From Cameron to Clemons... a few thoughts

June, 18, 2011
BOSTON -- Five takeaways from Boston's 4-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night:

1. Has it really come to this? That's a question that should be occurring to Mike Cameron on a night that manager Terry Francona sent Drew Sutton to pinch hit for the Red Sox outfielder against Brewers closer John Axford in the ninth inning.

Cameron has 272 home runs in his big league career; Sutton has three. With two out and nobody on in the ninth and the Sox trailing by two, a long ball isn't going to tie the score, but Cameron also had singled in a run off lefty Randy Wolf earlier in the game.

Yes, Francona was playing the lefty-righty percentages, but Cameron was never a platoon player until this season. He has 511 extra-base hits in his career against right-handed pitchers, and we are only a little more than a year removed from him starting the 2010 season as the team's everyday center fielder. The Sox are paying Cameron $7.25 million this season; they are paying Sutton out of their petty cash fund.

But it is indicative of how Cameron has performed that Francona can't really be second-guessed. For Cameron, this has been the most trying season of what has been a distinguished big league career. This spring, Cameron appeared fully recovered from an abdominal injury, one that ultimately required surgery and made last season a loss. But some players can adjust to part-time status, like a Dave Roberts or Gabe Kapler did when they were here. Others can't, like Jay Payton. Cameron, who is 38, has not been able to do so. We are nearly halfway into the season and he is batting .157, just .151 against lefties (8-for-53), in a season in which regular right fielder J.D. Drew has also struggled (.225).

With the Sox six weeks from the trading deadline, don't be surprised if GM Theo Epstein adds to the Sox's outfield depth, a move that could very well come at Cameron's expense.

Sutton, by the way, grounded to short to end the game.

2. Can I believe my lying eyes? Yes, the Brewers overshifted their infield against a right-handed hitter, Kevin Youkilis, placing three infielders on the left-field side of second base. Youkilis doubled over the shift in his first at-bat, then grounded a single through the shift the second time. He also lined out and grounded to short, though he reached safely when first baseman Prince Fielder dropped Yuniesky Betancourt's throw.

Francona said he'd never seen a shift against a right-handed batter, but first-year Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, a longtime coach on Mike Scioscia's staff in Anaheim, has employed such shifts with frequency this season, not only against the Albert Pujolses of the world but the Ryan Doumits, too. Roenicke is a big believer in spray charts, and more than once this season, second baseman Rickie Weeks has been in position to take away a hit up the middle.

3. Maximum penalty. On the second pitch of the game, Brewers leadoff man Weeks hit a popup in front of the Red Sox dugout. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez arrived in time to make the catch, but his normally reliable hands betrayed him, the ball bouncing off his glove. Official scorer Mike Petraglia initially ruled a "no play" and did not charge Gonzalez with an error, but was reviewing a replay on the third pitch, which Weeks hit into the Monster seats for a home run.

Petraglia changed his call and charged Gonzalez with an error, leading to a rare instance in which a no-out home run is considered an unearned run.

The last time a player led off a game with a home run after an error was made during his at-bat? Nobody can look that up, right? Well, yes they can. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time it happened was on July 4, 1979. Cubs third baseman Steve Ontiveros dropped a foul popup, and Warren Cromartie of the Expos hit a home run off Cubs pitcher Bill Caudill.

The Brewers doubled the damage on Lester's next pitch as Corey Hart hit a ball over the Sox bullpen in right-center, making it 2-0. Former Sox catcher George Kottaras led off the third with another home run, and Lester matched the career high he set for home runs allowed in the season opener, when Texas hit three in Arlington.

"Sometimes it's tough throwing against teams you don't really know, especially early on," said Lester, who had been bidding to become the majors' first 10-game winner. "You're trying to feel them out, figure out what their game plan is against you -- and, obviously, they were very aggressive."

Lester gave extra credit to Hart.

"If Hart is going to hit a ball to right-center like that, a right-handed hitter here in this park, you tip your hat," Lester said. "I thought it was a pretty good pitch down and away. He stayed on it and hit it a long ways."

4. By George, he got one. Kottaras, who came to the Red Sox in 2006 when they traded David Wells to the San Diego Padres with a month to go in the 2006 season, enjoyed a brief run as a Sox backup catcher in 2009, mostly for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. He also was a favored cribbage partner of Francona, recalls Ian Browne of In 112 career plate appearances for the Sox, Kottaras hit one home run.

Kottaras, who was Milwaukee's Opening Day catcher, was outrighted in mid-April to Triple-A, but was recalled on Wednesday. On Thursday, he hit a home run off Matt Garza of the Cubs, and Saturday he took Lester deep.

"The ball to Kottaras was just mislocation,'' Lester said. "A ball right over the middle, and he did what he was supposed to do.''

5. The Big Man, RIP. The first rock concert staged by the current Red Sox ownership in Fenway Park was Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, in September 2003, a spectacular artistic and financial success. During Saturday night's game, it was reported that Springsteen's longtime friend, the great saxophonist Clarence Clemons, had died from complications stemming from a stroke he suffered earlier in the week. Clemons was 69.

Here was Springsteen's statement, posted on his website:

"Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years. He was my great friend, my partner, and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.''

The Red Sox could do worse than honor the Big Man's memory by playing a few bars Sunday afternoon at the Fens. As ESPN football analyst Adam Schefter tweeted Saturday night: "Another day the music died. RIP Clarence Clemons."

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?