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Soup of This Day #161: Put Him In The Longboat And Make Him Bale Her

April 6, 2012

HMAS Rankin at periscope depth
HMAS Rankin, a Collins-class submarine of the Australian Navy, demonstrating it’s ability to do it’s thing underneath the surface of the scary, scary water. Where there are poisonous puffer fish – Photo: Photographer’s Mate 1st Class David A. Levy, USN, 2004. Neither David A. Levy or the USN are affiliated with Longworth72 although he does support them in the Army-Navy game. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I grew up in farming country, a long way from the ocean. Which was ok because the ocean and I get by keeping to our own worlds – Me on dry land and it in a ridiculously large pool of salty water.

That is full of sharks and poisonous puffer fish.

My brother used to buy surfing magazines when we were young. I didn’t get them. I had no desire to be a surfing dude, no matter how in tune with the wave those folk seemed to be. I wasn’t about to join the navy either – I get sea-sick watching boats on TV.

Someone once pointed out that I could try submarines – They’re beneath the waves and a little bit insulated from the weather. Unfortunately they’re also a little bit insulated from the large source of freely available oxygen AKA the open air.

Yep, along with depression and anxiety I naturally enough get a little claustrophobic.

So no submarining for me. In fact I’ve ruled out any activity that involves sinking, controlled or not. No scuba diving for me then. Which is fitting because it turns out that I don’t hold truck with any form of diving. No high diving because of the ‘high’ bit. And no diving on the football pitch because it’s cheating and about as attractive as a poisonous puffer fish.

This latter form of diving came to mind after Liverpool FC’s recent EPL loss away to Newcastle. Towards the end of the game the Reds keeper Pepe Reina was sent off for aggressively putting his face into that of Newcastle player James Perch. Perch subsequently went to ground and a fair number of observers, including the referee, intuited a headbutt from Reina had been the cause. Pepe was therefore shown a straight red card and sent off.

The replay however indicates that there wasn’t much in the way of contact. Perch had stuck out a trailing leg to trip Reina after the keeper had collected the ball and an angry Pepe then turned and put his face in Perch’s. And then down went Jimmy as if his legs had ceased to work.

It looks a little like a dive.

Not so says James Perch. When questioned about the incident he explained:

‘I’m not a diver. People who have seen me play know what kind of player I am.’

Ahhh, well the thing is Jimmy – We did see you play and it turns out you’re the kind of player who negligently tries to trip up a keeper who has the ball safely in his arms and then crash dives to the bottom when said keeper gets in your face about it.

But wait, there’s more:

‘I’m not going to go and dive about and act silly. But if someone makes contact with you, that’s it.’

Quite right too James. Except that you did dive about and you did act silly. Twice – Once when you set out to unlawfully upend the keeper and then a 2nd time when you hit the klaxons and headed down for deep water.

To be fair I’ve used a lot of submarining lingo (or at least what I’ve gleaned as submarining lingo from watching Operation Petticoat) and James Perch is a footballer, not a naval type in the tradition of Tony Curtis.

Imagine if he was:

Captain: Seaman Perch, why did you dive the submarine when we’ve just tied up at the dock?

Seaman Perch: It’s not a dive sir. I’m not a diver. People who have seen me drive a submarine know what kind of submariner I am.

Captain: Don’t be silly Perch, I just saw you flood the ballast tanks and crash dive.

Seaman Perch: Sir, I’m not going to go and crash dive the submarine and act silly. But if someone puts a gangway onto you that’s it.

Now that I think about it a Perch is a type of fish. I’m on to you Jimmy.

For the record I’d have given Reina a yellow for reacting – The replay shows no intent to headbutt and it simply wasn’t that so it’s not a red for mine. I’d then have given James Perch a yellow for his attempted trip on a keeper and a yellow for simulation (diving) giving him a grand score of ‘off you go chum for an early bath’ from the judges.

None of this would have affected the outcome of the game. Liverpool were dire before they went down to 10 men and they were dire after it. Down 2-0 before Reina got his marching orders they actually managed to retain that scoreline, even with an outfield player in Jose Enrique donning the gloves. Had the reverse happened and Newcastle been reduced to 10 men then it’s highly likely the same score would have resulted – Liverpool would have struggled against 9 men on the day.

What was harmed was a perception of a sport that badly needs to stamp out simulation. It’s cheating and it just makes the average spectator cringe. I reckon it makes the majority of footballers who play for the love of the game cringe as well.

Fortunately it’s not a problem in baseball. There, the only submarining you’ll get is with a certain type of pitch delivery. And the diving is restricted to making a good catch or lunging for home plate in search of a walk off victory.

That last bit happened in this morning’s Opening Day fixture for the Red Sox at Detroit. Except there was no need to dive to make home for Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers. Instead he got to stroll home off of Austin Jackson’s bases loaded single. It wasn’t heart-breaking – The Sox had found themselves 2-0 down going into the last after a pitcher’s duel between Boston ace Jon Lester and the Tige’s 2011 MVP Justin Verlander had been narrowly shaded by the Detroit righty.

So in a sense it wasn’t a tough loss to wear – It got complicated by the Red Sox getting back in to it via a Big Papi sac fly and a Ryan Sweeney RBI triple that was a few feet from being a 2 run blast.

And then it got a little wobbly.

See, the Red Sox haven’t really got the closer thing sorted. In the off-season they sent Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies and brought in Mark Melancon, who had 20 saves for Houston in 2011 and Andrew Bailey who made 24 saves for Oakland across the same time-frame. Well, almost the same – Melancon played in 71 games for 1 of the worst outfits in the majors. Bailey by contrast is injury prone and he made it in to just 42 outings last term after he missed Opening Day 2011 and a fair whack of games thereafter.

Unfortunately Andrew Bailey missed Opening Day 2012 as well thanks to a troublesome thumb. In fact he’ll miss a fair old slice of the 2012 season following surgery. Melancon would have seemed to be the man then but the Sox decided to throw Alfredo Aceves into the closer slot. Aceves had been in line to be a starter but is a victim of his own versatility and therefore moved to the back of that line.

Conventional wisdom has it though that in a tie game on the road you’d hold your closer back. Bobby V seemed to agree and so the bottom of the 9th saw Melancon on the mound. He got an out but then put runners on 1st and 2nd. What happened next isn’t entirely clear.

Bobby V pulled Melancon and sent in Aceves. Alfredo fired in a curveball that got by Salty and caught the Tiger’s Ramon Santiago on the foot. He walked and the bases were loaded. Aceves later had a simple and honest explanation:

‘I missed my spot.’

Yep, you did Alfredo.

Up stepped Jackson to rip a grounder down the 3rd base line and past Nick Punto and home comfortably was Peralta.

There’s no need for panic – It’s a loss, but not the worst. The main worry is not that there is no closer – I think the problem is that the Red Sox seem a little confused around who should fill that spot. That’s ok though – The Cards won the World Series last year with Jason Motte as the closer. He only took up that role late in the year, finishing just 27 on the mound for 9 saves, less than half the number recorded by Melancon or Bailey and less than a 3rd of the number registered by Papelbon.

So the Red Sox are not all at sea – There’s plenty of room under the hull and the waves aren’t choppy. I reckon that even if they slump to 2 and 10 it’s gonna be ok and we can save the klaxons and distress flares for September.

Epilogue: Jonathan Papelbon got the save for the Phillies in a 1-0 Opening Day road win over the Pirates. 10 pitches, 9 strikes and no hits. Bet he stayed on his feet too.

Put Him In The Longboat And Make Him Bale Her

5 Comments
  1. what a horrible opening day. and papelbon is eyeroll inducing. today was worse.

    • Today was not good – Could not find much of a silver lining in that debacle. A-Gon did try running – That’s all I have.

      Oh, and your drunken live blog made it bearable so much thanks. Kind of like doing shots by proxy. It was nice.

  2. Phillies have played two games. Scored two runs. 1-1. I TOLD the Internet they were in trouble but got written off by most as just another “panicky Phillies fan.” Well, when we’re still averaging one run a game come June I’ll get my due. The way the Red Sox lost Opening Day was brutal…but then Game 2? Good Lord, get the “Bobby V Death Pool” cranked up.

    • Yeah, I noticed that lack of run production for the Phillies. It’s going to have to come from somewhere as you’ve noted before the season got under way. Actually you noted it when the Phillies picked up Papelbon last year. Reckon you might be on to something there.

      As for the Red Sox. Nothing. Good. Came. From. That. Game.

      It’s a tough 1 to take because where do they go from there? They were comprehensively outplayed. And that was 1 of our gun starters.

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