FENWAY TRIP REPORT #2
RED SOX ROLLING
BY: David Prior
Had tickets to see the Red Sox and Indians at Fenway on Saturday and brought my son Jonah, who has been a regular in section 88 since 2010ish. Growing up in the suburbs, going through the city to get to a major league game always added an extra dimension to the excitement surrounding the experience. Not so with Jonah, who is a city kid. The first time I brought him to Fenway he was around three years old. We were going to see a minor league double header while the Sox were out of town. He asked about tickets while we were walking over, I told him not to worry we'd get some there. About a three blocks from the park, the scalpers came out. I guess Jonah just figured this was how you got tickets, because after watching two or three of them doing business, he attempted to ply the trade himself. He disentangled himself from holding hands, walked up to a stranger, and said "hey dude, you got any extra tickets?"
The Sox game started at 4pm, but by 11am I'd already had my fill of nail biting baseball action for the day. You guessed it, little league. The team we were playing was comprised largely of kids from Jonah's school. They entered the contest with a 1-3 record, while our team was 3-0-1. Should have been an easy game to win, but Jonah has a penchant for talking smack, and after two straight weeks of him taunting his little buddies in school, they came into the game like it was the World Series. The game went right down to the wire with tons of chirping from both sides. I thankfully have never taken so much verbal abuse from a group of seven and eight year old boys as I did from that other team Saturday morning, but luckily we were able eek out a victory. Perhaps it was a little unsportsmanlike of me to go through the "good game" handshake line choosing instead to say "who’s your daddy?" over and over, but they started it.
The Red Sox had Joe Kelly pitching versus the Indians Trevor Bauer. It was Kelly's first game back from the DL. Kelly has been kind of an enigma. He has great stuff, but aside from a few solid stretches of games here or there, hasn't really put it all together to be a top of the rotation guy. Yet. Through the first few innings Saturday he was in perfect game form. He faltered in the top of the fifth, walking three, but got out of the inning with the no-hitter still intact. Jonah was buzzing about the no-no. I didn't see it happening. After the fifth his pitch count was super high, and like I said earlier, it was his first game back from the DL. In some ways the longer the no-hitter lasted the worse the prospects for Joe Kelly's 2016 season could be.
|Joe Kelly||Trevor Bauer|
The Sox got two homers from Mookie Betts, one a grand slam, to jump out to a 9-0 lead. They've been knocking the cover off the ball lately. Get this, over the last two weeks the top three guys in Major League Baseball in WAR... 1. Jackie Bradley Jr, +1.3, 2. Mookie Betts, +1.2, and 3. Xander Bogaerts, +1.1. Bradley entered the game with a 25 game hit streak and the Indians' decision to intentionally walk him in the second inning brought a lot of boos from the crowd. I've always been a fan of Terry Francona, and I especially didn't like the hit piece the Boston Globe's Bob Hohler (a lot of people assumed at the time he was writing as a mouthpiece for the Red Sox front office) did on him after he was fired by the Red Sox back in 2011, but I was willing to believe every word of it when they gave the intentional pass to JBJ. As luck would have it, Bradley came up again in the third inning, and this time Bauer didn't even throw him a strike. Eight pitches, eight balls.
I get all of this strategy stuff, but man, sometimes with baseball the way managers can utilize passivity really ticks me off. I don't think I can recall an instance of anybody cheering for an intentional walk or pitching around a guy. A few weeks ago I was watching the Cubs and Nationals and the game went into extra innings. The guy I really wanted to see, Bryce Harper was walked something like six times. He was also plunked once, just to mix things up, I guess. Like I said, I understand why Joe Maddon would do something like this, but it makes the sport less interesting. Just like bringing in specialist relievers and stuff like that, sound strategic moves, but utterly devastating to the entertainment aspect of things. I'd rather watch a Floyd Mayweather fight.
Just kidding, no I wouldn't.
What about this notion of making the game more fan friendly? Consider for a moment an instance where the correct strategic decision was not made in order so that the fans could see what they wanted to see. That sounds absurd you say. Well, what about when the fan in question is The Emperor! That's right, baseball fans, we are talking about June 25, 1959, the Hanshin Tigers versus the Yomiuri Giants. This was the first time The Emperor of Japan attended a baseball game, making the game one of, if not THE biggest, game in Japanese baseball history. And what happened, the game was tied going into the bottom of the ninth. The Tigers had the great Minoru Murayama in his rookie season pitching in relief. Up to the plate comes Shigeo Nagashima, who would go on to win the MVP five times. Prior to the game, fans were told, that because of the presence of The Emperor and Empress, that the traditional noise makers would not be allowed inside Korakuen Stadium. Although the game was exciting, for most of it, the royal presence kept things subdued. Until Minoru Murayama, knowing that the Emperor wouldn't want to see the great Shigeo Nagashima taking pitches in the dirt and outside in the bottom of the ninth, tried to strike him out with an inside fastball. Whammo! 5-4 Giants, and the crowd, previously so pent up with anxiety and awe for The Emperor, went bonkers.
Now, that's exciting. That's what I want to see from my throne in section 88, Joe Maddon.
Decades later and thousands of miles away, Juan Uribe walloped a ball into the gap, ending Joe Kelly's no-hit bid this past Saturday with two outs in the seventh. The crowd gave him a respectable standing ovation as he left the mound. Who could complain, the Sox were way up and if the Orioles lost to the Angels later (they wouldn't it turned out) we'd be tied for first. Plus, JBJ got an infield single in the bottom of the sixth. If this wasn't going to be a THE year, it was certainly going to be A year. Red Sox 9 Indians 1.