Will The Portland Sea Dogs Stink This Year?
The Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A minor-league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, finished last season with the worst record in franchise history. To the best of my recollection, the Dogs won about three games during the entire summer, all of them on days when I wasn’t at Hadlock Field. This was discouraging to endure, but I’m not a fair-weather fan. I sat through many a long afternoon, watching as opponents’ grounders dribbled up the middle of the porous infield, ignoring the scoreboard that showed Portland with more errors than hits, cringing as Dogs hitters swung feebly at pitches your grandmother could have driven out of the park, and drinking beer. A lot of beer.
On the last day of that miserable season (Portland had set the record for losses the previous day), my wife and I decided to go to the movies to see “Captain America” rather than take in one more ineptly played game. I think we just needed to see the good guys win for once. And while it was theoretically possible the Dogs might pull off a victory, the odds didn’t favor it.
After Cap got finished defeating the Nazis and the Red Skull, we returned to our car and switched on the radio to get updated on the game. We figured we could still catch the last few innings. Except Portland was getting clobbered again. We listened for a few minutes and then headed for a bar.
I don’t blame the Sea Dogs organization for my long winter of discontent. The Portland management has no control over the quality of the players and coaches it receives from the parent club. In 2011, the Red Sox minor-league system was thin. The few quality players were either at Triple A in Pawtucket or still finding themselves at Class A. Portland was stuck in the middle with too many guys who should have spent the year at a lower level. They just weren’t ready.
So, I suppose it should come as no surprise that of the twenty-five players on this year’s opening-day roster, eighteen of them had put in time in Portland last season. They’re all a year older, a year more mature, and it didn’t seem unreasonable to hope that over the winter maybe some of them had been given super-soldier serum like Captain America or irradiated with cosmic rays like the Fantastic Four or got caught in a nuclear experiment gone wrong like the Incredible Hulk.
The bright new season began this past week with the Sea Dogs losing their first five contests, the worst start in franchise history. Fortunately, Portland, which finally won a game and is one and six at this writing, was on the road for all those losses and isn’t scheduled to play its home opener until April 12, so I haven’t had to experience another round of futility in person, as yet.
But I’ve known all week it was coming.
It affected my sleep. I had horrible dreams of last year’s lackluster second baseman Oscar Tejeda, now moved to the outfield, loping casually after fly balls that fall for extra-base hits. In my terrifying nightmares, pitcher Stolmy Pimentel grooves one for a three-run homer and then does it again to the next batter (even though it’s impossible to give up consecutive three-run homers). I awaken in a cold sweat at the vision of Bill Bucker, the first baseman who let the ball slip through his legs to cost the Red Sox game six of the 1986 World Series, wearing a Sea Dogs uniform, only to discover that Portland has signed a journeyman pitcher named Billy Buckner.
No relation. But still.
Nevertheless, I’ll be heading for the ballpark for a couple of games this weekend, my expectations lower than Maine’s growth in per capita income. It’s baseball season and nothing will deter me from watching my team embarrass itself again.
At least until the Avengers movie comes out.
In spite of the miserable start to the baseball season (as of April 12, the Red Sox are actually one win better than they were at this time last year, and that really depresses me), there were some bright spots in the week’s news.
The website Go Local in Providence, R.I. picked the best cities in New England based on sixteen criteria, none of which involved how bad its baseball team is. When the numbers were all crunched, the top city in Maine turned out to be South Portland.
Wait, maybe I’m making that up.
No, that’s what it says. SoPo, the home of the Maine Mall and part of a runway for the Portland International Jetport, ranked number three on the list, two places ahead of Portland. Bangor finished eleventh, while Auburn and Lewiston were twentieth and twenty-first, respectively.
That’s it for Maine. How they left out Milo, I’ll never understand. Must have something to do with the number of chain restaurants.
OK, being “best” isn’t such a big deal. “Best” isn’t the same as being cool. “Best” isn’t like being a happening place. In short, “best” isn’t necessarily hip. Does South Portland have the “best” live music, the “best” coffee houses, the “best” boutiques, the “best” microbrews?
Which is why SoPo is nowhere to be found on Travel + Leisure magazine’s list of “America’s Best Cities for Hipsters.” But Portland is. It’s the fifth hippest burg in the country (once again, the local ball club’s record wasn’t supposed to factor into the ratings), trailing only Seattle, the Portland in Oregon (which has a TV show about how unhip it actually is), San Francisco and New Orleans.
Although, come to think of it, all those places did have ball teams that did better last year than the Sea Dogs. Not by much in Seattle, though.
Al Diamon has not forgiven Bill Buckner. Or Calvin Schiraldi. Or Bob Stanley. Or Rich Gedman. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.