Saturday, July 26, 2008

Last Straw?

Leave it to our air-head leftfielder to overshadow an otherwise entertaining ballgame against the Spanks last night. Everything was great at around 4 p.m. Friday. The sun was shining, the post-work crowd was filling up on beer and heading into Fenway, Big Papi was returning, Beckett vs. Chamberlain... you know the drill.

And then Manny pulls a fast one, telling Brad Mills to let Terry Francona know that he wasn't going to be able to play due to a sore right knee. All of a sudden, a lineup that would have had Pedroia leading off, Papi and Manny reunited, and Ellsbury pushed down to No. 9, had to be erased and done over.

While it was certainly no surprise, the minute I heard it on the radio I was pissed, and I think a lot of diehard Sox fans - and Manny fans - were as well. This has happened before, yet this time it's very different. Things change when you're in a contract year, and things have most definitely changed with Manny. Maybe it's the Scott Boras factor, but Manny's no longer just happy-go-lucky. He seems to be trying to force his way out of town. I'm not going to say the at-bat against Rivera a few weeks ago, where he let three strikes sail past him without taking the bat off his shoulder, was an intentional swipe at Sox management. I'm not willing to go that far. But the deal with the traveling secretary, his unwillingness to play at certain times, his little verbal joust in the Herald with owner John Henry, and these goddamn mystery injuries (he went for an MRI last night on both knees and it came back clean) are getting very tiresome. Dan Shaughnessy, at his best in times of turmoil, pens a pretty good column today on the whole situation, speculating that the Sox may look to trade Manny before the year's up. There's certainly plenty here to indicate that Francona and the owners are pissed off big-time. Nice timing, Manny. Biggest game of the season and this is the message you send to your teammates, the fans, and the owners who sign your enormous checks.

Enough spouting on this man-child. If the Sox can get Mark Teixeira somehow from the Braves, move Youk to left and put Tex - another Gold Glover who can rip the cover off the ball at first - let's do it.

While all of this was going on, we got to see a pretty good pitcher's duel last night between two fireballers. Joba was more unhittable than Beckett, but the only run Beckett allowed came on a feeble grounder that was hit to the right spot when the Sox had the Giambi Shift on. We also had some fireworks, with Chamberlain again buzzing Youkilis near his dome, and then Mike Lowell vehemently arguing a called strike in the 9th inning. Two thoughts: Jerry Remy on NESN said there was no way ?Joba was trying to hit Youkilis in a 1-0 game and a 2-0 count. "There's no way that was intentional," said Remy, "unless Chamberlain is that stupid." Well, Jerry, he just may be that stupid. He had pinpoint control all night except for that at-bat. Draw your own conclusions. The Sox now have a little payback business to attend to with both the Rays and the Yankees. Regarding Lowell, can someone tell me why Mariano Rivera's strike zone is the size of Rosie O'Donnell's ass? (Sorry for the visual). This guy is well-respected and has done a lot in the game, but come on. Call 'em fair, umps. That was B.S. and Lowell was justified in letting him know it.

In the end, the Sox lose 1-0. Game 2 is at 4:00 today on Fox, with Tim Wakefield going against Andy Pettitte. By the way, can you come up with any players who have been with the same team as long as Wake has? He came to Beantown in 1995 - remember that crazy winning streak he had that summer - and he's now in his 14th season as a Sox. (Just looked up Derek Jeter - he, too, joined the Yanks in 1995). Any others?

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