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Watching the Orioles win their 100th game and clinch the AL East against the Red Sox

Friday 9/29/23

Watched the Baltimore Orioles clinch the AL East by shutting out the Red Sox at a jumping Camden Yards. A cool, early autumn night, an excited crowd. I'm very impressed with these Orioles. You look through the stats of their players, and no one had this outstanding year, or even a big year. But they play good defense, they don't make mental errors, they don't beat themselves, they run the bases well. They play solid, crisp baseball. What a concept, right?

Then you have the Red Sox, who do the opposite of these things. Last place, three out of four years. And they've told Alex Cora he's coming back. There's an arrogance to that man I don't like. A kind of institutional arrogance. I think his reputation is disproportionate to what he actually does and what his skills are as the leader of a team. I don't like this move. He's about to be on his third GM. He's not the main problem? Okay. I can accept that. But he's not a problem? A big problem? I can't accept that.

The win was the Orioles' 100th of the season. You know what bugs me? And this has bugged me for decades. Why do the Red Sox never win 100 games? There are teams that win 100 games a bunch of years in a row and you don't think they're these legendary squads. It's not uncommon for a team or two or three to win 100 games each year. Why have the Red Sox only done it, in modern times, in 2018? Why is that it? Not 1975, 2004, 2007, 1946, 1967, 1986. None of the Ortiz years. The Yaz years. The Ted Williams years. The Pedro Martinez years. The Manny Ramirez years. The Jim Rice years. The Wade Boggs years, the Carlton Fisk years, the Roger Clemens years, and on and on.

All of the stars, the pennants, and, this century anyway, all of the World Series. Why can't they win 100 games? I think even when they do win, they underachieve. I always thought Terry Francona underachieved here. That 2004 team should have cruised past 100 wins. The 2013 team overachieved, big time, so I wouldn't say it about them. But it's strange, right? All of this history, all of these strong regular season teams, and you've won 100 games once? But the Orioles--who lost 110 games two years ago--just did it last night? The Dodgers do it, the Braves do it, the Astros do it, the Yankees do it, but you can basically never do it?

I felt embarrassed for the Red Sox watching Baltimore take it to them. They had so much energy, and here you are having become this moribund franchise. Not Chicago Bears moribund, but this team shouldn't be nearly as bad as this team is most of these years over this stretch. The Red Sox in last place in three out of four years! That's unacceptable. Imagine the Dodgers doing that? You feel like that just wouldn't or couldn't happen.

As I watched, I thought, damn, this is as close as the Red Sox are going to get for at least another year to being part of an exciting baseball atmosphere in autumn. Not that it was exciting because of them. I felt a little ashamed, to be truthful. I've noticed, too, that Fenway is taken over by fans from other cities in a way it never was before. I didn't go to a game this year, but when I've been running the stairs at City Hall I have made note of how many out-of-town fans there are. More than in years past. I see a lot of people--groups of people--wearing their teams' gear. They're obviously in town to go to Fenway.

It's my belief that Boston needs to be good at baseball. New England needs baseball or else it loses part of its New England-ness. New England needs baseball to care about. It needs October baseball. It's autumn. It's New England. It's the Red Sox.

The Celtics and the Bruins play indoor sports. Indoor sports aren't New England sports. Skating on a pond is a New England thing, but the Garden is different. The Patriots are over. People didn't have a love of a franchise; it was a love of twenty years of unprecedented success. Most people who watch football couldn't point out the left guard. Think about that--they don't even know all the positions, which is as basic as it gets. That team is a middle-of-the-pack team at best now. They are like everyone else, save worse than the teams that are so much better than they are whom they have no shot against the way that AFC East teams used to have no shot against them. They might not win a Super Bowl for another fifty years. Football and New England isn't the same as baseball and New England. I know football is more popular, but some singer I haven't heard of and don't care to listen to who, frankly, likely sucks, is more popular than the Velvet Underground and Handel and Miles Davis so what does that mean? Not a lot.

I'm talking depth, substance, spirit, and, in this case, the spirit of a place. When you watch Cheers, what do the characters talk about the most in terms of sports? The Red Sox. Because it's Boston, it's New England. Football is for the meathead. Football is fleeting, topical. It's the news cycle, not the blood line. It's not the DNA, it's not anywhere near the soul. Baseball is for the person who appreciates a village green, a stone wall in the woods, a jug of cider, cold swimming water in summer, a memory they have of listening to a game on the radio or knowing that old-timer neighbor who did just that. For the true New Englander, that is. And just because you live here doesn't mean you are one.

Anyway, I can really say that something makes me sad given we're I'm at, but I would say it was saddening to watch. I didn't like it.

In the next few days I think I'll watch this late September game from 1967 at Fenway between the Sox and the Minnesota Twins. A sort of replacement baseball pick-me-up.


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