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Red Sox end one error, start another

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  April 9, 2013 09:40 PM

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Call it the end of an error.

Wednesday night the Red Sox sellout streak gets tossed on top of the pile of unsold Fenway Bricks.

The "streak" began on May 15, 2003 and has lasted 794 games (820 if you count the postseason) thanks to magic moments, magical baseball and a few magic tricks.

There isn't much left from the bad old days.

Bobby V. gone - check.

Carl Crawford gone - check.

Josh Beckett gone - check.

RIP Streak. If only it was 2009.

Even if Fenway is legitimately packed, the Red Sox need to needle the streak.

The fact that the Red Sox have been telegraphing the end of the sellout/tickets distributed streak as the second game of the year for several weeks is the best evidence that it has about as much legitimacy of the back of A-Rod's baseball card.

If you know when a sellout streak is going to end well in advance, it's not too hard to keep it going when upper-right-field resembles a meeting of the "Rick Pitino Fan Club - Boston Chapter."

It's the Sidd Finch of streaks and carries the believability of Barry Bonds's 73 home runs in 2001, or a Manny Ramirez PhD. It belongs in Cooperstown, right next to Charlie Finley's orange baseballs, the photo of Eddie Gaedel and Dice-K's Gyro Ball.

On a grand scale, the streak's end is last act of the grand illusion. It was the nuclear fuel rod that powered so many of the distortions and so much of disingenuousness spun by Larry, Tom and John during the past three playoff-less seasons. Each game added to it cost the Red Sox goodwill and respect. In theory, a 794-game sellout streak would be something to celebrate. The problem was this streak was just, a theory.

The Red Sox are all the rage these days, as opposed to triggering all the rage. It seems nothing can go wrong. Even when they lose, it's either because of two future Hall of Fame pitchers or the unstoppable combination of Lackey and Aceves.

Last year, everything they touched turned to 10-day-old Fenway Franks. This year, Fenway Franks are 2-for-$5 and kids eat free through April.

Coming in May - parking under $50.

Even when phenom du jour Jackie Bradley Jr. is taken out the lineup on Opening Day, his replacement, Daniel Nava-va-voom launches a three run shot that appeared off the bat like it was headed for Cambridge before it landed in a dumpster across Landsdowne Street.

Right next to the sellout streak.

The ball was retrieved. The streak will stay put.

Manager John Farrell looked more genius than Dan Duquette and Theo Epstein combined with that swap.

One of my favorite images from Opening Day was Farrell standing alone at home plate after his introduction. He received a loud and joyous ovation. The rush came right through the flat screen. There was nothing but confidence and certainty in his posture and appearance.

He was, at 6-foot-4 and somewhere around 220 pounds, quite large and in charge. Master and commander indeed.

All the talk from Fort Myers, New York, Toronto and Fenway has been of a complete turnaround in the clubhouse. Better living through chemistry. But it all can be stripped down to the fact that the Red Sox now have an adult running the team on a day-to-day basis.

Need more evidence of Farrell's golden touch? Last year, Jon Lester was at the epicenter of the team's collapse. His four-home run, 11-run, four-inning effort against the Blue Jays was the stuff of 2012 legend. The day of Farrell's introductory press conference, he spoke of issues he noticed in Lester's delivery while he was managing the Blue Jays.

Hell, Valentine never noticed when Lester was pitching and he was manager of the Red Sox.

Lester closed spring training with six innings of perfect baseball against Tampa Bay in his final regular-squad start. He's 2-0 with two earned runs allowed in 12 innings pitched at Toronto and New York. Clay Buchholz (2-0, 0.64) has been just as effective, and the pitchers have combined for 25 strikeouts and a .184 opponent batting average.

Lester appears leaner while Buchholz looks physically stronger. Again, their magic number is 400 combined innings, 30 wins and a combined 4.50 ERA.

As always, the biggest threat to the Red Sox these days appears to be the Red Sox. The back end of the rotation remains full of hope and expectation. There's hope Ryan Dempster can quickly adjust to Boston. John Lackey left Saturday's game with a sore arm and he was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to April 7, , and will miss Thursday's scheduled start vs. Tampa Bay. Since Aceves will take his place, this might be worse than imagined.

The first really big move of the Red Sox regular season came Wednesday when the Red Sox activated Stephen Drew and sent Jose Iglesias down to Pawtucket.

Incredibly, the Drew brothers are continuing to wreak havoc on the Red Sox. The Red Sox paid J.D. Drew $70 million over five years for one grand slam (Yes, he was clutch in the Red Sox comeback against Tampa Bay in Game 5 back in 2008, but they lost that series). So why can't they pay his brother $9 million to sit on the bench?

That's $79 million for one grand slam and the demotion of Iglesias.

Money well spent.

Maybe Stephen was adopted?

Iglesias is hitting .465 (9 for 21) in seven games. Even though his nine hits have gone a combined 18 feet, he still has a 1.026 OPS. His defense has been even better. During the Red Sox pre-game show, Eck said Iglesias has the potential to be the next Ozzie Smith - at least in terms of his defense. From one Hall of Famer to another as Eck and Ozzie were once teammates. And when Iglesias gets on 46.7 percent of the time, he remains a threat to steal, or better, break up a double-play at second or make it from first to third on a base hit to right.

So naturally, since Iglesias would be No. 5 in the American League with his current average plus two more plate appearances and is flashing leather like Smith, he's a perfect candidate for demotion to allow the promotion of the second-best player in the Drew family.

Farrell is following his boss' lead on this one. Ben Cherington inexplicably gave Drew $9 million for this season. Drew was going to play once healed from his concussion if Iglesias hit .900 with 12 home runs with 22 RBI last week.

Drew was the designated starter and got hurt.

Farrell was not going to allow someone to lose his starting spot because of an injury. This goes way beyond what's best for the team on the field at this moment. Farrell likely wants to send a message to the other position players that they won't be cast aside if they suffer an injury. The likely effect is that the veteran players won't hold back knowing their starting jobs are safe if they sit for a week with a sprained wrist. Not a bad philosophy, perhaps. But it's not the best move in this case.

There's no baseball reason to sit Iglesias in favor of Drew. The Red Sox were compelled to compound the mistake they made in signing Drew by playing him now at the expense of the here. Having a shortstop who can field better than he can hit would be a welcomed change. Even Smith, who finished his career with a .262 batting average and 2,460 hits, didn't bat over .260 until he was 30.

It would have been nice for Farrell to say to Cherington, "Sorry, son, but I'm sticking with the kid."

But he won't. At least Farrell is decisive. And when you're decisive, you're also divisive. The "Drew or Iglesias" debate is the hot topic for the spoken and written Red Sox punditry. Another positive sign. When was the last time there was a legitimate baseball debate in this town about something on the field?

Like the end of the sellout streak, Drew's spot in the lineup Wednesday night will not be a surprise. Last season, even when the manager made a decision you thought was sound, there was so much baggage in the way it was impossible to believe in it. Passive-aggressive behavior all the way around.

They were "Flipping Boston" 162 times a year.

So many things have changed so quickly into 2013. The team is 5-2. The players are in shape. Fans have watched with clear eyes and full hearts during spring training, on NESN and at Fenway Park on Opening Day.

This season has also brought a level of stability and predictability to 4 Yawkey Way and those who congregate there on game days.

They know Drew will be playing at shortstop tonight, in front of 30-something-thousand fans.

But it won't be called a "sellout."

As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail me at obnoxiousbostonfan@hotmail.com.

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Obnoxious Boston Fan offers a fun, unique and biting perspective on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and whatever else people are talking about in the world of sports. We More »
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