Friday, July 14, 2006

Believe it or not, I'm not going to dwell too much on the 2nd consecutive game the Red Sox dropped in extra innings. It was a master stroke of strategy for Francona to pinch run Willie Harris in the 9th. While he did manage to get picked off in a botched hit and run (of course we have to blame Francona for that, since it's his call), surely he did it with style and flair that Trot Nixon could not have summoned in that situation. As for Loretta's error, these things happen. Alas, they do not happen enough.

Nor do I have much to say about the All Star game. I watched some of it over at a friend's place. I left early, though. I am one of the many, many people who haven't bought the "This time it counts" line. If it truly counts, then Eric Gagne's consecutive save streak should have stopped after he let up the home run that clinched home field for the AL the first time they tried this foolish experiment.

The MLB All Star game is a giant sham. If you've read even one of my previous entries, you can tell that I like sports (baseball, basketball and football anyway). I watch at least an hour of sports a day. In the fall, I watch maybe 36 hours of football, between college and the pros. And yet Tuesday night, I left my friend's place at 10:30 to hustle home because Things to do in Denver When You're Dead was coming on IFC at 10:45.

For those of you who haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It's a very underrated movie. And more importantly, it inspires the question: "What happened to Gabrielle Anwar?" She did some excellent work in this film, she was good in the tango scene from Scent of A Woman and she wasn't bad in the Three Musketeers, which wasn't horrible (given the rest of the cast and the Disney production, that's high praise).

But that's another story for another day. What concerns me today is something that might bear looking at. The All Star break is over, the second half of the season begins in earnest today (since some teams had yesterday off). As I look at the MLB landscape, it is the best of times and it is the worst of times. Two careers have experienced a resurgence in the American League's Eastern Division over the last season and the first half of the current campaign. The question before us, as sports fans (and lovers of truth?) is how have these careers emerged from the ashes?

Last season, Jason Giambi won the Viagra MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award. Leaving aside the irony of said award being sponsored by an ED drug, we must look at the issue objectively. Giambi admitted to using illicit performance enhancing drugs. He apologized to the fans, for what he didn't specify at the time but it seemed clear that it was for the steroid use. But he is back now, hitting homers like he used to (although his average isn't that great).

Some people choose to believe that he's clean. Red Sox fans know better. I have been assured by some of the Red Sox fans whom I encounter from time to time (and who know my opinion on their favorite team, but not necessarily that I am the author of this blog) that Giambi is getting around on pitches that he couldn't get to in '04, or even last season. That he's as big as he ever was (whether or not he's as strong is another story). And there can only be one reason. He's on something, steroids, growth hormone, something.

For my part, admitted cynic though I am, I think he's clean. Or more precisely, I hope he's clean. Not because he hurts the Red Sox, and has a very nice habit of hitting big home runs off of Big Schill, but because after his horrific health scare, he'd have to be the dumbest man alive to be back on the juice. And we know he's not the dumbest man alive, because he's not this guy.

Then there's Mike Lowell. If he continues to put up numbers the way he has to this point in the season, he may well win the Comeback Player of the Year for 2006. After all, he has 12 home runs in 84 games for the Sox this season, compared to 8 for the Marlins in 150 games. Does that strike any one as suspicious timing? 2005 was a bad season to have a surprising drop in productivity (Lowell's HR total dropped from 27 in 2004 to 8, that's a big drop). To put this in perspective, I refer you to Tom Verducci's SI piece, in which he mentions that Neifi Perez hit more HRs and out-slugged Lowell last season.

But he's back now, and playing well for the Sox, so he must be fine. Giambi hitting home runs off Schilling can only be steroids, but the change in scenery, and a smaller park can work wonders for a guy's image. After all, it was the big park and a slow start that led Lowell to press last season, but in a better lineup with less pressure, it all came back together. If I didn't do it last week, there'd be a George Strait quote here.

P.S. On another note, Gene Wojciechowski must be stopped. As a Notre Dame fan, and not just because I'm Irish American, or because I jumped the bandwagon, but because I admire legitimate traditions, there must be no talk of national championships in July. And I don't want to hear how awesome Clausen is. Until he proves that he can play at that level and produce consistently, he's not the second coming of Joe Montana. Being a cynic, I have to say that if the bloodline were really that impressive, why isn't a Clausen penciled into the opening day lineup in the NFL? There are 32 teams, and some dreadful quarterbacks (just think Da Bears on this one), but no Clausens. Like Thomas in the Gospel, I'll believe it when I see it.

P.P.S While I was watching the All Star game, my friend and I talked about movies. He has Shawshank in his top five. I refuse to see it. I didn't much enjoy the story when it was called Falconer, and John Cheever wrote it (I am aware of the differences, but the story of the soul of an unjustly imprisoned man is close enough) and it was called Falconer. I won't see Shawshank because too many people have told me it's in their top 5. I don't want to pick on my friend here (I prefer to do it to his face), but I have to question the rationale behind someone (and he's not the only one I've noticed doing this) making a top 5 films list when they have yet to see (among others) The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Maltese Falcon, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (which was so funny that it was even kind of funny when they remade it as Rat Race), Citizen Kane and a whole host of other movies that should be considered among the all time greats.

P.P.P.S I hate postscripts, and yet I write them. I had these three things to post, and this was the best way I thought of to do it. This is the last. I hope you enjoyed this post and this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it. This could very well be my last entry. I don't know how long it might take, but I fully expect zombie Charles Dickens to rise from Westminster Abbey and come looking for me after the Tale of Two Cities allusion above. I had a pretty good run, all things considered.

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