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Monday, November 29, 2004

  Free Agent Update

Slightly more than a month after the end of the World Series, there hasn't been much action with respect to the Red Sox free agents. Gabe Kapler chose to go to Japan. Best of luck to him. He is too good to be a bench player, and if he does well overseas, he may very well have a shot at being an everyday player for a contending team back here in a couple years. Maybe he can even take that terrific arm back to the Fenway outfield.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Pedro met with the Mets (no pun intended) a couple days ago. The Triumphant Red Sox Fan stands by her prediction that he will return to Boston.

Still no action on Jason Varitek, whose agent is living in a dream world. Nothing against Tek, but anyone who needs evidence that Boras is high need only consider that he's looking for a 10-year deal for another client, Carlos Beltran. Sure, Scott, that'll happen, right after I get a 10-year deal.

It does appear as if we'll have at least one catcher in 2005, as the Sox are reportedly close to signing baseball best backup, Doug Mirabelli. We appreciate Belli all the more after watching Tek attempting to catch Tim Wakefield's knuckler in the ALCS.

Apparently Theo isn't making much of an effort to hold onto Orlando Cabrera, who wants a longer deal than the Sox are willing to give him with prospect Hanley Ramirez coming through the minor league pipeline.

Among the other significant free agents about whom there has been virtually no news are Pokey Reese and Derek Lowe. It would be terrific to keep Lowe, presuming he can lay off the rumored bad behaviors that may be responsible for his inconsistency during the last couple seasons. And Pokey may be even more valuable than Cabrera, being both a fine shortstop and an effective second baseman.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Sportsmen of the Year

SI coverThe Boston Red Sox have been named 2004 Sportsmen of the Year by Sports Illustrated. As it turns out, the Red Sox won the World Series just in time to save SI's editorial staff the indignity of a hung jury on who should receive the honor.

Hard to believe, but a few weeks ago, our Sportsman of the Year selection hung in the balance. Oh, there were deserving candidates. A wealth of them. And that was the problem.

[ . . . ]

Just when the discussions started to rage, a group of self-professed idiots and their long-suffering and adorning fans made our decision clear cut.

You bet. The victory is merely a month old and is already being talked about in legendary terms.

The Red Sox didn't merely reverse the curse in 2004 -- they made a mockery of it. Down 3-0 in the American League Championship Series against their pinstriped rivals from New York, the Sox mounted an unprecedented rally to win the pennant. By then the fates had written the script and Boston simply crushed St. Louis to win the World Series, consecrating the most stirring victory in New England since 1776.

I won't spoil their fun by pointing out that nothing was won in New England in 1776. Perhaps they're thinking of the famous battles of Lexington and Concord, which started the Revolutionary War in 1775 and were won fairly decisively by the  Evil Empire  British. The war didn't actually end until 1783. No matter. We get the point.

The issue recognizing the annual award winner will be on newsstands next week.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

  Pictures, Finally

View the promised pictures from the Worcester stop on the World Series trophy tour (several decent pictures) and the premiere of the official MLB World Series film (very few pictures).


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

  A Film for the Ages

If you are a Red Sox fan, you must buy this DVD. If you are a Cardinals fan, don't bother.

Here's what I wrote about the 2004 official World Series film on Amazon.com, where I was the 13th person to review the film but only the first to actually see it (which means that my opinion actually means something, not to get snooty about it).

Having attended the premiere in Boston last night, I can attest that this is not merely a World Series production. The Sox are covered from spring training through the season, then into the Anaheim Series. A fair amount of time is spent on the ALCS as well. More time is spent on the World Series because of MLB's focus, unlike the NFL as someone else mentioned.

The film starts with a recap of that curse thing and refers to it a couple more times before the end, but guess what? It doesn't bother me any more. During the season highlights, there is a brief segment on the Nomar trade. There is also a brief look-back at the two previous Red Sox-Cardinals World Series. Narration is by Massachusetts native Denis Leary, who does a fine job.

The clips are fun to watch, and the interviews make them even more exciting. Unfortunately, I only heard about half of what was said because of the frequent and enthusiastic applause of the audience, myself included. Can't wait to watch it in the quiet of my living room. From what I did hear, many of the interviews were done during the playoffs, so for example you see Johnny Damon talking about having to go into St. Louis and try to win 2 games on their home field. It's a peek into what the players (and Tito and Theo and Larry and JWH and the fans and...) were thinking as the story was unfolding, before we all knew the ending.

The production quality is excellent. The studio interviews were done against a black background, so there is nothing to distract the viewer from the interviewee.

While we saw only the main movie, the MLB Productions representative who introduced it said that the many extras on the DVD are "must see."

I rated the film 4 out of 5 stars, mainly because MLB Productions' official 2004 World Series film is all Red Sox, all the time. There is a brief mention that while the Red Sox were staging the Greatest Comeback Ever against the Yankees, there was somewhere else (yawn) another playoff series happening. As for World Series highlights, there simply were none for St. Louis, at least not after Game 1 (which they lost just like they ended up losing other three games). As a Red Sox fan, I don't mind that focus. But looking at it objectively, they should have also shown the Cardinals' run up to the World Series even if their performance in the Series itself was better left virtually ignored.

One more word: MLB is selling the DVD for $19.95, plus $4.98 for ground shipping (3-8 days). But Amazon is selling it for $14.67, plus $2.98 for standard shipping (3-5 days). (You can also get 2-day shipping for $6.48 or 1-day shipping $10.98.) So I would strongly recommend that you buy from Amazon.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Monday, November 22, 2004

  Off to See the Video

A couple of the Hunk Hunk Sistahs and I got tickets for tonight's premiere of MLB's 2004 World Series video at the Wang Theatre. Report to follow. In the meantime, check out what ESPN.com's Sports Guy had to say about the video.

UPDATE: The movie is great! I took only a couple pictures, one of Luis Tiant entering the theater, two of me with my friends, and a few of the theater itself, which really is beautiful. I'll post them tomorrow night, I promise..


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Off to See the Trophy

The World Series trophy is making a tour stop at Worcester City Hall in a mere 30 minutes [2:30pm]. I'm going to pay homage. Report to follow.

UPDATE: The trophy is beautiful. It appeared in front of City Hall with Trot Nixon, Mike Timlin, Larry Lucchino, WEEI announcer Joe Castiglione, WROL (Spanish) announcer Uri Berenguer, and Wally. Cardboard Curt also attended, courtesy of me. Only two politicians (mayor and city manager) spoke, and they kept their remarks mercifully short. WTAG's Hank Stolz and Sherman Whitman were co-emcees and only mildly annoying. I'll post pics either tonight or tomorrow night.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  FLASH: Yankees Lack Sense of Identity

The New York Yankees' epic choke in this year's ALCS has laid bare a stunning reality. Without the so-called "curse of the Bambino", they have nothing. So instead of forging an identity based on something original like, oh let's say, the Yankees, the organization is trying desperately to resurrect (almost literally) the only definition they have known for generations.

The Trenton Thunder, the Double-A Affiliate of the New York Yankees, will do their part to return the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox to their historically "cursed" ways with "Reset the Curse Day" at Waterfront Park on April 16th, when the Portland Sea Dogs, Double-A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, come to Trenton for the first time of the season.

[ . . . ]

"As a Yankee affiliate, we saw this opportunity to have some fun with one of baseball’s most popular myths," said Thunder General Manager Rick Brenner. "This will be a fun day for Yankees fans to spend at the ballpark and who knows, it might even work."

That's right, they don’t believe in the "curse", but maybe they can bring it back. Thus have the Yankees once again defined themselves in terms of the Boston Red Sox. It’s sad, really, and a little pathetic. Like Liz Taylor dying her hair jet black and demanding haze filters on any camera that photographs her, not because she thinks she isn’t old, but maybe no one will remember that she is no longer National Velvet.

We know why fans and followers of the Bronx Bombers (and bomb they did in October 2004, didn't they?) tried so hard to convince us Red Sox fans that we just wouldn't be happy if our team won. We are so inextricably linked to our supposedly "cursed" history, the reasoning went, that without it we would cease to be a passionate, cohesive fan base and—POOF!—become Expos fans.

The trouble is, we forgot to play along. It isn’t that we wanted to disappoint them (we heart New Yorkers and hate to make them cry, really we do). It’s just that—hmmm, how do I say this gently?"well, New York is irrelevant.

"The World Series was an anticlimax—beating the Yankees was the REAL achievement!" Or that’s what New Yorkers thought, based upon the newspaper headlines the day after Game 7. "Hell Freezes Over" and "Ruth-less! Uh, Babe? About that Curse…" (New York Daily News), "Sox Reverse Curse with Game 7 Win" (New York Post). At that point, of course, the Red Sox had yet to win a single World Series game, much less the championship.

And what did Red Sox fans think? Here’s a hint: Imagine the results of the following poll of Red Sox fans back in April.

I don't know exactly how many people would have picked the first option, but I do know it would have been less than 1. After Game 7, our work wasn't done. It was just beginning.

The truth is that the Yankees turned out to be a means to the end. Beating them was the icing on the cake or the cherry on the sundae, but they aren’t much sitting all alone in a dish. The past made this victory sweeter, but now we move forward and try to get even better.

Meanwhile, in Trenton as northward in the Bronx, they cling to the past. Not that you can blame them. It’s all they have left.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Friday, November 19, 2004

  Simmering on the Hot Stove: Pedro Stew

If I had a dollar for each time someone has called or approached me in utter panic over Pedro Martinez' recent meeting with George Steinbrenner, I could take a mini vacation. What I have told them all is that I'm not worried. And truthfully, I'm not.

I have said since the World Series ended that I believe the Red Sox have a 50/50 chance of signing Pedro. I do not think the other 50% means he'll go to the Yankees. I give that about a 10% chance, if that, for a few reasons:

  1. Pedro said very specifically, and very recently, that he will not go to the Yankees. I don't believe he would have been so incontrovertibly specific—going so far as to use the word "promise"—if he was really entertaining any serious thoughts to the contrary. Basically, I trust his word.
  2. After the initial meeting in Florida, Steinbrenner reportedly directed Pedro's agent to GM Brian Cashman for all further negotiations. Cashman, it is widely thought, is against signing Pedro, as are his staff and advisors.
  3. Given Pedro's tendency to make public statements as a bargaining ploy, I suspect that if the meeting had yielded anything of substance, he would already have talked to the press about it, if only in circuitous terms.

My guess is that Pedro had this meeting to put a little fear into the hearts of Theo and the Trio (a vain attempt, in my opinion) and to gauge his value at the top of the market. So everybody just take a chill pill. Everything will be fine.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

  I Don't Know What the Voters Were Thinking

No, I'm not talking about the recent Presidential election. I'm talking about the American League MVP voting. Vladimir Guerrero as the winner is fine, but Gary Sheffield as runner-up, ahead of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz? Puh-leeze.

I crunched some numbers, and they were telling.

  1. Sheffield was better than Manny in stolen bases and walks. But Manny was better in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, hits, home runs, and RBI.
  2. Sheffield was better than Papi in on-base percentage, stolen bases, and walks. But Papi was better in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, home runs, and RBI.
  3. Sheffield did have an edge over Manny in fielding. Ortiz didn't do enough fielding to look at.

Looking at it another way, I ranked each of them against the other three in all eight offensive categories named above. For each stat, the best of the four got a rating of "1", the second best got a "2", etc. Then I added up all the rankings. So if one person was best in all categories, he'd have a total ranking of 8, whereas if one person was worst in all categories, he'd have a total ranking of 32. Here's how the rankings came out:

Either way you look at it, how in the world do you get Sheffield with more first place votes than Manny or Papi? (You can also make a case for Manny beating out Vlad offensively. Both Vlad and Sheffield were also better than Manny in fielding.)

Maybe Sheffield has some naked pictures of the writers.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Awards, Part 7

In the last of the major post-season awards to be announced, Vladimir Guerrero of the Anaheim Angels recieved the AL MVP award. He won rather handily, receiving 21 of 28 first place votes.

Consistently near, though not at, the top of the league in offensive stats, Guerrero's selection seems to reflect the classic sense of not necessarily the best player in the league but the most valuable to his team.

Guerrero was consistent throughout the year, putting up similar numbers in both the first and second halves of the season. But he may have been his best at the end of the regular season as the Angels caught the Oakland A's to win their first division crown since 1986 and reached the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Guerrero finished in the voting far ahead of runner-up Gary Sheffield. If you're talking about individual performance, third-place Manny Ramirez should have been the clear winner. But with David Ortiz also in contention for the award, if may have been difficult for voters to determine which of Boston's big guys was indeed most valuable to the Red Sox' run. But however you look at it, there's no way Sheffield should have come in second. Rant coming later.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  The Church of the Red Sox

Perhaps more than with any other sport, many baseball fans follow their teams with a devotion approaching religious reverence. I'm not talking about looking up to their favorite players as heroes. I mean a reverence for baseball, the game, its history

I believe in the church of baseball. I've tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. [ . . . ] I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the church of baseball.
— Susan Sarandon's monologue in the movie Bull Durham

A ballpark at night is more like a church than a church.
— W.P. Kinsella in his novel Shoeless Joe

With Red Sox fans, it's even more than reverence; it's religious zealotry. The deep abiding love for the team goes beyond the players and management are but temporary participants in something that transcends individual achievement.

Fenway Park is a religious shrine. People go there to worship.
— Former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee

Think about the faith it took for generations of Red Sox fans to believe our team could win it all, year after year of painful disappointments notwithstanding. What else is faith but belief without evidence? We who had never seen the Red Sox achieve the ultimate goal nonetheless believed they could do it. And this year, they did.

My friend Scott Schaeffer-Duffy of the SS. Francis and Thérèse Catholic Worker house in Worcester, Massachusetts, writes in their latest newsletter that for all their community's challenges and difficulties, the most fundamental things are still good.

Yes, we need a new roof and funds to pay our bills, but Christ was born in Bethlehem! The reign of death is over! The Prince of Peace is among us! The Red Sox beat the Yankees!

Hyperbole, yes. But just like a Christian's belief that our faith will give us eternal life, Red Sox fans now feel that our faith in the team through thick and thin has helped them in their quest. If you talk to the players, I suspect they'll agree.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Monday, November 15, 2004

  It's Nice to Have Two Champs

The Red Sox' historic World Series victory has come at a good time in the annals of Boston sports. Since gone are the days of Celtic dominance (not to mention Bruin, well, anything) it is indeed a heady experience to have both the reigning World Series and Super Bowl champions in our midst. When the two met in a pre-game ceremony at last night's Pats vs. Bills game, it was a magic moment, best described by ESPN.com's Pat Forde:

And Titletown embraced its bad self.

A region that spent most of the 20th century leaning hard on the Celtics for athletic glory is suddenly flush with millennial mastery. They simply don't lose these days in Massachusetts. (John Kerry prominently excepted.)

[ . . . ]

For the first time in 25 years, since Pittsburgh ruled, the champions of pro football and pro baseball reside in the same city. Things have been so good, the Boston newspaper writers don't even remember how to rip somebody.

Titletown. Hmmm, I think I like it. Let's do it again next year.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Awards, Part 6

Do you mind if I cry real tears over Barry Bonds' record setting MVP award? The San Francisco outfielder took the National League honor for the fourth consecutive time and the seventh in his long career. And I'm not happy about it.

I know his numbers were beyond great. A .362 BA, .394 RISP, and .812 slugging pct. 45 home runs and 102 RBI despite drawing a remarkable 232 walks. Imagine what more he would have done if he hadn't sat out 15 games. There is no doubt of his value to his team even while opponents tried desparately to stymie his production.

Bonds' stats were astounding but confounding, with the opposition rarely giving him a good pitch to hit and also shifting the infield all the way toward the right side. Still, he helped the Giants score 850 runs, second only to the Cardinals' 855.

It isn't that he isn't good. Clearly, he is. I just hate the idea of this honor—or any major honor—going to a steroid-using, race-baiting SOB, especially when there were so many other more honorable candidates. And to think that he will in all probability break the all-time home run record of Hank Aaron, one of baseball's all-time true heroes and, by all accounts, a quality human being.


Speaking of Hammerin' Hank, I have been remiss in failing to recognize Manny Ramirez for being named the 2004 American League Hank Aaron Award recipient for best offensive performance, for the second time in his career. Tomorrow we round out the major awards with the AL MVP (Go Manny Ortez!)

This isn't the end of the awards, by the way. There are a number of fan-selected recognitions known collectively as the This Year in Baseball awards. The voting is still open for most of them. As they say in Ohio, vote early and vote often.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Friday, November 12, 2004

  FA-Day

The 15-day period during which ball clubs have exclusive rights to negotiate with their free agents ended last night at midnight. As of this morning, the Red Sox have 17 players available on the free agent market, and any team is now free to pursue them and make offers. You can track the Sox' signings as they happen here.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Thursday, November 11, 2004

  Fenway East...as in Middle East

If baseball is America's national pastime, there's no reason why our troops overseas shouldn't be able to enjoy it too. But what's a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine to do when there's not a baseball field nearby? Build one, of course. And when a Bay Stater spearheads the project, it's no surprise that the result will be a mini Fenway Park.

The official name of the field, conceived by Capt. Stephen Pritchard of Weymouth, Massachusetts, and constructed by members of the 3rd Battalion 11th Marine Regiment, is Phelps Field after one of their fallen comrades, 19-year-old Pfc. Chance R. Phelps, who was killed in action in Iraq last April. But because it was modeled after Boston's famous ballpark, it has come to be known as Fenway East. The field, erected at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, features an 18-foot high Green Monster.

The project turned out to be a real morale booster, according to another Sox fan deployed with a Navy battalion:

"I grew up with the Red Sox, so this field makes me feel like I am back home with American traditions," said Petty Officer 1st Class Fernald J. Darrin, a company chief with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14. "It makes you feel like you aren't in a war zone. It's a stress reliever."

The 3rd Battalion knew when they undertook construction of the field that they, fortunately, wouldn't be in Iraq forever to enjoy it. But they were happy knowing that their replacements, the 2nd Battalion 11th Marine Regiment, will reap the fruits of their labors.

(NOTE: I saw this story in the news a couple months ago, but I wasn't aware that there was a web page. Last weekend, the page was submitted to THE Boston Red Sox Webring, which I maintain. Once the ring code is installed on the site, Fenway East will be added to the ring. In the meantime, I thought it was appropriate to write about it here, on Veterans Day.)


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Awards, Part 5

To absolutely no one's surprise (wait, I'm having a déjà vu), Minnesota's Johan Santana has been named the 2004 American League Cy Young Award winner. The young southpaw was the unanimous first-place selection of the writers.

What Santana did was truly remarkable: bounce back from a dismal early season (2-4 with a 5.50 ERA in his first 12 starts), stabilize by the All-Star break, and light the league on fire through the second half. His post-All-Star numbers were so stellar that he still ended up either first or second in the league in the major pitching stats.

Once he was locked in, he was unstoppable. Santana was the AL Pitcher of the Month for July, August and September while setting a club record with 13 consecutive victories. He set a career high with 14 strikeouts against the Orioles on Sept. 19. On Sept. 24 in Cleveland, he notched win No. 20 while also breaking Bert Blyleven's team record for strikeouts in a season.

Curt Schilling, incidentally, was runner-up as the nearly unanimous second place vote-getter (he also received one third place vote, probably from the yahoo who gave Mariano Rivera a second-place vote). One notable difference between his season and Santana's is consistency; Schilling's performance didn't vary between extremes. If Santana's performance had been reversed, starting out gangbusters and coming apart down the stretch, it's plausible he wouldn't have won at all, much less unanimously.


And now we embark upon the MLB-induced withdrawal from award announcements. Maybe they don't want to steal the thunder from the GM meetings. Then again, does anything of substance ever really happen at these meetings, even if the exclusive negotiation period for free agents does end tomorrow? Look for a weekend of weak baseball news, during which I'll be praying that Barry Bonds doesn't pick up the NL MVP when award announcements resume on Monday.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

  Awards, Part 4

I'm 0-for-awards so far on my picks, but that just means that I'm the only sane one and the rest of the world is nuts.


His team finished third in a tight top three in the AL West, but the Rangers' Buck Showalter snagged Manager of the Year honors anyway. The award voting itself was a tight race as well; writers gave Showalter 14 first place votes to 11 for Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire.

It seems a couple things weighed in Showalter's favor: that the Rangers did far better than anyone thought they would, and that they did it without Alex Rodriguez.

Showalter won the American League Manager of the Year award on Wednesday for leading the Rangers, sans Alex Rodriguez, to an 89-73 record in the rugged AL West.

After being picked by many to finish a distant last in their division, the Rangers transformed themselves from pretenders to contenders under Showalter's tutelage. They finished just three games back in the division race and were in first place as late as Aug. 5.

The other top votes went to Mike Scioscia (2) and Joe Torre (1). Terry Francona got a couple seconds and a couple thirds, which I thought was quite insufficient even if voters ultimately didn't think he should have won.


Long-time Atlanta skipper Bobby Cox won his third Manager of the Year award and his second in the National League. Like his AL counterpart, Cox seems to have benefited from low pre-season expectations:

After the Braves lost Greg Maddux, Javy Lopez and Gary Sheffield in the off-season, many predicted the Braves' run on division titles was done. But from the time Spring Training began, Cox instilled a sense of confidence in his troops that ultimately helped them win the National League East division title once again.

It bears noting that Cox's Braves topped one of only two MLB divisions that didn't have multiple 90-game winners. I'm just saying...


Why, oh why, did MLB wedge the managers' awards in between the two Cy Young winners? Whatever the reason for the discontinuity, tomorrow is the day the best AL pitcher of 2004 will be named. I concur with the conventional wisdom that Johan Santana of the Twins will win. His numbers overall are simply head and shoulders above the other contenders.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

  Awards, Part 3

To absolutely no one's surprise, Houston's Roger Clemens has been named the 2004 National League Cy Young Award winner. I, however, was somewhat surprised that he got so many first place votes—23 of 32, 15 more than runner-up Randy Johnson.

Interestingly, the honor seems to me to be more in recognition of Clemens' career and longevity than his performance in 2004. While there is no doubt he had a terrific year, his numbers across the board were not the best. The write-up reflects that:

Often, the older a pitcher becomes, the less effective he is on the mound. Roger Clemens apparently didn't get that memo.

On Tuesday, the 42-year-old Clemens won an unprecedented seventh Cy Young Award, the Rocket's first as a National League pitcher.

In his 21st Major League season, Clemens was 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA.

So he had lots of wins, he's old, and he has pitched for a loooong time. And there's no question he was hot down the stretch. But what about all the other stats? He was 5th in the league in ERA, 5th in strikeouts, 8th in innings pitched, and 4th in batting average against. Not to belabor my point at the end of yesterday's entry, but Randy Johnson was better than Clemens, either first or second in the league, on all those counts.

What Clemens has done this year is truly amazing, not because he did it better than everyone else but because he came out of retirement to do it at the age of 42. He has indeed had a remarkable career. But I'm sorry, this year, he wasn't the National League's best.


Tomorrow's award announcements will be for Managers of the Year in both leagues. I'm going to be a homer and pick Terry Francona for the AL honors, if for no other reason that I have seen how he has dealt with difficulty above and beyond what most managers face, and he did it day in and day out. Hell, he ought to get it just for pulling the team together after The Biggest Trade Of The Year. The only thing preventing me from giving the NL nod to the Astros' Phil Garner, who turned the team around following Jimy Williams' firing at the All-Star break, is that he only had to work for a half season. For the full year, I'm going with the St. Louis' Tony LaRussa for leading his team to the best record in MLB, a full 13 games ahead of their nearest division competitor.

Oddly enough, the American League Cy Young Award won't be announced until Thursday. I'm not sure why they don't announce the two leagues' winners back to back. And that's the last of the announcements until next Monday and Tuesday, when the MVPs of the NL and AL, respectively, will be announced.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Monday, November 08, 2004

  Awards, Part 2

Nice to see that MLB finally got around to announcing the Rookies of the Year. Why can't they do it like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces the Oscar nominees—8:00am Eastern time, so no one has to wait?


Oakland's Bobby Crosby picked up the AL honor. It was almost unanimous, with Crosby getting 27 of 28 first place votes. His stats pretty much made the case for him:

Crosby led all AL rookies in home runs (22), RBIs (64), runs (70), hits (130), doubles (34), walks (58), total bases (232) and extra-base hits (57).

Interestingly, his batting average was rather low, just .239 this season. He also struck out a lot, 141 times. And defensively, he leaves a bit to be desired at .975 fielding percentage. But the walks, total bases, RBIs, etc. make him a Bill James wet dream. No one should be surprised that Billy Beane drafted him.

Could he be the next superstar shortstop, following in the footsteps of Nomar, A-Rod, and Jeter? Presuming his rookie season doesn't prove to be a fluke, can you imagine what this kid will draw in salary the first year he is arbitration eligible? Anyone want to place bets now about how much longer he'll stay in the A's system before he bolts for greener pa$ture$?


I must admit that I know nothing about the NL Rookie of the Year, Pittsburgh's Jason Bay, partly because I don't follow the National League and partly because he played for a team that, well, sucked. Bay, a 26-year-old outfielder, is getting a little old to be a rookie, but maybe he's just a late bloomer. In any event, he got 25 first-place votes. Give this guy credit for battling back form shoulder surgery last winter. His hitting stats are a little more conventionally solid than his AL winning counterpart, with a .282 batting average. He wasn't too shabby on the defense either, fielding .991 in left, though his zone range was only .847. Too bad he had to put all that brilliance to work for a team that finished 32.5 games out of first place.


Coming tomorrow is the National League Cy Young Award. Old Man Clemens is probably a lock to win, but if I were voting it would be for Randy Johnson, who certainly shouldn't be penalized for being on a lousy team with lousy offense. Question: How do you have a 2.60 ERA and .194 opponent batting average against, and still lose 14 games? Answer: By having teammates that can't hit their way out of a paper bag.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Red Sox Nation Goes to the Hall of Fame

Or maybe it just seemed that way. Moemac, MrsBeasley, and I went to the Hall on Saturday, and it seemed as if half the people there were wearing Red Sox shirts or hats.

The Hall of Fame recommends that people begin their visit by watching the brief presentation in the Grandstand Theater. It's a small theater with murals on the walls that create the impression of being in a ballpark. The seats are wooden ballpark-style seats. The multimedia presentation is designed to get you in the mood for your visit, and it really does that. There are also several references to the Red Sox, Fenway Park, and Sox player, and with each one the three of us cheered. Loudly. The others in the theater seemed amused by us. At the end of hte presentation, a voice came on the PA system saying, "To all the Red Sox fans, thank you for supporting the team and congratulations on the victory." Or something like that. I wonder if he would have said that if we hadn't made spectacles of ourselves?

Even though the 2004 World Series exhibit wasn't due to open until today, they did have a temporary display of the Red Sox memorabilia that was sent to the Hall. Curt's cleats, Cabrera's glove, D-Lowe's away jersey, Papi's home jersey, Johnny's bat, Pedro's cap... I have never been so captivated by a bunch of sporting goods in my life.

The Hall of Fame bookstore and gift shop were loaded with new Red Sox merchandise, including a beautiful woven throw which I picked up before they were all gone. This print was on display at the gift shop entrance but had sold out. I also bought the Red Sox Monopoly game that's been out for a couple years. We played it that night at the hotel while drinking champagne and eating chips and Pedro Salsa (not to be confused with Pedro's Salsa which I'm sure is delicious but has nothing to do with our Petey).

Our HOF visit wasn't the only Sox-related activity of the weekend. We also scoured the souvenir shops on Cooperstown's Main Street for Red Sox merchandise. Even the local CVS had World Championship mini-bats. And of course after arriving at the hotel Friday night, we stayed up late snacking and drinking and watched Terry Francona on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Maybe it was the wine, but in street clothes, glasses, and no hat, Tito is kind of cute.

One more note: the Hall if under MAJOR construction. The renovation is in its final few months and there are big changes coming. It's schedule to be done sometime in the spring, and I got myself added to the mailing list to be notified when they're ready for the grand re-opening. I can't wait—it'll be great.


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Friday, November 05, 2004

  Cooperstown or Bust

No blogging for a couple days, folks. I'm off with a couple friends to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Woo-hoo! I haven't been since June 2003, the day after Father's Day, for the annual Hall of Fame game at Doubleday Field. Phillies vs. Devil Rays. I don't remember who won, not that it matters. It was a beautiful day o' baseball.

Really, I should get out there more often that I do. If I start early enough, I can make it there and back, with plenty of time to see everything, in a day. My last two visits were day trips, and it's not a big deal. Just under 3 3/4 hours each way, including a potty stop. And I have this membership in the Friends of the Hall of Fame, which allows me unlimited free admission. I first joined in the summer of 2002, the day after Ted Williams died. If you're a baseball fan and love the Hall of Fame, even if you can't make it to Cooperstown, I highly recommend getting yourself a membership.

The Hall if undergoing some major renovations, due to be completed next spring. They are going section by section, relocating exhibits when feasible to give visitors the most complete experience possible. Having been to the Hall many times, the most recent time during the renovation project, I can attest that I did not feel shortchanged by the minor inconvenience of the ongoing work.

The only negative note about this weekend is that we won't be able to see the 2004 World Series exhibit. That opens on Monday. But it'll be up until the end of the 2005 World Series, so I have plenty of time to get back there. We're considering January. Cooperstown is beautiful in the winter...


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Thursday, November 04, 2004

  BoSox Creed

I received this by e-mail the morning of Game 4 and can't believe I didn't post it sooner.

A Bosox version of the Creed

I believe in Big Papi, the Father Almighty,
    creator of Game 4 and Game 5,
    and in Johnny Damon, my favorite son, my man.
We were conceived by Theo Epstein,
    born of the Henry/Werner group,
    suffered under the Schilling Game 1,
    were crucified (in 2), died (in 3), and were buried (by the press).
We descended into hell.
The 4th game we arose from the dead.
    We ascended into Fenway
    and batted at the right hand of the Papi.
    We will come again to prove who's living and who's dead.
I believe in the Red Sox, the holy Fenway Park,
    the community of fans,
    the forgiveness of curses,
    the reappearance at the World Series,
    and Curt Everlasting.
Amen.


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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

  Awards, Part 1

Congratulations to Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz on their 2004 Silver Slugger awards.

Announcers Sean McDonough and Jerry Remy are among the potential nominees for the 2005 Ford C. Frick Award given annually to a broadcaster by the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fans can nominate up to three people and can vote once a day until December 1.

The major awards are announced beginning on Monday. Stay tuned.


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  Free Agents

Yep, Pedro Martinez filed for free agency yesterday. My best guess is that it's 50-50 whether he'll come back. I hope he does.

Pedro joins lots of other Red Sox players in filing. The list includes some heavy-duty players like Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, and Pokey Reese, as well as lesser names like Curtis Leskanic and Terry Adams.

Varitek is a must-sign, in my opinion, even if they have to pay a little more for him. If I were Theo, I'd be asking the others to take a hometown discount, Pedro included. My priorities, if I had my way:

  1. Jason Varitek (team leader, great at handling pitchers)
  2. Orlando Cabrera (solid defense up the middle)
  3. Pedro Martinez (still among the game's best
  4. Pokey Reese (see Cabrera comment above)
  5. Gabe Kapler (best bench outfielder in the league, plus speed)
  6. Derek Lowe (unhittable in the playoffs)
  7. Doug Mirabelli (Kelly Shoppach may be another season away from the big leagues)
  8. Scott Williamson (important for bullpen depth)
  9. Dave McCarty (can play infield, outfield, or pitch leftie out of the pen)

Everyone else I'd cut loose.

P.S. Does anyone know the status of Mark Bellhorn? I admit I haven't listened to the news lately, and today I notice he isn't on the roster at RedSox.com, the free agent listing on ESPN.com, or the ESPN transaction page. I'm just wondering...


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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

  New Prayer

Our Papi, Who art in Fenway
Hallowed by thy team.
Thou kicketh ass,
On Yankee grass,
And at home, as you did in the Bronx.
Give us this year our shiny rings,
And forgive us our talk of curses,
As we forgive those who talk of curses against us.
And lead us not into extra innings,
But deliver us from choking.
For thou art the Schilling,
And the Pedro,
And the D-Lowe,
For ever and ever.
Damon.


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  Yankees to Red Sox Conversion Form

Unless you're a long-time Red Sox fan, you have no idea how long I have been waiting for this (Word document - scanned for viruses).


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  More Media for the TRSF

The Boston Globe article for which I was interviewed last Wednesday is in today's issue. The jist of the article is that this year's World Series will reshape the psyche of Red Sox fans—for the better.

The victory could empower an entire generation of New Englanders, putting cracks in the foundation of a personality forged hundreds of years ago by Puritans who faced bitter winters and accepted fate without question.

I'm glad this wasn't one of those "Red Sox fans have lost their sense of identity" buckets of manure some people are hauling these days. At the end of the article, after the quotes from all the experts, is my humble take:

"I personally am going to have no trouble shifting gears from the tortured, tormented soul to the happy fan," long-time and long-suffering fan Kelly Jefferson of Shrewsbury said before the final game.

Two hours after the game ended, she announced a permanent change to her nearly decade-old blog, The Miserable Red Sox Fan Forum. "We are starting a new tradition of positivity, optimism, and celebration," she wrote of the new Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum. "We have persevered, Red Sox Nation, and our loyalty has been rewarded."


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Monday, November 01, 2004

  If You Can Stay Up for One More Night

Johnny Damon will be on "Late Show with David Letterman" tonight at 11:35pm EST on CBS.

Elsewhere on late night television at the same time, NBC's "The Tonight Show has Lee Gavin, a Sudbury teenager who may have broken the curse that didn't exist.


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  Playoff Jokes

Knock, knock...
     Who's there?
Yankees.
     Yankees who?
Exactly.


Q: What do you call 25 guys watching the World Series on TV?
A: The New York Yankees


The American Medical Association has issued an advisory that the Universal Choking Sign has been revised.

Old symbol

.....

New symbol

Old symbol New symbol


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  World Series Anticlimax?

The question lingers in many forms around these parts. The occasional caller brings it up on Boston sports radio, only to be mercilessly vilified by the hosts. The media (outside New England and St. Louis, of course) mention it. But do the fans feel it? Is the Red Sox' sixth World Championship, still less than a week old, a let-down after their dramatic comeback pennant victory against the Yankees?

After games 1 and 2 in Boston, Sports Illustrated's Chris Ballart seemed to think so.

There's a post-coital feel to the whole thing, as if the real action took place in the League Championship Series. Both teams, flush with feel-good endorphins and just wanting a pizza and a cold beer, don't quite have the energy to get back in the saddle again.

You can't blame Chris, considering the context in which he made that observation. The Cardinals had lost the first two games, having never led. Their offense was asleep, their pitching ineffective at best. And the Red Sox' defense to that point was downright atrocious. The so-called "fall classic" was, well, not. At least not to that point.

Even before the first game had been played, Michael Ventre of NBCSports.com was suggesting that not just the fans but the Boston players themselves were in danger of being caught off-guard in their pursuit of the world championship.

And after the stunning rally from an 0-3 series deficit against the Bronx Bombers, followed by a ticker-tape and beer-bottle celebration in and around New England, the sense is that this Fall Classic is anticlimactic for Boston. The Red Sox may not be able to focus on the Cardinals with the same ire and intensity that they directed at their hated AL East rivals.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals enter this World Series with upward momentum.

Indeed, by the time it was over just two games later, St. Louis had still failed to take the lead even for half an inning. The anticipated rematch of 1946 and 1967, both 7-game nailbiters, had turned into a sweep unforeseen by virtually anyone in baseball. There was never, on the part of Boston's players or fans, a do-or-die moment. Entering game 4, several of my friends and I predicted with no panic whatsoever that the Cardinals, playing for pride, would avoid the sweep by winning at least one at home. Never until the final out did I feel nervous or anxious.

Not that the victory wasn't sweet. Not that it wasn't satisfying. It just wasn't shocking, heart-stopping, white-knuckle ride the likes of which we all shared for four consecutive must-win games (two of which were come-from-behinders won in extra innings) against their arch-rivals, the force behind the alleged "curse" that has dogged the Red Sox for lo these many years. But does that mean it was a let-down for Sox fans?

For the answer to that question, imagine asking 100 Red Sox fans, back in April, which of the following options they would choose from the following list:

  1. The Red Sox defeat the Yankees in the ALCS, then lose to the (insert team name here) in the World Series; or
  2. The Red Sox defeat (insert non-Yankees team name here) in the ALCS, then win the World Series.

You could have bet the 401(k) that without exception, fans would have chosen option 2.

As for the absurd contention that we long-suffering BoSox fans just won't be happy now that our suffering has ended, the Sports Guy said it far better than I ever could.


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  History, Lots of It

You've probably heard all this at one time or another, but let's tie it all up in a neat little package, shall we?

When they defeated the New York Yankees in the ALCS, the 2004 Boston Red Sox were the first team in major league baseball history to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a 7-game series.

By winning the last four games against New York and the first (only) four games against St. Louis, the 2004 Boston Red Sox became the first team ever to win eight postseason games in a row.

The 2004 Boston Red Sox are only the fourth team to never trail in the World Series. They were only tied twice, not including the brief scoreless ties to begin each game.

By the way, the 2004 Boston Red Sox scored in the first inning in all four World Series games.

Derek Lowe is the first pitcher in major league baseball history to win the clinching game in all three playoff rounds. He won game 3 against Anaheim (remember Anaheim? We swept Anaheim), game 7 against New York, and game 4 against St. Louis. Not bad for a head case.

The 2004 Boston Red Sox were the 16th team in major league baseball history to sweep the World Series. Never before had they been on either end of a World Series sweep.

This will probably never make it into an official record book, but I'm pretty sure Curt Schilling is the only pitcher in major league baseball history to pitch in a World Series game the day after he had surgery.

Speaking of Curt, he is the first pitcher in major league baseball history to win World Series games with three different teams, the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies and 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks being the other two.

The 2004 Boston Red Sox joined all but one of the other five World Series champion Red Sox/Pilgrims teams in winning the series in fewer than the maximum number of games. The 1903 Pilgrims won in 8 games (the only World Series that wasn't best-of-7), the 1915 and 1916 Red Sox both won the in 5 games, and the 1918 team won in 6 games. The 1912 Red Sox won the best-of-7 series in 8 games, game 2 being an 11-inning tie. (On the other hand, all four World Series losses were in 7 games.)

Schilling's first Ford truck commercial after signing with Boston was prophetic. You remember the one, where he hitches a ride from a guy driving an F150 and says he's going to Boston to "break an 86-year-old curse."

Manny Ramirez' Olympia Sports commercial was prophetic. You remember the one, where he is picking out new cleats and is caught dreaming about being named the World Series MVP.

The 1903 Boston Pilgrims won the first-ever World Series. The 2004 Boston Red Sox won the 100th World Series. (There was no series in 1904, and the 1994 Series was cancelled due to the players strike.)

Do you know of other historical notables? Post them in the comments section below.


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  The Boston-St. Louis Championship Connection

Evidently this bundle of information has been going around for some time. But the fact that I just found out about it makes it blogworthy.

Coincidence? Probably. But it's cool anyway.


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  Sen. Kerry, SHUT UP!

Does anyone really need further proof that presidential candidate John Kerry is not—repeat NOT—a real Red Sox fan?

Perhaps you thought his All-Star invocation of fictional Sox player Manny Ortez was an innocent slip of the tongue that he subsequently corrected.

Maybe you were even willing to forgive him the nationally televised diss of the Ole Towne Team during the second presidential debate ("Boy, to listen to that — the president, I don't think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment. Now, if you're a Red Sox fan, that's OK. But if you're a president, it's not.")

But as far as I'm concerned, it is impossible to forgive the self-proclaimed lifelong Red Sox fan for his idiodic remark at a New Hampshire campaign rally yesterday, when he opined that Red Sox Nation was slipping into a previous unknown malady called PVD—"post-victory depression"? I don't have a link to it and haven't seen it reported online, but WBZ radio reported it on this morning's news.

Clearly, Kerry hasn't talked to any real Red Sox fans for some time. None of us is depressed. I'm sure he isn't letting himself be swayed by that small fact.


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