Yankees Blank Sox, 5-0, Take 3-of-4
Red Sox Ponder Future As Ortiz Comes Home
By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief
BOSTON – There was a surprise backdrop to the season-defining 5-0 loss tonight. It was a cool, crisp 68-degree of separation Monday night at Fenway Park, as the hometown Red Sox stared down inevitable mathematical elimination from the AL East pennant race just 18 hours after Dave Dombrowski, the club’s head of Baseball Operations, fell through the trap door of many a Sox GM gone bye-bye, falling down, down, down and straight to the MLB unemployment line.
Whether it be the end of our dreams for an elusive Endless Summer, or a reality world glance at the Green Monster wall and its AL East standings panel, there was a dose of crappy, unwanted autumnal Mead tonight, instead of lovely, frosty Sam Adams Octoberfest. Overall, there was a strange feel to the ballpark before the game began.
Then, amidst the solemn sounds of Tubular Bells, the Mike Oldfield epic almost only played by Fenway DJ, Senator John “TJ” Connelly, when an ALCS or World Series game needs a baseline low energy tone hours before first pitch of the Fall Classic, the pregame sounds were a welcome reminder of great days gone by. We were thrown back to October afternoons and evenings, when TJ built a mood from low to high, when Fenway Park was alive and well.
Tonight, though, in the depths of third place, there was a faint buzz and some excited pregame chatter with rumors of a special appearance. That chatter was all about David Ortiz throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to this game, a contest many circled back in April, thinking… hoping the tickets would be golden for a pennant race stand-off.
That, of course, was not the case tonight, as the tickets could be had for $20 at Ace and the Red Sox organization orchestrated an appearance by their beloved Ortiz. Yes, he’s known as “Big Papi” to most, and the Sox paraded him out of the home side dugout just minutes before the fourth game of a “what could have been great” series against the New York Yankees.
Ortiz strode from the dugout to the mound, looking rail thin but with a spring in his step as he so graciously crossed the first baseline and onto the Sistine Chapel of Fenway Park turf, manicured by a grounds crew who, like Ortiz and Dombrowski, will be looking for something to do come October.
“First of all, I want to thank God for giving me a second opportunity in my life to be able to be here with all of you,” Ortiz said over the same public address system he spoke through a few days after the senseless Boston Marathon bombing shocked this city, Ortiz claimed as ours . “I want to thank the Red Sox, my real family, they have always been there for me, supported [me]. With what happened to me, they were the first supporting me. Thank you very much, Red Sox family.”
Ortiz was shot, damn-near shot dead exactly three months ago, to the day.
It’s been well documented as to the spell-binding drama of the attempted assassination of one of the Dominican Republic’s most beloved and popular citizens. Speculation abounds, conspiracy theories are plentiful, but in Boston, it just doesn’t matter to most.
Like the misfit wide-receiver traveling from Pittsburgh to Oakland to Foxboro, the circumstances and the details of the situation of Ortiz’ attempted murder don’t matter much. Out at Gillette, as of today, troubled Antonio Brown is a New England Patriots wide receiver and here at Fenway, our Big Papi is as much a part of this pillbox as any quirky foul pole. Ortiz is loved, and he belongs. He always will, no matter what happens in his life.
“I want to thank all of you for all the prayers, all of them came home,” Ortiz continued. “I really appreciate it. Thank you very much. I want to thank my former teammates for being there for me. And also, all of them came home to check on their boy.
“Also, I want to thank the Yankees, a lot of my boys over there came over to check on Big Papi. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you very much. God bless you all. Go Sox.”
The Sox and Ortiz’ amazing timing to appear tonight was a convenient coincidence to the theatrics which played out just after midnight as Sunday turned to this Monday morning, and sleepy-eyed school kids trudged back home on a late night, the first school night after a weekend.
Those kids saw the Sox get spanked, 10-5, last night, a day after nearly getting blanked on Saturday. The two losses placed the Red Sox in the unpleasant predicament they found themselves in tonight, although visions of an AL East title vanished long, long ago, and Boston fell 18.5 games back of New York when the scoreboard went dark tonight.
Boston stands 8.0 games behind an AL Wild Card berth, and there’s no indication of Tampa Bay Rays nor the Oakland A’s folding down the stretch run of September baseball.
That means Dombrowki’s replacements, either the four-person crew named by the Red Sox today, or a hire-to-be-named later, will need to navigate a long fall and cook something up on a hot stove. Laundry lists of “to do” and “next steps” will accompany longer lists of potential candidates for one of the most coveted jobs in all of sport.
The job will go to someone who can complain in back rooms about millions designated to Chris Sale, David Price and Nathan Eovaldi and millions more to Rusty Castillo, the oft-injured Dustin Pedroia or the buy-out of Pablo Sandoval. But, in baseball there’s no crying about millions gone wasted, or about injuries, because there’s no hard salary cap and the new GM can sign-up a closer of his/her choice.