Wednesday, April 11, 2007

You're walking away and they're talking behind you
They will never forget you 'til somebody new comes along
Where you been lately? There's a new kid in town
Everybody loves him, don't they?
Now he's holding her, and you're still around
Oh, my, my
There's a new kid in town

-from The Eagles song "New Kid in Town" written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey and John David Souther

Tonight marks the one year anniversary of the first post in the history of Sedition in Red Sox Nation. And what a night for it. There's nothing like seeing the mighty Red Sox fall victim to a 21 year old pitcher throw seven innings of no hit ball. If that weren't enough, there were two subplots that may go largely unnoticed as the mainstream media and the fans of Red Sox Nation embrace their small moral victories and silver linings in the form of Daisuke Matsuzaka shutting Ichiro down and JD Drew's seeing-eye single to end the no-hit bid.

The impressive pitching performance of Felix Hernandez inspired me to preface tonight's post with that quote from The Eagles' "The New Kid in Town." Matsuzaka was the new kid in town, but it was the younger, less heralded Seattle starter who stole the show. It would have been too perfect for him to throw a no-hitter in Friendly Fenway tonight. That's why I don't feel too bad that I was in the process of dialing the guy I go to for my Red Sox info (not to be confused with the guy who comes to me with his Red Sox info and told me that he'd be happy with a 12-7 split in the Red Sox favor against the Yanks last year, since I have multiple friends in Red Sox Nation, most of whom have been uncharacteristically if not unexpectedly silent tonight).

I am not going to go on at greater length on the pitching performances in tonight's game. Orel Hersheiser, who is a Cy Young winner, former 20 game winner. World Series MVP and a paid professional baseball analyst, summed it up far better than I could, even if he lacked my wit, rambling verbosity and boundless capacity for personal rancor. In his opinion, he saw more velocity on the fastball, a greater capacity for changing speed, sharper breaking pitches and a younger player when he compared Felix Hernandez to Daisuke Matsuzaka. Far be it for me to dispute such sage analysis, especially when it favors an opponent of the Red Sox.

First, and perhaps most intriguing, is the demise of Jason Varitek. This blog has not been very kind to Jason Varitek over the past year. I hate Varitek, more so than any Red Sox position player with the possible exception of Nomar in the last 20 years. I've been like John the Baptist (in the least blasphemous possible sense) crying out in the wilderness that Varitek is overrated, that Varitek is a fraud, that Red Sox Nation is due for a rude awakening. And after tonight, I think I won't be alone in that regard for much longer.

For years, I've listened to Red Sox fans talk about how tough he is, how much value a switch hitting catcher adds to the lineup, how well he handled the staff and how great his defense has been. I have never believed it. In fact, I went to great lengths to dispute Varitek's toughness in a post last April.

Tonight, Varitek just might have shown Red Sox Nation that I've been right about him all along. With the possible exception of the aberration in yesterday's home opener, Varitek has done little or nothing at the plate to justify his spot in the lineup. He could hang his hat on the fact that he was an adequate defensive catcher and he handled the pitching staff effectively. Varitek was covered under the "I Want You, I Need You but There Ain't Know Way I'm Ever Gonna Love You" principle of Meat Loaf's Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad Postulate.

Unfortunately, Meat Loaf has been preoccupied with demolishing Bill Simmons in Celebrity Fantasy Basketball, and he has not been able to offer any guidance for how one ought to handle a situation where only one of three requirements is met. Red Sox Nation might be sorely in need of his guidance, as Varitek's defensive prowess has apparently deserted him. First, he lost the ball on the tag while the Mariners scored the first run of the game. Then the ball bounced off of him as he endeavored to block the plate against the second run, which scored anyway.

Now, one might argue that Manny should have made a better throw to the plate to stop the first run from scoring. We live in an imperfect world, and a good defensive catcher would have turned that less than perfect throw into an out instead of the eventual winning run. I would offer Johjima as a counter example (especially since he hit Matsuzaka sharply), but since no Red Sox runner managed to get to scoring position, let alone home plate, the point is moot.

As for that throw that bounced off of Varitek, it allowed Adrian Beltre to advance to third base. One might argue that said runner would have gone on to score the third and final run of the game on the subsequent single by Jose Vidro. However, the fact remains that Varitek took much more from the table by failing to hit safely and submitting a sub par effort defensively than he brought by handling the pitchers, even one who hails from a different culture and speaks a different primary language.

As an aside, I wonder how badly Daisuke Matsuzaka needs his interpreter. I can't say I blame him, because I would jump at the chance to place any buffer between myself and the Boston media I could should my job require me to interact with them. It's just that I've been hearing of the general excellence of Japanese schools and their marked superiority to their American counterparts for years now. I can't help but think that Matsuzaka probably speaks English with a proficiency that could not help but put many of his American fans to shame if they compared his skill to theirs and they had sufficient mental capacity to feel shame.

The other subplot I noticed is that the bullying tactics favored by the Red Sox, and perhaps imperfectly employed by their new pitcher tonight, seem to have backfired. Brendan Donnelly, apparently not realizing that he was not one of the Black Donnellys, was very, very, very brave after he struck out his archnemesis Jose Guillen while on the favorable side of a blowout yesterday. It is also well documented that he drilled the next hitter with his "fastball" before getting the gate.

Apparently, Guillen was not intimidated. He drove a pitch from Matsuzaka off the Green Monster and later scored in his first at bat. Since I am they type of person who believes in coincidence only when they benefit my side, I have to think that it wasn't an accident when a pitcher who commands all of his pitches as well as Daisuke Matsuzaka hit Guillen in a subsequent at bat. Unfortunately, the Mariners were not intimidated tonight.

More attention will be paid to the bullying tactics of the Red Sox in future posts, but I am tired, hungry and eager to celebrate the defeat of Daisuke Matsuzaka by watching the new South Park at midnight before I go to bed. So, good night and bad luck the the Red Sox.


thekobrakommander said...

This is your 13th post concerning Daisuke Matsuzaka. Why pay an unusual amount of attention to this one (mediocre) cog in the wheel of the machine that is the Red Sox? Surely there must be other players that deserve it more. After all; if you or I were Daisuke, we'd take the $50 million if we could get it.

thecincinattikid said...

You are not the boss of me. I'll blog about what I want to blog about when I want to blog about it.