd love to see us score more runs early, but if that is our biggest complaint after a three-game sweep, I guess we'll survive.

I also think it worth echoing something we've written back and forth about before: Tito seems to have the magic touch in the postseason. What I have always liked about him is that he always has a reason for what he does. And if it does not work he gets up and says "here is what I was thinking," and even if it did not work, you can feel assured that this isn't Jimy Williams' Jimywocky or Grady Little's Bubba Gump routine.

It is going to be weird having four days between Sox appearances. I do not really worry about rust. Unless we lay an egg on Friday, at which point we'll inevitably lament the four days off. Still, this is as great a position as we can ask to be in, and while it is an impossibility for me to root for the Yankees, after the fact I can say that I am not broken hearted that the Yankees showed signs of life tonight. In the end, though, we have to beat whoever gets to the next round. Neither of those teams is going to be easy. Let's enjoy the time off and the fact that they have a lot of work to do before one of them gets through to face us in Fenway on Friday night.

And as always, Go Sox!!!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick, Postseason Edition

Here is a post-Manny home run version of Dirty Water, postseason Sox Talk with the Thunderstick.

Thunderstick: What to say that hasn't been said in the last 12 hours about this game? Dice was dicey (HA!). Bullpen was stellar. Tito managed it fantastically. And we've said it about a hundred times, but even with Ortiz's late game heroics, it just doesn't seem like a good idea to walk the guy in order to get to a sure-fire Hall of Famer like Manny.

What a win. We were texting during the game and felt differently about this, but I felt throughout that game that the pressure was mounting on LA, That they needed to win in order have a realistic shot in this series. I felt like the Sox had to be thinking "we've got one and we've got Beckett going for one more--all we need to do is win one of these other ones and if we lose this one, we've got two more shots." But as that game got later and later, you could feel the excitement building knowing that if they could get this win, it would be the heartbreaker that might finish off Anaheim.

So we stand here now the day before game 3 knowing that we are in great shape. Is it a done deal? Well I think we all know that after the Sox pulled off the greatest postseason comeback in sports history in 2004 (or if want to look at it as the Yanks pulling off the biggest choke job), we know anything is possible. Schil in game 3 and Dice in game 5 are no sure things and you can always steal one from Beckett. But we know we've got at worst a stud pitcher in game 4 to give us a chance to win and Anaheim has seen our pen and knows that it doesn't give up runs easily. Nothing to not like about this situation.

The Yanks-Indians game was pretty incredible too. Unbelievably tense and the bugs things was phenomenal to see. While I know a long, 5-game series with lots of extra inning affairs between the Tribe and the Yanks is best for the Sox, I just can't bring myself to physically root for the Yanks once the game is on, so I'll be rooting for the Tribe to take down future Knick (or very possibly Brooklyn Net) Lebron's Yanks as soon as possible. I think a fitting way for Clemens to end his career would be to get lit up a la Tom Glavine in the last game of the season for the Mets. Sure he was a great pitcher, but he's also a douchebag.

dcat: You said it. What's not to feel good about? Barring something we do not even want to begin to consider, we should be lining up our pitching for the ALCS pretty soon. The offense has not been great, but it has been good enough, and it has been timely. Dice did not give us a whole lot, but he did enough to keep us in the game. The fact that the guys are able to play from behind, that they could win in walk off fashion, that we can get four outs from Paps, that we have another legitimate postseason clutch guy like Manny -- that is all the sort of thing that you want to see in October.

Oh -- and as far as "clutch" goes, I realize that there is no metric that shows that "clutch" actually exists. But I think of it this way -- it appears true that Sabrmetrically there is no such thing as clutch in terms of the predictive power to determine if someone will perform in tight situations. But there certainly is a descriptive thing known as clutch -- we may not have been able reliably to predict that Manny would hit a bomb (I do not recall seeing anyone crush a ball like that in some time. It was gone instantly, and everyone in fenway knew it from first contact, including Manny) but we are certain after the fact that he did. And I think we benefited from clutch in two ways -- the decision not to pitch to Papi was clearly the result of his history, and then Manny hit what by any definition was a clutch home run.

Tito always has these guys set to play, and while we have had a lot of turnover, we also have anough guys like Tek and Papi and Manny who were there in 2004. They will maintain the game-at-a-time mindset. Schill will be ready to go tomorrow night. Let's not even let this get back anywhere near fenway. The next time we see the Sox on Landsdowne I want it to be in the ALCS.

It certainly looks like we are going to face the Indians in a rematch of some of the late-90s contests. I know far too well not to count out the Yankees. But this team is a long way from those that knew how to come back from situations like this. They gave us a scare in the second half of the season. They are still very dangerous. But the Indians don't exactly look awed by the pinstripes. And like you I simply cannot root for the Yanks to win even if a five-game series might benefit us tremendously. I think we have to respect the Indians if they polish this off, but nothing about them frightens me except those damned bugs. It figures that Cleveland would have cooties.

As always: Go Sox. And I'd love for the Pats to give the Browns a foreshadowing of Cleveland pain at the hands of a Boston sports team tomorrow. That would be nice. The Browns are working toward respectability. I hope Brady and company go out early tomorrow and take care of business before the sons of Romeo can develop any ideas whatsoever about pulling off an upset.



Friday, October 05, 2007

Schlesinger's Diary

This week's New York Times Sunday Book Review has an extensive review of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s Journals: 1952-2000. My only complaint is that the Times surely could have given this assignment to someone with considerably more gravitas than Maureen Dowd, who, given more than 4300 words, does little more than recount anecdotes from the book. The anecdotes are telling, but couldn't a more serious reviewer have done so much more with this sort of prime space? I have a hard time believing that Bill Leuchtenburg or Robert Dallek or Alonzo Hamby or about three dozen other serious historians could not have done a significantly better job with a book that looks rich and compelling and will provide rich insights into Schlesinger and simultaneously leave a valuable primary source for historians of politics and American life to mine.

In The Changer: What Up, G?

It's Friday, and sometimes, occasionally, rarely that means a new edition of "In the Changer" in which I review stuff that I've been listening to lately. I've been cleaning out the piles alphabetically in recent months and am up to the Gs. By the way -- just to show that I am responsive to my readers in my way, I want GingerM to know that I finally picked up Blonde Redhead the other day, and while it may be quite a while before I get to write about it, I'll say that it reminds me a little bit of Bends era Radiohead filtered through, I don't know, Feist or something. I'm only through a couple of listenings. It has an ethereal spookiness that I think I dig.

G. Love: The Hustle When I was living in Boston in 1994 G. Love and Special Sauce's "Blues Music" played a lot on one of the cooler radio stations and I loved it. A mishmash of blues and hip hop and lo-fi rock, the Philly born and bred G. Love, (Not to blow his cover, but his real, decidedly less down name is Garrett Dutton III) a Berklee School of Music grad and a regular in the Boston music scene, immediately entered that pantheon for me of artists whose music I'll always buy, to whom I will always be devoted, and whose shows I'll always see. Devotion is blind, so I had frankly overlooked a little bit of flatlining on his part in which his albums have been ok but not great. But his last couple of been great, with The Hustle arguably his best since the eponymous debut. G. Love has always carried himself as a hep cat, and while one wonders for how long he'll be able to pull off songs like "Bootie Call" without descending into self parody, for now he's still the coolest kid at Rock 'n' Roll High. Grade: A-

Maallem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Sanders: The Trace of Seven Colors Merge the North-West African style of music known as Essaouira (a style named after Gania, also spelled "Guinia" and "Gania") with a legendary American jazz saxophonist and you get this mesmerizing meeting of cultures. Pharoah places his saxophone in the duty of Gania's Moroccan stylings, and so newcomers to the genre may find it a bit grating initially, with Pharoah's bleatings perhaps ironically the most dissonant. But if you keep listening you'll find that Ghania constructs his music like a tapestry with the discrete parts distinguishable but serving a larger whole. This won't be for everyone, but it's worth checking out to see if it might be for you. B

Golden Smog: Another Fine Day The putative supergroup Golden Smog has a constantly shifting membership consisting at various times of members of the Jayhawks, Wilco, Soul Asylum, Big Star, and official favorite band of dcat, The Replacements, among others. Originally founded in the oft-overlooked music mecca of Minneapolis, Golden Smog reappears every few years to play live shows, and if they can pull enough sessions together, to record an album. Another Fine Day represents just such a mashup and as a result is on the schizophrenic side, but in the end, talent will out. Golden Smog also probably deserves pride of place in the y'alternative (or No Depression, or Alt-Country, or what have you) revolution, as the collective's explicit goal in gathering was to give a country twist to the punk and postpunk and protopunk and hardcore thrash that tended to dominate their respective scenes. Sure, it's a bit self indulgent, but then again, I have a fucking blog, so who am I to talk? B+

Gomez: How We Operate Look, it's simple. Certain bands always put out great albums. Gomez, another in the succession of great Britpop bands that make this world worth inhabiting, is one of these bands. Thus How We Operate is a great album. QED and all that. (The song that has me in a tizzy right now is "Girlshapedlovedrug" but they're just about all awesome. Go buy it.) A-

Gorillaz: Demon Days Move over Josie and the Pussycats. Tell The Archies the News. The Gorillaz are the greatest cartoon band of all time. Even better than Poison. B

Grandaddy: Just Like the Fambly Cat Usually great, Grandaddy stumbles here. Beginning with an interlude (yup -- I know what an interlude means, and yet they did it. So it goes.) that has a child repeating, over and over and fucking over again, "what happened to the fambly cat?" this album never approaches the highs of previous Grandaddy all-time great albums The Sophtware Slump (2000) or Sumday (2003). This isn't bad. It's just disappointing. But disappointment from someone you love is bad, isn't it? B-

David Gray: Life in Slow Motion David Gray hit the motherlode when the song "Babylon" hit the zeitgeist (well, a slice of the zeitgeist) a few years back and brought an otherwise languishing album (White Ladder) back from the remainder bin. That means he'll continue to sell albums to guys like me, who buy way, way, way too many albums. He'll also sell lots of albums to the Irish because the Irish love him. And that's all ok. David Gray produces affectless, somewhat anodyne, singer-songwritery pop (yes, Britpop). He's nonthreatening. One can imagine Lisa Simpson liking him when she grows up. I'm sure hipsters hate him. But I'm a sucker for a guy who can write a decent melody and couple it with earnest lyrics, which he does, and which he displays on LISM. Maybe I'm cool because I don't care if I'm cool. (Please think I'm cool.) B

Green Day: Presents: American Idiot It took me forever finally to buy this album, longer to give it much of a listen. Green Day is a lot more sophisticated than one would think given the limitations of genre. I'm still not sure what to think of the whole semi-punk rock opera idea (Oh, yes I am -- it's a really, really crap idea) but in the end the songs and the songwriting prevail even if the politics are a bit sophomoric. Plus that one song, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," sounds like the best Oasis song in a decade. Who knew they had it in them (either Green Day or Oasis, for that matter)? B+

Guided By Voices: Half Smiles of the Decomposed Allegedly the last album from GBV, it also represents one of their less shambolic efforts. It weighs in at a mere 14 songs, most of them essentially representing traditional approaches to the art of indie pop. I don't know if this is good or bad -- Robert Pollard is either legendary or infamous for putting just about every thought to album. Or so we thought, and then we realize that he has box sets worth of songs sill available, some of which are allegedly on the way in some format down the road and many of which are now part of his solo output. He might be the most prolific artist in the history of the form. "Half Smiles" won't go down as GBV's best album. So what? It's still pretty damned good. B+

Guns 'N' Roses: Appetite for Destruction If I have to convince you of why this, arguably the greatest hard rock album ever, completely and totally rules, then you are an idiot. I still cannot believe this came out twenty years ago. But I'll guarantee it sounds great at 40 too. And that's good, because we'll probably still be waiting for the release of Chinese Democracy in 2027. A+

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick, Postseason Edition

During the playoffs the Thunderstick and I are going to try to provide day-after assessments of the Sox games. Thanks largely to yet another big-game performance by Beckett (in six postseason starts the guy has three complete game shutouts, good enough for a tie for second on history's all time list) the Sox got off on the right foot against Anaheim and BoSox whipping boy John Lackey.

Thunderstick: Quite the game tonight. We got some dingers from Papi and Youk. We got runs up on the board early. We played clean in the field. But the story was clearly Beckett who put on absolutely pitching clinic. That's how you throw down the opening shot in the playoffs. Establish that you have the best #1 starter left in these playoffs. He was efficient, in control and pretty much unhittable. He rolled through that lineup so fast that not only did he get a shutout, complete game win, but he did it in time for me to click over and barely miss any of Gossip Girl (the next great teen drama which I know DCat readers are fans of even if they won't admit it). Couldn't be happier with game 1.

Two quick points--First, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to spend an inordinate amount of time over these next 48 hours worrying about Dice-K. Second, I love the playoff schedule. Not only does this 6:30 start mean that kids in Boston can stay up and watch the game in its entirety, but it also means us working stiffs can see the whole game and not be zombies at work the next day. God bless TBS even if Jose Mota is a disaster as a "sideline" reporter and they occasionally miss the first pitch of an inning. And God bless Comcast for adding TBS-HD to my cable package the day before the baseball playoffs start. God bless everyone (except the Yankees and their fans because they suck eggs).

dcat: Glorious. What else can we say? I'm not even worried about Dice, and I think that we got started exactly as we would have hoped. The Indians have a killer 1-2 punch, but I do not see how anyone could seriously doubt that Beckett is the pitching alpha dog in this postseason after last night. Then we have Big Papi blasting one, Lowell continuing his rbi run, and Youks plopping one into the Monster Seats. This is how we hoped they would start the playoffs, and is a welcome change from 2005 when they laid an egg in that first game against the ChiSox and never recovered, and then some nimrod scheduled his wedding for the day of Game 3.

The old cliche is that momentum is today's starting pitcher. I know Dice has been sporadic and it seems that he has that one inning in which he implodes every time around. But I just feel confident in the way that this team is playing right now, especially knowing how Theo and company have constructed recent Sox teams to perform in the postseason. I am really looking forward not only to the remaining games, but also to seeing how those dastards from the Bronx perform against the team with the racist mascot. Basically, I want five 15-inning games and a few injuries that look like they could have been drawn from the old SNL steroid Olympics. (OK -- I don't want catastrophic injuries, but let's just say that if Clemens' hemorhoids acted up a la George Brett or Jeter suffered a bizarre deep tissue bruise while removing Tim McCarver's lips from his ass cheeks it would not bother me).

And I'm happy to see Colorado and Arizona both win their first games, bringing me a step closer to seeing a World Series game this year. The traditionalist in me is appalled of course, but screw that guy, because selfish dcat is winning the argument. Oh -- and thanks for sending me a porn link, telling me it was "something funny," and not making it clear that the something funny was that you would find my wife being pissed at me for opening it on her laptop to be high comedy. I appreciate that.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sox-Angels Countdown

While you wait for the games to start, enjoy this feature based on a Dan Shaughnessy interview of Sox GM Theo Epstein. Jackie MacMullen has a revealing article about Mike Lowell. Bob Ryan discusses the win-win trade between the Marlins and Sox that brought Josh Beckett to Boston. The only bad news right now is that back issues are keeping Tim Wakefield off the ALDS roster, but hopefully he'll be available for the ALCS. Anyone with memories of 2003-2004 wants Wakefield available down the road. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for the postseason to start. Oh, and if you need some playoff reading to get you in the mood for a Sox victory, may I self-indulgently suggest this?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick, Postseason Edition

Baseball has the longest season of any American team sport that matters, with the most games, and thus the ups and downs can cloud the average fan's judgment. I look at this past season and there seemed like a great deal of regular season angst. And yet when all was said and done, the Sox finished tied for the best record in baseball and won the tiebreaker. They won the division over the Yankees and are the top seed going into the postseason. The Red Sox had a pretty damned good year, and yet looking back over the last six months, I feel as if we were constantly bitching about them. But now the slate is wiped clean and we face a race to win eleven games. First team to do so is crowned champion. So without further intro, let's get down to the first postseason installment of Dirty Water, in which the Thunderstick and I talk Sox.

Thunderstick: Well, it's the eve of the ALDS and we're patiently waiting to see the AL East champion Boston Red Sox take the field. We've had several discussions about this the last week as winning the AL East clearly meant more to you than it did to me. I'm glad they were able to do it. I'm glad we're able not to have to listen to all the AL East titles in a row that the Yanks have won. But really I'm not sure it means all that much anymore. It's a nice achievement but as I think Bob Ryan said last week, what seemed acutely important last week really doesn't mean much now at all. So let's get to playoff time.

I like the matchup with Anaheim. We've played well against them this year and they aren't exactly coming in the most healthy they've been all year. Clearly there are concerns--it's not like any of our starters have been lights out. Pap gave up a save or two towards the end of the year. The hitting comes and goes. But if there's one thing we've learned from the last few years, the regular season goes out the window and all that really matter is getting hot. St. Louis won it all with 83 wins last year when they got hot. Detroit fell apart last year and lost the AL Central on the last day and yet made it to the World Series. We just gotta hope they are ready to go. There isn't one team in the playoffs that would surprise me if they win it all. But taking out the inevitability that someone gets hot, here are my predictions:

Sox/Angels--Beckett gets it done in game 1. Dice has one bad inning that sinks him in game 2 but Schil comes back with a big outing in Game 3 and Beckett sews it up in game 4 as the Angels are just too dinged up to hang the whole way through.

Cleveland/NY--I love Sabathia for two games. I love Carmona for one. I love the Tribe's chances of winning either game 3 or 4 against a hurting Clemens or an aging Mussina, as well as he's pitched lately. Cleveland gets it done here and loses to the Sox in the ALCS (the Tribe is still a young team and are a year away still from breaking Cleveland fans' hearts by losing in the World Series--that'll be in the next year or two).

Philly/Colorado, Zona/Cubs--I see Philly and the Cubs getting through. I have no reason for this. I know little about National League baseball. But I just foresee one of these tortured fan bases having a year where they get their hopes up--Philly to finally see a title in their city for the first time since Dr. J, or the Cubs to break that long streak. Someone's going to get a fun ride to the World Series before getting wiped out by Cleveland or the Sox in 5.

dcat: It's go time. Let's get ready to rumble. Play Ball! Whatever your cliche, it's all built up to this, and as always at this time of year when the Sox are involved, I'm gearing up for a month of my stomach churning, of anxiety, of nailbiting, of swearing unbelievably crass expletives at Tim McCarver, of anticipation. I love this time of year.

As you mentioned, I do believe that winning the division mattered. I do think that ending up with the best record mattered. I know that home field or winning the division has been far from a guarantee of long-range success, but I think it is too easy to confuse causation and correlation when it comes to the relative paucity of success of home teams and division winners. For a team built to win in the postseason, there is still a great deal to be gained from winning the division and from getting to play the extra game, and the last game, at home, and in our case in the Friendly Confines. And this year we had the added ability to set the schedule and thus the number of days off. With Waker apparently suffering from back woes and thus not good to go in this first series, I am glad we eked out the best record over the Indians.

Naturally I predict only good things for the Sox. If there is ever a time when one is allowed to choose heart over head, this is the year. We are going to beat the Angels, and then we are going to end up facing the Yankees. Because that's what God wants. I like the Indians, and for two years now have been saying that they are on the cusp. And their top two starters are as good as any in the league. But the Yankees are simply death on inexperienced postseason pitchers and teams. That lineup is going to take pitches and battle and foul balls off and go deep into counts. And I think they will be able to score enough that the Indians won't be able to match it. Hafner is dangerous and scary good (though I bet the Indians would like to see the Hafner from the first 2/3 of 2006 right now) but from top to bottom that might be the least scary lineup of the eight playoff teams. it certainly does not match up, at least on paper, to the rest of the AL clubs. I'd as soon be wrong -- I'd love to see the Indians take out the Yankees, but I also suspect that once again we are on a collision course with the crapweasels from the Bronx.

In the National League, I am selfish. easily the teams the rest of the country does not want to see are the Rockies and the D-Backs. But both Denver and Phoenix are within (long) driving range of Odessa. Chicago and Philly are not, and in any case, the odds of getting Cubbies World series tickets are about what they would be in Boston. I want to see the Sox this postseason. My odds increase substantially if Arizona and Colorado meet in the NLCS. (My head thinks the somewhat more rested Phillies will be too much for a game Rockies team that gave its all last night and that the DBacks will break the hearts of Cubs fans.) But in any case, there is no interest like self interest: Sox-DBacks, and Jaime, if you're reading -- get ready, because dcat's coming to town.

Sporting Grief: In Which dcat Shows a Modicum of Humanity

While there were times when I experienced schadenfreude over the collapse of the New York Mets last week, mostly it was just painful to watch. I've been through it too many times, especially with the Red Sox, to gloat when it was all said and done. Only sports fans can understand it, but sporting grief is very real and can be very painful.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Tolkien and Lewis at the Eagle and Child

Imagine that you are a resident of Oxford in the 1930s and 1940s. And let's say that one of your regular pub stops is the Eagle and Child, a reasonable proposition if you like pubs in Oxford, though I find it a bit too cramped and oddly laid out. But no matter. Odds are that in your perambulations you'd occasionally run into the Inklings, an informal group of writers that included JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, who whiled away hours at the pub often referred to as "The Bird and the Baby" after their somewhat more formal gab sessions about their work and writing generally. The latest Times Literary Supplement has a review of Diana Pavlak Glyer's The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community which explores this remarkable ferment of talent and socializing.