Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Not Dead Yet

Well, I was all ready to write something about how, for the first time all summer, I was pretty sure the Red Sox might not only lose the AL East to the Yankees, but they could miss the playoffs all together. And honestly, I've had a good feeling about the 2005 season up until about yesterday. Even though the Yankees have been playing extremely well the past two weeks, and have slowly gained ground in the East, I really wasn't all that concerned. But when your All-Star centerfielder drops more fly balls than he has base hits, you start to get a little worried. And Damon did that for an entire week. And the fact that this team is still in first place despite a starting pitching staff that struggled -- a lot -- recently is nothing short of amazing. Honestly, I think David Wells might be the best pitcher on this team, and he's 42-years-old and is clinically obese. That's not good. (But before I get too far ahead of myself ...)

And then Boston had the good fortune to run into their buddy Seth McClung. McClung's last outing against the Sox didn't go so well either. Now if there was just a way to have the Red Sox play their remaining games against the Devil Rays with the stipulation that only McClung can pitch and only Papi Ortiz can hit.

Unfortunately for Boston, the O's continue their train wreck of a season, most recently against the Yankees. Has there been a team to fall apart so quickly? They were in or near first place for the entire first half, and now will wrap things up in a few weeks sans their manager, their two Hall of Famers (at least they were before the steroid scandals), and any remaining pride left over from the first three months of the season. You know things are bad when you're battling for last place in the division and the New York Times has a story on how bad things are and you're not the Mets. I found this paragraph particularly amusing:
Sammy Sosa, whose bat had already disappeared along with a significant part of his body size, is gone altogether, going on the disabled list with his second foot injury of the season. The shrunken Sosa was batting .221 with 14 home runs and 45 runs batted in, the last two figures his lowest since 1992, his injury-abbreviated first year with the Chicago Cubs. His poor performance has prompted suspicion about past steroid use.
Gee, do you think? Of course I have no proof that Sosa used steroids. I mean, Canseco didn't name him in the book. And for all we know, maybe Sosa is like Samson -- he got all his strength from the jheri curl.

Whatever. If you're the Sox, you can't worry about what the Yankees are doing. Given that they're the Yankees, I wouldn't be surprised to see them win out. All the Sox can do is continue to find ways to get Papi at bats with men on base. If that means that Damon and Renteria have to throw themselves in front of pitches a la the Bad News Bears, then so be it. Whatever it takes.

My buddy Andy is a Yankees fan and he's hates seeing Papi at the plate because it seems like every time he's up there he gets a big hit (which is exactly how I feel about Greg Zaun, but that's another story). Of course Andy also said he'd be fine with the Red Sox winning the World Series if it meant Curt Schilling would lose every game he pitched, so take that for what it's worth. (And to be fair, I can't really disagree with the Schilling sentiment and I'm a Red Sox fan. He's annoying. He calls into sports radio shows way too often. He likes to make dopey comments about other players. As good as he is, he's hard to root for. But hey, at least he's not Millar. Which reminds me ...)

Much like Chuckie in Good Will Hunting: the best part of my day is the ten seconds from when I sit on the couch and turn on NESN to hear Don Orsillo announce the lineups. Because I think maybe I'll look up at the screen and Millar won't be their. No goodbye, no see you later, no nothin'. Just left. I don't know much, but I know that.

OK, that last sentence is a straight plagiarization, but here's the point if the movie quote didn't paint a clear enough picture: Millar shouldn't be playing on a regular, semi-regular, quarterly, or any other fraction of the time basis. I know this isn't news, but Francona keeps trotting him out there. All Millar has to do is get a few hits and that'll ensure him another week's worth of starts. Here are two stellar performances from the last week:

*During the third game of the A's series last weekend, Millar struck out three times.

*In Monday night's loss to the Devil Rays, Millar hit into two double plays. The only thing that made the second DB tolerable was hearing one of the 15 fans at the game yell, "Go sit down Millar! Get Olerud out there!"

And against the A's a right hander was pitching. Since when did Olerud forget how to hit? Didn't he actually win a batting title? Doesn't that alone mean he's earned the right to start against left-handed pitching? What about the fact that he's a Gold Glove first baseman -- does that count for anything? Ugh. I really am tired of talking about this, but the more of it I see the more incredulous I become.

Look, by buddy Desmond is the biggest homer Red Sox fan I know. If Manny pulled an O.J. / Ray Lewis double on the weekend, Des would be the guy at the trial wearing the "Free Manny" t-shirt while holding a "Manny was framed!" sign. But even he realizes that Millar shouldn't be playing. Of course Des also thinks the season is lost because Gabe Kapler tore his Achilles, but that's beside the point.

So despite Damon dropping fly balls, and despite Francona being Francona (and by association, Millar being Millar), the Sox are still in first place, if only for one more day. And even if the Yankees do catch them, the wild card's a real possibility since the White Sox are doing their late season Orioles impression. And now that I've given Millar the business, I'm sure he'll single-handedly win the pennant on the last day of the season probably on an inside the parker. But then maybe that was my plan all along.

I had every intention of addressing some Steeler emails and comments, but since I got a bit carried away here, I'll save it for tomorrow.