Monday, October 08, 2007

California stars

Gotta get some sleep - in about four hours, I'll awaken to a voice saying, "Get up, Daddy," and unlike in the dream, it won't be Jenna Fischer's - but I couldn't let such a compelling (and darn near perfect, if not for that meddling Johnny Damon) sports day pass without my two cents:

• I'm not sure if the Red Sox's resounding sweep of the Angels had more to do with the Sox peaking at the right time or the fact that Los Angeles had the misfortune of being hit with a rash of late-season injuries. But even if you're an accomplished cynic, you have to feel as good about this team's chances as you have since early June. I don't know if this is a credit to Theo Epstein, Terry Francona, or good, old-fashioned destiny, but the Sox appear to have everything working in their favor at the moment. Josh Beckett is a genuine ace intent on building his big-game resume, Curt Schilling looks rejuvenated, Papi has had his mojo back for awhile now, and perhaps most encouragingly of all, Manny is as locked in as he's been since his late-August tear against the Yankees . . . last year. We all know things can change quickly in the postseason, but right now, this team looks as good as we have seen them, as good as any team in the game.

• That was pretty much the Trot Nixon Experience in a nutshell, huh? Another home run off Roger Clemens, followed by his patented charge-the-ball-whoops-I-overran-it-now-I-have-to-waddle-after-it-
while-the-runners-circle-the-bases-I'd-better-look-angry maneuver. If he pulled a quad or strained his back while going through the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru on the way home, well, I think that would about cover everything in his repertoire.

• I'd feel better about pegging the exact inning that Clemens would limp off with a questionable injury and a Yankee deficit on the scoreboard had a couple former Red Sox - Damon and Nixon - not conspired to help the Yankees rally to win the game and save him once again from the embarrassing final scene he deserves. There were some parallels with this game and Game 7 in the '03 ALDS - Clemens stunk it up early, he gets bailed out by the long relief (Mussina in '03, Philip Hughes last night), and an inept manager leaves in his starting pitcher just long enough for the Yankees to take the lead. I'm not saying Eric Wedge is the second coming of Grady Little, because nobody's as dim as that bulb, but I think the fact that he's in the opposing dugout should give the Yankees confidence that they can salvage this series after all. Wedge is affable and accessible, and the media loves him, but he just is not a good in-game manager, and I fear that may be the Tribe's downfall.

• Wonderful piece by Gammons today on Manny, Tito, and the Red Sox rejuvenation on ESPN Insider. I don't know if I'm allowed to post this, but Gammons was one of our Original Seven, so what the hell. Here's my favorite snippet:

Ramirez . . . was asked if, as suggested by teammates and coaches watching his daily batting practices, he is in the best groove he's been in all year. "I will tell you this," he said, "for some reason I haven't been able to find my swing all year. Maybe it'll come now. I hope so. I don't know why it's been like this. I hope it's now so I can help our team win."

Back in 2004, Ramirez privately asked about whether or not I thought he would win the MVP. Not likely. He shrugged. "Hey, the World Series ring is more important," he said. "Maybe the Hall of Fame. The MVP isn't as important."

That conversation was recalled Friday night, because he's got one World Series ring -- and World Series MVP -- and he's probably a lock for Cooperstown. "The ring is still the most important thing," Ramirez said. "We've worked hard to get this far. It's what we all want together."

What struck everyone who heard his runway conversation was his animation and passion. "Hey, man," Ramirez said. "I really want this to happen."

To paraphrase Pat Healey in "There's Something About Mary": "I love that goofy #**$*$*."

• Broadcast news: Never thought I'd say this, but I actually enjoyed listening to Dan Dierdorf during the Pats game today. He's like that favorite uncle who's suffered multiple head injuries, maybe even had a lobotomy, and yet you still enjoy watching the ballgame with him, so long as he doesn't drool all over the nachos . . . Sounds like Dave O'Brien is off to ESPN for the rest of the playoffs, judging by the so long, farewell tone of his sign-off today. And you know what that means: Geffner. Gah. All I can say is that I hope Uncle Joe gets to call all of the big moments from here on out. Geffner is not worthy of a signature call . . . Gil and Gino are the voices of autumn to me, and I've enjoyed listening to them so much over the years that it pains me to criticize them in any way. So let me put it this way: They're older now, and they need someone offering them a little more help in the booth, not only with player identification, but perhaps even with fact-checking. I was stunned when they both agreed that Randall Gay played for the '01 Patriots . . . You think Dane Cook's ever seen a baseball game in person? Yeah, neither do I.

• You know you're fortunate to watch a damn good football team when it can slog through a game like the Patriots did today, and still win by 17 points. The final margin was pretty much what I expected - I didn't think they'd light up a Romeo Crennel defense, not only because of his knowledge of their personnel, but because Bill Belichick has too much respect for him to run up the score - but I guess it is mildly alarming that this was the first game this year where the Patriots didn't look all that sharp. They'll certainly have to play better against Dallas. The Browns did a nice job taking Randy Moss out of the game, though it allowed us to catch a glimpse of what Donte' Stallworth can do (did he make the YAC on that 34-yard TD look effortless or what?), and Sammy Morris is well on his way to TATB binky status. All in all, they chalked up another win and with limited carnage, and you can't really ask for much more than that. By the way, think the '72 Dolphins are getting nervous yet?

• As for today's Completely Random Football Card:

Hey, Cris, why the long face? (Seriously, that joke will never get old around here.)