It took exactly 100 games, but the Boston Red Sox moved above .500 with their 64th victory of the year last week. The Red Sox were last above sea level when they were 14-13 after 27 games on May 3. They moved above .500 again in their 127th game.
"It's a great feeling," said Red Sox manager Jimy Williams after the Red Sox came back in the ninth inning to complete a doubleheader sweep in Oakland on Wednesday. "That second game in the ninth inning is an indication of how we've played all year long. You've got to try to get above sea level. These kids are playing hard."
Don't want to rain on Williams' parade, but if this is the way the Red Sox have been playing all year long, why have they been under .500 for all but a few days of 1997?
The Athletics rained on the Red Sox pitching staff the following day, hitting six home runs to knock them back to .500, but first baseman Mo Vaughn expects the club to finish strong.
"We're headed in the right direction," Vaughn said. "We've got Flash [Tom Gordon] in the bullpen, a good setup guy with [Jim] Corsi. We're working on our starting pitching, getting [Bret] Saberhagen going. Nomar [Garciaparra] is having a great year. Things are coming together."
Better late than never, but the Red Sox don't have much to play for. They entered Friday 18 games out of first place in the American League East and 13 games behind the second-place New York Yankees in the wild-card race.
The question that no one in the Red Sox front office wants to hear is this: Where would the club be right now if it had worked harder to re-sign Cy Young lock Roger Clemens? The Red Sox have a better offensive club than the Toronto Blue Jays, so there is no reason Clemens would not have had the same kind of success this year in Boston.
If Clemens would have made them just seven or eight victories better, the Red Sox might be right in the thick of the wild-card race, though that's easy to see in hindsight.
Doing the right thing?
The people at Disney Sports are a little more PR savvy than your average baseball management team. They know what image they are trying to promote and they are going to promote it even if it runs afoul of baseball's unfathomable substance-abuse policy.
That's why the Anaheim Angels unilaterally suspended outfielder Tony Phillips after he was arrested in a crack bust two weeks ago.
Under the major-league drug policy in place, the Angels should have sent a limo for Phillips and transported him to a sympathetic union lawyer, who would have informed the team that Phillips was set up by unscrupulous police and should be allowed to play while his legal team seeks to prove that he was out that night trying to help troubled youth get off drugs.
Instead, Disney CEO Michael Eisner reportedly ordered that Phillips be suspended when he refused to go on the disabled list and enter a drug rehabilitation program. The Major League Baseball Players Association quickly filed a grievance and got Phillips reinstated because the Angels did not follow baseball's wishy-washy drug policy, but Disney and the Angels did the smart thing. They allowed the union to be the champion of all that is wrong with baseball's supposed war on substance abuse.
Union officials, of course, cried foul, but the thing that is most offensive about this situation is that Phillips was back in the Angels' lineup Thursday night, and he was there in part because ownership's Executive Council sided with the union against the Angels during the grievance procedure.
Perhaps it's time for a new marketing slogan: "Just say maybe to drugs."
Major League Baseball took a lot of heat for its drug policy in the 1980s, even though it was far stronger than the one that supposedly is in place now.
In the good old days, a player could avoid punishment for a first offense if he came forward voluntarily and offered to enter a substance-abuse treatment program. Future offenses were dealt with more harshly, but it still wasn't a firm enough policy to keep a Steve Howe from coming back to play after multiple offenses.
Now, it borders on the ridiculous. Phillips, for example, did not come forward voluntarily and embarrassed the industry when he was arrested for felony possession of crack cocaine. Technically, he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but the Angels should have the right to protect themselves in the court of public opinion.
Florida Marlins starter Alex Fernandez has taken offense to the notion that it was his departure last year that prompted the Chicago White Sox to gut their pitching staff by trading Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin and Roberto Hernandez to the San Francisco Giants last month.