Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Ah, Spring Training. Where we see old, familiar faces again after a long winter. Where we realized we recognize absolutely none of the new guys. Or when we realize, much to our horror, that we do recognize way too many of the minor leaguers and we need to stop being so obsessed, seriously.
I understand. Everyone looks the same in those shiny red shell jacket things, and it's hard to tell with this team, where things like this happen all the time. There's chaos. The people are in confusion.
In an attempt to make things marginally clearer for you, the dedicated yet mildly confused Red Sox fan, I have created this incredibly crappy primer of
Oft-Confused Red Sox and How You Can Tell Them Apart
Mike Lowell; John Halama
Confusing, I know. Both have the fuzzy catepillar thing going on with their eyebrows, both have the ability to grow out graying goatees of generally the same configuration. Both have longish faces. What you need to remember here is that, despite your nightmares to the contrary, John Halama is no longer on the Red Sox. Lowell might remind you of him, but he will not be climbing the pitcher's mound any time soon, so you can stop sobbing into your stuffed Wally the Green Monster at the mere sight of those eyebrows.
Besides which, Halama's eyes are blue and terrifyingly piercing, whereas Lowell's are brown and much less scary.
Dustan Mohr; Kevin Youkilis
Last year, this would not have been a problem. But last year, Youks was still laboring under the illusion that he wasn't balding that quickly, and he was cleanshaven. As of right now our beloved Greek Jewish God of Walks is bald and sporting a dark goatee that looks like a bad transplant from the buttchin of Trot Nixon. Dustan Mohr, hopeful backup outfielder, is also bald and begoateed.
Youkilis' face is much more angular than Mohr's, though, and the general overall impression, when you get past the facial hair, is still one of overwhelming dorkiness. Mohr has the overall look of a guy who was cruising along down the highway at a nice fast speed and suddenly hit a giant cement elephant in the middle of the road. Or, in his case, the dugout fence.
Jon Lester; Jon(athan) Papelbon
Here's where it gets trickier. They're both pitchers, they're both under the age of 26, they're both named Jon, even though one of them insists on having the -athan tacked on. And they look rather alike. Roundish faces, awkward smiles, low 90s fastballs, "holy shit there are a lot of people watching us warm up" fear in their eyes. Papelbon's a righty while Lester is a lefty, but if they're just standing around watching John Flaherty cry as he attempts to catch Tim Wakefield, you can't tell that.
To try and emphasize the facial differences, I've highlighted them, like so:
From the red you can see that Lester's ears stick out a bit more than Papelbon's do. The purple line indicates that although both do have broad faces, Papelbon's is more round, Lester's a bit more square about the jaw. The blue showcases the fact that Lester's eyebrows are thicker and more angular than Papelbon's are. The teal shows that Lester's nose is rounder while Papelbon's is more upturned and triangular (although still round), and the green shows that the bridge of Lester's nose is much more narrow than Papelbon's, although Lester's eyeline looks longer... this is mostly because the bridge of his nose is thinner, so it makes his eyes appear less close-set than Papelbon's are. This is mostly an optical illusion.
Your best bet, until you see them often enough to recognize them readily, is just to watch them pitch and see which hand they're throwing with. But if they get significant playing time in the majors this will cease to be an issue. Just like mother and father penguins can recognize their own chicks in groups of thousands even though they all look alike to an outside observer, Red Sox Nation will recognize their baby pitchers with enough exposure even if they all look alike to Yankee fans.
Alex Gonzalez; Alex Cora
I've been told that this is the most confusing thing about Red Sox Spring Training this year, although personally speaking I have significantly more trouble IDing the rookie pitchers than I do these guys. Both can play shortstop, both have their hair close-shaven enough to count as bald, they're basically the same size (Cora's listed at 6'0, 200 lbs; Gonzalez at 6'0, 202), both named Alex (although Cora's real first name is Jose). Cora bats lefty, Gonzo righty; Cora is 30, Gonzo 29; Cora is from Puerto Rico, Gonzo, Venezuela. They look something alike.
They like to hang out together and confuse the hell out of photographers.
See, I find the differences here much more pronounced and easy to see than the differences between the rooks. In any event. Cora is much more triangular of face than Gonzo (purple line), and his eyebrows tend much more towards straightness than Gonzo's highly arched little brows do (blue). From the teal you can see that Gonzo has a broad semicircle of a nose while Cora has a compact nose, and from the green you can see that the bridge of Gonzo's nose is much, much wider than Cora's is. Gonzo's eyes appear to be much more widely set than Cora's are, and this isn't much of an optical illusion.
The easiest rule of thumb, though, is the red. Cora's ears are much, much bigger than Gonzo's, and they stick out. He also has a bigger forehead and higher hairline, but you can't tell that when they've got their hats on.
Beth also told me that not only does she have trouble distinguishing Cora from Gonzalez, but she also has trouble distinguishing either one of them from Adam Stern, to which I say, sorry kids, if you have trouble with that one you're on your own. Cora= 'scrappy' Puerto Rican utility infielder. Gonzalez= defensively flashy Venezuelan shortstop. Stern= Jewish Canadian utility outfielder.
Go forth, Red Sox fans, and tell your friends, "Hey, I know who that guy is!"