Sunday, August 26, 2012
Searching for positives on L.A.'s big day
By Tony Lee
Mike Aviles, center, celebrates his home run with Pedro Ciriaco, left.
BOSTON -- After the Red Sox traded away three stars and another known veteran in the trade that sent shockwaves throughout baseball, they brought in some minor leaguers to fill the roster spots and installed the fringy Aaron Cook to take Josh Beckett's vacated start.
This is the new era of Red Sox baseball, one no longer marked by star power at virtually every position and shiny sports cars in the players' lot to prove it. Or at least not as many.
In actuality, the blockbuster trade cannot be truly judged for years. In the interim, it will present the faithful with scenes like the one presented Saturday night at Fenway, where a ragtag bunch flirted with a rout, lost it all in inglorious fashion and then fought tooth and nail into the night before falling to a Kansas City Royals team careening toward its 10th straight losing season.
Meanwhile, 3,000-plus miles away, the Los Angeles Dodgers were trotting out their new toys like the rich kid at show-and-tell. Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat as a Dodger and curtain calls abounded for each new member of a team high on life, playoff hopes and the pay scale. Even Nick Punto, the bit player in the big deal, scored the last run in an 8-2 rout of Miami.
Again, the trade is just hours old. Los Angeles might miss the playoffs and find itself hamstrung by the big contracts in the coming years. Boston may rebuild quicker than expected. But for now, the dichotomy is striking.
That leaves the Sox finding the positives where they can. On Saturday, many came from those extras that have to fill the gaps and, perhaps, fight for a future in the organization. Mauro Gomez, never to be confused with Gonzalez, did his best impression with a home run of his own to go along with three singles. Pedro Ciriaco had two more hits and is batting .351 after 41 games with the club. Scott Podsednik had two of his own and is sitting at .375. And Cook put in a yeoman's effort on three days' rest and on a night in which Boston was already thin in the bullpen due to the Alfredo Aceves suspension.
"More than we expected," manager Bobby Valentine said of his emergency starter. "Cook got his ground-ball double plays when he had to. He gave us everything he had. Seventy pitches and six innings, pretty good."
Gomez and others keyed an offensive effort that gave the Sox a 9-3 lead after four innings. His homer kicked off a four-run second and he had run-scoring singles in the third and fourth. Cody Ross had hits in those two innings, including one to score Ciriaco.
The names are not flashy. The results sometimes aren't as well. Blowing a six-run lead at home to a team 14 games below .500 is downright disgusting. But the energy, which enabled the crowd at Fenway to exhibit more positivity and support than the club has seen in recent weeks, may be the first sign of a potential change in the culture, a change for which many have clamored. There was even a standing ovation during Gomez's at-bat to lead off the ninth in which he fouled off pitch after pitch before grounding out.
"I did see some relaxed play. Definitely a positive. We didn't come out flat like I would assume a lot of people thought we would after what went down earlier in the day," Ross said. "Came out ready to play, fired up."
It did not translate into success. In fact, the new era in Boston began in rather miserable fashion. Meanwhile, in L.A. it started with a bang. But in Chavez Ravine right now it is about dreaming big. In Fenway, it's all about the little things. It has to be.