Friday, October 19, 2007

Hype This

I understand why everyone hates the Red Sox. Believe me, I do. In the past several years the Sox have elevated themselves to join the Yanks as Empire clubs who can spend whatever they want to sign whomever they want. It's bad for the game to have an uneven financial playing field - I'd rather the Royals and Pirates had just as solid a chance at making the postseason every year as the Sox and Yanks. That they don't ... well, I'm just glad I grew up in New England, I guess.

I do think, though, that what's led the Sox to become the second Empire Club is having the Yankees as their primeval rival. If it were the Dodgers, and not the Yankees that had sat atop the financial landscape for the past twenty years then it would now be the Giants, and not the Red Sox, that stepped up into the financial P2 slot. Or if Steinbrenner had bought the Mets it would be the Phillies, or the Cardinals if he'd bought the Cubs, and so on. It's one thing to have hated the Yankees while they've been on this run, but when it's your rival doing it ... it stings a bit more and it blends that sting with a shot o' jealousy that almost demands a reaction.

Having sat on that side I can understand now how people look at Sox with hatred and jealousy and want to see the little guys (Cleveland's 2007 payroll is less than half of Boston's) win the Series for a Feel Good Series against the Rockies. FOX does tilt the way they sell the games towards Boston because they're a network interested in ratings and, frankly, just like any professional sports network they'd prefer teams from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston to be prominent. Part of that is the size of the television market and part is a club's history. It's annoying, and ultimately I think it hurts the sport.

Going into Game 5 of the LCS last night, with Cleveland up 3-1 and looking to clinch, most sports fans wanted the Sox to lose. Even if they don't hate the Red Sox they understand the economics and they sense the hype and the East Coast Bias (which you can't really understand the depths of, I don't think, unless you've lived west of Philly) and, frankly, the fans that make up the Red Sox Nation, and they'd just rather not have to deal with it anymore. Better to have the Smiling Racists in.

Especially since they look like the better team.

Fitting that they would have clinched last night and sent the latest Annointed One, Josh Beckett, home with the loss.

Beckett wasn't having any of it.

Not even the Smiling Racists hiring one of Beckett's ex-"galpals," Danielle Peck, to sing the National Anthem and "God Bless America," seemed to cause him a problem. I don't believe the Happy Racists did it purposely, but given they found out about the Peck/Beckett connection prior to the game, it was a cheap move to not make a switch ... if it was a regular season game, fine. But in the playoffs?


That said, it wasn't like Beckett and Peck had either a long-term or dramatic relationship, so I'm not sure it would even be something that could cause a problem. And, really, you can't blame the Racists for not knowing Peck and Beckett dated a few times last year. I mean, she's Danielle Peck. However popular she may be in country music circles she has yet to crossover to a mainstream audience.

Beckett was so locked in last night, though, you probably could've shown his parents having sex on the jumbotron with alien robots and he wouldn't have been flustered. With all the hype about him from the media I half expected him to come out and get bombed. Or lose a 4-3 game where he was good but not great. Wrong. He was epic, again, as he continued to make his case as the best big game pitcher of the moment and CC Sabathia continued to make his case as the next great pitcher to be playoff-challenged (see: Clemens, Roger).

Beckett's line: 8 IP, 1 ER, 11 Ks. Pretty good for a guy making less than Gil Meche.

The offense is still way too reliant on Papi-Manny-Lowell, so it was good to see Pedroia and Youk get into the act last night.

Because of Beckett and Youk, we get another game and Schilling gets another crack at beefing up his Hall of Fame resume - which is only going to be considered because of his post-season performance. If Schilling can get the Sox past Fausto Carmona then it comes down to Daisuke Matsuzaka in Game 7 and he can earn his paycheck with that one game.

Here's the Useless Countdown Update. Manny jumps both Jeter and Lofton in Hits and Jeter in RBI.

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated in Game 5.

1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 24 (0)
Manny Ramirez, 20 (0)

1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
Manny Ramirez, 45 (2)
Derek Jeter, 44 & Kenny Lofton, 44 (1)

1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 80 (3)
Derek Jeter, 68

1st place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 10 (1)
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9

1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Manny, 21 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Lofton, 15 (2)

2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
Manny Ramirez, 22 (0)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 14 (0)

2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Kenny Lofton, 33 (1)
Derek Jeter, 31
Manny Ramirez, 30 (1)

1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 15 (1)
Derek Jeter, 13
Kenny Lofton, 11 (1)

1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
Manny Ramirez, 67 (2)
Derek Jeter, 64
Kenny Lofton, 59 (1)

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