Sunday, April 29, 2007

Wasted Chances

I was going to write about yesterday's game immediately after its depressing conclusion, but frankly, I was so mad that I couldn't. Also, I didn't see the need to write a whole venom-laden post that would sound ridiculous and overwrought the next day, a post I'd probably want to remove from the blog. So I decided to wait till today to address it.

That said, I'm still really angry. I know, I know. The Sox weren't going to win all 18 games against the Yankees. We all know that, and anybody who tries to remind me of that is risking a severe neck punch beating, because I hate stupid people who say stupid shit like that. So save it.

That said, man, did we let one get away yesterday. Against a reeling, disheveled, shell-shocked team, we really fucked up. Against a team with a staggeringly tired bullpen, we knocked out their third-rate, double-A starter and put them in a position of needing nine innings of relief. Against an overpriced, posting-fee disappointment (theirs, not ours), we looked listless and feeble. Against a team as back on its heels as we've seen it in the last 12 or 13 years, we couldn't do what really great teams do: we couldn't twist the knife. We let them breathe for a second. Now, with Tavarez going today, there's a very real possibility they take two of three and we leave New York only up 4.5 games.

I know it's only April; but I also know that the last few years when we've started hot and the Yanks have started slow, we've never buried them. Entering yesterday's game, they were ripe for the burying, but nobody stepped up. Not Wake, with his six walks, not Papi snoozing through two straight doubleplay at-bats, not Lowell booting two fairly routine plays (one a tailor-made 5-4-3 twin-killing), not Drew who is an offensive freefall and not Francona who waited too long to start pinch-hitting. Only Coco showed much fight in him, getting tossed for arguing (correctly) that Bruce Froemming's 8th inning strike zone, in the middle of a rally, was a fucking joke. (Thirty-seven years behind the plate is enough, Bruce. You need to hang it up, because not one of those three called strikes caught the plate. But I guess Posada pulled his glove back far enough over the black to fool your tired eyes. Maybe next time, Bruce, concentrate more on the balls and strikes and less on the fact that you're "mic'd up" for a God-awful FOX broadcast.)

It's pretty well-known that I am one of the Sox' toughest critics and a very curmudgeonly fan. So I'm probably being too harsh, or expecting too much. But last year, when we had injury and performance issues, the Yankees came to Fenway and absolutely buried us, left us for dead. That's what good teams do, given the chance. We had our chance this weekend, and, regardless of what happens today, we showed we weren't really up to it. Will we be up to the challenge later in the season when the Yanks are healthier and, presumably, trade-deadline fortified? I don't know, but man, I'd love to be building a bigger lead now, when we have a gift-wrapped opportunity to do so.

I reread parts of "Faithful" a couple weeks ago, and amidst the mediocre three month portion of the 2004 season, Stewart O'Nan keeps insisting that some games are more important than others. They all count the same, wins or losses, but some games just mean more. That game yesterday wasn't just another win or loss. I put a lot of stock in symbolic wins, or statement wins, whatever you want to call them. The first four wins against the Yanks this season told them that no lead is safe, that we'll keep coming no matter what. Yesterday was our chance to make a statement that we'll keep the pressure on all season, that once they fall behind us, there's no catching up. But in the moments in which that message was ready, no voice was found to pass it along. So here we sit, on the verge of losing this series, on the verge of giving them a reason to lift their heads a little, to look over the standings tomorrow and say to themselves, "See, that's not so bad." I don't know about you, but I was hoping they'd be saying to themselves, "Man, we are in serious trouble..." I guess we'll find out today what the Red Sox think they should be saying.


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