Since my bosses wanted something quick after Game 3, here are the top 16 things I jotted in my notebook at Fenway -- in bold, in order of when I wrote them down -- along with my after-the fact notes:
1. Flag flying straight out.
Wrote that before the game, when my father noticed that the flag above the 600 Club was stiffer than Joel Pryzbilla and pointing straight towards the center-field bleachers. I remember saying to my dad, "This could be one of those 12-10 slugfests." It was a slugfest all right ... just like Spinks-Tyson.
2. Weird energy in crowd -- nervous, drinking, not quite right.
This wasn't your typically raucous Saturday night playoff crowd. Everyone was terrified of getting swept by the Yanks, so it was one of those "on the fence" crowds, with everyone thinking the same thing: "We'll keep drinking, we'll keep cheering, we'll even stand up during every big pitch in the first two innings ... just get us some runs so we can relax."
3. "We have two hits off Brown, maybe we can get to him."
That was my dad before the bottom of the second, with the Yanks leading 3-0. I liked this quote because it was optimistic, pathetic and strangely prophetic -- in other words, the perfect quote for a Sox fan. As it turned out, Brown gave up a two-run bomb to Nixon, then two more runs in the second as the crowd chanted "Ke-vinnnnnnn! Ke-vinnnnnnn! Ke-vinnnnnnn! Ke-vinnnnnnn!"
4. "His fastball is 85 and his changeup is 81 -- I don't think he'll be fooling many people with the changeup."
Another dad quote, this time about Ramiro Mendoza, who relieved a shellshocked Brandon Arroyo in the third inning. When you're headed into a must-win game, most managers come up with some sort of emergency plan ahead of time, just in case their starter doesn't have it. Like any rational Sox fan, we assumed that Terry Francona's plan was, "I'll start Arroyo, but if he's struggling early, I'll go right to Derek Lowe or Tim Wakefield. I can't take any chances tonight."
Here was Francona's plan: "If Arroyo doesn't have it, but the game is still close, I'm going to bring in the worst reliever in my bullpen. If that guy doesn't have it, I'm bringing in the second-worst reliever in my bullpen. And if that guy doesn't have it, and we're way behind, that's when I'll bring in Lowe or Wakefield. By the way, I'm doing this because I'm really hoping to get fired next week."
5. Torre's so good - he's the anti-Francona
Wrote that one in the bottom of the third, when Torre pulled the plug on Brown once they went up 6-4, bringing in Javy Vazquez. And that's the difference between Torre and Francona -- he acts instead of reacts. He knew Brown was struggling. He didn't want to send him back out there for a few more hits, then bring Vazquez in the middle of an inning (which is what Francona would have done -- although he would have chosen Felix Heredia instead). So Torre said, "Screw it, I've seen enough, let's see what Vazquez can do starting off the third."
And it wasn't like Vazquez was fantastic or anything -- the Sox nearly knocked him out in the third before he settled down in the middle innings. He also didn't pitch worse than Brown would have pitched. Regardless, that's why Torre has four rings. He doesn't react. He acts. That's what a manager is supposed to do.
6. CABRERA TRIPLE -- Nooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!
That was for Cabrera's bases-loaded double into the gap that somehow only scored two guys -- thanks to Millar tagging at second, then tripping as he realized the ball wouldn't be caught, then Dale Sweum sending Bill Mueller from first even though he A) had to slow down because of Millar, and B) Millar (maybe 15 feet ahead of Mueller) nearly got tagged out at home himself. Instead of 6-6 with guys on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out, it was 6-6 with a guy on 3rd and 2 outs. What a back-breaker. Then again, that's the 2004 Sox for you -- bad managing, bad third-base coach, bad baserunning. We knew this going in.
7. Why not pitch Wakefield in third????
See, there was the point that we realized Wakefield WAS available to pitch Game 3 ... it was just that Francona chose to bring in his two worst pitchers instead. By the time Wakefield entered the game, it was 9-6 and Gary Sheffield had nearly murdered someone in the second row of the Monster seats with a three-run laser beam of Leskanic.
(I can't tell you how angry I am about this. Not quite Grady-Pedro level, but nearly as aggravating because of the sheer indefensibility of the whole thing. Your two worst pitchers should not pitch in the biggest game of the season unless you have absolutely no other recourse. They were options here. Either Lowe or Wakefield starts Game 4, the other guy is available for long relief in Game 3, Pedro starts Game 5, and you play it by ear after that. How hard is that?)
7. INT WALK POSADA -- WHAT???????? WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?
Now I'm writing in capital letters -- this was when Francona elected to intentionally walk Posada with a guy on second, in a game where the other team had already scored 10 runs, to pitch to Sierra with two outs. Maybe he was setting up the double-play ball and forgot the outs. I don't know. One of the strangest moves I've ever seen in a baseball game. This was officially the point where I vowed to devote my winter to getting this man fired.
8. "You think we can come back?" 10:30!
I asked dad that one before the bottom of the fourth: 11-6, one out, guys on first and second, Varitek up. Even wrote down the time, partly to commemorate the moment, partly because I couldn't believe it was 10:30 and we were only in the fourth inning.
Dad nodded yes.
A few seconds later, Varitek lined into a broken-bat double play. End of the inning. This was officially the point where I started to give up on the 2004 Red Sox season.
9. A-Rod -- $15 million
That was after A-Rod hit his second double, giving him two doubles and a homer on the night. And we were still in the fifth. I just wanted to remind myself how the Sox were $15 million away from getting A-Rod last winter, but chose to wait until spring training to try and close the deal, allowing the Yanks to sneak through the back door. Whether he would have fit in with the team of self-proclaimed idiots, we will never know. It just seemed interesting that he was the guy hammering the nail in the coffin last night.
10. OC makes phenomenal play -- no standing O
That was when the crowd gave up -- Cabrera made a web gem against Cairo, going into the hole and uncorking an Ozzie Smith leap-and-chuck one-hopper to get him. The crowd barely budged. We were done. Stick a fork in us.
11. We need rain -- torrential downpour.
Wrote that after the top of the fifth, when the Yanks scored two more times to make the score 13-6. Staring at their inning-by-inning run totals on the Monster, it almost looked like a lottery number: 3 0 5 0 2. These are the times when teams should hire someone to perform an African rain dance.
12. Schilling's ankle = cost us 2 games?
I realized that in the sixth. Let's say Schilling is healthy. Maybe the Sox win Game 1, maybe not. More importantly, he pitches Game 4 on Sunday night, which means that Lowe would have been available for long relief duty in Game 3 -- and odds are, he would have done better than the two crappiest relievers on the team. Umm, right?
(By the way, I was grasping for straws at this point -- it seemed much easier to rationalize that a potential sweep was Francona's fault or Schilling's ankle's fault when the reality was that the Yankees were laying the SMACK down. And not just in Game 3. For the whole series. You have to hand it to them.)
13. "It's like batting practice out there!"
Another quote from my dad -- after Posada and Sierra struck back-to-back 400-foot outs to dead center to start the sixth. It was like a softball game. Poor Johnny Damon looked like he was ready to keel over.
14. Nov. 2 -- don't think so.
That's the return date on my airplane ticket. Something tells me I'll be catching an earlier flight back to Los Angeles.
15. We aren't just leaving the game early -- we're fleeing a crime scene.
Wrote that on my way out, right after Bernie Williams' two-run double to make it 16-6. One of those rare moments when an entire crowd gets up and leaves -- not even a "Hey, should we go?" shrug to be seen. I never thought I'd leave a Red Sox-Yankees playoff game in the seventh inning. But I did. Everyone did. We had to get out of there. It was practically a stampede.
16. T-shirt stop = silver lining
Heading to the subway after the game, I bought two T-shirts from sidewalk vendors to make myself feel better. The first one says "YANKS SUCK" on the front and questions A-Rod's sexual preference on the back. That was $10. The second one simply says, "POSADA IS A LITTLE B****." That was $5. I'm going to break them both out this winter in California. Frequently.
While I'm recovering from another Red Sox season that fell short.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.