Ladies and Gentlemen: Dan Shaughnessy.
BALTIMORE — OK, 162-0 is out. What else have we got?
Well, there is last year’s World Series championship, a deep and celebrated farm system, three titles in a decade, the love of friends and family, a stable job. That seems promising.
Everything Was Not Awesome for the Everything Is Awesome Red Sox in Monday’s 114th franchise opener here in The House That Larry Lucchino Built. Shane Victorino went on the disabled list, the Red Sox were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, left 12 runners on base, wasted a nice eight-strikeout effort by Jon Lester, and lost, 2-1, to Dan (More Days In First Place) Duquette’s Baltimore Orioles.
Making this one sting a little more, the deciding blow — a solo homer leading off the seventh — was delivered by Cheatin’ Nelson Cruz, one of the Biogenesis Bad Boys of 2013. It’s OK when those guys are playing on your side (remember Manny?), but you hate it when their cheaters are the ones who beat you.
It’s not a baseball opener without the media freaking out about PEDs is it?
The Sox were the Same Old Grinders of championship lore. They made Baltimore starter Chris Tillman throw 20 pitches in a scoreless first inning and chased the Oriole ace by making him throw 104 pitches over five. Unfortunately, your Red Sox did not do a lot of the little things that made them magical in 2013.
Case in point: The Sox put two men aboard to start the second. Mike Carp was on second base. When Xander Bogaerts drilled a deep drive to left, Carp wandered halfway to third and was unable to tag up when Cruz make an awkward, off-balance catch.
How often do plodding runners tag and take third on flies to left field? Cruz’s clumsy catch may have confirmed Carp’s choice, also, because if he were tagging up and that ball found the ground, Carp needed to score. If Carp did tag up and try to take third, there was some mega-TOOTBLAN possibilities.
It was a mistake. Carp should have been on third. If you ignore the fallacy of the predestined hit, you could conclude that Carp would have scored when A.J. Pierzynski followed with a deep fly to center.
That would have been nice. You assume Carp would have gotten to third as well as assuming that the likely outcome was Cruz catching that ball. Just because Cruz caught the ball does not mean it was statistically likely. Furthermore, the A’s lost a game yesterday, in part, because Daric Barton was tagging from second on a long fly ball that Josh Donaldson hit that found the ground. Barton only made it to third, loading the bases rather than pushing runs across. The A’s eventually scored no runs.
Small things. Those are the things the Sox did right in 2013, which is why they are going to the White House on Tuesday.
“I thought the ball was going to be a home run,’’ said Red Sox skipper John Farrell. “But we do teach our guys to be in position to get back and tag and try to advance.’’
Farrell will be in for some criticism in the wake of the opener. Trailing, 2-1, in the eighth, he pulled his cleanup hitter, Mike Napoli (looking more and more like Russell Crowe’s “Noah”), for pinch runner Jackie Bradley when Napoli got to second base with one out.
Yes, this was a weird decision. They happen. Farrell will be questioned two thousand more times this season. Sometimes he will be right, sometimes he will be wrong.
Like this, for example. Criticize it, question it, do differently if you ever find yourself coaching a local little league team.The decision would likely work 25-30% of the time. That’s baseball.
“I liked the matchup there,’’ said Farrell. “I’m not second-guessing the move.’’
But, please, Dan, do not mention how borderline (read: absurdly high) that called strike three was. Give no benefit of the doubt.
Bradley hit .189 in limited big league play last season and has yet to demonstrate he can hit in the bigs. He is probably not the guy you want at bat with two out and two on in the ninth inning of a 2-1 game.
Narrowing the entire JBJ narrative to his batting average in the bigs in 2013 is about as short sighted and self serving as it could get. He is a top-30 prospect in baseball. He has a .297 career minor league batting average to pair with a .404 on base percentage. But please, tell me how he did as a prematurely promoted player in limited time last year!
The good news is, Lester was fairly dominant and Grady Sizemore lined a single and a homer, enlarging the legend that took Fort Myers by storm in March. Watching Sizemore Monday, it was hard not to think about Tony Conigliaro.
I never had that struggle. I thought about Grady Sizemore, and how fun it is to watch redemption.
Sizemore had not played a major league game in 2½ years. Nine hundred and 22 days. This happened with our war heroes of the early 1940s when Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, and friends put their careers on the shelf for three seasons, then roared back into big league ball in 1946.
But their ballplaying gap was forced by Germany and Japan. Sizemore had baseball taken away from him by seven surgeries in four years. Both knees. His back. Sports hernias. You name it. His previous big league game was on Sept. 22, 2011. Now, at age 31, he is back hitting homers.
Homers is a plural word. But, I am thrilled Dan found something to alleviate his deep pain and angst that colors both his columns and his soul.
Conigliaro’s story comes closest to Sizemore’s. Tony C was hit in the eye by a Jack Hamilton fastball on Friday night, Aug. 18, 1967. He was done for the rest of the year. He was unable to play in 1968. But on Opening Day in 1969, in Baltimore, Tony C hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning of a 5-4 Red Sox win.
Monday was Sizemore’s turn. He hadn’t homered in 990 days, which is almost as long as the presidency of John F. Kennedy. But he went deep to right off Tillman, breaking his bat on the swing. Unfortunately, he was the only Sox player who touched home plate.
BUT DID HE GET A HIT WHEN THERE WERE RUNNERS IN SCORING POSITION! HE IS NOT CLUTCH!
Amazingly, the Orioles have won eight of nine games started by Lester since that fateful night at Camden in the final week of 2011.
Those were the things they did not do on Monday. Luckily, the Red Sox do not play in a town that’s likely to overreact to a loss on Opening Day.
The town? The town is not overreacting. They like to win, but NO ONE is overreacting.
Wednesday night, however, just became a Must Win for the Olde Town Team.
Ok, someone is overreacting. Congrats, Dan, now take a Xanax and calm down.