My relationship with John Lackey is an odd one. Especially given that we’ve never met.**
I wasn’t a fan when he was with the Angels. I thought he was a good pitcher but a little obnoxious. It felt like he never missed a chance to throw his teammates under the bus and that’s something that never sits well with me. So while there were plenty of non-Red Sox players I enjoyed watching, John Lackey was not one of them.
Then I sat at Fenway Park one night in 2008 while the Angels were in town and watched him almost no-hit the Red Sox…against Clay Buchholz no less. When that game was over (Dustin Pedroia broke up the no-hit bid in the 9th and the Angels won 6-2) I found myself a little sad that Lackey didn’t get his no-no…and I started to actually kind of like him.
Last night’s game was just another reminder of how as much as I love baseball, sometimes it frustrates the hell out of me.
For the second time this season against the Red Sox, Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was found to have a foreign substance on his person, presumably to help him pitch. (It was not the second time this season he was caught by cameras with the pine tar. His outing in Toronto was also enhanced by the sticky substance.)
After the first time against the Sox I felt pretty ‘meh’ about it. None of the players complained, good for him he got away with something. But last night irritated me on a few different levels. So let’s give thanks to Pineda for causing my first rant of the 2014 season.
Before the game John Farrell responded to a question about pine tar by saying “I’m sure I would expect that, if it’s used, it’s more discreet than the last time.”
Yeah, not so much.
I don’t have any idea if I should be mad that Pineda uses pine tar. Apparently everyone uses it and no one in the game usually cares. What annoys me is how everyone blows it off (including and especially the players) as if it isn’t a big deal when it is, regardless of how well it is hidden, against MLB’s rules. This isn’t stealing signs. This is something specifically against the rules. If you want the rule changed, you’re in a union, go talk to them. But the rule is there and if the only time it’s going to be enforced is when it’s so bloody obvious my legally blind father with a 10 year-old NON HD television can see it then I think that’s pretty ridiculous.
I’m also annoyed by the way the entire Yankees team was only too happy to throw Pineda under the bus the moment the game was over and the questions came out. Sure, he’s an adult, makes his own decisions, blah, blah, blah. And it was pointed out to me last night that dugouts between innings aren’t exactly libraries so it’s possible his manager, the coaches, his teammates and everyone else in there didn’t notice the giant, messy blob on his neck before he took the field in the second inning. But he’s done this at least two other times this season already. The media was all over it yesterday before the game. I absolutely do not believe that no one in the Yankees organization thought to maybe talk to this kid before the game and say “Gee, the spotlight is going to be on you, maybe cut the shit for one night, huh?” And if they did and he ignored them you would think that the reaction from, oh let’s say Joe Girardi would have been a lot more angry than it was. Girardi responded like it was no big deal (although in fairness Brian Cashman seemed a bit more miffed – probably just that his player was stupid enough to ‘hide’ it on such an obvious place).
The word ‘mistake’ has been bandied about quite a bit regarding this incident. No. It wasn’t a mistake. It was a purposeful decision. A stupid one, mind you I won’t argue with anyone that what Pineda did was ridiculously stupid, but a specific decision and not a mistake nonetheless.
As with most of my rants, I know I’m all over the place here. There’s a part of me that sympathizes with Pineda. He’s 25, English isn’t his first language, and he’s pitching for a team that, at least in theory, offers zero room for mistakes. Who knows what kind of pressure he’s feeling or what kind of support he’s getting? And what kind of mixed messages has he received? I mean,hell, if I can’t figure out why I’m supposed to be mad about pitchers using pine tar (given I keep getting told everyone does it), how is he supposed to know if he’s doing something wrong? He knows it’s “wrong” in the sense that it’s against MLB rules but as long as you conceal it well it seems to not be “wrong” among his fellow players, coaches and managers. So in a sense it’s easy to see why he thought he could get away with it.
The players need to clean up their own mess. It sounds a bit hypocritical to hear John Farrell and John Lackey and others essentially saying the only reason they brought the umpires into it was because of how blatant it was. Suddenly we have to defend the integrity of the game (or our own egos) just because everyone can see it? So if CC is hiding something between his fingers tonight and none of us ever get a look at it, does that make him better than Pineda because he hides his cheating better?* How’s this work? Do players get the rulebook and note the asterisks next to some of rules? “Pay no attention to the red asterisked rules, fellas. Those are just there for show.”
*In case a CC fan happens to read this, I’m not accusing him of cheating. But if everyone else is right, apparently chances are he probably is.
In an ESPN.com article about this debacle, Ian O’Connor amusingly wonders if this will “sink” the Yankees season. But that isn’t the most entertaining thing about the piece. Normally, I avoid the comments but in some instances the schadenfreude is too much to pass up. My favorite comment came from someone named Joseph who wrote (and this is all cut and pasted, typos and/or misspellings aren’t mine):
I’m very disapointed in Cashman at the moment. i think he is letting the yankees get pushed around again. He shouldn’t have come out defiant. He should have denounced Farrell’s ploy for what it was: gamesmenship. He should have promised retalalition. Not say your sorry because Pineda’s only crime it seems was to try and get a grip of the baseball. The rule was designed to prevent people from doctoring the baseball not prevent a pitcher from being able to grip the ball on a cold night because that’s a safety hazard. Let’s be honest here John Farrel doesn’t give a darn about the rule. He just cares about giving his team an edge whether it is in the rules or not. Somebody should ask him if he thinks that Jon Lester should be suspended. Or if he thinks Clay Bucholtz should be suspended? My guess is that he’ll say no even though there is actual video proof that these guys cheated. If you suspend Pineda you have to suspend those other pitchers as well. Otherwise leave the kid alone.
Aside from old Joseph not knowing how to spell Farrell or Buchholz, he misses the point of why Pineda will be suspended and Lester and Buchholz only got spoken about in the media. No one on the opposing team called out Lester or Buchholz during the game (I almost wish they had. I mean I’d be interested to see how the umps reacted to the stuff on Clay’s arm and in Crabby’s glove.) which means there were no reprimands. Which brings me to another thing that makes no sense to me in MLB…why is it on the teams to police themselves? Why didn’t one of the umps approach the mound (or the Yankees dugout) and say “Yo, what up with the neck gunk?” It seems to me that MLB is as accepting of this practice as the players are – as long as the pitchers aren’t obvious enough to get caught.
The mixed message is annoying. If I’m going to be outraged, dammit, tell me why I should be!
I’d rather the media focus on how amazing the Red Sox pitching was last night – especially John Lackey. For schadenfreude, how about Derek Jeter’s absolutely horrendous defense or Mark Teixeira’s Golden Sombrero? All interesting baseball stories. Instead we get to listen to the likes of Karl Ravech say things like “There is no joy in Pinetarville” (he really said that – and then went on to say that John Farrell couldn’t really enjoy beating the Yankees last night because he knows his pitchers “cheat” too). And tonight we’ll be subjected to discussions about the length of Pineda’s suspension (10 games, equalling 2 starts – the iron hammer of Joe Torre seems a little weak) and concerns that the Red Sox opened a can of worms that their pitchers will have to pay for.
I mean hell, I’ve written almost 1500 words about the damn subject and I don’t even really know how I feel about it. I don’t like cheaters and I’m a bit of a good two-shoes when it comes to rules…so in theory I should be mad that Pineda pulled this again. But really I just wonder, if it really is being done by all of them, why more pitchers don’t get caught.
I’ll say this much, the theater of John Farrell coming out of the dugout, the umpire practically strip searching Michael Pineda and Joe Girardi almost dismantling an ESPN dugout camera wouldn’t have been quite as amusing had the Red Sox lost last night’s game. So I thank John Lackey for being outstanding and really wish the rest of it would just go away.
If the Red Sox sweep the Cardinals…and I’m not saying they will (I’m also not saying they won’t)…they will do it on the 9th anniversary of the night they won the 2004 World Series…against the Cardinals. I can dig that. I can also dig an umpiring crew that had no problem getting together and making the right call when one of their own completely messed it up. Much like they did twice in the 2004 ALCS. I find it fascinating that there are so many little connections to that postseason. Heck, even Tim Wakefield, Keith Foulke and Kevin Millar have all said this 2013 team reminds them a lot of the 2004 “idiots”. And tonight, although Fox Sports will most likely not show it, members of that 2004 team will be throwing out the first pitch.
I’ll take the good karma anywhere I can get it.
Last night’s win was made even more special by the fact that it was pretty much stress-free. The umps reverse a bad call, the Red Sox start scoring and we get a non-nail biting, World Series win behind a masterful performance by Jon Lester*.
*Not even going to bother rehashing this morning’s whining about a possible substance on Lester’s glove. As many have said, what was or wasn’t in his glove didn’t cause the Cardinals to make 3 errors or force Cardinals pitching to give up 8 runs on 8 hits.
I will say this in support of Cardinals fans: Throughout the ALCS, Red Sox fans complained because it seemed like not only did the Fox crew want the Tigers to win, but they talked more about and with the Tigers than the Red Sox during EVERY game, in Detroit AND Boston. Last night, aside from a bit of focus on Carlos Beltran, it was pretty much all Red Sox all night long. If I was rooting for St. Louis I’d be more than a little annoyed this morning that Fox made it out like only one team was playing.
Okay…one more thing about Lester’s glove: Jeff Passan over at Yahoo Sports has an interesting piece up with this nugget:
Fact: Lester and his Red Sox teammates have used BullFrog sunscreen, which, when mixed with rosin, creates a tacky substance that enhances a pitcher’s grip on the ball. BullFrog was seen in the Red Sox’s dugout during the division series at Tropicana Field – a domed stadium.
Fact: Major League Baseball is well aware of this and does not consider it an issue despite rules about foreign substances because pitchers, hitters, coaches, managers and executives agree that a substance used to better a pitcher’s grip, as opposed to doctor a ball or make it dip and dive in unnatural directions, is within the confines of the rules.
So let’s move on to tonight, shall we? The Red Sox, with John Lackey on the mound, have a very good opportunity to go up 2-0 in the World Series. 2-0. Rookie right-hander Michael Wacha will try to make that difficult for them, and if anyone on the team can put the hurt on the Red Sox he can, but we were told to worry about Adam Wainwright and look how that worked out!
My hopes for this year were simple. I wanted them to win on Opening Day at Fenway and then give us an entertaining run that might include them flirting with first place for a while. When it became clear that they were a good team that was going to do more than flirt with first place, I wanted them to make the playoffs. When making the playoffs was a foregone conclusion, I wanted them to win the division. Once they ticked that off their to-do list, I wanted them to beat the Tampa Bay Rays.
From there it became really simple. The Detroit Tigers were a damn good team and if they lost to them there would be no shame in it. I was already thrilled with the way the season went and I could hunker down for the winter content in knowing the team had shed the ghosts of fried chicken, beer and Bobby Valentine. Then they went and won the damn pennant and they were bringing us a rematch of 2004. I still don’t know what to do with this. I won’t consider this season a loss or a waste if they can’t win the World Series but after last night they got me hungry for it in a way I didn’t expect. I want to see the Red Sox win…win the whole thing. And as much as I don’t look forward to there being no MLB until February, if they won it in four games it would be so very sweet.
But I can’t get too far ahead of myself. Let’s work this one at a time. Lackey v Wacha. A pitcher rehabilitating his reputation against a pitcher just starting to form his. Lackey turned 35 yesterday and Wacha is 22…none of these things will matter once the first pitch is thrown tonight. So in the spirit of brevity, which I’ve already thrown out the window: Just win.
We have Gold Gloves!
Jacoby Ellsbury won his first, Dustin Pedroia his second and Adrian Gonzalez his third. Let us rejoice in meaningless awards (with all due respect to our three winners who genuinely did good enough glove work to win the award…the fact that Derek Jeter has five of them including, inexplicably, last year will always make me think very little of the award generally).
On Monday the Red Sox spent roughly nine hours interviewing Philadelphia Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin for the manager’s position. Yesterday John Lackey underwent Tommy John Surgery and today Milwaukee Brewers batting coach (and former Red Sox third base coach) Dale Sveum will go through the interview process for Terry Francona’s job.
Lackey’s surgery, reportedly, went well. The surgery means he’ll miss the entire 2012 season and possibly some of 2013. There are still three years and $46 million left on his contract. I’ve been supportive of Lackey and I’ve been hard on Lackey…and all I can say about this is I hope it freaking works and he comes back in 2013 the pitcher I thought he would be when he signed on with the Red Sox. I choose to be hopeful instead of negative. Eventually something has to go right with this guy, yes?
Ben Cherington has promised that there will be possibly four or five more candidates to interview…unlike many, I’m not entirely against the idea of Dale Sveum, I have to admit. I like the idea of someone who is already familiar with the organization coming on and I’m okay without the team getting a big name manager. Of course, with Tony LaRussa announcing his retirement there has been a lot of fan speculation that he could come to Boston. I’ve already stated if that ever happens I might have to become an Orioles fan. (I should also state that I don’t believe for a minute that it would happen.)
I leave you with some Adrian Gonzalez quotes because, thanks to Peter Abraham, he took a lot of grief for his comments about it being God’s plan after the season ended and I think many folks have it in their heads that he doesn’t care about winning or losing which is, to be blunt, horse pucky:
“The only thoughts right now is trying to do next year what St. Louis did this year, and try to win a World Series. That’s the only goal,” Gonzalez said. “We’re talking about the Gold Glove, and personal accomplishments are great, but the only thing that really matters to us is winning a World Series and getting to the playoffs first and foremost, which we weren’t able to do this year.
The only thing on my mind right now is what I can do to help the team. Hopefully, everybody else on the team is doing the same thing, and next year we can come in hungrier than we were this year so we can actually get it done.”
The awards, however meaningless these awards have become, are well deserved by our fellas and I congratulate them all. I’m looking forward to the resolution of the manager situation so I can properly start looking forward to Truck Day!
For the love of all that is good in the world could we just get some closure in the Theo Epstein saga?
I’m begging here.
I didn’t think anything would be worse than the “They’re close to a deal….they aren’t close to a deal” stories coming out every ten minutes…but now we have the “They’re close to announcing the deal…they aren’t anywhere near announcing the deal” and I just sit here and shake my head. Do it, don’t do it…at this point I couldn’t care less I just want the Red Sox to be able to move on. With or without Theo, at this point it makes no nevermind to me. Just freaking do it.
Although I will say this, the one aspect of this that I’m enjoying is how, seemingly, the Red Sox aren’t rolling over for the Cubs. Theo is the one who is breaking his contract, the Cubs are the team getting one of the best General Managers in baseball, so the Red Sox absolutely deserve something more than a little cash or a few throwaway players. There is a part of me, though, that will just be happy for it to be all over, regardless of what the Red Sox get for Theo. (But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d consider it well worth it all if somehow John Lackey is pitching somewhere that isn’t Fenway Park.)
I spent most of today offline, working on a family project that will take up a lot of time and bring me much joy. I need the distraction from the world of baseball right now. So when I finally jumped back online this evening I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Jon Lester had spoken at length about the accusations coming off of Yawkey Way right now.
That was before I actually read what he said.
There are plenty of places to read the quotes by Lester. I suppose I should say “good for him” for speaking out but I’m just not feeling it. Sure he came out and said the reason they lost had nothing to do with ownership, Theo Epstein or Terry Francona and placed the blame all on the team but he also blew off the talk of the pitchers not being on the bench and instead being in the clubhouse drinking and said that as much as he was fond of Tito it was probably time for him to go.
Let me get this part out first because I keep reading people making jokes about anyone getting up in arms over a few baseball players having beers on days they aren’t playing and I feel like it’s getting overlooked or, really, just ignored for the sake of keeping up the narrative.
I don’t think there is anyone who begrudges anyone else a beer. And I’m sure that having drinks in the clubhouse after the game is common but there is no scenario I can imagine where it’s appropriate for a clique of pitchers to leave the dugout during a game and have beers instead of acting like part of the team. Having written that, it seems to me that the bigger issue isn’t specifically that they were drinking beer but that in doing whatever they were doing in that clubhouse (which, even by Lester’s account, was drinking beer) was disrespecting not only their teammates but their manager. I really don’t care how you defend the beer drinking, being a group of entitled asses segregating yourself from the rest of your team and ignoring your manager is unacceptable.
Here’s what Lester said about Terry Francona:
But there comes a time when your authority is no longer there. You kind of run your course. People knew how Tito was and we pushed the envelope with it. We never had rules, we never had that iron-fist mentality. If you screwed up, he called you on it. That was how it worked.
“I never saw guys purposely breaking rules or doing the wrong thing in front of him and rubbing it in his face. But this particular team probably needed more structure. Tito was the perfect guy for this team for a long time but I think he got burnt out.”
Let me break down his tripe:
* But there comes a time when your authority is no longer there ~ The only way I will grant Lester this is if the clubhouse was full of new players who hadn’t played under Tito before. It makes no sense that Tito’s authority would suddenly be gone with players who have worked for him previous to 2010. Now, I don’t find Tito blameless in all of this. If the stories are true it’s very possible he let his private life get in the way of his doing his job properly. But this is a two-way street and players, ADULTS, who have worked for him before should have the maturity to treat him with the respect he deserves.
* People knew how Tito was and we pushed the envelope with it ~ You don’t push the envelope when you’re in your late twenties and early thirties. You are grown, professional men and you’re admitting you acted like teenagers taking advantage of your single mom working nights.
* This particular team probably needed more structure ~ This quote makes me want to kick Lester repeatedly. How many men on that team are over the age of 25? How many are married men with children? Again, we’re talking about adults who should not be whining that they need “more structure”.
* I think he got burnt out ~ No, Jon, you burned him out. And all your talk of what “good guys” you all are is falling on deaf ears over here. Good guys don’t act like idiots. Good guys don’t force their manager, one of the best at his job and the most successful ever on your team, to quit the job they love. Good guys don’t blame the media for a witch hunt when the things they are reporting are accurate.
Plenty of people are writing or talking tonight about how great it is that Lester came clean and took the blame for what went on. I’d love to feel that way and was hoping that was the case. But his words about Tito really come across harsh here. Tito treated this guy like a son and his way of repaying all of that is to disrespect him and chalk it up to Tito being burned out. I’m disgusted. I mean, I was already disgusted but this media blitz, which I’m sure he was hoping would make everyone remember that he’s Jon Lester and everyone gives him a long rope, only enhanced my disgust. I’d love this all to go away but it seems obvious now that we’re going to have to deal with more of these interviews from more players before we get finished with this garbage.
Have to get this off my chest: I want to go back and delete every entry or tweet that I’ve written defending John Lackey in any way. I won’t get into why (you can Google it and find out for yourself) because I hate feeding into the gossip mongers, but if the story is true in my mind there is NO defense for him and, really, I couldn’t care less what happens to him from here on out. And that’s all I have to say about that.
But about that game…(not that first one which we will not speak of but that second one)
When Mark Teixeira doubled in two runs and then scored on a bad throw in the first inning I yelled, out loud for the baseball gods to hear me, “I’m done! I’m SO done with this!” and stormed out of the room with the television. I paced around until the next inning began and then sat myself down in front of the television and kept watching until the very end. Apparently I wasn’t “done” but I needed to finally let the frustration out.
And I’m glad I didn’t give up because the way the game was won, while more than a bit painful at times, was beautiful. (Beautiful as in “That baby is butt ugly but his mother thinks he’s beautiful”, beautiful.)
I’m all over the place this morning.
First off, I just have to say that while I get it’s easier to edit a game that began at 1pm than it is to edit a game that began at 7:10pm and went on for almost four hours, I still found it ridiculous that NESN chose the game that the Red Sox lost yesterday to re-air last night. Plenty of us are crazy enough to stay up to watch (or re-watch) a win…when you have the choice, why show the loss? Luckily, I actually did get to see the second game yesterday and not the first so it all worked out well for me.
One day we’re watching the Red Sox finish the weekend with a five-game losing streak, the next we’re watching them pound the Toronto Blue Jays (the team that began the Red Sox losing streak by winning a series in Toronto) with 18 hits and 18 runs and helping Tim Wakefield gain his 200th career win. Which is exactly why we continue to watch.
Well, except for me. Last night I had other obligations and didn’t get home until the 8th inning. The score was 11-5 by that time and it was smooth sailing. I checked the score while I was out and every time I did it seemed the score was flipping back and forth. When it was 6-5 in the sixth inning and I saw that Tim Wakefield was still in there I stopped checking the score (sorry, Wake, but I did). I was enjoying myself and almost convinced if I kept checking my mood would change. Yeah, it still sometimes gets to me.
Reading on Twitter that the fans were chanting for Wake when the game ended didn’t surprise me. We love him. The media knows it and it seems he does too. It was fantastic that we could enjoy a night like last night before the end of the season. Put me in the perfect frame of mind for the rest of this month.
I wax more poetic on Wake when the season is over but for now I’ll just bask in the knowledge that he isn’t chasing 200 any more and the Sox gained some ground last night in the playoff race.
Don’t forget that this Blue Jays series is only two games and today’s game is a 1:35pm event with John Lackey on the mound. Once again, I have a prior commitment that will keep me from watching the majority of the game. Hopefully this works as well today as it did yesterday.
“I was definitely not trying to hit him,” he [Lackey] said. “I was trying to knock him down for sure. You can see where he stands in the box. You’ve got to knock him off the plate a little. I threw a 3-1 pitch that he hit out. I was definitely not trying to hit him, but I was trying to move him back. You definitely don’t want to put a base-runner on in a two-run ballgame.”
and there’s this:
“I’ve been fined twice for hitting guys this year, and I’ve paid them because they were right,” he [Lackey] said. “But this one, I’m not afraid to tell you if I’m trying to hit somebody. I would’ve told him to his face.”
I totally buy it. While I get that Lackey has a history of letting his emotions come out at inappropriate times on the field and that it must have been frustrating to give up a bomb to the likes of Francisco Cervelli and then watch him celebrate at home plate as if he was Aaron Boone, the game was still close when Cervelli got hit and with the way things were going I have a difficult time believing Lackey purposely put a guy on base just because the guy was a jackass who hit a home run off of him. I’ll say this, though, I won’t be sad if before the series is over we have multiple photos of Jarrod Saltalamacchia holding Cervelli in a headlock.