No one could ask for more.
But someone did. Someone who knew better. Someone who never should have asked. Someone who could only have asked because he was gutless. Because when Grady Little had to make the biggest decision of the year, he didnt have the courage to make it.
Instead he weaseled out.
Having sent Martinez out to pitch an eighth inning he shouldnt have had to, when the Red Sox ace got into trouble Little didnt ask for the ball and signal for a reliever. No, he asked Martinez if he wanted to come out of the game.
Little knew what the answer would be. Anyone who follows baseball knows; no major league starting pitcher ever wants to come out of a game short of an injury and often not even then. Martinez is an especially proud man and would never ask out. You dont make it from the extreme poverty of the Dominican Republican to big money in the major leagues by ducking tough situations. Conscious of his status as ace of the Red Sox staff and keenly aware of the responsibilities that come with it, Martinez willingly shouldered the burden the rightly belonged to Little.
How courageous of Martinez. How cowardly of Little.
And so the seventh game of the ALCS slipped away.
Along with the dreams of millions of Red Sox fans: Kids wearing their Sox caps sitting cross-legged in front of the family TV; grandmas in nursing homes tuned into the radio; late-shift cops all over New England getting scores from a dispatcher; 20-somethings in sports bars, barely brushed by memories of 1986, giddy with anticipation; fans in their 30s and 40s, nursed on disappointment, but still there; glassy-eyed men and women in neighborhood bars; priests and nuns; rabbis and ministers; the buzzed and the clear-headed; optimists and pessimists; exiled fans all over the country who turn up by the thousands, or tens of thousands, when the Sox visit parks from Chicago to Texas and Seattle to Tampa.
They all rooted for the best Red Sox team of the modern era. Victory was there.
Until the Little man looked his responsibilities in the face and turned tail and ran.