Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pre-Deadline Date With Destiny: TWTW's Tigers @ Red Sox Preview -- 7-24-15

Danville, Kentucky -- It was a day of reckoning Rick didn’t think would ever come: pitching in Fenway against his mentor and friend Justin Verlander, donning the home whites of the Boston Red Sox. Both teams are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive as the Tigers come to Boston struggling to play above .500 while the Red Sox have yet to win a game since the All Star break.

Rick Porcello in a Boston uniform is not the only thing that will feel incongruous about this series; David Ortiz will continue to look like a hollow shell of his former self thanks to proliferation of game-busting defensive shifts, Marc Krauss will man first-base rather than the wounded Miguel Cabrera, while both former AL titans enter play struggling to remain playoff relevant. Past games between the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox might’ve featured marquee pitching matchups like Max Scherzer v. John Lester. No more. This series will have all the pitching prowess of a poorly-tossed beer-league softball game.

As somebody who is a believes in and defends both Justin and Rick, it pains my soul to say this. But I can’t see either of them figuring it out this year. Not with the stabilizing veteran presence of Miguel Cabrera absent from the Detroit lineup, and the specter of an impending fire-sale casting an ominous pall over the team. Meanwhile, the 2015 Red Sox are a cautionary tale for those who believe in rebuilding on-the-fly via trade deadline fire sales. Boston’s decade-long experiment with sabermetrics has created a team of overpaid strangers who have formed no bonds of fellowship. Rick is adrift in a sea of uncertainty, in a clubhouse with more Instagram toilet incidents than leaders. It’s a terrible environment if you’re trying to turn around a season.

Both of these teams could still be fixed in the long term. Dartmouth nerd Brad Ausmus could be fired and replaced with some combination of Omar Vizquel and player-manager Victor Martinez, with Don Kelly brought on as first base coach. Miguel Cabrera and crustacean sensation Kyle Lobstein could return from injury and contribute to a postseason push in the dog days of summer. The terrible contracts of Hanley Ramirez and/or Pablo Sandoval could be dealt for a starting pitcher whose performances don’t evoke the fire-bombing of Dresden.
Fenway Park after a Joe Kelly start
But by gametime on Friday, none of these needed adjustments will have been made. Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello, former teammates, will kick off a 3 game set in Beantown to determine which team’s pitching staff is more broken. When Rick left Justin he was but the learner. Now, he’s the master, but only a master of getting shelled. Rick Porcello’s sinker will not sink, and Yoenis Cespedes will hit a revenge gapper against the team foolish enough to deal him – the team that La Potencia said “treated me like I was a rookie.” Good things don’t happen when you trade Yoenis Cespedes.

Justin will not be sharp either. He will reach back for a 100 mile per hour fastball that the cruel passage of time has stolen from him. Hanley will uncork a staggering swing, his helmet flying off his head as he admires his shot.

Fly balls will sail over the short-porch all weekend long, leading the enigmatic Al Albuquerque to reminisce about Joaquin Benoit’s hung pitch to David Ortiz that sent Torii Hunter’s flipping headfirst over the bullpen fence in the 2013 ALCS. Both offenses will feast like they're too drunk to drive home from Chili's on half-price appetizer night. It will be a shootout unlike any before seen in the Wild, Wild, AL East.

The rest of the pitchers in this series will fare no better. The athleticism and speed of Mookie Betts and Anthony Gose will will be on display as they frantically chase after blistering line drives hit over their heads, as though they are demonstrating some sort of perverse fitness program. Eduardo Rodriguez, who had previously been the lone bright spot of a morbidly bad rotation, will continue his precipitous decline and deflate the spirits of Boston fans like a Foxboro football. Alfredo Simon’s nickname, Big Pasta, will seem especially unfortunate as he lobs meatball after meatball at hungry Red Sox batters. Andrew Romine will look on in horror from the Tigers dugout as pitch after pitch from Shane Greene thumps crudely off the giant wall in Fenway’s leftfield, giving whole new meaning to “Greene Monster.” Andrew will avert his eyes, as a sinking feeling of existential despair grows in the pit of his stomach, like a case of indigestion following a round of Towering Onion Rings at Red Robin.

Everyday Andrew will contemplate the futility, absurdity, and pointlessness of this whole enterprise and wonder if his team really has become the Phillies. The Tigers bullpen will fare no better – leaving fans longing for the days of stability under Joba Chamberlain and Tom Gorzelanny.

When all is said and done, both pitching staffs will have been torched like the 1814 conflagration of Washington. After their game, Justin Verlander will take a cab to downtown Boston, where he will socialize with Rick Porcello at the kid’s favorite high-end drinking hole in his new stomping grounds. They will commiserate, both being products of the same Tigers farm system which is now more barren than the Mexican desert that Donald Trump rightfully wants to build a wall upon. The no-hitters and Madduxes of yester-year will seem farther away than ever, as they sip bitter drinks and think bitter thoughts. 

Back at the hotel, David Price will reluctantly text his agent about apartment hunting in Los Angeles, the North side of Chicago, and to the chagrin of Tigers fans, Kansas City. David Price knows that baseball is a business, but the idea of parting from this team hurts him. My last divorce ended with a screaming match in the parking lot of a Pizza Hut, but Price will greet whatever fate awaits him with class and professionalism.

Life will go on, and the world will continue to spin. The fire burning in the hearts of young talents like Jose Iglesias and Xander Bogaerts – the futures of their respective franchises – will burn ever brighter. 

Jose & Xander, once upon a time.
With his body broken but his spirit yearning to fight, a frustrated and hobbled Miguel Cabrera will watch the proceedings of this series from afar like Bruce Wayne watched helplessly from a prison cell as Gotham was destroyed. The Triple Crown winner will slowly recover his strength, biding his time for one more push at Autumnal glory.