The Endless Variety of Sport

Big Diamond Raceway in Pennsylvania. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, July 20, 2017, 11:15 a.m.

A lot is going on for a Thursday. Some of that is holdover from last night, when Matt Crafton won the annual indelicacy known as the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Raceway, near Rossburg, Ohio, which isn’t very near anywhere.

I never went to Eldora for a Truck race. The late David Poole and I drove over from Indianapolis one time to watch USAC midgets race there, and while I’d like to see the NASCAR trucks race in person, given one race to see there, I’d pick almost anything else: sprints, midgets, Silver Crown, dirt mods, late models, all racing vehicles designed to be more supple on dirt.

By Monte Dutton

Still a good show, though, particularly if one enjoys madcap antics.

What do I remember? More than anything else, I remember that the track has kind of a rocky plain behind the back straight, and when the national anthem was played, a cowboy on horseback cantered back and forth, waving a large American flag. Rossburg, Ohio, isn’t Tombstone, Arizona, or Deadwood, South Dakota, or Dodge City, Kansas, but it could’ve been that night.

The place was packed that night, too, but I’m sure it has more seats now. David and I sampled the race-track food, breathed the dirt, and had a grand time. The trip was also valuable for the conversations we had on the way over and back.

Over the years, I’ve seen my fair share of dirt tracks: Cherokee, Riverside (different name now, I hear), I-85 (no more), Laurens County here in South Carolina; 311 in Madison, North Carolina; Manzanita (no more) in Phoenix; Grandview and Big Diamond in Pennsylvania; and a few others that don’t come to mind at the moment.

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The Red Sox close a homestand, and they’re headed to the West Coast to take on the Angels and Mariners, and that makes this “a getaway day,” so the last of four games against the Blue Jays is this afternoon at Fenway Park.

Jacoby Ellsbury. once Carmine, is now a Bomber. (Monte Dutton photo)

On Tuesday night, rain delayed the second game, and then Hanley Ramirez waited until there was one out in the 15th inning before he decided to hit a game-winning homer, so I’m still recovering from that.

Entering this game, Boston leads Tampa Bay by three games and, more importantly, New York by four and a half. It’s always dangerous to lead the Yankees shortly after the All-Star Break, and, sure enough, the Raging Capitalists just gained access to half the White Sox. Really free enterprise also gained the Red Sox the use of Pablo Sandoval, who wound up being a luxury car with an oil leak so severe that the Sox junked it.

‘Tis a strange Red Sox team: last in the American League in home runs, first in earned-run average, fifth in runs scored, one of the better outfields I have ever seen.

If you’ve got a decent British accent, it’s The Open Championship. If you’re saddled with my South Carolinian brogue, it’s the British Open, but, whatever, it’s my favorite golf tournament.

This year it’s at Royal Birkdale, which has always been north of Liverpool, or at least since 1889, but wasn’t awarded “royal status” until 1951, and that undoubtedly signaled its entry into the “Open rotation” three years later.

I like watching golfers try to get out of ridiculous bunkers and pesky flora with names like heather and gorse.

I like it, every now and then, for the greatest golfers in the world to play occasionally like I used to.

 

 

(Steven Novak design)

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

The Weather Will Get Warmer

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 16, 2017, 9:45 a.m.

Spring sports begin early. They begin cold. Traditionally, I’m prone to underrate the chill of March. Wednesday night was a rare exception. I wore a coat to Laurens District High School that I hadn’t put on all winter. I can’t take too much credit. On Tuesday night, the hoodie I wore to a soccer match was woefully unsufficient to meet my needs.

By Monte Dutton

Heck, I could’ve done without the jacket. Ed Prescott Field has a genuine, bona fide press box. The only time I was out in the elements was to take pictures and talk briefly with the Raiders’ head coach, Tori Patterson, afterwards, and the latter wasn’t much of a chore because of the details of the game. I got a solid 23 seconds from the Laurens coach, and he and I both thought it ample.

Laurens defeated Clinton, 13-0. It ended via a 10-run rule. The Red Devils committed six errors. Of the 13 runs, only five, allowed by four Clinton pitchers, were earned. That was my estimation. I got a headache trying to figure it.

In short, the Clinton team was significantly more weather-impaired than I.

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No sport is more conducive to sudden shifts than baseball. In their 2004 American League Championship Series comeback against the New York Yankees, the Boston Red lost Game 3, 19-8. I remember it distinctly. I was on assignment at a (then) Busch Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which may have been Lowe’s then. As the Yankees clobbered the Red Sox, a New York partisan ragged me, as in some quarters I am well known for my love of the Bostons. I have only seen that gentleman one time in all the years since. I doubt he’s looking for me.

In case you were assigned to military duty in the Aleutian Islands, or engaged in a solitary experiment in Antarctica, or were unborn, you may have an inkling that the Red Sox won four straight games, eight if you count the Word Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, and a movie called Fever Pitch.

Just last night, the former head coach of the Raiders, Dale Nelson, and I were reminiscing about a game we both saw. He was the 21-year-old coach of the Laurens American Legion team, and I was writing about said team on a regular basis for the Laurens County Advertiser. It was roughly 25 years ago.

Laurens was playing Easley on the same high school field in use Wednesday night. Easley scored 18 runs in the top of the first inning. Laurens wound up winning, 26-24. By game’s end, even most of the parents were gone. Maybe 10 fans, two teams and their coaches, an operator of a scoreboard incapable of registering a 26-24 score, and I saw the whole game. Was it worth it? Now it is. At the time, I was rooting for whichever team held bats in its hands.

How this came up in a 13-0 high school game, I can’t imagine.

In football, teams don’t play more than once, except in rare instances. Last year, in basketball, I saw a girls team lose a game by 31 points and then defeat the same team by 18 two weeks later, but I don’t think that happens as much in sports other than baseball.

In baseball, a pitcher in his groove or a batter with a hot bat can alone wreak havoc on the opposition. Sometimes nothing goes right. The next time nothing goes wrong. Contrary to prevailing medical science, errors really can be contagious. I’ve seen teams decimated by a “called third strike” virus. Sometimes umpires even get infected.

So play ball. Clinton does so again tonight.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

 

Winning the World Series Will Change Your Lives, Cubs Fans

(Monte Dutton sketch)
(Monte Dutton sketch)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, November 3, 2016, 10:22 a.m.

Life will change, Cubs fans, and for the good. This I know.

The reason I have rooted for the Boston Red Sox for my entire life is that my late father’s favorite baseball player was Ted Williams, and my first rich memory of the game was in 1967, when Williams’ successor in left field, Carl Yastrzemski, became my favorite ballplayer.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

My father didn’t live to see the Red Sox win the World Series. Williams didn’t live to see it. Yaz didn’t play long enough but goes to spring training and shows up at Fenway Park from time to time.

Baseball used to be an addiction. The highs were never as high as the lows were low. Now it’s a virtue. It’s more religion than sport. This century has been the New Testament. The angry God became merciful.

I was rooting for the Indians. I am forever grateful to Terry Francona. As long as he manages any team other than the Yankees, I’ll hope he wins every game that isn’t against the Red Sox.

Here’s what winning World Series three times in the past 13 seasons has done for Red Sox fans. Baseball doesn’t take years off our lives anymore. This year the Red Sox had a fine season, but they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Tribe.

It’s okay. They’ll be good next year, too. It was a damned fine season.

If they had not broken the ice in 2004, I would be devastated. I used to think the Red Sox were God’s personal punishment for all my sins.

In this year’s World Series, both teams had Boston written all over their rosters and management. I’m happy for the Cubs. I’m sorrowful for the Indians. I hope they win it next year, unless, of course, they stand in the way of the Red Sox.

 

cowboyshome_fullcvr343-page-001

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Lou Lauer helped me repair my website. He could help you, too.
Lou Lauer helped me repair my website. He could help you, too.

 

The Weekend That Was

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 7:38 a.m.

On Sunday afternoon, I walked out of Bi-Lo humming the theme from The Rifleman. I have no idea why. I haven’t watched a rerun of it lately.

Bum-bum-bum-buh-BUM-bum, bum-bum-bum-BUM …

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

What a momentous weekend. So much was happening I went to the supermarket to think about nothing.

Like most weekends, it had its ups and downs. I like to say that things are seldom mediocre for me. Either everything goes right or nothing does, but, in truth, most days are in between. I just remember the good and bad ones more.

dscf3767Friday night’s Laurens District High School victory over Irmo was inspiring. Then word arrived that Clinton had lost in Aiken.

Presbyterian got drubbed at Chattanooga, 34-0. The Citadel upended Furman, 19-14. I watched both games on my laptop. Denny Hamlin won the caution-marred and wreck-filled Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond.

Mookie Betts energizes the ballclub. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Mookie Betts energizes the ballclub. (Monte Dutton sketch)

On the other hand, the Boston Red Sox are running wide open. With 19 games left, they lead the Blue Jays by two games, the Orioles by three and the Yankees by five. David Ortiz hit his 536th homer last night, tying Mickey Mantle. Mookie Betts has become my favorite major-league player, partly because he wears my old high school football number and partly because he is the most exciting player to watch since Ken Griffey Jr.’s prime. Maybe Willie Mays’. Last night Betts caught the Birds napping and dashed unexpectedly home. He performs such magic quite often.

Billy Dunlap announces plans for the Laurens County Sports Hall of Fame.
Billy Dunlap announces plans for the Laurens County Sports Hall of Fame.

On Monday, I attended a media conference announcing the formation of a Laurens County Sports Hall of Fame and drove home to write a story about it. Then I did my due diligence on the high school games – Abbeville at Clinton, Laurens at Boiling Springs, Laurens Academy at Cathedral Academy – and I’m going to give LDHS coach Chris Liner a weekly call shortly. Then I’ll call Clinton’s Andrew Webb at mid-morning and LA’s Todd Kirk either afterwards or tomorrow morning.

This Friday’s assignment is Abbeville (3-0-1) at Clinton (1-2).

Between tomorrow morning and Friday night, I get to work on my next novel. The rough draft rose above 30,000 words last week. The latest published novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is on Amazon Kindle sale for $2 until the end of the month. I should find out soon whether or not the fifth novel, Cowboys Come Home, is going to be published in the KindleScout program. My last two novels, Forgive Us Our Trespasses and Crazy of Natural Causes, have been published in that program, but I’m not sure Amazon is interested in a modern western. I hope so. It’s something completely different for me. I believe in it, and if it doesn’t get accepted, I’ll move on to Plan B. The nomination period – Amazon likes to survey what potential readers think of it – ends in two days (as these word are written). If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, and you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate it if you’d consider nominating it here.

Obligations are closing in. In the next month, I’ve got a lot of record-keeping and paperwork to catch up on. I’ve got to prepare Cowboys Come Home for print release, regardless of whether or not Amazon chooses it for the KindleScout program.

Troy Dendy rushed for 216 yards.
Troy Dendy rushed for 216 yards.

For a free-lancer, my life has become rather regimented, which is mainly good. I don’t get out much, and feel lonely a fair amount of the time, but solitude has its advantages and observation is more important than interaction.

I’ve been a bit glum lately, but my highs aren’t that high nor the lows that low. I’ve just hunkered down. I’ve decided I’m doing what I do, it is my fate, my only workable option, and it’s not merely that I love writing – whether about a high school football game or a chapter of fiction about a quirky teacher’s first day of school – but it’s what I’m supposed to do, all I really know how to do at this stage of my life, and the best path, however snarled, to success.

(Steven Novak cover design)
(Steven Novak cover design)

Please visit the KindleScout site and consider nominating my fifth novel, Cowboys Come Home, for publication. You’ll find sample chapters, a short synopsis and a Q&A. Take a look at it here.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is on Amazon sale at $2. Surely my work is worth that much of a gamble.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

 

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, July 27, 3:45 p.m.

DSCF3255Next week the football players will be out, sweating and pushing and knocking one another down, and it will be my job to watch enough to form some preliminary opinion of how the lads will fare once they begin playing games that count on the last Friday night in August.

With this additional challenge looming, I’m hanging close to the laptop, pecking away at a literary project that is even newer than the western I just finished. The next one, the sixth novel, doesn’t have a name yet. I haven’t even come up with a name I’m seriously considering, but, every bit as much as Kevin Costner, I know that if I write it, it will come. This morning, Chapter 4 turned dark, though still humorous, and the word count reached 7,997. I thought of adding three additional words, but nah.

The grass needs cutting — I noticed it yesterday, started thinking about it today, and might actually cut it tomorrow or the day after; mine is a deliberative process, like Congress — and the branches need clipping.

Kyle Busch is the NASCAR man of the current moment. (Jeff Curry via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch is the NASCAR man of the current moment. (Jeff Curry via Getty Images)

NASCAR is off in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania, and what that generally means is that it will either rain or look like it. For some unknown reason wholly unrelated to my writing ability, the Bleacher Report column I wrote Monday has been read or at least clicked upon by close to half a million people, which is several hundred times the number who read or clicked the previous one. I don’t know what switch the friendly folks at the home office flipped, but I hope they keep flipping it.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Mookie Betts just tripled to drive in the game-tying run at Fenway Park against the Detroit Tigers. Betts wears the same number in major-league baseball that I once wore in high-school football, so, of course, we have much in common. The Carmines, who recently spent one day in first place, have hit a rough patch and are about to embark on a 10-game trip to the West Coast. It isn’t even August, and Boston has already lost its traditional two closers this year. Craig Kimbrel is alleged to be returning soon. If not, maybe they’ll sign Craig Kilborn. He’s probably free, albeit 53 years young.

DSCF1260The pre-football rustling is under way. High-school coaches are off at “the clinic,” where presumably they discover cures for what ails their teams. The small-college conferences, Southern and Big South, have been dancing in front of the media for other incarnations of the forecasts I’ll soon be writing about the high schools. The preseason estimates are pessimistic for both the Furman Paladins and the Presbyterian Blue Hose.

Dabo Swinney (pronounced Dabbo Sweeney) is now the Patron Saint of Football in the Palmetto State. Will Muschamp is still honeymooning, but it won’t last much longer. Both are busy lining up recruits now starring for the Sertoma Club in the Puppy League at the rec center.

What does the media know? For that matter, and by extension, what do I know?

Time will tell, which is one of many weaknesses of time.

Fenway Park
Fenway Park

Miguel Cabrera just homered to put Detroit back ahead. That’s such a bad habit he has in Boston. “We go to the bottom of the ninth at Fenway, with the Red Sox trailing, 4 to 3 …”

“Ya Gotta Believe,” as Tug McGraw once said, but he was not in Boston. Xander Bogaerts strikes out. David Ortiz flies out to the left-center field track. Jackie Bradley Jr. flies out to the track in right. The Red Sox just got swept for the first time all year, and the next time they play at home, it will be August.

On the other hand, the closest I get is the living room.

 

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

 

A Triumph of Persistence, Not Skill

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, July 16, 2016, 9:38 a.m.

I have squandered an early rising. Damn that British Open.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

So far, I have sipped coffee, wished people happy birthday on Facebook, cooked breakfast, played lots of Hank Williams songs, and finally gotten around to powering the laptop to start molding this day into something coherent.

At this hour, Phil Mickelson is still leading at Royal Troon. Next year will be at Royal Birkdale. Royalty will be avoided at Carnoustie in 2018. Among the more significant reasons while Mickelson is still winning is that he hasn’t started playing yet.

With the weather blazing hot and prone to thunderstorms here, Troon looks like a rainy November football game. Watch the golfers. Shiver a little. Open the front door. Feel blast of natural furnace.

Jimmie Johnson (48) is on the pole in New Hampshire. No. 88, meanwhile, is Alex Bowman. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson (48) is on the pole in New Hampshire. No. 88, meanwhile, is Alex Bowman. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

9:33 p.m.

The above was intended to be a full blog. It was, at about 10 a.m., almost a full blog. That’s when this error message popped up informing me that my laptop would have to be restarted, and it, in fact, did so before I could get what I had written saved. When all was safe from Chechnyan hackers again, about three quarters of what I had written was gone forever, already bouncing around the outer reaches of the solar system and retrievable only by Chechnyan hackers, whose service charges are outrageous.

Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)
Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)

So crestfallen was I that the whole project was abandoned because, at the time of technical despondency, I preferred to play my guitar and read Rolling Stone more than I was inclined to rebuild a blog that was dubiously constituted from the get-go.

Similar to what I’ve written since.

Friday was a creative day. Writing the first chapter in yet another novel was a rush. Getting the manuscript of Cowboys Come Home ready was a relief. It was an eventful week. Some plans may be in the works.

Today the most creative accomplishments were washing the dishes and folding the clothes.

Jacoby Ellsbury. Now a Yankee. (Monte Dutton photo)
Jacoby Ellsbury. Now a Yankee. (Monte Dutton photo)

The Red Sox won their sixth straight game, and second straight in Yankee Stadium. They are 6-2 so far against the Ugly Americans, which, if they do not manage to prosper in the postseason but do manage to dominate New York, will leave some mild feeling of warmth from the season.

Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race in New Hampshire, though it was almost like a loss because he failed to lead several laps.

I drove around a while listening to people who know almost nothing about concussions speaking about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s prognosis as if they’d worked for decades at the Mayo Clinic.

Mickelson isn’t leading the The Open Championship, but he’s right there, a stroke behind Henrik Stenson. I sort of wish a golf tournament was on TV every morning when I awaken.

On The Golf Channel, come to think of it, it’s possible there is.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ailing. Maybe he'll be back next week. Maybe he won't. Generally, those who know aren't saying, and everyone who doesn't is. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ailing. Maybe he’ll be back next week. Maybe he won’t. Generally, those who know aren’t saying, and everyone who doesn’t is. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)

As I told a friend over a beer Friday night, I love the British Open because the greatest golfers in the world look approximately like they were me. At times. Not really. My last round of golf was at least five years ago. I can just relate to their ineptitude better than to their proficiency.

Everybody gets to hack.

That’s two kinds of hackers I’ve mentioned in one blog. It makes me think of that old Merle Haggard tune, “My Own Kind of Hat”: There’s two kinds of lovers and two kinds of brothers and two kinds of babies to hold / There’s two kinds of cherries and two kinds of fairies, and two kinds of mothers I’m told, and told …

There. This blog isn’t much, but it is done.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

 

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Furman's Bruce Fowler and I know each other pretty well. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Furman’s Bruce Fowler and I know each other pretty well. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, August 7, 2015, 10:02 a.m.

For every ending is there a beginning. And vice-versa.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Endings have been prevalent this year. I miss David Letterman. And Don Imus, who isn’t on TV anymore. And Jon Stewart, who hosted The Daily Show for the last time last night. And Brian Williams, the only man who lost his job for lying about Iraq. And Craig Ferguson, the late-night host no one ever talked about but should have.

I also can’t seem to find episodes of Foyle’s War, which, to me, is merely the greatest show ever on television.

Baseball season is winding down, particularly for Boston Red Sox fans. Last night I got home from a meeting in Greenville just in time to see the Yankees defeat them, 2-1. Excruciating losses have been the rule this year. The difference between a good Red Sox season and a bad Red Sox season is that, during a bad Red Sox season, I only half-watch the games. Bad Red Sox seasons are good for reading, writing and playing guitar.

Baseball is in the twilight.(Monte Dutton photo)
Baseball is in the twilight.(Monte Dutton photo)

Another difference is hits with two out and men in scoring position.

Football is on the horizon, and most people are optimistic before the teams actually start playing and hopes have been dashed. I’m scheduled to be at every single Clinton High School game, and I’m looking forward to it if for no other reason than they’re bound to be better. Last year the Red Devils, winners of eight state championships and two in which my brother and I played a role (his greater than mine), won only twice. It seems reasonable to expect them to do better.

A Paladin, sans the horse. (Monte Dutton photo)
A Paladin, sans the horse. (Monte Dutton photo)

The Furman Paladins (knights on horseback, once aligned with the emperor Charlemagne), representing my alma mater, and the Presbyterian Blue Hose, of my hometown, are starting to rustle on the practice fields. Furman, coached by my old friend Bruce Fowler, is on the comeback trail. The Blue Hose, whose coach, Harold Nichols, once quarterbacked teams about which I wrote, had a marvelous season last year. This year they will have to be better because all the teams they caught unawares will be better braced for their assaults.

PC stands for Presbyterian College, not politically correct, but that is still no excuse to call them PC College, which may be less politically correct but is also redundant. Go, go, Presbyterian College College!

At Furman, of course, everyone is accustomed to yelling “FU, all the time!”

All the time.

The Men of PC walk into Bailey Memorial Stadium each week. (Monte Dutton photo)
The Men of PC walk into Bailey Memorial Stadium each week. (Monte Dutton photo)

Few realize what a wonderful season the Blue Hose — it’s a Scottish warrior, by the way, “those blue-stockinged Presbyterians,” a term the aristocrats used for dismissal in the days of yore — experienced last year. The record was 6-5, but three of the losses were to schools that played in the Football Bowl Subdivision (i.e., big boys) and actually played in bowl games. They were Northern Illinois, Ole Miss, and North Carolina State. The other two were schools that competed in the Football Championship Subdivision (i.e., they theoretically are about PC’s size and speed) playoffs, Coastal Carolina and Liberty.

Bailey Memorial Stadium (Monte Dutton photo)
Bailey Memorial Stadium (Monte Dutton photo)

In reasonable matchups, the Blue Hose were 5-0, and one of the conquests was at the Paladins’ expense, which I deeply regret.

The season was one of football’s small miracles. Stern challenges await both the Paladins and the Blue Hose. Furman begins at home against Coastal Carolina, then travels to Virginia Tech and Central Florida. Presbyterian opens with road games versus Miami of Ohio and Charlotte. The latter is the University of North Carolina at Charlotte if one is a student but merely Charlotte if one is a sport. The third game is at home against Campbell, which excites me because it will match Blue Hose against Camels, and one can throw out the record books when those two get together.

I am looking forward to going to these games and writing about many of them.

 

Football pops up in all three of my novels: The Audacity of Dope, The Intangibles, and the brand-new Crazy of Natural Causes. Please consider reading them. Take a look at them here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Puck Cleared, Sneakers Discarded

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Grady Little (Monte Dutton sketch)
Grady Little (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 8:40 a.m.

Parting is such sweet sorrow. (Gee. That’s profound. Wonder if anyone else ever wrote it?)

I’m a romantic at heart. That’s why I reserve such emotions for … sporting events.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The basketball and hockey playoffs arrived like nurses to a battlefield. I was reeling, staggering aimlessly in lock step with the Boston Red Sox.

The Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Tampa Bay Lightning lifted me up. The provided hope and the will to carry on.

Hosanna!

Now their work is finished. The Red Sox, unfortunately, endure like soap scum in the shower.

Why do I love the Red Sox? An ancient curse, passed from generation to generation so that dead fathers can at last laugh merrily in their graves.

But enough frivolity.

A word on LeBron: He gave it all he had, put that beleaguered, otherwise mediocre, team on his back and took it farther than anyone else could. Ever. It was a battle of attrition the Cavs could not win, but there was honor in the loss.

Stephen Curry is a little gangsta. (It’s the first time I’ve ever typed that word. I’m so proud.) He’s that kid in the gym, smiling, making the teens look bad, only now they’re some of the best in the world, and he still plays the same way, and just as effectively. Once he was the Beaver and took it out on Lumpy Rutherford. Now he’s the MVP, and Lumpy Rutherford is LeBron James.

I’ve only seen highlight reels of Bob Cousy, but I think of Curry as a cross between him and Pete Maravich, whom I did see. Maravich was a little flashier, but Curry is more … realistic. Maravich was ahead of his time. Curry plays a game his teammates can. He’s functional. Watching him stray from his man, sneak in from the blind side, steal the ball, and fire it downcourt to a streaking teammate is breathtaking.

Every year, hockey snares me during the playoffs. I’ll watch part of a Blackhawks game, if they’re on NBC or NBC Sports, or maybe the Hurricanes for a while, but I never watched anything approaching a full game until the playoffs started. Since Chicago won, it made it better, but I always watch the playoffs.

The Lightning* is so fast, so talented, so young. I didn’t think the Blackhawks could beat them. They did because they are loaded down with talented veterans who know how to win. The Stanley Cup finals were every bit as fascinating as the NBA.

Plus, the NHL has Doc Emrick. No one calls him Mike but himself. Gosh, he’s old school. Sometimes he reminds me of Jack Buck. Sometimes he reminds me of Joe Friday. I started narrating my life the way I thought Emrick would.

Circling smoothly in a crisp, counterclockwise fashion … considers cutting the front yard first … but, no, opts for the back … avoids the roots around the pine tree by lifting the blade smoothly … takes a hit from an overhanging branch! … just shaken … shakes out the cobwebs … notices a dandelion he missed … circles back around …

I’ll miss Doc referring to Hjalmarsson, Toews, Johnny Oduya, and, of course, Duncan Keith. Ohhhh! And Crawford makes the save! Puck’s out … but Marian Hossa clears it …

On the NBA telecast, Mark Jackson gracefully handled the task of analyzing the Golden State team he used to coach. Mike Breen doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Jeff Van Gundy is crazy in a good way. He announces the way Curry plays.

Or, perhaps, I just loved the telecasts because Michael Waltrip wasn’t on them. No one yelled “boogity, boogity, boogity” or called Curry “that 30 player.” Watching NASCAR may have made me enjoy all other broadcasting on earth more.

Don and Jerry. Kruk and Kuip. Vin Scully is like hearing the Dodgers described by Claude Rains. Or maybe Claude Rains learned to act by listening to Vin Scully, who’s been around a while. Rains didn’t die until 1967.

I’ll survive. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2013. Sure, they declined faster than Herman Cain in the years since, but there are still good players in Boston, mismatched though they are.

This sums up my feelings about the Red Sox. They have two players, Pablo Sandoval and Shane Victorino, whom they signed to be switch-hitters. Victorino, who can’t stay healthy for more than two weeks anyway, decided it hurt too much to hit lefty. It gave him “a twinge,” which he probably also gets from cracking eggs. Sandoval started out hitting lefties with all the verve of Jon Lester, so he decided, well, I’m just going to bat lefthanded from now on.

Whatever.

*Since I don’t have to go by ridiculous rules anymore, I consider Lightning singular because I write in English instead of Sports.

My new novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, will be available for pre-order soon and for actual reading in less than a month, allegedly. Until then, read my short stories at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and that will undoubtedly make you interested in reading my books that are already available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

While the Red Sox Are Away …

Yes, it's early, but it sure looks like the sun is already setting on the Red Sox. (Monte Dutton photo)
Yes, it’s early, but it sure looks like the sun is already setting on the Red Sox. (Monte Dutton photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 11, 2015, 8:59 a.m.

In lieu of the Boston Red Sox, my excitement has recirculated. Borrowing from the regrettable jargon that flows from this laptop behind which I spend an amount of time many would deem unproductive, I’ve had to reload so that important updates may be installed. So frustrating has been the performance of a baseball team that I have turned away in disgust on many evenings like the most recent one.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The Red Sox are mismatched in luxury items. When in the field, most parts are of the replacement variety. It seems as if every baseball player in Boston can play a variety of positions, none of them well.

I will continue to watch, of course, just as I did with the woeful teams of 2012 and ’14. In between, a world championship occurred, one that apparently must sustain me for a while.

Last night the entire difference between the Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, 5-2 in more precise measurement, was simple, fundamental soundness in the home team and impetuous aspirations in the visitors.

So far, the season has consisted of two parts. At the beginning, the Red Sox could hit but not pitch. Now they can pitch but not hit. The defense has been a sieve throughout.

Oh, for a team of Pedroias!

More and more, I watch but not with much interest. I read a book and look up when Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy get amused or excited about something. Baseball is a good background. Vin Scully’s melodious tones often help me get to sleep.

What I’ve really watched – with interest – are the fascinating confrontations that will put basketball and hockey fitfully to bed.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

Okay, so it's Clemson, not Cleveland. It's the biggest basketball place I've visited lately. (Monte Dutton photo)
Okay, so it’s Clemson, not Cleveland. It’s the biggest basketball place I’ve visited lately. (Monte Dutton photo)

LeBron (most seem to think his last name unnecessary) is a man of indomitable spirit, capable of taking as much punishment as any sturdy NFL tight end. Curry is evocative of that little kid in the gym who begs his way into a game with the teen-agers and then shames them, only now Curry is 27 and somehow he still shames the big men exactly the same way. LeBron is a force of nature. Curry is the butterfly whose gossamer wings provide the first impetus of what becomes a tornado.

When Curry was at Davidson, I watched every time the Wildcats were on TV. Now I’m rooting for the Warriors, and to their credit, they almost always come from what seems to be hopelessly behind in the fourth quarter, and the game comes down to a tense conclusion, two of the first three having fallen the Cavaliers’ way.

Until now, I’ve thought it ridiculous to compare LeBron James to Michael Jordan, and I still think there are many forms of comparison, tangible and intangible, and Jordan was extraordinary in every part of his game. What I must grant LeBron is that he is carrying Cleveland on his ample shoulders in a way I don’t think Jordan could manage. That’s just one measure, but it means a lot in my eyes.

What I must also grant LeBron is that Curry being the NBA Most Valuable Player seems absurd when one watches both on the same court.

Oh, I catch the occasional minor-league game. (Monte Dutton photo)
Oh, I catch the occasional minor-league game. (Monte Dutton photo)

When I watch these games, I can savor what happens because I have no deep rooting interest. When the Red Sox lose, and leave 14 on base, and hit .082 with two out and runners in scoring positions, well, that’s when I really need Scully’s soothing Dodger tones to get some sleep.

On the other hand, I have a deep rooting interest in the Chicago Blackhawks but not as much a love of hockey itself. I like hockey. Chicago became my favorite team when I was about 10, and there was a weekly game of this curious sport on CBS every Sunday, and I thought, well, those are the best-looking uniforms I’ve ever seen. Also, Bobby Hull was then known as the Golden Jet, and that was a cool nickname for a 10-year-old.

I watch a little hockey when the Blackhawks are on NBC Sports during the regular season but don’t get excited until the playoffs. It’s a popular cliché this time of year, but there’s nothing like playoff hockey. I certainly can’t read a book. Triumph or disaster always seems a split-second away, particularly in overtime when there’s no room for the slightest imperfection.

Mike “Doc” Emrick, the hockey broadcaster, is so good that I envision his commentary while I’m doing other things.

Picks up a dangling participle … crosses over and avoids ending with a preposition … whirls just past the blue line and finds Simile streaking for the goal … fumbles it in search of Metaphor … a shift change, and Onomatopoeia checks in … settles down the puck …

Even a novice such as I can determine that the Tampa Bay Lightning is the better team. They are so fast and athletic. The Blackhawks are great stick-handlers, and theirs is a fine cohesion and knack for drama, but the Lightning seems (I hate when singular sports teams insist on being referred to as plural without regard for grammar, so, this being my blog, I won’t do it) to be playing on a higher speed setting.

Inexplicably, the series is tied at two games apiece. The scene shifts back to Tampa next. Basketball’s Game Four is tonight. Meanwhile, the Red Sox try to salvage a game in Baltimore.

Sigh. Basketball and hockey aren’t going to last much longer.

Now, having completed the morning warm-up blog, I’ll move on to other pressing matters such as the approaching publication of my third novel, Crazy of Natural Causes. Until then, here’s where you can find the books – fiction, non-fiction, NASCAR, music – I’ve already written: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

 

The Red Sox Right Now

Mookie Betts energizes the ballclub. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Mookie Betts energizes the ballclub. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, April 30, 2015, 4:50 p.m.

I’m not an expert or an insider. I’ve loved the Boston Red Sox since my earliest memory, and I watch them on TV every chance I can. Oft times my whole day revolves around getting everything done so that I can watch the Red Sox in peace.

Sometimes it’s not very peaceful.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I love baseball in general, too, which is why the Angels and the Athletics are on right now. I’m less attentive to other teams. They are in the background while I peck away at this laptop. I watch the Yankees with some interest because I dislike them about half as much as I love the Red Sox, who were handed down by my father, who has been dead going on 22 years and never saw them win a World Series, and I don’t feel quite as badly about that because, near the end, he really didn’t care that much. The monster he created was I.

The season is 13.6 percent over now. It’s a little early to be either exultant or angry. There’s no statistically valid sample.

Unlike many, I was sort of mildly pessimistic when the season began. I was concerned that what had been built since the moribund 2014 season ended was a fascinating team that might not be particularly cohesive. This isn’t rare in the history of baseball in Boston. It’s always tempting to load up on luxury items for any team catered to the oddities of Fenway Park.

I have this theory that too many modern baseball teams are built as if the general managers are playing fantasy leagues. As a result, there are lots of fantasy teams.

I drew this in 2013, and Koji Uehara and Daniel Nava are still favorites of mine. (Monte Dutton sketch)
I drew this in 2013, and Koji Uehara and Daniel Nava are still favorites of mine. (Monte Dutton sketch)

As bad as the starting pitching has been, on balance, the rotation is more marked by inconsistency than ineptitude. Sometimes I get confused and think Clay Buchholz is Charlie Sheen. I think there’s hope, though. Boston doesn’t have a starter who can reliably be called upon to stop the opposition cold. Getting one will probably be too expensive.

Mistuh, we could use a man like Curtis Schilling again …

In recent years, one observer after another has griped about how the Red Sox have too many outfielders, and then the season starts, and there wind up being places for all of them. It’s no accident when Shane Victorino gets hurt. He does every year. Depth was the reason Boston won the World Series two years ago, and the wealth of interchangeable parts is a strength, not a weakness.

I hope Hanley Ramirez, the mismatched left fielder, stays healthy. So far, he’s the heart of the offense. I think David Ortiz will get better as the season develops because, until he doesn’t, his record suggests that he will. Mookie Betts is a pleasure to watch in center, as is Brock Holt, who is a pleasure there and most everywhere else. Sometimes I think they should let him pitch one time just for the hell of it.

Allen Craig looks like a Red Sox uniform gives him a rash or something. Maybe it’s the piping. Or the odd shape of the numerals. I keep waiting for him to be even a shadow of what he once was in St. Louis.

The loss of Christian Vazquez was awful, but I think Ryan Hanigan will suffice, and the backup, Sandy Leon, is good defensively.

The only thing I have against Hanigan is that right before the season started, I watched James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, and, even though the name in the song was different, I can’t get the words out of my head, damn it.

H, A, Double-R, I, G-A-N spells Harrigan …

H-A, Single-N, I, G-A-N spells Hanigan …

Also, I find myself speaking in an Irish brogue.

The infield? Dustin Pedroia looks healthy, and he’s dazzling at second base even when he isn’t. Mike Napoli looks better physically than he ever has before, in Boston, at least, and he looks so good that I can’t believe he’s not going to start hitting. I’m fine with Xavier Bogaerts. He’s getting there. Leave him at short and let him develop. Pablo Sandoval is amazingly mobile at third for a panda bear, and if he gets hurt, and I expect he will, Holt is ready.

Fenway Park: I've been there many times, but not lately, and I'm unlikely to get back up there soon. (Monte Dutton photo)
Fenway Park: I’ve been there many times, but not lately, and I’m unlikely to get back up there soon. (Monte Dutton photo)

The bullpen’s still strong, though Koji Uehara, whom I revere, doesn’t epitomize perfection as he did in 2013. He’s old. He’s done yeoman’s work. I think he’s got a good year left. I’d rather have him than Jonathan Papelbon, or, for that matter, half the other closers in baseball. John Farrell can line them up: Craig Breslow, Alexi Ogando, Anthony Varvaro (sounds like the sound of a Porsche), Edwin Escobar, Robbie Ross, Junichi Tazawa, and Uehara.

Thanks to baseball’s most erratic collection of starters, Farrell has to line them up a lot, and I worry that they’ll all be worn out come August. Farrell must, too, because, occasionally, he uses Edward Mujica. Keep that knuckleballer, Steven Wright, in the bigs, if for no other reason because he can eat some innings and take one for the team, if need be.

Plus, I miss Tim Wakefield.

This was my most recent visit. (Monte Dutton photo)
This was my most recent visit. (Monte Dutton photo)

Among the rotating Roman candles starting, Rick Porcello looked great Wednesday night. Buchholz has looked great twice … and three times he has looked like he needed a Snickers bar to make the transition back from the second coming of Buddy Hackett. Everyone wants Joe Kelly to succeed. He might yet. They’re pretty much all the same, other than Wade Miley is left-handed. At 30, Justin Masterson ought to be more than the goofy kid he was when he first hurled for the Bosox.

The chief reason the starters will get better is that there’s no way they can get worse.

They’re going to win their share of slugfests, these Red Sox. They’re not going to win the AL East with them.

What of the East? Everyone is convinced no wild card is coming from it, and that it’s down, but I’m not sure that isn’t an early overreaction, too. Mainly, so far, the division members have been beating up on one another, and it won’t be clear, really, whether the division is weak, or tough top to bottom, until they prowl the rest of the league. The Red Sox have already won series against Philadelphia and Washington from the NL’s parallel region.

It's quaint, intimate, uncomfortable and righteous. (Monte Dutton photo)
It’s quaint, intimate, uncomfortable and righteous. (Monte Dutton photo)

My guess is the Orioles are going to win the division again, mainly because Buck Showalter has grown in my estimation over the years, and I think he’ll get the most out of his team. The Yankees are going to hang around because they have lots of money, and it’s just about impossible for them not to contend. Toronto, I expect, will end up underachieving again, and the Rays are bound to tumble into a post-Joe Maddon malaise.

I think the Red Sox are going to contend, too, because most of their problems will get better, and they’re 12-10 right now.

I could be wrong. I’m not an insider. I just go by what I hear and see, and it can be misleading.

If you think of it, give my short fiction a read at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and consider my long fiction (and non-fiction) here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1