Friday, June 06, 2008


To be honest, I didn't see this coming, and I'm ashamed at myself for not being able to foresee it. After the baserunning incidents involving Coco Crisp on Wednesday, along with the braggadocio Crisp showed after the game, thrown in with Tampa Bay's history of escalation and fight starting; and you've got a recipe for some drama.

If you missed it on Wednesday, Crisp attempted a steal of second base, and (Devil) Ray second baseman Jason Bartlett blocked the bag with his leg. Crisp slid in head first, jamming his hand against Bartlett’s leg. Later, Crisp tried to steal second again. This time, he purposely hit short-stop Akinori Iwamura while sliding. This caused some drama, and some shouting between Crisp and (Devil) Rays manager Joe “Drew Carey glasses” Maddon.

In Coco’s first at-bat of last night’s contest, pitcher James Shields threw at his hip. Coco took a step or two toward first, flung his bat aside and charged the mound. Shields threw a big right hook, but Crisp avoided it (Coco has an amateur boxing history, by the way). Both Shields and Crisp threw punches that didn’t land.

But by now, the benches had cleared. Catcher Dioner Navarro (who officially has 25 pounds on Crisp, but I’d say its more like 35) grabbed Crisp around the neck and hauled him down. Then the Rays swarmed and enveloped Coco. Jonny Gomes joined in the “Hit a man while he’s down” party. Carl Crawford came streaming in from the outfield to land a few hits on Coco. Even Iwamura stood around and pretended to hit Coco.

Meanwhile, the Sox took down Shields. Actually, it was third base coach DeMarlo Hale who should get credit for the tackle. General mayhem ensued, and scraps between players erupted all over the mound area. Finally, things settled down. Shields was ejected, Crisp was ejected, and Gomes was ejected.

Both sides were in the wrong on this one. The (Devil) Rays have a tendency to start trouble when it shouldn’t be started. Instead of moving on from Wednesday night’s drama, they felt the need to continue it and bring it to a higher level. Coco, for his part, should have kept his mouth shut after Wednesday’s game, and shouldn’t have charged the mound. Charging the mound doesn’t accomplish anything (ask Robin Ventura), especially when James Shields is 6’ 4” 214 and has Navarro watching his back.

That being said, the way the Rays ganged up on Coco was sad. Navarro had already taken him down, there was no need for Carl Crawford to start jabbing into him. Then again, what do you expect from the (Devil) Rays? “They hit like girls” according to Coco.

Noticeably late to the brawl was Manny Ramirez. In fact, Bartolo Colon, and some of the bullpen arrived before Manny. This may have been the spark to the scuffle between Manny and Youkilis.

The Sox are being very hush-hush about the dugout fight, and understandably so. What NESN’s cameras caught on tape is all we have to go on. Manny and Youkilis were jawing (mostly Youkilis). Manny walked past Youk, Youk said something, and Manny slapped Youkilis with the back of his hand, then charged him. Both were restrained, and Francona claims the situation has been dealt with.

My question is, what the hell did Youkilis say to get Manny so riled up? Since Manny’s been on this team, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him angry enough to hit someone. Youkilis either kept on him for a few innings, or said one or two magic words.

It did seem like it was merely overflowing testosterone. And God knows how many fights and arguments like these there are in private during a season.

Although the Red Sox won 7-1 (Manny had 5 RBI), it was a bit of a pyrrhic victory. Jacoby Ellsbury left the game in the 4th after rolling his wrist while making a diving catch. Manny left the game in the 7th after an awkward half-step on his right leg in the batter’s box.

Ellsbury is listed as day-to-day. The Sox sent down Chris Carter, and brought up Brandon Moss from AAA Pawtucket. Moss is hitting .313 with the PawSox, and was a respectable 6 for 21 with the big club earlier this season.

The Red Sox swept the Rays, and have won 6 of their last 7. Now Seattle comes to town. King Felix Hernandez goes against Bartolo Colon tonight at 7.

Hartford Courant
The Baseball Cube

Photo Credits:
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer


The Celtics beat the Lakers last night 98-88 behind a legendary Curt Schilling-esque performance by Paul Pierce. In the 3rd quarter, the Lakers appeared to be starting a run, when Pierce fell awkwardly on the baseline. It appeared that teammate Kendrick Perkins stepped back into Pierce's leg, causing it to turn in an unconventional way. With the help of a wheelchair, Pierce was taken back to the locker room. It seemed certain that Pierce was out for the game, and perhaps the series.

But a few minutes later, he came back through the tunnel, pumping up the crowd along with the Celtics. He went back into the game, and entered Boston Celtic history.

Pierce started the game 1 for 4 in the 1st half, with three points, three fouls and a couple of turnovers. He didn't miss a shot in the 2nd half, going 6 for his last 6 and tallying 19 points. He was 3 for 3 from behind the 3 point arc in the 2nd half, and 3 of 4 in the game. His consecutive 3 pointers at the end of the 3rd quarter gave the Celtics a 75-71 lead. A lead they would not relinquish.

Who knows what Paul Pierce's knee will do between now and game 2 on Sunday. But despite having that bad wheel, he still put this team on his back and carried them on to victory.

But Pierce wasn't alone. KG had 24 points and 13 rebounds in his NBA Finals debut. Garnett's monster slam in the 4th was the extremely loud death knell for the Lakers.

However, the slam was Garnett's first field goal of the 4th quarter. He looked uneasy in the final frame, making passes when he should have shot. Making shots when he should have passed. These weren't tough decisions either, these were no-brainers.

Ray Allen had himself another good night. He had 19 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Rajon Rondo had 15 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds.

Sam Cassell came off the bench strong, nailing some tough shots. But that might have been the worst thing to happen to the Celtics. If Cassell starts thinking it's okay for him to shoot when he's not given a clear look, and guys like KG, Allen and Pierce are on the floor; he will shoot. And it will be and ugly shot more often than not. Almost as ugly as him.

The Celtics turned the ball over in numerous silly ways. Bad passes, dribbling into one's own foot, and so on. They gave LA the ball 13 times, which helped keep the game close whenever the C's were on the verge of pulling away. They need to stop doing this and I mean now.

The defense was outstanding. They held one of the best offenses in basketball to 88 points. They held the NBA MVP to 9 of 26 from the field with 24 points. That's called containment, folks. Covering Kobe was handed off between Allen, Pierce, and Posey. But it was mostly Pierce, and he did a great job of making life difficult for Kobe Bryant. The Celtics didn't give Kobe an inch, knowing he's good enough to turn that inch into a yard in a split second.

The big question over the weekend will be Paul Pierce's health. Game 2 is Sunday night.


Photo Credits:
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images