ESPN’s number three top play of the day is Nava’s diving catch. In Red Sox top plays, it is number 1. My other top play is Papelbon’s save, one of the best performances by any closer this year. He threw 14 pitches, 11 for strikes, while using every one of his pitches, including a 97 or 98 mph fastball. Mike’s Napoli’s whiff was a work of pitching art. For his 29th save, his numbers were almost identical. I know I am skipping over the painful blown save, but let’s look at Papelbon at his best. Dan Shaughnessy recently reported that there are only two other closers with better numbers than Pap. Mariano Rivera and Christy Mathewson. I can’t solve the debate about the closers, but I do know that two pitchers like the Bard and Pap are what most teams can only dream about. Give him the contract he wants, Theo. And hold onto the Bard. Many of our one-run game losses result from a rickety pen.
After the great win last night, with Nava’s stealthy dive, two things are important. First, momentum. How many times this year have we felt the high of a great win, with the premonition of the beginning of momentum, thinking, “hey it begins here, we will now win 12 of 14 or something.” Only more games and time will tell. Secondly, Nava’s hunger, along with his workmanship grit is all over that play. Watch the replay a few more times and what comes to mind is how bad he wants to play in the bigs.
One often wonders how the huge contract gets between the ears of a player. Jayson Werth of the Phillies comes to mind. A mid-season slump may have something to do with trade talks and his free agency. It might be a romantic notion to suggest that in this game money changes the intangible desires to win and prove oneself, but look at the young talent on this team. Watch Ryan Kalish getting advice last night from J.D. Drew after catching a fly ball either of them could have grabbed and you might see what’s in the blood of a younger player. Maybe we ought to let Pap keep grinding his teeth to more saves without the big payday.
Every time the Red Sox were about to break through yesterday, Hamels silenced their bats. This is the Cole Phillies fans love, as opposed to the 2009 sophomore slump year, which proved pretty ugly in the post-season.
My Monday Morning Pitcher Comments are as follows:
1) When Jose Contreras, the Phils equivalent to our Ramon-which way will things go today-Ramirez, I thought we were due for a 4 or 5 run rally. It was just that kind of day. A few starts but nothing to finish.
2) . .Unless you are Daniel Nava, who was greeted with a standing ovation in the 3rd when he came to the plate. His broken bat single in the 9th looked damned good. Not a pretty hit but the kind you see in a player who grinds out the at-bat and the punches a ball through to centerfield. Don’t forget what we saw in the 8th–he can play left field with finesse.
3) Without Youk in the line-up yesterday, I didn’t expect a sweep. Not against Cole Hamels.
4) The late game chants of “Beat L.A!” were prompted, from what I could see, by two idiot Laker Fans taunting the crowd by touring the grandstand walkway. Lucky for them, this was after last call.
5) One of the best plays I’ve seen in pro basketball happened last night in the final minutes of the game. You know the one.
6)Don’t forget to vote for the Hall of Very Very Good at METrospection & more
7) As I looked at a photo(one I took in 1985 when I was posing as a pro photographer) of my candidate, Dale Murphy, I noticed an interesting resemblance to number 1 draft pick, Bryce Harper. What do you think? (see below.) Luis Tiant, by the way, had already been nominated. I would have added many other possible Sox choices but thought Luis deserved the spotlight
8) Speaking of the draft, I was happy to see two local Jerseyans in the Sox list, names you know by now: Anthony Ranaudo and Jayson Hernandez, both from Jackson NJ, down the road 15 minutes from where I write this.
9)Teddy’s number. The conclusion. No game. Hit play on dvd player with Fever Pitch inside.
Dale Murphy, Spring Training, 1985
photo by Thomasox
photograph by Ron Crowley
If only I could have been in the stands for that one, and in the seats I usually purchase, with a perfect view of that grand slam. Instead, I was here in Jersey watching on a small tv. But when Nava came up I went over to our larger screen and changed the channel from the World Cup my girlfriend was watching and said to her, “You have to see this, a historic moment for this player. his first at-bat in the majors.” It was one of those lucky moments of calling history before it happens. For me, the first plate appearance has enough meaning. Then that beautiful swing drove the grand slam into Manny Delcarmen’s leaping grab. My girlfriend thought I was showing her a replay. How could I know that would happen? Just incredible. What followed was an ecstatic electricity that seemed to shake the green monster.
The photographer Ron Crowley commented on this shot, on his Flickr photo stream, that Nava has the best swing since Freddy Lynn. It is beautifully fluid but with more of an uppercut than Lynn. At least with the grand slam. The double to left-center swing followed the ball with an even plane. I know all the game and post-game hype doesn’t match the Strasburgain sort, but when a player comes to the pros after doing the laundry for a college team, the reward is oh so much brighter. He was even let go by the Indepedent league Chico Outlaws.
As of today, there are two stories coming out of Chico. Nava and also the Knuckle-princess, Eri Yoshida. She made her appearance in late May, as the first woman to start a professional baseball game in 10 years. She says that while playing in Japan, she started throwing a knuckleball by watching Tim Wakefield. Today, I sing praises to Princess Eri, with the hope that Wakefield’s knuckleball will dance. I celebrate the unexpected, the surprises baseball provides, but also the unforgettable moments that can never be lived again and change the story forever.
photograph by Anne Chadwick Williams