The first three innings were beautiful. And that's what matters.
Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo--about whom, to be honest, I had been skeptical in a potential starting spot--put in nine near-perfect outs, retiring the entire Yankees lineup in order. Meanwhile, the Sox offense drilled home four runs in the same time period, and even more encouraging than the fact that the score was four-zip going into the fourth inning was the way it had come about: efficient pitching and the ability to manufacture runs through sacrifice hitting, as well as lighting up the scoreboard with slugging.
And then the Yankees, ever prideful, brought Mariano Riviera in to shut down the Sox in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Sox fielded minor-leaguer Jason Shiell, giving the journeyman pitcher a little playing time, as is, you know, customary in exhibition games. Red Sox starters, in fact, were few and far between in this game--Kevin Millar, Manny Ramirez and Jason Varitek, the only veterans of Game 7 not riding the bench, were long gone by the sixth inning. Meanwhile, the Yankees seemed to come out with all hands on deck, including the Infamous Infield Duo--Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, to my infinite pleasure, seemed lost at third base. At one point, he even made a palms-up, "what the..." gesture toward the dugout, and then began wandering around near the base bag, undoubtedly on the shouts and/or gestures of a coach, to find the right position in unfamiliar territory. Jeter, meanwhile, made an error on what should have been a no-brainer throw to first that gave the Sox a run. He did manage to hit a home run, though--against Shiell, in what could arguably be called garbage time.
In fact, the whole thing was garbage time. Here's just one of many reality checks that can be offered about the contest: even as the Yanks' No. 2 was rounding the bases, idiotically overjoyed at taking a novice over the wall, his Sox counterpart, Nomar Garciaparra, was snapping bubblegum on the bench. Unlike the majority of the Yankees starting lineup, he didn't see one pitch from the field.
Granted, it's unrealistic to think of today's spectacle as just another pre-season warmup, what with the overflow crowd--"7,304, even though capacity at the Red Sox's spring home is 6,990", according to USA Today--and the ever-present immaturity among fans. Sometime during the seventh inning, TV broadcaster Jerry Remy reported that a scuffle resulting in police action and necessitating medical attention had taken place before the game between a New York fan and a Boston fan. The twist in this case? The fans were both young women.
It gets worse. Even as the Yankees brought in Riviera to stop the bleeding, as though this were a playoff series and not just for show (a petty move by any stretch of the imagination--even SI.com made sure to note that he rarely pitches in spring road games), Boston fans began a chant of "Let's go, Red Sox". In response, a few New York loyalists began shouting back, "Boston sucks!!"
I mean, people, get a grip.
While researching this entry, I typed "Red Sox" intoGoogle News, and was confronted with the following headlines: "Clark steals show as Yanks beat Red Sox 11 - 7" (SI.com), "Yanks pick up where they left off vs. Red Sox" (MSNBC), "Yankees beat Red Sox yet again" (Boston Globe--et tu, Brute?), and, much more accurately, "Red Sox-Yankees Circus Begins" (Minneapolis Star-Tribune). No doubt tomorrow will see a typical caterwaul of despair from the Boston media, spearheaded as usual by Dan Shaughnessy.
Okay. Forget about this being "just" Spring Training, then. Forget about the fact that it's not supposed to matter, because obviously, it does. I have to admit I can imagine a scenario in which today's game would have worried me--one in which we'd put Pedro on the mound, relieved him with Schilling, and then sent in a top-form Arroyo to close rather than to open, and the Yankees had beaten us 11-7. To read the papers, that might as well have been what took place today.
I must have been watching a different game than everyone else, if that's the case. Because what I saw was a reliever making a move to a promising starting spot on an already formidable pitching staff; a veteran, close-knit team coming back together rather seamlessly in the field, and a stellar new addition at second base (Pokey Reese, who actually played shortstop for part of the game, and has a glove that I would estimate at about a mile across). I saw our second, third and even fourth-string players holding their own against our archrival, which--lest we forget--boasts a larger budget than the small island nations from which many of the players hail. I saw Jeter and Rodriguez faltering as they rubbed elbows. I saw a Yankees offense that literally couldn't buy a base hit against the bottom of our starting pitching rotation. And I saw obnoxious Yankees fans gloating about the fact that their squad of billionaires shelled poor Jason Shiell after they had to send in their best reliever just to save face.
On second thought, though, maybe the issue here isn't that I watched a different game--maybe the difference is that, unlike those caught up in the "Yankees suck" and "sore loser" chants in the press corps as well as the stands, I actually watched the game at all.