Bottom of eighth in the Red Sox-Yankees opener over the weekend. The Yanks are leading 6-3, but the Sox have the fire power to make things interesting – Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have already homered. Rafael Soriano faces a tough challenge in the top of the ninth. We’re looking forward to that confrontation, until…Curtis Granderson hits a two-out grand slam, ending any possible suspense. As we hear John Sterling say “It is high, it is far, it is gone!” a thumb-able thought hits us: home runs have gotten out of hand.
The Yankees, helped by their short Stadium porch in right, lead the majors with 160 HRs in 101 games (the Blue Jays, in their big windless bandbox called Rogers Center, are second with 145). Watching their team go yard may be fun for home-town fans, but people who enjoy the unfolding of tight pitching-hitting matchups don’t need almost daily score-fests and stadiums designed to cheapen the long ball.
The frequency with which home runs dominate nightly game highlights has reached the point where friends describe such contests as “ho-hummers.” Quirky though that attitude may seem, it underscores the lively debate between fans for and against what can be called HR-happiness. Sterling defended the long-ball anticipation of Stadium fans Saturday night (after Mark Teixeira temporarily tied the score in the eighth): “It means a game is never over; a team can always come back”. Maybe not always, but often enough to undercut what used to be a “wow” moment in most contests.
The problem of predictablity is in play on dark fields remote from baseball, with tragic consequences we see today It can be found too often in motion pictures in which violence is as commonplace as cheap home runs. Harvey Weinstein, producer of films like “Kill Bill” (Parts 1 and 2) says Hollywood cannot “shirk its responsibility” for events like the recent Colorado shooting rampage. Veteran director Peter Bogdanovich agrees, making this pitch to the Hollywood Reporter about the constant repetition of violence in films:
“There’s a general numbing of the audience,” he said. “There’s too much murder and killing. You make people insensitive by showing it all the time. The body count in pictures is huge. It numbs the audience into thinking it’s not so terrible. Back in the ’70s, I asked Orson Welles what he thought was happening to pictures, and he said, ‘We’re brutalizing the audience. We’re going to end up like the Roman circus, live at the Coliseum’.”
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Not So Fast: The pressbox consensus – seen in at least two papers, the Globe and NY Times – was that the Red Sox did not have the right roster mix to make the playoffs. Even with Carl Crawford talking about leaving for Tommy John surgery, that pessimism seemed premature. More persuasive to these ears was Bobby Valentine saying on ESPN last night that his team had a “streak in it” that would be coming soon.
Wild, Wild East: How competitive is the AL East? It’s the only division of the six with every team within five games of qualifying for a wild card.
Making Statements: The Dodgers pulled into a virtual tie for first in the NL West, by sweeping the pacesetting Giants in SF. Newly arrived Hanley Ramirez has provided an offensive spark for LA. The Braves seem to have sealed the fate of the Phillies with their sweep in Atlanta. The Phils, now 16-and-a-half games behind the Nats in the NL East and 12-and-a-half out of the wild card, are considered ready to sell before the non-waiver trade deadline Tuesday. Suspects standing on the block: Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Juan Pierre. Don’t look now, but the Braves and Nats have made a two-team race of their division.
Streakers: Reds +10, Braves +5, Royals -5
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