Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, July 28, 2018, 3:08 p.m.
It’s a shame I didn’t feel better. Mookie Betts belted a game-winning, 10th-inning homer to beat the Minnesota Twins, and I felt like death warmed over, which is a hard phrase to understand unless you’re experiencing it.
My latest realization about advancing age is that I can’t handle heat like I used to. As recently as last year, I was fine. This summer I’ve been out in the sweltering heat twice, and both times I got parched like peanuts. Early in the summer, I spent about two and a half hours hanging out watching a half dozen high school football teams playing catch against each other. Seven-on-seven, it’s called. That time I just felt sick for an hour or two, thanks to judicious hydration once I got back to the house.
On Friday morning, I went out to watch the opening practices at Clinton and Laurens District high schools, and it must have been more than the heat. The heat must have just brought out some kind of nefarious infection or virus. I started shivering, so I put on a hoodie to warm myself up. Before long, I was sweating and hot. This also happened when I was trying to sleep.
I don’t often get sick. This I attribute to a daily zinc tablet.
If anyone could have relieved my suffering, it was Betts, who has become the most exciting all-around ballplayer I’ve seen since Willie Mays. In fact, in my mind, Betts has become the second coming Mays, and the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout has become the second coming of Mickey Mantle. It will require longevity for either to cement those observations.
Mookie is magic. He is playful. He smiles a lot. Four nights ago, he came up right after Blake Swihart homered in Baltimore. The Orioles’ pitched yanked a fastball over Betts’ head. As they say, hello! He didn’t point at the Baltimore hurler. He sort motioned at him with his left hand and said something like, Hey, what was that? Then he homered on the next pitch. Mookie has the stuff of legend. Stardust. Oh, how I hope the Red Sox never let him get away. I want that “50” up with the retired numbers above right field at Fenway one day, along with The Kid, Yaz, Doerr, Cronin, Pesky, Rice, Boggs, Pudge, Big Papi and Pedro.
The Red Sox have one of the better defensive outfields I have ever seen. Andrew Benintendi is splendid in left, Jackie Bradley is superlative in center and Mookie is superb in right. The new Boston manager, Alex Cora, gives every player the occasional day off, which means J.D. Martinez sometimes plays in left or right in addition to being most often the designated hitter.
I felt too rotten to enjoy the latest Betts heroics. It was all I could do to stay awake.
A third of the season remains. Going into tonight, Boston’s record is 72-33. It’s the team’s best record at this point of a season since 1946. The Red Sox haven’t won 100 games since that year (when there were eight fewer games). To win 100 this year, Boston has to go 28-29 the rest of the way. It’s entirely possible.
Dustin Pedroia, Boston’s best second baseman since Doerr, has played in three games and may not play in another until next year.
Things are so good, it’s scary. Even after three World Series (2004, 2007, 2013), the Curse of the Bambino is not forgotten. Every day I see social media posts in which Sox fans insist on more pitching and a replacement for 21-year-old, error-prone Rafael Devers at third base.
But they’re 72-33. They have the best record in baseball. They’re five games ahead of the Yankees. Enjoy it while it lasts. There is no telling what the future holds. The American League has three dominant teams: the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Houston Astros.
So far, so good. Now if I can only shake what ails me. It’s absolutely not the Red Sox.
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