Thursday, October 07, 2004

Mac and Tosh

Last night, the Angels and Red Sox reminded me of those two hyper-courteous gophers from the old Warner Brothers cartoons.

"Why don't you go ahead and take Game Two?"

"Oh, heavens no, I couldn't possibly. Please go ahead and take Game Two."

"Oh, but I insist. Game Two really ought to belong to you."

"I wouldn't dream of it. You are so much more deserving."

"It seems that there's only one polite solution to our dilemma."

"I'm all ears."

"We simply must play such an excruciating botch of a game that a Shoney's kids menu will look like a Monet by comparison."

"I was about to suggest that very thing."

I've managed to cull four coherent observations out of my bleary-eyed, post-caffeine-bounce perusal of another welcome if ugly Red Sox victory.

First, no baseball player has ever needed a hockey-style "plus-minus" stat more than Mark Bellhorn. I guess that would be VoRP, but in Bellhorn's case something even more calculating, and with an eye more acutely trained for strangeness, is in order. Bellhorn not only strikes out by the truckload, but he strikes out looking on more right-down-the-pipe pitches than anybody I've ever seen. Not as bad as a double play, I know, but nevertheless subtly infuriating. Then again, there are those valuable walks that result from such patience. Manny doesn't drive in Damon in the seventh last night if Bellhorn makes a jittery, incautious out in front of him. But then, there's the way Bellhorn treats throws from the outfield as if he's waiting for a skywriter to finish an ad. Still, to be fair, he does pivot fairly well on the double play. Finally, though, and honest to God, how do you get picked off second (by the catcher, no less) with the bases loaded and Ortiz at the plate? It's that kind of lapse that makes me think he's hearing "Smoke on the Water" instead of "Dirty Water" after every home win, if you know what I mean.

Secondly, that rally in the sixth inning was a really pleasant surprise. Ortiz's infield hit made you think it would happen. Nixon's double-play grounder squelched the hope. Millar's single diluted the disappointment, but, much as I like Varitek, he hadn't looked good against Colon, who was only one batter away from turning a two-run lead over to K-Rod and Co. So the charge he put into that first pitch yanked me right off the couch.

This leads me to Observation the Third. 'Tek's home run was one of those occasions where I wished I'd been listening to the radio for Jerry Trupiano's "Swing and a drive! Deep right field! Way back!" instead of accepting the disinterested approximation of enthusiasm that you get on a national telecast. Because I insist on dwelling in the outer darkness of cable-less TV, the radio guys usually bring me my day in, day out experience of the team, and I always feel a trifle disloyal for ditching them in October. Chris Berman's "back-back-back" works better in studio than it does in the heat of the moment, and it's not well-suited to the kind of screaming liner that 'Tek launched over the fence.

Finally, effective though he was, Pedro wasn't his normal postseason self last night, judging by the inevitable DRAMATIC FACIAL CLOSE-UPS. Pedro in October usually gives you that Hannibal Lecter kind of vibe; he unnerves you because he doesn't blink. Last night, he was almost punch-clock in his demeanor, leaning in over his glove and working his gum like a guy changing spark plugs in an ill-lit garage. I'm not sure what to make of this difference; I'm inclined to feel relieved about it. Goodwrench Pedro strikes me as less likely than Hannibal Pedro to turn into Sylvia Plath if he has to face the Yankees again.


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