These Precious Things
Kay. I may need the rest of my life locked in a room with a protractor, a compass, a graphing calculator, fresh No. 2 pencils and sheets of scrap paper to balance the following equation:
0 out + runner at 2nd + runner at 3rd + GB 4 = 2 out + 0 ER
For that matter, when did we replace Manny Ramirez in left field with the kind of outfielder who can gun a fly ball back to the plate in time to get the runner and end the inning?
But while Manny's bang-bang play (not to mention his monumental bang-bang at the plate in the first inning) was in some ways commonplace for any fielder not Manny Ramirez, the doubling up of Jeff Suppan at third base was simply otherworldly by anyone's calculation.
After it happened, as Suppan stumbled sheepishly back to the dugout, a tight closeup showed Tony LaRussa's face going suddenly gray, and bowing his head, he pulled the brim of his cap slowly down over his face.
After it happened, Pedro Martinez, smelling blood, went in for the kill with four more innings of perfect, shutout ball, pointing to the sky as he left.
After it happened, Red Sox hitters capitalized, even with the obvious liability of a finicky star pitcher taking up space in the lineup. Four runs has never felt so much like forty.
After it happened, the sea of red-clad fans grasping their little photos of the Babe on popsicle sticks went silent, the camera showing them glassy-eyed, rally-capped and grasping their hands in prayer. Suppan's blunder sent devastation through the entire ballpark in a palpable wave.
And I finally came to the realization after seeing what that now-fateful double play wrought upon the crowd that my team has utterly spoiled me, to the point where the despair from the other side was something that truly confused me at first. After all, I've watched Bill Mueller bobble the ball as if he's been greasing his hands before each game; I've watched Trot splash down flat on his ass--his recently injured ass, no less--with a spray of water in the bog that was the right-field warning track; I've seen Manny fail to stick the landing on a completely unnecessary slide to catch a pop-up; I've seen Pedro Martinez at the plate, for crying out loud. The gaffes have been all but irrelevant.
In past years, though, the sight of fans with tears standing in their eyes because of a single botched play--the sensation of hope physically draining out of a ballpark--has been ours to bear. And so I realize, my team has spoiled me. They've attained a plane where nothing is impossible. Finally.
Now you can feel the weight of the years and the generations; you can feel it pressing against your tear ducts, or at least I can. Maybe it's the sleep deprivation; maybe it's the stress, but I find myself a weepy and irrational beast this morning, truly wounded by the assertion that I must find a way to accomplish tasks at my job or pick my way through traffic or procure food for myself. You want me to what? The Red Sox are in the World Series!
Whenever I think of Pedro Martinez, out there on the mound for what could be his first, last, and only World Series start, delivering those nasty, beautiful pitches, or of Manny bringing his lethal bat around to send a rocket screaming off into the upper deck, I'm touched as it is, but when I add to that the fact that these things are happening in the World Series, I am completely overcome.
If it all ends tonight, it will mean victory, and of course I want that. But I've realized another thing as I've careened bleary-eyed with joy through my day so far: I will miss all this when it is gone.
All-Baseball email exchange Pt. 3