The Moonshot: Red Sox vibes, inner monologues and the fastest fastballs
The FanSided MLB team is here with the second edition of The Moonshot, our weekly newsletter rounding up all the joy of baseball.
Well, we believe in exit velocity, bat flips, launch angles, stealing home, the hanging curveball, Big League Chew, sausage races, and that unwritten rules of any kind are self-indulgent, overrated crap. We believe Greg Maddux was an actual wizard. We believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment protecting minor league baseball and that pitch framing is both an art and a science. We believe in the sweet spot, making WARP not war, letting your closer chase a two-inning save, and we believe love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.
Welcome to The Moonshot.
The vibes are all wrong for the Boston Red Sox
The 2022 Boston Red Sox remind me of the 2012 Boston Red Sox.
If you’re unfamiliar, that’s a very bad thing.
The 2012 Sox went 69-93 for a last-place finish in the American League East, their first time at the bottom of the division since 1992, and their first 90+ loss season since 1966. Currently, the Red Sox are 9-14, only half a game ahead of the last-place Baltimore Orioles, who wiped the floor with them over the weekend.
There are two key reasons why I’ve been having déjà vu all month. The first is Jerry Remy, and the second is the energy, or lack thereof.
In 2012, Fenway Park was celebrating its centennial and mourning the loss of franchise legend Johnny Pesky, who passed away that August. Nicknamed “Mr. Red Sox,” he’d spent 61 of his 73 years in baseball with the organization, first as a player, and then as a manager, color commentator, coach, and finally, special instructor and assistant to the GM, two positions he held from 1985 until his passing.
Ten years later, the Red Sox are mourning the loss of Jerry Remy. Like Pesky, he was a beloved former player turned color commentator. He managed to make even the worst games palatable; ironically, we could really use his joyful voice with the way the team is playing right now.
Then there’s the vibe, and I know that makes me sound like a hippie, but hear me out. The vibe is off. The team seems defeated, lifeless, and frustrated. They might score a run or two early in a game, as we saw over the weekend in Baltimore, but then they stop. Xander Bogaerts led the American League in batting average and hits for the month of April, and they have absolutely nothing to show for it.
There are also ways in which the teams are different. Alex Cora is nothing like Bobby Valentine, and thank the baseball gods (or whomever you pray to) for that.
But the more glaring difference is that the 2022 squad is coming off an unexpectedly great 2021 campaign that took them all the way to Game 6 of the ALCS, and they still have almost everyone who got them there. Plus, whereas the 2012 team made very few upgrades and lost Jonathan Papelbon to the Philadelphia Phillies, the current front office had a pretty busy offseason. They signed Trevor Story, Jake Diekman, Michael Wacha (whom they beat in the 2013 World Series), and Boston native Rich Hill, among others. All this to say, the 2022 team should be nothing like the 2012 squad, and yet the comparison has popped up in my head too many times to count.
Of course, it’s only May, so there’s still time for them to turn it around, and get as far away from 2012 as possible.
On the other hand, if they don’t and this year goes the 2012 route, history dictates they’ll be champions again in 2023.
Baseball, but for your ears
The inner monologue of Tigers catcher Eric Haase, a man who is about to break
Eric Haase: OK, one out, two on…up by one…we’ve been here before, we’ll be here again. We’re the Detroit Tigers. The bullpen will always put men on base. I will always be crouching in Minnesota in April. …I deserve a raise. We’re playing a kid’s game, yeah, but most of those kids live in California. Nobody grows up dreaming of playing in the AL Central. Siri, add reminder to ask for an unannounced 10 percent raise midseason.
OK, come on, Gregory, rock and fire. Hey, Gregory Soto against Miguel Sano. That’s kind of interesting. Soto, pitch to Sano. Sano, Soto. Soto, Sano – Hey, line drive to right! We did it! Come on, Robbie, let’s go! I don’t even have to watch the end of this, I can – oh, GOD, no. Oh, my GOD, no. OK, WHAT happens now? Ball rolling. Ball rolling. Ball is rolling. Sano, how could you do this to Soto?! Ah, whew, they’re holding him at third. Play’s over. Siri, remind me to breathe – Jonathan Schoop, NO! You spiked it into the ground, why did you do that?!
OK, go get it. Caddy mode. Just go help people. Your mom always told you you were born to be a helper. Look for the helpers. Be a nice boy, help your friends. Stop the rolling. Stop the swirling. Everything swirling. And…DIVE, you stopped it. And NOW it’s over.
No, no, ERIC, the RUNNERS! Eric, the RUNNERS! They’re whirring, Eric! Do it. Do it now. Do something raise-worthy. Everyone’s watching. Everyone’s watching this April game in Minnesota. Buh-duh-dum. Buh-duh-dum. SportsCenter’s going to call you the hero for the dive. Gregory will come back with a vengeance. Because you dove. Remember what they taught you in Little League: Sergio will give you a pack o’ smokes for half the store price. Go get Coach his menthols.
And, OK, WHAT, you’re running. You didn’t tell your feet to do that? You didn’t establish a center of gravity first? Head down, you’re sprinting? Everything’s a question now? Eric, with all due respect, you look like an idiot. Shut up, Granny Haase. Not here, not now. You’ve been here before. Stay calm, just keep running. No. Huck the ball. Just absolutely huck it. Toss it straight to Halifax. Get that RAISE.
Who’s that? Why is my Chaos Agent so LOUD? Why does he sound like Tom Kelly?! Eric, tune him out. Shut him up. Don’t throw the ball – and, the ball’s in left field. Rolling. Rolling. It’s rolling. You look like an idiot. Granny, you’re right. Maybe they won’t run? Stranger things have happened. Like all the stuff that just happened. NOPE. They ran. Game. Game. GAME. Game. Nobody was watching. No one will see this. It’s the AL Central. Just duck away. Don’t let them see you. Whatever you do, get off camera. Don’t wander into the middle of the Twins’ celebration – F*CK.
Good job, kid. Thanks, Tom Kelly. Fine. 5 percent raise.
This week, in sphincter-clenching fastballs
The standard baseball camera angle, from just behind the mound, has a way of distorting perception. Sixty-feet, six, condensed to just a few inches on your screen. The difference between an 88- and a 94-mile-per-hour fastball is milliseconds and sometimes the only way to tell the difference is the helpful pitch overlay your friends on the broadcast team put up for you.
But whatever size screen you watch this 103 mph fastball from Ryan Helsley on, you can feel it.
You can feel it in the slight breeze that rustles your bangs, and the way the umpire subtly moves his back, as if to avoid impending danger, as the ball arrives. You can feel it in the Ketel Marte avoids eye contact with Helsley after his emphatic whiff, choosing to focus on some far point in the St. Louis skyline, letting his mind drift as he reconsiders the life path that brought him to this moment. You can feel it in the way your whole body tightens and your teeth gently dig into your bottom lip as the video loops — windup, fireball, fan, existential crisis; windup, fireball, fan, existential crisis; windup, fireball, fan, existential crisis.
And Helsley’s scorcher wasn’t even the fastest pitch of the week…