Not Yet, But Soon
Curt Schilling: "finish him!"
Man, am I glad to see the back end of the Texas Rangers. While we were able to devour the Halos quickly and ruthlessly, the Rangers were one long pain in the posterior, including yesterday when their 9th-inning rally against Keith Foulke had me breaking out the post-season defibrillator paddles for early use.
Still, Curt Schilling was an absolute warrior yesterday, striking out ten and throwing just a shade over 100 pitches over 25 outs before being lifted in favor of Foulke. He retired the entire Rangers lineup in order through the first three innings; his sole ER came from a long ball by Michael Young, which had Curt in spasms of rage as he left the mound after blowing away the next batter. Shots of him in the dugout showed a man ready to munch on screws and spit bullets.
How can I describe the way Red Sox Nation feels about Curt Schilling? Awe is one word that comes to mind. Worship may be going a little too far, but there are a lot of words that are component to worship that are accurate, such as deference, subservience, admiration, praise...There are other pitchers, to be sure. But few of their starts are regularly potential perfect games through the first three innings.
And yet when that one blemish comes along, that one fastball left up over the heart of the plate, that goes, as Jerry Remy says, "a long way in the other direction," Curts lips can clearly be read after the inning is over: "Fucking long ball! Fuck!!!"
Where other athletes have withered in the Boston spotlight, Curt Schilling goes us one better. He stifles our perfectionism with his own, a more caustic brand than we've ever seen (and thankfully not the hand-breaking type). This, I think, strikes at the heart of why Schilling and Boston are a match made in heaven: Boston fans often feel a sense of responsibility when it comes to the Sox, that a loss means they didn't root hard enough, didn't anticipate every possibility, didn't ride Dale Sveum vocally enough from the stands or shout the right encouragement from behind home plate, or wear the right lucky t-shirt or drink from the right lucky cup at home.
And as a columnist for the New York Times once put it, a win is "evidence that the pathetic bum on the field has finally lived up to the standard set by their superlative fandom."
Curt, meanwhile, shames us with his own attention to detail. Whether it's scribbling in his notebook following an eight-inning near-shutout effort (as Steve Brady put it on the SG message board, "Curt with the notebook: 'I retired the lineup in order the first time through. I should have done this with fewer pitches'.") or staring bug-eyed into a NESN camera post-game to grouse about some new ridiculous foible no one noticed but him, Curt is actually sending a very subtle message: relax. For possibly the first time ever, a player is demonstrating emphatically how even the most intelligent, well-read, experienced fan hasn't the slightest clue what he or she is talking about when it comes to baseball. It's not your accurate prediction or your lucky cup or your shout from the stands; it's whether or not Curt meant to throw a fastball low and away and instead hung it up in the zone.
Here is where the love comes in. As much as Red Sox Nation prides itself on the responsibility for keeping our team in check, delusional though it may be, the gentle reminder by example from Curt Schilling--the way he is In Charge--comes as a relief. For once, we can sit back and enjoy the game, confident that the man on the mound has things under control. And so we sit in awe of him--would I call it worship? No, but it's close.
Meanwhile, devotees of the Red Sox and Yankees have begun to circle one another like dogs, catching online feeds of one another's games or waiting for the updates provided by the NESN and / or YES networks. At least as many boos and cheers at Fenway last night came from the changes to the out-of-town scoreboard where it showed NYY and BAL.
Let me tell you, that Orioles-Yankees game was among the more frustrating experiences in my day yesterday. Okay, it was probably the most frustrating experience of my day yesterday and possibly of the last few weeks.
In the top of the ninth inning, with men on second and third against a failing Mariano Rivera, David Newhan did quite possibly the third-stupidest thing I've ever seen in a game of baseball: he attempted a drag bunt to get on base, which resulted in Rivera, seeming almost disappointed that this wasn't more of a challenge, putting him out of his misery quickly at first base.
I say that was the third-stupidest thing I've ever seen in a game of baseball, because the second-stupidest was still to come. With Jeter on base, following a sacrifice bunt by Bernie Williams, Gary Sheffield was intentionally walked. Okay, this makes some sense--Gary Sheffield has been a monster at the plate this year. But then, rather than pitch to the slumping, ineffectual A-Rod, Orioles pitcher Jorge Julio intentionally walked him, too, to load the bases.
I can understand that with two outs, loading the bases isn't such a terrible idea in as close a game as this one. Unfortunately, there weren't two outs. There was just one, meaning that someone was counting on the double play to get the Orioles to extra innings. And I want to know who that someone is, and where I can find them, so that I may wreak merciless vengeance upon them and their descendants, because what followed, as I've said, was the second-stupidest* thing I've ever seen in a game of baseball.
No, it wasn't a base hit that foiled the Orioles. It wasn't a misplayed ground ball or a dropped fly. No, after issuing two intentional walks, Julio seemed to be in such a walking groove that he then walked Jorge Posada, sending fucking Jeter to the fucking plate for the winning fucking run, and the mother. FUCKING. Yankees won the goddamn game without a single hit, and I hate. everybody.
I hate the Yankees, of course, first and foremost, for winning the game in such a piddly fashion. I hate the Orioles for rolling over and letting it happen. And I generally hate everybody because this is that same old song and dance in the AL East: The Yankees don't so much win the game as the other team finds a way to collapse, and they step into the vacuum.
And then their fans. Oh, their goddamned fans. The same people who clear Yankee Stadium like a bomb went off during the Yankees' previous losses now find reason to crow about $194 million of walked-in runs. Here, for example, is an excerpt from nyyfans.com, reproduced here complete with spelling errors:
I'm watching the Sox Rangers game here... and the anncrs are talking about how the fans are waiting for the score to change for our game, on the scoreboard... and here it is! They start booing! YES! I love it! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha Too bad the Sox will win too.
Look, asshat Yankees fans, how about we try something new from now on. How about you come over here in my comments section, or on your little message boards, or even in person, when the Yankees are losing to yell "19-18!" in my face. I'd have even a modicum of respect for you then. Because, hey, the 1918 thing is still true then, isn't it? The Yankees may be losing, but we're still the ultimate losers, right? But there's a peculiar phenomenon when the Yankees are losing--their fans are nowhere to be found (with a precious few exceptions). Not at the Stadium, certainly, and the taunting in Red Sox territory suddenly ceases. While I'd rather not deal with Yankee obnoxiousness as a general rule, this makes me sick.
If you're going to rub it in my face when they win, do me a favor and at least try to act like a genuine fan when they lose, even if you are a front-running, know-nothing scumbag. It's amazing how quickly that Yankees bandwagon has cleared out this season, from booing Jeter to the derision for the team among fans now that the wheels have started coming off. This is where, I suppose, Yankees culture offends my Red Sox sensibilities utterly: somehow, the laws of their morality allow them to be off the bandwagon when this happens, yet jump back on when things start to pick up again.
In case you're wondering, denizens of the Evil Empire, this is why I despise you. Not because I'm "jealous" that you're "winners". But because you have (again, with a few notable exceptions) no concept of loyalty or faith. You sit back and wait for the spoils to be delivered to you without fighting the battle. This is my own problem, the way this rubs me the wrong way--after all, who am I to say that there's only one way to follow a team, or that they're not in the right by voting with their feet when their team disappoints them?--but it drives. me. crazy.
Anyway, needless to say, Sept. 17 is looming larger and larger on the calendar.
Meanwhile, the Sox travel to take on the newly reborn Oakland this coming week. Here's another conundrum--so far I've been rooting for Oakland to keep winning, because if they drop back into the Wild Card race, the Sox are in real trouble. But let's say we sweep Oakland and Anaheim sweeps Toronto (a very real possibility). This would tie Oakland and Anaheim for the AL West, at least momentarily. Another Anaheim win over the Chicago White Sox and an Oakland loss to Cleveland would drop Oakland back into the WC. The Sox would, of course, be cruising along ahead of them at that particular point, but I don't want to have to battle Oakland for the Wild Card. I'd rather they stay on top in their division and become a playoff opponent instead.
But it's not like I'm going to root for the Sox not to beat them, or sweep them if possible. So it is a conundrum.
Meanwhile, who schedules west-coast games for the middle of the week, but puts the Sox games at home over a long weekend? All these upcoming away games are going to mean work starts interfering with my baseball schedule.
*The first stupidest, in case you have to ask, still being Grady Little's decision to leave Pedro Martinez in Game 7.