Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Suddenly, the playoffs aren't nearly as awesome as Dane Cook promised they'd be

Super-quick pregame notes while hoping Wake has it fluttering at the Jake . . .

* I realize Tito Francona isn't one to panic, and his occasionally maddening loyalty to his veterans is more often than not justified at the end. But for the life of me, I can't understand why Coco Crisp and J.D. Drew are both in the lineup tonight. I guess Crisp makes sense on a statistical level - he's something like 5 for 11 career against Cleveland starter Kelsey Grammer - but if there is a time to see if Jacoby Ellsbury can once again provide a slumbering lineup with a spark, this is it. As for Drew, well, there's simply no logical reason why he is in the starting lineup tonight other than the fact that he's usually the starter. Bobby Kielty is 10 for 30 against Paul Byrd with four homers - a fairly healthy sample size - and he delivered a game-breaking two-run single in the Sox' lone victory so far. At this point, how can you not have more confidence in Kielty and Ellsbury than you do in Crisp and Drew? Here's hoping Tito's dance-with-who-brung-ya philosophy proves beneficial again, because at the moment, I just don't get it.

* All right, I'll go on record with it: I think Josh Beckett should have been given the ball tonight. It's not that I distrust Tim Wakefield - even with his 18-day layoff and his late-season struggles, we all know that he's entirely capable of rising to the occasion - but I like the idea of the Sox having their ace lined up to pitch Game 7 on regular rest. And while the history of pitchers going on three days' rest in the postseason is abysmal, Beckett is the exception. He has allowed one run in 16 innings in such a scenario in his career, including his legendary complete-game shutout at Yankee Stadium in the clinching Game 6 of the '03 World Series. I have no doubt that he'd have come through tonight. I have some doubt that Wakefield will.

* Footnotes: I'm not saying Dice-K's rookie season has been a disappointment, but actually watching him pitch has been a major letdown. He nibbles so damn much - and so unnecessarily - that he's a complete bore to watch. Someone, whether it's Tito, John Farrell, or whomever, needs to get it through his head that he has the skill and stuff to challenge major league hitters . . . The blunt truth: If the Sox get beat by Jake Westbrook and Byrd, then they simply don't deserve to go to the World Series . . . I've never been more wrong about a player than I was about Dustin Pedroia, but the kid has picked a horrendous time to revert to his April form. The Sox desperately need him to relax and start getting on base for Papi and Manny . . . As frustrating as this series is at the moment, I have no regrets about wishing for the Indians instead of the Yankees. Cleveland is a likable, talented, and deserving team, and while Sox fans are justifiably tense right now, it's nothing compared to what we'd be going through if we we're being forced to listen to Tim McCarver give Derek Jeter verbal backrubs every night . . . Tonight's sleeper hero: Doug Mirabelli. Hey, it's gotta be somebody, right?

* Finally, here's a wonderful snippet from one of my favorite columns/blog posts I've read in a long time - lifelong Indians fan and Official TATB sportswriting binky Joe Posnanski's take on Game 2:

. . . All game long (because of my Cleveland paranoia) I was sure the Indians would lose Saturday. Absolutely sure. It was that feeling in the pit of your stomach, and it was there for all 73 hours (time actually stands still when Rafael Betancourt pitches, so it was even longer than 73 hours). . . UNTIL . . . Eric Gagne came in from the bullpen.

A few years ago, I went to the Olympics in Greece when my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was only two years old. I was away from her for three weeks, and it was awful. For three weeks, I thought about how much she was changing, how much I was missing, how bad a father I was, how desperately I missed her. And then, finally, the Olympics ended, and I took the long plane ride, and then another, and finally I arrived at the airport, and I walked on the concourse, and there she was, mt Elizabeth, and she ran into my arms and shouted “Daddy” and it was just about the best feeling I’ve ever felt.

Yeah, that’s just about how happy I was to see Eric Gagne.

Geez, talk about not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

* As for tonight's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Just for a little karma from one ex-Red Sox who we know can hit at the Jake.