Five Good Things

Most of the focus today and tomorrow is and will be on the Yankees’ embarrassing loss to Detroit — and rightfully so. Safe to say, neither of our teams is pleased with the outcome of this season. Recriminations and prognstication can come later. First, this:

The Red Sox finished in third place for the first time since 1996, were swept in a five-game series for the first time in 50 years and otherwise could do little correctly after the All-Star break. Still, five moments in this 2006 season were worth the price of admission (that used to be a figurative expression) into Red Sox Nation:

  • Opening Day: Six dominant innings from Curt Schilling, the first of a record-breaking number of home runs from David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon’s emergence as relief ace, and an incredible leaping catch by Coco Crisp. A perfect day for baseball, and about as perfect an outcome as you could hope for — particularly if it’s your only chance of the year to watch the Red Sox in person, as it was mine.
  • Playing the National League: From June 16-July 2, the Sox took 14 of 15, including 12 in a row, from NL teams. Ortiz won consecutive games with walk-off hits, Pedro Martinez received a standing ovation — and a spanking, and Crisp delivered perhaps the best defensive play in Red Sox history (the TV-centric BBTN crew thinks so).
  • Mike Lowell: The guy got beaned, then hit a home run and caught a foul ball while tumbling completely into the stands. Add to that the sensational all-out diving catch he made of a foul bunt earlier in the season, mix in the class and professional demeanor he brought to the game every day — and consider the question marks surrounding him entering the season. His emergence as a steady contributor and Gold Glove defender was a pleasure to watch.
  • Young pitchers: Jonathan Papelbon’s microscopic ERA and emphatic fist-pumps (especially memorable: Pointing at Mike Lowell and yelling, "That’s what I’m talking about!" after a great play). Josh Beckett’s flashes of brilliance and equally emphatic fist-pumps. Manny Delcarmen’s eye-popping curve. Jon Lester’s uncanny poise. There’s promise there. We saw quite a bit of it.
  • Old Reliables: Curt Schilling talked to YFSF. He reached landmarks in wins and strikeouts. He put to rest questions about his post-Sock ability by pitching well enough to win 20 games, had he and his offensive support stayed healthy. David Ortiz … Well, he was the Sox’ Big Papi. My two favorite of his many incredible home runs: The three-run shot off Mike Myers in the eighth at Fenway against the Yankees early in the season, and the final of his three walk-off homers — you knew it was coming, the ESPN announcers knew it was coming, poor Fausto Carmona knew it was coming, and no one could stop it. The fact that he wrote himself into the record boks at the end was mere icing for what would have been an incredible season with or without 51.

This year was a disappointment on many levels. But the Sox still came through with an exciting season, if not a pennant-winning one. These five moments, memories, what-have-you have little to do with stats and records. They have everything to do with being a fan.

This fan is glad he stayed for the ride.

27 comments… add one
  • Here here!

    mouse October 7, 2006, 9:41 pm
  • While I can acknowledge the bright spots that Paul highlights, I really can’t feel good *at all* about the 2006 Sox season. It was like one of the many infuriating teases from the late 70s/early 80s. Only they actually got *farther* into the season in 1st place than usual.
    On a more positive note, I may be in the wilderness on this, but I think the Sox should keep Manny.
    No, I think the Sox *must* keep Manny.
    A disappointment? A problem? Jeebus, has anyone looked at his numbers? How many years in a row does he have to produce at this level to be recognized as invaluable?
    Manny earns his money.
    I just don’t get the talk about him as a “problem” and a “distraction” to the team. This is a *media* thing, people.
    Manny’s flaky behavior is not, as far as I can see, a problem for his teammates. He makes their jobs easier (not least the job of Mr. Ortiz). He is consistent across all situations: he hits a ton.
    Manny is only a “problem,” as far as I can see, in the minds of the Boston radio jockeys and of Dirt Dogs, who love to stir the pot.
    Manny made a mistake by shutting down his season early, but hey, don’t forget, he was just about the only one who “showed up” for the five-game series against the Yankees which effectively ended Boston’s season.
    Manny’s production cannot be replaced. Maybe Vlad (or, at another position, Tejada) would be an acceptable substitute. But really, there is just about no one who has hit so well over so many years as Manny Ramirez.
    Keep him. There’s plenty to worry about at other positions, in the rotation, and in the pen.

    Hudson October 7, 2006, 9:55 pm
  • (P.S. Thank you, Detroit Tigers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I feel much better now.)

    Hudson October 7, 2006, 9:57 pm
  • agreed, Hudson. I would much rather finish third than be put in the spotlight the way the Yankees will over the next several weeks on TV and sports radio all over the country. I hate when the Red Sox are embarrassed in any way, and thank all that is holy, it wasn’t done by the Detroit Tigers in October.

    Brad October 7, 2006, 10:02 pm
  • paul: nicely written…it’s tough to find the silver lining when expectations for a better outcome were so high, but you did it…the sox do have a lot to cheer for this year, and a lot to build on for next year…when i’m done crying over the yanks loss, i’ll probably do the same kind of reflecting…
    hudson: i agree that the sox should keep manny…for all of his goofing around, he would be tough to replace…i for one have called him a distraction, but that’s probably a bad choice of words…his behavior can be at times enigmatic, i guess, but maybe that’s just his way of not taking things too seriously…he may be tough for a manager to get inside his head, but he’s worth it…
    brad: are you kidding? 3rd place is not better than making the playoffs on any planet…geez, if you finished last, you’d have no embarrassment….huh?…

    dc October 7, 2006, 10:23 pm
  • DC, I’m definitely not kidding. I would rather not make the playoffs than be eliminated in a woodshed beating, choking up the only supposed sure thing in this playoffs – proving all the weaknesses that everyone whipered about for the weeks leading up to it.
    Oh, third is basically the same as last. Just like being eliminated in four games is basically last. Either way, it’s time to get to that hot stove and see who each team overpays for this year.
    And, I disagree about Manny. I say see what’s out there for him, and if it works, and somehow the Sox can find another competent bat to put behind Ortiz – pull it. Everyone here know’s who I want it to be.

    Brad October 7, 2006, 10:41 pm
  • …yep…”hope springs eternal”…the great thing about the season ending is anticipating the off-season circus, and the opening of next season…i think what i’m hearing you say is that there is one winner, and everybody else finishes “last”…in that sense you’re correct…but i still disagree that being eliminated [for all practical purposes] in august, after having such a promising first half, is somehow less painful than what just happened to the yanks…if that kind of thinking gets you through the long off-season, good for you…as for me, i’d rather have gone this far at least…if nothing else, my off-season will have been about a month and half shorter than yours….

    dc October 7, 2006, 10:53 pm
  • …by the way, i still don’t understand the urge among some sf’s to trade manny…i hear that he’s not a distraction, he’s a perfect tandem with ortiz, he’s an awesome run producer, he’s clutch…and so on…i forget who you said you wanted for him, but i can’t think of an equal for him…they’ve tried dangling him in front of teams before to no avail, but maybe this off-season will be different…

    dc October 7, 2006, 10:57 pm
  • Oh, man – I wanted A-Rod buddy! Same player, same time in their careers essentially, and same money. Both teams benefit. A-Rod enjoys success in Boston, and Manny hits the cover off the ball in NY. The downside is that the two teams will never deal, and if they did, they could just be trading headaches.

    Brad October 7, 2006, 11:00 pm
  • “if nothing else, my off-season will have been about a month and half shorter than yours….”
    ha, as if my desire to root against is not as strong as my desire to root for. The only thing better for me than the Red Sox winning is whey NY loses my man, so today was easily a great baseball day for me.

    Anonymous October 7, 2006, 11:07 pm
  • Damn it, anon was me – again. I just got a new lap-top with a touch screen that I’m not used to, so my thumb keep unchecking the “remember me box”.

    Brad October 7, 2006, 11:09 pm
  • If the Sox *do* trade Manny, the last place they should trade him is to New York, or any team in their decision, for that matter.
    If he had to go, the smart thing would be to send him to the N.L., where he can’t smack around our pitching on a regular basis. Or at minimum send him to the A.L. Central or West.
    I think whoever said it is right that the Sox *will* shop Manny around. After all, they’ve done it repeatedly for the past couple of years.
    But as before, Theo & Co. will probably find that they can’t find a trade that gives them more value than they’ve got already in Manny, at least without paying through the nose for it…
    …. in which case, I suspect they will once again hold onto one of the greatest hitters in Boston history, and spend that money on other positions.

    Hudson October 7, 2006, 11:10 pm
  • (Typo above in first graf: decision >>> division)

    Hudson October 7, 2006, 11:11 pm
  • …brad/anon…no problem, i figured it was you with the anons…those laptop touch-screens are sensitive…i can understand why today was a good day for you…i don’t think we’re going to convince each other about the other part of the argument, so we can just agree that whatever it takes us to get through our respective disappointments we both hope it works…

    dc October 7, 2006, 11:22 pm
  • ha – i posted below but I’m not going back down there! Agreed.
    I just saw that the Japanes pitcher everyone is drooling over (minus me) threw a complete game shutout in their playoffs over there. I realy hope the Sox don’t go that route. I’d rather they take the flyer on Schmidt or Zito than do that.

    Brad October 7, 2006, 11:28 pm
  • I’m glad you mentioned Lester’s poise. Kid didn’t seem to break a stress-induced sweat once, even given the amount of baserunners he sometimes allowed. His control wasn’t consistent, and it may take a couple years even after his return from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma to get consistent, but he’s got the “stones” to pitch in this league, in this city, against the toughest hitters.

    Quo October 8, 2006, 1:17 am
  • ny daily news and espn are reporting joe torre has been fired making room for lou pinella to step in as the new manager.
    i think alot of the blame should fall squarely on don mattingly’s shoulders for this embarrassing collapse. i don’t have any good reason for it other than the fact i’ve always thought the guy to be a huge tool. can’t imagine sweet lou could make an inpact with this bunch. i think you gotta blow the whole thing up, starting with jeter. the sox had to bite the bullet with nomar to shake things up. a jeter departure might break up the tradition of losing and disappointment yankee fans have become accustomed to.

    sf rod October 8, 2006, 6:38 am
  • sf rod:…personally, i think the sox should give ortiz his unconditional release…he is afterall symbolic of their 3rd place finish…[sound silly?]
    …comparing nomar in his last year with the sox to jeter this year is just as silly….jeter represents the winning of the last 10 years as well….why would you trade the possible mvp, the only consistent post-season performer, and one of the most clutch players in baseball?…the sf in you couldn’t resist taking one more swipe at him huh…?
    …batting coaches probably get too much credit, and sometimes not enough…little too much for mattingly to be expected to turn around a slump in 2.5 games…from what i hear the players have confidence in him, and hitting is at least half in the head [ask arod]…

    dc October 8, 2006, 8:28 am
  • dc – agreed.
    The batting coaches can’t overcome what players go through in a week’s time. When funks begin, they spread through a clubhouse like a california day fire, and there’s nothing that can be done less hoping for a quick turnaround.

    Brad October 8, 2006, 8:57 am
  • I agree Brad and Dc. However, we all know that the first to get blamed in a bad “finish” to a year is the batting coach; and with the absolute meltdown of the Yankee offense over the past few days, I can easily see Mattingly taking the hit.
    It’s a tough call in the end. All of these guys we have paid top dollar to are suppossed to be so good as to be able to think and perform themselves. If our team were a bunch of Robbie Cano aged players it would be one thing.
    We know that Sheffield will be gone and most likely Mussina (pending on the outcome of the Zito sweepstakes–which I don’t think is a lock for NY and could very well end up being Phi.), it would be nicer if Randy Johnson retired versus Joe Torre (though I don’t blame Randy for the game 3 debacle).

    walein October 8, 2006, 11:53 am
  • ” I would much rather finish third than be put in the spotlight the way the Yankees will over the next several weeks…”
    Brad, Here’s hoping you get your wish in many, many years to come.

    Andrews October 8, 2006, 1:15 pm
  • …before the yanks blow up their whole roster, they need to stop and consider why they come up short against teams that would appear to have less talent [at least on paper and by reputation]…in other words, figure out what the other teams have figured out about what wins ballgames, and determine if they have the personnel to fit that style…
    pitching: their obsession with winning every year has not given them the chance to take a year or 2 to allow younger players to develop, especially pitchers…consequently they have an aging, broken down staff, for the most part…they’ve wasted a lot of money on contreras, vasquez, pavano, and brown with little to show for it…mo’s not getting any younger, and i don’t think farnsworth’s the answer…they are getting beat regularly in critical games by pitchers with very little ml experience…there’s got to be something to that…
    defense: their preoccupation with offense means that they have sacrificed defense for additional run production in the lineup…maybe you can overcome errors in the grind of a long season, but not in the post season, where everything is magnified…
    offense: there is no doubt that the yanks have collected some offensive superstars and can outslug and outscore just about anyone…the problem seems to be that this formula works during the grind of a regular season, but you can be doomed in the playoffs if you run into a couple of hot pitchers, and your pitchers are not equal to the task…as for the relative age of these position players, well, they look very old and very tired against younger pitchers, especially in the playoffs…
    intangibles: some folks think this is overrated, but i’m not just talking about being clutch here…there’s a certain mental strength and winning attitude that this crop of yankees just doesn’t seem to have…i can’t fight the urge to keep comparing them to the yankees of the late 90’s…except for rivera, they did not have any real superstars, or all stars for that matter…but boy could they grind you down…the current version doesn’t feel like a team to me…they’re starting to remind me of our olympic basketball teams…

    dc October 8, 2006, 1:24 pm
  • …very sporting of you andrews…actually, i was trying to convince brad that a scenario even better than 3rd place would be for the sox to finish last about 20 games out by the end of april…that would be bliss…no expectations = no embarrassment…

    dc October 8, 2006, 1:26 pm
  • i’ve seen the brad vs. dc, 3rd place vs. playoff embarassament discussion going around for a couple of day’s now and steered clear. but….to finish third with a waiver wire of a rotation for the last 2 months of the season hurts. i could imagine having “the best offense money can buy” or “murderers row plus cano” (so bad) and not scoring for 20 innings might hurt a little more. sox fans had two months to bleed while the yankees embarassing collapse came so swift and sudden. it was just monday of last week that they were the clear frontrunners for the title. go back and read the series preview on this very site. the yankees could not be stopped sans act of god. then the rug got swept out. to be exposed and show no hart in the playoffs would be worse than finishing third in my book. but that’s just me.

    sf rod October 8, 2006, 2:01 pm
  • …i guess i was in the minority that thought the yankees would not cake-walk through the playoffs…they were admittedly a flawed team, that played brilliantly at times, and frightenly bad others, especially against young pitchers…i guess i’m a bad yf for not buying the company line…
    …you’re an sf fan sf rod…i expect you to give it the old red sox spin and rationalize it, just like i need to spin it the yankee way, so let me get it straight:
    1. it’s ok to finish 2nd or 3rd every year as long as the yanks lose in the playoffs…
    2. winning every 86 years is ok…
    3. after being in first place for most of the season, it is less embarrassing to take a 5 game historic drubbing and finish out of first place than to finish first and get beat in the playoffs…[note: you got beat out by toronto, the yanks got beat by detroit, a team with one of the better pitching staffs who is still in the post season]
    …please be patient with me, i’m just trying to understand how the sf spin works…
    …and let’s face it the sox showed little heart in playing out the rest of this season, or is it just a coincidence that the plethora of most of the aches and pains was timed with the historic beating at the hands of the yankees in august…they were like a mash unit after that series…even some of your own kind said they shouldn’t use injuries as an excuse…theo’s favorite was that there was nobody available at the trade deadline, and the real whopper, he couldn’t compete with the yankees’ money…and that’s after getting my nose rubbed in it by you guys and the talking heads like saunders on espn, that all george’s money can’t buy success…which is it theo?…you’ve confused yourself and your fans…

    dc October 8, 2006, 5:14 pm
  • Both teams failed this year, dc. The Sox failed in ways the Yankees didn’t. The Yankees failed in ways no other team can, considering their resources. The distinction doesn’t render judgment on either franchise, or make one team better or more noble than the other. Their failures were different, but there’s no arguing that they both did, in fact, fail. I think the idea that us SFs were spared some of the emotional duress of finishing in first with a murderer’s row of players and then getting bonked out of the playoffs, in somewhat embarrassing fashion, and that not having to go through that as a fan, is a reasonable position. I don’t imagine any of us relish the idea of our team finishing third, but the thought that if third place spares us the embarrassment and nuclear detonation to a franchise that may result from what has happened to the Yankees then we’d take it, well that isn’t outrageous to me, even if I don’t necessarily hold the same position.

    SF October 8, 2006, 5:29 pm
  • …fair enough sf…and i appreciate your admission that some sf’s don’t necessarily support what i’ve referred to as the “sox spin”…it looks like i need to point out that i’ve been consistent in noting that both teams failed, and by how much is irrelevant…there can be only 1 ws winner after all…my counterpoint to some sf’s has been in response to their contention that the yanks failure was more disappointing than the sox…i was merely trying to give them some perspective to what i perceived as pointless sniping…i take no comfort in the fact that the yanks finish was “better” than the sox…a loser is a loser…the bottom line with the yankees is that anything less than a series win is a disappointing failure regardless of how much money is spent [a criticism you can probably tell i’m getting tired of, because it’s obviously a pointless excuse characteristic of the “sox spin”]…to tell you the truth, i was more disappointed when the yanks lost the ws in the last at bat against AZ, with rivera on the mound…personally, murders row or not, i thought that team had a better chance than this one…

    dc October 8, 2006, 8:34 pm

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