Monday, May 30, 2005

The Web of the Game

End of a holiday weekend. A little bittersweet. I feel well-rested; these few days of relaxation, work around the house that had to get done, and a fair share of baseball and music made for a nice respite. Back to the grind tomorrow.

I had a lot of fun going through the run differentials on Saturday morning. The Red Sox apparently took umbrage with my mention of them in the same sentence as the Mets. In the span of two games they feasted on Yankee pitching, skyrocketing their RD from +14 to +35. Likewise, the Yanks saw their number drop from +36 to +15.

Of course, when you’re dealing with a number like run differential this early in the season, you’re likely to see all kinds of wild swings: as I type this, the Red Sox’s number is down to+28, as they’re getting kicked around by the Orioles 7-0 at Fenway.

I’m going to try and reserve a space for these numbers on the sidebar of this blog, and will try and update them often enough to make it relevant…

Because I refuse to watch John Slop-lama pitch in a 7-0 game, I have the Dodgers-Cubs game on with the volume down. Via an Internet feed, I’m listening to another team that I have a rooting interest in: the New Haven County Cutters.

In case the Cutters have escaped your baseball radar: they are a member of the eight-team, Independent Canadian-American League (Can-Am for short). The league, whose name has been dormant since 1951, is essentially being marketed as a new and improved version of the Northeast League. In fact, six of the league’s eight teams were all members of the Northeast League through last summer.

The Cutters play their home games at Yale Field, which I believe is the oldest, still-operating minor league park in the country. The few times I’ve been to Yale Field, I’ve been taken by its rustic charm – it’s the kind of place you walk into and immediately have old baseball stories, myths and legends start to rattle in your head. Funny what old ballparks can do to you.

It’s also the setting for one of my favorite pieces of baseball writing, Roger Angell’s “The Web of the Game.”

I am not a huge fan of Angell’s, but admittedly haven’t read a ton of his work. His prose can be a bit over-bearing, but this particular composition is note-perfect. He captures the essence of a 1,001 different aspects of an afternoon at Yale Field, reporting on a larger-than-life pitching duel between Yale’s Ron Darling and St. John’s Frank Viola, and weaving in his exchanges with another spectator, Smokey Joe Wood. It’s a writer’s dream to have an afternoon play out like that in front of him, and Angell doesn’t miss his pitch. Needless to say, the game conjures up memories of Wood’s own classic pitching match-up vs. Walter Johnson at Fenway Park in 1912, and the piece becomes not just a retelling of a college baseball game, but a testament to the power that the game’s past has on its evolving present.

The Cutters are in their second season of existence. The previous occupant of Yale Field was the New Haven Ravens, a one-time AA affiliate of the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. They flew the coop to a new stadium in Portsmouth, New Hampshire after the 2003 season, leaving Yale Field with a No Vacancy sign going into last summer. The Cutters, previously the Massachusetts Mad Dogs, were put together quickly last spring to fill the void.

As I said, I do have a rooting interest in this club and will likely be checking in with them from time-to-time during the course of the season.

Tonight is the home opener for the Cutters; they’re playing the nomadic Can-Am Grays. The Grays are essentially this league’s version of what the Expos were to MLB for the past several seasons. With the Bangor Lumberjacks deciding at the last-minute that they would not be able to finance a team for the season, the league faced a gaping hole in the schedule. As a result, officials voted that an eighth team, the Grays, would operate as a perpetual road team, allowing for the schedule to remain intact. In the games in which Bangor was going to be the home team, the Grays will be the “home team,” playing in the other team’s park.

Not a perfect situation, but an adequate quick fix.

And tonight, the Grays are feeling right at home in West Haven, up 11-7 in the 7th. It’s been a rough start for the Cutters to this point. They started their season Thursday night in Quebec, and proceeded to get swept in a four-game series. The buses rolled into Connecticut after midnight last night, and here they are sitting on the brink of starting 0-5.

I could be wrong, but I don’t believe the team has a radio affiliate, so the Internet is the only way to go if you’re not in the park.

The Cutters’ Darren Ciraco just hit one out to make the score 11-8 in the 8th.

Bases loaded now with 2 outs. No dice – a pop-up to end the inning.

Greg Maddux, whose stuff looks pretty darn good tonight (has that nice little tail that seems to come and go for him these days), almost got crushed, literally, by a line drive in the bottom of the 5th. He had a little more time to react than his teammate Mark Prior did on Friday, and he’s no worse for wear. 5-2 Cubs in the top of the 6th.

Miller & Morgan made the cross-country trip after last night’s game in New York and are broadcasting the game in L.A. Maybe I was a little grumpy last night watching Mike Mussina get tossed around like a rag doll, but I found ESPN’s M&M boys to be intolerable last night. I thought their chemistry was “eh,” and Morgan had plenty of moronic things to say, especially regarding his “interview” with Derek Jeter. I’m not as anti-Joe as so many other bloggers seem to be (I guess I’ve just grown used to him for the past 15 years), but I can imagine last night’s broadcast gave his detractors plenty of ammo.

Bottom of the 9th now in southern Connecticut.

Lead-off double in left-center. Not sure who hit it…

Another runner on, so tying run is at the plate, which is all you can ask for.

Keto Anderson, a lefty, is up. Don’t have his stats in front of me, but I don’t think he has too much pop in his bat, as far as power goes. More of a slash-and-speed player, their leadoff batter.

Just checked: Anderson did hit 6 dingers for Boise in the Northwest League in ’01, but has only hit a total of six since then.

Just took 3rd strike looking. One out.

Two down.

Darren Ciraco.

3-2, 2 outs, bottom of the 9th. (It’s always fun to write that.)

Ball four. Bases loaded.

Bill Peavey.

Popped out to end it.


That will do it for me tonight. The Cubs are still holding onto a 5-2 lead; the Sox and O’s are wrapped up at Fenway.

It’s getting late and work will come early. Baseball is ever-present, at least tonight.

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