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Mayday in Boston, Perfection in Seattle

Friday marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park in Boston, the oldest continuously operating ballpark in the major leagues; the Yankees, who were the obliging guests in their earlier incarnation as the Highlanders on that date, proved to be boorish and uncooperative in their commemorative visit, gnarling the Crimson Hose 6-2. Still, despite the absence of such luminaries as Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, most the returning alumni received thunderous ovations, none more so, as it has been noted, than former manager Terry Francona, under whose leadership the Hubmen won two World Championships. Tito was made to unceremoniously walk the plank after the ignominious collapse of last September, and since has found a home on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball but despite his bruised feelings, he showed up, to his credit, and to the credit of the team, who did not ignore him as the Yankees did with Joe Torre during their commemorations of the passing of Old Yankee Stadium.

Francona these days must have a more settled stomach and more restful sleep than his successor, Bobby Valentine. The Red Sox are plagued with key injuries to high-priced and underachieving free agent signing Carl Crawford and to their stellar centerfielder and leadoff man, Jacoby Ellsbury. Even worse, though, is the state of the bullpen in Red Sox Nation, where they let closer Jonathan Papelbon walk away; after yesterday’s game seen in much of the country, the Red Sox bullpen suffers even more than from lack of a closer, as the team blew a 9-1 run with 7 runs in the 8th and another 7 runs in the 9th to the hated Bronx Bombers. The international distress call for pilots is “Mayday!” (from the French “M’aidez”, help me), and that would be the call from Back Bay right about now. I picked the Red Sox to finish fourth in the American League East in 2012, and I’m not backing off. If things continue in this fashion, they will be hard-pressed to finish ahead of the woeful Baltimore Orioles. Fans in Boston have been understandably cranky about the divided attention of their ownership which purchased the storied English football team Manchester United (results there also subpar), and the smartest guy would seem to be the one who’s no longer there, Theo Epstein, who decamped to Chicago.

Baseball is a game of ups and downs, and compared to the run of bad news from Boston, their Pale Hose cousins from the South Side of Chicago had some utterly unexpected good news yesterday in Seattle, where Philip Humber pitched only the twenty-first Perfect Game in major-league history. Think about that: only twenty-one times out of hundreds of thousands of games has perfection been attained. For Humber, a 2002 draft classmate of the more illustrious Justin Verlander, this no doubt means a warm welcome from the club the 2011 MVP and Cy Young Award winner couldn’t crack and a dazzling smile from the radiant Kate Upton. Congratulations, Phil. Expect to see that commercial no later than next week some time.

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