My hero,Christian Vazquez is now (officially) a Red Sox Hero


The Red Sox won Game 2 of the 2021 ALDS over the Rays in dramatic fashion. Catcher Christian Vazquez hit the walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the 13th inning to give the Red Sox the game and the advantage in the series. The Boston catcher’s blast capped off a grueling battle complete with stellar pitching and defense, blown chances and controversial call. I am not going recap the game here or weigh in on ground-rule doubles- an area of baseball law that has been especially kind to Boston in the play-offs. I am writing today to honor the game’s hero, the ginger backstop Christian Vazquez.

I love Christian Vazquez. I loved him long before he came up in the bottom of the 13th inning and caught a first-pitch fastball sending it into the monster seats for the win. I will love him long after he has left the Red Sox and baseball and this mortal coil.

I think there are two main ways that baseball fans love players. The first is the simpler one. We love our stars. That is not difficult to understand. It is not different than other sports. Red Sox fans love Perdo and Papi and Pedey and Bogey and on and on. Yankees fans love Jeter and Judge and Mo and Pettite and all the others with guady monuments and somber-toned Yankeeographies. It is the same in football and basketball and soccer and hockey and any other sport you can think of. We love stars because we love excellence. We love elite performances and big numbers and highlight-reel heroics and the stars give us those on the regular. That is what makes them stars.

But there is another way that baseball fans love players, a more complicated one. If you talk long enough to any baseball fan, you inevitably find out that they have at least one player who they love that is not a star, possibly not even a starting player or high-leverage reliever, and at times, not even a very good player in the general reckoning. I remember once disparaging Mets back-up catcher Rene Rivera in a text to a Mets fan friend, only to discover Rivera was his favorite player. The Mets team in question had Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon. I understood immediately. This is borderline irrational love is just a part of being a baseball fan.

I am sure it happens in other sports as well (shout outs to my Smarf mob homies) but it isn’t as common and it usually tracks a little closer to performance or at least to personality. I just alluded to Marcus Smart, a Celtics fan cult favorite, but Smart has been an elite defender and the visible pulse of the team for years now. That love is not at all disconnected from high-level performance. I’d bet there are some diehard football fans out there with inexplicable attachments to place-holders and long snappers and forgettable special-teamers but this is a rare thing. It is not rare in baseball, not at all.

This is the way I feel about Christian Vazquez. I love him beyond what can be explained by his stat sheet and his player rankings. I am happy to assign all kinds of magic to his playing that cannot be justified by the evidence and is rarely lent the credence of heroics like last night’s. Catcher is my favorite position. I love watching catchers. I can (and do) watch whole games focused only on what the guy behind the plate is doing. And Christian Vazquez is a joy to watch behind the plate. He has always been a joy to watch catch.

By all the advanced metrics, Vazquez is a very good catcher. He has a great arm, soft hands and a still poise behind the dish. He rates well in all the things that catchers need to do. He frames well, controls the running game, blocks balls in the dirt and calls good game. He isn’t much of hitter in general, but he isn’t bad for a catcher, ranking 22nd out of the 32 catchers will at least a 1000 plate appearances since 2017 in wRC+ (85). Vazquez isn’t just some bum I have affection for, but certainly isn’t a star either. Yet, I hold him in roughly the same regard as I do Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Nate Eovaldi and I harbor the possibly irrational belief that he matters as much to this team as those superior players do.

This is partly just my obsession with catching, but it also has a lot to do with the Red Sox last playoff run. In 2018, Boston had a juggernaut of team, but they also faced one of the most difficult playoff runs in history. To win the World Series that year, they had to beat three 100-win teams. Against the Yankees in the ALDS, Vazquez stood out in stark contrast to Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez. Sanchez is a star, at least at the plate, with a 107 wRC+ and an eye-popping .245 Isolated Power mark. Sanchez is not, however, a catcher. I don’t mean that he isn’t a good defensive. I mean he doesn’t belong at the position. His fielding stats on Fangraphs aren’t great, but they don’t show the whole picture. Sanchez is not good at throwing baserunners out and his framing metrics are so-so. None of that really matters through, because watching the 2018 ALDS is was clear that he did not have the confidence of his pitchers. Time and time again, with runners on base, Yankee pitchers were hesitant to go with the breaking ball, unwilling to bury a hard slider or a dying curve.

Vazquez was the polar opposite. Even when he was struggling with his location, closer Craig Kimbrel kept trying to get Yankees hitters (and later Astros hitters and Dodgers hitters) to chase sliders that dove toward the earth. The Red Sox survived a gauntlet of power hitters in New York, Houston and Los Angeles with a bullpen that had been their Achilles-heel all season. The man behind the plate was a big reason why. Christian Vazquez was the unsung hero of 2018. Now, he is getting a well-deserved moment in the spotlight. You love to see it.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Aaron Boone didn’t start Sanchez in the Wild Card. Vazquez was also passed over for the start with back-up Kevin Plawecki getting the nod to pair with Eovaldi, who he caught in nine of the ace’s last ten starts. Plawecki delivered both behind the plate and with the bat in that game, and has been great in his role as Nasty Nate’s personal catcher. Alex Cora didn’t hesitate to get Vazquez in the game as soon as Eovaldi was done and he looks brilliant for his confidence in the catcher now. Me, I never had a doubt. I love Christian Vazquez. Now and forever.

The Red Sox and the Yankees Wild Card Game: History, hauntings and A Season for the Ages


One of my mild obsessions is books about baseball framed around the story of one season. The best of these books combine history, baseball and personal drama together to create an entertaining and insight for snapshot of a moment in time*. In the years and decades to come someone will undoubtedly write a fantastic book about the 2021 season. Not only was this an incredible year for baseball, it was set against the backdrop of the second year of the COVID 19 pandemic as the Delta variant rose and political turmoil engulfed the country, creating battle lines around vaccinations and masks and ballot counts. From out of this storm, baseball emerged to give us one of the great seasons of the game, complete with once-in-a century performances, down-to-the-wire pennant races, miracle turnarounds and a playoff picture filled with rivals, heroes and heels, and so much potential for heartbreak. I cannot wait to read that book.

When I think of baseball in 2021, I will think of Shohei Ohtani dominating on the mound and at the plate, of his foot twisting as he loads up that beautiful left-handed swing. I will think of the highlight videos of him hitting 99 with a fastball than hitting a fastball 116mph into the stratosphere. I will think of the pure violence of Vlad Jr.’s swing connecting with a baseball. I will think of Sal Perez having one of the greatest seasons any catcher has ever given us. I will think about the Dodgers and the Giants battling all season long, both teams winning more than 100 games and one having to land in one-game playoff against a Cardinals team that won 17 straight games down the stretch on the back of Adam Wainwright and a cast of relative unknowns stepping up at the right time game after game. I will think about the home run derby and Trey Mancini and the underdog Mariners and grumpy Tony LaRussa asking for pitchers to throw at his own players. I will think about Covid quarantines and the homeless Blue Jays. It was an incredible season and it delivered more wonderful storylines than I can possibly list here.

 But I am Red Sox fan and so whatever I really remember about the 2021 season will be determined tonight.

Tonight, the Red Sox will play the Yankees in the Wild-Card game at Fenway Park. For fans my age and older who can remember the days before 2004, this scenario is the reason the phrase “trigger warning” exists. It may be 26 days before Halloween, but the ghosts will be out tonight- the ghost of Bucky Dent Bill Buckner and Aaron Boone* will fill out the spectral monster seats in the back of the mind of every Red Sox fan over 35. We will all try to guard ourselves with the image of Dave Roberts stealing second and David Ortiz’s fingers pointed to the sky, but the ghosts will remain until the final out brings us either triumph or heartbreak.

This is probably how the season had to end. It is undoubtedly how the season would have to end if this was glossy, star-studded sports movie, which is how the season feels now that this matchup is set. The truly incredible thing is that both Red Sox fans and Yankees fans have their own cut of the film, complete with their own themes and morals.

This was scrappy, under-rated Red Sox team, with fans still reeling from the loss of heroes from their 2018 World Series run, like Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi. The pitching was shaky apart from ace Nate Eovaldi. The bullpen was held together with duct tape and a plug of Rafael Dever’s chaw. They whiffed on getting Anthony Rizzo at the trade deadline only to have Kyle Schwarber emerge as their best hitter down the stretch. They dominated the AL East early then faded as Covid hit the clubhouse and the Rays roared back to life. They were fun to watch and infuriating at the same time. They seemed to have great chemistry together but manager Alex Cora often failed to find definitive roles for players and lasting solutions to their many holes on the field.

In New York, it was the mirror opposite. They started slow and looked like a disaster early in the season. Gerrit Cole was their only reliable starter and closer Aroldis Chapman- once as unhittable as they come- looked washed. Worst of all, though, they couldn’t hit. Up until the trade deadline, Only Aaron Judge (146 wRC+) was hitting well and While Stanton (119 wRC+) and Sanchez (116wRC+) were productive they were striking out at eye-popping rates. Last season’s batting champ DJ Le Mehieu was merely a league hitter and former stand-outs Gleyber Torres, Luke Voigt and Miguel Andujar were borderline unplayable at the plate up to that point in the season. It looked like Aaron Boone had lost the team and was on his way to losing his job. Then in came Texas Ranger Joey Gallo, presumably on horse-back and Cubs star Anthony Rizzo, presumably on Bear-back, and the Yankees surged just as the Red Sox began to falter.

Both teams fan bases have reasons to love the 2021 incarnation of their team and both fan bases have reason to be fearful of the coming clash. The Red Sox get to host because of their early season dominance- they beat the Yankees in their first nine meetings- but the memory of the mini-Boston Massacre- the three-game sweep of the Yankees handed the Red Sox at Fenway between September 24 and September 26 – is fresh in Boston fans’ minds.

Tonight’s game is the sport-movie ending for both teams, win or lose. Neither team will fair much of chance against the Rays in the division series or against the better teams that will follow. When the story of the 2021 season is told, tonight’s game will decide the narrative for Boston and New York, it will deliver the tear-jerker ending of either triumph or defeat that will stand out the most when the story of the 2021 season is written. We are living history and I am full of all the anticipation and terror that it brings.


*the best baseball books I have read that center around a single season are Kait Murphy’s Crazy ’08, Glenn Stout’s Fenway 1912 and Robert Creamer’s Baseball in ’41

*Player Aaron Boone will always haunt Red Sox fans for his home run in the 2003 ALCS (aka the Grady Little game) but Manager Aaron Boone did as much as anyone to help the 2018 Red Sox defeat the Yankees- this distinction is very important.

The Laser Show is Over: Boston Red Sox Star Dustin Pedroia Retires


Dustin Pedroia is my favorite baseball player.

I suppose, now though, I should say Dustin Pedroia was my favorite baseball player. Yesterday the man who dubbed himself “Laser Show” called it a career.

Pedey appeared in just nine games in the past three season as his failing knees wrecked comeback attempt after comeback attempt. It proved to be an ignominious end for one of the greatest and most-beloved Red Sox players of all-time. It is sad that Pedroia’s career end this way, but it is not surprising. As the line from Cocktail goes, “everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t end.” It is impossible to imagine Dustin Pedroia walking away from the game gracefully, leaving at the top of his powers like Ted Williams did. “Graceful” is not a word that comes to mind when thinking about the way Dustin Pedroia played. He played recklessly and with wild abandon. He played angry and defiant. He played with more swagger than his 5’7 frame could contain. He did not play gracefully.

He also played with joy. It isn’t easy find someone who can play with joy and anger at the same time. Michael Jordan did it and I think Steph Curry manages it at times. That rare combination is why writers of a certain generation lionized Pete Rose for so long. Pedro pitched with joy and anger, but anger was always dominant when he was on the hill. There was an angry edge to Big Papi’s game at times, but his joy overwhelmed that side of him. Mookie Betts plays with such grace and joy that it is almost impossible to see the scorching fire beneath it. In Pedroia, anger and joy lived in perfect harmony. He played like he wanted to destroy you and he played like a kid who just walked through the gates of Disney World.

Because he played that way and because he was small and white and looked like he should be teaching a gym class in an Ohio middle school, he was lionized for his hustle, for his grit, for his intangibles and leadership and heart. At Over the Monster, Matt Collins has a great explanation of how these qualities were both real and still probably a bit overwrought in the discussion.

Yes, the intangibles helped, but it feels like a disservice to him as an athlete to boil him down to that and that alone. He could do things physically at second base that I’ve never seen anyone do. He had a swing that could get power out of that small frame. That wasn’t intangibles. That was being bananas good at baseball. The dude could ball…

For a certain generation of fan, Dustin Pedroia was the Red Sox
A tribute to one of the all-time greats in the history of the franchise.
By Matt_Collins @MattRyCollins  Feb 1, 2021, 2:49pm EST

Pedroia won his 2008 MVP Award largely on the strength of “intangibles.” It was deserved- he led the American League in rWAR, hits, runs and doubles that season and was the best defensive second baseman in the league by a mile (only Chase Utley in the NL really compared to peak Pedey with the glove)- the argument for him always came back to his leadership, his hustle and how much his teammates looked to him. The Red Sox were defending champions that season and one of the best teams in the American League, winning 95 games and making to the ALCS, but they were also a team in crisis. Manny Ramirez sulked over his contract negotiations and completely quit on the team. David Oritz was at his absolute nadir coming off knee and wrist injuries and 2007 World Series MVP Mike Lowell was clearly entering the twilight of his career. Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis carried that team to within one game of the World Series. Youk was incredible at the plate and a stellar first baseman, but Pedroia was Red Sox that year. Youk earned just two first-place MVP votes despite a rWAR just 0.2 behind Pedroia. Pedey got sixteen first-place votes and the award. Such was the power of all the other things Pedroia brought to the table.

I doubt anyone ever wrote about Pedroia without mentioning his diminutive size or his hustle on the field, but for those who really loved watching him play, those were not the main attraction. Sure, I am a small guy and I love seeing small guys who can rake and gun down guys and first and dominate on the field. Pedroia gave you that. But this guy wasn’t David F-ing Eckstein. Pedey was a star. He had otherworldly talent. It was just not in the most obvious qualities, the ones that we are used to finding in exceptional ballplayers. His swing was a testament to that. Have you ever wondered why David Ortiz or Albert Pujols didn’t start their batting stance standing straight up then lunged forward with their entire body, launching themselves and the bat at the ball? Try imitating Pedey’s swing and it will be obvious. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

You fell down didn’t you?

Dustin Pedroia had the kind of balance you only see in skiers and X-Games athletes. It is the only way he could possibly swing like. Even if Mike Trout could take a hack with Pedey’s mechanics and manage not to fall over onto plate, I seriously doubt he could do it and get his hands inside quick enough to turn on a fastball. That is something only Pedey could do. I hope Trout tries though, because a guy bigger than 170 lbs managing that kind of swing might hit the ball 700 feet. Pedey needed that cut to get it to go 400.

More than anything else, though, Pedey had baseball instincts the likes of which we have only seen a few times in recent history. He once told David Ortiz had fix his swing. David. Ortiz. A guy who hit 541 home runs in the show. He listened to Pedey. And IT WORKED!. He once helped David Price, a Cy Young winner, with his mechanics and that was in October 2018, just before Price pitched his way into the World Series MVP conversation. Pedroia was as quick getting to the ball as one who ever played the keystone, not because he was the fastest, but because he reacted instantly to every batted ball that came his way. He stole twenty or more bases four times his career, and 138 bases overall, all because he could read pitchers perfectly. He was caught just 46 times. He knew when to run. He knew when a young pitcher was going to try to beat him inside (veterans knew better). He was the master of positioning himself in the field and got to balls he no business fielding. He understood the game the way other players have.

These gifts made him a star, but it was hard to ignore the signs that this was going to end badly. In 2010, he missed the end of the season after breaking his foot with a batted ball. He had a wrist issue that hampered his production at the plate in 2012, but he gutted out solid batting numbers anyway. It seemed like he was always hurt, but he played well through the pain and bounced back to superstar levels when he was fully healthy. Injuries hampered him again in 2014, but once again, he bounced back and at in 2016, at age 32, he hit .318/.376/.449 and led the Red Sox to 93 wins and the AL East title. He will have interesting Hall of Fame case, one that is merited by a high peak, multiple awards and championships but held back by his lack of longevity.

It is easy to brood on how things might have ended differently if Manny Machado had not spiked him in 2017. But that way lies madness. Pedroia played the way he played and he played the most dangerous position in the game (apart from catcher, of course) and that made the way his career ended something of an inevitability. Maybe if that slide doesn’t happen, Pedey is on the field for the Red Sox incredible 2018 World Series run, but I doubt it. Time wasn’t on his side by 2017 and as wonderful as a last ride into the sunset would have been, Dustin Pedroia was never going to know when to quit. It was going to end badly, otherwise, it wouldn’t end at all.

There is a poetic nature to Manny Machado being the one to end Dustin Pedroia’s career. Machado is so many things that Pedroia is not. He is gifted in all the obvious ways a superstar player is expected to be gifted. He makes insane plays in the field and he makes ordinary plays look like they take no effort at all. He crushes moonshot home runs with a sweet, easy swing- no diving at the ball needed. He doesn’t hustle though. It’s not his thing. He doesn’t have that fire that Pedroia had and he doesn’t look like he is having fun like Pedey did. He is an incredible player and he carries himself with swagger, to be sure, but not the swagger of a man who would tell a reporter to have kids so he could tell them he saw him play. He is not Dustin Pedroia in all the ways that make Dustin Pedroia my favorite player.

I will miss Pedey. I have already missed him. I missed him down the stretch in 2018 when they had to suffer through Eduardo Nunez and Ian Kinsler in his place. I missed him this past season, when there were too few reasons to watch the Red Sox. Pedroia was worth watching every time. He was the laser show. I will miss that show.

Boston Red Sox trade Workman, Hembree: The Chaim Bloom era really begins


Let’s face it, watching the Boston Red Sox has been difficult this year. The pitching woes that sabotaged their title-defense in 2019 have only gotten worse with Chris Sale out for Tommy John surgery, Eduardo Rodriguez lost to Covid complications and David Price shipped off in the Mookie Betts deal. The team is 9-18 and dead last in the AL East by 3.5 games. Things are only going to get worse from here too. Last night, the Sox traded relievers Brandon Workman- a playoff hero twice over- and Heath Hembree to the Phillies for righty Nick Pivetta and right-handed prospect Connor Seabold. It is the true beginning of a rebuild from the Dombroski-era and the start of Chaim Bloom’s vision for how that rebuild will work.

Sure, Bloom has already made the biggest move of the rebuild and possibly the biggest trade he will ever make. He traded 2018 MVP Mookie Betts along with David Price in February, breaking my heart and ending what little hope there was for this season before it began (and even before the pandemic threatened to destroy it entirely). But while Bloom is responsible for the package that trade brought back, the decision to deal Betts was made before Bloom was even hired. Ownership had decided that getting under the luxury tax was their top priority and Bloom was hired with that objective in mind. Coming from Tampa Bay, Bloom was a natural choice for a team looking to shed money and get quality players back.

And while their is nothing that will ever make me stop hating the team trading Mookie Betts instead of just paying the man his money, Bloom appears to have done well with the lousy hand he was dealt. Alex Verdugo has been one of the few bright spots for the Red Sox this season and the two prospects he netted in that deal, Jeter Downs and Conor Wong, still look promising. The Rays managed to stay competitive in Bloom’s time as Senoir VP of Baseball Operations while having to make deals like the Betts trade every time their stars got close to the end of their rookie deals by getting good overall value back in those deals. Bloom seems to have managed that, even if there is really no value that would match locking Betts in for the next decade-plus.

The trade Bloom made last night really begins his tenure at the helm. Nothing other than the Red Sox horrible performance on the field has forced his hand in making this deal. It is a fairly obvious move to make but the return is intriguing. Nothing will make Bloom successful quicker than being able to turn decent relievers into quality starters and there is reason to believe he has managed to do that here. Righty Nick Pavetta looked like a breakout candidate in 2018, outpitching his ERA in the advanced metrics and striking out more than a batter per inning. Seabold fits that profile in the minors so far as well. Both players have struggled more recently and that is why they can be had for two relievers, but the potential is definitely worth this modest risk.

Getting strong pitching on the trade market has been the Rays’ calling card and Bloom seems to be attempting to bring that approach to Boston with this deal. It won’t be the last one he will have to make before the trade deadline but it does mark the true beginning of his reign over Fenway. This the type of deal he was hired to make and deal like this may well define his tenure in the long run, even more than that first awful trade they made him make.

Over the Monster: The possibility of a historically left-handed Red Sox rotation


“Do they leave it there during the game?”

That famous line from one-time Red Sox lefty and Hall of Fame-level raconteur Bill Lee sums up Fenway Park’s reputation with respect to southpaws. Yet, despite this literal barrier to success for lefties in Boston, the 2017 Red Sox rotation could potentially be one of the most left-handed rotations in history as well as the best in baseball.

Read more at Over the Monster

MLB Hall of Fame Voting: How Barry Bonds Saved Baseball from Steroids- Part 1- Watching the World Burn


It’s Hall-of-Fame ballot season again. That wonderful time of year when the wind begins to nip at your nose and Christmas carols fill the air and the Baseball Writers Association of America comes together to decide who was naughty and who was nice during the Steroid Era. At the top of the list marked coal are two names that would otherwise go down on a short list of the greatest players to ever play the game if it were not for their use of performance-enhancing drugs- Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

No others players among the hundreds of players who have been connected to steroids have received as much finger-wagging and moralizing as these two players. They were both Hall-of-Fame caliber players without PED’s and then went on to reduce the record books to rumble with the drugs in their systems. Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards. All ten of the most comparable pitchers by the numbers are Hall-of-Famers. If from this unfiltered statistically perspective, he isn’t the greatest pitcher of all-time, he is undoubtedly in the top five. And then there is Bonds. There is no one comparable to Barry Bonds, because while Clemens might have won awards and put up great numbers, Bonds dismantled the records page by page.

Oh yeah, and in the process, he baseball from steroids.  No joke, click-baiting.

You can be angry about that statement all you want, but the truth, if we are willing to acknowledge it, is that Barry Bonds is the sole reason that baseball, never an organization to move quickly on an issue, turned from ignoring the very idea that steroids might help players to ruthless investigations of its biggest stars with little regard for legality all in the span of about five seasons.  If you are among those who believe performance-enchancing drugs were a scourge on the game, you owe Barry Bonds a debt of gratitude for ending the Steroid Era. He is the one who saved baseball and he was probably the person who could have.

Bonds’s thrashing of the record books and of opposing pitchers is impossible to summarize in any meaningful way. Even less than ten years after the fact, his career transcends rational understanding; it is pure mythology. Barry Bonds fun facts are a favorite recurring theme for a whole generation of sports-stat nerds and baseball iconoclasts.

Here is my favorite Barry Bonds fun fact:  In the history of AT&T Park, there have been 71 “splash hits,” which the San Francisco Giants define as “Home runs hit by Giants that land in McCovey Cove on the fly without hitting the Arcade or Portwalk.”  Of the 71 splash hits, 35 of those belong to Barry Bonds. He hit the first nine splash hits, splash hits number 14-25 and 29-34. Pablo Sandoval is second to Bonds in Splash hits with six, Brandon Belt is third with five. If Belt, who, unlike Sandoval, is still with the Giants, wanted to top Bonds for this title, he would need to play for 35 more seasons at his current splash hit rate to take the crown.  Were he to double the rate at which he hits home runs into the bay, he would still need to play until he is 45 to match Bonds. Even if every home run he hits at home should find its way to McCovey Cove from now on, it will still take Belt a least six season to get within striking distance of Bonds and Bonds only played seven seasons in AT&T park and he did it starting at age 35.

The jagged and cynical among you might cry out that, of course, Bonds tops that list, he was ‘roided up like a Marvel Superhero and hitting more home runs than anyone else. Ever. By a lot. And that is all true. But that is still a ridiculous number. Go look at how far that Cove is from home. Watch how the winds always seem to be blowing in off the bay. Check it out. I’ll wait.

Back? Good.  Even for a player on steroids, those hits are mind-blowing. Don’t try to tell me they aren’t…

…but back to the topic hand.

There is a fantastic fan-theory about the Dark Knight that first showed up on Reddit.The short summary is simply that the Joker is the true hero of The Dark Knight, actually  “a man with a plan” who fixes the issues of corruption, racketeering and vigilantism in Gotham to bring peace to the city. This reading of the movie is mind-blowing and casts the entire movie, including Heath Ledger’s swan song performance in an entirely new light. It is also the perfect metaphor for late career-Barry Bonds, his war on the record books and baseball’s drug problem.

Why did Bonds pump himself full of HGH and Creams and Clears and EPO and a million other chemicals? The standard story, as related in Game of Shadows, is that Bonds watched the same home-run race that we all watched, the magical 1998 Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa battle for Roger Maris’s single-season record and was furious about it. He was furious because he hit .303/.438!/.609, with 37 home runs, 28 stolen bases and 122 RBI’s and won his eighth Gold Glove, only to finish eighth in MVP voting behind a juiced Sammy Sosa, who ran away with the Award and a juiced Mark McGwire, who shattered Maris’s record, hitting 70 home runs. He even finished behind Trevor Hoffman in the voting for godsake! His ego was bruised and he was going to get his revenge, full on Kill-Bill style, with the dismembered limbs of the record books scattered in his wake. He was going to get some of “his own shit.”

And the rampage was bloody and it was total. And the baseball world- a community that had been completely comfortable overlooking steroid use even when it was totally conspicuous – now had to face up the reality of the steroid problem. Maybe they could ignore the impact of steroids when two very likable players were chasing a cherished record that was nearly forty years old and had its own asterisk attached to it. When Barry Bonds, never the easiest player to like, made a mockery of that same record, breaking McGwire’s new benchmark just three seasons later, when he began to reach base more than half the time he came to the plate, when he terrified opposing managers enough to command 120 intentional walks in a single season, the gig had to be up.

In the Dark Knight, there is the wonderful line from Michael Caine’s Alfred, where explains the Joker to Bruce Wayne by pointing out that “some men just want to watch the world burn.” After 1998, Bonds’s approach to baseball was the approach of someone who wanted to watch the world burn. Sure, he took designer drugs to become a hulking behemoth, but he also did the insane amounts of training made possible by the drugs. He didn’t keep the secret to his newfound gigantism to himself either. He passed it on to others, including stars like Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi if the reports from Game of Shadows and the Mitchell Report are accurate. And he didn’t just get bigger and stronger to hit more home runs, he changed his approach at the plate as well. He moved closer to the plate. He donned armor to protect his elbow, which now hung into the strikezone. He ignored any pitch that he wouldn’t be able to absolutely obliterate and he could now obliterate just about anything that could be possibly be called a strike. He didn’t just want to simply outshine Sosa and McGwire. He wanted to watch the world burn.

And it burned and burned fast. That is what changed baseball.

Continue Reading: How Barry Bonds Saved Baseball from Steroids: Part 2- A Better Class of Criminal

Over the Monster- Celebrating David Ortiz


At Over the Monster, looking back at one of David Ortiz’s biggest hits.

There are far too many incredible moments in this game for me to recap them all. After the greatest closer in history, Mariano Rivera, faltered just a hair, walking Kevin Millar. After David Roberts stole second with the entire world knowing he was going. After Bill Mueller tied the game with his single up the middle, and after three of the tensest innings ever played, David Ortiz stepped into the batter’s box against Paul Quantrill with no one out and Manny Ramirez on first base in the bottom of the 12th inning.

http://www.overthemonster.com/2016/10/20/13331046/celebrating-david-ortiz-s-greatest-moments-game-4-2004

Our Papi: A Red Sox Fan’s Prayer in Tribute to David Ortiz


(A poem in the style of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, writing in the style of St. Matthew)

Large Father,

Who art at Fenway,

Harrowing be thy name

To pitchers who come

To protect a run

In innings beyond the seventh.

Hit one for us this day,

out to the seat that is Red

Or else one that surpasses

The Monster or soars over the centerfield fences.

Lead us not just into contention,

But deliver to us titles

For this is your kingdom,

And your bat has the power to bring glory

Now and forever,

Big man!