Somewhere around April 20, give or take a couple of days, the Red Sox moved into first place in the American League East. On April 20, we were two games ahead of the Yankees. Today, September 20, we have a game and a half lead over the Evil Empire with nine games left to play. All season long it has looked like we were going to win our division for the first time in a decade; now, even though we are going to make the playoffs, our first place finish is not a given. Don’t get me wrong – I still think we’re going to win it, but we’re just going to have to sweat more than we imagined doing so.
One of the things the Sox gave up with their loss last night was their claim to the best record in baseball. The Angels and the Indians now lead them by a half a game and yet those teams have lost four out of every ten games they have played this season. Baseball is as much about losing as it is about winning; that’s why I love the game.
In six months, the Sox, like all the major league teams, have had only eighteen days when they weren’t playing a game. That’s less than a day off a week. The game requires they show up night after night, inning after inning, and pay attention to every ball and strike. After one hundred and fifty three games, they lead the Yankees because of the scores of two games. Two games. Life hinges on the details. There’s the big picture, the leagues standings, the playoffs and then there are the balls and strikes.
As October brings the baseball season to its glorious finish, so it will end our time here in Massachusetts. I long for the poetry of a Red Sox World Series Championship to send us on our way, but who knows. Lots of things have to fall in place for that to happen, just as lots of things need to fall in place, both big and small, for us to get out of town. Our timing is way off on needing to sell our house, which makes some of our other decisions hard to make. All we can do, for now, is show up everyday, just like the Sox, and take our swings.
Out of thirty major league teams, only nine have any real hope of making the playoffs, yet all thirty still have a week and a half of the season to play. Some of those games will figure into the final outcomes, but many will not. Yet, the Orioles and the Rangers will still play, and play hard. Beyond October glory, there’s something that matters about showing up and doing your job. (Yes, their ridiculous salaries make it easier to show up, I suppose, but the hope I find in baseball transcends the capitalism.)
I got to go to Fenway last week and was in the park when Big Papi hit a walkoff homerun to win the game. Two nights later, I watched him pop out in the same situation. Based on the Red Sox’ history and baseball in general, chances are I’ll get my heart broken again this October and will then start counting the days until Spring Training. It’s never over. It is, however, about baseball.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve not given up. We have a great team. I’m counting on them sending us off with a World Series win. And, whatever happens, I’m a lifelong citizen of Red Sox Nation.
P. S. — There’s a new recipe.