“EVERYTHING ENDS BADLY, otherwise it wouldn’t end.” Bill Simmons quotes Cocktail as he keeps vigil over the demise of the legend of Big Papi:

The best way I can describe Fenway during any Papi at-bat is this: It’s filled with 35,000 parents of the same worst kid in Little League who dread every pitch thrown in the kid’s direction. There is constant fear and sadness and helplessness. Nobody knows what to do.

Fans may not know what to do, but they know what not to do:

It’s been a sports experience unlike anything I can remember. Red Sox fans refuse to turn against Ortiz. They just can’t. They owe him too much for 2004 and 2007. It’s like turning on Santa Claus or happy hour. Every Ortiz appearance is greeted with supportive cheers, every Ortiz failure is greeted with awkward silence. The fans are suffering just like he is.

Ortiz’s futility has been a terrible thing to watch in the middle of what has been an otherwise promising season. But as gruesome as it’s been, it’s also somewhat heartening to see the fans stick by him. Luckily, we don’t have to make out the lineup card every day. It’s probably much more difficult for the Red Sox skipper to stick by him – but stick by him he does:

Francona also took some time yesterday with David Ortiz, who has been a shell of the hitter he has been in the past. Ortiz went into the game with a .208 average, .600 OPS, and zero home runs. So Francona gave him a pep talk of the kind he rarely has had to give in their tenure together.

“I’ve been standing there for five years patting him on the fanny as he runs by driving in all those runs and winning games for us,” Francona said. “Now, when he needs a little help, I don’t want to be the one to abandon him.”

Sure, we love Papi for all the big hits he made in the past, though it has more to do with the feelings we experienced in those moments rather than the exact number of runs driven in. (Let’s also not forget that by all accounts he’s a genuinely nice and fun-loving person.) Anyway, you certainly can’t boo the man responsible for this kind of joy.

UPDATE: After a month of encouraging swings, YFSF.org takes a look at evidence that suggests previous reports of the death of Big Papi’s bat may have been greatly exaggerated.

IT WAS A GOOD NIGHT IN THE FENS, with a Major League record-tying 12 putouts by the center fielder, two home runs by the captain, and four home runs in an inning — including one by the designated hitter:

Before David Ortiz finally ended the longest homerless streak of his career, he got some words of encouragement from his dad.

Sort of.

Enrique Ortiz had flown into town on Tuesday and “told me, `Hey, son, it’s not going to get worse than this so go out there, have fun and forget about what happened,” Ortiz recalled.

It may be tough to hear your father say you’ve hit bottom, but Ortiz said he kept that in mind Wednesday night when he hit his first homer in 150 at-bats in the Boston Red Sox’s 8-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I tried it all. I was about to hit right-handed,” the lefty slugger said.

THE AMAZIN’ METS seem to be foregoing their traditional season-end implosion by peaking early and putting the suck on well ahead of the All-Star break – all in spectacular fashion, of course. And although I don’t usually go for the “bummed out beat reporter’s bitter tirade” schtick, Ben Shpigel of the New York Times is penning gloriously dry and downtrodden accounts of the team’s most recent woes with fun quips, like: “Making the simple difficult since 1962 — that could be the Mets’ motto.” Here’s some more from Shpigel’s story on a 5-error, 11-inning debacle, which included a runner missing third base on his way home:

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Carlos Beltran said.

And neither had anyone else. To be fair, [Jerry] Manuel said he had seen his former charges, the Chicago White Sox, commit five errors, not that he was boasting of that achievement or anything. But no, he had never seen a player completely miss tagging third base on his way home as [Ryan] Church did in the top of the 11th. That gaffe canceled what would have been the go-ahead run, ended the inning and breathed life into the Dodgers. Not that, on this night, they needed any extra help. The five errors were the Mets’ most since they committed six on Sept. 16, 2007, against Philadelphia.

“The guy missed third base, that’s unbelievable,” Manuel said. “I can’t explain why or how or anything, but he actually missed the base. To me, it’s just hard to miss third base . . . .”

That exceptional display of baseball prowess was immediately followed by another very bad outing the very next day. Shpigel leads the recap with this:

The Mets showed up for work at Dodger Stadium early Tuesday afternoon, eager to give this baseball thing another try. They hit. They caught. They fielded. And they threw a little, too. It all may have helped, as they committed one error instead of five, and managed to touch third base every time on their journeys home.

What they could not do Tuesday night was pitch . . . .

And clearly, the previous day’s incredulous loss still stings, as Shpigel throws another jab or two where he can:

Before the game, the Mets refrained from holding tutorials on touching third base, perhaps because the clip of Church stepping over it in the 11th inning Monday night was broadcast roughly 412 times.

The Mets are in no way done for the season — they’re just one game out of first in their division, after all. But it’s been fun following their hijinks in the paper, even if it’s probably painful to witness in person. And, hey, at least they’re not the Nats.

IN THE WAKE OF THE EPIC MANNY BUMMER, let us focus only on the good things. Like, when Ellsbury, in a fit of daring, all of a sudden decided to steal home against the Yankees:

The plate beckoned. Jacoby Ellsbury, creeping farther off third base as Andy Pettitte delivered his second pitch to J.D. Drew, saw the situation clearly. The pitcher was throwing from the windup, the lefthander’s back to third base, the third baseman playing off the bag, the bases loaded.

So on the next pitch, Ellsbury was three-quarters of the way down the line before Pettitte noticed him, the pitch coming as fast as he could throw it to catcher Jorge Posada. Ellsbury was coming, too, then sliding, head-first after a brief stumble, as Drew stood watching. Posada’s tag was futile.

Ellsbury had stolen home in the fifth inning, the highlight of the Red Sox’ 4-1 win last night and a series sweep of the Yankees.

The roar was deafening, even though the crowd of 38,154 at Fenway Park seemingly was having trouble realizing what it had just seen. This was better even than his tear for home from second base on a wild pitch in his rookie season, the one that made them think he was a god on the base paths. It was simply brilliant.

And Pettitte had never even looked over.

Let’s just make sure not to dwell too long on the likelihood that steals are becoming a bigger part of the game because teams are compensating for the significant drop in dingers that go along with stringent drug testing. Let’s instead look towards the Bronx and the fancy new stadium with its ludicrously overpriced seats, “mallpark” atmosphere, and other fan-unfriendly features, like employees who literally leave paying fans out in the rain. A little schadenfreude goes a long way. But the troubles in the Yankee empire don’t just warm the cockles of the heart for their own sake. They also remind us to appreciate an ownership and a franchise that fans can happily get behind — if for no other reason than the invaluable gift of a new old Fenway:

“There are those who want to build the Eighth Wonder of the World,” Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox’ president and chief executive, told me Friday. “We just wanted to preserve a nice little old ballpark.”

So even though the ghosts of ownerships past continue to haunt Yawkey Way, and more upsetting disclosures may be just around the corner, we still get to watch the game at the same address as always. The seats are still cramped (along with necks), pillars still obstruct, and the dented wall standing in left field is still the same shade of green. These things at least are mostly unchanged — ready for a new generation of players to step in and pull off memorable, daring feats, all on their own.

SO, BASICALLY, IN ONE WORD…UGH. You could also read Bill Simmons’ 2,000-word imaginary conversation with his son regarding the epic Manny bummer, and pretty much arrive at the same conclusion:

We settle into our seats. I point toward the championship banners over the first-base side. They go in order: 1903, 1904, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007. Ever since Boston won the World Series 10 years ago, I always imagined pointing to that 2004 banner and telling my little boy, “That’s the team that changed everything.”

So that’s what I do. I point at the banner and tell him, “That’s the team that changed everything.”

“Isn’t that the team that cheated?” he asks.

Like I said…Ugh.

1B, BB, 2B, BB, 1B, BB, 2B, 1B, 1B, 1B, 1B, HR — yet another strange line involving the Cleveland Indians, only this one’s not in their favor:

Twelve batters crossed the plate before Indians pitchers – three of them – could record one out in the sixth.

Or, to put it another way:

Four RBIs make for a decent week. Jason Bay achieved that in one inning, going 2 for 2 with a double and a three-run home run.

BAMARAMARAMAheyhotdogRAMARAMARAMA — also known as the sound of your Football getting in my Baseball:

I went to a Baseball game the other day, and I have a few complaints. First of all, I understand the whole deal of how it (Our National Pastime) is a Business, and an Industry, and how it is Entertainment, so therefore you gotta make it Exciting–as in, way fucking more exciting than Baseball is to people who are not crazy about the Baseball but who end up at a game every now and then. So you gotta wake the motherfuckers up every inning because Baseball can be (get ready for this News Flash), according to some people, kinda Boring, but it’s like all this goddamn Intro Music every time somebody from the Home Team steps up to bat, like BAMARAMARAMARAMARAMARAMA with whatever fucking shit they got–Metal, Hip-Hop, Country, even Western–it’s all this goddamn BAMARAMARAMARAMARAMARAMA “BLAHRBLAR NOW STEPINNNN UPTOMRRMPH BALLLH, NUMMMBR PHRM-TNRMZLE BALWRR BLARR BLAHBLAH!!!” and then BAMARAMARAMARAMARAMARAMA BRRT-BRRT BAMARAMARAMARAMARAMARAMA, goddamn Jesus Fucking Christ, man, every goddamn time one of Your Baltimore Orioles steps up it’s gotta be BAMARAMARAMARAMARAMARAMA?


(via YFSF)

1B, 1B, HR, FO, 2B, 1B, 2B, 2B, 1B, 2B, 2B, BB, 1B, K, HR (GS), HR, K — the top of the 2nd inning today at Yankee Stadium. Yikes. Also, it appears the ball gets a little extra giddy-up in right field at the Yankees’ fancy new digs:

In three games at the new Yankee Stadium, there have been 17 homers — 12 to right-center field. The dimensions are the same as they were last year, but in the very early going, all on relatively warm afternoons, the ball seems to jump in that direction.

Ultimately, that could help the Yankees, who have several left-handed or switch-hitters with power, plus right-handers who hit well to the opposite field. But on days when their pitching was so dreadful, it contributed to a historic mess.

The gamer over at YFSF was particularly prescient: “Bring a Glove.”

AS THE NEW YORK TIMES PONDERS the fate of Stan’s Sports Bar – the central watering hole around Yankees Stadium for the last 30 years — Joe Mondi, one of the bar’s managers, reminisces about the old days:

“I remember we played the Red Sox in ‘91,” Mr. Mondi said, “and right in that corner, some guy came in wearing a Red Sox jersey, and they ripped it off his body, they lit it on fire, and they urinated on it. Right here in the bar.”

Now that the stadium itself has moved and Stan’s is no longer in a prime location, the bar’s future is uncertain. But, oh, the memories!

EVERYONE BEING MANNY, or at least everyone would like to be Manny, according to Jeff Bradley in his ESPN.com article:

Quite simply, he’s the most studied, most observed hitter in baseball — and that’s just by his peers. They marvel at Manny’s ability to translate his prep work into success when the lights come on. They envy the short-term memory deficiency that seemingly allows him to bring the same level of confidence to the plate regardless of whether he struck out or hit a home run his last time up. “If slumps are between a player’s ears, which I think they are,” says former Boston teammate Sean Casey, “then Manny is slump-proof, because mentally he’s always the same.”

In the article, teammates and rivals alike heap admiration and awe on the slugger’s beguiling hitting prowess. Orlando Hudson, former second baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays, says when he played against Manny:

“I’d get so focused on what he did at the plate that I forgot my job was to see the ball coming off his bat and make a play. He can mesmerize you.”

His secret seems to be no secret at all — a solid game plan for every at-bat, plenty of hard work and preparation, a keen eye and great mechanics. But even so, Manny’s formula for success remains, like the man himself, a mystery. He can try to explain it – as he did for Russell Branyan, a former teammate on the Cleveland Indians – but good luck imitating it:

One time, Ramírez laid it all out for Branyan, gave him the whole hitting equation. “He told me that he put 70 percent of his weight on his back foot and 40 percent of his weight on his front foot. And even though I knew the numbers didn’t add up, I thought for a second, I’ve got to try that.”