Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Little Talent

Bill Simmons, ESPN.com's witty and perceptive Sports Guy, is a pretty unfocused writer even on his better days. His recent ALCS posts on the aftermath of the Red Sox's Game 7 loss to the Yankees have been all over the place. (See here and here.) But one can hardly blame him. The nature of the defeat was so numbing, so damaging, that Simmons should be forgiven his rambling.

Most of the baseball punditry, Simmons included, are flogging Boston manager Grady Little for allowing an obviously shot Pedro Martinez to remain in the game and give up the tying runs in the eighth. Sitting in a bar just north of Philadelphia, my brother and I couldn't hear the Fox commentators over the din of conversation, but with each successive Yankee hit, we'd look at each other and one of us would say, "Grady has to go get him now, doesn't he?" Neither of us has played organized baseball in 15 to 20 years, and if we could tell Pedro was done, surely his manager must have had a clue.

But, of course, no. Little stayed with Martinez, the Yankees rallied, and Aaron Boone delivered the knockout blow in the 11th. (While most of the attention has focused on Little's Pedro mistake, his decision to bring in Tim Wakefield was just as disastrous. A knuckleballer when there's absolutely no room for error? Yikes.)

As everyone has pointed out, that Martinez wanted to remain in the game is no surprise -- anyone who plays Major League Baseball would say the same thing. Imagine how pissed Roger Clemens was when Joe Torre hooked him in the fourth. But it was Little's job to overrule his tiring ace and tap his arm for one of the relievers who performed so splendidly for Boston in the playoffs.

As disappointed as I was for the Red Sox and their fans, the whole affair had an air of inevitability about it. Boston played with fire all season -- the Sox were down 2-0 to the A's in the divisional series, remember? -- and this time it burned them. The loss will linger for a long, long time for Red Sox Nation, but, honestly, the outcome of the series -- decided in the 11th inning of Game 7 -- was an accurate reflection of the Yankees' razor-thin margin of superiority.


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