Not a good week so far. The Red Sox did take two against the Yankees. The rest of the news wasn’t as good.
When he was on the team, I thought that Manny Ramirez made the Red Sox more interesting. Who else would hide in the Green Monster? Or inexplicably cutoff a throw from center? Or high-five a fan in Baltimore while doubling up a runner? Winning’s great, but it is even better if it is done in an entertaining manner.
I once called Satchel Paige Free Darko. Manny’s had some of the same characteristics, but I’m not sure if Free Darko is the correct term. I may be misinterpreting their philosophy. The Germans probably have a word for the quality in players I’m talking about; great, or very good at the least, and someone you’d make the extra effort to go see.
He scuffled with Kevin Youkilis and the traveling secretary in ’08 and was traded to the Dodgers. He was suspended 50 games in ’09 because he tested positive for hCG; a fertility drug. If the internets aren’t lying, steroid users take this after a steroid cycle to start testosterone production back up. Late last year, he was exiled to the White Sox.
This winter he signed with Tampa, as did Johnny Damon. He was supposed to return to Boston this week along with Damon, but abruptly retired. I heard about it from Joe Castiglione while listening to the home opener on WVEI. He didn’t say it at first, but later on he read a report that Manny had failed another drug test. I’m scratching my head over this. This is like driving through an announced DWI checkpoint after stopping at a bar for a few cold ones.
The Ray’s didn’t need Manny’s presence when they came to Boston. They swept the rain-shortened series. My seat of the pants prediction system had them second to the Red Sox in the division and a strong contender for the wild card over the Yanks, Orioles and Jays.
I haven’t written about the concept of Maranvillains or the beauty of baseball lately. I’m no longer sure that this is why I watch baseball or if that was ever the case. But this Patrick Sullivan article from last year brought to mind the antithesis of Rabbit Maranville and his heirs: Dice-K.
Also, just like so many other Red Sox fans, Daisuke drives me nuts. He works slowly and walks way too many batters. In his final four seasons for the Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka averaged 2.3 walks issued per nine innings. For the Red Sox, his 162-game average BB/9 has jumped to 4.3. Combine the walks, his inefficiency and his unreliability from a health standpoint and it’s all just very maddening.
I like to think that I have a healthy attitude towards sports as part of a balanced life. I’m not one who lives and dies with my favorite sports teams, but even I find him maddening. Some day I’ll have to come up with a list of these guys. As frustrating as Matsuzaker (/Remdawg) might be, Steve Trachsel was probably worse.
But Monday night’s game ended early. I’m not sure what was going on in Dice-K’s head, but he was grooving the ball in the first inning. The wheels fell off in the second and I ran some errands. There was no tension in the game. You knew early on what the likely decision would be.
Tim Wakefield is sort of the anti-Manny. He’s not flashy; doesn’t stir up any controversy. Bill Plaschke and Mikey Adams probably like him. And he might secretly be paying the Red Sox to pitch. But his starts were appointment television over the years for me. Why? He throws the knuckleball.
The knuckler is going the way of the polar bear, but it is one of my favorite pitches to watch. Wakefield and R. A. Dickey used it as their bread and butter pitch. Dickey gets the ball moving in the 70s, but the average Wakefield pitch goes about the Interstate speed limit. But he is a long reliever now; Terry Francona’s loss cigar. (Come to think of it, those guys may be going the way of the polar bear, too.) Wake couldn’t top the bleeding either. The only question remaining in the late innings was whether or not Rays leftfielder Sam Fuld would hit for the cycle. He didn’t, but he did better by a base. He hit two doubles, a triple, and a homer. The end result was a 16-5 loss. Tuesday’s game was a return to baseball normalcy, but Boston was still on the losing end of a 3-2 game.
Carl Crawford is only batting .152 with one double and two walks. People say that he’s pressing. I’m not sure what that means. I have a mental image of two hoopsters trying to trap a point guard in the backcourt when I hear that term. I’m not Walt Hriniak, but I do wonder if his extreme open stance is killing him. I’m not the only one who thinks this. Some folks are talking about the same issue in this Rotoworld thread.
The Jays are in town now. I caught a few of their games with Boston last year and they have an exciting approach to baseball. They may not take pitches much, but Jose Bautista and company rake. ‘Til next time, happy baseball.