Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Christmas in July
2004-07-02 19:25
by Alex Belth

"We played a great game, and we take more from this game than we lose. I bet we'll capitalize on the things we did tonight." — Pedro Martinez (Boston Globe)

As expected, there was some very good coverage of last night's Yankee-Red Sox game. Steven Goldman does a beautiful job of it for YES, while Joe Sheehan delivers his take from the west coast for Baseball Prospectus (subscription required). Far from a sentamentalist, Goldman gives Jeter his props:

Derek Jeter gets a lot of grief for his defensive shortcomings, but as has been written here many times before, those shortcomings, real or perceived, don't count for much. He's a terrific ballplayer with great instincts and an unquestionable sense of professionalism. He's still not the best shortstop on the team, but he is the best man.

"I've never seen a guy of his caliber go all-out like that," Sheffield said. "It just proves to you what these games mean, how important they are. And it took our captain to show us once again.

Sheehan correctly notes that while Jeter's catch is getting most of the press today, Alex Rodriguez's double play was equally as impressive plus an even more difficult play to pull off to boot. But, he continues:

We're dealing in gradations of excellence here, which is really what last night was all about. Keith Foulke wiggles out of a jam? OK, here's Mariano Rivera escaping a tougher one. Pokey Reese makes a highlight-reel catch? Here comes Rodriguez, and then Jeter, pushing him to the cutting-room floor. Manny Ramirez comes up with another huge hit with his team up against the wall? Nice, but the Yankees get down to their last strike, more stars on the bench than in the lineup, and get back-to-back hits from the waiver-bait segment of the roster.

Sheehan's boyhood pal, Derek Jacques was at the game and was was our man in the field Cliff Corcoran. (Ex-Yankee, Chuck Knoblauch, looking rounder in the face, was there too, with a skinny-looking blonde by his side.) Cliff is still recovering, but will have his say shortly. Dee reports:

Red Sox fans were all over the stadium, like an invading army or a colony of intestinal parasites, depending on your point of view. They've been bolder than usual over the past two years -- Yankee Stadium security has improved to the point that the Beantowners don't have to make out a will before wearing their colors in the Bronx.

...Things got pretty quiet when Derek Jeter crashed headlong into the seats. Even the jerk behind me who cheered when Mike Timlin hit Jeter with a pitch in the 10th wanted no part of this.

...There were no cheers of “Boston Sucks” no “1918!” Everybody just filed out of the stadium, some shocked, some awed, some genuinely feeling bad for the Red Sox fans. The only thing everyone could agree on was that they’d seen an amazing game.

Over at ESPN, Bill Simmons, an avid Red Sox fan, comments on one of the game's most compelling storylines:

Looking at the big picture, yesterday was the final chapter of "The Tale of Three Great Shortstops," the three guys who were supposed to battle for supremacy through the end of the decade. So much for that angle. There was Jeter recklessly crashing into the stands, the ultimate competitor, a franchise player in the truest sense of the word. There was A-Rod greeting Cairo at home plate at the end of the game, a multi-kajillionaire just happy be involved in baseball's version of the Cold War ... even if it meant giving up on his dream of becoming the greatest shortstop ever.

And there was Nomar, the fading superstar who helped the team blow two games in Yankee Stadium, then showed little interest in even watching the third one. He's been declining steadily for three seasons now -- his body breaking down, his defense slipping, his lack of plate discipline a bigger problem than ever. He always seemed to enjoy himself on the field, almost like a little kid, but even that's a distant memory. Maybe his spirit was shattered by the rumored deal to Chicago last winter. Only he knows the answer to that one. For his sake, I hope he's getting traded this week. After last night's display, there's no going back.

Simmons is right. In the late '90s when we wondered how the future would treat the Big Three, who would have thought it would come to this? Each player figured dramatically in last night's game. Jeter was valiant, Rodriguez, brilliant, and Garciaparra was impotent. This morning, BDD posted a rumor that would have Nomar packing his bags for Los Angeles. A three-team deal including Toronto would bring Odalis Perez and Carlos Delgado to Beantown. While nothing has happend yet, it's likely that Theo Epstein will make a bold move soon (he was at work acquiring two pitchers in two different deals this afternoon). There is still a lot of season to play and the Sox aren't done yet. But Garciaparra certainly looked like a short-timer last night.

All of which leaves me feeling incredibly sad. Sad that Garciaparra is so unhappy, sad that a franchise player like Nomar is likely to leave Boston disgruntled and bruised like Lynn and Fisk and Clemens and Vaughn. I'm especially sad for Red Sox fans. I don't know how most of them feel about what has transpired with Garciaparra, but Ed Cossette's resignation said a lot this morning:

I feel badly for Nomar and would rather he be happy somewhere else than unhappy with Boston.

I can only imagine how I would feel if Bernie Williams found himself in such a spot with the Yankees. Like Mo Vaughn before him, Garciaparra was a Red Sox that I respected and admired more than I ever hated. I like the idea of him being a Red Sox. I like the idea of him being pitted against Jeter as positional rivals. Ideally, I'd like it if he played his entire career in Boston. I take no pleasure in watching him go out like this, if these are indeed his final days in Boston.

Welcome home, Jay. We missed ya. And you missed us.

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