Monday. A new week starts. The Red Sox are 18-7, in first place in the American League East, and have the best record in baseball. John Lackey threw six innings of one run, five hit baseball. You read that right, John Lackey pitched and won a baseball game. He last won a game for the Red Sox on September 25, 2011. That seems like quite a few buckets of KYC fried chicken ago.
To temper things a bit, let’s remember that Lackey’s outing was against the Astros, MLB’s attempt to see what happens when you allow a AAA team to join the American League West. Lackey was not masterful, but was good enough. From my vantage point, he looked like a new man. Much thinner in physical appearance, less whiny, and pretty darn efficient after a rocky first inning. My wife, who is learning all the names of the players on the Red Sox and trying to absorb as much of my baseball nonsense as she can, commented, all on her own, at the beginning of the fifth inning that Lackey had only thrown 68 pitches. That was pretty good, right? Yep, I replied, pretty damn good. It was even more surprising given that he needed 27 pitches to get out of a first inning jam.
The Astros, fortunately, let Lackey off the hook after scoring what would turn out to be their only run. After the first, they swung early. A second inning lead of single by Lackey was all he allowed until the fifth. He got the next thirteen Astros in order. Those Astros batters saw this many pitches: 1, 4, 2, 2, 2, 4, 1, 5, 2, 2, 8, 2, 2.
“Working the count” and “Getting into the bullpen” certainly were not mentioned in Bo Porter’s pre-game speech to his team. Rumor has it that he gathered the whole team together in the dugout after that first inning run and said:
” Boys, our payroll is only 22 million. Many think it is 26 million but they are wrong. We had to give the Pirates 4.5 million to take Wandy Rodriguez off our hands so it really is only 21 or 22 million. Can you imagine, we are paying on average less then a million dollars a player! Isn’t that sweet? How many other teams are trying to win with so little? Not many. Well, not any really. Even the Marlins are spending more then us. It’s us against the world, boys!
On top of our cheap payroll, we want to make you guys even tougher. That means new travel plans. It will be just like your minor league days. Guess what is coming back? Grueling, hard, boring, cramped bus rides! Hard times build character. In 2020 we think our team will be too tough to lose. We won’t need high priced players. We’ll have character guys, tough guys. Our motto: Character wins championships!
That character building gets ramped up today!
Tonight we travel by Lucky Star bus to NYC! It’s only $20 per player! Right after the game we leave Boston for NYC on the Lucky Star! It will be a fun. Yep, tons of fun. I won’t make you all dress up like Joe Maddon does, but yes, indeed, this will still be an experience you’ll have for the rest of your lives. There is one catch. The last bus out of Boston is at 6:00 pm, so we need to be out of Fenway no later then 5:00. That makes things kinda tight. But, I know we can do it. All our stuff is packed and ready to go. All we need is for you guys to speed things up a bit. So, bottom line, swing early and often. None of this working the count stuff like I saw in the first inning. I want more of what Fernando did to end that first inning. Swing at the first pitch. That’s the ticket.
Go get ’em boys!”
That had to have been the speech. No other explanation.
Ironically, when the Astros face the Yankees tonight, it will be Lucas Harrell versus Andy Pettitte. Houston, you remember Andy Pettite, don’t you? He played for you guys from 2004-2006. You paid him $5,500,000 in 2004, $8,500,000 in 2005, and $16,428,416 in 2006. That’s a lot compared to now, right? Do these numbers look weird to you?
Astro’s Opening Day Payrolls:
2004 – 75,397,000
2005 – 76,779,000
2006 – 92,551,503
*USA Today Salaries Database
Ha, that seems funny doesn’t it? That was a dream right?
One day the Astro fan base will wake up from the nightmare they are living now. It may be a while though.