Remember that feeling you had in 2004? When you just couldn’t wait for the games to start to see what Millar or Manny or Mueller were gonna do next? When you began keeping a notebook of the OC’s various handshakes so you could import them to a spreadsheet before bed? When you’d sit, night after night, in a gin-fueled stupor, alone at a table set for two, knowing that Tim Wakefield had stood up your dinner invite once again.
Okay, that last one was probably just me, but the thing is I’m starting to get those feelings again. As we head toward the halfway point of the season, I’m getting all dizzy and starry-eyed for this team. Christ even J.D. Drew, who up to two weeks ago could have passed for a wood carving, is growing on me.
So like a buck-toothed fourth grader who somehow feels it necessary to put pen to paper to count the ways he loves Mary Higglseworth from math class, I am presenting here, in no particular order, the ten things I’m loving most about this team right now:
1. Manny Ramirez: Whether the guy’s trying to sell me a car or a grill, introducing the world to his hairdresser, or admiring his latest moonshot, Manny’s become the heart and soul of this team in my eyes. With his contract winding down, I’m already bracing myself for LAM (Life After Manny). And it just won’t be the same.
2. Our Bench is a Happy Bench: Remember the days when the Sox bench was made up of societal outcasts, Cask’n'Flagon rejects and LaSchelle Tarver? These were invisible men who got inserted into games, then faded back into surlyville. But now we’ve got Wily Mo and Alex Cora and Eric Hinske — three guys who get so animated on the bench you’d swear there was a dinner theatre performance of Grease going on in the dugout. Hinske, in particular, smiles so much, I’m staring to wonder if he’s hitting the nitrous oxide between innings.
3. Julian Tavarez: Our favorite wannabe porn star is number five in the rotation, but number one in our hearts [cue Wham's "Careless Whisper."]
4. Coco going horizontal: Get your mind out of the gutters, people. I’m talking about those f–king amazing plays he’s been making in centerfield, defying gravity and unafraid to dirty up a shirt.
5. Jonathan Papelbon’s primal screaming upon closing out a game: It’s baseball’s equivalent of Pete Townsend smashing his guitar! Plus, we know it’s a “nice” rage, and the guy probably heads into the dugout to hand out individual pan pizzas to all of his teammates.
6. Hideki Okajima: This is the guy we figured we had to take to make Daisuke Matsuzaka happy. Holy sh-t!
7. Mike Lowell: This is the guy we figured we had to take to make the Florida Marlins happy. Holy sh-t!
8. Josh Beckett is 10-1, motherf–kers: This is the guy we THOUGHT we were trading for last year. So glad he showed up. Holy sh-t!
9. Youk’s beard, Dustin’s hairline: One guy looks like he should be playing the banjo for tips at some dingy T station, the other looks like he should be working a neighborhood lemonade stand. But their combined mojo is the best one-two combination since Johnny Damon’s locks and Mrs. Damon’s boobs.
10. Tina Cervasio: She is the Captainette of my heart. Yes.
I know I’m missing some, so please… fill in the blanks in our comments section.