(Reuters photo / Boston.com)
Okay, so add Saturday's game to the long list of classic showdowns that forms this rivalry (and Friday's, too, but Saturday was the game in which we embarrassed one of their best pitchers (well, two if you count Joba Chamberlain's muffed attempt at a home-run catch out in the bullpen), so I'm focused on that one). As in most of them, people got hurt. And hit. In this game, though, people were not only hit with the ball, but Eric Hinske (above) and Jacoby Ellsbury both laid devastating tackles on Jorge Posada at the plate. Hinske got the bigger shot in, but Ellsbury got the added bonus of being called safe after he kicked Posada's leg out of the way and touched home before Posada could tag him.
Excellent. Yes. Stomp them. This is what we've been needing for, oh, weeks.
Speaking of Ellsbury, my dad, whose binkyism for Ellsbury grows with each passing hour, left me a message that could just as easily, in parts, have been directed at Red Sox brass:
Now, we've all had a good chuckle at Josh Beckett's expense on many an occasion around here. He makes it hard not to laugh at him sometimes, what with his cussin', fit-havin', stuff-chewin', inarticulately awesome ways. And I've seen some material on "the shows", as they say, this week--like scaring the living bejesus out of a Make-A-Wish Foundation kid Curt brought into the clubhouse--that was just more fodder for the Joshie Is a Nutcase file.
But what he did yesterday earns him his first serious stripes, if you will, as a young staff ace--proving the stopper in a game with huge competitive and psychological implications for his team. He came out spitting nails, eyes narrowed, and weilding a devastating curveball among a mix of skillfully executed pitches. It has since been remarked that this win, over his only fellow 18-game winner, was also a career move for Beckett, as getting to 19 wins ahead of Wang may have tipped Cy Young votes in his favor.
My favorite personal moment for Josh was his body language after beaning Giambi in retaliation for Youkilis. I believe that the Youk drilling was a mistake; Joshie just probably got all fired up just remembering how pissed he was at Joba Chamberlain the last time Youk got drilled, or something. After clipping the Roided-Up Buttmonkey on the right elbow (good choice, Josh), he took two or three deliberate strides towards his veiny, inflated opponent as if to say, and I'd be happy to fight you as well. Which, of course, serves to deter a fight, since baseball players don't pick actual fights in all but the rarest of cases.
In any event, both the victory and serving as the team's official 95-mph messenger amounted to the same thing: leadership. Leadership, attitude, toughness, and a will that practically spoke out loud: not today. Not on my watch. That is enough of this foolishness in my house.
And so while I may rag on him for not knowing the difference between "alteration" and "altercation," today my only thought for him, wherever he is, amounts to: Seriously, Josh. That was wicked awesome.
And thank you.
Because finally--FINALLY--this town got a win into its system, which took the edge off just the tiniest, but most vital, little bit going into tonight's Thunderous Calamity of Sports, i.e. the San Diego Chargers vs. the New England Patriots and the Yankees Plus Roger Clemens vs. Curt Schilling and the Red Sox.
Speaking of the Patriots, I haven't been writing much over here about them since I've got this new gig with MVN, but I will say that I've found Bill Belichick's behavior fascinating since the league fined him the maximum (and historical record) $500,000 and draft picks for, well, cheating on the field last weekend.
It has been a depressing week to be a Patriots fan, probably the single most depressing week of the Belichick era. If I had to pick a single way to describe my feelings on the matter, it would be "excruciating embarrassment." I make no excuses for the Patriots or Belichick and have written about this and discussed this at length on MVN.
However, one thing I found myself chewing over last night about the Belichick situation is how informative this week's events have been about how his mind works, especially when you look at his behavior following the league's ruling and the commissioner's leveling of a stiff penalty. Belichick put in a truly pathetic press conference Wednesday, deflecting questions with the robotlike demeanor that's earned him so much love in the sports pages. He released curt, terse statements.
My first reaction was that he couldn't think that he can keep making statements about 'a misinterpretation of the rules' and not clarify with further detail. I, for one, wanted to know exactly what he expects us to think he thought he was doing. Without that clarification, I also have trouble believing he wasn’t using it for the game in progress.
Then again, his statements did contain apologies, for perhaps the first time in my recollection. Clearly he's taken this seriously and knows how badly he fucked up. If he didn't, the heartbreaking statement released by Robert Kraft might clue him in, and for the record, I hope that Mr. Kraft also went over all of it with his head coach privately, and in much more colorful terms.
Regardless, those of us out here on the outside are never going to know the full details of what really goes on, what other teams do it, what real impact it had on the game, etc. etc. What we do know is that the league has sanctioned the Patriots quite heavily for it, and Belichick has issued public apologies for the first time I can recall–clearly it is a serious issue.
I think the real damage here has little to do with the real impact the videotaping had on the game–it has more to do with having given people a basis on which to question the Patriots’ accomplishments, and apparently for a completely unnecessary reason. Even if it wasn’t as flagrant an offense as we’ve been led to believe by some, it was carried out with extremely poor judgment that is totally unacceptable from as smart a guy as Belichick.
But then my fiancee demanded as we were watching TV coverage of Camera-Gate, "What the hell, how does he think he can't answer these questions?"
And I surprised myself when I replied, "Well, he's not under oath."
And then I thought: and he's probably just enough of an extremely left-brained person to have actually thought of that. And be acting accordingly.
Still, there aren't many people--particularly many people with sufficient fire in their bellies to be a professional football coach--who could stand up in front of a bank of beaming lights and reporters' microphones and rolling video cameras and answer question after question with the same name, rank and serial number response regardless of the tone of the question.
And so while this week has taught me some putrid new things about Belichick, it has also reaffirmed two of the positive qualities I'd already observed: a mind both brilliant and cold as ice in its literal, emotionless interpretation of and behavior in response to events, and an utterly intractable stubbornness. I'd already seen these things back before Belichick's Boy Scout image got cracked right down the middle. Now that I've seen just how dead serious he is about shrugging off the shocking implications of his actions as soon as possible, I've got a newfound, if less worshipful, awe for those aspects of the man.
And now that I've established that I'm still a Patriots homer, I must say I'm tied up in knots about their game against the Chargers tonight. As with last Wednesday's game for the Red Sox, the swing is huge: a win, and you at least provide some distraction, if not outright detraction, from Camera-Gate. A loss, and we can look forward to another week of the media firestorm, plus a new, equal and opposite angle for the Boston press to begin attacking the Pats: the slam-dunk followup Has Camera-Gate Distracted the Players? story. Shudder.
Meanwhile, the Sox are starring in an apocalyptic showdown of their own tonight against the Yankees in a pitching rematch of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, with two wily old veterans locking horns in the rubber game of a September series with serious postseason implications.
My remote isn't going to know what hit it.