You know that feeling as a kid where you couldn’t wait to run downstairs on Christmas morning because you were dying to see if Santa brought you that new red bike you’d been begging for? But your eagerness was tempered with a bit of anxiety, as you really, really weren’t one-hundred percent positive that the bike would be there, and you knew if you got downstairs and didn’t see it, you’d probably hurl yourself out a second-story window?
That’s how I’m approaching this five-game set with the Yankees. Five action-packed games against our arch-rivals with only one and a half games separating us in the standings and a seat at the postseason spread hanging in the balance? And everything kicking off with a day-night doubleheader? This is like baseball porn! Like someone in MLB’s front office read our collective minds and constructed an Ozzfest for Red Sox fans, but with less piercings. Yet… there’s a part of me that wants to shoot out my cable box, tear the radio antenna off the wall, and drop-kick the modem into the backyard. I want to sequester myself in a fallout shelter somewhere (preferably with Leeann Tweeden, y’know, for the conversation) and emerge only days after the rubble has been cleared and the gieger counter says it’s okay to breathe. Because I know that watching Jason Johnson pitching to Jason Giambi with bases packed in the first inning of the series opener is going to shave precious years off my life. Because seeing us drop four-of-five and hearing the Fenway organist kick into a funeral dirge would push me into “homicide” mode. Because there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to face the full-blown realization of my worst fears: that this team ain’t goin’ to no playoffs.
On the other hand, this could be the turning point. The defining series of the season, much like the infamous July 2004 game in which Tek gave A-Rod his full day’s supply of Vitamin Mitt. Even now, Ortiz could be hanging “Sack Up or Die” banners throughout the clubhouse, while Timlin spikes the water coolers with human blood. They could be strapping on the warpaint and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shoelaces, knowing that only one team from the AL East will be working in October. Knowing that this is as good a time as any to shake off the embarassments in Tampa and Kansas City and issue the news — in the form of a world-class ass whipping — that we’ve returned. That we are not to be taken lightly. That we may just have a bit more magic in the bottle.
Lots of good predictions for this series in yesterday’s comments, but I’m going with 3-of-5. If we win today’s first game with Johnson on the hill, however, all bets are off, and suddenly anything’s possible, including a sweep, six Papi home runs, and Tom Waits parachuting into Fenway during Saturday’s game to sing “Bone Machine.”
Today’s my birthday, so I’m gonna try to work the optimist angle. Positive vibes, positive vibes. After all, by the time I hit the sheets, we may be in first place.
And speaking of positive vibes, don’t forget today’s WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon.