4.7.03: As I was chewing my nails down to the quick in the top of the
ninth inning of Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Orioles, my phone rang.
To my surprise, the plaintive voice on the other end was not a fellow Red
Sox fan, but rather that of a Mets fan who had confidently included Pedro
Martinez on a three-team parlay.
"What the hell is he doing?" my bewildered buddy asked, echoing the
question I myself was screaming at the screen.
With nobody out and runners on first and third courtesy of the
spectacularly wild Jorge Julio, Grady Little had Bill Mueller attempt a
straight sacrifice to move the runner on first into scoring position.
Here was a pitcher who was struggling mightily to register a single strike
and Grady was offering him an entire out. I couldn't believe it. Julio
was throwing almost 100 miles an hour with movement and was all over the
place and our idiot skipper puts on the bunt. I know Grady Little didn't
play in The Show, but he did play baseball at some point in his life,
right? Yet clearly, in that moment, ninth inning of a one-run game - that
familiar setting where he does his worst work - Grady clearly couldn't
grasp that Julio was far more likely to advance the runner on first via
another walk than he was to throw a pitch that could be easily bunted.
Mueller predictably - to me and my friend - popped a bunt attempt foul
before striking out.
Lost in the tortured welter of lament about our terrible bullpen - and it
is terrible - is that the manager is still awful. I mean, if you saw a guy
in a pickup softball game slap a groundball to shortstop and then run
directly to third base, you'd say, "Wow, this guy doesn't know how to
play." Well, guess what, when a manager watches Ramiro Mendoza yield a
line drive single, a line drive double, a line drive sac fly, a line drive
out, a line drive single, a line drive single and a line drive single and
opts to leave him in with the tying run on first, he doesn't know how to
manage. And then when Mendoza gives up a booming double and is saved only
by a great relay and a generous call all Gomer Grady can offer is some
asinine bromide about winning the game or how bravely John Burkett
Can you imagine a more combustible combination? This bullpen being
handled by this jackass. Oy. We teach children not to play with matches
but part of that deal, of course, is to provide them with other toys. The
front office has left a child-like huckleberry with nothing to play with
but matches, kindling and lighter fluid. It's almost cruel.
But wait, the Sox are 5-2. They've opened the season with consecutive road
series wins for only the fifth time in franchise history. Why the panic
across New England?
Because Red Sox fans are smart. And they know this team cannot win the
World Series. They know Chad Fox cannot close out a playoff series with a
one-run lead. They know Pedro Martinez cannot pitch in a three-man playoff
rotation and that Casey Fossum and John Burkett cannot win a playoff
game. They know that a team with good infield defense doesn't yield seven
infield hits in one game. They know that Derek Lowe's numbers will decline
because that infield defense is so poor. They know this team will almost
never successfully turn a 3-6-3 double play. They know this team will
pound the soft underbelly of the American League but scuffle against the
top tier teams. They know that this slow, potent offense is built for July
and will post diminishing returns as the weather gets colder and the games
get more important. Red Sox fans are not fooled by 12-2 drubbings of
lousy teams. They think only of the big picture, of trying to win a road
playoff game in Oakland on a chilly October night with the score tied 2-2
in the ninth and Pedro past his pitch count.
And they know this team can't do it.
It's so obvious, heck, even Grady Little might know it.