October 25, 2018

The Red Sox's Mantra: "Pass The Tongue"

Stephanie Apstein, Sports Illustrated, October 25, 2018:
Spend enough time in baseball clubhouses and you'll hear the phrase "pass the baton," a reference to the idea that a hitter should do his job and trust the next guy to do his, rather than swing for the fences. ... [A]mong the Red Sox ... it's a rallying cry—and also their favorite inside joke.

"Pass the tongue!" they yell to each other before games and during games and after games. "Pass the tongue!"

Game 2 of the ALDS, a loss that tied the series at one game apiece, was a demoralizing affair in which the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka threw 30 balls but walked only one. Some of the veteran players felt their young teammates growing anxious, pressing. So when the Red Sox held their daily hitter's [sic] meeting before Game 3, Dominican third baseman Eduardo Núñez spoke up.

"We don't want to get down in New York," he told them. "The fans are unbelievably crazy. When we see Luis Severino, we need to be patient. If we walk, if we single, we can score. We need to pass the baton." He mispronounced the last word (read: tongue), but his teammates seemed to be processing his message. Then quadrilingual shortstop Xander Bogaerts broke in. "F----- Núñez, man!" he said, choking with laughter. "Your f------ English, man! Itis unbelievable!"

Whether because of what Núñez said or because of how he said it, Boston walked eight times, hit 13 singles and scored 16 runs. And thus a catchphrase was born.

The Red Sox have scored 35 of their 68 runs this postseason with two outs. It has reached the point, Bogaerts admitted after [World Series Game 2], at which two men go down and he begins to wonder what the rest of the lineup will do. "Two outs is our time," he said. ...

So why is this team so good in the highest-stress situation? The players are unanimous that the best two-out approach is no two-out approach. ... Ideally, they say, you would forget altogether how many outs there are and focus on doing what you do. Focus on passing the tongue.
1. I love knowing the catch phrases and nicknames the Red Sox use among themselves. (Years ago, we started calling Mike Lowell Dr. Doubles after I read in the Globe that teammates had given him that nickname.)

2. Two-out RBI are always great, but I think my favourite type of inning is when the first two Boston hitters are retired and then the rally starts. The other team expects the third out and a quick inning, but it just never seems to come, and they get frustrated as the Red Sox run around the bases. (Of course, scoring a ton of runs before making even one out is pretty nice, too.)


Michael said...

...how do you mispronounce "baton" as "tongue"?
Love it, regardless :D

laura k said...

This is great. I love Xander yelling at him.