"Heroes get remembered, but legends never die." - Babe Ruth, "The Sandlot"
During the Red Sox eternal rain delay Sunday, several players watched the movie "The Sandlot" in the clubhouse.
Some players also met a couple of stars from the movie, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this past weekend, at Target Field, where it was remembered.
The underlying theme of the movie is a boy (Scotty Smalls) who moves to Los Angeles and ends up on a sandlot baseball team despite his limited skills. There's a fence around the lot and balls hit over the fence are doomed because of the "The Beast." He is a monstrous Mastiff that belongs to Mr. Mertle, who is the"meanest man who ever lived." Mertle was played by Darth Vader's voice himself, James Earl Jones.
After a visit from Babe Ruth - via a dream - one of the boys in the group, Benny, gets the courage to run into the yard and retrieve a "Babe Ruth" signed baseball that ended up over the fence.
Well, the dog escapes and a chaotic chase ensues. Eventually, all ends well with Jones' character telling the boys he would have gladly returned the baseballs if the kids had just asked. Then things get out of hand emotionally, after we learn Mr. Mertle was a Negro Leaguer who knew Ruth. He becomes buddies with the kids. The movie ends with a "Where are they now montage," with Smalls broadcasting Dodger games and his pal, Benny, stealing home.
Meanwhile, "The Beast" (named Hercules) ends up living a long and fruitful life.
Happy endings everywhere.
Among the Red Sox enjoying Sunday's unscheduled matinee was starting pitcher John Lackey.
Lackey has been "The Beast" lurking beyond the Green Monster for Red Sox since the Great Collapse of 2011. He was buried deep in the doghouse, along with his drinking buddy Josh Beckett and the rest of their un-indicted co-conspirators. Lackey saw his effectiveness wilt in September of that year, along with the rest of the Red Sox rotation. The Red Sox lost five of his Lackey's final six starts. His final win of 2011 came on Aug. 23. In his final five starts, he went 0-2 with a 9.13 ERA in only 23.2 innings.
That finish was good enough for Lackey to earn our first-ever "Negative 10th Player Award," earning 53 percent of the nearly 3,500 votes cast.
Dog days indeed.
Lackey was then at ground zero of "Chicken and Beer Gate" and, thankfully for all concerned, underwent Tommy John surgery in the offseason, effectively removing himself from the team's 2012 equation.
Of course, like "The Beast," Lackey was always there, even when he wasn't. Turns out he was with the team on the road for most of last season and even found time to double-fist now and then in the clubhouse. Always a good strategy when you're trying to back in shape after career-alerting surgery.
Boston's "Beast" bore even more of the fandom and media's ire after Josh Beckett and Friends were granted asylum in what is now known as Last-Place Dodgertown.
A slimmed down Lackey arrived at training camp in Fort Myers newly divorced, both of those factors can hinder or help an athlete's performance depending on the circumstances. In Lackey's case, both have appeared to be a plus. His performance this season has been considered a lynch pin on the team's ultimate success in 2013, both here in this space and elsewhere.
Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are 12-0 combined (heading into Monday night) and counting. Their continued dominance is the foundation for any success the Red Sox will have this season. But for the team to actually contend for the post-season, Lackey needs to lead the way in the back-end of the rotation. That's due mainly due to his Beastly five-year, $82.5 million contract and the often Beastly Red Sox bullpen.
Long before Sunday's game resumed, following three hours of waiting, Lackey's day was finished. Lackey (2-4) lowered his ERA from 4.05 to 3.31 after throwing six innings without giving up an earned run, striking out five and allowing just one hit. Lackey has has plenty of Lackeyesque moments this season and briefly returned to the DL for three weeks.
He's no longer "The Beast" but isn't quite "Lassie" yet, either. He's become like a stray mutt you took in, for $82.5 million, who has finally stopped tearing up the furniture and peeing inside the house. Now, he'll fetch the morning paper (yes, this is a fictional analogy), not bark at the cat so much and ward off a potential burglar now and then.
Sunday's rain delay was blessing and a curse for Lackey. The Red Sox were comfortably ahead when it began in the seventh, but it robbed him of a chance of throwing a complete-game shutout. That would have immeasurably boosted his already high confidence.
Lackey bark has softened this season, but his bite has shown renewed effectiveness. The bad innings are the exception of late. It's risky territory to try and extrapolate a full turnaround from someone who is still 2-4 and is still John Lackey.
First Stephen Drew, Andrew Bailey coming off the DL and now this. Red Sox fans are running out of venom. We might need Bobby V. Day just to fire things back up.
These are heady times again for the Red Sox. Boston's won five straight since Drew's twice-in-a-lifetime grand slam last week at Tropicana Mausoleum.
It was a home run that indeed showed anything is possible in 2013.
Including John Lackey finally escaping from the Red Sox doghouse.
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