Carlton Best. 14th September, 2007 - 1:44 pm
Maybe I?ve been busy, or maybe the sports world is engulfed in one of the busiest times in recent memory, but really, did we all forget about the ensuing baseball playoffs?? I mean, I know everyone is fired up for the NASCAR Nextel Chase, and obviously there?s the immeasurable draw of the FedEx Cup (that?s actually quite interesting for different reasons). We also have Roger Federer?s utter dominance in tennis and of course the beginning of the NFL season. Last but not least, we have the habitants of a little place I like to call Scandal City. High ranking officials in this bedraggled metropolis are Michael Vick, Bill Belichick, and upstart Rick Ankiel (a true shame) along with the rest of MLB and whoever else has been arrested and/or accused of cheating. Seriously, we need to focus.
In the northeast, depending on where you live, you get an (un)healthy diet of local coverage, talking heads and random bloggers discussing every aspect of what is going on regarding your beloved team. Going back a little bit (if I may), Eric Gagne was a massive story, but as we all know, for the wrong reasons. Was anyone else somewhat worried when the Red Sox traded for Gagne? Maybe not worried, but skeptical at least? I think the two thoughts were ?He solidifies the best bullpen in baseball? and ?Yeah that?s good, but necessary? If it ain?t broke don?t fix it.? I thought maybe we needed another bat, but who knows. Anyways, I think everyone knows what happened next. Sheer freakin? agony. I?ll be honest, there were times when I couldn?t even watch, I just didn?t have the stomach. ?Here we go again,? staring in disbelief as big Eric gave it up time after time. Gagne actually pulled it together for a few solid outings, but hasn?t pitched in few weeks due to a sore shoulder. When Gagne does return, for better or worse, I can?t imagine anyone in Red Sox Nation not half soiling him/herself every time he gets the ball. Kind of like when J.D. Drew comes up with the Sox down one with two on and one out. I?m not even going there.
Let?s stay positive here (I?m sorry for focusing on Gagne, but jeez?), it?s not all bad. Dustin Pedroia is a front running candidate for rookie of the year. His constant 100% effort and somewhat unpredictable temper fire up the rest of the team and let the Sox know he can be depended in day in and day out. And obviously there is the no hitter by rookie Clay Buchholz, which could be the biggest story of them all. If anything that was a massive momentum boost, and bodes well for the future. Lowell is having an amazing year and if Coco isn?t hitting that well, at least he has a knack for a big-time catch when it?s needed most.
Going into Friday against the Yankees, Boston was five and a half games ahead of New York in the division. While the Yanks have a three and a half game wildcard lead, they are playing considerably better than any other team in contention for the final spot. This last series in Fenway can be a make or break for either team, not necessarily to make the playoffs, but at least for momentum and overall mental well being. If things stay the way they are, the Sox and Yanks can potentially meet in AL Championship Series.
Several questions linger, on both sides: Can Manny and Ortiz overcome nagging injuries? Can Dice-K get out of his funk? (1-4 and 9.57 era in last five starts). Does big Schill have enough in the tank for another run? In New York, will the young guns (Hughes, Chamberlain, and Kennedy) have an impact down the stretch? Will A-Rod continue his ridiculous hitting when it counts?
The answer? Who knows, but you?ll have to watch to find out. Wake up people, fall is in the air. The playoffs are coming.