Tuesday, April 05, 2005

GameDay: N.Y. 4, Boston 3

Quick FYI before we get down to business of dissecting this Sox season gone horribly, terribly, irreversibly wrong (that's what that disengenuous toad Glenn Ordway is yelling through my radio, anyway):

It's my intention to try and post something about every game this season. Sometimes it will be a full column, sometimes just a photo and a wise-ass comment, and sometimes a longer list of notes and observations. Today it's the latter, and I have a suspicion the notes format is the one I'll use the majority of the time if I'm going to stick to the plan - it's the most conducive to getting something reasonably interesting or relevant posted on my more hectic days. Like today.

One more thing. Blogger.com was having some server issues yesterday, so I couldn't get my Nine Innings rant from opening night posted. I should have it up in a few minutes. Thanks for your patience, peeps. You're the best 12 readers a guy could ask for.

Onto the notes from the Sox's 4-3 loss to the Empire, a crushing defeat that will surely cause panic up and down the streets of New England . . . you know, since it ensures that the DEFENDING WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS will have a record no better than 160-2 this season . . .

- Did Matt Clement go 3-2 on every batter today, or did it just seem that way? My relatives in Chicago warned me that this guy was maddening to watch, and after one start, I already understand that they spoke the truth. He has electric stuff, but his crosshair is slightly off target, and he lacks confidence, resulting in that exceedingly frustrating beast, a power pitcher who tries to be a nibbler. Just. Throw. Strikes. Already. GawDammit.

- The stat geeks will tell you that Carl Pavano's low strikeout rate is an ominous indicator that future success could be fleeting. Which just goes to prove that it might be beneficial for the Sons of Bill James to put down the protractors and pencils and watch a real, live baseball game once in a while. The Pavano who dazzled the Sox today is the exact same Pavano who won 18 games and stole the ace mantel from A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett in Florida last season. He is poised, with good stuff and great command - a hell of a pitcher, low K-rate or not, and I wish he had come to Boston instead.

- Someone needs to knock Hideki (.667) Matsui on his ass - he's way too comfortable. Anyone seen Pedro?

- George Steinbrenner looks terrible, and you have to wonder if the rumors that he is in ill health are true. The NESN camera caught his reaction after Johnny Damon's ninth-inning bid for a go-ahead homer died in Gary Sheffield's glove, and Georgie Porgie looked like he had just seen a ghost. Which I suppose he had, considering he spent the offseason haunted by Damon's performance Game 7.

- In a related story, I'm convinced Damon will be the Yankees' center fielder next season. Greedmeister Scott Boras is his agent, and the Sox have never been happy with his current contract and sure don't seem intent on giving him a raise, let alone for the six years he has suggested he will request. And frankly, giving megabucks to a 31-year-old outfielder who relies on his legs doesn't seem financially prudent. Which won't stop Steinbrenner, who needs a centerfielder and surely wants to steal the Chief Idiot away from the conquering enemy.

- Sitting here watching Dodgers opening-day starter Derek Lowe mow down the Giants through five shutout innings, and I'm thinking - again - how much I wish the postseason ace could have stayed. Probably has something to do with the Wells/Clement debacles of the past two days, huh? (As I write this, Lowe just gave up a game-tying two-run homer, kicked the dirt, rolled his eyes, and looked skyward in frustration - it's the National League edition of the old Woe-Is-D.Lowe act. But I still miss him.)

- I never thought the day would come where I look forward to Mariano Rivera coming in to try and save a 1-run game, but damned if that day hasn't arrived. The Sox have his number - familiarity has finally bred success - and damned if it's not getting to him. The only time I have ever seen Rivera flustered on the mound is against the Red Sox. And from yelling "Catch the ball!" at Kenny Lofton during a game last season, to the two blown saves in the ALCS last year, and then Varitek's homer yesterday that he couldn't will foul with his body language, Rivera has shown a remarkable amount of negative emotion against the Sox recently. It's as disconcerting as it is enjoyable.

- Damon, given a chance to blow up Tony Womack and possibly prevent a double play, instead peeled off without a slide and turned back toward the dugout. Huh. Must have been worn out from all his book signings. Francona may need to give him a kick in his Hollywood kiester pretty soon.

- Something tells me Keith Foulke will recover from this. His performance in the ALCS - eight innings, no runs - might have been the most underrated among all the heroic postseason performances.

- Nixon, Manny and Renteria are a combined 0-for-the-season so far. Something tells me at least one of them will get hit before it's all over.

- The Captain, before he hit puberty and developed his Intangibles . . .

. . . seriously, though: was anyone surprised by his walk-off homer today? It's what Jeter does. Good thing A-Rod is still around to drag the team down in clutch situations, the yin to Jeter's yan.

- Things have changed, make no mistake. A year ago, after Jeter's homer, I would have been rapidly firing off every swear word I can think of, maybe even inventing a few. Now? I'm ticked that they lost, but I'm simmering rather than boiling, if that makes any sense. To be completely honest, the 146 Sox-Yanks regular season meetings don't mean as much as they did before the events of last fall. The Yankees can win the division for the 43d straight season; I just want the Sox to get to the playoffs and go from there. Maybe that's a complacent attidude - and one that I shouldn't have since I'd be furious if I found out the players were thinking the same thing - but it's how I feel at this point. Two games into The Season After, I'm not ready to be angry. Like I said yesterday: the joy of last fall remains my dominant emotion.

That said, should the Sox lose today, falling three games behind three games into the season, well . . . maybe then you should get out your Swear-Word Thesaurus. I may have a few new submissions for ya.

- And if you worry that the Sox are complacent and content to rest on last season's laurels, look at today's loss this way: It might just be the kick in the pants they need to realize that last year is last year, and it's time to start playing ball again.

- And finally, per request from one of the Dirty Dozen, today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

No, it certainly does not get much more random than Rowland Office. All I know about him is that he played utterly undistinguished ball for the Braves and Expos for about eight years, and that he was Claudell Washington's defensive replacement on the All-Ugly Team of the 1970s.