Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Top Dawg

It was in the moments preceding Jonathan Papelbon's final two pitches in a harrowing, thrilling 6-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays that we were reminded yet again how fortunate we are to have Jerry Remy analyzing Red Sox games.

The scene: The Sox were up a run 11th inning, the eventual game-winner coming courtesy of the 387th clutch home run of David Ortiz's Boston career. Papelbon, pitching his third sterling inning of relief (and affirming TATB's long-held belief that he's going to be serious factor down the stretch), had recorded the inning's first two outs and was ahead a ball and two strikes on Toronto's Aaron Hill.

That's when the NESN camera caught Papelbon shaking off catcher Jason Varitek's sign, a surprising sight that had this viewer thinking, "Damn, this kid might be a little too confident if he's daring to shake off 'Tek with the game on the line."

Then Remy chimed in and set us straight:

"In that situation, I don't think Papelbon is shaking off Varitek. Varitek is telling him to nod his head like he's shaking him off in order to give the hitter something to think about."

We hadn't considered such gamesmanship a possibility, and upon hearing Remy's comment, we thought maybe he was speculating.

But judging by what happened next, we're convinced he knew exactly what was Varitek was thinking, on that pitch - a fastball, which Hill fouled off - as well as the one to come.

As the camera again honed in on Varitek flashing Papelbon the signs, Remy spoke with assurance, as if he were calling the pitch himself:

"Fastball up."

Bingo again. Hill swung late at the high heat, and when his popup settled into John Olerud's glove, the Sox had secured one of their most satisfying victories of the season. And Jerry Remy had reminded us yet again that it's a privilege - and sometimes a learning experience - to listen to his subtle, sharp insights about the game.

Now, maybe you think that we're going overboard in our praise, that commenting on a freakin' baseball game is so easy, even a caveman could do it. Fair enough. But to gain proper respect for the RemDawg's subtle wisdom, consider what some other prominent analysts would have said given the same situation.

Joe Morgan, ESPN: "That was a fastball Pimplebone threw there, Jon. When I played for the World Champion Cincinnati Reds, our pitchers like Rawly Eastwick sometimes threw fastballs, too, Jon. Jon? Jon? Are you listening, Jon? I played for the Reds, Jon. Don't weep, Jon. Jon? Why are you weeping? Sparky Anderson never weeped, Jon. Cesar Geromino, my former teammate on the Cincinnati Reds, said men don't cry, Jon. Jon?"

Tim McCarver, Fox: ". . . and Jeter has the calmest eyes, and, oh my, such an elegant gait, and no one in the game looks better in jean shorts, and Red Sox fans call him Captain Intangibles out of respect, and that hipster punk Brandon Arroyo has no business striking him out, and Jon Lieber told me the Red Sox wished the Yankees luck in the World Series after Game 3 last year, and before the game Jeter helped me mix my Metamucil and . . . "

Suzyn Waldman, YES Network:: (High-pitched shrieking heard only by dogs and certain other unfortunate mammals, such as Brian Cashman.)

Proof enough? Yep, you know it: Gotta respect the RemDawg. Oh, yeah - and that Big Papi cat is all right, too.

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As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Apparently, the noggin that that houses RemDawg's fertile baseball mind previously served to sprout a world-class white-guy perm. Who knew?