Saturday, October 06, 2007

Nine innings: 10.06.07

Playing nine innings while waiting for Manny's homer to return to the atmosphere . . .

1. Well, isn't this just a lovely night to be Manny apologist. I have to assume even a Ramirez-ripping nimrod like Mike Adams had the same reaction I did when goofy No. 24 pulverized that Francisco Rodriguez fastball deep into the night: Holy ----! And then: WOOOOOOOOOOO! Seriously, what a win, what an ending, what a blast. While Manny doesn't get enough credit for the big hits he's had during his seven seasons with the Red Sox - his game-changing three-run blast he had off Barry Zito in Game 5 of the 2003 ALDS is rarely mentioned nowadays - this was his first walkoff in 11 years (yup, 11), and damned if it wasn't almost worth the way. From his teammates' sincere, overjoyed reaction, to the fact that it came off a pitcher as accomplished as K-Rod (a sign Manny has rediscovered his mojo), to the October '04 vibe that these last two victories give you about this suddenly clicking team right now, well, I can't think of a Manny Moment I've enjoyed more than tonight's.

2. All right, Francona bashers, put down the airplane glue and your Boone's Farm and tell me you noticed that Tito made all the right moves tonight, most notably by having a quick hook with Dice-K and going to Papelbon early in a tie game and leaving him in through the ninth. Tell me that you've noticed that he manages with a sense of urgency in the postseason that isn't necessary (and would often be counterproductive) during the regular season. Tell me you're aware that one of his strengths as a manager is his willingness to the long view despite the shortsighted demands of the talk-radio banshees. Francona is the same savvy skipper who outmaneuvered Mike Scioscia, Joe Torre, and Tony La Russa in '04, and if you don't appreciate all that he brings to the clubhouse and dugout, it goes without saying that you'll never be satisfied by any Sox manager.

3. Straggling thoughts: I still miss Orlando Cabrera every time I see him play. Curiously, I also miss him whenever I see Julio Lugo play . . . If I were a fan of a Red Sox opponent, I'm not sure whose antics would annoy me more, Kevin Youkilis's or Jonathan Papelbon's . . . I'm still waiting for a reasonable explanation as to why Dice-K so reluctant to challenge hitters? John Farrell has apparently been on him about his penchant for nibbling, and he still seems intent on attempting to paint the corners when he had good enough stuff to get out the ping hitters in the Angels' lineup by going after them . . . Wish I'd been able to write about Josh Beckett's brilliance the other night, but it was a predictable madhouse at work, and I was gassed by the time I made it make to Maine. There's not much more to be said except for the obvious: This is precisely why the Sox acquired him, and it sure looks to me like he's ready to reprise his performance from 2003 . . . Was I seeing things, or was that Carlton from "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" who was interviewing Manny after the game?

4. Okay, you knew it was inevitable, so let's do this . . . You know ARod would have killed those bugs in April, but once again, he can't swat a thing in October . . . The Indians briefly considered fumigating the ballpark, but no wanted to see all those visiting Yankees fans belly-up . . . It's a blessing Tim McCarver wasn't calling the game, because he would have rhapsodized on how they were all attracted to Derek Jeter's "glow," when in fact they were attracted to his perfume . . . Bug jokes . . . git your lame bug jokes heeyah . . .

5. This year, I'm rooting against the Yankees for reasons other than just general principle. I'm worn out by the madness and the melodrama that comes from the 18 or 19 regular season games in this overexposed rivalry, let alone all the stress that comes when the Sox and Yanks square off in the postseason. It's just so exhausting. Armeggedon isn't supposed to happen three times in four years, you know? Then again, rooting for the Tribe to end the Yankees' season could be a classic case of Be Careful What You Wish For; that is one damn good baseball team, and other than closer Joe Borowski and perhaps manager Eric Wedge, they don't have any discernible weaknesses. And ask the Yankees what it like to face C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona back to back in a short series. I do know this, however: If the Sox and Tribe do eventually meet in the ALDS, Dr. Charles had better track down Troy O'Leary and have him throw out the first pitch.

6. I think I've written this for every last one of Roger Clemens's 21 potential career-ending starts the past five years, but if there's any justice in this baseball universe, he will limp off the Yankees Stadium mound Sunday with a "tweaked" hamstring, a 6-0 deficit, and the boos of 55,000 jackals ringing in his ears. And for the record, I say the over/under on this exact scenario taking place is the third inning.

7. You know the fourth season of "The Office" is off to a slow start when the most memorable moment the season's second episode is a throwaway line about a client named "Jerry Trupiano." (Mike Schur, who wrote the episode, is a Harvard grad, a Sox fan, and a prime suspect as Ken Tremendous's true identity.) Actually, it wasn't that dull or uneventful. The Kelly/Ryan stuff was hilarious, creepy Creed killed as usual, and Jim's "I guess [Ryan] can't get ANY girl he wants," was one of those moments that make you think the writers will handle the Jim/Pam relationship gracefully. It's just that the first three seasons set the standard as high as a Manny walkoff homer (synergy!), and the first two episodes haven't come close to that lofty level. Part of the reason, I think, is that there's too much filler in the hour-long format, and that filler often ends up being a couple of additional scenes of Michael's over-the-top antics. Driving the car into a lake? C'mon now. This show is better than that.

8. Quickie links: At this very spot you'll find this week's Fox column, with the requisite love for Matt Holliday and the Colorado Rockies, and over here is something you'll undoubtedly enjoy so much more: the return of the great Joe Posnanski to the blogosphere. (Hat tip: About a half-dozen giddy readers.) Posnanski, the official writing binky of TATB, is working on a book about the '75 Cincinnati Reds, which means he'll have lots of fun anecdotes about trying to get coherent answers out of Joe Morgan.

9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

To be honest, I was sort of reluctant to use this card, for as much as Hendu is a symbol of (temporary) triumph for the Red Sox, he represents unspeakable tragedy for Angels fans. But then I remembered I'm a callous, selfish jerk, so here you go.