Jason Schmidt one-hits Red Sox, Arroyo Returns, Francona Blows A Gasket

For my triumphant return to writing baseball columns, I figured I would talk about the game I attended on June 20th, Father’s Day, at the Giants’ Stadium, Pacific Bell — oops, no… SBC Park. Is it just me, or did SBC make a bad move changing the name? Not only does SBC Park sound ‘totally uncooler’ than Pac Bell, but people got a little annoyed by the name change.
But I’m not here to debate that, I’m here to talk about my experience at the game. I went to San Francisco from the 19th-24th, and Anaheim from the 24th-30th. I love going from the East Coast to the West Coast, you gain three hours. Coming back isn’t so pretty though, especially after a 6-hour flight. I hit the sack pretty quick on the 19th, and I hit it even quicker coming home.
So, the stadium is nice, sure. Clean, attractive, but completely and utterly devoid of personality. If it wasn’t so clean, then maybe it’d have some personality. Someone on the elevator in my hotel, the Handlery, referred to Fenway as ‘a pit’. This wasn’t a Giant fan speaking, but a Red Sox fan from the Cape [Cod]. Perhaps Fenway is a pit, but couple that with history, and you’ve got personality!
Going off on a tangent here – on the 19th and the 20th, there were Red Sox fans galore. I am not exaggerating at all when I say that I saw more Red Sox fans around here than in Boston. Everywhere you turned, there were Red Sox logos, and people nodding to each other, “more power to you”, “you from Massachusetts?”, “we’re gonna take it tonight!”, so on and so forth. We get in the game, more of the same. My father said until Alfonzo’s homer, he thought the Red Sox fans were drowning out the Giant fans, but then they showed up for Edgardo Alfonzo’s 4th career grand slam off of Mike Timlin.
So, we went in the game. Now clearly we were in for a rough game considering Jason Schmidt was starting. I had complete faith in Arroyo, though. If my memory serves me correct, before the SF game, Arroyo was 2-2 with a 3.81 ERA on the road. He’s 2-3 after that game, but that ERA took a downturn. My faith was rewarded when Arroyo gave us a zero-run game effort before being pulled with one out in the seventh, allowing four hits. His box score line was certain to remain at zero as Alan Embree was summoned to face Bonds. Embree was going to get cute with Bonds and walk him if he had to. I craned my neck (I was in the second to last row in the stadium, just to the right of home plate, way, way up top…while you can’t really see faces, you get a great birds-eye view of everything) and I saw Timlin warming up. I wondered why Scott Williamson wasn’t warming up, but then I remembered – Timlin throws a sinker which induces groundouts which we need to get a double play going.
Barry Bonds strides up to the plate. In the pre-game, members of a local Little League ran out to their positions, and then the players ran out and signed balls and ushered the kids off the field to get in their warmups. Bonds was the only one that played catch with the kid for a while. My respect for the man went up one notch. He is now at notch one. (Hey, he dropped a couple notches by saying Boston was racist without being there. Look at the Sox’s famous stars, pal. Pedro, Manny, Ortiz, Pokey.)
Embree pitches to him, and he lofts a lazy fly to short left field. Youkilis is scrambling back, Millar gets a late break. Youkilis is expecting Millar to call him off, but Millar is no Johnny Damon. Perhaps Manny would have had it, perhaps not, but either way, Millar was late getting there where it was his ball. One of, if not the, hardest things in baseball to do is to run backwards on a fly ball. In the outfield, you can run sideways, but not in the infield – you have to run backwards to get the ball. So the ball drops because Youkilis is a little hesitant and Millar forgot the rocket boosters in the clubhouse.
But Millar is alert, and picks up the ball and fires to third. I pump my fist because Tucker’s miles away from third and we’ve got first and second now with Alfonzo up and two gone.
But the umpire had a brain cramp and called Tucker safe at third. It was not a tag play, there were players on first and second. It was a simple force out, but Tucker was safe. I saw the replay on SportsCenter later in the day, and it looked a lot closer on TV than it did in real life. He was out by a mile.
“You know he really was out when they don’t even show the replay.” – Unnamed Red Sox fan sitting one row in front of me.
Francona apparently agreed with my assessment, as he came out of the dugout, guns ablazing. We finally got to see what Tito does when he argues with an umpire. What does he do? Well, he basically windmills his arms. Quite comical to watch, but the subject at hand was not comical at all. If Francona had come out docile as a lamb, would the umpire have considered changing the call? Another Sox fan two rows in front of me was listening to the game on the radio also. He said the announcers were saying the umpire forgot it was a force play, not a tag play. Unexcusable.
Either way, the windmilling by Francona was getting nowhere, so he took it a little bit futher, insulting the umpire. The umpire warned him, and I could tell Francona was now trying to get ejected to try to inject life into the Red Sox and to punctuate a point. So now Francona is out of the game, and Mike Timlin comes in. We know what happens after that, so let’s not dwell on that.
After that little inning, Bonds comes out and has a chat with the home plate umpire. I was too far away to see what they were saying, but I assume he was asking if Tucker was safe or out. Judging by the body language of the two involved, whatever Bonds was asking met with an unsatisfactory response by the umpire, which, assuming Bonds asked what I think he asked, means that Tucker was indeed out.
The rest of the game was all pitching. I love pitching duels, but they’re not as memorable as hitting games. I can remember the events around Alfonzo’s grand slam pretty well, but I couldn’t tell you stuff that happened on both sides as they are throwing great pitches.
Something else that I experienced at SBC… I didn’t like how the scoreboard was telling people what to do. “Make Some Noise”, etc. However, there were two specific scoreboard animations I thought were hilarious, so let me share that here.
1) When Francona was ejected, they showed a door with a plaque on it that said “Donald Trump”. “Trump” then said “YOU’RE FIRED!
2) They showed Hulk Hogan (a wrestler) doing his signature “call” to the crowd, whirling his arm and then bringing his hand to his ear. While I am not a wrestling fan (anymore), that was just good old nostalgia used in a hilarious way to elict crowd noise.
I just realized that now I know where my very strange dream that I had on the 28th came from. The ownership wanted to put a spark under the Red Sox, so they fired Francona and hired Hulk Hogan. He was doing his signature calls and the uniform was bursting at the seams. The Sox played the Yankees and there was a bench clearing brawl, Hogan flattened every Yankee.
So, a little something interesting could be in the works for the Red Sox. I think we’re going to trade for Steve Finley and shift Johnny Damon into left. Nomar Garciaparra will go to the Diamondbacks along with Juan Cedeno (A single-A pitcher). The Sox brass will then make Manny the shortstop.
Manny took groundballs at shortstop during BP, and I have to say, he looked pretty darn good.