by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

BOSTON — Forget what they say about old friends. Bobby Ojeda was looking to leave the Red Sox in the dirt and the Sox were hoping to paste his pitches and his face to the left field wall. Oh, he got along OK with everybody here during his eight years in the Boston organization. But this is the World Series, Ojeda is now a Met, and that means to hell with you these days in bean town.
“To hell with whom?” he seemed to say from the Fenway mound Tuesday night, where his Mets finally won a World Series Game, 7-1, to close Boston’s lead to 2-1. “What did you say?”

“Oh, nothing,” mumbled the Red Sox.

Nothing is right. What goes around comes around — especially off the fingers of Ojeda Tuesday night. You cannot win if you do not hit, and Ojeda fooled so many of his old teammates with his change-ups and off-speeds you could have dried your hair with the whiffs of the bat.

“Why’d we get rid of this guy?” the fans in the bleachers asked. “Lookit that stuff.”

Lookit that stuff. Drooping curves and fastballs and not so fastballs and, wooh, boy, what is that? The slowball? The radar clock was coming up with speeds that wouldn’t even get you a ticket on the Lodge Freeway. Sixty-five miles an hour? That’s a major league pitch?

Well, all it takes is a swing and a miss, and the Sox were swinging and missing badly at all the wrong times. Ojeda had six strike outs in his seven innings. Bill Buckner went down swinging with two on in the third and Rich Gedman got called out with a runner on second to end the sixth. The balls came in high and wound up low, came in from the side and curved over the plate. The Red Sox batters were left squawking with the umpire while Ojeda walked casually to the dugout.

The, uh, Mets’ dugout. You can go home again

“Anything bittersweet about pitching to your old teammates?” Ojeda, 28, was asked in the crowded interview room after the victory.

“Bittersweet is not the word at all,” he said quickly. “I am a New York Met.”

He pulled on his collar. “See my jacket? New York Mets. We won 108 games this year. We’re playing a team that won the American League pennant. There is nothing bittersweet. We’re trying to beat the socks off these guys.”

So much for sentimentality.

Ojeda was 44-39 in his time with the Red Sox — 20-17 in Fenway — a mediocre record with mediocre teams. He was 9-11 in John McNamara’s first season managing the club. The two men had words on occasion. Enough so that McNamara didn’t balk when Ojeda was included as part of the eight-player deal last November with the Mets for, amongst others, reliever Calvin Schiraldi.

Tuesday night, Ojeda proved you can go home again, even if your home has a wall that turns from friend to enemy when you switch uniforms.

Perhaps the most subtly dramatic moment came in the sixth, when Gedman came up with Jim Rice on base and two men out. Gedman and Ojeda had been closest friends on the Sox. “Our friendship meant a lot,” Ojeda had said earlier. “Geddy is a super individual. We had some good years.”

Now they were square, 60 feet 6 inches away from one another. Ojeda then had a 4-1 lead, no safe margin in Fenway. Gedman has been known to blast a few.

The set. The pitch. Strike three called.

“Any feelings about that?” Ojeda was asked.

“Hey, this is a competition,” he said. “You don’t feel sorry for anybody.”

The Boston reporters raised an eyebrow. “Why’d we get rid of this guy?” they mumbled. Mets play kick the Can

When the scribes sit down and write this Series, they will realize Ojeda did more than just win this ball game, and drag his rather tenuous Mets teammates back into the thick of the Fall Classic.

Not only was Ojeda returning to Fenway with the Sox fans in a “Sweep! Sweep!” frenzy, he was taking the mound opposite one of his old town’s newer heroes, Oil Can Boyd, the loosely strung wizard of emotional pitching, who, when going good, can rouse the Fenway faithful as if he’s their own lovable, trouble-making son out there.

Boyd, however, suffered his own indignities and those of his teammates in the first inning. He surrendered two runs, then saw a botched rundown play by his infield lead to two more, a 4-0 deficit with a half inning gone. That gave Ojeda the cushion to pitch the way he wanted.

And oh, how he did that. Old guy 1, old team, 0.

As Ojeda hurried through the Fenway halls, a boisterous Boston fan spotted him.

“HEY BAWWBY!” he yelled, his accent thick.

Bobby looked up. “Nice game,” said the fan. “It shoulda been for us.”

He might have smiled, or nodded. Instead, Bobby Ojeda looked away, towards the door of the visitors clubhouse, and headed in that direction.

To hell with whom? To hell with reunions. Old friends nothing. This is war.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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