by Bill Murphy
There are times throughout life that one finds themselves wondering, does age matter? This week it did.
I sometimes think that being twelve years old is a special time. Your interests have formed, your responsibilities are still at a fairly low level and there are some very special days ahead. HOWEVER, this week, I am glad to be over five times that old. This allows me to have great perspective.
What happened Wednesday night was truly one for the ages. That is all ages there have ever been.
Realistically, both teams, the Red Sox and Yankees, could have been celebrating on the Yankee Stadium turf at the same time. That was about the only thing, which could have brought what happened to another level.
Many times the leadership of John Farrell has come into question in his tenure as Boston manager, BUT, Wednesday night, he certainly stood tall. I am old school, like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, I did not feel one bit like partying. BUT, it was the right time.
First, Farrell shook everyone’s hand, well almost everyone, and then he called the team together in the plasticed off celebration area of the clubhouse and told them not to let one inning stop them from going through the motions of a long journeys moment. His message was well delivered and received as well as it probably could be under the circumstances, as the corks were popped.
Back to whose hand he didn’t shake? IF looks could kill, Farrell would not have survived that evening. Craig Kimbrel did not want to give up the baseball, when the manager correctly deemed, the closer was unfit for the cause that evening. Joe Kelly almost wiggled out of the mess, BUT, all in all, it gave the Yankees a festive moment to stay alive, and Mark Teixeira, one last heroes curtain call.
Kimbrel yielded the ball, BUT, he was in a hurry to exit Farrell’s presence and when he reached the runway, quickly headed down the stairs. It was encouraging moments later, to see him along the dugout rail with his mates.
Then when Farrell positioned himself to congratulate the troops as they made their way to the clubhouse, Kimbrel fittingly brought up the rear. It was an awkward moment for both. Farrell waited for him to pass as no hands were extended to shake. Farrell reached over and patted the reliever as he passed. There was a recipricol pat back. Both of them acted appropriately in the moment. This is the type of team it is. Together when it matters.
It was telling later, when Dave Dombrowski spoke about John Farrell’s leadership, recognizing him publicly in a way the Director of Baseball Operations had chosen not to mention during previous inquiries. Dobrowski said, “A very good manager. I know he takes a lot of hits at times, but I’ve been very impressed with him and his staff. The one thing about John is, he’s not afraid to tackle any issue that comes up.”
When the game was over, Farrell’s words allowed the party to get started in a mild way. A few minutes later, his faithful Lieutenant Torey Lovullo sprayed David Ortiz to drive the celebration up. Despite the nudging, the party really never reached much of a level.That’s okay. They deserved the moment, BUT, there could be bigger ones ahead.
In closing, Wednesday night, I was never more comfortable with the age I am. It showed me what a great game baseball is. No matter how long you have lived, you could see something today, you never saw before. I saw, the good, the bad and the ugly all in nights work. I didn’t feel like celebrating, BUT, the end justified the mean.
GRID RACES TAKING SHAPE- Sure wish we could put together this column for one week without chirping that the majority of games in Vermont High School football are dominated by the winning team scoring 40 or more points, the losing team tallying 10 or fewer points and hardly a game each week in which the final score is fourteen points or closer. For the fourth straight week, this all came true, so now after four weeks: thirty-seven of the sixty-four games have seen 40 points put on the scoreboard and the same number of games have the losing team scoring 10 or less points. The overall score in games is even more one sided in a lot to a little fashion with the updated totals reading 2572 winning teams and 649 losing teams, which is an average score of the sixty-four contests to date 40-10. How’s that for proving a theory correct?
This week, there are three games which beg to be labeled standout showdown games. Then there are a few others, which should go a long ways to separate the men from the boys.
Division III leads the way with two encounters, which should prove to be attention grabbing. The eleven team league still has three 4-0 teams and a 3-1, which makes this weeks’ action look like the semi-final round of the end of season play-offs. Woodstock will be at Mill River for Homecoming in a match-up of unbeatens Friday night in the Minutemens lone home night game, while on the same night Windsor (4-0) travels to Union- 32 (3-1). Otter Valley is the only 2-2 team in D-III and they host first year Missisquoi (0-3) Saturday at 1 p.m. , while at the same time, Poultney/Mount Saint Joseph entertains D-II arch-rival contender Fair Haven (3-1). In addition, there are a couple of other D-III Friday night games with Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax (1-2) at Spaulding (0-4) and a pair of 1-3 teams Oxbow and Springfield, meeting at Springfield.
In Division II, it is shaping up as Burr + Burton and Bellows Falls as the top two teams again, as they are the only 4-0 teams presently and the two powers don’t meet until week eight of a nine week schedule. Division II is the only Green Mountain loop to have a round robin of games and they play one week longer than the other divisions and have half as many teams make the play-offs versus the eight, which advance in the other two divisions. Burlington and Fair Haven at 3-1 are in the final two play-off positions IF the post season began today and are followed by Mount Mansfield and Milton at 2-2 (Mount Mansfield already defeated Milton 28-22), while Mount Abraham and North Country are 1-3 and Lyndon is 0-4.
Bellows Falls Coach Bob Lockerby saw his team come up short against Burr + Burton last November in Rutland. The veteran coach has been proud of his division for a long time. He realizes in the last two years, they have had some teams that could compete with just about anyone in the state. He feels with only four teams in the post season, fans better not miss a play-off game. He strongly believes each team which gets to dance another week can advance.
“I know there are people who see just the two of us now, BUT, that’s not the case. I am not sure who actually will be in the post season, BUT, when you get to that point, those teams in our division, have proven before, they are all good enough to win it,” Lockerby stresses.
For some, the scouting part of football has changed. Lockerby still believes old school is the way to go. “You have to see a team in person and that’s still the way we approach it. Some people feel Huddle is good enough, BUT, I still believe you learn so many more things in person. I don’t think film is enough.’
Lockerby sees one special game this week in D-II. “Mount Mansfield at Burlington has play-off implications. That is a very big game,” he forecasts. Veteran followers probably don’t see what Lockerby sees. Mount Mansfield (2-2) will certainly be the underdog, BUT, Lockerby’s team just played the Cougars and he insists they are much better than the Terriers 55-8 conquest showed. Burlington is 3-1 and looking to stay in one of the Top Four positions Friday night at 7 p.m.
Burr + Burton has the easier course on paper, of the two top contenders this weekend. The Bulldogs host North Country in a Homecoming affair Saturday at 1 p.m. BF travels to Milton Friday evening.The remaining game not already mentioned, finds Lyndon at Mount Abraham Saturday.
Division I should find some more separation this week. The most intriguing match-up in the loop is clearly Saturday’s St. Johnsbury at Champlain Valley Union game. They are the only two unbeatens remaining in D-I and there will be a great deal of focus there. The winner will stake a claim for the number one seed in the division, BUT, there are several big games between now and October 22nd to not make things anywhere near that simple.
Hartford and Middlebury stand 3-1 in D-I and are followed by Essex and Brattleboro at 2-2. Those teams are likely the teams actually battling for home field advantage spots for the post season. Beyond that, every team is within a game of the final two post season spots with Rutland, Rice, Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans and Colchester at 1-3 and Mount Anthony and South Burlington at 0-4.
Both Hartford and Middlebury hit the road this week and should be even with the loser of the D-I showdown come Monday am. Hartford will be at Rice on Saturday at 1 p.m. and Middlebury will be under the lights at South Burlington Friday at 7 p.m.Brattleboro is another contender on the road Friday night, as they try to stay in front of Colchester, whom they meet, while Essex hosts BFA (St. Albans style) the same evening. Rounding out the D-I slate Mount Anthony is at Rutland also on Friday evening.
One week ago our predictions fell to 13-3 making us 53-11 on the season. In many worlds that would be something to brag about, BUT, with Vermont high school football in their, a lot to a little outcomes each week, it really isn’t much to shout about. One interesting twist though IS, last week was the first time we were able to pick a Rice outcome correctly. It makes one wonder IF they really should be a D-I team.Over the past two seasons, they have definitely been the toughest team to pick week in and week out.
This week the winners will be: Essex, Brattleboro, St. Johnsbury, Hartford, Middlebury, Rutland, Bellows Falls, Burr + Burton, Fair Haven, Mount Abraham, Burlington, BFA (Fairfax), Woodstock, Otter Valley, Oxbow and Windsor.