What the Foulke?
The Sox are in first place today, thanks to a Baltimore loss, and in spite of the fact that they are short-handed and still seem to be making some serious mental lapses on the field.
Surprise: not everyone is happy. According to Hench's Hardball over at BDD:
How the hell do the Red Sox repeatedly drift into vapor lock in critical games against the team we most need to beat? In the span of 11 months, just off the top of my head, the Sox have had four separate outfielders lose track of the number of outs. Two of them have done it twice. And it is always excused and laughed off as "just one of those things." Well, it’s "just one of those things" that should never happen and might cost us the game that keeps us out of the playoffs.
Though he has a point somewhere in there, Hench is a real gloom and doomer--his previous column was a veritable classic of Chicken-Little thinking:
But this year is different. You see, in 2002 and 2003 I had very high hopes that felt dashed on Opening Day. This year the opener just confirmed what I've suspected ever since The Deal not only fell through but became the The Tom Hicks Subsidizes the Yankees with the Blessing of Bud Selig Deal: the Sox are a flawed, fragile, petulant team that can't hang with either the Yankees or the Angels.
In contrast, here is Ed on the same topic:
It's not that I'm blase. It's that I'm more from the Zen school of thought with respect to human fallibility. For example, had not Kapler so embarrassed himself with forgetting how many outs there were in that inning against the Yankees Monday, and had he not had such a strong desire to vindicate himself in front of his teammates, would he have had the wherewithal to hit the clutch single that brought in the winning run?
This is why I love Ed.
Ultimately, though, Red Sox Nation seems to put itself in a hopeless bind each season: not only do we expect our team to win it all, but we expect them to be perfect in doing so. We expect every game to be a textbook example of baseball, out after out, pitch after pitch. We expect every hitter to step to the plate and blast out a base hit, every single game. We expect every pitch Pedro throws to be a called third strike on a nasty changeup.
Sometimes I think we get so lost in this insatiable need for perfection that we lose sight of the ultimate goal: winning it all. And you need look no further than Foxboro, Massachusetts for evidence that, as my mother likes to say, "done is better than perfect."
The Patriots played ugly football--but they played it better than everyone. Peyton Manning, on the other hand, played beautiful football, attaining the loftiest heights of passer rating, making hot-dog passes, doing more tricks than a circus seal between the stripes, and when he came into Foxboro for the Conference Championship, he was about as useful as a ballerina on pointe shoes on the field. Out of his element in a game played with true grit, Manning threw more passes to Patriots cornerback Ty Law than any of his actual receivers.
So what matters more? You do the math.
What we forget in all the self-flagellation over Game 7 was that the Yankees went on to lose to the Marlins in the World Series. We can flatter ourselves that the exhaustion and letdown following the ALCS was a factor, but the truth of the matter is that the Marlins played ugly, scrappy, nasty baseball. They played "small ball", they put a 21-year-old baby on the mound for a complete game (can you imagine the sabermetrics schizophrenia over such a move being made in Boston?), and they won. Maybe it wasn't Peyton Manning in the playoffs. Maybe it wasn't even the Yankees of yesteryear. Maybe it wasn't Game 6 in 1975. But they accomplished what we couldn't.
Honestly, I have to say I'm happy with the way things worked out last night. Don't get me wrong--I'm more than a little concerned that Keith Foulke has played in 8 out of the last 9 games for the Sox, and worried that by the time we really need him in a closing role, he'll be either unavailable, hurt or useless--but I'm working fiercely hard to find my Zen. Because we won. Without Trot. Without Nomar. Without Manny or Ortizzle or Mueller hitting like themselves. Without spectacular catches. Without pure, technical, beautiful, fundamental baseball prowess.
Despite it all, we won. As a Patriots fan, I can tell you that bodes well.