Monday, October 06, 2008

A Good and Happy Child

ALDS Game 4

Red Sox 3, Angels 2
Red Sox win, 3-1

Hooray Baseball!

You might think that the Red Sox’ unprecedented and unexpected success over the past five years brings with it an immunity to late-game stomach churning and mutes the intensity of involuntary joyous jump-off-the-couch-and-pull-a-muscle celebrations. You might think so, but you’d be wrong.

In the span of two innings last night, I went from counting down the outs, to mild apprehension over two-out walks, to cursing angrily and loudly in an otherwise quiet house with sleeping children, to cautious optimism, to exasperated frustration (aside: Mark Teixeria could play on my team any time), to leaping, hollering, fist-pumping glee, courtesy of Jed Lowrie and Jason Bay.

For much of the seven preceding innings, I alternated between an appreciation bordering on awe for Jon Lester’s continued transition into an elite pitcher and a gnawing concern for the missing Sox offense. The somewhat surprising Lowrie/Jason Varitek combo alleviated the latter worry with help from Jacoby Ellsbury and (finally) Dustin Pedroia, and the only thing Lester did wrong was fail to convince Terry Francona to leave him in the game after seven innings and 108 pitches.

In the quiet calm of the day after, an objective observer would note that the Sox clearly and definitively outplayed the Angels in nearly every phase of the game. (And as soon as I find that objective observer, I’ll confirm this.) Allegedly the league’s best and most well-rounded team, Los Angeles made repeated unforced errors in the field and on the basepaths and saw their starters and relievers outpitched. The vaunted Angels running game was non-existent, and their allegedly world-class closer wasn’t (note to Whitney and his friend Omar: run screaming from the urge to give that guy $75m over 5 years). It was the Sox who played nearly mistake-free baseball, who did the little things that carry magnified import in the postseason, and who were obviously the better team.

But I come here not to bury the Angels, but to forget them. Bigger fish to fry, and all that. The offices of Major League Baseball are filled with a giddy enthusiasm this morning, middle managers hugging secretaries, mail clerks high-fiving, and Bud Selig hiking his pants up over his belly button and skipping out into the middle of the cubicle farm to issue a hearty Huzzah! The league’s got two terrific LCS matchups, both on the field and in terms of the story lines.

The appeal of the Sox/Rays matchup is obvious – the scrappy underdog/long-time champion matchup dates back to when David and Goliath were scatting and bebopping around the Peloponnesus (note – may not have been Peloponnesus). It is a measure of the still-newness of this baseball world order that I’m struggling mightily with the idea of rooting for Goliath. Every non-Sox fan in America had better be rooting for the Rays, lest they be accused of having no soul. And for what it’s worth, what Joe Maddon and his team has accomplished this season is remarkable – I even like those guys, except for that contemptible scumbag Jonny Gomes.

Meanwhile, in the Senior Circuit, two old line teams with new chassis go at it. My spidey sense sees a whole lot of Grady Little in Charlie Manuel, but that may just be long-buried psychoses raising the last of their ebbing powers. I’m rooting for Manny, but I’m also rooting for Nick – really, just like MLB, I’d love to see this one go the distance.

Lotta ball left. Stay on target.
Late addendum, in the form of a note to John Lackey and Torii Hunter: A) Way to take the high road, you classless losers, and B) And by losers, I mean both 'team that lost' and 'douchebag whiners'. (I'm aware of the irony in this statement.)


Mike said...

It must be great to be a young Red Sox fan who knows nothing but success. They probably watched that ball in the ninth scream off Kotsay's bat to the diving Texeira and thought, 'No worries, we'll win'. Rob and I unfortunately will never be able to overcome our past. I managed to write off the seires on that play for about 45 secs until Lowrie came through. On to Tampa (can't get used to that thought at all!)

killthedh said...

This is about the umpteenth time I've seen a game nearly get away because the manager pulled the starter due to the all powerful arbitrary pitch count. It's 110 pitches, by golly, must be time to give the other team a chance. The Starting Pitcher's Union has got to file a grievance about this. They would have my full support. Josh Beckett could lend testimony.