A good guy just made a bad play

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / April 5, 2008

TORONTO - In a 10-2 rout, the guy who makes an error that results in two runs can get lost in the rest of the gory details.

Not this time.

Sean Casey is a nice human being who will always get the benefit of the doubt in the moments when he messes up. A lot of other things went wrong for the Red Sox Saturday. But we won't couch it, and neither will Casey: He made a horrible play in the bottom of the fourth inning when the Sox were leading, 2-1, and it was a ballgame.

The bases were loaded with one out, and No. 9 hitter Gregg Zaun, who couldn't hit Clay Buchholz if he had 30 bats, grounded to Casey for what looked like a routine double play.

When the ball is hit to the Red Sox first baseman, it's usually an automatic out. That's because they have Kevin Youkilis, a Gold Glover who has not committed an error in a major league-record 195 straight games.

But Youkilis got a day off.

In the offseason, the Sox went searching for a guy to spell Youkilis, who wears down because he plays so hard and who also has to play third base when Mike Lowell gets a day off. The Sox tried to get Brad Wilkerson, but he wanted too much money and too much playing time. He went to Seattle, where he's the starting right fielder. Tony Clark wanted to come back in the worst way, but he was farther down the Sox' list and signed with San Diego.

Casey was next, and "The Mayor" got the nod, much to everyone's delight.

After all, who doesn't root for a good guy? Who wouldn't want the unselfish Casey, who only wanted to play for a championship team, on the squad? It was unanimously praised as the right move.

Saturday was only an early-season game, although it was against the Blue Jays, who are legitimate AL East contenders. You hate to give the Jays extra runs, and momentum. But imagine if you're Casey. You've just watched Youkilis break the errorless-streak record at first base and now you're asked to go into a game. What's the first thing you say to yourself?

"Don't mess up."

What do you do?

You mess up.

Casey wasn't around to explain the error because the clubhouse was opened later than usual after the game and Casey had already departed. His teammates are certainly sympathetic to Casey's plight. This is the first time in his career he has had to learn to come off the bench exclusively. Alex Cora understands.

"It's definitely new to him, and he has to get used to it," said Cora. "But you can't be afraid to make an error. You don't win or lose a game based on one play. He's doing his best. He doesn't want to make an error, but it happens. What can you do?"

From his vantage point at second base, Dustin Pedroia felt the ball took a bad hop off the dirt at the last minute.

"It was also a pretty hard-hit ball," Pedroia said. "It was hit in a tough spot on the field and it took a bad hop on him. We feel badly for anyone who makes an error like that.

"I think the good thing that came out of it is that he had some good at-bats, had a big hit for us [RBI single in the top of the fourth], and he was able to get out there and get his feet wet with our team. I think he's a real good player. He's going to be fine."

Infield coach Luis Alicea called it a "makeable play." Alicea said he'd have to review the video, but he felt there might have been a seam or an area of the dirt that affected the spin of the ball.

"It's tough for him because he's got to go in there and replace Kevin Youkilis," said Alicea. "Youk has pretty good hands and he can make all the plays. Casey hasn't played over there very much. I think it was the first ball he'd fielded for us over there."

Manager Terry Francona said, "I think he was trying to be too quick."

Without Casey to comment, that was perhaps the best explanation. Casey must have seen what everyone else saw - the chance to turn a double play and get Buchholz out of the inning. In his haste, he muffed it.

It's not like Casey is a butcher at first. He was never J.T. Snow, but for years you never heard any complaints about his defense. He can handle himself around the bag, and when he's playing regularly he probably makes that play 99 times out of 100.

The Red Sox certainly did a lot of lousy things after it. Their relief pitching wasn't very good. Kyle Snyder couldn't locate (and later was designated for assignment). Bryan Corey was roughed up in the six-run sixth.

Even after Casey's miscue, it was only 3-2 Jays, but in the next at-bat, David Eckstein singled off Buchholz to bring in the fourth Jays run.

A 4-2 deficit is easy for the Sox to overcome under normal circumstances. But this time the Jays bullpen continued to mesmerize the Sox, who have lost six straight games to Toronto dating to last season.

Yes, there were plenty of Red Sox who had bad days.

Julio Lugo started the game with a strikeout and on his first play at shortstop made a bad throw for an error. He went 1 for 4 as the leadoff man.

Coco Crisp went 0 for 4 and spent part of the postgame staring straight ahead into his locker.

Big Papi went 0 for 4.

But, even given the pressure of replacing Youkilis, sorry, Sean, you just messed up.

more stories like this

  • Email
  • Email
  • Print
  • Print
  • Single page
  • Single page
  • Reprints
  • Reprints
  • Share
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Comment
  • Share on DiggShare on Digg
  • Tag with Save this article
  • powered by
Your Name Your e-mail address (for return address purposes) E-mail address of recipients (separate multiple addresses with commas) Name and both e-mail fields are required.
Message (optional)
Disclaimer: does not share this information or keep it permanently, as it is for the sole purpose of sending this one time e-mail.