8.25.02: At this point in the annual collapse it's once
again time to make an important clarification.
Despite appearances, the Red Sox are not a team full of
chokers. No, I'd say the squad is fairly evenly divided between the chokers and
the guys who simply don't care.
It would be unfair to label a guy who is perpetually unaware
of the gravity of a given game, situation or at-bat a choker. Chokers are
keenly aware of the stakes. They know exactly how important the moment is and
Choking comes in many forms: an anxious first-pitch pop out
to the first baseman, hanging a change in the middle of the zone on a 1-2 pitch,
letting a routine ground ball eat you up in a tight game.
Not caring also manifests itself in many ways: jogging into
an out at second base, airmailing the cutoff man, lollygagging after a base hit
and turning it into a double by throwing to the wrong base.
Sometimes choking and not caring yield the exact same
result: getting doubled off a base in a tight game. The apathetic player might
wander off second, ruminating on whether butterflies are really free, forgetting
the cardinal rule of "seeing the line drive through" as he lurches toward third
on the crack of the bat. The choker cares deeply, desperately. He yearns to
win with every bone in his body. But for some reason that very desire
undermines his efforts. In a paroxysm of bad baseball, he, too, forgets that
"your first step is back" on a line drive with no one out. He scampers off
first on a liner right at the second baseman. The root cause is diametrically
opposite, but the result is the same: two outs, nobody on.
Watching the Oakland A's this summer you'd think they were
playing a different sport than the Sox. They swagger and they produce. Clutch
hit, clutch play, clutch pitch, over and over and over again. Yes, the A's John
Mabry has more clutch hits this summer than the entire Red Sox team. And he's a
freakin' part-time player. John Mabry!
No, these Sox do not bring to mind the Hemingway Code Hero.
They are graceless under pressure. Imagine Robert Jordan wetting his pants,
screaming hysterically and fleeing instead of blowing the bridge in For Whom the
Bell Tolls and you'd have the literary equivalent of these pathetic players.
It was Trot's play that was the brainlock, not Manny's -- and
the Fox announcers even pointed that out at the time. Manny was getting
back to the bag, but he slipped and fell. If anyone's at fault there, it's
the groundskeeper. Trot on the other hand needed to be at least stopped,
if not heading back to the bag when the ball was hit. Instead, he was
headed toward second and therefore couldn't reverse his course.
Manny: Physical error. Accident. Trot: Mental
The bottom line's the same, they are both out.
But if we're playing the blame game, it's Trot who's the goat here.
- Jon "Your Turn"