Christ and just when I thought it was safe to allow myself around sharp objects and miscellaneous household items that could be used for self-immolation...--Soxaholix
"Shit happens," Pedro Martinez shrugged at his press conference last night. "If you'll pardon me the word."
Pedro is pardoned, at least in my book, both for his expletive (not like I should really pass judgement on that), and for his start last night, in which he gave up two home runs. He's pardoned because no pitcher, even if he is Pedro Martinez, should be expected not to give up at least a couple of runs in the course of a start.
No, it's other things about last night's game that bother me--and bother me very much. One is the utter inability of our offense--again--to face up to a rookie pitcher they'd never seen before. Scott Kazmir, a smirking 20-year-old lefty, utterly embarrassed the Sox lineup for five scoreless innings, marked by weak pop-ups, a boatload of strikeouts, and one memorable 3-2 double play (anguished cries of SVEUM!! ring anew throughout the land). The Red Sox $130 million payroll literally couldn't buy a run until quite late in the game. It was, in a word, ridiculous.
It was also--to use two more words--deeply disconcerting. The Sox looked like their inept mid-June selves rather than the juggernaut they'd become in August and September, singing that same tired song--errors and LOB.
The worst moment of the night, for me, came after the home plate umpire was hit in the face mask by a foul ball off the bat of Johnny Damon. Tampa Bay catcher Toby Hall strolled out to the mound to meet with his pitcher, as is customary when an umpire needs time to shake off a painful deflection. While he was there, either he or Kazmir spotted Kevin Millar wandering aimlessly out near shortstop, twiddling his thumbs and waiting for the action to resume. When the game was re-started, it was with a quick pickoff throw from Kazmir to the second baseman; Millar was out, and the inning was over.
That was the worst thing, because it happened not because Millar is a slow runner or because Johnny struck out, or because Dale Sveum sometimes forgets to bring his brain to the ballpark, but because Millar's head just wasn't in the game. That's what's terrifying--if it were a matter of being simply physically bested, it might be something I could come to terms with, but it seems like the difficulty here is psychological; with two apocalyptic series coming up with the Yankees, which are sure to be marked by fisticuffs and home run derbies, as well as the pesky Orioles to consider, the Sox appear to be slacking in this series against the Devil Rays. Don't believe me? Well, Kevin Millar opened his big, fat mouth again, and this is what he said:
There's nothing more exciting than that series in New York coming up, and when they come to our place. I can't wait. I don't care who you are. We still have Tampa, I know that. But you better be ready for that series, and you better be getting excited for that series. Everybody in this locker room is, and they can say what they want to say to be politically correct, but you know what? It's going to be a showdown.
Okay, well, I suppose I can't fault Millar for being honest. It doesn't matter what any of them say if this is the truth. But if it's true, this statement worries me to no end. You don't win the World Series by slouching against weaker teams. You don't win the World Series by giving yourself a week off when there are games to be played. And you certainly don't win the division that way.
Their performance last night, and the seeming myopia against anything non-Yankees has sent doubts creeping into my mind about the viability of this team in general. They need to take on all comers, the way they did in August, be they the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Baltimore Orioles, or the New York Yankees. Be they Cy Young winners or rookie newcomers. This is how the Patriots won it all last year--with a fiercely determined one-game-at-a-time mindset. It doesn't matter what your record is, or what individual statistics are; the mindset matters just as much. Last night makes me truly concerned that the 2004 Red Sox just might not have it.