Early Morning Musings

Ryan Thomas

5:50 am: my alarm goes off. It’s dark out. Normally, I’d go back to sleep because class isn’t until 10:00 am. But I’m not normal. I’m one of those Red Sox fans who wakes up for the first pitch halfway around the world.

God, what am I doing? It’s probably the first and last time I’ll be picking eye crusties and watching the first pitch of a Red Sox game at the same time.

The two biggest surprises only minutes into the broadcast from the Tokyo Dome in Japan: Daisuke Matsuzaka got the largest ovation from the crowd and JD Drew is a last-minute scratch from the line-up with lower back spasms/tightness/twitching/I’m-a-baby-and-it-was-a-long-flight.

A few personal grooming notes from the first inning: Manny Ramirez has not had an actual haircut since before the 2004 World Series win; I’m sure of it. He looks like a mix between Predator and Bob Marley.

Dice-K’s hair has transformed into a type of Japanese mullet. He’s lightened it as well, and flopped “the business” over on top of his head. Picture David Bowie mixed with a casual comb-over with some goofy Japanese mixed in. We’ll call it the Jullet.

Nothing much has changed though, because he’s still throwing 2-0 curveballs, falling behind in the count and giving up homeruns on fastballs up in the zone. And he still gets that look on his face where he makes an O with his mouth, exhales, scratches his chin hair and rubs the baseball with both hands, thinking ,”Oh crap, the fans aren’t going to be happy about this;” except in Japanese.

That quickly goes by the wayside when I see third base coach DeMarlo Hale with a helmet on that reminds me of the John Olerud days. Japan is ahead of the curve on safety issues. Their ball boys wear white batting helmets and the stands are safely surrounded by netting you’d see at a Nashville Predators hockey game.

Back to actual baseball topics…Jason Varitek is skinny; and I don’t think it’s a good thing. Earlier in spring training, manager Terry Francona was quoted as being happy about Varitek losing 20 “good pounds.” Good or bad, he’s skinny and his bat looks terrible. The only way he’s going to be a good fantasy player is if points are awarded for calling a good game behind the plate, studying the opposing team and managing the pitching staff. Varitek ended the game with three strikeouts, by the way.

During the third inning, NESN began to remind me of ESPN with their camera angles galore. At one point, we got a great shot of Matsuzaka’s right hand. It made me wonder where he gets his manicures.

Aside from cuticles and follicles, Matsuzaka’s control and command of his arsenal of pitches improved after the first two innings in which he walked four, hit a batter, and gave up a solo homerun, allowing two runs in the process. However, over the next three innings, the Jullet’s filthy change-up started working, he threw his cutter and curve with confidence and his velocity crept into the low 90s. The results: three K’s, one walk and no hits.

Jacoby Ellsbury picked up right where he left off in game four of the World Series: He slapped a high-and-away Alan Embree fastball over the shortstop’s head for a single. Not too many hitters can hit that pitch that hard. The Native American also wowed a few innings later with a leaping catch on the warning track in centerfield. In a related story, Coco Crisp looked pissed on the bench.

Boil this game down; it was just Manny Being Manny. The Dread Master drove in four runs, two of them the go-ahead brand in the top of the tenth. He also broke into his patented premature home run trot on his deep double to centerfield. Let the Manny bashing begin.

Hideki Okajima got the win, Cinco Ocho got the save and Red Sox Nation got a dose of the Tokyo Dome.

One down, 161 to go.