All right. Ball games are not quite as different as individual snowflakes. But each game has a certain style, a certain trademark. For instance, in Monday’s game between the Red Sox and Miami Marlins, the underappreciated art of throwing a baseball seemed to be the order of the day.
Let’s start off with pitcher Josh Beckett, the alleged ace of the staff. His throwing was clearly off (maybe not) when he hit the first two Marlins he faced. There is always the possibility of intimidation, but not in the first inning of a spring training game. After giving up a hit, he walked in a run with the bases loaded. Not good for your “ace” who was considered to be part of that epic beer-and-fried-chicken collapse last September. Thank God for beating Red Sox hearts, Beckett settled down and gave up no additional hits or runs in his four innings. Naturally, Beckett claimed he was working on throwing his curve ball.
The Red Sox gave up on closer Jonathan Papelbon last year and let him to go to Philadelphia for a boatload of cash. Instead they gave a (smaller) boatload to one Andrew Bailey. Bailey made his debut against the Marlins and threw even worse than Beckett did, unless you consider hitting the Marlins’ bats a good thing. The first batter, Omar Infante, blasted the ball against the new/old Green Monster in left field. Austin Kearns, then Aaron Rowand followed with singles. No outs. Finally Bailey settled down, started throwing like he is supposed to, and let in only one run.
The Red Sox arms were going haywire. Later in the game, relief pitcher Scott Atchison fielded a slow roller easily, then almost missed the first baseman with a 10-foot throw. Safe. The woman behind me, almost my age, said, “I could have made that throw.” She was right. Anyone in the park could have made that throw. Except for Atchison. Naturally the run scored, eventually.
While the pitchers were floundering, the outfielders were throwing in their glory. If you sit behind third base for a few games, you come to appreciate the prodigious throws the third baseman and shortstop make every single game. In my beer-league softball career, the sole skill I had was making long throws, if I could ever catch the damn thing. I have always appreciated the throwing talent in others, like Marlins right fielder Scott Cousins. Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzales (“God’s will,” he said when the Sox collapsed) thought he was faster than he really is. He tried to make it from first to third, but was cut down with a laser throw to third by Cousins. The third baseman never had to move his feet and make the tag, killing a rally. The third base fans had to admire the throw, even if it was by a Marlin.
There is no better defensive play than throwing a runner out at the plate. You don’t know if you should watch the fielder getting ready to throw, or the runner straining to make it home. On Monday I watched Red Sox center fielder Juan Carlos Linares (it was the ninth inning and the replacements were in) make a perfect throw to shortstop Pedro Ciriaco (see?), who threw to the plate in a perfect arc to stop the tying run from scoring. It might have been the next play when Sox left fielder Jason Repko made another perfect throw to home to nail another runner. It got there in plenty of time, but catcher Ryan Lavarnway dropped the ball.
Naturally, if it were a “real game,” I would have stayed until the bitter end. But I had been at JetBlue Park for hours and my car, as usual, was about three miles away in the parking lot. I drove back to my Lehigh Acres swimming pool, mulling over all those great (and lousy) throws in a single ball game. Perhaps the best “throw” of the day was when the umpire ejected maniacal Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen … in a spring training game. Ozzie went ballistic over a play at first base and objected so loudly that he was finally thrown out of the game. In an oddity at JetBlue Park, there is only one exit tunnel, so Guillen had to walk all the way across the infield, berating each and every umpire as he left. Naturally the Sox fans gave it to him each step of the way. Great fun.
Oh. Our boy Ciriaco eventually hit a two-run homer to win the game. I was back by the pool by then.
Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at firstname.lastname@example.org.