A trip to see Sox’ ship
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Reading Red Sox dispatches from Oakland and Seattle was depressing. The estimable Amalie Benjamin and indefatigable Pete Abraham kept me up to date as the Sox stumbled out West, but I had to come out here to see for myself. The SS Francona is taking on water, listing badly, and I wanted one last look before it sinks into the Pacific, under the Theo Epstein Bridge to 2011.
Presto, change-o. The Sox got seven stellar innings out of Clay Buchholz and two homers from David Ortiz and beat the Angels, 6-3, last night. They are still eight games behind the Yankees and five behind the Rays, but the rotation is aligned and Victor Martinez is back and maybe there’s hope.
“There’s no do-or-die games in July,’’ cautioned CEO Larry Lucchino as he stood behind the batting cage at Angels Stadium.
“It’s a long season, we’re going to lose games,’’ said a calm Kevin Youkilis, the man who KO’d Angels starter Dan Haren with a liner off the right forearm in the fifth. “We’ve still got 63 games left. There’s a long way to go.’’
That didn’t stop one reporter from asking Martinez (he cracked an RBI single on the first pitch he’d seen in over four weeks) if it was time for the Sox to “put up or shut up.’’
Sitting a couple of stalls down from Victor, a playful Ortiz urged the reporter to “stop being an ass.’’
The Sox lineup certainly looked a lot better with V-Mart in the No. 6 spot.
“Hey, everybody said we wouldn’t score runs this year,’’ said Youkilis. “That was the big theme all winter. Well, we were first in runs for most of this season, we’ve just hit a little dry spell. They come in streaks. We just have to start beating the teams we’re supposed to beat.’’
Youk was in the No. 3 spot against Haren. Ortiz was batting fourth. Big Papi blasted a pair home runs in the park where he blasted the competition in the Home Run Derby earlier this month. That’s not the end of the good news for the big slugger. I drove past his eatery on Route 9 last week and the parking lot was jammed.
“We’re serving good stuff there,’’ said Papi.
With Buchholz back and Victor back, we turn to the wounded. Dustin Pedroia tried to run on his broken foot yesterday afternoon and was disappointed he couldn’t get out of the blocks like Usain Bolt.
“I couldn’t really do much,’’ said Pedroia. “But I’m going to keep doing all this stuff so that when the bone is healed, I’m in there. I don’t want one day to go by that I’m not in there.’’
Manager Terry Francona keeps talking about the work ethic and team spirit of guys like Pedroia and Jason Varitek (who put his crutches down long enough yesterday to practice blocking balls in the dirt). Tito loves this team, loves the spirit of the guys who’ve been on the shelf, but it’s impossible to hear him talk about his wounded warriors without thinking that he’s ripping Jacoby (a.k.a. Old Blood & Guts) Ellsbury.
“There’s so much reported and so much time spent on Jacoby,’’ Francona said Sunday. “I don’t think people realize how extraordinary what we have going on here is.’’
That’s all good. It’s also code for “How fast can we ship Ellsbury’s butt out of here?’’ Every time the manager makes a big deal out of Pedroia and Co., he’s highlighting the ballclub’s disappointment with Ellsbury.
The situation with the talented outfielder has become absurd. What does Ellsbury’s agent (Scott Boras) think?
“I’ve not heard any of that from anyone,’’ Boras said as he sat in his private suite behind home plate. “Jacoby Ellsbury is a gamer. He illustrated that by coming back and playing with broken ribs.’’
Boras insisted that Ellsbury’s rehab stint at Athletes’ Performance Institute in Arizona was the ballclub’s idea. He also said, “cooperation with the Red Sox has been excellent.’’ I asked him if he was concerned about the public relations beating his client is taking in Boston and he said, “I can’t dictate how fans and journalists think, but it’s certainly in Jacoby’s interest to play as much as he can.’’
Too bad Boras can’t speak for Hideki Okajima. Okie spit the bit Sunday, then refused to explain his strange decisions regarding his fielding of Mariners bunts. This prompted media members to complain about Okie’s lack of accountability, which in turn prompted assorted fanboys to say the writers are being crybabies. Let’s go over this one more time people: if players don’t explain themselves, they are snubbing you, not us. Personally, I don’t care if any of these guys ever say another word. We only ask them stuff because we presume you want to know. If you are OK with a guy turtling after coughing up a lead, then I’m OK with it.
Finally, hats off to the ship of fools known as the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. The RIEDC yesterday pledged a $75 million loan guarantee to lure Curt Schilling’s game company (the one with no games) to the Ocean State. It’s the best demonstration of sports sycophants gone wild with public money since the yahoos in Connecticut promised to give Bob Kraft the world to move his team to Yo Adriaen’s Landing in Hartford.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.