The good news from Boston Wednesday: Manny Machado got to play a game against the Red Sox without one pitch sailing anywhere near him other than around the plate. The bad news: Orioles starter Kevin Gausman couldn’t resist opening the second inning by throwing the first pitch at Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts’s hind quarters.
Both American League Championship Series combatants get there by way of division series sweeps. For the Indians it had to be a little extra special to get there by sweeping the Red Sox.
Twelve years ago Indians manager Terry Francona managed an entirely different club of Red Sox to the Promised Land the franchise hadn’t seen since a kid named Ruth was in the starting rotation.
It isn’t exactly tempting the wrath of the Boston gods anymore, ladies and gentlemen. “Party like it’s 1918.” So said a fan’s none-too-large placard in the Fenway boxes, while Koji Uehara was at his office in the top of the ninth Wednesday night, three outs standing between himself, his Red Sox, and hysteria.
It came forth within half an hour after Game Three ended with Yadier Molina in self-professed shock, Allen Craig sprawled across the plate in disbelief, the Red Sox slinking to their clubhouse, the Cardinals whooping it up between their dugout and the plate area. All because of an unusual but no-questions-asked correct obstruction call.
Even if he was lost to explain what just happened, manager John Farrell took it like a man.
A year ago, the Red Sox were playing out a disheartening string, just hoping to finish the season with whatever was left of their dignity. They played under the lash of a front office who’d become something like lost souls, and a manager whose idea of quelling the gases remaining from that stupefying September 2011 collapse was to light matches.
Today, the Red Sox sit, stand, scamper, and strut as the American League East champions. And one of the keys was shown by pitcher Ryan Dempster, in the middle of the champagne-spraying clubhouse celebration, after they nailed the division on the arm of Jon Lester’s 100th career win.
Yes, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ new ownership has spent the equivalent of two small nations’ gross domestic product. (Yes, I’m exaggerating—perhaps only slightly.) But no, and I’ll say it until the day I buy the rancho, it doesn’t mean they’re a lock for a 2013 World Series ring. If you still persist in believing money talks when it comes time to nail down the ring, I suggest you have yet another look at the New York Yankees and (pre-Madoff) Mets. For openers.
David Ortiz was one of the Red Sox players, however few they were, who didn’t join in, at once or pretty much ever, when Bobby Valentine’s divide-and-conquer managing and public relations style divided an injury-and-confidence wracked team and metastasised the toxins in a clubhouse still poisoned by the September 2011. And this is the thanks he gets?
Valentine sat for an interview with Bob Costas, of NBC, that aired Tuesday evening, and Valentine called Ortiz a quitter in every conceivable phrase that didn’t use the word explicitly.
In the wake of the 2004 World Series, I wrote, for a since-defunct publication, “[S]omething seems not quite right about the literature of the Boston Red Sox turning toward triumph and away from tragedy.” Specifically, I was reviewing Faithful, Stewart O’Nan’s and (yes, that) Stephen King’s collaborative, end-to-end chronicle of viewing that year’s extraterrestrial Red Sox. And I was trying to say this: A near-century’s literature of transcendental disaster, usually upon the brink of the Promised Land but not necessarily exclusive to it, could only become a literature of transcendental triteness, now that the Red Sox had won a World Series, in my lifetime and every other Red Sox Nation citizen’s.