Monday, May 21, 2007

I wonder now, whether this season's inevitable pennant looks ever so slightly less inevitable now. It might only be one game, early in a long season, but cracks might just start appearing in the facade of the 2007 Boston Red Sox. It would have been much easier if the Red Sox had just sent the Yankees a memo that the home team was expected to lose the game under the standards of modern decorum. How dare they find a way to win?

I have a habit of noticing things before they become apparent to Red Sox Nation. For instance, is it terribly unreasonable to wonder whether this series might mark a turning point in the respective fortunes of the Yankees and the Red Sox? Sooner or later, old age and summer heat will take their toll on Mike Lowell, Sox fans can only hop that his mother's little helpers can continue to make miracles. And on the horizon is the inevitable return of Roger Clemens.

Think about the series the two teams played last month. The Yankees were the ones scrambling to put together a series of spot starters; now the Red Sox are wondering if Josh Beckett's finger boo-boo might place too great a burden on the collection of spare parts waiting in the farm system. Granted Gabbard pitched the single greatest five inning start of this generation, but Sox fans must be sweating the fact that blisters and loose skin might stop their young ace from winning 30 games.

I think every one who is any one realizes that tonight's pitching performance from Chien Ming Wang was, if not exactly a miracle, then a good sized country wonder. He still has a long way to go before he will have earned the right to buy property right behind the Great Wall (on the good side, of course). Mike Mussina is allegedly healthy, and it might be possible that he could pitch to form for the first time in a long while. God knows he'll have to, nothing but the finest effort of a quality pitcher can beat a horse like Julian Tavarez.

The Schilling vs. Pettitte matchup on Sunday shapes up to be very interesting, since Pettitte probably should have beaten the Sox twice already this year. There was the bullpen collapse in the first game between the two back at Fenway, and then the short relief stint when I felt he had another inning in him, even though it was his side day. I know Andy's not as young as he once was, and it's a long season, but he seemed like the best chance the team had for winning that game when the Yanks needed to slow down the Red Sox momentum.

But even more than Wang's performance, the fact that Hideki Matsui could not have been worse today unless he used his bat to throw a beating on the entire Yankee pitching staff shows me that the Yanks just might have turned a corner as a team this season. I got the feeling as I watched them in April and earlier this month that if one guy (e.g. Abreu) went cold, the entire team would panic if he came up in a big situation. Then they'd go into a funk, and every player went cold.

Tonight, Matsui went 0-5 and left 7 on base. That was the type of performance that would have crushed morale and crippled momentum at any point prior to tonight. But his teammates picked him up, they put up 6 runs. Wang scuffed, shined and spat his way to holding the Red Sox to two runs (You know he must have cheated to keep that potent lineup to under 30 runs in 6.1 innings of work). If these Yankees can pull together as a team, with help on the way, I think we'll be looking back on this lead the way paleontologists look back at the dodo.

It is entirely possible that I'm seeing signs that aren't there because this recent Red Sox winning jag has been depressing me to the point that I have to clutch at straws, but I get the feeling that the Sox lead will be back down around 4.5 games come June 15th. This is the biggest lead in the division the Sox have had since what? 1995? The Red Sox were foundering until a late trade in 2004, so maybe this lead on May 21 isn't a good thing.

In other matters, why didn't some one tell me that Sunday was the 10th anniversary of Bill Simmons' first online column? Truly that was a date which will live in infamy. His recent "effort" to explain why he dislikes Dane Cook actually made me begin to like Cook. So what if Dane Cook showed up to a Crank Yankers taping wearing a Yankee cap, even though he came from Arlington, MA?

Obviously, I'm not going to criticize any resident of New England who doesn't feel obligated to root for the Red Sox on account of a coincidence of geography. But I do wonder when Bill Simmons became the arbiter of what attire from which teams residents of particular areas can rock in a free country? Then there is an issue stemming from a visit Cook made to the Jimmy Kimmel Live set while Simmons was a writer, where Dane struck the Sports Guy as a hypocrite and a fraud for being scandalized by bathroom humor before going on to carve out a niche for himself on film with similar material.

I find that particularly shocking, considering Simmons seems to love ripping guys like Isiah Thomas and then wilts when Isiah threatens him with a street beating. And when the Sports Guy plays the victim with aplomb when blogs like Deadspin and the Big Lead treat him harshly, it sends him lamenting the state of the internet. Alas that the internet allows people to do to Simmons what he has done to so many others as he built himself into the institution he is.

And then there's this story, which I devoutly hope is false. There is a rumor kicking around that Donovan McNabb might become a Chicago Bear. While the part of me that hates the Philadelphia Eagles would like to see them make a mistake like turning the team over to Kevin Kolb, who just might become the worst second round pick of all time, the part of me that become emotionally invested in the Bears NFC Championship season last year knows McNabb devotes most of his pregame preparation to fashioning a plausible excuse as opposed to finding a way to win. More on this later in the week...

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