White Hat Sports Headlines

Friday, February 20, 2009

Red Sox in the movies part II, the pitchers

Yesterday I wrote a column comparing the current Red Sox line up to baseball movie characters. Today I am back to write part two, comparing the current Red Sox pitching staff, relievers and starters to baseball movie characters. I split them up because with pitchers it is infinitely more challenging because if you look at baseball movie history, most of them are based around position players. The few that are based around pitchers, or at least have a pitchers as a leading character (ie Major League I & II and Bull Durham) only have one of them not an entire staff. So without further adu, your Red Sox pitching staff, in the movies.

Josh Beckett is to the Red Sox, what Amanda Whurlitzer was to the Bad News Bears.
Both were the aces of their staffs, and right now there are people saying that Jon Lester is the ace of this staff. I disagree, I expect big things from Jon Lester and a Cy Young candidacy next season for the south paw, but as of today with a big game on the line you want Josh Beckett taking the hill and he wants to be there too. Beckett is a big game pitcher and has pitched with big game pitchers, previously Curt Schilling and currently John Smoltz. Whurlitzer was a man among boys, or a prepubescent girl amongst boys. She was dominant in big games and well every game she pitched she expected to win. With her devastating curve ball and plus fastball she took the little league equivalent of the Seattle Pilots and turned them into a force. Add in the mean streaks that both of them have on the mound and there's your aces.

Jon Lester is to the Red Sox, what Wedman was to the Minnesota Twins in Little Big League.
The stark difference to these two guys are that Wedman was likely at the end of his career and a journey man that got the start in the one game playoff just because Billy's friend Joey said he should pitch him as a running joke throughout the movie. What happened? Until Ken Griffey Jr, lit into a home run that announcer Wall Holland described as one that "people take vacations shorter than that one", he was coming up huge in a huge game. Lester has twice become the guy for the Red Sox during the post season, first in game 4 of the 07 World Series and then again in game 7 of the 08 ALCS. Lester has a lot higher ceiling but both were thrust into the spotlight only to surprise everybody and impress with their performances.

Daisuke Matsuzaka is to the Red Sox, what Every Japanese Pitcher was to Jack Elliot when he first gets to Japan in Mr. Baseball.
This one might be weak but let me explain. Daisuke has a style to him and he works the same way that the pitchers in Japan did to Tom Selleck's character in Mr. Baseball. He went there with a hole in his swing and the pitchers took full advantage of it. Daisuke does the same thing to major league hitters. He seemingly goes looking for trouble all of the time and somehow always gets out of it unscathed. He loaded the bases routinely but would never be scored on in those most pressure packed situation. He is maddening to watch pitch in the postseason but by game one against Tampa Bay, I was almost at ease with him out there, that he just wouldn't break out there. He would find the hole in each batters swing when he needed to.

John Smoltz (could be) to the Red Sox what Billy Chapel is to the Detroit Tigers in For Love of the Game.
The gritty battler who goes out there in the big games and just flat out gets it done. Smoltz is one of the greatest big game pitchers in history dating back to his classic game 7 duel with Jack Morris in the 1991 World Series. Since then he's just won a World Series, a Cy Young and won 12 games in the post season with a 2.65 era. Chapel was a legend in his career and seemingly had a tremendous postseason career, he had won a World Series with Detroit. Smoltz career could have taken the same path if he hadn't been traded from Detroit to Atlanta for Doyle Alexander in 1987. For Love of the Game is one of my favorite baseball movies and perhaps the biggest reason is Vin Scully is tremendous and really sets the stage and yes I'm a sucker for Kevin Costner sports flicks. Tin Cup, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham and For Love of the Game all classics in my book. This year with the Red Sox John Smoltz will "After 20 years in the big leagues, 41 year old John Smoltz has trudged to the mound for over 3500 innings. But tonight, he's pitching against time, he's pitching against the future, against age, against ending. Tonight, he will make the fateful walk to the loneliest spot in the world, the pitching mound at Fenway Park, to push the sun back into the sky and give us one more day of summer."

Tim Wakefield is to the Red Sox, what Eddie Harris is to the Cleveland Indians in Major League.
This comparison came from me to a my buddy Zach before game 4 of last year's ALCS when Wake seemed like our last chance in the series. I told him "He's going to go out there and throw every piece of junk he can think at 'em Skipper". Zach liked the mentality and that we were leaning on the veteran to get it done one more time. Wakefield didn't that night, the long balled spelled him for the night, but this guy will give his heart and soul out there on the mound. He is the unofficial team leader as he's been there longer than anybody on the club. Note: The first Red Sox game I ever went to was in August of 1995 against the Yankees and I remember thinking that Tim Wakefield was going to pitch that game and being disappointed when he was moved up and I saw Erik Hansen saw the Yankees in half instead.

Clay Buchholz is to the Red Sox, what Ebby Calvin "Nuke" Laloosh was to the Durham Bulls in Bull Durham.
This one was a no brainer. Similar build, both guys are very skinny right handers with great velocity and a big league breaking ball. But like Millie says after she "meets" Nuke minutes before his professional debut, "He makes love how he pitches, sort of all over the place." That was Buchholz last season, he was getting tagged, maybe we need to find him an Annie Savoy and have her bring him along. The problem is that right now, Buchholz is like Nuke at the beginning of the movie when he was just Ebby Calvin and he only worried about dancing with every girl in the bar at the same time and whether he needed a nickname or not. He hasn't gotten to the point where he hounds Jason Varitek (I compared him to Crash Davis yesterday) and thus learns how to pitch and how to play. The day I see Buchholz give an interview like this "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains. Think about that." That will be a great day.

Manny Delcarmen is to the Red Sox, what Kenny Denunez was to The Sandlot.
This one is quick and easy. I think Delcarmen is Denunez solely because I think he calls his fastball the heater.

Justin Masterson is to the Red Sox, what Henry Rowengartner was to the Chicago Cubs in Rookie of the Year.
Masterson was the young kid who made his debut last year and by the end of the year became a relief ace for the team, almost that same way that Henry did for the Cubs. (The only difference was that Cubs only had three pitches on the entire staff and he was the only relief pitcher.) Masterson acts like a big kid and I think it's a great thing to see on this team. He drives a Mini Cooper and he clapped when the audience clapped for him on Mohegan Sports Tonight last week. He signs autographs all the time and just enjoy being in the Majors. Plus I could totally see him grabbed a fruit basket and jumping on the bed and screaming "We get our own rooms?" on his first road trip.

Jonathan Papelbon is to the Red Sox, what Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn was to the Cleveland Indians in Major League I & II
Maybe this one should be switched around, hold on one second........

Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn is to the Cleveland Indians in Major League I & II, what Jonathan Papelbon is to the Red Sox.
There, now doesn't that look better? It seems right to me, because at this point I think Papelbon has taken the "Wild Thing" act a few steps further. He throws blazing fastballs, the park goes "1980's Boston Garden" when he comes into games and celebrates like Ricky Vaughn never dreamed of. Rick Vaughn had the wild hair in the back, Papelbon looks like he just stuck his finger in a light socket. Vaughn had some control problems coming out of the California Penal League, Papelbon never really had much trouble since coming into the big leagues in 2005. The only thing that worries me is that next year Paps is going to come into camp and start throwing 90 and naming his pitches, on second though. Naw, that will never happen.

Sterling Pingree

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