Monday, July 26, 2004

2 down, 7.5 to go

I have once again been proven wrong. After a lengthy diatribe concerning Derek Lowe's mental state, he goes out and pitches easily his best game of the season -- and it's been a long time coming.

And while it's always good to see Lowe pitch well, nothing's more disconcerting than watching the Red Sox, game after game, kick balls around Fenway as they blow another lead late in the game. And Sunday night was no different -- in fact it started early when Kenny Lofton led off the game with what looked like a single up the middle only to end up on second base as Johnny Damon threw a two-hopper in a weak attempt to throw him out roughly 100 feet from the bag. And even though Millar might be the best hitter in baseball right now, if I have to see him misplay one more ground ball I might swear off Red Sox baseball for the rest of the season.

In the short run, it's good to see the Red Sox battle, but I think Jack Curry's New York Times article makes a more important, long-term point when he discusses why the Yankees historically succeed while the Red Sox perpetually struggle to win the big one (as he considers the broader story: how the Red Sox would do with Torre as manager).

"...Still, as the Red Sox sleepwalk through their third consecutive month, as three of their best and highest-paid players perform as if they made their own rules, and as their first-year manager, Terry Francona, tries to monitor the chaos, contemplating how Torre might have managed this team is tantalizing.

How would the seemingly dysfunctional Red Sox be different if Torre, the soothing and strong presence who has managed the Yankees through their brand of chaos for almost nine years, were writing the lineup card?"
I think that's a great question and one that seems not to have been considered (or at least seriously) as the Red Sox looked for Grady Little's replacement this offseason. You can have the nine best players in the world in your lineup, but if their attitude is of the "me-first" variety, I'm guessing you'll see a lot of what you see the Red Sox putting forth this season.

On the other hand:

"The thing that made me really take a step back last year was with all the great players, millionaires, superstars and All-Stars we have, I was amazed how everyone was on the same page and no one walked around like they were bigger and better than the next guy," said Flaherty, in his second season with the Yankees. "I related that to the job Joe does in handling the personalities and moving in the right direction."

After Pedro Martínez was removed from his opening day start for the Red Sox in Baltimore, he left Camden Yards before the game ended. Every player knows that is taboo. Instead of reprimanding him, Francona took the blame for not communicating the rules to Martínez.

When Raul Mondesi bolted a Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park before it ended last year, Torre stressed that was not how his players should act. Mondesi was soon traded.
And that's exactly the point. It's hard to succeed on a consistent basis when you have the inmates running the asylum -- and over the course of a season the Yankees have the advantage; and not because they have the highest payroll in baseball, but because they respect what it means to play in New York. And that's not to say the current Red Sox don't appreciate what it means to play in Boston, but when you have Manny being Manny, Pedro having different rules than other teammates and the whole Nomar soap opera, it sometimes makes it hard to focus on winning.

But hey, no time for that, the Red Sox have won two in a row and they're only 7.5 back.