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Dan Shaughnessy

Thoughtful evening at the park

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / September 2, 2011

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Midnight confessions and random thoughts while watching the Red Sox and Yankees for that last time at Fenway this year (unless we get the overdue dream ALCS matchup) . . .

■The length of these games has become intolerable. Last night, it took the Sox and Yankees 4 hours 21 minutes to score six runs over nine innings. Jon Lester threw a whopping 43 pitches in the first frame of Boston’s 4-2 loss. Played to the tune of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,’’ the game ended at 11:32 when Adrian Gonzalez took a called third strike with the bases loaded. It was a very good game, but it was also longer than Albert Haynesworth’s rap sheet. Think about this for a second: On Sept. 12, 1979, the Sox beat the Yankees, 9-2. The game was halted for 15 minutes when Carl Yastrzemski recorded his 3,000th hit. Still, they managed to play nine innings in 2 hours 8 minutes. As Ned Martin would say, “Mercy!’’

■I want to declare that the Red Sox are simply better than the Yankees, but I can’t. Winning 11 of the first 14 head-to-head meetings would suggest that Boston is the superior team, but the Yankees have scored more runs (736-731) and allowed fewer (540-569) than the Sox. So, how do we dismiss the Bronx Bombers as inferior?

■Yankees phenom/prospect Jesus Montero went 0 for 4 in his big-league debut. The 21-year-old fanned on a 3-and-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in his first at-bat. Fortunately, there’s no pressure on Montero. Thursday’s New York Post hailed his arrival with the headline, “Jesus on the way.’’ Why can’t we write headlines like that?

■In the old days, it was Ted Williams vs. Joe DiMaggio. Then we had Carlton Fisk vs. Thurman Munson. Now we have a debate at three pivotal positions. Who would you take? Dustin Pedroia or Robinson Cano? Jacoby Ellsbury or Curtis Granderson? Gonzalez or Mark Teixeira? These are almost impossible choices. At this hour, I’m going with Cano, Ellsbury, and Gonzalez. But I might flip on all three as early as tomorrow. It’s certainly hard to vote against Pedroia after watching the little guy crush a two-run homer to center on yet another one of his patented violent swings.

■Is there anything more ridiculous than Bill James’s “temperature gauge’’ currently being forced on us by NESN? There’s not a man alive who can comprehend the formula. We’d have a better chance deciphering WWII transcripts of the Navajo Code Talkers.

■The Yankees can only be encouraged by the performance of piñata righthander A.J. Burnett. Pitching for his playoff life, Burnett was not terrible. He allowed two runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings. It’s inconclusive. Joe Girardi is still searching for playoff starters Nos. 2, 3, and 4.

■Have your fun hooting on the guy, but when the playoffs start, J.D. Drew will be the Red Sox’ right fielder. Like it or not, September will be devoted to getting J.D. ready for the postseason stage.

■With the Yankees out of town, there’s finally some rest for paparazzi and gossip columnists. Yankees-Red Sox games at Fenway always feel like a cover shoot for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.’’ You never know who’s going to show. When the Yankees visited last month we had Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, hanging around the batting cage. This week, we saw just about everybody except the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Yesterday, it was Phil Mickelson taking some hacks while Sox players got ready for batting practice. Lefty is, indeed, a lefthanded hitter. He has a nice soft swing and managed to hit some looping singles to right-center. No power. Must need the Big Dog to hit the long ball. Mickelson’s deepest shot probably went 250 feet.

“Not so easy when it’s not on a tee, is it, big guy?’’ taunted Pedroia. Mickelson threw out the first pitch, wearing a Red Sox No. 62 jersey. His appearance was only part of the circus. During batting practice Tim Thomas sat on the Red Sox bench for some championship talk with David Ortiz. Meanwhile, Kevin Millar and Hazel Mae broadcast from a makeshift MLB Network stage beyond the first base dugout (Curt Schilling and Nomar Garciaparra broadcast Tuesday’s game). Sox owners walked around accompanied by a crew from National Geographic. The vaunted mag is working on a piece celebrating Fenway’s 100th anniversary.

In the ancient visitors’ clubhouse, Luis Tiant and Bob Costas worked the room, both taking time to speak with Reggie Jackson. Alex Rodriguez sat in front of his locker wearing headphones, while Derek Jeter signed a couple of baseballs for Freddy Garcia.

■A word about autographs: Fans would be surprised, and heartened, to see how often players ask other players to sign stuff. In this way, the athletes are not much different from the people who pay to watch them play. Players need items for family members, for charities, and sometimes for posterity. Just like you. And woe is the ballplayer who won’t accommodate a fellow teammate. Bill Russell once refused to sign a program for Tommy Heinsohn before the two played a game at Madison Square Garden. That leaves a scar.

■Nine-inning games that last 4 hours 21 minutes also leave a scar. Time for Bud Selig and Joe Torre to step in. This cannot continue. Baseball has survived a lot of blunder and stupidity over the last hundred years, and now the sport has to figure out how to get the Sox and Yankees to pick up the pace.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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