It's Labor Day, people, and if there's a lazier day of the year than the day after Christmas or the day after Thanksgiving, this is it. That and missing yesterday's game as well (this time for legitimate reasons beyond my control of unavoidable wedding obligations and visiting relatives) mean I ain't doing much more writing beyond the below until after tonight's game.
I will say that what Denton pointed out in a nice post over at SG (and Curt made sure to remind his readership about as well) struck me, too: just what a bumper crop of homegrown players we have on our hands. I do remember a time when Nomar Garciaparra, as that rarest of bona-fide home-grown phenoms, was a precious, near-unassailable treasure because of it. Ditto Trot Nixon, who it has since been pointed out was babied by the press in comparison to Manny, despite being out of the lineup and the committor of nearly as many errors as the absent-minded left-fielder. By the time Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen and Jonathan Papelbon rolled around, it was beginning to dawn on everyone that these weren't our fathers' Red Sox.
But now, what had been first the rare find and escalated to a trickle, has become a torrent, and the absolute lifeblood of the organization. It has changed the landscape. Now we don't know what life was like without them, from Kevin Youkilis, Manny Delcarmen, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jon Lester to Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Clay Buchholz, and for all of them there is a very new, strange kind of parental feeling. It's like we have a dozen Trots, a whole gaggle of Nomars. And right now the Ultimate Red Sox show is showing an interview with a baby-faced, teeny tiny Justin Masterson--they just keep on coming.
On the other side to shepherd them are hallowed Red Sox veterans like Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Mike Timlin, who this weekend celebrated his 1,000th appearance.
But there's also another place where credit and respect are due. Last night while watching an interview with Theo on a rerun of Sportsdesk, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and relief that though we nearly lost him once, we kept him in our organization. I want to make sure to acknowledge in all this that I admire, love and value Theo every bit as much as any one of our star players, and if anything, his role has been bigger. At the end of the day, baseball is at its root a business, and Theo Epstein is as gifted and accomplished a young master at it as his prize draft picks and free-agent signings have been on the field. I hope we can look forward to another October of his silent, deadpan presence in those seats behind the plate, watching reservedly but intently over the machine he's created, playing itself out on the diamond.
P.S. Lots going on in Patriots-land, too. On that I have submitted some commentary over here. _______________________________________________________________________
First, another confession.
I didn't see a single pitch of the game.
I deserved it, though. I'll admit, I was beginning to lose The Faith. I also had some friends who just came back from Europe and was busy visiting with them, and I thought, eh. Maybe I'll take the whole O's series off.
My punishment fits the offense. I wasn't there to sweat through every pitch with Clay, wasn't there to see Coco's catch or Pedroia's amazing stop at second, wasn't there to see Clay field that ball in the eighth almost to his own surprise, to witness the thrill of that final out live.
I first became aware of what was going on in an odd way. I get score updates as text messages on my cellphone, and eventually one of my friends said, "What's the Sox score? Did they even win?" I looked and saw that in fact, they had won 10-0. (Which oddly enough is the maximum number of text messages I'm limited to from this service per game.)
"What about the Yankees?" someone asked.
I signed on to Yankees.com and read with dread that "Ian Kennedy went seven impressive innings in his big league debut to spearhead a 9-6 win."
Then my phone rang. It was my dad. Seconds later, we were gathered around the TV like it was the moon landing.
"Well, there'll be a replay on," I said hopefully.
"No," my friend Ryan said, and I immediately knew he was right: "We fucked up."
What can I say. We did.
So what I have seen several times is the final out, and the ensuing celebration, both of which were classics in and of themselves. Clay probably got a little bit of a call on that last curveball, but it looked like it broke 7 feet. The umpire gave the call and Orsillo was yelling himself hoarse while the crowd behind the plate erupted into a sea of waving arms. Even just seeing that, I immediately got wave on wave of goosebumps.
Varitek reached Buchholz first, wrapping his arms around the Stickbug's slight legs and hefting him up all the way onto his chest* like he was made of balsa wood (which sometimes it looks like he is). Shortly thereafter a mob of his teammates, led by Youkilis and Papi, laid a vicious chop-block on him, crushing in around him in a teeming mass of hopping, athletic happiness.
The camera cut to Theo watching from his box. Theo looked like he was leaping as high in the air as the players on the field. You could see him screaming "YEAH! YEEAAHHH!" just before one of his companions [Jason McLeod, the club's director of amateur scouting-*] swept him up in a hug.
Buchholz was tossed off to Papi in the pile, and Papi laid the most intense bear hug on him I've ever seen, squeezing him with one massive arm around his waspish waist and using the other mighty mitt to cradle--or more like pummel--the back of Clay's bare head, and the last thing you saw of Clay before he was subsumed for a few long frenzied moments under the pile again was his huge grin being smashed into Papi's shoulder. Afterwards, in his incredulous press conference, Buchholz was sure to note that what had seemed emotional tears during his on-field interview with Tina Cervasio were actually his eyes watering from when Papi beat his face in with his enthusiasm.
I did also notice another detail of the bench-clearing final out--that Josh Beckett not only was using his, er, expressive face on the dugout rail to will Buchholz on, but tossed teammates aside like sheep when he finally reached the pile-up to grab Clay just after Papi had finished with him, laying a massive palm on his cranium and dragging him close.
Something tells me Josh has made an adoption. It makes sense, after all--not only do they share a home state, but they share a story to some extent, as Josh was 21 when he broke in to the majors. In fact, of all the players in the league, Josh might be the only one who can identify to such an extent with what Buchholz is experiencing right now.
"It's like Koko's kitten," I told Sam in the midst of babbling at her about OMG TEH BUCHHOLZ on the phone. "It's a total breakthrough in socialization for Josh." We immediately both got a mental image after the simian imagery of that statement of Josh walking around with Buchholz clinging to him like Mr. Peepers. Or at least piggy-back style.
In sum, I have witnessed the Red Sox win a World Series in my lifetime. I've witnessed baseball's most historic comeback. I've witnessed countless Papi walkoffs. And that celebration was right up there.
Two more details about this event have struck me immediately: 1) That, as we have been reminded already, the pick that got us Buccholz was the pick we got when Pedro left, and 2) That, of course...of course, it would be dear Wake to step aside, even if unwittingly, for the kid. Just thinking about that seriously makes me verklempt.
I'm waiting for the replay** with bated breath, but I've also been filled in on a few details by my dad. My favorite of the things he told me was that before coming back out for the ninth, Clay folded up his jacket carefully and neatly on the dugout bench, creasing the sleeves, no doubt awash in a roar of the crowd and his own pounding heart.
Then, after a deep breath, he came jogging out, all gangling limbs, ready to face the occasion. When he'd next step down off the mound, it would be as the new master of our hearts.
*As Kristen noted, "Jason Varitek has finally learned not to jump on the pitchers but rather to catch them as he is a large man and keeps breaking them." (Kristen mentioned the Curt-Joshie adoption thing too; I swear I didn't check any posts before writing this one. Great minds obviously think alike.)
**I have a DVR in my possession, but it's not set up yet, because I thought for such an item it would be best to invest in the Geek Squad, and my appointment with them isn't till next week. So it'll be replay and VHS for this one. I know...what am I going to do? In a way, Murphy's Law suggests you have me to thank for this...because of course it would be the weekend you think the DVR installation can wait that some kid comes out of nowhere (hence the title) to pitch a game so sweet and classic that Jerry Remy is getting choked up just talking about having witnessed it.
Red Sox rookie Buchholz no-hits Orioles (AP / Boston.com)
Buchholz answers call: No-hits O’s after jump from Triple A (Herald)
Rookie Buchholz no-hits Orioles (MLB.com)
Red Sox Rookie Buchholz No-Hits Orioles (AOL FanHouse)
NO-HITTER! and Buchholz throws no-hitter in 2nd M.L. start (Fire Brand of the American League)
No-HHitter (A Red Sox Fan from Pinstripe Territory)
All Hail the Flame-Throwing Man Child (Basegirl)
Globe photo gallery (Boston.com)
Clay Buchholz's No-Hitter and Aftermath of Bucholz no-hitter (YouTube vids from inside Fenway Park--via AOL FanHouse)
Screencaps from the replay...
It was a privilege to watch even the replay of that game. Buccholz's pitches were, of course, filthy--he especially owned Markakis hardcore. Another touching moment not highlighted by any of the media outlets I've seen was the moment where Kevin Youkilis realized that the homer he'd hit had landed almost directly in front of his father in the Monster seats. He pointed to his dad, beaming, just before he rounded third, and when Papi came over to give him a hug after he crossed the plate, he turned and pointed out to the Monster again to show Papi where his dad was. I...I...squee.
It's very strange, reading the posts that have gone up already, how nearly everyone seems to have the same first impressions: Beckett making an adoption, Varitek picking up rather than crushing a pitcher in celebration; Theo's celebration = awesome; wow Papi almost broke him in half; etc. Funny how we're all in hive-mind mode. To be in that crowd at Fenway tonight must have been something else. I haven't seen a crowd so reluctant to leave Fenway Park since...well...you know.