Numb. Shell-shocked, angry, disbelieving, and impotent. Angry at 11:00 pm when Pedro Martinez was left in as the Red Sox lead crumbled, disbelieving at 12:16 am when the game was finally decided, and numb as I sit down this morning. ... And yet, why should I have expected any different? Grady Little handled Game 7 of the ALCS like he has handled games all season long: as if he had never seen a baseball game in his life and had the barest inkling of the rules and strategies than everyone else around him knew in their bones. I said all summer that Grady's asinine managing would cost this team in the playoffs, where every mistake is magnified. I take no solace in knowing I was right. It kills me that this great team, who battled back against Oakland and had battled back against the Yankees, and was 5 outs from the American League pennant, was burdened with this imbecile. ... 2003 makes 1978 pale in comparison. Was this worse than 1986? I don't know. Does it really matter whether you are kicked in the balls 49 times or 50 times?
Yesterday I wrote: "Martinez ... knows he can pitch all-out for 7 innings and turn it over to the reliable trio of Timlin/Embree/Williamson." I mention it again, not because it's great analysis or some secret recipe for success, but because it's so goddamn obvious. If there are 50,000,000 Red Sox fans in the world, 49,999,999 of them knew exactly what to do in the bottom of the 8th inning last night and were screaming those instructions at their radios, televisions and computer screens. But the one person in the world who didn't know what do -- who couldn't bring himself to do what needed to be done -- was also the man in charge of the team. And he blew it. There is no one else. Grady Little fucking lost the pennant. As Hench put it: "Even Antonio Scalia couldn't vote to execute someone this stupid."
The 2003 American League flag belonged to the Boston Red Sox. They had a 5-2 lead with 5 outs to go. The Yankees and their fans knew that, with the Red Sox bullpen having pitched lights out against both Oakland and New York, the later it got, the fewer chances they had. None of the Boston relievers was tired; everyone was rested. These were two innings that could have managed themselves. ... But Boston was stuck with one of the stupidest and gutless managers in the history of the game. This team fought and fought and fought and fought all summer long and came within a handful of outs of a trip to the World Series, but their admirable resiliency was not enough to overcome their manager's colossal ineptitude. In the end, as Red Sox Nation feared, Grady the Millstone dragged them down to their deaths.
Pedro had a bit of trouble in the 7th inning, his first real jam of the night. With two outs (one of them a hard liner to Damon in right center by Posada), Giambi hit his second solo home run of the night. It brought New York within 2 runs at 4-2. Wilson hit a single off the bag that Kevin Millar made a nifty snag of in foul territory and instead of tossing to Pedro covering, he tried to take it himself, but slipped on the grass and had no play. On Martinez's next pitch Karim Garcia singled to right field and Wilson went to second. Boston pitching coach Dave Wallace came out to talk with Pedro. Mike Timlin was throwing in the Red Sox bullpen.
The tying run was at the plate and for the first time all evening, I was nervous. But my worry was mitigated by the fact that Soriano was at bat. He had struck out in all three of his appearances against Pedro and had looked foolish and befuddled each time. Pedro had already thrown 94 pitches and this was obviously his last batter. Soriano took a ball inside, then ripped a line drive foul down the third base line. Pedro got strike two away, and after another foul and a ball outside, Soriano whiffed on a 94 mph fastball low and away. Pedro had obviously cranked it up for his final batter and his 100th pitch. He touched his heart and pointed to the heavens as he left the mound and accepted a congratulatory hug from Nomar Garciaparra in the dugout. A job well done.
In the top of the 8th, David Ortiz blasted David Wells's first pitch into the right field bleachers to extend the Red Sox's lead to 5-2. When Nick Johnson led off the bottom of the 8th, he did not face Alan Embree or Mike Timlin, as expected. He stepped in against Pedro Martinez. ... Now I'll be honest. I understood what Grady was doing. He wanted Martinez to close out the Yankees himself. I didn't have a huge problem with that, assuming Pedro could do it on 15 additional pitches or so. If anyone reached base, I would want the pen.
Pedro threw 7 pitches to Johnson and got him on a full-count popup to shortstop. Five outs to go. Derek Jeter fell behind 0-2, then drove the ball over Trot Nixon's head in right for a double. Bernie Williams was next and Pedro was at 110 pitches. In the bullpen, everyone was rested and ready: Timlin (who had retired 25 of the 26 post-season batters he had faced), Embree, Williamson, Arroyo, Jones, Suppan, Sauerbeck, even Wakefield, Lowe and maybe Burkett for a batter or two. The bullpen's post-season ERA was 1.01. Grady stayed with Pedro.
Jeter scored. Now it was 5-3. Gump walked out of the dugout to the mound. It was his customary "two batters too late," but thank god Gump had come to his senses before it was way too late. I expected Embree to face the lefty Matsui. Gump talked with Pedro and then he turned and walked back to the dugout. Grady stayed with Pedro. After the game, Gump said that Pedro had told him that he had enough left to get Matsui and get out of the inning. Well, of course, he's going to say that, what the hell else would you expect? It is the manager's job to say NO, you've gone above and beyond the call tonight, you've thrown 115 pitches, I want you in the World Series, so it's time to sit on the bench watch your teammates nail it down. Grady failed this most obvious of tasks.
Pedro got two called strikes on Matsui. On the 0-2 pitch, Matsui ripped a line drive that hit near the right field line -- fair ball -- and bounced towards the stands, where a fan touched it. Everyone was allowed two bases, so Williams had to stop at third. Now the Yankees had the tying run at second base and still only one out. Pedro was wilting. He was at 118 pitches. And Grady let him continue.
What must they have been thinking in the bullpen? What about the starting players in the field, watching as Pedro's pitchers are being banged all over the lot? And what about Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino and John Henry? They're smart men. What in the world was going through their heads as Grady left Pedro in to absorb line drive after line drive after line drive and the comfortable Red Sox lead shrank down to nothing?
Posada was the next batter and he blooped a 2-2 pitch into short center field, Williams and Matsui scored and because no one was covering second base, Posada took the extra bag. New York had tied the game 5-5. And here was Grady, walking to the mound to take the ball from Pedro, doing what any fool with more sense than God gave a rosin bag would have done FOUR BATTERS AGO.
The inning went on with both Embree and Timlin pitching, and although New York loaded the bases, they did not score. Mariano Rivera came out of the Yankees pen for the 9th. Varitek singled with one out. Pinch-runner Damian Jackson did not attempt to steal, although he advanced to second on Damon's ground out. Todd Walker nearly poked a line drive over Soriano's head into right field, but the second baseman made the catch to end the inning. Rivera ended up pitching three innings (he also allowed a 2-out double in the 10th to Ortiz) and throwing 48 pitches. If Wakefield could get through the 11th (his second inning of work), Torre would have to bring in either Jeff Weaver, Jose Contreras or Gabe White. ... That 12th inning never came.
Every idiot who wouldn't know what a baseball was if it hit him in the head, and plenty of idiots who follow the sport too, will blather on about the Curse and how evil spirits are conspiring against the Red Sox. That has been a crock of shit since Day One and no matter how many editions of a certain book are printed, it will remain a crock of shit. Let me say this: I am proud of the 2003 Red Sox. I still love this team. ... There were no chokes, no errors, no baserunning mistakes, nothing on the part of the players that could (or should) be singled out as the reason why Game 7 was lost. This loss will go down in history squarely on the shoulders of Grady Little, who will now take his rightful place as one of the most hated men in Red Sox history, the author of one of the dumbest managerial moves in the history of the game (and no, I do NOT believe I'm exaggerating).
Theo should have fired the moron in the 8th inning, but baring that, he should have shit-canned him immediately after the game, and refused to allow him on the charter flight back to Boston. You would think he'll never get another managerial job again, but who knows? Dusty Baker was given the chance to piss away another team's title hopes this year. Maybe Gump can become the Yankees new bench coach. If so, I look forward to Pedro tossing his dumb ass to the ground next season.
Grady: "Pedro Martinez has been our man all year long and in situations like that, he's the one we want on the mound over anybody we can bring in out of the bullpen. He had enough left in his tank to finish off Posada." Well, idiot, if that's the case, why pull him at all? Why not let him finish the 8th and have him go the 9th too? If he's truly better than anyone out in the bullpen, let him go and go.
Aaron Boone? He means nothing to me. A truly insignificant part of this series. No, it is Grady Little, and only Grady Little, that I despise. I have more hatred for him at this point than I do for any New York Yankee I can think of -- past or present. His exit from the Boston Red Sox will be a sliver of happiness I take from this post-season. And any Red Sox players who still believe this shithead is a great "player's manager" and love his "open door" policy, I don't care who you are, but I hope you go with him into oblivion. Anyone that stupid doesn't deserve to wear the Red Sox uniform.
Commiserate, vent and look to 2004 with fellow fans at Sons of Sam Horn, with threads either here or here. As huge as my hatred and disgust is for Grady, that's the amount of love, respect and admiration I have for everyone who posts at SoSH. Thanks to all of them, the site was an unbridled joy and a much-needed comfort station all season. It was on, but Grady turned it off. That is all.