Friday, April 20, 2007

There are some things in life that come down to a question of perspective. For instance, one man's glowing tribute to a deceased icon from another team in another sport in another era can also be another man's shameless attempt to exploit a populace of sheep when the market for a given team's paraphernalia is saturated. Apparently every fan who wants them must already have all the pink shirts and red shirts and blue shirts that they could justify owning. So the Red Sox brass cooked up a blatant, disgusting sham of a tribute to Red Auerbach tonight.

Perhaps I'm too cynical, and I allow my hatred of the Red Sox to cloud my mind. Maybe that's why I think it strange that the Red Sox chose the night of their first home game against the New York Yankees to lament the passing of the greatest basketball mind since Naismith. I'm sure it was just coincidence that it should happen to be a Friday night and a national TV game. There is no way that this fine event could have any ulterior motive.

Giving the devil his due, I must congratulate whichever of Henry's minions was responsible for engineering and marketing this "tribute." Even I, believing it to be artificial and in poor taste as I do, think it was brilliant. Bringing the 16 banners from the rafters across town to adorn the Green Monster before the game started was the mot juste. I only wish that I and my small band of loyal readers were that clever and that shameless, maybe then I'd break the century mark for daily hits.

Fortunately for me, the universe has a way of evening the scales. Somewhere, I think Red might have cracked a smile about something that happened in Boston sports for the first time in years after A Rod took Big Schill deep in the 4th. It was also edifying to see Mientkiewicz advance two runners with a sacrifice bunt to help the Yankees manufacture their first run of the night. Up until Varitek tied the game with what I can only assume to have been Sammy Sosa's infamous batting practice bat and Crisp hit that triple, I was convinced that the bottom three in the Red Sox order would struggle to manufacture a case of athlete's foot.

Interestingly, down by 3 in the seventh, Francona elected to pinch hit Wily Mo Pena for Pedroia with runners on first and second rather than sacrifice to advance the runners. Perhaps Francona was thinking (assuming he can, in fact, think) that Petite was tiring. Unfortunately, that was not the case. He struck out Pena, and Proctor came on to retire Lugo and Youkilis. It is also possible that Francona may not have even known the situation. Or maybe he just had no confidence that the top of his order could drive in runners from second and third with one out should he call for the sacrifice.

I understand that one run one run isn't going to tie the game there, and it is now a moot point because the Yankee bullpen made the lead go away in the 8th. But at least it's more proactive to sacrifice and advance runners to second and third with one out than it is to sit back and hope for a big inning. But I blame myself for the 8th inning rally more than I blame the Yankees or credit the Sox. I jinxed the Yankees, because I had written this joke: "that rally just died in Jason Varitek's arms as though it were the 1980s band Cutting Crew" as he stepped to the plate. I feel like a tool right now, but I leave it in for the sake of intellectual honesty.

And Francona was lucky that burning Pena by pinch hitting him when he couldn't field Pedroia's position did not come back to haunt him tonight. The fact that it would have made infinitely more baseball sense to pinch hit Cora and have him execute the sacrifice or strike out like Pena did than wasting Pena in the first place did should temper the pride Red Sox Nation derives from tonight's comeback victory ever so slightly. I will concede that pinch running for Giambi made perfect sense right up until the point where a spare part from and made up of lesser spare parts unknown made the last out of the game batting fifth.

The Red Sox had no confidence going into that 8th inning. You could see Schilling's man-and-a-half sized ego deflate when A Rod hit his second. Personally, I think that it should have counted as a grand slam, even though only two men were on base at the time. After all, Coco Crisp managed to fall out of the field of play into the home bullpen, very nearly breaking his back in the process. The total, complete and utter humiliation for the player and the team in that one shining moment ought to be worth at least one additional run on the scoreboard.

Even in the ninth, when the Sox sent Hideki Okajima out to pitch to the heart of the Yankee lineup, it could not help but remind Red Sox Nation that Papelbon must be treated with kid gloves as though he were Samuel L. Jackson's character in Unbreakable this season. But Okajima rose to the challenge. He was a little upset with some of the calls that led to the Abreu walk. And maybe he had a point, but Abreu has a reputation for having a good eye, and reputation goes a long way. There was a time when Greg Maddux could bounce the ball like a cricket bowler throwing a googly and still get a strike call. That's the way it goes.

The guy I go to for my Red Sox information actually called me before the game to get in my eye about the green uniforms. His quote at the time: "Think Notre Dame." Of course, I didn't point out that Notre Dame hasn't exactly produced the desired result in their last few green jersey games (last year's game against Army doesn't really count). I was saving that for a big moment, like the second A Rod homer, but alas, he wasn't taking my call.

I do have to give him credit on one point, he said that he saw Schilling letting up at least five runs tonight. And he had that part right. He wasn't concerned when I spoke to him before the game, because Pettite didn't scare him. I guess he was right about that too, since Pettite was good enough when he had to be, but not exactly dominant over his 6 and 1/3 innings of work.

Even with the Red Sox having all the momentum because of their impressive comeback, this shapes up to be an interesting series for the Yankees. It is not going to be easy to win tomorrow or Sunday, with Karstens and Chase Wright making their Fenway debuts. Pettite came up big for them, and it would have been nice not to have wasted his performance. It would be nice to have the Sox lose two games this weekend and a sweep would have been awesome, but that's obviously impossible now.

I must say I wonder whether the artificial confidence a sweep for the hated Red Sox would instill in Red Sox Nation might have been worth all the bragging bravado I would have to endure. After all, sweeping that mighty lineup would not be a miracle (or even a fair sized country wonder to borrow an expression from Edwin O'Connor) with the starting rotation decimated by injuries to Wang, Pavano and Mussina. A comeback against Rivera is nice, and three blown saves for a closer of his stature is not exactly encouraging even if it is only April.

Rooting against the Red Sox is far more important than rooting for any one team. I will enjoy the inevitable collapse of this team with its suspect fourth and fifth starters, still not exactly proven middle relief and pathetic hitters manning the last third of the order. The bullpen held the fort and even chumps like Varitek, Crisp and Cora can't get out all the time. It is possible that I should be more repentant or keep silent, but I'm just not that kind of guy.

After all, I can't help wondering now that all the king's horses and all the king's men managed to put Humpty Dumpty back together humble is Humpty Dumpty? I'm surprised he hasn't posted yet. I wonder, since my technical consultant tells me that a hit on this site has originated from a password protected area of wordpress (which supports his blog) twice in the past two weeks, whether he's waiting on me waiting on him?

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