Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 20, 2004
BASEBALL: What Would Hurt The Most?
As I suggested in an unsuccessful prediction back in September, the most reliable guide to predicting what would happen to the Red Sox is, "what would hurt the most?" My older brother suggests winning the ALCS, finally getting past the Yankees, and getting shut down by Roger Clemens in the World Series. That's certainly a possibility right now. Of course, staging a historic comeback - the first team down 3-0 ever to force a Game Seven - only to end with just another loss to the Hated Yankees would rank pretty high, especially since only three days ago Red Sox Nation was swearing it wouldn't believe again. Who knows? Maybe some new cruel symmetry will emerge, as in 1986 when the Sox won Game One of the World Series on a ground ball through Tim Tuefel's legs . . . karma they got back in spades a few days later (and on the subject of 1986, I did think it unfair to lay out the Sox' long string of Game Seven losses without noting the 1986 ALCS, when Jim Rice & Co. pounded John Candelaria as a visibly exhausted Clemens shut down the Angels 8-1 in Game Seven).
Turning to last night, I enjoyed the irony, after pregame predictions of rampant early bunting by the Yankees against the sore-ankled Curt Schilling, of Jason Varitek dropping a bunt single in the second that caught A-Rod napping at third. I'm sure the irony wasn't lost on Varitek.
The umps, led by Cowboy Joe West (best known for body-slamming Dennis Cook in an early-90s brawl between the Mets and Phillies) did a good, tough job last night, having the good judgment to reach collective decisions - even if it meant reversing themselves - in the face of a hostile crowd that wound up requiring cops in riot gear to line the field (the NYPD doesn't fool around these days). But, not being a rules afficionado, I'm still puzzled - on the play where A-Rod was called out for whacking Bronson Arroyo's wrist to knock the ball away at first base - why they sent Derek Jeter back to first instead of second after recalling his run. Had the play not been interfered with by Rodriguez, after all, Jeter would have been at second.
That play, by the way, reminded me of the horrific collision at first between Todd Hundley and Cliff Floyd (back when Floyd was a young first baseman for the Expos) that shattered Floyd's wrist, set his development back several years and almost wrecked his career. Rodriguez and Arroyo were very fortunate to get out of that collision unscathed. Yankee fans, meanwhile, did themselves no credit with their response to the play, although as Yankee booster Tim McCarver rushed to point out, Sox fans had had a similarly bad reaction to Jose Offerman being called out for running out of the baseline in the 1999 ALCS.
This was one of those classic examples of a game where you keep expecting another shoe to drop, and it never does. I just had a feeling early on that the Sox were never going to get that fifth run, and it was all going to come down to whether or not they could hold the lead and avoid a replay of Game Seven from last year (another one of those symmetries - I may be all in favor of rational analysis of the regular season, but there are more things in heaven, earth and postseason baseball than are dreamt of in our philosophies). Still, it may catch up to the Sox tonight that they had to use Foulke again - he seemed to be losing steam rapidly just in his one inning of work - while Rivera and Gordon got the night off (me, I would have left Schilling in - Al Leiter felt the same way - although Francona undoubtedly knew things I didn't about Schilling's ankle, and of course Francona wouldn't have been the first manager to get ripped for leaving Schilling in too long in a big game).
Anybody still upset that the Sox didn't have Pokey Reese's bat in the lineup last night?