June 7, 2007

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LONGSHOTS: Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
by Dave Long

Count me as one who thinks losing two of three to the Yankees over the weekend was actually a good thing for the Red Sox. I know it sounds crazy, but I just donít like double-digit leads at the end of the first one-third of the season.

Who knows, they might be like Detroit in 1984, which jumped out of the box at 35-5 and never looked back. But while I like a big lead, double digits on June 1 gives me the willies. Itís an invitation to go on cruise control, which is hard to reverse when it happens. Then thereís the outright giddiness in Red Sox Nation, where many counted the Yankees dead as they chirped away last week while getting ready to stand in line for playoff tickets.

Egads, doesnít anyone have even a little sense of recall around here?

There are those, like WEEIís Glen Ordway, who constantly dismiss anything in the past as irrelevant in 2007. Since I go to the historical record now and then, I say thatís crazy. For instance, Bob Ryan made an interesting observation in Mondayís Globe drawing a parallel between the Empireís struggles in 2007 and those of the 1965 Yanks. As age and injuries piled up that year, the great Yankee dynasty ó Patriot fans take note ó that started in 1921, with the arrival of the Babe, finally ended as they finished sixth. Since I was there suffering right through it all, I can tell you Ryan is right that it occurred amid a summer-long belief (like many have now) that the vaunted Yankees would rally and get back into the race.

Historical naysayers ask what does what happened 42 years ago have to do with any team in í07, and thatís where they miss the point. Itís not that thereís a direct connect from then to now, but it can serve as a guide to GM (for now) Brian Cashman for how relying on an older team can catch up with you as it did for NY after it won the 1964 pennant.

So I agree the collapse of 1978 has no connection to the current Sox. But, itís still significant by showing a 14-game lead is not insurmountable. And the Giants and Dodgers in 1951, the Phillies blowing a 6Ĺ-game lead with 10 to go in 1964 and the Blue Jays doing something similar in 1987 show it wasnít one in a million. If you dismiss that as ancient history, consider LAST YEAR. The Twins entered September nine back and still won the Central, and the Red Sox were in it until an avalanche of injuries led to a five-game sweep by the Yanks in August and they wound up farther back than Dennis Kucinich in the 2004 primary.

My point is not to say the ďsky is falling!Ē Itís to say itís just a wonderful start, helped along by an onslaught of Yankee injuries. So itís not quite time to print series tickets just yet. And while thereís certainly been a lot to like, there are still a few things Iím not quite convinced about yet. So hereís my take on where things stand with a third of a season in the books.

What I Like Best: Number one ó theyíve done it without Manny- and David Ortiz-bashing. History (thereís that word again) says theyíll begin terrorizing pitchers at some point, which will help. Thereís the maturing Josh Beckett, dominance of Jonathan Papelbon (Sunday not withstanding) along with Mike Lowell and coming into his own Kevin Youkilis. After those pitchers, theyíre 1 and 1A for team MVP.

Questions Still Needing Answers: I know the bullpen has been a revelation, but I need more evidence than one third of a season. Chief among them is if Hideki Okajima has been just a red hot pitcher or a guy whoíll be better in the U. S. than he was in Japan. Will Curt Schilling and Mike Timlin stay healthy and will Dice-K get consistent? Is Jon Lester ready to start? Off field, why do I keep hearing Lowellís name in trade rumors?

Needs Improvement: I know weíre just two months into it and that his numbers will improve, but J. D Drew hasnít done a thing to assuage my thoughts over how bad it was to give him a five-year deal at enormous numbers. And while I like Julian Tavarezís attitude and versatility, they need a better fifth starter.

Biggest Surprise: Okajima for one, but does anybody know how, in the name of David Eckstein, Dustin Pedroia got up to hitting .330? Last time I checked it was .260 and I was ecstatic at that. Theo and the boys look good here.

Nitpicking: I mention this because the revolving door at short is a pet peeve of Niagara Falls-like proportion. So I need to mention in Eckstein, Nomar, Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Henley Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez six shortstop alums are out-hitting Julio Lugo. Having said that, there are things I like about Lugo and I think things will get better for him.

Overlooked: Not that Iím tough on managers, well, besides Grady Little, Kevin Kennedy, Doc Rivers, Rick Pitino, Jimmy Rogers, Pete Carroll, Rod Rust and Ö., well OK maybe I am tough on them, but I really like Terry Francona. Pitch count mania aside, he does a great job with the staff, keeps all on an even keel, stuck with Pedroia, and is ready for Manny being Manny on a momentís notice. Thereís also the speed of Coco Crisp and Lugo. Say what you want about Crisp as a hitter, but heís better in center than Johnny Damon, while he and Lugo offer an ability to manufacture runs when needed. I like that.

The Yankees: The difference between í07 and 1965 is their top stars arenít ready to topple as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Elston Howard were. They need bullpen help, but the top four starters look pretty good to me. And remember in 1995 they had the same record on June 1 as in 2007 and went farther in the playoffs than the Red Sox. It may be 1965 all over again, but, like then, I ainít buying it just yet.

The Rest of the Division: Elitist? Maybe ó but who cares. Even though more big leads have ended happy than not, itís best to recall that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. No one, besides maybe those 1984 Tigers, has won it before June 1. So rather than looking at the great start with the rampant ďitís overĒ giddiness, try cautious optimism. Because if you donít and they come back to the pack ó history says the Nation will be back out on the ledge ó and does have a direct connect from then to now.

Dave Long is host of Home Team Saturday with Dave Long and Company, 10 a.m. to noon each Saturday morning on WGAM (1250 AM in Manchester and 900 AM in Nashua).


5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about

5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat