Monday, July 10, 2006

So the All Star Break is upon us now. The Red Sox are riding in with some momentum, having won 2 of 3 from the Real Sox in Chicago. Yesterday's never ending game could be one a momentum crusher though. It's not every day that I get to see the Red Sox surrender the lead 3 times in one game. Of course 19 inning games aren't exactly a common occurrence for that matter.

Things were looking bleak for me, a couple of days after I started referring to the White Sox as the "Real Sox" they have to go and lose the first two games of the series to my mortal enemies in their own park. I just have that kind of timing. But one doesn't watch the team he hates above all others win the championship in 2004 without developing coping skills, like the ability to find the negative in everybody else's good time.

So I was ready for this post, even if Papelbon didn't come up big with a split that didn't split with 2 outs and a 1 run lead. It was his 3rd blown save of the year, and the first time he'd allowed a run on the road. The good thing about that is from here on the games get bigger as the playoffs approach. Papelbon was up for the stretch run last season, and he did appear in two playoff games, so he has some experience. The question is: "Will he be able to bear up under the strain of closing big games in a pennant race?"

As you might expect, I'm hoping that he won't hold up under the strain. I wonder too, what might happen to his psyche if he blows a few big games and finds out for himself exactly how fickle Red Sox Nation can be. I wasn't very impressed with this analysis of the home run Jermaine Dye hit off him last night:

``I threw it really lackadaisical," Papelbon said. ``He hadn't seen my split the day before. I wanted to throw him something to where he would look at and not swing at, but it caught the middle of the plate.

``At the same time, he hasn't seen my split, and even though it wasn't a good one, you've got to give him credit for keeping that ball fair, one, and taking it out of the park. He was smokin' hot, on fire, between last night and today."

Never having faced the media after blowing a save, I can't really say that I'd carry myself better than Papelbon did. That said, I think he could probably have come up with something that didn't come off as petulant as that excerpt from the Globe story on the game.

He is a bit young. For his sake, I hope he learns that he shouldn't throw lackadaisical pitches with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when trying to protect a one run lead. For my sake, I hope he keeps throwing pitches like that. There is also the chance that his honeymoon with Red Sox Nation might come to a bitter end if he keeps throwing lackadaisical pitches in big situations.
Over the weekend, I watched Gladiator again. Aside from the fact that it might be the best movie of the last ten years, it's also full of amazing scenes, from the battles to the scene where Proximo grabs the slave trader by the junk and yells at him for selling queer giraffes. As I watched the Battle of Carthage reenactment, I realized that Joaquin Phoenix playing Commodus is Mark Cuban. Watch it again, look at the way Commodus reacts to the sword thrusts, it's just like Cuban reeling and flailing when Dirk Nowitzki fails to kick 4th quarter ass (to quote Jason Whitlock).

I wonder now, whether the Benefactor sits in his office reviewing game tapes before sending them off to the league office watching Dwyane Wade driving through the defense and looks at Avery Johnson saying something like: "Why wasn't this called a charge. It vexes me that this wasn't an offensive foul. I'm terribly vexed." Does he sit in his chair at league meetings twirling a sword on the floor like Commodus did in his first meeting with the Senate? Would Mark Cuban make Stu Jackson embrace someone dying of plague?

If Mark Cuban is Commodus, and Bill Simmons is his new hero, does that make the Sports Guy Cuban's version of the loyal senator who tells the story about the sea snake that lets its enemies take bites out of it?

I feel that it is my duty to point out that I am not the first person to make this comparison. Here's what I assume is a representative sample of the people who've thought of this before I did. I thought I had something original here, but it was funny enough to roll out anyway. Or so I thought.

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