Thursday, October 30, 2003

Manny A Go Go?

A few quick thoughts on Manny as I try to get my head around the new Celtics:
  • Uh, Theo? Theo?
    • Seems a little strange to waive a guy who just won his second consecutive Silver Slugger award and is a certain Hall of Famer, right? Well yeah, it kind of does. Epstein will get a lot of great pub for being bold and creative, and to an extent that is justified. Manny's contract is one Rich Garces of a burden, and if they had to drop one player from the Nomar/Manny/Pedro traveling band, it would likely be Ramirez. His defense is average, his baserunning is lousy, and his mental make-up is inadequate. And by inadequate, I mean a monumental disaster. All of these things are completely true - but come on. This guy is a captial H Hitter. This year alone Ramirez was 1st in OBP, 2nd in OPS, 2nd in Batting Avg., 4th in Slugging Percentage, and 5th in Runs. You think Ortiz has his year without Manny in front of him? No way. Sox fans look at the 104 RBI and want more, but let's not get greedy. Ramirez is the arguably best righthanded hitter in baseball. That's a lot to give away. I think Theo is mostly trying to state trade intentions loud and clear, but this is very risky.

  • Will anyone actually take him?
    • Probably not. The teams with legitimate interest will be the Orioles and, of course, the Yankees. The Orioles have a bundle of Albert-Belle-Ouch-My-Hip Money to spend, but they would prefer Vlad Guerrero, so they'll likely wait it out. If Vlad goes elsewhere, Baltimore could have serious trade interest. Anaheim is in a similar position, as they've got a date with Miguel Tejada. The most viable option then, as always, is the Yankees. Manny wants to play in NY and they need a rightfielder. Ramirez is certainly Steinbrenner's kind of player and I'm sure they are discussing his availability at present. I think though, probably, they'll resist. This whole waiver placement feels like a dare directly from Theo to George: Go ahead Tubby, make my day. Epstein knows the Yankees are the only team really in this, and it doesn't seem to bother one bit. That has to be disconcerting. Steinbrenner would love to play grabsies, but he realizes that's just what the Red Sox want. So for now he'll lay back. Like a dog in an electric fence - he doesn't know why it'll hurt, he just knows it will.

  • If they deal or release Manny, do you still think Boston should trade Pedro?
    • No. I'm not a moron.

By the way, check out this article for some infuriating Grady information.

I think I need to see another game before I can adequately discuss the Celtics....

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Trade Pedro Now

I adore watching Pedro Martinez pitch. Or at least I did. I am quite certain that I'll be telling my kids -- or, with any luck, someone else's -- about how delicious Pedro was in '99 and '00. There was this feeling in those years that the games weren't really contests. He could spot a 95-96 mph fastball (some people say 98 -- not true, but a nice thought) with sharp, elusive movement; throw a very respectable curve (something that has become dominant only in the last few years); or toss a change-up so deceptive and darting that video game makers still have no idea what to call it. (The cutter he now leans on, especially with men on base, is essentially a post-injury addition.) Oh, and he could throw all of the pitches for strikes. Wherever and whenever he wanted. Pedro had the best change in the game, one of the best fastballs, and he could throw both of them with complete precision and control in any count. And just when you thought you'd guessed him right, he'd spin a tight little curve on the outside corner and you'd be toast. It looked like heaven on a baseball field. When Pedro was throwing like that, the offense didn't exist. He was the Globetrotters, and the rest of baseball were the Generals. It was just that unfair. And then, sadly, he got hurt.

First there were the oblique problems that lead to the unbelievable Game 5 bullpen appearance in Cleveland. After that, mild hamstring troubles. Then, finally, there was the big one - A Sore Shoulder. Most specifically, a light fraying in Pedro's rotator cuff. Is that bad? No one could really say. Some people argued that anything in the area was a major problem; others suggested that with proper rest Martinez could be back to normal soon enough. It sounded nice, and we all wanted to believe, so we did. Pedro took an early season break, rested up over the winter and returned. He pitched well (Pedro has not had an ERA over 2.4 in SEVEN years) and even after the injury has consistently been a Cy Young candidate. Much has been made about Martinez' conversion from a thrower to a pitcher, that he now uses guile and trickery where he once preferred gas and bravado. I'm not sure how true that is, as he always seemed pretty adept at creating confused swings, but the point is clear. Since his injury, Pedro has certainly made the overpowering fastball less and less a cornerstone of his game plan. So that is how we arrived at the 2003 postseason. Martinez, while clearly not his '99 self, turned in another outstanding season that, were it not for bad run support and an even worse bullpen, would have mad him a favorite for the Cy. In September he looked particularly dominant, posting an ERA of 0.81 in 33 innings. That's 80% of one run. In an ENTIRE game. Martinez was throwing with ease and confidence and many an analyst suggested that the Sox just might ride his right arm all the way this year. But those of us who have watched closely, who have missed nary a start from #45, knew it wouldn't be that easy.

Pedro, you see, is pitching scared. Yes, he's a warrior; yes, he loves a battle; and yes, he probably would drill a dead Yankee outfielder in the ass, but he's still afraid. Martinez begins every game now with a cautious feeling out of what he has. He sticks with an 86-88 mph fastball for as long as possible and mixes in heavy doses of offspeed pitches. If the score remains close as the innings progress, he will revert to more of a bulldog style of four seem heat up in the zone, and it is often effective. Many times though, his attack-by-conservation has already yielded 2-3 runs, and the Sox are behind the eight ball. He does not get hit hard, not often anyway, but he allows himself little margin for error. A bleeder here and a blooper there and Pedro is in trouble. And the difference is now, he seems unwilling to pitch himself out of it. In the Golden Era, Martinez would look at runners on 2nd and 3rd, chuckle at the rarity of the occurrence, then blow the hitter away without a thought. But he won't do that anymore, not with a shoulder that may or may not be one fastball away from snapping in two. So instead, Pedro busts inside with cutters and hopes for a ground ball or pop up. And hey, we're not talking about Frank Tanana here. That cutter is a mighty tough pitch, and Pedro usually gets what he's looking for. But that's the distinction: usually. In '99 and '00, Pedro ALWAYS got what he was looking for. Now he seems more interested in saving his energy and pocketing his strength than he does in silencing the opponent. Early in a game he simply will not reach back for more juice because he's worried that it might be the last time he does. And while in most cases that is entirely justified and completely understandable, it's not worth a paycheck of 17 million dollars. That's why the Red Sox have to say goodbye.

Pedro's performance in the postseason was all the Sox can reasonably expect from him now: 2 good starts against Oakland, 1 lousy one against NY, and 1 great one against NY (thanks Grady). That's a lot to get from a pitcher, and it's on par with most #1 starters. But it's not superb. It's not Hall of Fame stuff. It's not something you can ride all the way to the World Series, so how can you continue to pay him like it is? He's now a #1, not a 1 in a million. Martinez demanded his extension be picked up early, and, for no apparent reason, the Red Sox acquiesced. After this season he is a free agent and the bidding will likely start high and end higher. With Boston having so many other players up for contract they will be unable to break the bank to keep Pedro around, so now is the time to deal. Assuming you can find someone to take on such a contract (see Mike Hampton), you could probably get a fair amount in return. Combine that with the free agents you would now be able afford (say, Bartolo Colon and Luis Castillo?), and you have quite a package. But that's not really the point. The point is that Pedro is no longer Superman, and the Red Sox can ill afford to pay him like he is. The man changed the way we all think about pitching, but he created an image even he can't live up to. A small tweak in the shoulder has stopped Pedro from being the great equalizer, and I think he knows it. Hopefully, Theo does too.


Monday, October 27, 2003

Grady's Gone, Everyone Happy Now?

Ok gang, you got what you wanted. According to several media sources, Grady Little has been relieved of his services. There is a press conference today at 3pm, so if you want to watch people lie for 20 minutes, it might be worth tuning in. The media seems to be disappointed about this development, while the fans are absolutely elated. Personally, I don't think a manager in baseball matters all that much, so I don't really care. Apparently the Red Sox would like a man more guided by statistics, which should be easy enough to find considering the wide intersection between the "Math Lovers" and "Veteran Baseball Men" social groups. There are some fine names out there: Glenn Hoffman, Jim Fregosi, Bud Black, Terry Francona -- but Red Sox fans (and upper management) won't really know what they've got until they have it. More likely than not, they'll find a solid fellow to do a solid job. Someone marginally worse than Little at pleasing a clubhouse, but somewhat better at calling a game. All of you second-guessers out there though, be warned. You have called for Grady's head on a platter, and late this afternoon, dinner will be served. Be aware that you might not like what you're getting. Whoever replaces Grady next year will be handed a Baseball Abstract when they walk in the door, and if they're not eager to use it, they'll be pushed right back out. In all likelihood the Red Sox will embrace a style of baseball that may make a lot of viewers somewhat uncomfortable, but guess what, you asked for it. So here is a list of things to look for - and don't even think of complaining when they happen:

  • Complete Absence of the Bunt: In general, sabermetricians view bunting as an unnecessary waste of the game's only limited quantity: outs. Statistically, it greatly decreases a team's chances of scoring multiple runs in an inning, so there is logic to the argument. Next year then, when Trot is on 1st and the Sox are down by 1, don't expect Mueller to bunt him into scoring position. Won't happen - new Manager won't go for it. Whose fault? Yours.

  • Complete Absence of the Stolen Base:
  • Similar to above, the Probability Police feel that the chance of moving a runner from 1st to 2nd is not worth the risk of having him thrown out, so forget about that one too. No more 30 steals for Johnny Damon. No more pinch running antics from Damian Jackson. Sorry. "But the game has become so slow and tedious, why won't they just send a guy or two to keep the defense honest?" you will cry. "Because you wanted a new manager." I will reply. You will frown.

  • Matchups Galore: Lefties will hit against righties, righties will hit against lefties. Bench players, even if their overall skills are suspect, will be in the lineup against pitchers they have success against. There will be much trotting to the mound, and much going to situational relievers in the pen. All of this will be based on good statistical information, but might seem counterintuitive and sometimes insane. Scream all you like at the TV. When it responds with a cold, listless silence you will know for whom the bell tolls. Uh, you. It's you.

  • Pitch Count City: Most pitchers don't perform well when they throw more than 110 pitches or so. Lowe is on a roll going through seven, why can't he go eight? Because the numbers say it probably won't work. And because you're a moron.

No, you're not really a moron. And for the record, I am in favor of all of the above changes, so a new approach is aces with me. Also, it is not entirely certain how far the Red Sox will go in this direction. Theo Epstein likes to posit himself somewhere in between the number-crunching left and the call 'em as I sees 'em right, so a complete conversion to Bill James baseball is unlikely. But make no mistake, this team will be managed differently. Some of the changes will be for the better, and others will not be so well received. But for once, Red Sox fans have no one to blame but themselves. Win or lose, the vocal majority has gotten what they want, and that must be remembered. When April and May appear on the other side of winter, Sox fans will know what statistical baseball really looks like, and they might not like what they see. But don't come crying to me. It was your idea.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Should Grady Stay or Should He Go?

By now we've all heard the What If's. What if the Sox lost Game 7 in a blowout and Pedro never made it out of the 3rd Inning? What if Grady had gone to Embree early in the 8th Inning and he got lit up? What if Pedro had gotten out of trouble, but then Williamson lost it in the 9th? Boston still would have lost, but would Grady Little be on the firing block? And the answer to each of these is of course, no. He wouldn't. But guess what - none of those things happened. Grady DID make a bad decision, and it had dire consequences. The Red Sox lost the ALCS because of a tragically dumb mistake by their manager, and the fans are never going to forget it. But the question is, is that a firing crime?

The debate here really is not whether Grady is a capable manager. He clearly has a great fix on a tricky Red Sox clubhouse and seems to handle, in relaxed, Torre-like fashion, a media-crazed baseball city with humor and patience. His in-game managing can be suspect at times, but I'd love to see a list of those whose isn't. Joe Torre started Enrique Wilson at third base twice because of his success against Pedro in a monumental 20 AB's (Hey, that's a full 1/32nd of a season!) and Wilson made a couple of huge errors. The Yankees won the series and beat Pedro twice, so Torre didn't hear about it. But come on folks, Enrique Wilson? In the playoffs? Managers are faced with tons of decisions from game to game, and they make odd choices on at least a handful of them. When a move doesn't pan out, they're throttled, and when it does, they're praised. Baseball is not an exact science, and if it were Richard Feynman would be make a great skipper some day (wait, I think he's dead). Problem is, Grady made his gaffe in the biggest game his team has played in over 15 years. Not good. So not good that he's bought himself a subscription to the death-threat-of-the-month club. But let's be fair, it was one decision. No one who won 95 games without a bullpen and guided his team back from 0-2 and 2-3 in consecutive series should get a pink slip because of one decision. Right? Hello?

Well normally, yes. Normally, Grady could bear down for the winter, avoid opening any powdery envelopes, and get ready for bats and balls in the spring. After some hot stove talk and a pitching acquisition or two, a normal city would accept the past and move on. But Boston is not a normal city. We don't, you know, forget. Bill Buckner had to move to Idaho for crying out loud. Could you imagine performing so badly at your job that you had sell your house, take your kids out of school, and move half way across the country? Ahhh, horribly emasculating. And how does that conversation go?

Husband: Honey, how 'bout we move to the Midwest?!
Wife: Why would we possibly want to do that?
Husband: Uh, better real estate value?
Wife: What?
Husband: Better schools, you know, for the kids.
Wife: This is because of that ground ball, isn't it?
Husband: What?, it's just...I thought...
Wife: I don't know why you couldn't have just fielded the damn thing.
Husband: No but, sometimes...the crowd, and funny hop, I.....
Wife: Are you crying?
Husband: No (sob)... it's just. Oh God.

Aaaand scene. This is what Boston fans can do to you, and Grady will get it just as bad. Little will forever have a red T on his chest (Too Stupid To Pull Pedro From the Friggin' Game) in Boston, and that can make a man's job rather difficult. What happens if Grady blows a couple of games early in the season next year? The fans will be merciless. What if, God forbid, he goes to the mound, leaves a starter in the game, and the pitcher gets hit hard? He'll get destroyed. In short, how can Grady be expected to confidently call the shots in such a situation? I'm not sure it's possible. Even if he is a pretty skilled leader (which I think he is), how do you manage when an entire city seriously questions your ability to remove your head from your warm and comforting rear end? Unfortunately, I don't think he can.

The biggest worry in all this though is the clubhouse. Does Little really have the team behind him? They've all come out in support for him in the newspapers, that's true. But let's be realistic. If every strung-out, dangerously inebriated Red Sox fan knew Grady was making the wrong move on Thursday night, you don't think his players did too? You're suggesting that Mike Timlin was thinking, "Hey, wise move Professor"? Puh-lease. They knew he was bone-heading it up, and they knew it would be costly. The players love Grady because he's a swell guy and he treats them well, but there is no way they have confidence in him. They now think in the back of their minds that when the chips are down, their boss just might screw up. And that is really no way for a team to be. As unfair and unfavorable as it is, I think the Red Sox might just have to kiss this pretty good Manager good bye. And hey, maybe Billy Buck can recommend a nice place in the Boise area.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Baker to LaFrentz for Threeeeeeee!

My initial reaction to the Walker for LaFrentz deal was shock and horror. A former All-Star forward and team captain for a back-up center who can't play defense. Didn't we already trade for Vin Baker? Then I hear Danny Ainge on WEEI claiming that LaFrentz will play a Robert Parish-like role with this team and my head starts to hurt. Like cancer hurt. There is one person in the city of Boston who pumped their fist when they heard about the deal this morning, and that man is Grady Little. The rest of us got screwed. Again.

But then I started to think about it. This summer the Pistons, Nets, and Pacers all improved. The Celtics got Jumaine Jones. And were it not for the Talent Waste of the Century job pulled by Isiah Thomas in Indy, we wouldn't have made it out of the first round last year. So really, what was there to hold on to? Could Antoine and Paul have gotten us back to the playoffs? Sure. Was there any chance we would get past the East much less succeed in the finals? Absolutely not. No way, no how. So why not take a spin on making this team a bit younger, a touch more balanced, and a shade bigger? LaFrentz is NOT particularly good and he is a major liability on defense. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Yes, he'll block some shots, but he can't guard Mutombo even now that he's dead. He can stick a three here and there, but when did that become a desirable attribute for a big man anyway? He can run, which will be nice, but he's not great on the boards. He's a fine player, but he's nothing special -- and he's certainly not Robert Parish. But I think he'll help.

Look, Pierce and Antoine just weren't working. They played fine together and seemed to get along fairly well, but Paul is a lead player. He can't have Antoine tossing irresponsible three's and "quick-shotting" his opponents with that ridiculous little hook. It's like a wife trying to save money to buy a house while the husband is running around spending the savings on chewing gum and comic books. Yeah, I'd like to chuck a few threes every quarter too, but someone's got to do some real work around here. Walker brought a ton to the floor in terms of ball handling, passing, and leadership and he never really got enough credit for it, but his shot selection was a liability. Ultimately he just was not the correct complimentary player for Pierce. You needed more roster efficiency, someone who can play a different spot on the court and do fundamentally different things. A top notch big man or a basket-cutting point guard, for instance. Now Rockin Raef is neither of these two things, and he is unlikely to become them. But he's something different. He streamlines the Celtics roster, and allows everyone to prepare for the Pierce coronation. Paul has been the best man in green for a while now, but as of 9:15 this morning, he's the only man.

Our point guards are a mess (believe me, you'll be missing Shammond Williams migh-t fast in a couple weeks). At two and three we have The Truth and then some awkward, why-didn't-we-get-invited-to-the-prom combination of Waltah, Kedrick Brown, Eric Williams, and Jumaine Jones. Then at 4-5 you've got Downtown Julie Raef LaFrentz, Mark Blount, Vinnie My Man Baker, and Tony Bad Knees Battie. Any 18 point a game scorers in there? No? How about 15? How about a few guys that can give you a dozen? How much for one rib? I mean have Vinnie and Kedrik improved? Probably. Will Raef likely give you decent numbers when he gets some minutes? Sure. But this team is now all about Pierce, and that's the way it should be. He is a franchise player, and if the C's get back into Championship contention it will be because they continue to improve on D, learn how to run, get a REAL secondary player, and optimize their offense through Paul Pierce. No more of this "give Paul the ball on the wing and get out of his way" nonsense. This is his team, let's design some plays for him. Run him off some picks, open up some back doors, get him moving for crying out loud. Give Paul more responsiblity, but at the same time, make his life easier. Give this team time to develop under his reign while you go and search for his Kevin McHale, and Raef LaFrentz might be part of that. Maybe. He's not McHale, Parish, Walton, DJ, or Ainge, but he might fit in somewhere. The one thing I think we can say with confidence after the last few years, no matter how talented he is, is that Antoine doesn't. I love him and I'll miss him, but it just wasn't going to work. Here's hoping this does....

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Red Sox vs. Yankees - Game 6 Game Log

Well, I started this to chart how the Red Sox were doing offensively in this, the biggest game of the season. But then the game got really exciting and I wasn't able to think about stuff like pitch selection and hitters counts. So I got my Sports Guy juices flowing and decided to put together a game log. So then, with all due respects, here goes....

Bottom of the First Inning
I felt badly about John Burkett starting the biggest game of the season for the Red Sox until I heard that Mark Redman is going in Game 7 for the Florida Marlins. Ouch. He used to play for the Tigers. That's not good.

John Boy pitched Giambi very effectively in previous starts with fastballs under his hands. He tries that same approach here and the ball gets too much of the plate. Gone. Oh well. Tim McCarver exclaims "Giambi CRUSHED that ball" even though it fell into the first row of the shortest right field porch in all of baseball. Giambi crushed that ball like I crushed my Yale Acting School Audition. Giambi crushed that ball like "Dickie Roberts" crushed modern box office records. Giambi crushed that ball like Tim McCarver crushes objective sports analysis.

Yankees 1, Red Sox 0

Top of the Second Inning
This is where I started to get serious with AB analysis because the Sox started to throw some real stinkers up there.
  • Ortiz: Bails out on a cutter on the outside corner. Flailing swing. Strike Out.

  • Millar: Ahead in the count, Kevin goes after two fastballs high and out of the zone. K. Millar has never played a 162 game season before, and right now it's showing like a bald head.

  • Trot: Ahead 2-1, Trot waits for a pitch he can drive, right? Nope. Half-hearted swing at an outside curve, taps back to the pitcher. Yippee.

Yankees 1, Red Sox 0

In promo #5,742 for Fox’s “Joe Millionaire: Xenophobe 2003” we hear the French girl remark, “He’s rich, it is sexy to me.” Viva la France.

Top of the Third Inning

On the second pitch he sees, Varitek goes to town on a slow curve from Andy Pettite. Jason Varitek, Jason Varitek. Tie Ballgame. Very important to tie this game up as early as possible. Takes the crowd down a notch and brings the team up. All of a sudden, whether it’s Pettite losing confidence or the Sox gaining it, great at-bats are abound. Damon battles his way on with a walk. Walker looks terrible on a 2-0 fastball, then singles to right. Manny lays off a borderline 1-0 fastball that he could’ve hit but couldn’t have hit hard, and ultimately gets on base. Then Ortiz is up and everyone’s a little concerned. Pettite flips an outside cutter, the exact pitch that got Tiz looking-like-O’Leary in the second, and David slaps it THE OTHER WAY for a couple of RBI’s. Lefties are going the other way, all is right with the world. Millar follows this by hacking on a high 1-0 fastball and fists a single to center. Terrible pitch selection and a ball he normally misses. But because things are going good, it drops. Sox take a 4-1 lead, and Boston fans everywhere quietly begin calculating how long it will take Wakefield to get warm. I’ve cowboyed up all over my trousers.

Red Sox 4, Yankees 1

Bottom of the Third Inning

Do you think Soriano has ever swung at a throw over to first?

Red Sox 4, Yankees 1

Top of Fourth Inning

Everyone is a big fan of the stylings of Home Plate Umpire Angel Hernandez. He has made at least 8 questionable calls and it’s only the top of the 4th. Luckily he’s been equally bad for both sides. Joe Buck goes out on a limb and notes, “hard to say for sure what a strike is today.” Didn’t Angel used to play bass for Los Lobos?

Varitek swings at a ball out of the zone on a hitter’s count. Terrific. That’s not how we hit homer’s, Jason. On the next pitch he grounds one through the Buckner hole on Aaron Boone into left field. Safe at first on the error. In the booth, Brother Brett is awkwardly silent. Unfortunately, Damon turns in a Nomar Special and pops up the first pitch he sees to let the Yanks off the hook. Hey Johnny, at least it was a strike! Tim McCarver celebrates by stealing Jerry Remy’s material.

Red Sox 4, Yankees 1

Bottom of the Fourth Inning

Wait a second, whoa! Joe Buck has just anointed John Burkett an “outstanding” Game 6 starter, based on 9 outs of work. That’s terrific, thanks a lot Joe. What, did McCarver write that down on a piece of paper and ask you to read it over the air? Sure enough, the floodgates open. Nick Johnson, who’s a hell of a lot better than most people realize, rips one into the gap. Same pitch Burkett threw to Giambi. Terrific. The Yankees are knocking it all around and I’m annoyed. But then again, we’ve got to admit we sort of expected it. It’s John Burkett after all. Karim Garcia trots to the plate sporting a large silver cross around his neck. Do you think Jesus ever cut his hand open hitting another man in the mouth? Decent chances. Nomar muffs a grounder up the middle that would’ve gotten the Sox out of it. Two more come in, Sox trail. MVP anyone?

Yankees 5, Red Sox 4

Does anyone know what a Hemmy is? Does my '88 Ford Escort have one?

Top of the Fifth Inning (9 Outs til Rivera)

Nomar gets on and takes an excellent lead on Pettite. This is how it’s done. For all of you who sniped at Grady for trying to hit and run on Andy (who has a nasty move over to first), take notice. You can still get a respectable lead off Pettite, you just can’t lean towards second. A two and a half step lead is PLENTY of time to get back to the bag even if you are badly fooled by his move. Just don’t lean! If your weight’s going the other way, and he catches you, you’re toast. But gingerly going one foot off the bag is too conservative, and will get you killed -- especially when your Manager has put the hit and run on. Someone wake Gabe Kapler up.

Manny puts on another beautiful at-bat, taking strikes that he knows he can’t drive. Has to be done. Hopefully Nomar brought a pad and pen out with him to first. Angel Hernandez strikes again, calling David Ortiz out on a curveball that was never in the strike zone - mostly because he likes the sound of clapping. Kevin Millar follows by swinging at ANOTHER fastball up and out and fouls it back. Oy. After he singles up the middle (we need more of that from him), Mueller K’s. Bill Mueller is swinging and missing a tremendous amount lately. Thoughts?

Yankees 5, Red Sox 4

Bottom of the Fifth Inning

Tim McCarver informs us that Bronson Arroyo’s first name is Charles, making him Charles Bronson Arroyo. That might be the first interesting thing McCarver has ever said. Ah press notes. How many kids do you have to have before you finally name one after Charles Bronson? 50? 75?

Woman: You want to name our son what?!
Man: You know, Charles Bronson, like the star of Death Wish.
Woman: Death Wish?
Man: Yes.
Woman: Have you seen even Death Wish?
Man: Well, no. But Bill said it was really good.
Woman: You’re a moron.
Man: I know.

Come next year, when Bronson is our 5th starter to the stars, he will have trouble getting lefties out. His slider comes right into their zone, so he can’t really use it. So he just sticks with a lot of fastballs away. Oh, did I say next year? I meant right now. Posada goes yard.

Yankees 6, Red Sox 4

Top of the Sixth Inning (6 Outs ‘til Rivera)

Jose Contreras is on in relief. He’s good, but he’s still an 8 million dollar set up man.

A confused Karim Garcia notices a man in the stands wearing a hat and handing a Yankee fan a hot dog. Enraged, Karim hops the fence, charges the man and repeatedly pummels him in the mouth. The man, later identified as a “hot dog vendor”, was sent to the emergency room with cleat marks on his face, back, and abdomen. Praise Jesus.

A quiet rustling is heard in the booth as Brett Boone wakes up from his mid-game nap.

Yankees 6, Red Sox 4

Bottom of the Sixth Inning

It’s Game 6 of the ALCS. You’re down 3 games to 2, your season is on the line, you’re already trailing, and who are your pitchers? John Burkett, Charles Bronson Arroyo and, ladies and gentleman, Todd Jones. Todd friggin’ Jones. Uh, Grady? This is a guy you were afraid to use for the entire last month and a half of the season, and all of a sudden he’s getting a major appearance in the playoffs? You didn’t use him before because he stinks, and guess what, he still stinks. Good thing Rudy Seanez isn’t on the roster. Jones faces three batters, two of which reach base.

Two runners on, one out, Giambi coming up, Grady gets Embree. Alan is perfect for this situation because he’s not great against lefties and rarely gets a ground ball! Terrific. Am I the only one who is wondering why Scott Sauerbeck is on the roster if you have no intention of ever using him? Come to think of it, I probably am. The two baserunners are allowed to steal for no apparent reason and we have 2nd and 3rd, one out. A run scores here and it’s over. 3 runs in 3 innings is not likely, especially when Rivera is pitching two of them. This is the end of the season folks, staring us in the face. This is it. What does Embree do? He brings the gas, big time. He’s hitting 97 like he’s still a Padre, and then spinning a few decent sliders up there for good measure. He takes down Giambi and gets Bernie to line to Bill Mueller. Nice play by Billy. HUGE pitching from Embree, who is starting to look more than one flew over a cuckoo’s nest, if you know what I mean. We’re still alive baby.

Yankees 6, Red Sox 4

Top of the 7th (3 Outs til Rivera)

Contreras opens the inning and Nomar scorches one to center. It looks like Nomar has finally found his stroke, laying off the inside heaters that he can’t catch up to and getting the bat head on the ones he can. The only question is, is it too late to matter? The wind probably helps the ball over Bernie’s head and it rolls over to Matsui, who gallantly picks it up and tosses it directly into the stands. Matsui is Japanese for “Hit it to Bernie”. Unfortunately, Bernie is Venezuelan for “Where’s my guitar?”. Nomar, on third after the triple, is given home on the error. Sox within one, fans going insane. Yankee Stadium is so quiet you can hear Zimmer’s gas.

Before we even know what’s happening Manny rockets a ball off the center field fence. Ramirez is on second and Contreras is losing it fast. Ground ball-Fly ball and we can tie this puppy up – something that seemed impossible about twenty minutes ago. Ortiz steps to the plate and Contreras immediately split-fingers his way to the backstop. Manny advances, tying run on third – NO ONE OUT. Needless to say there is a great deal of cigarette smoking going on at this point. So here is the big AB. David Ortiz, who has been struggling coming into today, against Contreras who, well, has not. Jose hangs a splitter in the middle of the plate that had upper deck written all over it, but David, because he’s a discerning customer, lets it pass. Good thinking Dave. But then the big O manages to lay off the pitch that has killed him all postseason, the high heat. Not once, but twice. 2-1, Dave is in a hitter’s count. Daddy like. Jose, because he’s down in the count, goes with the gas - and David rips it down the line! Off the bag at first, Ramirez scores! Sox have tied it up! It’s a new game in the top of the seventh!

Joe Torre has apparently taken a liking to Grady’s managerial style, as he has no one warming up in the pen. Millar flies out, then Mueller puts on his best AB in September (could he be back too?) and singles up the middle. Trot has a disappointing whiff against Heredia, and then they walk Tek to load the bases. Sometimes this play works, sometimes it doesn’t. Some pitchers can’t seem to handle that pressure. Sorry Felix, guess you’re one of those. Damon walks on four pitches and all of a sudden everyone loves Angel Hernandez. I believed in him all along, you know. The Sox take the lead, which is so crucial. A tie is great, but the lead is what you need. If you come from behind in the late innings you have to come ALL THE WAY back. If you leave it at a tie, somehow the momentum seems to evaporate and the opponent often jumps back on top. But get out in front right away, and the game just might be yours…

Red Sox 7, Yankees 6

And well, we all sort of know what happened from here. The next forty-five minutes or so were terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I spent the entire time chain smoking, jumping up and down, and teetering dangerously on the verge of cardiac arrest. At one point I even drank out of a week old beer can which had been deemed “lucky” because of its use during Game 5 in Oakland. I’ll pay for that one. Embree pitched a nasty inning and then came Timlin who went 1-2-3. Be careful about him in Game 7 though, he didn’t look sharp. He got the outs, but he hung some sliders and didn’t have real precision. The workload might be getting to him. Anyway, in the top of the 9th , Trot went all sorts of upper deck on Gabe White and someone pooped in my pants. We had the three run lead, and Williamson’s cold sore pitched a flawless ninth. Outstanding. Bring on game 7.

Some things to watch for tonight:

-What does Pedro have? I’m not too concerned about the crowd, and if anything I think it will pump Pedro up more, but he looked bad on Saturday. Shockingly bad. How many quality innings are left in that arm? If the Yanks get to him early, will the momentum be too much to overcome?

-Did we really break out of our slump last night? Hard to say, but Mueller, Nomar, and Ortiz looked especially good. That could be huge, and in general, I like our hitters vs. Clemens. If we’re hitting, we’ll be tough to beat, but you never know if we’re really out of it.

-How much does Wakefield have left? I’m worried about Timlin and we’re not sure what Pedro will bring to the table. Wake is getting into this game, sooner or later. Can he bring the magic again?

-Is it good, bad, or indifferent to be happier than you’ve ever been as a result of a baseball game?

Let’s Go Red Sox. Clap Clap ClapClapClap.