Dad and I were on the phone again as the game began, discussing the Gagne trade.
"Poor Kason," my dad said. "Too bad we had to let go of that kid."
"Yeah," I said, "But Gagne is a heck of a guy to be able to say is your setup man."
"True." My mother shouted something in the background.
"Your mother says they'll be sorry. She doesn't like the deal," my dad relayed to me.
"Well," I said. "I think Gagne's being brought in to replace Timlin."
"And Donnelly, don't forget."
"Right. And I heard they were going to flip MDC to Chicago for Dye, in which case they would've needed bullpen help that much more. I think Gagne was also a setup move for that one."
"Could be. We'll see. Joshie better buckle up here tonight, this kid they got goin' for the O's is pretty good."
"Joshie will be fine," I said. "I have a gut feeling." Not like him to lose twice in a row, especially coming back to Fenway.
"Well it's not necessarily him I'm worried about. Last time he pitched more than well enough to win, but nobody freakin' hit anything."
"Everybody's coming back home. He's gonna do fine."
"All right, well, we'll see. See ya."
Click. We hung up. And in the very next second, Brian Roberts hit the first pitch of the game into the right field corner for a home run.
Two seconds after that, my dad's phone was ringing again.
A little while later, after coming off the field in the third, Josh was seen brutally murdering the water cooler in the dugout. I'm sorry, but the way he bares his teeth and screams when he's all worked up like that is scary as hell sometimes. I've never seen a water-cooler tantrum quite so savagely executed. He just beat it to death. That cooler never had a prayer.
So, after having made a liar out of me when I was trying to be supportive and given up five runs to boot, AND looking like he was hurt at one point after attempting to field a bunt (prompting me to demand of him why he hated me so much all of a sudden), Beckett left the game, which only pitched us out of the frying pan and into the fire, as it were, into the Comeback that Never Was. Our now ridiculously stacked bullpen held the O's scoreless for the rest of the game, while our offense failed miserably, as it had all night, to execute.
Worse, this is beginning to be this team's trademark, as much as offensive overkill and bullpen weakness marked the 2003 team, just as dramatic comebacks marked the squad in 2004. Not good.
In the ninth, our miserable offense proceeded to lose in the worst way possible, which is after giving me hope. After Hinske eked out a walk with one out to put the winning run at the plate in the person of Julio Lugo, I thought perhaps this could be the start of some magic. This team doesn't come back, though, whispered that innate Sox-fan pessimism that I still have yet to shake on many an occasion. What about the Mother's Day Miracle? my post-World Series optimism shot back.
And so even after Julio grounded into a double play but beat out the throw to first (do we call that a fielder's choice, or what?) to make it two outs with runners at the corners, I still thought they might pull it out. I was even beginning to envision a game post for tonight about those close calls and little moments, baseball as a game of inches, nay nanometers, blah blah. (I try not to do this, as I believe it's bad mojo as well as just plain obnoxious when the outcome changes and I can't actually write what I've spent most of the night composing in my head, but sometimes I can't help it.)
No sooner had I begun to think about the idea of Dustin Pedroia perhaps adding a bit more to his fledgling Sox legend by coming up big in this situation, on the night the 2007 Red Sox finally stopped fucking around and returned to form, than he grounded the first fucking pitch back to the pitcher.
Luckily, there were no water coolers in my general vicinity. If there had been, I might have had to go medeival, too.
You just feel like they're so close. So often this season, they're been just that one teeny, tiny push from an all-day-long-ass-kicking-extravaganza. You can practically taste it. And then it never actually happens.
Yes, we are still, as ever, in first place. But it is also undeniable that this team after the trading deadline still contains a fatal flaw, one not addressed as we expected by a deal for Jermaine Dye. I'm all for hanging on to prospects, and patience in transition years. But our prospects are beginning to flower, and not every one will germinate. We're beginning to separate the wheat from the chaff. Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, for example. They were once the crown jewels of our farm system, and now (well, maybe not tonight), it looks like their exchange for Beckett and Lowell could take on the proportions of Slocumb for Varitek and Lowe.
Theo's stated philosophy on roster-building in the past has been a mixture of methods; many times he has cast off the label of SABR geek, saying that the team will spend as much as it crunches numbers. Since the great Epstein-Lucchino Schism of Aught Five, the organization has continued to publicly espouse the hybrid approach, shelling out for Matsuzaka and Drew while also beginning the year with hot prospects either on the big-club roster or headed up for a cup of coffee.
It's clear the organization is flourishing when it comes to pitching, from top to bottom. Yet even as a new crop of lower-level prospects like Buccholz and Masterson come onto our radar screens, there are some former sensations, including Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen, who have proven fair-to-middling in major league engagements. I can understand wanting to hang on to prospects in a year like 2006, when no realistic roster moves will solve the team's troubles. But this year, with the rest of the team clicking on every cylinder but one, with that feeling that has persisted since June that the Sox are just one small piece away from bursting to life, it seems the front office erred on the side of hanging on to prospects rather than bringing in that piece.
What do I know, of course. But it looks from here like this will almost definitely come back to haunt us. It feels, from my admittedly removed perspective, like the long-term plan keeps getting longer. What are we waiting for at this point? If not this year, then when?
I don't believe that Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen will be more valuable in the long run than an offensive catalyst might have been in a year when the Sox have the pitching horses to carry them deep into the postseason, and I disagree with prioritizing the future in this case. If I'm wrong, feel free to taunt me later on. But a night like tonight only backs those conclusions.
P.S. None of which, of course, is to disregard the role Joshie's little shit fit played as well. To understate things, he was clearly not in top form this evening.
As far as I can tell, he did not appear for a press conference. Which manages at once to be both a disappointment and a relief. ETA: Apparently there was a press conference, and I managed to miss it. Not sure how. I have since heard a well-bleeped clip from it, and read a recap (via Surviving Grady) that described it as "expletive-laden." With any luck someone will be able to post the footage....(she said beseechingly). I have no idea how I managed to miss what is surely Joshie's most classic press conference of all time. If someone could help me correct this problem, that would be much appreciated.
P.P.S. Having watched Wily Mo Pena (who is still stuck on this team, poor bastard) damn near kill himself while successfully fielding a ball in right field tonight, I have to say my outlook on his ever completing a moderately difficult fielding play correctly has not brightened. With all his coordination used up on gloving the ball, Wily landed hard on his face, shoulder and arm, half-somersaulting into a prone position in the field before he finally came to a stop. He gets it right, and gets his ass kicked. By the ground. Poor guy can't win for losing, as my father would say.