Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Keep hope alive

I said this after game five and it bears repeating here: holy crap. I was as calm as I've been this series during the first seven innings. The final two inning however, felt like I was watching a train slow motion...while receiving electro-shock therapy. To say I was frazzled by the end of it is like saying Bill O'Reilly has a predilection for naughty talk (allegedly, of course).

Before the game, I was watching PTI and Bob Ryan was on. He said something interesting about the atmosphere going into game six. Namely that the Red Sox seemed much looser than they had seemed in previous games while the Yankees were the team now under the gun. And you know what? Ryan was right. Of course having Schilling pitch perhaps the gutsiest game of the season didn't hurt -- and neither did Bellhorn's phoenix-like resurrection -- but either way, the Sox looked much more relaxed than the Yankees.

As I was watching the game, I was all ready to skewer Bellhorn yet again, but now I have no choice but to temper my remarks (well, I'll at least offer a disclaimer before I give him a hard time). Anyway, here are some random thoughts from game six:

...Was I the only guy surprised when Varitek bunted for a base hit in the second inning? I was convinced he did it to embarrass Bellhorn and Damon. Nothing like having your 1- and 2-hitters not be able to bunt, but your cleanup guy looks like Brett Butler.

...I think the stress of watching these games is exacerbated by the three stooges in the booth. The dopey commentary and inane references seem to be contagious, because every game is worse than the one before it.

[note: OK, here are some comments I wrote down after Bellhorn's first at bat and before the homerun. Of course they no longer apply, but I'll include them for posterity -- and kicks.]

...Mark Bellhorn's nickname should be Rally Killer. This guy has to hold the record for having the most 0-2 counts in one season; there's a reason he strikes out 10,000 times in a season. And the one time the Red Sox would actually prefer a Bellhorn strikeout, what does he do? He hits into a bases loaded double play. Solid.

...If you're Francona, at what point to you pull the trigger? I mean what does Bellhorn have to do to get taken out of the lineup, handcuff himself to the water cooler?

...Bellhorn has had such bad luck in the playoffs that he hit a 3-run HR and he could only get a double out of it. Thank God the umpires made the right call (even though it took six of them to do it). But most importantly, good for Bellhorn. Here's my question though, what the hell was that fan doing in left field. That homer nailed him right in the gut, before it bounced back onto the field. For a second, I thought it was Happy Gilmore getting ready for hockey season out there.

...Tomorrow I will be writing my "Dear Mark Bellhorn" letter. In it, I will apologize for not having faith in him -- it'll be very similar to the letters I had to write D.Lowe and Millar at various points during the season.

...The game was only fifteen minutes old before my wife gave me the, "Um, could you not curse so much -- it's only the second inning and I think your language is a little over the top." My response, "Don't blame me, tell Joe Buck to quick saying that Posada hit a HR when Trot caught the ball on the warning track." (OK, I said this to myself, but I was thinking it really hard. Of course my response was actually, "Sorry. I got a little worked up won't happen again.")

...In the 4th, Varitek took a page from Papi's book when he had what seemed like a 40-pitch at bat, before smoking an RBI single up the middle.

...After Ruben Sierra took his 15th consecutive crappy swing on a Curt Schilling split-finger, all I could think to yell at the TV was "Swing Harder!" Apparently, this is a lot funnier when your team is winning.

...A-Rod is easily the biggest jerk in this series. And you can talk all you want about Red Sox fans being Massholes, but I've never seen them try to bean umpires on the field with baseballs (they prefer batteries). It seems like A-Rod is so frustrated with being in Jeter's shadow that he doesn't know what to do with himself. Apparently his solution includes spasing out while running down the first base line and then trying to say that's how he usually runs. If that's how he usually runs -- arms flailing -- he should automatically be ejected from the game and Steinbrenner should demand all $25 million back. Hey A-Rod, welcome to big league baseball. This ain't a KC/Texas game in the middle of June with 10,000 fans giving each other hi-tens because you hit a double off of Brian Anderson. Lost in all of this was Bronson's strong showing -- especially after giving up two quick hits.

Update: I was reading the NY papers this morning and I came across this nugget from A-Rod:

Rodriguez said he did not understand why he was not allowed to make a play on the ball since Arroyo was stepping in the baseline.

"Maybe looking back, I should have just run him over," he said.
Yeah, it doesn't sound like this guy is bitter. The funniest thing about this whole episode is that Arroyo has now gotten the better of A-Rod twice this season. And maybe the only thing more infuriating than not being the best player on his team (or maybe even the second best), is having some lanky guy with cornrows making you look silly. And sillier still is that Millar called A-Rod's play "unprofessional." Awesome.

Another Update: The Hardball Times does a really good job of explaining exactly why the umps made the right call on A-Rod. What's funny is that according to the rules, A-Rod should have been ejected too.

...Papi might be the most popular player in Boston right now, but my MVP hands down is Keith Foulke. This guy is unbelievable. All the stress I felt in game five was concentrated into the final two innings of game six. Foulke walks two, makes a great pitch to get Posada out, and then comes back to strike out Tony Clark on a 3-2 pitch. Maybe that Epstein guy knows what he's doing.

..Here's what my buddy Des (who's a big Sox fan) said to me before game six:

"I think I'm going to invest in Red Man Chewing Tobacco stock. Francona must have gone through 20 packs last night alone. I still don't buy this whole 'heart' thing. Do the Yankees not have heart because they couldn't hit a knuckleball? Do two walks and a bloop hit in the 14th equal heart? I'd say the Sox gutted out a win and received plenty of luck (T.Clark's double into the stands, Loaiza not throwing a strike, Bloop single by Ortiz, also a great at bat though). I'm still waiting for Manny to wake up. And Damon. And Bellhorn. And Millar. And Schilling. And Pedro. How the hell are we still in this thing? Oh yeah, Tim Wakefield is on our team."
Good point. That said, I'm all willing to trade heart for luck. It's been working for the Yankees for the last nine seasons. Either way, Des got his wish in game six when Bellhorn, Millar and Schilling showed up. Now it's up to my main man, Tim Wakefield.

Stupid McCarver quotes, round 4:
"Good control is throwing balls when you want to"

"Totally confused"
(McCarver either talking about Damon's struggles at the plate or his own inability to form sentences. McCarver should legally change his name to Tim McMush because every time he makes an observation, the opposite happens -- Damon just got a hit through the 6-hole)

"With two out an on one on it's usually not a good idea to bunt...unless you can steal a base. What you want to do is try to get an extra base hit."

This is easily the silliest comment McMush has made since he accused Deion of being a real man. Let me get this straight, if somebody gets a 2-out single, they're not doing their job? (of course, no sooner had the words left McMush's mouth, than Cairo stroked a double).

"Early hero's in a game are rarely remembered."

Here's mine: "Awful announcers are hard to forget."

Worst quote of the night (courtesy of Joe Buck)
"If you're A-Rod and you can get away with it, why not...otherwise you're out." (referring to when A-Rod tried to knock the ball out of Bronson's glove while running down to first)

So I guess the lesson here is, if you can't win fairly, cheat.

Quote of the Night (kiss of death edition)
"Tim, I know you've been impressed with the managing of Terry Francona in this series..."

Thank God for Ben Crenshaw.