By Neil Keefe
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On Sunday night, I left Fenway Park the same way I have several times before: upset, disappointed and devastated. I took what I call the “Walk of Shame” — a hike that takes me from Fenway through Back Bay and Beacon Hill — and for some reason the 4-0 loss to the Red Sox hurt a lot more than it should have.
Though the season is only nine games old, Sunday night’s loss moved near the top of my personal Fenway Park losses. It’s not at the top, but it’s probably in the five worst. It’s somewhere below Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS and the Jason Bay home run off #42 in April 2009, but it’s jockeying for position with the four-consecutive home run game from 2007 and the Jacoby Ellsbury steal of home game from 2009.
How could an April 10 loss to the Red Sox, who are just 2-7 and still trail the Yankees by three games, hurt so badly? Josh Beckett, that’s how.
On Friday, I updated my All-Animosity Team and made Josh Beckett the starting pitcher for it again because no one comes close to the animosity I feel toward Beckett. From an opposing fan’s standpoint, he has zero redeeming qualities, and he was a bad start at home against the Yankees from having the entire city of Boston turning on him. I was hoping for the chance to read stories in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald today about Theo Epstein’s wasted investment on Beckett. Instead I have to read that the old Beckett is back and the Red Sox are ready to roll at five games under .500.
When I walked out of Fenway on Sunday night, I felt like I had been called down to the mound and then pantsed on national TV. Losing hurts. Losing to the Red Sox hurts more. Losing to Josh Beckett hurts the most. And while Beckett was rolling through the Yankees lineup as if he were pitching from a 45-foot mound, I felt like I had seen this before. Then Sweeny Murti tweeted that the game looked like Game 6 of the 2003 World Series and I started having flashbacks.
Last night: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
Game 6: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
When the Red Sox are beating the Yankees and Josh Beckett is dealing like a guy who was given $68 million extension last season, everything in the crowd at Fenway is magnified to the point of being unbearable for a Yankees fan. It seems like the pink hats start to multiple and less and less intelligent baseball fans are in attendance. It’s probably me just being upset about losing, but here are the three things I hate about Fenway Park.
1. “Sweet Caroline”
The only time I don’t like that my name is Neil is in the middle of the eighth inning at Fenway Park. Saturday was great because there’s nothing better than “Sweet Caroline” when the Red Sox are losing. No one is happy. No one wants to sing. Everyone is just depressed, and I love it.
But on Sunday, Josh Beckett had just finished up his best performance in years, the Red Sox were up 4-0 and looking ready to win their first series of the season and the first few notes of Neil Diamond’s downfall started echoing out of the Fenway Park speakers. It was the perfect storm for a stereotypical “Sweet Caroline” rendition at Fenway with pink hats swaying and South Shore accents screaming “BUM! BUM! BUM!” I tried to pull a Billy Chapel and clear the mechanism and mute Fenway in my head, but I couldn’t.
2. The Judgment on Balls in Play
People get excited everywhere when a ball is hit into the air, even if the center fielder doesn’t take a step back because it’s a routine out. But at Fenway, “excited” is an understatement.
Last night in the first inning, Adrian Gonzalez lined out on a ball to Curtis Granderson that lacked the sound you hear on a home run or even the height of a ball that would eventually be a home run, and it lacked the body language of Gonzalez for a guy that would be running if he thought he just got a hit. But one guy next to me told his buddy, “I thought that one was going to carry out of here.” Maybe if Christopher Lloyd’s character in “Angels in the Outfield” grabbed it midair and carried it over the high wall in center at Fenway it might have gone out. I’m sure those who watched the game on ESPN heard the loud roars from the crowd on lazy fly balls.
3. “Yankees Suck”
To this day, I have never met a knowledgeable Red Sox fan that has participated in a “Yankees Suck” chant. The people who start these chants are people that probably get to one Red Sox game a year, spend a paycheck on Bud Lights and then decide to chant “Yankees Suck” even though their team is 2-7. It’s like riots in cities following championships. It’s never real fans that start these things. It’s the “fans” that watched their first game all season and took shots throughout it.
In Boston, these chants break out at Bruins games, Celtics games, Patriots games, concerts, baptisms, high school graduations and board of education meetings. Red Sox fans were chanting this pre-2004, so it’s no surprise that they were quick to start it up despite being 2-7 to begin a season in which they were said to be supposed to be better than the 1927 Yankees.
But enough with Fenway Park and its flaws. I actually do like watching games at Fenway Park as long as I’m watching from somewhere where there isn’t a beam blocking off a quarter of the field from my vision.
More importantly, four Yankees had significant weekends in Boston, and even though Phil Hughes should probably be the fifth person listed here, I’m going to give the Phranchise one more start of throwing in the 80s before I write about it being a problem. So, here’s a little bit on the four Yankees that I think had telling performances against the Red Sox.
Number 48, Boone Logan, Number 48
The season is 12 days old and I’m trying to run Boone Logan out of town. I don’t think that’s really a surprise to anyone. The only problem is that the “abused” Pedro Feliciano isn’t anywhere close to being ready to return since the Mets mistreated the left-handed the last few years and didn’t tell Brian Cashman that he led the league in appearances for the last three seasons. If I’m Jesse Orosco, I’m making sure I’m near a phone.
If a left-handed “specialist” can’t get out lefties, then why even have one? I’m pretty sure David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano can get out lefties.
Left-handed hitters have had eight plate appearances against Logan this season and they are 3-for-6 with two walks against him. I can’t think of a situation other than the Yankees blowing out another team or getting blown out in which Logan deserves to pitch or a situation I would trust him pitching in.
Number 62, Joba Chamberlain, Number 62
I was hoping that “2007 Joba” would open the season with a stretch of scoreless and dominating innings with his hands once again low prior to starting his delivery like they had been in 2007. I was hoping that there would be fist pumps and 360s and that we’d hear from Goose Gossage again about how that’s the wrong way to play the game. Instead we’ve gotten “Coin Flip Joba” in that it’s become 50/50 as to which Joba Chamberlain will enter a game. We saw both sides of Joba on Sunday night.
Joba entered the game in the sixth inning to face Kevin Youkilis with the bases loaded and two outs. He got Youkilis to ground out to third.
Joba came back out for the seventh inning and it went like this…
David Ortiz walked.
Mike Cameron struck out.
J.D. Drew walked.
Jason Varitek singled. (Yes, Jason Varitek).
Marco Scutaro doubled. (Yes, Marco Scutaro).
It’s not too often you get to see both sides of Joba in the same game, but on Sunday night we did. I still think Joba can be good for long stretches and hopefully it starts on this next homestand.
(On his matchup with Youkilis in the sixth inning … I wish the bases loaded weren’t loaded because 1. You never want the bases loaded against you and 2. It was a perfect opportunity for Joba to drill Youkilis (something he hasn’t done in a while) if the bases weren’t loaded. I have always thought that we will one day see Youkilis charge the mound at Joba because Joba has thrown at him so many times that at some point Youkilis is going to have to have some pride and not be able to take getting hit repeatedly by the same pitcher. I would love to see the benches clear at some point this season between the Yankees and Red Sox, and I think the best chance of seeing that happen is with Joba on the mound and Youkilis at the plate.)
Number 52, CC Sabathia, Number 52
CC showed on Sunday night what elite pitchers do when they don’t have their best stuff and still manage to allow just one run over 5 2/3 innings. It was a perfect lesson for Ivan Nova, who struggled to hold a four-run lead on Saturday and nearly blew the lead entirely and had to be taken out of the game before he was eligible for the win.
I said it last Wednesday, so I think it needs to be said again:
In case you’re unaware, after CC, the Yankees’ rotation features a 15-game loser from a year ago, an 18-game winner who’’ suddenly throwing at Javier Vazquez speeds, a kid with two careers wins and a 34 year old that had to beat Bartolo Colon out for a job and actually didn’t, but was still given the job. So yeah, when your ace pitches, more importantly when your ace allows three men to reach base and shuts out the opposition for seven innings, you should probably win that game.
CC didn’t pitch as well as he did against the Twins last Tuesday, but he pitched good enough that he could have earned a win if the Yankees had recorded more than two hits against Beckett. CC now has a 1.45 ERA in three starts and is 0-1. Pretty remarkable.
Number 20, Jorge Posada, Number 20
If Posada had a fourth at-bat against Beckett on Sunday, I don’t think I would have been able to sit there and watch it. In three at-bats, Posada struck out three times against Beckett and looked like he was playing Dizzy Bat the entire night. After feeling embarrassed and bad for Rory McIlroy earlier in the day as he imploded at the Masters, I thought I was going to get that same feeling during the game if Daniel Bard entered in the eighth inning to face Posada with his high-90s fastball. Instead, Beckett just overmatched him for the third time.
After the Yankees lost to the Rangers in the ALCS, I said the following about Posada:
Posada is like the aging family dog that just wanders around aimlessly and goes to the bathroom all over the place and just lies around and sleeps all day. You try to pretend like the end isn’t near and you try to remember the good times to get through the bad times, and once in a while the dog will do something to remind you of what it used to be, but it’s just momentary tease.
Those three home runs at Yankee Stadium last week would be the tease. The slump you have seen from Posada since then with the terrible performance last night is what life will be more times than not in the last year of Posada’s contract. If Posada continues to look like a 39-year-old former catcher turned designated hitter, I’m not sure how Girardi is going to keep Eric Chavez’s or Andruw Jones’ bat out of the lineup and out of the DH spot if they continue to produce in their limited at-bats.
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