Step away from the ledge, Red Sox fans. It is April 15. I know the Sox are 2 and 6, and Papi and co. are struggling. But take a deep breath and consider these points:
- Two Aprils ago, people wanted to ship Pedroia back to Pawtucket.
- Two Aprils ago, people thought J.D. Drew was the second-coming of Carl Yastremski.
- Nine Aprils ago it looked like Carl Everett was the next Ken Griffey Jr.
- Nine Aprils ago we thought Wilton Veras was the Sox thirdbaseman of the future. Remember him?
- During their 86-year championship drought, how many April championships did the Red Sox win? Lots.
Sure, all 162 games mean the same. But if the Sox went through this same stretch in June or July, nobody would be too concerned. Every year, fans magnify the importance of what happens in April, and by Memorial Day people don’t even remember what happened in April. This is a good Sox team with a ton of depth. So talk to me come Memorial Day.
Meanwhile, Daisuke’s health woes have to be cause for concern. But this is where the depth of the Sox could play a huge role in their success this season. If he needs to be out for any length of time, the Sox can turn to Clay Bucholz, who looked like a world-beater this Spring. They also have Michael Bowden in the minors, and, if things get bad, their bullpen is so good they could slide Justin Masterson into the rotation without missing a beat.
BTW, the Beckett suspension is bogus.
- Y’know, I’m starting to think the Devil Rays are for real this year.
- Sox fans have spent all year long looking at the Yankees behind us, and just waiting for the inevitable Tampa collapse. Now, with Tampa five games up on us in the loss column with just over a month to play, you have to start to wonder if the Sox can catch them. I mean, remember when Crawford and Longoria went on the DL and you thought, “First place, here we come”?
- Are the Jays really going to push the Yankees down to fourth place?
- Glad Daisuke won the other night. But I am so over these six-strikeout-five-walk-performances. Daisuke’s a very good pitcher, but it’s time to accept the fact he’s never going to be THAT pitcher. He’s certainly got The Stuff, but he does more nibbling than a lady in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
- Glad to hear Yaz is doing well after his surgery. For those who might not remember his playing days, Yaz was one bad dude. Yeah, you know about the 1967 Triple Crown and Hall of Fame status. But when some naive fans take a look at his stats, they might be underwhelmed when comparing them to today. But keep in mind Yaz played his career at a time when pitchers ruled the game; not like how hitters rule today. He was an elite hitter, he was clutch. And he was a great and gutsy fielder willing to hurl himself onto the ground or into the wall to make a play. (Anyone remember him making a catch while knocking himself unconcious? True story.)
- Last night’s game was a perfect example of the old adage that it takes everyone on the roster to win a championship (unless one of those guys is Eric Gagne). Last night, with the bullpen hurting and Daisuke back to being Daisuke, guys like Javier Lopez and David Aardsma stepped up to play key roles in an important win over the Yankees. Aardsma’s a guy who might not even be on this team in a few months. But if the Sox go on to win the division or make the playoffs by just two or three games, it is because of performances like this. And this is why when you win a championship you give everyone who appeared on your team a ring (except Eric Gagne).
- Mike Timlin is just coming off the DL, so it is too early to be worried about his woeful performances lately. That being said . . . I’m really worried about Mike Timlin.
- Sure, I’m a diehard Sox fan, but this being April, I changed the channel in the third inning to watch the season finale of Rock of Love II. It was awesome, and Brett Michaels did not disappoint, dumping the hopelessly annoying and sort of hot – but in a very store-bought, plastic, discount-mediocre-surgery-gone-wrong kinda way – Daisy, and instead choosing the charming and cute-but-not-stripper-hot Amber. Of course, Brett – being the gentleman he is – flew them both to Cancun and apparently slept with each of them before making his final decision. And this is why I tell my wife I should have had a reality show contest to decide who to marry . . . or at least who to hook-up with for a few weeks before the start of the show’s next season.
- Anyway, after the hour-and-a-half show, we turned back to the game and were amazed to see it was only the fifth inning. At first, I thought there must have been a rain delay. Then, since my wife has Daisuke on her fantasy team, I made a joke that he had walked six people. What a surprise to find out I was right. Guess it was too soon to get excited by his command the last few games. Uh oh.
- Glad to get the games back on NESN tonight. Is it a job requirement that all national baseball broadcasters have to suck?
Perhaps there is only one thing that would have made today’s incredible Opening Day at Fenway Park even better: If Big Papi’s grand slam bid had traveled another five feet.
Other than that, a Red Sox fan would have a hard time finding a flaw with today’s game. Under a clear-blue sky, we watched the Red Sox unfurl a championship banner and receive their World Series rings, something that after an 86-year drought I don’t think Sox fans will ever really take for granted no matter how many World Series we win. Daisuke pitched another gem against a fierce (albeit 0-7) Detroit Tigers lineup, and he’s looking more and more like the pitcher we’d hoped he be. And Red Sox Nation righted a terrible wrong, welcoming back Bill Buckner in one of the most touching moments ever at Fenway Park.
Buckner never should have been the scapegoat for the Game 6 collapse in the 1986 World Series. After being up by two runs and being one strike a way from winning it all, the game had been tied up and the damage had already been done by the time the ball dribbled between his legs. Rich Gedman and Bob Stanley were in large part at fault, but perhaps most of all it was Calvin Schiraldi . . . who, while wearing the visage of a frightened child, proceeded to blow both Games 6 and 7. And still, he for some reason rode in the 2004 Championship Parade. Explain that to me, please. (I booed his (a)rse loudly; the one moment of seething hatred during the most joyful of parades.)
On top of everything, Buckner has gone on to become the national symbol for choking in sports. That is a terrible shame, especially considering the career he had. He played for 21 years, and newsflash: Nobody plays that long unless they are very, very good. During his career he got 2,715 hits . . . just a handful of injury-plagued seasons from being a surefire Hall-of-Famer. In 1985, he played all 162 games and hit .299 with 16 homers and 110 rbis. And, despite his bad knees, he played in 153 games in 1986 and was a core part of that team’s success, driving in 102 runs along with a career-high 18 home runs.
On a side note, given the hobbled image we have of him, it might be surprising to know Buckner stole 18 bases in 1985. And, if I remember correctly, his 6 stolen bases in 1986 were second on a team that was notorious for not running.
Buckner was a great and gutsy player. A guy who – had he been a bit healthier throughout his career – would undoubtedly be unshrined in Cooperstown. A guy who helped carry the Sox to the brink of a championship in 1986.
We didn’t need to forgive Bill Buckner. Bill Buckner needed to forgive us. I’m glad he did.
Now, can we kick Calvin Schiraldi out of Red Sox Nation?
(On a side note: It was great to see Curtis Leskanic involved in the ceremonies today, along with Brian Daubach. My brother and I were at Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, and there never would have been a Big Papi walk-off homer had Leskanic not pitched his cojones off in the late innings of that game. My brother is still searching for a Leskanic jersey.)
Great performance by Daisuke last night. Encouraging to see him bounce back like that and to be hitting his spots, where he had missed badly in Japan. Just like we say after the bad games, this was just one game, so don’t get too excited. And the Oakland offense won’t strike fear in anyone. But his control was rather encouraging.