There’s a sight that, after the opening weekend, you didn’t think you’d see often this season, did you? Why not enjoy it? Photo by Art Martone
By ART MARTONE
Was this really just a week ago?
Maybe not the worst example of trash talking in sports history. But it sure didn’t age well.
The Orioles, however, are not our concern. Ours is the suddenly rejuvenated Red Sox, who have already spent more days in first place (that ring a bell to some of you?) than they did in all of 2019, or in all of 2012, or in all of any number of other disappointing seasons that 2021 was supposed to resemble. “I like my bunch,” Alex Cora said after Saturday night’s extra-inning comeback win, and — especially after Sunday’s mortar attack at Camden Yards — more and more people seem to be liking them, too:
Good to see this run of early success isn’t going to anyone’s head or anything, as tongue-in-cheek as some of it may be.
I usually have nothing good to say about those who cherry-pick over-exuberant tweets, but, hey. Guilty as charged. Just as I normally have nothing good to say to people who overreact to less than a fortnight’s worth of games, but, hey. Who can blame them? It’s been a cold couple of years around here. Have fun! Enjoy it while it lasts.
Because as it happens, it all plays into something I started thinking about the other day when I came across an item Craig Calcaterra — a sort-of old colleague of mine (he was in charge of the Hardball Talk portion of the main NBC Sports site when I was at NBC Sports Boston) — wrote in his excellent daily newsletter, Cup Of Coffee:
(The newsletter is a subscription site, but he offers one free post per week to those who are on the fence about joining. If you’d like to take a look, here’s the link.)
He added later in that item: “Even within games, if you follow along on social media, you’re more likely to find New York and Boston fans parsing each inning or even each pitch in granular detail, complete with side arguments and arguments about the arguments spinning off.”
So when the season starts with three straight losses to the Orioles, gloom and doom is everywhere. When they win two in a row, they’re the feel-good Red Sox. Now it’s six straight. Lots of positive things to parse in granular detail.
Normally I can parse in granular detail with the best of them. But now — so early in April, coming off a two-year run of bad news (the disappointing failure to mount any kind of defense of their World Series championship, the Betts trade, last summer’s pandemic-scarred stinkbomb) — doesn’t seem to be the time. It’s the first heady whiffs of spring after a brutal winter. Soak it in for what it is.
Many of my football Sundays are spent being entertained by Chris Rose when he hosts the NFL Network’s highlight show, and of course he was also a fixture on the MLB Network for many years. As prone as he can be to (hysterical) hyperbole when some gazelle of a wide receiver escapes a predatory defender and dances three-quarters of the field down the sideline, or a rhino-like offensive guard rumbles gracelessly for a yard or two after scooping up a fumble, he’s all business — at least here — when it comes to baseball:
The answer — the only answer you can give today — is more than nine.
Everybody knows this, or say they know it. You hear it all the time: “It’s a long season.” “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” “Let’s see where they stand in two weeks (or two months).” Baseball just isn’t a sport where you can act like there’s no tomorrow, because there’s always a tomorrow. And a next day. And a next week. And a next month. The minute you start to think you’ve got it figured out, you tweet out a bunch of brooms on your official account on Easter Sunday.
(Yeah, lookin’ at you, Orioles.)
On the other hand, and in direct contrast to all that . . .
A baseball season doesn’t have to be a six-month fixation on the finish line, all else be damned. What did I just say a minute ago? Have fun! Enjoy it while it lasts. I absolutely meant it. That’s what makes following this sport, and any sport, worthwhile. If you shrug off the joyous moments because you’re afraid there’s not going to be a payoff in the end, what are you here for?
I learned this lesson on Memorial Day 1991. I was at Yankee Stadium with a friend of mine, a Yankee fan, and we were in a Red Sox-are-up/Yankees-are-down cycle. (The Sox had won three division titles and one pennant in the five-season span from 1986-90; the Yankees were coming off a last-place finish and were in the midst of a stretch of four straight losing years.) The Sox jumped out to a 5-0 lead on this particular day and, though the Yankees inched closer in the later innings, victory was at hand when Jeff Reardon went out for the bottom of the ninth to close it out. And then, to quote John Mayer, this happened . . .
The Yankee fans went bonkers, as you’d expect (and as you can see in the video), and I was fuming. Big deal, I told my friend. Like this means anything. Like the Yankees aren’t going to lose 90 games this year. But instead of getting mad at me, he smiled. “Come on,” he said. “It’s been bad for a while. Let them enjoy it.”
You know what? He was absolutely right.
Contrary to conventional wisdom there are those in Boston who don’t get hysterical over six straight wins (me! me! me!), even if the first three of them were over the defending American League champions. Just as there are those in Boston who don’t go to pieces over the three straight losses that preceded them (me! me! me!), even if they came at the hands at a team that has lost 263 games over little more than 2 and 3/8th seasons. (I figure we can count last year as approximately 3/8ths of a season.) A month ago I recommended sitting back and seeing what happens. With 9 down and 153 to go, that’s still my M.O.
Which is not to say there haven’t been hints, good and bad, to chew on. If you want the something-might-be-happening-here view, old friend John Tomase lays out the encouraging signs of the last week. If you want the sorry-I’m-not-buying-it take, you can never go wrong with Dan Shaughnessy.
Still, what better omen that the baseball gods are smiling upon you — at least for now — than J.D. Martinez not only not having Covid but homering three times after getting the green light to play?
And as for the poor Orioles?
They’ll always have Paris.
Art Martone wrote a Red Sox-based Internet baseball column for projo.com, for which he was named Best Sports Columnist by Boston Magazine in 1998. He also wrote about baseball for the Providence Journal and has had Red Sox material published in several baseball-only publications. He worked at the Journal from 1974 to 2009 and was Sports Editor from 2000 until leaving in 2009 to become Managing Editor of NBC Sports Boston’s Web site. He remained there until his retirement in 2019.