(photo from Yahoo! Sports)
The thing is, I’m pretty sure David Ortiz might actually be God. I’m not sure I can envision someone else “delivering us from evil” in quite the same way. That may seem like heresy and I’m fairly certain that the nuns at my Catholic high school would cluck disapprovingly at such a declaration, but Red Sox baseball is both a religion and a drug, and David Ortiz is my savior. A messiah in a Kangol hat with ice in his ears, Ortiz brings us to the edge of the Promised Land…yet again.
There have already been far more eloquent statements written by far more gifted writers about how much David Oritz means to this team…and I won’t try to outdo any of them. I will simply say that insomuch as it is possible to actually love someone whom you’ve never met, I love David Ortiz. Ignoring the imaginary baseball world scenarios where I run into Ortiz on the street, he envelopes me in a giant bear hug and says, “Hey baby, what’s going down?,” I really, truly love the man. As much as Jason Varitek is the “heart and soul” of this team, Ortiz is the circulatory system that keeps it all together. And thanks to him, this team’s heart is still beating.
And let’s not forget Jon(athan) Papelbon because he isn’t going to remind us. In the mess and destruction that’s been the Sox bullpen this year, it’s easy to overlook the specter of Papelbon, rising from the smoking rubble. This guy, since he took an unassuming seat on the bench, has been rock, solid nails. His ERA is under 3 and he’s become the closest thing we have to a sure thing in that bucket of fun we call “the bullpen.” A week or so ago, Bill Simmons wrote a column wherein he mentioned that the Sox don’t make it to the postseason – or anywhere from there – without Jonathan Papelbon. A few weeks ago, it would have seemed like a ridiculous statement, but now, it’s fact. And he’s right.
How great must it be to be Papelbon right now? A reporter on NESN’s Extra Innings show posed the question to him in the locker room this evening:
Reporter: “How much fun is this?”
Papelbon’s eyes light up and he couldn’t suppress the smile that he’d kept hidden so well all night, “It’s more fun that I’ve ever imagined.”
And damned if he isn’t right.
It all comes down to this. And we knew it was going to. We have all these great fantasies about the Yankees getting eliminated (and don’t even try to tell me there isn’t some serious karmic voodoo waiting for them for having Shawn “Who?” Chacon and Aaron “Whatshisface?” Small pitching like they have. No way, no how. But as with all karmic debts, this one will come back to bite them in the ass. Hard.) There is no easy way.
I remember last year, I was cheering for the Twins to eliminate the Yankees in the Divisional Series because, if you are a sane person, you want the Yankees to lose in any way possible (hopefully, in a painful, humiliating way, but we’ll get to that in a second), and I remember someone saying to me, “If the Red Sox win the World Series and they don’t have to go through the Yankees to get there, doesn’t it become less special?” And I scoffed and denied it. But after laying the 0-3 smackdown on us, and having the Sox come roaring back to humiliate the Yankees IN THE WORST WAY POSSIBLE, they were right. In retrospect, they were absolutely right. It wouldn’t have been the same if we’d beaten the Twins or the Indians, or the White Sox, or the JV Squad from Hoboken High. We need to beat the Yankees.
And we still need to beat the Yankees.
Real season starts tomorrow at 7:05.