(Screencap from ESPN's Red Sox clubhouse)
Twice now, in the late weeks of April and the early weeks of May, we've felt the stomach-churning drops of this hope / despair roller coaster. The Red Sox claw their way to a place where they can just brush the tips of their fingers against .500, and then they stumble in painful fashion. Then, no sooner does depression set in, than they play an inspired series of games that puts us on the edge of our seats again.
Still, it's getting to be about time to acknowledge at least a bit of stark reality. It's now a little over a month into the season, and we're not talking about flirting with a winning record, or improved standings in the division. We're talking about flirting with .500. Sidling up to mediocrity. Aiming for lukewarm. And still not getting anywhere quite yet.
Which is why I'd like to introduce a new, totally arbitrary stat that I just made up, but which I think still has some merit: Entertainment Value Above Replacement, or EVAR. As an example of this metric in action, Dustin Pedroia's epic at-bat on Monday night gave him a high EVAR, regardless of whether it led to a win.
Tonight's team EVAR leader never picked up a bat or glove -- but he did chuck some gum onto the field on his way out. Of course, I'm talking about Terry Francona, who went Full Metal Jacket on umpires Angel Hernandez and Joe West after Hernandez called a run-scoring balk on Tim Wakefield in the second inning.
Francona came out to talk to Hernandez, who almost immediately ejected him. It is against league rules to argue balk calls, but it appeared Tito felt he hadn't said anything (yet) to justify his ejection. As he tried to continue jawing with Hernandez, the ever-brilliant Joe West stepped in between them.
If Tito's skin could have turned green and burst through his shirt in the moments that ensued, I believe it would have. None of my Twitter brethren or I could remember a time we've seen Terry Francona go more fully apeshit. As he continued to try to move toward Hernandez, West continued to step between them, actually grabbing and pushing Francona away. This move, aforementioned Twitter brethren rightly pointed out, would result in a fine were the roles reversed.
Was it the same kind of exhilarating entertainment the Pedroia AB provided? Of course not. EVAR does not adjust for pleasantness. It merely multiplies Fascination Factor (positive or negative) by approximate likelihood of leading highlight reels for the ensuing news cycle. That's the fun of it. And what makes it something to cling to when Pythagoras is not our friend.
P.S. Tonight's "Good Job, Anyway" Award (another totally random thing I just made up, but may continue, depending on how things turn out for the Sox) goes to Alfredo Aceves. I must admit I did not place much trust in him when he first trotted out of the bullpen in the fifth inning. But the long-relief callup from Pawtucket racked up 14 outs, one more than was recorded by Wakefield, while surrendering seven fewer runs.