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i'm just spit-balling here
baseball in the moment
by michelle von euw

It is Monday night, and I’m cheering for a man named Pronk.

Pronk. I cannot even tell you where that nickname came from, or why, and as soon as the sludge of consonants leaves my mouth, I’m already regretting it, because there’s a very good chance I’ll be cursing that same name in five days, because that’s what the playoffs do to you.

I only have two rules for the postseason. If Boston’s there, then it’s go Sox. And if the Yankees are there, it’s go anyone but New York. Which means I’m lustily shouting at my television set for a pitching staff that, frankly, is brutal and terrifying and makes my own awesome starters look like Dice-K on a hot day in Baltimore. (Which, if you weren’t lucky enough to be at Camden Yards on September 8, you may not recall that the Japanese phenom got lit up for approximately 737 runs, including a grand slam off the bat of 0-for-800 Scott Moore.)

There is no logical reason for me to want to face the Indians in five days (or, er, tonight, by the time you’re reading this). In my lifetime, the Sox are just as hapless against the Tribe in playoff series as they are against the Evil Empire. Neither of these teams are the Angels (nine straight losses to my BoSox in the postseason); both hold a 2-1 series lead over my boys in October. And as tragic as Aaron Boone was in 2003, the Tribe sweep of the Sox in 1995 is actually a more painful memory for me. (Worst. Date. Ever!)

And who are we kidding? Cleveland is on fire. Sabathia and Carmona are phenomenal, arguably the best one-two punch in baseball. Even this Byrd guy, the Indians’ fourth starter, has spent the last five innings embarrassing the likes of ARod and Abreu. Sizemore’s having a season (although enough with the “Grady’s Ladies” nonsense. That’s just embarrassing), and Pronk is, well, Pronk.

As for the Yankees? The Bronx Bombers are doing their best Boston Red Sox impression, what with Johnny Damon hitting homers into the Stadium seats and Mientkiewicz flipping over first base and this whole come from behind routine. They’ve even dusted off the old Rocket for yet another post season go-round, though rumor has it he won’t be available to pitch until the World Series.

So why am I even contemplating cheering for the Indians, who would be the tougher team to beat?

Really, it shouldn’t matter who the Sox face in the ALCS; my team is going to have to play hard and tough and fast, whether it’s against their most hated division rivals or the upstarts from Cleveland with a 59 year losing championship drought on their backs. We’ve got Beckett, we’ve got Papelbon, we’ve got Big Papi and Pedroia and Lowell and Manny being a freakin’ last-at-bat hero, we’ve got a solid mix of unshakable veterans and over-performing rookies, we’ve got a bullpen so solid it may as well be made of ice, and I should be confident, but I never am, because that’s what it means to be a Red Sox fan, hell, a baseball fan.

* * *

Least successful item in MLB’s online store? It’s gotta be the Yankees Wild Card cap. How many self-respecting New Yorkers would, after nine straight years of winning the East, be caught wearing that? Hey, while they’re at it, why don’t they start marketing “third place, AL East” hats for Toronto and Baltimore to vie for?

* * *

I've been to Phoenix. It's a lovely town, with a lovely ballpark. But there's something inherently wrong with a city that has yet to sell out its lower level for the opening game of the National League championship series. It was embarrassing enough during the Division series, when it sounded as if the Cubs fans outnumbered the hometown fans to the TV-viewing crowd. But empty seats? The town that won't support a winning franchise doesn't deserve any team.

* * *

Dane Cook? Really? Is he honestly the best face Major League Baseball could get to sell their product? What, was Nick Lachey unavailable? The man is so generically generic, it’s like he’s the melding of every below-average slob to ever sing harmony in a third-rate boy-band/get dumped by Jessica Alba/host a half-hour MTV series. I was convinced he was the epitome of pathetic corporate spokesmen -- until TBS started trotting out the aged Jon Bon Jovi with some ridiculous jingle that has nearly nothing to do with baseball but possibly everything to do with the Philly-based arena-something team he won’t shut up about owning.

* * *

Speaking of TBS -- in a country where we have an entire network that devotes dozens of channels to nothing but sports, why, why, why do we have the "Law and Order" network running the postseason? The Division Series broadcasts have been total bush league –- it’s clear that TBS couldn’t gather enough talent to cover four series, and the panic that set in Friday night when the Yanks/Tribe game went into extra innings and -– oh my god, maybe we’ll have to show part of the late game on TNT!!! -- was palpable. I cannot believe I’m saying this, but thank god the ALCS goes back to FOX. At least on that network there’s some actual baseball knowledge mixed in with all the hype.

* * *

I’ve harbored an undeniable crush on Gabe Kapler since his first game in a Boston uniform (in which I was in lucky enough to be in Fenway Park to watch him go wild with approximately 37 zillion hits), and like most red-blooded Sox girls, perhaps took a peek or two at some extremely smokin’ internet shots that showcased his, um, extremely well-maintained pecs. Among other things.

But Kapler has proven himself to be more than worthy of the teen girl-like swooning he inspires through the informative, entertaining, and down-to-earth blog he’s writing for Boston.com. It’s rare for a professional athlete to be witty. Hell, it’s rare for a professional athlete to be able to string together a complete sentence. But the former outfielder is not only coherent, but thorough -– boyfriend’s posted three, four times a day in his blog, often mid-game. It’s like learning the star quarterback has his own X-Files website. And, not incidentally, thanks to the blog, I now know the body doesn’t only have a brain –- he’s got a heart, too. He’s the founder Gabe Kapler Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to end domestic violence.

That's right, domestic violence. In my book, it takes a real man to support a cause that's focused primarily on keeping women and children safe from the men who love them with their fists.

* * *

Next time you hear from me, baseball will have a new champion. My heart lies with the Red Sox, obviously, and I think they are the best team left standing right now, and should win this whole thing walking away. But the way things have been going the past few years, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Cleveland snapped their 59 year drought. Or if Arizona or Colorado continue to prove that the early '90s expansion was no fluke (Tampa Bay's the exception that proves the rule).

And I won't be at all surprised if the Diamondbacks still can't sell out Chase Field.


Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw

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jael mchenry
10.12.07 @ 1:43p

I am a complete baseball ignoramus, and didn't understanding half of this ALCS and Pronk talk, but I can DEFINITELY get behind the idea that Dane Cook is an idiot and a lousy person to hire as the face of MLB.

You just know there's going to be a remake of Major League and they're going to put him in the Charlie Sheen role, or something.

russ carr
10.12.07 @ 2:31p

I know who Dane Iorg is. Who's Dane Cook?

robert melos
10.14.07 @ 10:38p

Dane Cook is an unfunny comedian.

joe rodano
10.17.07 @ 11:19a

For those of you who don't know.

Travis Hafner, AKA - Pronk.
His nickname, "Pronk", was given to him by former teammate Bill Selby during spring training of 2003 when people would sometimes refer to him as "The Prospect" and other times "Donkey" for the way he looked when running the bases.

This might be the most disturbing nickname that some actually goes by on national tv. I'm waiting for someone to start calling A-Rod, assclown. Half asshole, half clown with his antics on and off the field.


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