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Soup of This Day #11: Part 2, Faith in Freo…

June 5, 2011

Aaron Sandilands
Aaron Sandilands is so tall all I could show you was his size-18 boots – Photo: The-Pope, 2006. The-Pope is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Today I’ve done something I’ve been trying to avoid. I’ve taken my main post and split it into two distinct parts. I usually try to find a way to link sports and stories around a central theme – Mostly because this blog is dedicated to 3 teams in 3 different disciplines. It doesn’t always come off ok – Sometimes it might seem a little forced, a little too disjointed. For today I just couldn’t join the parts together at all. Switching from Armstrong to the Dockers and the Red Sox game from this morning is a bridge too far for me. I’m betting far more accomplished writers could manage it but for right here and now you’re going to have to accept that whilst both parts to today’s posts have faith as a central theme, they just couldn’t work together on the pitch. A little bit like Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler at Liverpool circa turn o’ the century.

And so to the Fremantle Dockers. If any team has questioned my faith in them over the years, it’s them. They don’t just question my faith to be honest, they shit me to tears. Season after bloody season. For the 16 and a bit seasons they have been around they have driven me to distraction without ever really accomplishing much. Sure, they made the finals 3 times, even making it to the 2nd week twice and the 3rd week once. The trouble is they always seem to be building. Good results are a stepping stone to… well… the next step and the bloody Dockers screw that up almost every time. This season is a perfect example of that. They played brilliantly in 2010, well above expectations. They made it to the 2nd week of the finals before being knocked out by a great Geelong side – No disgrace there. They gave debuts to a host of youngsters who tore up the competition, lacking only in experience. This season, those youngsters are older, wiser, harder and above all better. Watch out AFL, you’ve had a taste of Docker inflicted pain in 2010, now get ready for the full treatment 2011-style.Or not.

In fact maybe we’ll just go quietly into the night with a bit of a whimper. Because that’s what the bloody Dockers have done in 2011. They’ve at 5 and 5, including their first Derby loss to West Coast in the last 8 stoushes. Sure they’re not as bad as in 2001 when they threatened to become the first team in history to go through the season without a win. They gave it a good shot that year though, waiting until Round 18 of 22 to win and they even tried their hardest to stuff that up, having to rally from over 40 points down to win against Hawthorn. The problem is that my expectations are greater than they were in 2001. I expected them to lose to Hawthorn that day. No one was more surprised or joyous when they didn’t. This year I expected them to be at least as good as they were last year. Not bad. Again.

Injuries have played their part to be fair. Most egregious of all has been the loss of Big Aaron Sandilands with a broken toe. Big Aaron is Freo’s principal ruckman, the heart of the Docker’s play. A ruckman is akin to a centre in basketball. They’re tall, often with a prodigious leap, able to get up high to tap the ball down to a swarm of ruck- rovers (or followers). It’s also worth explaining at this point that it is the law that when referring to a ruckman in Aussie football you have to do so with the appellation ‘Big’ out front. As in Big Aaron Sandilands, Big Jimmy Steynes, Big Spider Everett, Big Matty Burton, Big Brad Ottens, etc. etc. Big Aaron Sandilands in truth should be called ‘Biggest’ because he is in fact the biggest to have played in the AFL. He stands a whopping 211cm (6′ 11″) and weighs in at 123kg (279lbs). A little smaller than the very recently retired Shaq 216cm (7’1″)and 147kg (325lbs) but Biggest Aaron needs to be a bit more mobile than Shaq. An AFL ground dwarfs a basketball court and ruckmen are required to be at almost every stoppage, including bounces and throw ins (and there can be north of 50 per game) all over the ground. They also might be required to be a focal point in attack or defence so they need to be good movers. As such, along with the ‘Big’ bit you often hear the phrase, “He moves well for a big man.” Biggest Aaron moves very well for a big man, often roving his own tap-outs at ground level and occasionally sharking a snapped goal. Biggest Aaron, to steal an over-used phrase in my industry, value adds.

Biggest A (it will catch on) is, in short, also the best and his loss for, probably the next 3 weeks, is as big as he is. The Docker’s are on a 0 and 7 streak in games without him. As big as he is to Freo he’s not the only reason for the form slump though. Prior to his injury the Dockers had lost two in a row, to Richmond and West Coast, neither of whom are premiership material, to go from 4 and 1 to 4 and 3. They subsequently beat Port Adelaide in Adelaide but my grandmother has also managed that this season and she is 83 and has dodgy knees. Biggest A was hurt in that game (Port, not the grandmother one) and that no doubt was an issue in the thumping by St Kilda last week, at home no less.

Tomorrow the Dockers take on Hawthorn at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground – Confusing isn’t it?). As for prior to that watershed win in 2001 I’m not expecting the Dockers to take the points home against the Hawks. I will, however, wearily sigh, switch on the game and hope against hope that the boys can get over the loss of Biggest A and take the next step forward in their evolution. Faith kids, you’ve got to have faith.

Which brings us to the cathedral that is Fenway via the kind of segue I couldn’t make from the Armstrong post. The Red Sox were on an 0 and 4 run, including a White Sox sweep in Boston, going into this morning’s opener against the A’s. The A’s might not be the biggest or best A’s going around but at 27 and 30, and on the margins of an AL West dogfight, they aren’t chicken feed either so this was never going to be an easy series.

The Red Sox welcomed Clay Buchholz back to the mound. He was the starter last time they took the decision, although it’s hard to remember as it seems like an epoch ago, such is the pain. That pain looked set to continue as a 27-pitch 1st gave the A’s a 4 to zip lead. Cue the standard Boston response for the week – A fightback. 2 runs in the 1st, Gonzalez and Ortiz with the RBIs, injected some belief. Ellsbury with a sacrificial fly batted in another in the 2nd and then first Ortiz (again) and then Lowrie batted home runners in the 3rd. 5-4 Sox and with Buchholz steadying it was looking ok.

But then came the 4th and Buchholz conceded the tying run. Worse followed in the 5th as the A’s got the go-ahead and Buchholz got some rest. Atchison got Boston out of trouble there and made it part way through the 6th before handing the ball to 29 year old rookie Tommy Hottovy. I kind of want Hottovy to do well because the guy just seems so determined and he came through ok here – Closing out the 6th. Bobby Jenks then pitched the 7th and came out unscathed although he made hard work of it. On offence the Sox looked menacing bottom of the 7th, with bases loaded and 2 out though it looked like another opportunity would go amiss – After all the Sox have been pretty average with runners in scoring positions this year.

Enter Carl Crawford. Batting just over .100 against lefties for the season Crawford somehow got something on a 3 and 2 fastball from southpaw Joey Devine (Correction: Joey Devine is a righty. He loaded them up before Brian Fuentes, a lefty, was brought in specifically for Crawford. A nice tactical move that just didn’t come off.). The single broke his bat but got home Gonzalez and Youk and gave the Red Sox the lead for the second time. Daniel Bard gave up just a single, bottom of the 8th and Salty bashed a homer to the bleachers for insurance in the top of the 8th and that’s how it ended. 8-6 to the Sox and Jenks tagged with the win.

So, at the end of an ordinary week, some relief, made a little sweeter for losses for the Yankees and the Rays. A little hope too for tomorrow’s early game with Beckett delivering a sermon to the A’s.

Dockers and Red Sox. Red Sox and Dockers. Show me the light boys, credit the faith.

  1. Josh permalink

    incorrect info… fuentes gave up the hit, not devine…. but devine was credited with the earned runs due to his rough inning in which he loaded the bases… devine is also not left handed… tonights game devine was obviously thinking about yesterday at first, walking the first batter.. but went on to strike out the next batter, and the next batter, and almost the next batter…. no hits, no earned runs… everyone has bad days, im glad he got his head together and nearly struck out three in a row… the A’s loss tonight was a wild one… 14 innings of very good at bats from both sides i think… Oakland should win tomorrow, and get back on track soon… I woulda had a few heart attacks tonight if i was Geren…

    • Yep, good spot Josh. At the end of a long day I misread my game notes, getting confused with my box summary and ignoring the margin notes. Fuentes, the actual lefty, was a good tactical move on paper – I reckon 9 days out of 10 the A’s would have gotten out of that ok, but Crawford got a bat on it and that was that.

      This morning? Sheesh. Ugly game. The A’s were one good Salty throw from inflicting some real psychological hurt on the Sox. All I’m feeling now is relief.

      Tomorrow? With the Sox like this? Who knows.

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