Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Bus Drivers

Unfortunately, the Red Sox have relief pitchers who are not Jonathan Papelbon, or his clones, or his younger brothers, or his younger clone brothers. Unless Mike Timlin is sleeping with your wife, this is terrible.

As you have undoubtedly forgotten, the Red Sox played a series against Toronto on May 29 through May 31 of this year. They dropped the first two games, which seems totally meaningless now, but seemed extremely dire back then, particularly because this was around the time that Keith Foulke and Mike Timlin went on the DL at the same time, and we realized that we were going to be seeing a lot more of the back alley abortion twins,
Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez. If you check out their game log statistics, you'll see that they completely contradict what I'm about to say, and both pitchers had been putting in relief appearances with increasing frequency throughout the month of May. But that series against Toronto sticks in my mind as the moment when I was like, "Hey, wait a second! These guys are going to totally fuck us!"

(If you click on the game log stats, please avert your eyes from the demographic statistics at the top of the page, particularly 2006 salary. The knowledge that we are paying Rudy Seanez 1.4 million dollars, Julian Tavarez 3.3 million dollars and Jonathan Papelbon $335,400 makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit.)

The point of this little anecdote is, despite what you might think, not to make you want to blow your brains out, but to note that on May 29, Toronto transportation workers
staged a walk-out in protest over a labor dispute. And thus, the theory that Tavarez, Seanez and anyone else who emerges from the Red Sox bullpen striking terror into your heart because you completely believe that they could blow a six-run lead in one inning is actually a striking Toronto transportation worker and thus the nickname "the bus drivers" was born.

It adds a certain amount of gallows humor to the proceedings. When you see craggy moon face of Tavarez crawling out of the bullpen in the seventh inning, you can say, "Oh great, they're sending in the bus drivers." And, when Manny DelCarmen finally settled down over the last couple weeks, Katie and I were able to remark with a great deal of satisfaction that he was a bus driver no more, and officially "off the route." Bus drivers: learn it, live it, love it.

Incidentally, my two favorite stories about Julian Tavarez, in no particular order:

1. Sometime in early May of this year, I saw a game at Fenway with my parents, who were visiting from California. Bay Area born and raised, my father is a life-long Giants fan (the truth comes out: I am a bit of a closet sports bigamist), and when Tavarez came out to pitch the eighth, he turned to me in horror and said, "Tavarez? You guys signed Tavarez?" Apparently he pitched for the Giants for a few years in the late nineties and earned a charming reputation there as well. This ought to be a sporting rule of some kind: any time a new acquisition on your team makes a fan of one of his old teams absolutely recoil in horror, you should know you're in for a bad time.

2. Some may recall that the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals in a defensively sloppy but totally righteous fashion to win the 2004 World Series. Recently, Katie and I were watching the MLB World Series DVD (the only suitable dessert course for having watched the entirety of Game 3, aka the last game Pedro Martinez ever pitched in a Red Sox uniform) and we realized something horrible: At no point during the entire series did the Cardinals ever lead the game. The closest the Cardinals came was during Game 1, when the score was tied 6-6. The St. Louis relief pitcher who blew the tie? Julian Tavarez.

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