Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lingering Thoughts

I’ve already mentioned Steve Kettmann’s wonderful book One Day at Fenway. It’s an in-depth account of a Red Sox Yankee game. Specifically, it’s the game that Manny missed with a sore throat, or something along those lines, but was spotted afterwards in a hotel bar with Luis Sojo. (At the time, the fact that Manny lived in the hotel, and the bar was the only place to get a bite to eat was left out of the stories. But, that’s not what this is about.) There’s a portion of the book that is worth revisiting these days. Hopefully Mr Kettmann won’t mind if I set the scene. It is talking about the bottom of the eighth inning of this game. Yankees had pulled ahead 8-4 in the top of the eighth. With one man out, and the bases loaded Todd Walker was the pinch hitter representing the tying run. Joe Torre had just made a pitching change to bring in lefty Gabe White, with Rivera ready in the pen. Got it? This is what Torre’s thinking as he gets back to the dugout:

“…Torre was feeling uneasy. He was not going to look over at the Red Sox dugout. That was just not something he would do, as much as he might have wanted to. Ever since Kirk Gibson limped up to home plate in the 1988 World Series, nobody could ever convince Torre that someone was unavailable in a game. You never knew. He sat there expecting any minute to hear one of his players tell him, “Manny [Ramirez] is coming out to hit.”

Jason Bay is a fine hitter. He’s better than fine. He’s a great young hitter. He’s probably a great person. I bet he treats animals and the elderly very well. Mike Lowell is a great run producer. There’s not a key spot that I would mind having him up in. But, look at that reaction. That’s not hoping that Manny was unavailable. That’s not preferring that Manny wouldn’t hit. He wouldn’t even look in the dugout! There’s only one word for it. Fear. Joe Torre feared Manny Ramirez. He had his all-world closer ready to come it, but it didn’t matter. Manny was said to be unavailable for the game, but it didn’t matter. You can talk about clubhouse chemistry, and statistics all you want. When it is all said and done, the former manager of the New York Yankees feared Manny Ramirez. That’s something that you can’t say about Mike Lowell, or Jason Bay, or any other member of the Red Sox. How much is fear worth?

As I mentioned, the Oakland A’s provided the perfect chance for the trade to look good. The Red Sox swept the overmatched A’s. Jason Bay had a fantastic series. He was all over the place, scoring runs and playing defense. Early indications are that he’ll be a wonderful player for the Sox the next couple years. I heard reports that the team just looked happier. I think that winning will make a team look happier. I think the Sox looked pretty happy sweeping Seattle, even with Manny in the clubhouse. I don’t think the Sox looked very happy losing to Kansas City, even with Jason Bay in the clubhouse.

At the end of the season, baseball isn’t a Disney movie. The happiest team doesn’t win. The best team does.

Random thought…can anyone say that Julio Lugo is overpaid if the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie twins got $14 million just to take pictures of them? If you take baseball salaries in context with other entertainers, they don’t look so bad. At least Lugo has to do more than smile pretty.

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