October 1, 2014

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Doug Clarke: Red Sox are baseball’s new villains

Of all things …
With two World Series appearances in the last four years and two possible championships, the Bosox have become what the New York Yankees used to be: The Best Team Money Can Buy and the team everyone loves to hate.
When the Yankees brass held “The Meeting” — the one in Tampa, Fla., where Joe Torre walked into the room expecting to negotiate and instead was handed a blindfold and a cigarette — the only man in the room who had Torre’s back was Brian Cashman, the general manager. 
Aside from Torre, Cashman was the only man in the room who was “a baseball man.” The others were Boss Steinbrenner, the patriarch of the crumbling dynasty, his two sons, a son-in-law and Randy Levine, the club president who is tethered to The Boss by an invisible puppet’s string.
Well, we all know how that little meeting went. Turned out everyone in the room had made up their mind beforehand. In walks Joe, he gives his spiel, Cashman makes a show of reaching for his holster to protect his manager and friend, but is quickly outdrawn by The Boss and his henchmen. It was all over in a matter of minutes. The bloodless coup had ended. And perhaps the Yankee reign, both real and imagined, as well.
Will the Yankees be good next year? Of course, they will. Too much talent not to be, no matter who the next manager (Mattingly?) is. But all bets are off for what happens the year after … and the year after that.
The Red Sox? With the second-largest payroll in the game (roughly $180 million to New York’s $ 200 million-plus) and a first-rate front office in owner John Henry, GM Theo Epstein and the even-keeled rudder that is manager Terry Francona, the Bosox are perched to become America’s Villains.
If you want to pinpoint the moment when the room at the top changed hands, go back to 2004 when the Red Sox, down three games to none to the Yankees, won four straight to win the pennant and went on to win the World Series.
It was there that all those old jokes about Boston needing “ 25 cabs for 25 players,” about the Red Sox turning as yellow as autumn leaves in September and about “The Curse” — born when the Boston owner sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees so he could produce “No, No, Nanette” on Broadway — faded away.
The new Red Sox are talented, tough, resilient and, by golly, on top of the baseball world. And, make no mistake, the Bosox are starting to feel their oats.
Just the other day, Hank Steinbrenner, the more chatty of George’s Kids, got off this humdinger: “Boston talks about Red Sox Nation, we talk about Yankee Universe.”
“Tell them they can have Mars and Pluto, too,” Henry fired back.
And so it begins. Red Sox Nation on top, Yankee Universe spinning in its Steinbrenner galaxy. 

Not so fast

Please do not count me among those Northern Ohio folks with their thumbs in their mouths rooting for the Colorado Rockies just because Boston beat the Indians.
When it comes to choosing between an expansion team in softball jerseys from a snow belt and a team that wears regular baseball uniforms and plays in Fenway Park still and whose fans sing “Sweet Caroline” … well, gimme the Red Sox.
Red Sox Nation became OK in my book the minute they didn’t whip out their doilies and wave them like sissies when they wanted the third out. Gimme an old-fashioned, baseball crowd that claps and chants. Scientific fact: A crowd’s baseball knowledge tends to go in inverse proportion to the number of hankies it waves.
So committed to milking every possible minute to advertising is the Fox Network that it took until Game 2 of the World Series for its audience to hear the Boston crowd singing “Sweet Caroline.” That went on all through the Cleveland series, but Fox never thought to show it.
We keep on losing them, don’t we? The “them” is the next generation of baseball fans, the kids between ages 6 and 11. It’s more important for Major League Baseball to shuck every dollar bill off the stalk.
The score of Thursday night’s game was 2 to 1. I repeat, 2-1. And that 2-1 game took three hours and 39 minutes to play — meaning it was midnight when Game 2 ended. And yet TV and MLB keeps insisting on these ridiculous 8:21 p.m. starts. Can’t help but think that the long-term, residual benefits of coming on the air at 7 p.m. (with the first pitch at 7:15) would far outweigh the current philosophy of scraping the last nickel to be had off the table. Mixing in a nice, old-fashioned day game starting at 4 p.m. for the playoffs and World Series makes sense, too. Pretty sure baseball could survive this radical approach of reaching out to the next generation.
Matt Ryan’s two TD passes in the last two minutes in the rain in a hostile environment at Virginia Tech should give the Boston College QB an arm up on the Heisman Trophy. A performance like that is more impressive than a QB from Hawaii throwing six touchdown passes against teams like Boise State or Maui A&M.
Glad to see Browns owner Randy Lerner siding with Dallas owner Jerry Jones on this business of playing a Professional Tackle Football League game in Europe. “That wouldn’t work for us,” sniffed Jones. Jones and Lerner believe that games lose a lot of flavor and atmosphere when they’re played in Europe. Just another example of greed running ahead of old-fashioned horse sense.
Memo to Roger Goodell: Love your crackdown on the thugs in the NFL, but use your head on this Euro nonsense. As TLC sang: Don’t go chasing Euro waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to.

Final thoughts

Finally! After eight satin-cushion Saturdays, Ohio State gets to play its first real game of the season. Should the Buckeyes make it out of Happy Valley unscathed, look for an OSU-LSU matchup in the BCS Bowl. You read it here first.
Finally! Part II. After making three silly, satin-cushion movies called “Catwoman,” “Gothika” and “Perfect Stranger” (in which she won Harvard Lampoon’s “Razzy” and actually flew to Boston to accept the “honor” to the delight of the Harvard audience), Cleveland’s Halle Berry brings her A-game to an A movie entitled, “Things We Lost in The Fire.” Another Oscar-caliber role in the mode of her “Monster’s Ball.” Thought you should know.
Contact Doug Clarke at ctsports@chroniclet.com.