The Nation Speaks
August - October 2001
Thursday, October 25, 2001
Subject: Bad Bets
Baseball and gambling have been nefariously linked since the days of the Black Sox and Shoeless Joe, but wagers involving Boston and New York have been my undoing over the last six years.
At the end of the 1995 season, a lifetime Yanks fan and I bet that the first of the teams to win the World Series would force the other to go to Cooperstown and buy the last championship mug of the other's team. The Hall of Fame has a porcelain stein for every team and at that time about 70 years separated championships of the two. Looking at the two clubs at the end of 1995, the Sox seemed on the way up while the Yanks hardly resembled a dynasty in the making; if anything, the blind bet looked set for years to go without a winner. Well, now you know the rest of the story and now Derek Jeter is running out of digits.
Anyone who has driven to Cooperstown will probably say it was a scenic country drive through rolling hills and small hamlets; that is true but ignores its disconnectivity, the speed traps and the general pain in the ass that a pilgrimage to baseball's Valhalla is. In Japan they say everyone should climb Mt. Fuji once, but only a fool climbs twice; this was my second trip and with no intention of returning, I bought the 1918 mug as my own road sore memento.
That squad managed by Ed Barrow featured the Babe, Harry Hooper and a host of ghosts with names such as Bullet Joe Bush and Sad Sam Jones. Ruth was the winning pitcher in two of the four wins; I don't believe in curses but bad luck is not beyond the pale; when my buddy offered another bet for 1997, I politely declined. As fate would have it that would have been the only wager over the last five years to have been made.
And now in 2001, he offers a suckers bet: the Yankees at the start of the playoffs to go all the way, with a case of beer (perhaps for the steins) as the spoils. At 2-0 in the A's series, I'm sending emails asking that all 24 beers be put in large gun belt holes to be slung over both shoulders like the Frito Bandito. And then depression sets in; the Yanks come back to beat the A's, they humble the Mariners, and the usual chorus of how great the Bronx Bombers are emerges from the Monday morning analysts and bandwagon legions of the obnoxious.
After the Oakland series, he offers to double the bet to 48 beers. Knowing this is a push and swearing the Yanks are not that good, I rashly accept with images of Sojo, Brosius, Knoblach, Soriano and Martinez as five reasons that they should lose. But it has indeed come to this: their failure would be the only mild source of my and the Sox's success. Ah well, go Diamondbacks and for god sakes, can we please pick up some decent free agents?
Wednesday, October 17, 2001
Subject: The Blame Game
People here in New York ask me how I can root against the
Yankees. They say "the city needs this... it can lift up our spirits." They
say that as if the Taliban was bankrolling the A's.
Monday, September 17, 2001
What began with such promise - Nomo`s No-No and Manny`s beating Rivera and hitting dingers a`plenty, ended with a bunch of future non-Sox cleaning up the detritus of team contractual obligations. Usually there has been the emergence of some star, some hope for the future, some obvious grasp at improvement that leaves you clinging through the long cold winter. Granting that they overachieved in the late 1990s and until August this year with some good signings and yeoman seizing a chance, there was something particularly odious about the demise of this season besides the raft of injuries and all the crap about playing time among a horde of so-sos: as times got tough few seemed to really want to play with anybody.
The last lineup for 2001 was Darren Lewis, Jose Offerman, Joe Oliver, Troy O`Leary, Dante Bichette, Lou Merloni (stop me if you think someone will or should be back) - that leaves Nixon, Daubach and Stynes (Add Shane Hillenbrand and still not a current or future All Star among them at positions that beg for better numbers); the departures of Everett, Hatteberg and Lansing will mute the chorus of mutiny but who the hell is going to play on this team next year and why did it come to this?
Of momentary optimism - the starting pitchers hung until the bitter end (with the exception of Pedro), but Cone is rumoured to want out, Nomo to need more money and if excitement is supposed to emanate from Derek Lowe on the mound once every five days, I might as well take the Rolaids out of the childproof bottle.
There are rumours of Mo Vaughn coming back and it will be interesting to see what if anything Jurassic Carl elicits. But as 2001 mercifully comes to a close, I have haunting memories of Nomar on the Red Sox dugout in recent years after one of 83 consecutive failed championship efforts clapping for the Boston fans who supported the team, the mighty Yaz walking through the stands with a bottle of champagne at the end of his career, and the Kid, and all say this team and this result are not worthy of such history, patronage and concern and amends should be made immediately.
Monday, September 10, 2001
Subject: Red Sox Falling
...this the lowest point imaginable. We have never been in an abyss such as this. Can the hope of new ownership, a good house cleaning from the front office to the puddles of spit at the foot of the bat rack bring any hope? Can the warmth of the early March Florida sunshine bathe a rejuvenated, healthy and happy Petey, Nomar, and Manny in a swath of perennial promise and redemption?
Oh yeah, the lockout.
Tuesday, September 4, 2001
Subject: Nomar and Negligence
Monday August 27, 2001
Subject: Will Pedro Be Pedro Again?
Monday, August 13, 2001
Subject: I've got a Pappas story...