(And, as an aside, watching Jorge Posada throw a ball about 32 feet down the third-base line while vainly trying to nail Hall makes me think that the Tampa Bay Rays are going to have an awful lot of fun with him. Game One of that series may never end.)
And then, well, then Jonathan Papelbon came in and brought us all back to the Land Of Mordor one more time. Was he squeezed? Yes. Does it matter? No. One groundball and he's out of the inning. Meanwhile, upper echelons continue to be convinced that Daniel Bard is made of candyglass and cannot be expected to pitch on two consecutive nights the way that rock, Hideki Okajima, is. Bard's the closer. Now. This minute. And until he burns out or whatever else. I knew I never should have turned away from those shows where guys talk about nickel packages and dime schemes and other monetary metaphors.
The bullpen gate opens...
Well, Dan Haren's getting to Mickey's childhood home just in time to pitch against the Red Sox. You have to love a 29-year old pitcher who's already been involved in two trades involving 13 players and already is on his fourth team. From here, though, this looks like a swindle for the Anaheims, if only because they got precisely what they needed at precisely the correct time to do so, what with Scott Kazmir's being out and all. The way things are running for the Red Sox, Haren will immediately rediscover what made him an All Star three times.
The trip's been an utter disaster -- except for that brief period in which it looked like the Mariners might beat each other to a pulp, allowing the Sox to escape the ballpark with a forfeit. Jon Lester pitched the best game of his career, including his no-hitter, and lost. Daisuke Matsuzaka walked one too many men, but it was another solid third-spot-in-the-rotation performance that should have been good enough, except that the offense went vaporous again and Hideki Okajima re-ignited the debate over whether or not major-league hitters have figured him out or whether he's just lost it for good.
(I'm with Terry Francona here. Daniel Bard has thrown too many innings to have been tossed into yesterday's game. The manager's not wrong in expecting Okajima to rise to that situation.)
The worst thing now is that, at its beginnings, the road trip set itself up as well as a vital 10-game, West Coast road trip could be set up. Oakland and Seattle came first, so Boston could have built some lovely momentum going into the tougher series with the Angels. Now, having given away at least three games they could have won, they pretty much need a sweep to avoid catastrophe. And Dan Haren gets his American League reintroduction against a team that scored 13 runs in over a week. Nice.
Back when I lived in Milwaukee, the Triple-A team for the Brewers played in Denver. This is what I remember about that -- the big club never got either power numbers or pitching numbers out of their farm team that they really could trust. The altitude screwed everything up, and my undergraduate years were filled with watching robust first-basemen come up in September having hit 50 home runs in AAA ball, only to find they had warning-track power at sea -- or in this case, really big lake -- level.
Which is why I'm not panicking (yet) over the trouble Jonathan Papelbon has had the last couple of nights against the Rockies -- and that is the case even though my fan-crush on the way Daniel Bard throws the ball has begun to annoy my friends and loved ones. I will grant you that blowing two saves in as many nights -- even though only one of them cost the team a ballgame -- is not something you see every day, unless, of course, you have the Eric Gagne channel on your basic cable package. But the Denver is simply an geographical fluke in the major leagues, and very few numbers out of there can be trusted. So we should probably see how Papelbon fares in the teeth of the Pacific gales this weekend before jumping to any real conclusions. Of course, it is nice to have an heir apparent...
Problems in the heavy air...
I will never understand this. Why is the truck's leaving such a big, organic deal? Why is it that the truck's pulling away signals the start of spring, and the renewal of earth, and all those other things besides spitting and cursing that baseball represents? What if the truck just takes off one day, never to return, and we see no sign of it until David Ortiz's PlayStation turns up on eBay? Does baseball disappear? Does spring never come? The departure of trucks is not universally considered a good sporting omen. Ask the football fans in Baltimore.
Shouldn't it be the arrival of the truck that truly signifies all of that is good and well-marketed about the game? Shouldn't that be the first sign of rebirth, renewal and $7 cups of light beer? And, as a bonus, if this were the case, it would be the Fort Myers media that got stuck with covering this nonsense every year.
1) We don't give relievers long-term deals: Objection, your Honor. Irrelevant. The team is being rebuilt as a pitching and defense juggernaut. The team has an established young closer nearly at the top of his game. (Hey, Pap? The splitter? You looked under the cushions on the sofa?) Not incidentally, he's someone who's already made compromises as to his earning potential. The new context makes the latter situation more vital. This team has a weird and maddening inclination to fix things that aren't broken, c.f. the shortstop position.
2) Daniel Bard: No. Don't do this. Leave him out of it. There is no bigger Bard supporter than me, but there's no reason to pit these two against each other, even if it's only for rhetorical purposes in order to save yourselves some money. You're probably going to win at arbitration anyway. Do not make trouble for yourselves.
3) You're Locked Up For Two Years. Take A Hike, Jack: See above. This is insulting. This is the kind of thing that festers. Do not make this argument, even sub rosa. Red Sox management has a tendency to do the Superior Dance at the wrong times, often while discussing why J.D. Drew was such a bargain. Keep it that in check, please.
This is a vital player who's already taken one for the team as regards his contract. (Put him on the market and he makes $10 million, easily.) If you have to go to arbitration with him, go gently.
And that's not even to mention that, every year, the Hall Of Fame holds its election and a festival of sanctimony and self-importance breaks out of a kind unseen since the last time Joe Lieberman saw himself in a mirror -- assuming he can, which I doubt.
Let's start with the basics. Journalists have no business -- absolutely none -- deciding who should or should not be included in what is essentially a promotional scheme for the institution they cover. This has very little to do with competence, and much more to do with professional ethics. Baseball writers should no more be deciding on who should be in the HOF than some Pentagon correspondents ought to be awarding the Silver Star. The answer to the obvious question of who should vote is: I could care less. (If I hadn't lost my golden BBWAA ticket in 1989, two years short of eligibility, I planned to have my bartender cast my first ballot.) My own preference would be to have one Big Baseball Person decide every year, the way certain annual compilation volumes have guest editors.
And that's not even to mention the horrible effect that voting for this thing has on many of the electors. My lord, people. This is a museum. It is for old things. It is for dead people. It is not a vehicle through which you can settle grudges, elevate enthusiasms, or remain 12-years old forever. What happened to Buck O'Neil was a disgrace, and what's happening to Marvin Miller now is an offense against history, which I take much more seriously than I do baseball.
The only good thing about this year's election is that the sole inductee, Andre Dawson, only had a OBP as high as .360 once in his career. Any defeat for the sports-as-math-homework crowd is a good one. Elsewhere, well, let's just all agree that Bert Blyleven has about the same chance of ever getting in as Mark McGwire and I do. The reasons why are murky, which is another reason why this whole process -- and many of the participants in it -- needs a high-colonic. And anyone who sent in a blank ballot should be a subject of mockery and derision all the days of their lives. What, these guys couldn't find a bartender who wanted the job?