ANAHEIM, Calif. – There is a fine line to be walked between comic and clown, particularly when one's audience had its head beat in the night before by the Boston Red Sox.
As the Red Sox took batting practice between division series games here, Speier burst into the home clubhouse wearing a wetsuit, carrying a boogie board and clomp-clomping in those rubber duck shoes. He was soaking wet.
"Is there practice today?" Speier shouted. "I heard there's practice today!"
Gathered around television sets showing their former bench coach, Joe Maddon, winning a playoff game in St. Petersburg, Fla., Angels players howled the kind of laughter that said they really needed it.
"About three-, four-foot barrels today," Speier chirped.
Mike Scioscia waded from his office. He took a long, thin-lipped look at Speier and snorted, "Your next set of flippers are going to be made out of cement."
Philly guy, you know.
Elsewhere, Angels players and coaches were calling their offense to arms, along with their baserunning. They wore hard, determined expressions.
"A lot of these guys," Torii Hunter said, waving his eyes across the room, "they got the dawg in 'em."
"The dawg is, uh, the dawg is – how can I say that without sounding street?" Hunter said. "The dawg is having some [guts]. D-A-W-G. That doesn't mean we'll get it done. I just wanna see the energy."
See, in recent years, this is the part where the Angels, bless their regular-season souls, begin to wonder.
It's the part where the Red Sox begin to play them out of the postseason.
After being run over by Jon Lester, who surprised them with his pitch velocity and movement, they get Daisuke Matsuzaka on Friday night and counter with 16-game winner Ervin Santana. The Red Sox have what they came for, a win in Anaheim. Josh Beckett awaits, after what Terry Francona considered a promising bullpen session Thursday.
For those reasons, the Red Sox passed on the vaudeville.
Not only did they win Game 1, they got through it with Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew still standing, if not quite productive. Lowell aims to keep pushing forward, even if his aching hip is forcing a pretty good limp. He was a bit creaky and a lot whiskery, but no worse for four at-bats the night before.
"I'm anticipating the big matchup today," he said, smiling, "which is Palin-Biden. I'm just on pins and needles."
David Ortiz wandered around wearing a black T-shirt with the sleeves snipped off. Across its back was a photo of Manny Ramirez, dreads flyin', shooting two fingers toward the Red Sox dugout. "Manny being Manny," in script, was the cutline.
They still keep in touch, Big Papi and Manny, though the hugs and laughs are digital, the way all the kids do it nowadays. Ramirez wears out Ortiz's cell phone with text messages, but Ortiz hadn't heard from him by midday Thursday, which shocked him.
"Oh," Ortiz said, "he thinks he's big-time now."
The Red Sox woke up and Manny was on the front of the local sports section, finishing the cricket swing that resulted in another October home run, this one half a continent away.
"That's him," Ortiz said. "You gotta be a helluva hitter to hit a pitch like that. And that far."
There were no photos of Jason Bay, who had Manny'd the Angels a night earlier. Different sort of guy, same result for the Red Sox, same pain for the Angels, and the Angels probably can't lose Friday and last the series. Because, for two previous fall series in the past four years, the decisive moments have found the Red Sox gloves and the Red Sox bat barrels, and then the Red Sox have advanced.
And so the last act looks a lot like the many acts that have come before it. It is so familiar.
"I don't know," Lowell said. "If anything, I don't think we were really squaring up pitches. I think it was one pitch that turned things around. A good big-league hitter had to hit a quality pitch."
Yet that's the way it goes in October for the Red Sox, especially when the Angels are involved.
"Yeah, but it's over, like, three different playoffs," Lowell said. "I think the sample is a little spread out to draw a conclusion like that."
They'll see. They always see. And then somebody ends up wearing the clown suit.