Monday, August 21, 2006

Pain Makes You Beautiful

Game 123 – Red Sox

Yankees 8, Red Sox 5 (10)
Record: 69-54

At some point, you’ve got to look around at all the kids with their WWPD bracelets, and really ask yourself, “What Would Pedro Do?” Well, as he’s publicly stated in much less dismal circumstances, you just tip your cap and call the Yankees your daddy.

The Sox gave the Yankees everything they had yesterday, and it still wasn’t good enough. Mostly because everything they had included Mike Timlin. Curt Schilling and Jonathan Papelbon were nearly biblical last night in their efforts – Schilling missed his location once, and it cost him 3 runs. Papelbon authored perhaps the best performance I’ve ever seen in a blown save, entering the game in a bases-loaded no-out situation in the top of the 8th and yielding only a single run, then battling back from a man on third, no-out pickle in the bottom of the 9th to get within 1 out of victory. After consecutive strikeouts of Bernie Williams and Johnny Damon, Papelbon made a terrific 0-1 pitch to Derek Jeter, and the Yankee shortstop fought it off, dumping a bloop single into short right field to plate the tying run. Great pitch, great job of hitting, and effectively, game over.

The objective and subjective facts are damningly clear at this point. The Yankees are a much better team than the Red Sox. That may not have been true at other points in the season, but it’s dramatically so right now. The Sox effectively have 2 reliable pitchers at the moment, through a combination of injury-related attrition and just-plain mediocrity. As much as Timlin might wish to, the Sox staff can’t blame the offense – 25 runs in 4 games against the Yankees ought to be good for more than zero wins.

I can swallow hard and stomach the asskicking the Yankees handed the Sox this weekend – with 1 more merciful whipping to come – because I’ve been painfully aware of the Sox’ deficiencies for some time now. See below, and below, and below ad nauseum. What I can’t abide is the predictable ballwashing emanating from the national media this morning about the Yankees’ amazing pluck in recovering from adversity to take over the division. No less an expert than Dick Vitale fellated Brian Cashman and Joe Torre and their managerial acumen in overcoming the loss of Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield. Fuck me sideways, already. The Yankees are once again a very good team – no argument here on that point. They are not, however, some scrappy band of David Ecksteins, surviving on guile and duct tape. Probably more to come on that point when it sounds less like sour grapes.

It’s worth noting that the Sox are now 6-14 since Jason Varitek got hurt. Even as he was putting up mediocre offense numbers, the captain was a stabilizing force behind the plate. I don’t think many of us knew just how much that stability mattered. Theo Epstein is getting killed in the Nation right now for not making any major moves at the trade deadline, but I think he looked around and made a difficult but accurate assessment about his team’s chances. I think he folded an off-suited King/9 to live to play another day. And as much as my churning stomach and racing heart hate it during games, my head thinks he probably made the right call. One more starting pitcher – even the rumored Roy Oswalt – wouldn’t be enough to get this team to the finish line ahead of the pack.

I’m not ready to go Dandy Don Meredith on the Sox just yet. They’ll get Timmy Wake back soon, and David Wells may actually have some life. They do get 4 more against the Yankees, and if they didn’t get at least a little bit fired up by the guts Schilling and Papelbon displayed, then they’re not human. I’m counting on professional pride, if nothing else, to give them a lift down the stretch. All that said, don’t be looking for any eras of positivity in this space over the next 6 weeks.

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