The Gang’s All Here!

(photo from Yahoo! Sports)

“PAW-tucket.” “PAAAW-tucket.” That’s how Jon Papelbon says it. It’d be tempted to declare that the best thing about him, his Baton Rouge twinged with Mississippi State hayseed accent, but that wouldn’t be fair to his pitching. And yesterday, amidst a storm of controversy swirling around one of the game’s biggest superstars, Papelbon stepped up and pitched like his pants were on fire. 5.1 IP, 3 R, 7 K. I’ll take it. Welcome to the big leagues, buddy. It’s not PAAAW-tucket, but you’ll like it just fine.

The other newbie, Manny Delcarmen, or Manny El Camino per Marianne, contributed as well. Not quite as rock steady as he was in Tampa Bay a week ago but solid nevertheless. However, the best thing about El Camino’s performance most likely was his postgame interview. When asked what it was like to pitch in Fenway Park and to be playing on the same team as people like Manny Ramirez, Hyde Park Manny said, “It’s amazing. I mean, I play videogames with these guys in them.” That right there might just be the quote of the day.

Either that or Papelbon’s retelling of his discussion with El Camino in the dugout while they watched Manny the Elder stride to the plate with the game on the line in the bottom of the eighth inning. “I was sittin’ next to Manny Delcarmen,” Papelbon said, “And I said ‘Man, I got goosebumps.’ And he looks and me and says, ‘I know, man, they go all the way up to my neck.’ It was pretty awesome.” I wish I could do his accent justice in print. It’s that fantastic.

“Goosebumps” pretty much sums up the day. When all was said and done, when the smoke had cleared, everyone who started the day on the roster, remained there. Everyone went to sleep last night secure – for the first time in weeks – that the 2005 Red Sox roster still boasted Bronson Arroyo, Kevin Youkilis, Bill Mueller and Manny Ramirez. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I slept pretty well last night.

And the Manny thing, well, it’s Manny, right? I mean we can say that until our faces turn blue and we can rant and rave and be all “He disrespects the game” this and “He’s dogging it” that, but when it comes right down to it, Theo was smart not to make that trade. Mike Cameron and Aubrey Huff do not a Manny Ramirez make. Especially if they insist on throwing Hanley Ramirez, our prospect o’ the future, into that trade as well. Good job, Theo, not buying that “$100 carton of milk.”

Ditto on the nixed Bill Mueller for J.C. Romero trade. Buelly’s been tearing it up at the plate of late which could have both increased his trade value and/or made it less likely for the Sox to trade him after realizing they need his production. Especially since nobody knew where Manny was going, if anywhere. This whole trading thing is such a delicate house of cards. Tap one piece just a little too hard, and the whole thing comes crashing down around your ears. Last I heard, the Twins had changed their demands from Mueller (a 34-year-old third basemen with bad knees) to Kevin Youklis. I was on the phone with The Rick when I read of this.

Me: So now the Twins want Youks instead of Mueller for Romero.

The Rick: Theo’s not that stupid.

Good on ya, Theo. We don’t need a Backstreet Boy (TM Marianne) in our bullpen anyway.

And did we all see what happens when Manny’s not in the lineup? Did we all see Papi get walked four times? Because Theo, in his gutsy way, decided not to make the trade, we don’t have to get used to four walk nights from Ortiz. But had Manuelito left town, it would have become an irritatingly familiar sight. The power of the Papi/Manny tandem is just that. They’re a tandem. They come in a pair. “If the left one don’t get ya, the right one will.” There is no better 3-4 punch in baseball and I would hate to pass on the opportunity to make opposing pitchers cry four or five times in a single game. All respect to Helmethead for doing his Manny impression but you know, it’s not the same without that space cadet striding to the plate. “Just Manny being Manny,” he said after the game, which, admittedly, shows a level of self-awareness I was not certain he possessed. But damned if he isn’t right.

And let’s talk about the hit for a second, shall we? Let’s talk about how that was “Manny being Manny.” Because as much as we use that term to dismiss bizarre behavior, or gloss over potentially embarrassing hijinks, what we often forget is that “Manny being Manny” is also Manny hitting 28 home runs and knocking in 92 RBIs less than a month after the All-Star break. “Manny being Manny” is providing the team with clutch hits when they need it most. “Manny being Manny” is disappearing inexplicably into the Green Monster during a pitching change but it’s also smiling and goofing around in the dugout and striding to the plate with the game on the line and smacking a miracle single up the middle for the eventual game-winning run. That is also “Manny being Manny.” And I’m glad he’ll continue to be Manny while wearing a Red Sox uniform. He just wouldn’t fit anywhere else.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the return of Gabe Kapler to Fenway Park. His fantastic night at the plate on Saturday combined with his acrobatic catch in right field yesterday to save the game just served to remind us how much we really did miss this guy. Beth says she doesn’t really have a striking visual memory of Kapler, save for his role in last July 24th’s brawl game wherein he laid the smack down on Tanyon Sturtze. But what I most remember is his first week as a Red Sox where he hit something ridiculous like .800. I remember watching the games with my dad at our lakehouse and saying, “Who’s this guy?”

“Gabe Kapler,” my dad said, “He’s gonna be good. Not an everyday player but he’s gonna be good for them.”

“He’s not gonna be an everyday player hitting .800?”

“Nah,” said my dad, “He’s trying to prove himself right now after being traded. But he’ll be useful down the stretch run.”

What do you know? Dad was right. Then again, I should have known. He said the same thing about Dave Roberts.

So Gabe’s back, Manny and Buelly never left, the rookies look promising and the team’s on a winning streak. Even with all that, I’m glad today’s an off day. The trading deadline takes a lot out of a person – especially when you’ve sworn to go on a hunger strike if a certain third baseman is traded – and you need a day or so to get things together. And so I echo Terry Francona who said, when asked what the team was going to do today with all the drama – not to mention a sweep of the Minnesota Twins – behind them; “We’re all going to take a nap.” Amen, man. Save me a mat.

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