First, a personal note: thank you, everyone, for reading my post on the Boston Marathon. I never expected that so many people would see that post, and I feel honored that so many of you read it, shared it, and found something in it. Things are still very raw in Boston, but the city’s also starting to pick itself up, dust itself off, and get back to business.
Speaking of getting back to business, we have a few Red Sox games to catch up on. The Sox beat Tampa Bay on Monday in a true Patriots Day classic, and then proved their mettle against Terry Francona’s Indians for the first time yesterday.
The Patriots Day game is fun and unique, because it starts at 11:00 a.m. You literally wake up, get dressed, and go straight to Fenway. But, the fact that Patriots Day is always the third Monday in April portends a mixed bag on two fronts: weather, and early-season shaking the rust off. Monday’s weather was beautiful, but I went to a Patriots Day game a few years ago (I don’t know which year – Josh Beckett pitching, playing the Angels, Manny was in the lineup) wearing my snowboarding gear, including a hat and gloves. I had thought about bringing my goggles, decided not to, and then regretted it – good times!
Along with the weather, Monday’s game was also one of the good ones. Ryan Dempster – RYAN DEMPSTER, folks – spun a gem, holding the Rays to one run and two hits through seven innings of work. The former National Leaguer (I point that out because National League pitchers are not known for adjusting well to the American League, so this is an interesting and heartening development) struck out ten batters and only walked two.
Andrew Bailey picked up closing duties for the injured Joel Hanrahan, but he promptly blew the one-run save when he let Desmond Jennings on, and then let him steal second, and then let Ben Zobrist drive him home with a line drive to left field. Oops. It’s sad that this doesn’t surprise me – Bailey had such a clunker of a debut in Boston, that you can’t help but think that maybe his closer mentality’s gone.
Anyway, bottom of the ninth, Dustin Pedroia on first, tie game: Mike Napoli’s swing was horrible, but he managed to ding the ball off the Monster to score Pedroia and win the game for the Sox. Pedroia and Napoli, Napoli and Pedroia: I picture them getting together after the game to be gritty and unshaven and clutchy together.
Tuesday’s game was more somber – the Sox traveled to Cleveland to oppose Francona for the first time since he left Boston. Cleveland played “Sweet Caroline” during warmups (New York, which nobody ever accused of not having class, played it in the third inning). Cleveland also held a moment of silence, after which the Red Sox bats made some noise. Boston scored seven runs in the second inning (double, three walks, sac fly, single, walk, walk), putting the game out of reach.
It’s nice to think that the Sox are playing with the city on their minds – that they’re somehow playing for us, that they’re thinking of us when they dig in. Boston needs something happy and joyous, and when baseball’s played right, in that ethereal, balletic way, it’s the very personification of joy, of the human capacity to be perfect for a brief moment in time. But while the city needs the joy that comes from the perfect double play, the lope across the outfield grass, the uncoiling of a bat against a ball (PS: Mike Napoli’s double on Monday – you’re doing it wrong), the city also needs to not have that joy be a condition of grief.
Joy as a condition of grief: what I mean by that is, baseball will help this city heal. The Red Sox can – and should, and do – acknowledge the city’s grief. But instead of focusing on the tears, and the hurt and the uneasiness you feel when you notice a SWAT team on the corner of your street or when you step off the T to a phalanx of soldiers with assault rifles, the Sox are in the unique position of being able to help the city find joy again. Very few things, we’ve learned, unite this city like an attack on one of its institutions. Another one of its institutions has a chance to unite this city in joy, not in grief. It sounds so simple: that baseball, the same simple game that’s always been there, can suddenly help us all handle this monumental obstacle that’s been put, unwillingly and unwelcomed, in front of us. But, it can.
The Sox are winning games because they’re playing good baseball that, for short bursts, is perfect baseball. That’s enough to help the city start to heal – play well, let spring turn into summer, let nights at Fenway be the place to be again, and smile in the dugout. Let’s be happy about something as pure as baseball. Let’s enjoy those small, sweet moments of perfection while they last.