Monday, July 31, 2006

Sugar, We're Goin Down

Games 101 through 103 – Red Sox

Angels 8, Red Sox 3
Red Sox 7, Angels 6 (11)
Angels 10, Red Sox 4
Record: 62-41

I’m stuck in the midst of an existential struggle for self-definition. I can’t decide whether I’m a pessimist or a realist. A representative of the optimist camp phoned in earlier and asked for a wake up call in April 2008. Realist or pessimist, the prognosis for the remainder of the 2006 campaign looks strikingly similar. Unless something changes in the next 7 hours, it sure looks from here like the Yankees are the team to beat in the AL East.

New York improved itself in 2 key areas of weakness yesterday, replacing Bernie Williams/Aaron Guiel/Andy Phillips with Bobby Abreu and slotting Cory Lidle in place of Sidney Ponson. While they’re both solid, Abreu and Lidle in and of themselves don’t strike raging fear in the hearts of gentle citizens of the Nation, but their obvious incremental value looks nonetheless to be telling in a race that’s currently measured in terms of half-games. The fact that the Yankees were able to pick up valuable parts for essentially nothing takes us down a well-worn path. INSERT ANNUAL RESIGNED RANT ABOUT YANKEE FINANCIAL ADVANTAGE HERE. The unassailable fact remains that the Yankees didn’t make up the current system – they’re just playing within it.

Seth Mnookin’s book Feeding the Monster defines a new operating model for the Red Sox front office based upon adhering steadfastly to a long-term organization philosophy and stanching the flow of leaks to the press. The Sox have been masterful thus far this trading season in disguising their intent, but the long-term view may dictate that they choose to play their current hand for the rest of 2006 instead of sacrificing that 2008 foundation for the possibility of short-term gains. And therein lies the struggle for Sox fans – intellectually, I believe in the front office’s model and am not interested in shipping Craig Hansen away for a 2-month rental that might or might not pay dividends. At a gut level, though, I’m sick and fucking tired of finishing 2nd to the Yankees, and a 9th straight replay of that result would make me want to break things. More things.

Tucked away in this weekend’s dismal series loss to the Angels is something that might be worth revisiting later in the season. Despite dropping 2 of 3 as a result of 3 relatively mediocre pitching performances (David Wells, a Nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Ugh.) the Sox showed once again that they are capable of competing with a great deal of heart. They came back from a 6-3 8th inning deficit on Saturday, courtesy of the obligatory Papi homerun/walk-off single. So cliché. Yesterday, after Curt Schilling’s spot-on Ebby Calvin imitation handed the Halos a 6-1 3rd inning lead, the Sox scrapped back within 2 runs and had the bases loaded with 2 outs – or should have, if umpire Kerwin Danley hadn’t flat out missed the fact that John Lackey’s 1-2 fastball had hit Mike Lowell in the forearm. Lowell’s strikeout on the next pitch killed the rally, and Jermaine Van Buren showed his Pawtucketness in the next frame, giving the Angels 4 runs to salt the game away. Regardless of the outcome, the fact that the Sox kept at it despite the deflating early deficit against their ace brought some solace. As the lads from Fall Out Boy sing, at least the Sox are going out swinging.

Speaking of out and swinging (Whitney was really hoping for some kind of gay expose here – sorry to disappoint), Trot Nixon may have inadvertently effed up Theo’s best-laid plans by injuring himself whiffing at a Lackey changeup last night. The Sox rightfielder will have an MRI today on his bicep after a wild swingandamiss left him grasping his arm in pain and led to the most predictable strikeout in baseball history, with Wily Mo Pena replacing Nixon with a 2-2 count and waving helplessly at the Lackey’s slider away. Far, far away. Nixon’s injury raises the ugly specter of Alfonso Soriano in a Sox uniform. None for me, thanks.

Last time I wrote the 2006 Sox off, they surprised me by going on a mini-tear to build their lead back to 3.5 games. This time, I fear they don’t have the horses to sustain an advantage on the Yankees. Pessimist, realist, whatever – in the end, the result looks exactly the same. I sure hope something happens in the next 7 hours to cause me to rewrite this post.

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