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Not Ready For Prime Time

The 2010 baseball season kicked off on Sunday night with a gala ESPN debut. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Neil Diamond, and Pedro Martinez were on hand to lend star power to the evening, which featured the Yankees and Red Sox facing off at Fenway Park on a pleasantly warm April evening.

Unfortunately, the game turned into something more like a dress rehearsal, as both teams had their star turns, but also their lapses, duds, and missed cues.

I had made the mistake of booking a flight from Atlanta to Boston for tonight, which meant I watched the first two innings of the game from a bar in Hartsfield International Airport (augmented by corwin’s texts from Boston, where the game was on NESN), listened to the next six innings on in-flight XM Radio with the WEEI broadcast, and then caught the ninth in the car from the WCBS broadcast (also via XM) after corwin picked me up. I kept score, managing to follow the game with very few drop outs or blanks due to pilot announcements or other interruptions.

My improvised scorecard on the airplane…

The curtain went up on the first inning and both Josh Beckett and CC Sabathia looked as expected, dominant and untouchable. But Beckett was the first of the players to start looking shaky, giving up back to back homers to Jorge Posada and new Yankee Curtis Granderson in the second. Though the Sox got one of those back in their half of the inning, Beckett coughed up three more hairballs in the fourth, on a leadoff double, then a two-out walk, then back to back singles by Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter… setting up another miscue. With Gardner, one of the fastest men in the majors on third, Jeter (who swiped 30 bags last year but was caught only five times) on first, and Joe Girardi in the dugout, I figured the Yankees would be thinking about upstaging Victor Martinez. That’s just the sort of thing you can expect Girardi to do to any catcher with less than a perfect defensive reputation.

And that’s what they did. Jeter ran toward second, stopping short of the bag to draw the throw, which Scutaro then cut off hoping to get Gardner at home, allowing Jeter to get to second. There was no chance to get Gardner even on the delayed double dip. The NESN camera crew was caught napping, too–they didn’t even have a camera on Gardner.

Sabathia got shaky himself after that, though, and then both bullpens allowed far too many inherited runners to score, though the worst blows were when first Chan Ho Park served up the game0tying bomb to Dustin Pedroia, and then Damaso Marte allowed the go ahead run to score by virtue of a pair of cross-ups, one scored a wild pitch and one a passed ball, which brought Youkilis in from second base. This after a nice star turn by the Teixeira-Alex Rodriguez tandem in the seventh had put the Yankees up 7-5 after the Sox had evened the score off Sabathia & David Robertson in the sixth.

Jonathan Papelbon, at least, was ready for his close-up, giving up only a harmless two-out single to Posada. Final score, 9-7 Red Sox, in a game that lasted 3:46, and although it featured no errors definitely had other moments of sloppy play, like a bad throw to the infield from gardner, Nick Swisher taking a bizarre route on Youkilis’s RBI triple, and Robinson Cano seeming to get in his own way on a play.

Even venerable radio veteran John Sterling had some head-scratching moments in the postgame, as did his crew, as John fumbled his signoff from the game broadcast to the postgame, and the crew then failed to provide him the turning point of the game and lost their audio on the “sounds of the game” playback.

Everyone gets a day off tomorrow, as other teams will start their seasons, and then the Sox and Yankees get to try it all again on Tuesday night. I think maybe everyone could use one more day of practice.

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