LONGSHOTS: Five stories for the price of one on That Was the Week That Was
by Dave Long
News Item: Is The Nation Hitting Lovable pre-2004 Insanity Levels Again? I get that David Oritz is hitting .111 as I write this. That he’s struck out seven times in his last eight at-bats and his lone extra base hit was a cue shot flair over the third baseman’s head. But it still seems like the insanity got started a little early this year, as after just two stinking games people were all over him for being hitless. And by the third game, always-wrong-on-predictions Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy had already written TWO columns that talked about the “Ortiz Problem.” Maybe it’s just me, but since the Red Sox haven’t won it all since 2007 the pre-2004 angst seems to be returning to the Nation.
Maybe he’s totally done and they’re all correct, or maybe he’s the 25-homer, 85-RBI guy I think he’s going to be. But either way, baseball’s a game of streaks and runs that go good and bad and thus it can’t be evaluated in the short term. It just doesn’t work that way. Since the decision has been made that he’s the fifth hitter, I say you’ve got to give him until May 1 to figure it out. And we know last year it took until June 1. I’m not suggesting they wait that long, but sometimes that’s how long it takes. If it makes you feel any better, think about what Dustin Pedroia looked like when he was hitting .172 on May 1, 2007, after hitting .191 in 32 games the year before. And before you say he was on the way up, no one knew if he could even play at the major-league level then, let alone do what he’s done. But Tito stuck with him and he was right (and I was wrong), as Pedroia finished the year hitting .317 and winning Rookie of the Year. So I’ll defer to Tito’s track record, even if at times he seems a little too loyal to his vets. Besides, the anger is misplaced toward Ortiz, who’s obviously pressing while trying to get things right. The mistake, if there was one, is Theo believing he’s still a number-five-hole hitter, or in deciding to live with a 25-85 guy in that spot despite the fact those numbers are what a sixth hitter should deliver in the AL East.
On the bright side, at least Shaughnessey didn’t make the annual the Yankees-are-dead prediction he’s made in most of the last 10 years — when they’ve won the East all but two times. So at least they still have a chance to win the division.
News Item: Tiger Tamed by Augusta? Not quite — it was more like a wild roller coaster ride, and a pretty good showing for a guy who hadn’t played in five months. But more amazing was how he was treated by the gallery. Think how A-Rod was treated after the Toronto scandal. He got hooted relentlessly in the next series at Fenway. Tiger, who’s apparently been with all those types of home-wreckers, gets a roaring ovation! For what? And the question is, can golf people be so shallow that the only thing that really matters to them is just the golf? The weekend’s reception seems to indicate the answer is yes.
News Item: Celtics Embarrass Themselves. How is it possible that I find myself pining for the Jim O’Brien era? It’s because I’ve finally put my finger on what the issue is with the Celtics. After listening to the injury excuses, the “we’re learning to play with the new guys like Sheed [who everyone but me thought was a no-brainer] and we’re just pacing ourselves for the playoffs,” I’m not buying any of it. The reason is because they have no fire, or even pride, it seems, after losing in front of the home folks to Washington and New Jersey and being embarrassed by Matt Bonner and the Spurs in recent weeks. They weren’t ready to play Friday vs. Washington and didn’t care. And what about age issues? That certainly is in the equation, BUT if it is, you tell me how this aging crew has a worse record at home than on the road, where they are tied for BEST in the league. I only boo people who get paid and don’t care or those who act badly off the field. So my attitude going into the playoffs is this: if they don’t care, why should I?
News Item: Umpire Calls Pace of Yanks and Sox Embarrassing and Pathetic. Guess umpire Joe West is no fan of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. Or at least the pace at which they play those games. Last week he told New Jersey’s Bergen Country Record the pace of last Wednesday’s game was “pathetic and an embarrassment.” While he’s right about the pace, here’s the question of the day: aren’t the umpires supposed to and equipped to control the pace of play? And here’s a tip how to move things along: call a strike on balls above the belt and up to the letters for a change, as the rule book says you should.
News Item: Nike Runs New Tiger Commercial. I’m willing to give folks a second chance, and with Tiger, I did until the first airing of the Nike spot that ran endlessly throughout Masters weekend. Anyone know what Nike was trying to do by having his deceased father’s voice talking to him? Astonishingly, they’re reading the public right. Because while 30 percent said they didn’t like it and 26 percentsaid they didn’t get it, a full 44 percent of the 13,000 folks in an ESPN Sports Nation poll said they either liked or LOVED it! What’s to like about it? It’s creepy hearing his deceased father’s voice talking to him in tranquil, savant-like tones. Talk about getting used in the effort to rehab his public and commercial business image. What it says to me is P. T. Barnum was right — there IS a sucker born every minute. If you’re manipulated that easily I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn for you to buy. I think the response from us should be to do what Nike did in the spot by lifting Earl Woods’ voice from somewhere else. Let’s just use Joe West’s word about the Yanks and Sox in giving our reaction to Tiger allowing Nike to do in the spot. While we can over board, compare his story to Phil Mickelson’s. A guy standing by his cancer-stricken wife (and mother) during a family crisis and still winning vs. a guy who created a family crisis through callous disregard for anyone besides himself. Tough call who to root for. And, oh yeah, what happened to the respect for golf on the course? That lasted until the second day.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.