Just popping in for a sec, because though I'm on self-imposed hiatus from Sox watching (although the fact that they won last night when I was being deliberately avoidant may be a sign I need to steer clear for a while), I'd be totally remiss if I didn't note the passing of Alan Embree.
As baseball transactions go, this is one of the least wrenching kind: an overall good player with a good disposition is let go for purely technical reasons and sent with best wishes on to other things. Compared with some of the other trades our tired eyes have seen, this one was sweet and amicable.
Has Embree sniped to the media? Has Dirt Dogs begun reporting on EmbreeGate? Even Doug Mientkiewicz didn't escape a utility role with the Sox without drama. Embree has been a precious exception.
And he was one of The Twenty-Five. 7.88 ERA or no, he should not be allowed to fade away without notice.
Some things I will remember about Alan Embree -
- An interview in which he spoke about visiting Fenway as a member of the Cleveland Indians, and actually being frightened under the bullpen roof with the insanity going on in the bleachers above.
- The plug continually in his cheek for most of his Red Sox career. At times it looked to be about the size of a tennis ball, so large it pulled his mouth open.
- The way he looked like a hell-raisin' outlaw on the mound, eyes narrowed, mouth pooched out around his monstrous plug of dip, and sounded jarringly like a grade-school teacher in postgame interviews.
- His balls-out performance as a member of the Timlin - Embree Dynamic Duo in the 2003 ALDS against Oakland. Specifically, his appearance in relief of Game 1, late at night, chewing and snarling and holding down the A's at least long enough for Derek Lowe to blow the save.
- Embree in Game 5: "For whatever reason, the camera zoomed in on his growling face before just about every pitch, and as he came set, he would look, without realizing it of course, directly into the camera, directly out of the TV at me, and I would lock eyes with him, and despite all my showy pessimism, I would look into his steely blue eyes and think, please." And he came through, even against right-handed batters.
- And, of course, his unforgettable moment as the pitcher on the mound at the conclusion of the historic, unbelievable 2004 ALCS. His pumped fist in the air, Varitek flying through the air to land on him, my break from incoherent jubilation to holler at Varitek, "No don't hurt him!", and Embree's comments postgame on being jumped by the mammoth catcher - "I got to hold that big boy in my arms for a while," Embree smirked. "He weighs a little bit."
For about the umpteenth million time, Surviving Grady put something best. "Our grandchildren will know the name Alan Embree. And I'm fine with that."