We like jokes around here at Over the Monster. And we love puns. So, to have a living pun -- or, okay, not a pun, but bear with me here -- like knuckler Steven Wright on the team is serendipitous for pretty much everyone involved. Or, at least people who are too lazy to write non-gimmicked columns.
Steven Wright (not the knuckler), for those unaware, was a pioneer in the world of understated one liners and absurdist observational humor. Without Wright, there's definitely not a Mitch Hedberg and almost certainly not the same level of joke craftsmanship in the alternative comedy movement that brought us people like Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, and their best friend, Mr. Show.
If you haven't listened to I Have a Pony or I Still Have a Pony yet, stop what you are doing and step your comedy game up. (Then listen to New in Town by John Mulaney, because that thing is just the best.) And if you have, you'll know these jokes, even if you aren't entirely sure how they explain anything, let alone a baseball season that would happen over twenty years later:
"I used to be an airline pilot. I got fired because I kept locking the keys in the plane. They caught me on an 80 foot stepladder with a coathanger."
At the beginning of the season, there was fairly serious speculation about whether or not John Farrell was long for the Red Sox’s manager position just three years removed from one of the more stunning World Series title runs in recent memory.
Although the speculation was framed as being part of standard pre-season speculation, especially with the arrival of President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, it was interpreted by some to have at least a little something to do with the relationship that Farrell had engaged with CSNNE reporter Jessica Moran. And while there was some legitimate criticism by women of the sports journalism world, most of what you could find at the time was finger-wagging nonsense that spent more time blaming a future victim than focusing on the actual ethical issues underpinning the controversy.
At this point, however, the idea of dropping Farrell for anyone outside of maybe Bruce Bochy -- or, perhaps, Joe Maddon, everyone but Marc Normandin's favorite cool uncle -- would be laughable as the team has kept apace with The Orange Mash down in Baltimore for at least the first month of the season. Whether or not this is sustainable is less important than whether or not it’s possible.
"You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?"
Poor Blake Swihart has been pushed aside for Christian Vasquez at catcher despite having the most baseball name on the team outside of Brock Holt and Mookie Betts. After toiling through college and the minors to make it to the bigs as a catcher, he just can’t seem to get ahead (or, right now, even on the major league roster). While, like quarterbacks, you can never have too many good young catchers -- even when you’re trying to turn one of those catchers into a left fielder -- that doesn’t make the whole thing any easier or more fun for the guy stuck on the outside looking in.
"I’ve written in a diary my entire life. Day One: Still tired from the move."
Travis Shaw has had quite the season so far, showing extra base power (with eight doubles and three home runs) and the ability to hit for average through the initial 26 games of his first full season as a major leaguer. While it’s far too early and probably unlikely, if Shaw can keep up his 152 OPS+ -- building on last year’s 112 in 65 games – then everyone is going to forget about Pablo Sandoval and his contract soon.
That he replaced the $95-million-dollar-man Sandoval, and moved from first to third in the process, has been largely forgotten, with the afterglow of moderate success making Shaw a big star in some parts of Red Sox Nation. (You know, like our comment sections.)
"Two babies were born on the same day at the same hospital. They lay there and looked at each other. Their families came and took them away. Eighty years later, by a bizarre coincidence, they lay in the same hospital, on their deathbeds, next to each other. One of them looked at the other and said, 'So. What did you think?'"
This one goes out to the Sox’s core of young stars (not named Travis Shaw) AND David Ortiz. Mookie Betts, Rick Porcello (who is still just 27 and younger than both Chris Archer and Stephen Strasburg), and company have been the engine for this team alongside Big Papi, who in his infinite Big Papiness has made his decision to call his own shot feel much more Elway than Manning.
This dichotomy between Papi and the “kids” is extremely important. Not just for the core of the team this season, but going forward. There’s no “right,” “wrong,” “good,” or “bad” way to play the game -- outside of maybe trying to catch flyballs or swing a bat with your feet or face, but they probably also said the same thing about taking walks back in Three-Finger Brown’s day -- but there are “better” ways to play the game, and learning from as well-respected and accomplished a player as Ortiz is the best.
"I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done, so now I just have to fill in the rest."
.... Which is important, because this team has all the makings -- and the right amount of money in the bank -- to be right there with the Astros, Nats, Royals and Mets as the teams of the next decade. The Porcello deal, along with the ever-improving line-up that they stuck with through thick, thin, and the entirety of the 2015 season are starting to look better and better every day. There are still holes that need to be filled -- Read: David Price needs to find his big boy pants before the playoffs -- but there are teams in much worse positions, like the Angels (HA!) and Yankees (Double HA!). And with the aforementioned bankroll of resident oligarch John Henry, there are very few things that can’t be solved with money.
The one true concern that the team will have moving forward will be what exactly to do with Sandoval. His contract, serious injury concerns -- as the list of baseball players/wrestlers that size who continued playing well after their body began to break down is precisely zero people long -- and lack of position to play (unless they put him or Hanley Ramirez at first and let the other one earn his keep at DH) make him essentially dead weight for a team that is looking to climb a mountain as soon as possible.
"It was my birthday, so I bought myself a humidifier and de-humidifier. Put ‘em in a room, let ‘em fight it out."
Having to chose between rebuilding and trying to win appears to finally be over, and fans can finally start to live in the now instead of the what’s to come. The rebuild, which has been happening essentially since the Beer and Chicken All-Stars were on their way out of town -- with that weird WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP in the middle -- reached the point where it was starting to feel like the Lakers, but without the charm many find in Kobe Bryant.
Now, while it might not be all sunshine and rainbows every day going forward, at least we no longer have to sit through a tempest of shit for six months every year because we hope there’s paradise at the end of it.