Monday, August 27, 2007

10th player award

As baseball season rounds the final turn, let's turn our thoughts to who on the Red Sox is worthy of the 10th player award.

Remember, the criteria is not who is the best player on the team, or its most valuable player; this award goes to the player that has most exceeded expectations of him this year. Forthwith then my four candidates and my pick:

Candidate 1: Julian Tavarez Projected: C- Actual Performance: B+
Out of nowhere, Tavarez has come up big and delivered everything you could want from a fifth starter: Usually good for 6 innings, he keeps the score low when he's on and keeps things close even when he's not. Relegated to the bullpen and ignored for weeks, he's come up big in two recent spot starts. Put the ball in his hand and your team has a fighting chance to win a game, and you can't say that about every team's fifth starter.

Candidate 2: Tim Wakefield Projected: B/B- Actual Performance: A
Quickly, who is tied for most wins in all of baseball with Josh Beckett? Yes, that's right, the stalwart Wakefield. Wake and his maddening, fluttering knuckler have stymied the opposition to the tune of a 16-10 record this year. He's riding a 22-inning scoreless streak. He's added a decent curve ball to his good-for-shock-value-only fastball to keep batters on their toes. He's played himself into the playoff rotation should the boys get there this year. A normal season for Wake is, say, 12-12 with a 4.8 ERA, decent enough numbers, especially for what we're paying him. But this year he's been nothing short of spectacular.

Candidate 3: Hideki Okajima Projected: C/C+ Actual Performance: A+
I confess: I thought Okajima was going to have little impact on the roster. Like most of the Nation, I thought he was brought in to cushion Matsuzaka's landing here on our fair shores. But no. He's turned into the most solid 8th-inning guy since Mariano Rivera set up John Wetteland. He's taken innings (therefore strain) off Papelbon's shoulder and with the emergence of Delcarmen, the acquisition of Gagné, and the resurgence of Timlin, if you're not in the lead by the 6th inning, might as well just mail in the last nine outs and hit the buffet.

Candidate 4: Dustin Pedroia Projected: C+/B- Actual Performance: A+
Nobody had too high hopes for the rookie 2nd baseman - except me, that is. I saw him a lot in Pawtucket and he showed the exact same pattern when he came up to Triple-A: His first two or three weeks he looked completely lost at the plate. Then for a couple or three weeks he started knocking the ball around really good but just right at people. Then it all came together for him and he started spraying the ball all over the place. Sound familiar? I knew that once he locked in that he'd contribute in a meaningful way, and to his credit, Tito Francona saw the same thing. Having said that, I pegged him as a .280/.290 guy. I had no clue that he'd rip up the league and, by the looks of things, position himself to run away with Rookie of the Year. Good for you, Petey.

Winner: No contest, my 10th player for the 2007 Red Sox is Okajima, with the silver medal going to Pedroia.

As always, differing opinions welcome.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

My Refuse-Based Existential Crisis

How does one throw away a garbage can?

This isn't one of those stupid hypothetical questions like "why isn't there another word for 'synonym,'" or "why is the word 'abbreviation' so long;" this is the real thing. I have a garbage can that is so decrepit that it cannot stand right side up, and have had it at the curb for three weeks now. And nothing will work to get the garbage collector to collect it.

Think about it: Can't put the word "trash" on it (or "basura" or "lixo"); that would just be an exercise in self-reference - a modern and somewhat baser version of Magritte's painting captioned ceci n'est pas un pipe, except in reverse (and instead of a pipe, it's raw chicken and well-used kitty litter).

Compounding my crisis is the fact that my garbage man is worldly and philosophical, and was more than willing to engage me in what I'm sure he perceived to be a battle of wits.

"Good morning, Johannes," I said to him early one Monday morning recently. His parents had eight children and named each of them for Romantic-era composers.

"Mr. Jacobs, a pleasant good morning to you as well."

"Johannes, I need to discuss this garbage can with you. I'd like you to take it."

"Thank you most kindly, Mr. Jacobs, but I have no need for a garbage can at this time."

"No, you misunderstand. I'd like you to take this and put it in the back of your truck."

"Well," he mused, "were I to do that, of course, it would disappear forever-treated like garbage itself."

"That's precisely what my wishes are along these lines, Johannes." I always felt a little intellectually intimidated by Johannes, and unconsciously chose my words with great care when speaking with him.

"But Mr. Jacobs," he said, easily parrying my first thrust, "the vessel is not the medium. In fact, can not and can never be the medium. It's not garbage. It's a means for transporting garbage from hither to yon with a fair amount of efficiency."

"Yes, certainly," I said, quick to appear in agreement with my sophist adversary. "But this particular vessel has outlived its life. It no longer performs adequately at its only jobs, which are to transport garbage and allow me to bring it to the curb with a modicum of comfort. See, there are large holes in the bottom, so it doesn't hold garbage to any great degree, and look here: both handles have worn off, so it's a chore to drag it to the sidewalk. It's a garbage can in name only, Johannes, and I'd really like it if you would treat it as garbage and put it on your

(goddamn son of a bitching)


He looked at me for a long moment, carefully considering my argument, weighing each logic point to a nicety in his head. Finally he spoke.

"There's a bigger issue at stake here," said Johannes. "President Lincoln once asked, 'if you consider a tail to be a leg, how many legs does a dog have?'" He paused, clearly expecting me to answer him.

"Five," I said, trying to sound decisive.

"No, sir, that's not the case," he said slowly. "Because considering a tail to be a leg doesn't really make it one. I can't take a garbage can and treat it like garbage itself. I hope, in the fullness of time, you'll come to see my point of view, and perhaps even agree with it. Until then, we must agree to disagree - and I should also remind you that there's a forty pound weight limit on trash cans. Good day, Mr. Jacobs."

"Lookit," I said, losing the last shreds of patience I possessed. "Take this. I want to throw it away. It's trash. It's worse than trash, it's apparently trash that not even the smartest fucking trash man in the world will take. Take the trash can or so help me god I'll report you to the city."

He smiled, a soft smile, more of pity and understanding than humor. He put a gloved hand on my shoulder.

"I hope you find what you're looking for, Mr. Jacobs. You should consider the fact that what truly troubles you lies deeper than this garbage can. Good day."

And with that, he left, leaving me to ponder both his last words and the dawning realization that the last thing his gloved hand touched before my shoulder was apparently a dirty diaper filled with Indian food that had been sitting in the sun for three days.

Until next week, Johannes.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Don't Get Me Wrong...

...I know my last post smacked of over-indulgent self-pity. But I don't want to give my readers, of whom I've grown very fond, the impression that my life is anything but good. Of course, life can be complicated. Really complicated sometimes. But let's get all the cards on the table: Life is really, REALLY good.

Thanks for asking.