Bill Mueller (and Varitek, not pictured), the catalysts for the Red Sox season.
Yesterday’s heroics was almost made unbearable by the inane prattlings of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, who regaled the nation with such sayings as “A-Rod symbolizes so much frustration for the Red Sox…things just come so easily for him,” “I don’t think I’ve ever seen any DP when the runner was doubled up as quickly and easily as that,” and the most maddengly quote of them all – “I think they’re booing the symbol, not the man,” says McCarver on Derek Jeter. Sorry, McCarver, Red Sox fans are booing Derek Jeter. We have no love for Jeter. And why does Derek Jeter keep getting love for that catch he made in Yankee Stadium last series? First of all, Pokey would have made it look like nothing. Second of all, Jeter JUMPED in the stands. Third of all, Pokey’s catch was way better, but I don’t see any replays of that catch.
And then McCarver said it was the “worst game I’ve ever seen.” Wow. I’ve no words for that, but I’m looking forward to tonight’s game, where we have Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. They are just a touch more fair and balanced.
Onto the game.
I’m sure you all know what happened, so I’m not going to have a little “lead-in”, let’s just jump straight to the fight, and how I saw things.
-Bronson Arroyo throws a 82-mph sinker and hits A-Rod right on his arm protector.
-A-Rod stares at Arroyo, Arroyo asks for the ball with a small grin on his face. Why was he laughing? Who knows. Perhaps a reaction to the crowd who clearly enjoyed A-Rod being plunked? Perhaps it was intentional? Who knows, but he had a small grin.
-A-Rod takes offense to this grin and starts yelling ‘F–k you’ to Arroyo repeatedly.
-Varitek starts walking A-Rod down the line to get him to first without him going after the pitcher, proper protocol. The home plate umpire is between them. A-Rod continues yelling at Arroyo, Varitek says something, at which point A-Rod’s attention turns to Varitek.
-A-Rod clearly instigates the fight, inviting Varitek to hit him. “F–k you motherf–ker, come get me.” “Come on,” with a little hand wave. As any Red Sox fan knows, you do not screw with Jason Varitek. Melvin Mora made the same mistake two years ago when Baltimore visited Fenway on Family Day. Jason Varitek still has not forgotten it as evidenced by his hard tag on Mora on Opening Day when Mora was thrown out at home. A-Rod now knows that you do not screw with Varitek.
-Side note: Varitek with knee protectors, chest pads, and a face mask. And you’re asking for it? Some people, including Brian MacMillan of the MVN Yankees (26 Rings Around New York), made fun of Varitek for having his mask on. I lost tremendous respect for those people that said this. When you walk people down the line, why would you take your mask off? I have never seen a catcher walk someone down the line and remove their mask while at it. Varitek intended to walk a couple of steps to ensure that A-Rod got to first, then turn back and get back in his crouch. Varitek didn’t keep his mask on in anticipation of a fight, nor did he keep it on for protection. He kept it on because that’s what catchers do. Catchers remove their masks when the inning is over or when there is a play that directly involves them, such as a pop-up.
-After A-Rod stupidly tells Varitek to ‘come on’, Varitek throws the first ‘punch’ (more like a shove) into A-Rod’s face, and the rumble is on.
-Curt Schilling and the Red Sox players arrive at the fracas before the Yankees (which is understandable, considering it was on the first-base line.) Nomar gets in the fray and picks a bone with Tony Clark. Pedro Martinez comes out but hangs back. (Thank God.)
-Worcester’s Own Tanyon Sturtze (I was born in Worcester and commute there every day, just about) locks a headlock on Gabe Kapler for some strange reason. Now here’s where people differ here. I am using the fight video, which can be found here, as basis for the following statements.
-I pinpointed the exact moment where Tanyon Sturze and Gabe Kapler became visible.
David Ortiz, under the red dot, has yet to reach Sturtze and Kapler. As a matter of fact, Ortiz doesn’t even notice Sturtze and Kapler, and tries to shoulder his way to Varitek. Sturtze, under the blue dot, already has Kapler in a clamp. Kapler, above and to the left of the yellow dot, is helpless.
Ortiz latches onto Sturtze, who has a helpless Kapler.
Ortiz drags Sturtze away from the brawl, and finally gains momentum to knock Sturtze to the ground. Kapler, still helpless, falls on top of Sturtze, who then finally lets go of Kapler. At this point, Red Sox first base coach Lynn Jones tries to hold Ortiz back, but Ortiz does not see who is holding him back and shakes Jones free. Ortiz’s windmilling trying to escape Jones’ hands are construed as trying to punch Sturtze, which is very clearly not the case if you watch the video. Ortiz then goes after the scrum, as FOX cuts back to A-Rod’s instigation. At no point does Ortiz see who is grabbing him, nor does he make a violent act. He is trying to stop Sturtze from choking Kapler, then trying to seperate the two.
-After that, the fight is basically over. A-Rod and Varitek are predictably ejected. Gabe Kapler is also ejected, and FOX shows him in the dugout incredulous. He can clearly be seen saying “HE GRABBED ME!” Contrary to popular belief, the intention of most players is to get the two offending players SEPERATED. Kapler was a victim of Sturtze’s strange hijinks. I guess Sturtze was probably trying to get some Red Sox players out of the way, so he latched on Kapler. Wrong move. Latch on anyone but Kapler, who is a bodybuilding freak.
Anyhow, the Sox storm back from two runs, Franconca gets ejected in the fifth, and this team has a pulse, after going 96 games without one.
The Red Sox and Yankees engage ina 67-minute 6th inning, and the Red Sox are up to their error ways as they fall behind 10-8. But Millar singles home Nomar, who had doubled to lead off the Red Sox’s ninth inning off Mariano Rivera, who had come in with two outs in the eighth. Trot Nixon had done his best impression of a game-tying home-run a batter before Millar, but had to settle for getting Nomar to third after Sheffield caught the ball on the warning track. Rivera had gotten the last out of the inning via Ramirez flying out to deep center. Bill Mueller steps to the plate and officially announces the opening of the Red Sox season, launching a ball into the waiting hands of a joyous Red Sox relief pitcher. Varitek had announced the beginning of Spring Training.
Our season has now started. This was a huge win. We are no longer lackluster, without an identity. Now, someone else other than Curt Schilling had been fired up. Kapler was a big factor in this, as his blunt statements the last two days and hard play (only recently show-cased because of new-found playing time) had earned him respect in the clubhouse and in fans eager to hear a player say things such as what Kapler had been saying. After the fight, the blood was boiling, the determination was there, and dare I say, the ‘Cowboy Up’ was back.
So what if we lose today? Well, it depends on how we lose. If we lose with lackluster effort and attitude, then the fight game means nothing. But I’m betting that now the Red Sox players feel a lot differently, and even if we lose, we will lose with determination and effort. So if we lose tonight, it doesn’t neccessarily mean we are over. It just means we are about to open a can of ass-whooping on the Orioles and other unsuspecting teams. But you know something? Even though Contreras has been on of late, he has always been lousy against the Red Sox. Even though Derek Lowe has stunk the season (and especially July) to high heaven, I think the determination will show through. Then you have the Yankees – they will also be determined, but in a more smug, high-n-mighty way. They are 8.5 games ahead and not too worried about the Red Sox. This was just a fight to them, I truly doubt it will get their blood boiling as much as it did ours.
Yesterday’s game was the turnaround. The 2004 season has begun.
“It had more intensity than most postseason games. This win and the way it happened should prove to be very important to us. It’s hard to have a more meaningful regular-season victory. We’ve been kind of waiting to have this feeling all year.” – Theo Epstein