Book Review: Becoming Manny by Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg


When Manny Ramirez played in Boston, I enjoyed watching him play and always thought he got a raw deal from the Red Sox fans & media who accused him of being selfish, lazy, and disruptive (among other things I can’t print here).  I always got the sense that Manny was shy and just wanted to play baseball well and not deal with the stresses of public scrutiny, which I can find understandable.  Becoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball’s Most Enigmatic Slugger (2009) by Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg confirms my understanding of Manny, although my esteem for him has fallen since he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (ill-timed for the release of this book as well).

Still this is a well-written and informative biography, especially the parts about Manny’s early years before he reached the major leagues.  Rhodes is a psychologists and offers some great insights through he lens of Manny Ramirez of children of immigrants, the extremes of poverty and strong community in inner-city neighborhoods, and the life of youth athletes.  There is a special emphasis on coaches teachers, and friends who mentor young athletes.  In Manny’s case there are older and wiser men to guide him through most of his life, most importantly Carlos “Macaco” Ferreira a Little League coach and lifelong friend.

Manny-lovers and more importantly Manny-haters should check this book out.  It’s an excellent example of baseball biography at it’s best.

Becoming Manny : inside the life of baseball’s most enigmatic slugger / Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2009.
ISBN: 9781416577065
1416577068
Description:304 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Edition: 1st Scribner hardcover ed.

Time Begins … and I almost missed it


One of the best observed … but not official … national holidays occurred this week, and I almost neglected to write about it.  I refer of course to my annual post waxing rhapsodic about Opening Day in Major League Baseball.  It’s a day of hope and possibility, and since my two favorite teams won yesterday and today, hope flourishes.  Since rain delayed Opening Day at Fenway until today I can also be excused for my delay.

I’m not one for hot stove league discussion, and Spring Training barely excites me, so opening day kind of snuck up on me.  I do feel ashamed that I didn’t watch a single of the World Baseball Classic because I really enjoyed the premiere edition of that international competition back in 2006.  I guess there are many things that kept me away from making dates with MLB TV on my computer.  But not any more.  I expect that my teams will be in the playoffs this fall and I will watch how they get there over the next months.

Here are my 2009 season predictions or as they should be more properly termed, wild guesses.  One need only look at my 2008 predictions to see that my magic ball is broken.  I only was correct for two of the division champions (although two other teams I picked made it in as wild card winners) and I confidently stated that the Detroit Tigers would be World Series Champions.  If only.

NL EAST NL CENTRAL NL WEST
New York Chicago Los Angeles
Philadelphia (WC) Milwaukee San Francisco
Florida Cincinnati Colorado
Atlanta St. Louis Arizona
Washington Houston San Diego
* Pittsburgh
AL EAST AL CENTRAL AL WEST
Boston Minnesota Los Angeles of Anaheim
Tampa Bay (WC) Cleveland Oakland
New York Chicago Texas
Toronto Detroit Seattle
Baltimore Kansas City

NL Division Series:  Cubs defeat Phillies, Mets defeat Los Angeles

AL Division Series: Angels defeat Rays, Red Sox defeat Twins

NL Championship Series: Mets defeat Cubs

AL Championship Series: Angels defeat Red Sox

World Series:  Mets defeat Angels

Play Ball!

Previously:

The Old Ball Game


Looking through my links on my Boston Walking Tours post I came across listings in the Historic New England calendar for vintage baseball. I’ve long wanted to check out the historic reenactment of baseball as it was played in the 19th-century.  Much better than Civil War battles, in my humble opinion.

With a little web searching I learned that there are entire leagues of vintage baseball teams in the Boston area, and the most local team (meaning I could attend games by taking the T) is the Boston Colonials.  The Boston Colonials schedule is online at their blog.  I definitely need to check that out this summer.  I’m only saddened that I missed the game on Boston Common.

Speaking of old time baseball, the 15th Annual Old Time Baseball Game in Cambridge is coming up on August 21st. This is a fun event where two teams of mainly high school players with a few celebrities thrown in play a game under modern rules but with vintage-style uniforms from several Major and Minor league teams of the past century.  It’s something worth putting on your calendar.

It’s good to have options for baseball-viewing since Red Sox tickets are too expensive and too impossible to get.  I didn’t get to Fenway once last season and doubt I will this season.  However, if I do it will probably be for the great Futures at Fenway doubleheader on August 9th.  This event features the Sox triple-A farm team the Pawtucket Red Sox and short season single-a affiliate the Lowell Spinners each playing a game against opponents from their respective leagues.  I went to this a couple of years back and it’s a great family event.  All the charm and history of Fenway with the just plain fun of Minor League baseball.

Of course my real heart’s desire is to sneak up to Lowell to see the Spinners play the baby Mets from Brooklyn on Aug. 6-8 but we’ll have to see about that.

Red Sox are the 2007 World Series Champions


papelbon.jpg

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox on their sweeping victory over the Colorado Rockies to win their second World Series title in four years. It’s always nice when the home team wins. Things were different this year from 2004. That year Susan and I watched the game at a pub in Somerville and even though the Red Sox swept the Cardinals, that final game still felt very tense. The weight of history was on everyone’s backs, even a couple of interlopers from Connecticut and Michigan. This year since we’re on on the baby clock we listened to the game at home on the radio. The final game had an air of inevitability to it, but I’m sure was still a joy to the many young players on the Red Sox and long time fans who had many years of disappointments got to double their pleasure.

It is disappointing that the World Series was not more exciting from a pure baseball standpoint. One has to give a lot of credit to the Rockies for their exciting stretch drive, come-from-behind win over the Padres in the Wild Card playoff, and unprecedented 7-0 streak through the National League divisional champion series. As a National League partisan, I bristle at any suggestion that the NL Champions are of a lesser caliber, even when they were swept. I think it’s just that the Red Sox were just that good, the best team in baseball this season, and the deserving World Series Champions.

I also have to give credit to the great Rockies’ fans who cheered and chanted right to the end of game #4. That kind of spirit is actually what drew me to Mets fandom, since once-upon-a-time Mets fans would chant “Lets Go Mets” (unprompted by the PA) even when the team was down in the late innings. Judging by this September, I guess if the Mets had made it to the World Series this season and found themselves in the same circumstances as the Rockies, Shea Stadium would be full of booing and expletives shouted at the Mets. It’s nice that the spirit of “Ya Gotta Believe” lives on somewhere. Here’s another Mets’ fan view from Faith and Fear in Flushing.

It’s a credit to the Red Sox management and players that they’ve been able to win two championships so close together. They are a well-engineered team that play together well (and yes, also have a lot of money). I think this proves false the snarky comments that the 2006 Red Sox late season collapse was due to the team not keeping many of the veterans of 2004 (also a ray of optimism for fans of a certain team that collapsed in 2007 that 2008 may be brighter). It also is the death-knell to any talk of a curse and “wait ’til 2090” (although maybe the Red Sox can only win championships in the first two decades of a given century). As I wrote at the beginning of the season, the Red Sox from 1967-2003 were not a bad team but a very good team that somehow finished 2nd place to some johnny-come-latelies and suffered unlikely losses when they did make it to the postseason, while during the same period some less consistent franchises won 2-3 championships. I think the laws of probability have caught up with the Red Sox.

More Red Sox coverage:

  • Curt Schilling gives credit to God
  • People who bought furniture at Jordan’s Furniture last spring are getting their money back
  • The victory parade will be Tuesday at noon
    • Jonathon Papelbon will do his victory jig during the parade according to Mayor Menino: “He promised the people he would do the dance,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said today at a press conference at City Hall, “and he will do the dance.” It’s nice that he did not do on the Rockies home field.

And now there’s no more baseball.  It’s always hard to adjust to not having baseball games as part of the daily rhythmn of life.  Rogers Hornsby put it best:

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

The Red Sox Win The Pennant


Congratulations to the home town team (and hey now that I live in Boston proper, they are my home town team) on winning the American League pennant.  In their usual Red Sox manner they went down 3 games to 1 to the Indians before coming back to win it all (and you can see that I called it last Wednesday on Universal Hub).  After 7.5 innings of tense baseball action, the Sox stripped away all the drama and pounded the Indians 11-2.

Curt Schilling gives credit for the series win to Josh Beckett, the MVP of the series.

Greg at Faith and Fear in Flushing pays tribute to the Cleveland Indians as worthy postseason players.

Now the Red Sox take on the Colorado Rockies who haven’t lost back-to-back games since about a week before the autumnal equinox (not to mention haven’t even played a game in over a week).  This should make for an exciting series which is desperately needed in this 2007 postseason of sweeps (excepting of course the ALCS).

I’ll be rooting for the Sox of course as my home town team, my favorite American League team, and 2nd-favorite team overall. I also want to the Red Sox win because of all the commentary after 2004 that said that they wouldn’t win again until 2090 and that they failed in 2006 because they got rid of their best players (as if Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe, and Kevin Millar were the only ones who could win a championship).  It was as if even though they broke the “curse” talk of the curse wouldn’t go away.  I’d like to see the curse die once and for all.  There are no curses in baseball.

Let’s go Red Sox!

Home Openers


The Mets began their 44th and penultimate season at Shea Stadium in a winter chill yesterday against division rivals the Philadelphia Phillies. After losing two games to the Braves they should have won, karmic reordering saw to it that the Mets defeated the Phillies despite doing everything in their power to lose. This includes John Maine pitching only 4.2 innings after allowing a home run a career high 6 walks. Then Willie Randolph headscratchingly leftAmbiorox Burgos in to pitch to MVP slugger Ryan Howard with two on and a base open (Howard took him deep). Somehow the Phillies fell apart in the late innings with an error, a wild pitch, poor relief pitching, and all around sloppy play to allow the Mets to turn the game into a laugher.

I have to admit that I took pleasure in Jimmy “We’re the team to beat in the NL East” Rollins’ error that opened the floodgates. This is the type of thing that could help create a deep-seeded rivalry between the two clubs and their fans. Major League Baseball has some great rivalries in the Red Sox-Yankees, Cubs-Cardinals, and Giants-Dodgers, but the Mets have never had a longstanding rivalry. There were some good times between the Mets and Cubs in 1969 & 1984 (how likely is that two franchises with histories of futility managed to have coinciding great years twice in a fifteen year period?), the Mets and Cardinals 1985-87, and the Mets and Braves on and off since 1997. By regional proximity though, the Phillies should be the Mets natural rival. Should the Phillies recover from their bad start this could be the start of something big. Even better would be the Mets, Phillies, and Nationals fighting a three-way battle year after year for NL East primacy (with the Mets finishing first each time, of course).

By the way, I found this awesome blog post that offers a Mets season preview from the perspective of Lou Reed.

Players of the game (I award up to ten points, maximum of 6 points to one player, distributed among the Mets players who had the biggest impact in the game):

Phillies 5, Mets 11: Box Score

  • Alou 1
  • Beltran 1
  • Delgado 2.5
  • Feliciano .50
  • Franco .50
  • LoDuca .50
  • Reyes 1.5
  • Smith .50
  • Valentin 1
  • Wagner .50
  • Wright .50

The Red Sox began their home season today with their 96th home opener at Fenway Park. I saw fans in their Red Sox gear on the T at 10 am, and I think the game was worth getting there early for.The day began with a salute to the Impossible Dream team that won the AL Pennant in 1967. That team was a big turning point in Red Sox history coming at a point when they were a cellar-dwelling franchise in decline. A lot of Boston’s reputation as a great sports’ town with die-hard Red Sox fans developed only in the last 40 years. During this time the Red Sox have an incredible record of consistency, finishing with a losing record only 4 times in that period, winning 90 games or more 11 times, finishing in 2nd place 12 times, winning the AL East title 5 times, playing in the post-season 11 times, and earning four American League pennants. I think the real statistical improbability is that the Red Sox have only one World Series Championship to show for their forty years of excellence while several woefully inconsistent franchises like the Marlins, Blue Jays, Twins, and yes, the Mets all have two in the same time period.

Today the Red Sox demolished the Mariners 14-3, and it wasn’t even that close. The Sox scored in each of the first 5 innings to build up a 13-1 lead. Surprisingly Big Papi wasn’t responsible for any home runs, extra base hits, or RBI’s in the smackdown. Josh Beckett saw to it that the big lead really wasn’t necessary by holding the Mariners to only 1 run and 2 hits over 7 innings with 8 strikeouts (including Ichiro 3 times!). Lots and lots of numbers means lots and lots of fun.

Daisuke Matsuzaka returns to the mound for his Fenway debut tomorrow night. Can Boston withstand the hype?

The Bostonist today predicts five great ovations at Fenway this season and has this great shot of the Fenway seats for photo of the day.

That other team I follow


People who read this blog as one linked from Boston Blogs are probably saying “now wait just one minute…” after reading the past weeks series of Mets-related posts. Yes, I live in metro-Boston, and yes I am a lifelong Mets fans. And yes I root for the home town team too. I started following the Red Sox in 1997 about a year before I moved to the area and adopted them as my second-favorite team or favorite American League team.

I actually followed the Sox pretty obsessively through their World Series Championship season in 2004. Then in 2005 two things happened that made me less interested in Red Sox Nation. First, despite winning the World Series the whiny, defeatist, “we’re cursed” attitude did not fade away among lifelong Red Sox fans and the Boston sports media. I was particularly perturbed my the unfair and rather ungrateful treatment of Sox star slugger Manny Ramirez. Second and more vital, I started subscribing to MLB.TV and thus could watch Mets games at home for the first time in 15 years. Since MLB.TV blocks out local broadcasts it is actually now easier for me to follow the Mets than the Red Sox.

So this season is starting with a huge amount of hype for the Red Sox newly acquired pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka who led the Japanese team to victory in the World Baseball Classic last spring. I tuned into Thursday’s game on the radio for Matsuzaka’s first start as a Red Sox. First off, I miss Jerry “Waaaaay Back” Trupiano who was a lot more entertaining than the guy they got to replace him. On the other hand, at least the new guy’s voice is more distinctive from Joe Castiglione. Second, it was fun to hear about an exciting new pitcher dominating a game with ten strikeouts, even if it was against the lowly Kansas City Royals. Since Matsuzaka is universally known as Dice-K both the Boston Globe and Boston Herald went with the obvious headline of Dice-KKKKKKKKKK (as documented in the Bostonist).


Meanwhile in Metsville…

On Friday night I watched the Mets put a smackdown on a team that used to intimidate them in a place formerly known as the House of Horrors. Better yet, Oliver Perez pitched near flawlessly. In fact, he probably only left the game because the Mets batters made their half-inning go to long.

I missed Saturday’s game and seemingly coincidental the Mets four-game win streak to start the season came to an end. Alas, it was Tom Glavine who also broke the starting pitchers’ streak of allowing 1 earned run or less per game.

In the Easter Sunday afternoon finale, the Mets continued their earthward plummet by squandering a lead and leaving the population of a small city on base. It seems like old times in a bad way as the Mets struggle in the House of Horrors and the Braves are in first place in the NL East.

Players of the game (I award up to ten points, maximum of 6 points to one player, distributed among the Mets players who had the biggest impact in the game).

April 6: Mets 11, Braves 1

Box Score

  • Alou 1
  • Beltran 1
  • Green 1.5
  • Perez 3
  • Reyes 3
  • Wright .50

April 7: Mets 3, Braves 5

Box Score

  • Delgado 2
  • Glavine .50
  • Green 1.5
  • LoDuca 1.5
  • Reyes 1.5
  • Schoenweis 1

April 8: Mets 2, Braves 3

Box Score

  • Castro 2
  • Franco .50
  • Green 2
  • OHernandez 3
  • Reyes .50
  • Schoenweis .50
  • Wright .50

Funny Cuz It’s True Dept.


It tickles my funny bone when someone else makes an observation on a situation that is similar to my own.

This Unshelved strip takes on fibbers in the library. I’m pretty sure Unshelved has used that same punchline “We really just want the book back” before, but I can totally relate to being in a situation where a patron is prevaricating and I just don’t want to hear their story.

Meanwhile, Dustinland deals with luxury condos. Have you ever noticed that all condos these days are luxury? I’d really be happy to find a no-frills condo or a necessity condo myself.

EDIT. More funny cuz it’s true:  Eric Wilbur’s Boston Sports Blog on one of the great baseball cliches and other Opening Day absurdities.

Not true but still funny is the dream I had last night. I can’t remember all the details but I was at a backyard cookout and one of the guests was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Contrary to his public persona, Reznor was actually a pretty mellow, happy-go-lucky guy who kept running into the house to help out in the kitchen and pass around potato salad to other guests. Another part of the dream involved a former roommate of mine swinging from power lines like an acrobat (and not getting electrocuted) which greatly impressed Mia Hamm. And so my sleeping life continues to be more interesting than my conscious life.

Disillusionment


There comes a time in everyone’s life when they have to face the fact that their childhood heroes are fallible. Sure they always seem happy and humble in accepting the adoration of their fans. But there’s always that point where there head gets too big and they descend into debauchery and have their photos splashed across the tabloids. I mean we kind of expected this of Lindsay Lohan, but Mr. Met, how could you?

Mr. Met Gone Wild

Now, the PR spin is that Mr. Met was on Bourbon Street merely to promote the Mets new affiliation with the New Orleans Zephyrs AAA team. But I’ve been to the French Quarter. I look at the picture and I hear I Mr. Met shouting in a slurred voice, “Hey b*****, show us your t***!”

And that unsavory character with Mr. Met is Boudreaux D. Nutria.  I don’t think nutria are the type of element Mr. Met should be among. My mother-in-law once had a dream that Susan was trapped in a house surrounded by nutria. And Susan’s parents had to hire an old-time cowboy star to rescue Susan. But on the way my father-in-law and the cowboy star stopped for North Carolina barbecue. Now that may be a big tangent, but it tells you one thing: nutria are not to be trifled with!

The other heartbreaking aspect of all this is that the Norfolk Tides ran off with the Baltimore Orioles. During my years in Virginia, the Tides were my connection to baseball and the Mets. And now their 38-year affiliation is no more. I remember going to Tides games and watching up & coming players like Bobby Jones, Jason Isringhausen, Benny Agbayani, and Roberto Petagine.

I also attended the AAA All-Star Game at Norfolk’s Harbor Park in 1998. The day before the game there was a meet & greet autograph session with all the players. My favorite part was a little boy named Archer, about five years old, who was eagerly trying to track down Red Sox prospect Trot Nixon. Archer didn’t even like Red Sox, he just wanted to get the autograph for his grandfather. How heartwarming!

I’ve been fond of Trot Nixon ever since then because of Archer, not to mention that Nixon is a great player who hustles a lot. Trot & I ended up in Boston around the same time and he’s been a fan favorite all these years. But not anymore! Nixon is an Indian.

Oh, what a world, what a world. I think I’ll slink off to listen to some Morrisey albums and wallow in my disillusionment.

Blog Overlap


Now that I’ve started actually reading the blogs in my blogroll, I’m finding it interesting to see my interests represented in the least likely places.

For example, whoda thunk that Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog would contain a positive review of Battlestar Galactica?

Battlestar Ecclesiastica
by Johannes Wycliffe

In this boke of science ficcion, a man ycleped Wycliffe is the bishop of the gret chirche of Seynt Paules, the which is lyk vnto a mighty shippe and kan moue thurgh the voyde of the planetes. Al othir chirches on the earth haue ben destroyed by the deuil and his feendes, who haue taken on the visages of men and look exactlie lyk friares. Ther is a mighti ladye of feyth called Margery Starbaxter, who ys a loyal warryour for the chirche and sleyeth the friares. And eek ther ys a traytour named Belshazzar who doth see visions of a sexie friar yn his heed who telleth hym to betraye the goode folke of Seynt Paules. Sum oon nedeth to jump on this sucker and turne hit in to a series of television.

Similarily, Googling God is not the first place I’d expect to see a post on the 1986 Mets. I have to say it warms my heart to learn that Mike Hayes — whom I’ve grown fond of while listening to his work the Busted Halo podcast — states he’s a Mets fan.

I learned a little while back that Josh of Comics Curmudgeon is also a Mets fan. Perhaps that is the undiscovered connection among great bloggers everywhere: a love for the Mets. If so it makes for good tidings for my own efforts.