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Sunday, May 27, 2007

  Red Sox Lead AL East by 11.5 Games

And who is the second place team? That would be the Baltimore Orioles. The Toronto Blue Jays are in third place, 12 games back. So where, you may ask, are the Yankees? They are 12.5 games back, a mere game ahead of the cellar-dwelling Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

(Obligatory disclaimer: It's the end of May and there is lots of baseball left to play. The following thoughts and observations should be read in that context. See official rules for details. Employees and relatives of the Triumphant Red Sox Fan are not eligible. Void where prohibited.) I could break down last night's game (7-4 victory over the Rangers, W for Wakefield, a 4-for-4 night for Manny) and this afternoon's completion of the sweep (6-4, homers by Tek and Dustin Pedroia) and I probably should. But I'd rather talk about the differences between the Sox and the Yankees, and I don't mean the differences on the field or in the standings; those are obvious.

Success breeds confidence and confidence breeds success. The Yankees look like a team without both, and with no hope of getting it back any time soon. Take yesterday's game, which ended with a called third strike on Bobby Abreu, who thought home plate umpire Jeff Nelson's strike two call was unfair and told him so. That sort of thing doesn't go over well with umpires, not to mention being prohibited under the official rules of Major League Baseball:

9.02(a) Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.

9.01(d) (d) Each umpire has authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and to eject such disqualified person from the playing field.

In other words, if you don't like an ump's call, keep your mouth shut, even if everyone but the ump knows it's wrong. This is something I'd like to communicate to David Ortiz, who has never agreed with an umpire's third strike call against him. Fortunately for Ortiz, he has yet to be ejected for objecting; most players aren't, rules aside. Yesterday, Abreu wasn't ejected either; instead, Nelson made a similar call on the next pitch, which was even farther out fo the strike call than the previous one, according to several people who saw it. Retribution? Who knows.

Now, baseball doesn't have instant replay, like football has. It doesn't have a line of demarcation, like the goal line in hockey. There is no unmistakable sign of whether points were scored, like a big ball going through a big hoop in basketball. The strike zone exists in mid-air, without visible boundaries showing indicating without without whether the pitch was placed inside or outside it. The game is full of close calls. Occasionally, the umpires make blatant mistakes; whether or not they are intentional or not is conjecture.

The Red Sox, like every team, have fallen victim to such calls from time to time. We remember the ones that cost us a game, killed a rally, or otherwise caused or hastened an unfavorable result. When Red Sox fans think of such examples, they can look to the 1999 American League Championship Series.

In other words, the bad calls that happen when the team wins are long forgotten. Perhaps that's why Abreu and Yankee manager Joe Torre, whose team hasn't done a lot of winning this season, had a puppy in the presence of the press yesterday afternoon. Such is Torre's frustration that he came out with this bit of nonsense:

"I'm not saying he cost us the game," Torre said. "The next pitch, [Abreu] may have popped up. I’m not saying it would've been a base hit. I'm saying I'd like to have that 27th out. I just don't think it was there for us, because he never had a chance to swing at the pitch.

I didn't watch that game, but I'm pretty sure Nelson didn't grab Abreu's bat while the pitches were being thrown, preventing Abreu from swinging. In fact, of the four pitches Abreu saw in that at-bat, he swung at approximately none of them. Game over. Theeeeeeeeee Yankees lose.

Basically, it sucks to be a Yankee these days. And if the players and manager are unhappy, the fans are downright miserable. Don't forget, we're talking about people who believe it their birthright to win the World Series every year, whose very identity is so defined by the team's past successes that they can all tell you how many World Series the Yankees have won, but whose knowledge is so shallow that they have no idea when or how they won most of them. Suddenly, they're fans of a sub .500 team. A fourth place team. No wonder the Yankees message board sounded like this this afternoon in the seventh inning, when Torre replaced starter Mike Mussina with Scott Proctor with one out and one on:

From delifresser:
Kendrick is 2-2 against Proctor. With two 2B! So who does Torre bring in? Proctor? What does Kendrick do? DOUBLE!!!!
TORRE - Put some caffeine in that TEA!!!!!


From lis171nyc:
WHY PROCTOR? Why not Villone or Bruney? Hendrick was previously 2 for 2 against Proctor! What on earth was Joe thinking?

From vivjeter:
Darn it Proctor. I got really nervous when you came in.

From Dlvision:
I get nervous when anyone from the BP comes in.

From batspeed3:
CHRIST DON'T WALK HIM..

From Dlvision:
DO NOT WALK IN THE TYING RUN, SCOTT....GET THIS OUT

From misnpaulie:
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
damm damm damm damm damm


From delifresser:
SCREAM!!!!! UNPHUQING REAL!!!!!!
WE STINK!!!! WHAT A WASTE!


From batspeed3:
he's going to walk another run in..

From batspeed3:
WALKS ANOTHER RUN IN 3-2

From delifresser:
UNBELIEVABLE!!!! WE CANT BUY A FREAKING BREAK/WIN!!!! WE SUQ!!!!

From lis171nyc:
This is crazy. I'm so sick of Proctor, Vizcaino, and Farnsworth. I want all three gone soon. Why Joe didn't let Moose finish the inning, stuns me. Hasn't he learned that our bullpen always blows the lead in close games?

From Dlvision:
God if we dont come back we'll be 12 freaking back.

From spaceyank02:
lol NOW he brings in Bruney...to heck with this, i hope we win but i certainly won't be watchin any more to find out.

From MVP23:
The Yankees stink so bad, I actually am rooting against them now, sort of like the Celtics, in that they have to just keep losing to force ownership to make the necessary changes (Torre, Cashman fired).
It's unbelievable. This may be the worst season in yankee history. I know they've stunk worse (1990?), but they did so with pathetic talent.
Now, with this latest loss, they'll be 12.5 games back after today with what should be first-place, high priced talent.
Folks, we are the laughingstock in all of sports.
I have two tix for a game in September. Who wants them? Any fools out there? I feel foolish for investing 100 bucks for this patethic bunch of gutless, chumps.
I demand a full page ad in every northeast newspaper within shouting distance officially apologizing to the fans for their awful play. They owe it to us.

There is more where that came from, but you get the point. That last post prompted a scolding from another board member, so not everyone is that overtly critical. But I'll tell you what, they have no faith in their team. If that kind of inning happens to the Red Sox (and it sometimes does), we fans think, "OK, now our offense needs to step up and get the lead back." We don't give up, we don't consider it a lost cause.

And that, my friends, is what differentiates the 2007 Red Sox and their fans from the 2007 Yankees and their fans. Success breeds confidence, confidence breeds success. Or to put it another way, failure breeds defeatism, defeatism breeds failure. Right now, the Red Sox are walking around with what Kevin Millar once referred to as "a controlled swagger." And the Yankees are walking around with their tails between their legs.

We have a chance to continue our winning ways tomorrow night against the Cleveland Indians. The Triumphant Mama and I will be at the game. Tune in at 7:05 on NESN and the WRKO Red Sox radio network.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 4

So today finally the sun is shining at 2:58pm...the rain has cleared 'for now'...and not doing nothing special for Memorial Day. Friday was horribly tiring waiting for the game to start...but at least a Win.

bittersweet tonight to get to see Trot...another poster called it "Trot's Tribe" :)

While we are up 12.5 games on the yankees...it is only May...and I hate getting my hopes up but somehow I STILL FREAKING BELIEVE it could be OUR YEAR THIS YEAR!!

Watching Yankees Fans going through the throes of Penance, is an amazing thing for the soul:

They are used to Sheer Entitlement, which breeds contempt;

We all go through Suffering, as they thought that was for everybody else;

There's Great Mourning, Moaning, Weeping & Gnashing Of Teeth amongst the Nastiest Fans in The World;

It'll make for a Great Comedy on FOX.

I found a great article called the Top 10 Reason the Yankees Will Win the World Series. As a Sox fan, it's hard to ignore...

www.fantasybaseballguy.com

Actually, it's very easy to ignore. It's the same old tired stuff Yankees fans have been leaning on for the last six years to convince themselves that THIS YEAR their band of overpaid prima donnas will actually win. But wishing doesn't make it so. Poor babies.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

  I Ponder, as I Sit Here on the Deck...

Don't think poorly of me for going to bed early last night. I turned off the radio and shut the light when the Sox were ahead 4-0. Hey, I tried, but I had to get up relatively early to drive New Hampshire for a weekend visit with my sistahs Cruiser, Beazer, and Fenway, and my brothah 941827. We were going to watch this afternoon's game together, but now we have to watch tonight's game together. For those who haven't hear, the 4:05 (Eastern) start time has been pushed back to 8:05. Adjust your TV-watching schedule accordingly.

So anyway, Daisuke was under the weather last night and, between innings, was in the clubhouse worshipping the porcelain god, talking to Ralph on the big white phone, tossing his cookies, or insert your favorite phrase to describe vomiting here. He should, therefore, be forgiven for giving up five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. After all, he stuck it out for another inning, didn't give up the Red Sox' newly acquired lead, and consequently managed to get the win. His record is now 7-2, and his ERA is still under 4.50.

I'm told by Beazer that the reason Terry Francona took out Kyle Snyder with two out in the sixth inning was a bit of a mystery. I haven't read anything about Snyder's being hurt, and he could probably just as well gotten Ramon Vazquez out. It seems a bit out of character for Francona to bring in a lefty (Javier Lopez) just to face a lefty. But it worked out fine, and I'm not the type to complain because Francona did something that worked out fine.

On another topic, I was quite surprised to see that the Sox managed to score ten runs without a single homer. And that Jason Varitek got a triple. How did that happen? Varitek, incidentally, is currently batting .276, which is a few points higher than his career batting average. I think we can safely say that Varitek's long slump is over. J.D. Drew on the other hand, is currently more than 50 points below his career average and is hitting .167 in the month of May. He'd better pick it up in a hurry, or else the boo birds will be out in force Monday night, especially if Cleveland's Trot Nixon (God, that hurts to say) does well.

OK, folks, the sun just came out and it's entirely too beautiful to be on the computer. I bid you farewell until after tonight's game. Go Sox.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Thursday, May 24, 2007

  The Battle of Good vs. Evil, Part 9 (or Who Is This Pitcher and What Has He Done with the Real Curt Schilling?)

It has become a disturbing trend. Curt Schilling, once the ace, he who spilled his blood that we might have the joy of a World Series championship, has been conspicuously un-Curt-like in several starts this season. The numbers, as they say, don't lie.

It would be somehow comforting if the poor starts were concentrated around the same time period, which would suggest a slump, something even the best players go through from time to time. Spread out as they are, they seem to suggest an inconsistency that is troublesome in a #1 starter. The regularity with which he gives up home runs puts him near the top among major league starters; the eight allowed so far project out to 26 for the season. Compare that to Josh Beckett, who has allowed only two home runs.

I'm not ready to push the panic button on Schilling. Perhaps I wouldn't be worried at all if he were 30 years old instead of 40. I'm just getting a tad squeamish and wouldn't mind seeing a run of 4 or 5 strong starts, even if they aren't all wins.

Last night's loss certainly wasn't all about Schilling, of course. Six of the Boston batters had two hits each but couldn't turn most of them into runs. In the first inning, Coco Crisp ended the inning by getting caught trying to steal second base. Kevin Youkilis had a one-out double in the second inning but was stranded there. Dustin Pedroia reached second on a Crisp single in the third but was stranded there. Wily Mo Peña went to second on an error in the fifth but was stranded there; he reached second againon a ninth inning double but was again stranded to end the game.

You get the point. Not until the sixth inning, when Manny Ramirez doubled and Mike Lowell doubled him home, did a Sox baserunner get past second. The eighth inning was the most effective inning, when Crisp homered, David Ortiz singled and advanced to second on a balk, and Youk singled him home. But by then it was too little, too late. The Yankees lead was 7-3, to become 8-3 in the bottom of the inning on a Johnny Damon RBI single.

So the Sox leave New York without the double-digit lead they had going in (now 9.5 games) but still comfortably ahead. As Big Papi suggested before this series, we control our own destiny. Keep winning and the pressure is on everybody else. Eyes on the prize, boys.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

In the NY game, Schilling had more hits than his blog...

Tru said that


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

  The Battle of Good vs. Evil, Part 8 (or Tavarez Gets Win for His Birthday)

First things first. Julian Tavarez is 34 years old like I'm 34 years old. Which is to say, a long time ago, but not today. I just wanted to get that off my chest.

So how about those Red Sox? It wasn't as easy as the 7-3 score suggests, but a win is a win. After three perfect innings, Tavarez struggled with a few hits, a few walks, and a wild pitch that allowed a run to score, but he managed to keep things from getting out of hand. Sox hitters took early advantage of Mike Mussina, which has always been the way to do it because he has a tendency to settle down even if he gets off to a rocky start. Fortunately, Mussina never did quite settle in and after giving up three runs in the first, he gave up four more insurance runs before leaving the game.

Lefty Javier Lopez relieved Tavarez and was really the only rock solid Boston pitcher of the night. Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon, each with an inning pitched, each issued two walks; Okajima also gave up a hit and a run. He threw 29 pitches and Papelbon threw 25 pitches, so neither is likely to be available tomorrow. Let's hope for a long and strong outing by Curt Schilling and many Sox runs so we don't need our closer.

Incidentally, what's with Alex Rodriguez and that dirty elbow to Dustin Pedroia's gut? I guess he wasn't in a good enough position to slap the ball out of Pedroia's glove. Man, I can't stand A-Rod.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 4

Even that annoying little gnat Michael Kay commented on that elbow thrown by ARod, so you know it HAD to be blatant. What a complete pansy.

I guess that Alex(is)wanted to see what real manhood was like, as (s)he'll never truly experience that in his(her)lifetime:

NOT a note of it in the Daily News & NY post, down here.

"Annoying little gnat"...hee hee!

Cheap shot by Rodriguez for sure...it might have been a message for Pedroia for his slide a couple innings earlier. Pedroia slide 2 or 3 feet away from 2nd base at Jeter.


  The Battle of Good vs. Evil, Part 7 (or Hit, Dammit!)

Clearly, yesterday's Yankees voodoo doll didn't work. I think I know why. It was a mere picture, and a poorly doctored one at that. So until I can construct one of my own and photograph it, Mr. Kitty here will have to put the hex on the Evil Empire tonight.

But about last night. What can you say? Tim Wakefield just didn't have it. Six runs on nine hits, two homers, four walks, and four stolen bases thrust Wake's ERA to 3.14. Combine that with very little situational hitting by Red Sox batters and it's hard to win a game. It isn't that Boston didn't have their offensive opportunities. They did, as evidenced by 12 stranded baserunners. Trouble is, almost all of them reached via singles, walks, or errors (only Kevin Youkilis hit for extra bases with two doubles) and save for David Ortiz with his team's only RBI, no one brought those baserunners in.

New York starter Chien-Ming Wang did what very few Yankee pitchers have done this season—gave his team a quality start when they really needed it—and the bullpen didn't blow it, for a change. Even a broken clock, as the saying goes, is right twice a day.

So we try to get 'em tonight. The ever unpredictable Julian Tavarez gives it a whirl against Mike Mussina. Guess whose ERA is lower coming into this game? If you guessed Mussina's...YOU LOSE! Tavarez edges him out, 5.59 to 5.64. In other words, anything can happen. Watch at 7:05 on NESN or listen on the WRKO Red Sox network.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Monday, May 21, 2007

  Preview: Red Sox vs. All That Is Wrong with Baseball

The Sox start a three-game series tonight at the future House That Steinbrenner Tore Down. In the unlikely event of an MFY sweep, the Sox will leave New York with their division lead down to 6.5 games. In the somewhat more likely event of a BoSox sweep, we're talking 13.5 games. I'm not greed; I'll settle for two wins.

Tonight's starting pitchers are Tim Wakefield (4-4, 2.41) facing Chien-Ming Wang (2-3, 4.54 ERA). The good news about that matchup is that Sox batters Manny Ramirez, Eric Hinske, and David Ortiz practically own Wang, with batting averages of .625, .526, and .450 respectively and two homers apiece off the young pitcher. Also hitting .300 or better off him are Kevin Youkilis (.364) and Alex Cora (.308). The bad news is that a Wakefield start also means Doug Mirabelli, who is just 1-for-4 against Wang. Still, that's better than Jason Varitek (.083). Overall, the current Red Sox are a collective .345 versus Wang.

On the flip side, the current Yankees are hitting only .239 against Wakefield, with only Melky Cabrera, Derek Jeter, and Josh Phelps hitting over .300 against him (.333, .321, and .320 respectively).

Both Wang and Wakefield are averaging better than 6 1/2 innings per start this season, so barring injuries, the bullpens shouldn't be a huge factor tonight. If it's a close game, though, the Sox have the clear edge. Boston relievers collectively have a 2.96 ERA with a home run allowed only once per 14 innings. New York relievers (excluding two emergency relief appearances by starter Andy Pettitte) come into tonight at 4.41 with a homer every 9.7 innings.

First pitch is scheduled for 7:05. Catch the game on NESN, ESPN (out of market), and the WRKO Red Sox radio network.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

Only one thing wrong with baseball and thats YANKEES
Now with thaty said I have to tell you I also posed this comment on another blog, Here goes, I am a 62 years old Mets fan who had the pleasure of seeing Fenway for the first time this past Memorial day against Cleavland and totally enjoyed the city the park and especially the fans as they were friendly, and polite to me even thought I wore and met hat and cap and we even discussed meeting in Oct, sorry Sox finish second and you know what thats like , like maybe kissing you sistrer. BG
Again thanks you for allowing me to see such a beautiful park and enjoy the party before and after.
good luck to you all in Oct.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

  Worst Nicknames Ever, Courtesy of Terry Francona

I just listened to Terry Francona's post-game comments. Does this guy stay up at night trying to come up with the most foolish sounding nicknames for his players?

Add those to his other standards—bench coach Brad "Millsie" Mills, pitcher Curt "Schill" Schilling, and Kevin "Youkie" Youkilis—and its clear that Francona is out of control. As good a manager as I think he is, he has absolutely no creativity.

By the way, great starting effort today by Gabbie.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 5

It's better than what Butch Hobson used to call Mike greenwell-"Greenie." Made him sound like an amphetamine...

I hate how he calls his bench coach millsy too. http://www.greaterbostontickets.com

Oakie is DUMB:

For Okajima, "The Darkman", by Peter N of Farmington, CT, is more-appropriate, as he was great, yesterday, whilst I sitteth in OF Grandstand 3, in the Wheelchair Row, in a Folding Chair, as I experienced my 1st Rain Delay at Fenway Park, having come up from NYC, for Red Sox-Braves;

It also made me realize that She Stadium is also NOT the Most Fun place in Baseball;

There's NOTHING like "Dirty Water" & "Tessie", LIVE from a VICTORY.

Which Players &/or Coaches will Francona call "Opie & Anthony"?

I thought I was the only one annoyed by these nicknames. I swear to God, I recently heard him refer to Henske as simply, 'ske. That one really steamed my clams.

I've also sort of had it with his overuse of the word "special." As in, "Boy, isn't he special?" and "Wow, that game was somethin' special."


  Live by the Home Run, Die by the Home Run

I had a blast watching yesterday's games, right up until the Braves starting doing to the Red Sox what the Sox had been doing to the Braves.

Game one, the make-up of Friday night's rainout, was a hit parade for Boston, a 13-3 victory in which Daisuke Matsuzaka got more than enough run support. Sox batters homered four times, accounting for eight runs, half of which came on Mike Lowell's grand slam. Granted, they would have won handily with just the other five runs, but fireworks are fun for the hometown crowd.

Alas, there would be no home team heroics in the night game, when Atlanta turned the tables and banged out 14 revenge runs, four on three homers. Then there were the eight doubles and the triple by Kelly Johnson, who came a mere single shy of hitting for the cycle. To add insult to injury, the Sox managed only three hits and a walk off John Smoltz and two relievers in suffering their third shutout of the season.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the AL East, Tampa Bay and New York lost, while Toronto and Baltimore won. That puts the Sox' division lead at 9.5 games over the Orioles, with the Blue Jays, Yankees, and Devil Rays 10, 10.5, and 11 back respectively—a tight race for second place, as NESN's Don Orsillo put it. Woes continue to beset the Evil Empire, who lost yet another pitcher to injury (rookie Darrell Rasner, fracture right index finger). For their part, the Sox have Josh Beckett on the DL with his finger avulsion; he'll be eligible to come off May 29. That move is what brought up Devern Hansack to start last night's game, and what will bring Kason Gabbard in to pitch this afternoon.

Tune in for the rubber game of the series today at 2:05pm on NESN and the WRKO radio network.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

  We Interrupt This Phenomenal Season to Bring You Some Rumors

The Red Sox won another game, yada, yada, yada. Not that I'm not absolutely thrilled with this team's performance to date because, obviously, I am. But I figured that now would be a good time to mention a few rumblings picked up here and there.

ESPN.com Insider ($ubscription required) had the following to say last Saturday about Wily Mo Peña:

Cutting their losses?

May 12 - Don't be surprised if the Red Sox decide to deal Wily Mo Pena. Although Pena has prodigious power, he is becoming a liability in the field.

According to the Providence Journal, one AL official said Pena still has some trade value, though it seems to be decreasing almost daily. But a team probably would take a chance on his potential.

"It's just a matter of how little they would take," the official told the newspaper.

Small-market teams in search of some pop might be tempted since Pena is young (25), relatively affordable ($3M) and under control through next season. Out of the spotlight and given the opportunity to play every day, he could develop.

Hat tip to El Guapo's Ghost for finding this tidbit buried in Jayson Stark's latest column:

There is speculation the Devil Rays are mulling promoting shortstop Reid Brignac and third baseman Evan Longoria sometime before the trading deadline. And that could create a ripple effect that might finally inspire them to deal one of their extra position players. Most likely to go: Rocco Baldelli, despite his 1-for-40 funk and checkered injury history. One team that would figure to have interest in Baldelli at the right price: the Red Sox.

As EGG points out, that Baldelli thing is unlikely to happen, mostly because of what The Sporting News had to say yesterday about minor league outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury:

The way Ellsbury has roared through the farm system, nobody would be surprised to see him in Boston for good in 2008. Boston's first-round pick in 2005, Ellsbury is a leadoff hitter with blazing speed.

Woody Paige of the Denver Post earlier this week floated what is not so much a rumor as a suggestion, but one that is also unlikely to fly (see Youkilis, Kevin):

If [Rockies GM Dan] O'Dowd wants to do something meaningful rather than meaningless (Kim for Julio), he will release Steve Finley (.182) and John Mabry (.133) and eat their combined $1.75 million in salary, trade Jeff Baker (.240) and Jamey Carroll (.183), send Chris Iannetta (.190) and Omar Quintanilla (no range) back to the minors for more seasoning and give Todd Helton (.383) a reason for hope.

The trading deadline is July 31. Helton should be sent to Boston, New York or Los Angeles, where he can go for .400 and the postseason and get some attention doing it.

Speaking of Helton and Youkilis, have they been sharing facial hair styling tips? You decide.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Thursday, May 17, 2007

  The Enigma That Is Julian Tavarez

He's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Like the good twin and the evil twin. Like Sybil. When Julian Tavarez, temporary fifth starter for the Red Sox, takes the mound, you don't know what you're going to get. You could see the pitcher who faced Toronto on April 19 and gave up six runs in less than five innings or the one who walked five Rangers in four innings on April 7.

Then there's the pitcher who, on May 5, went six innings against the Twins, surrendering only two runs and striking out seven. That's the guy we got this afternoon in the make-up game against the Detroit Tigers. Except he was even better.

Today's Tavarez threw 103 pitches, 60 for strikes, in seven full innings. He walked four, but he also allowed only four hits and one run. He did what he had to do to win the game, and I mean what he had to do, because his teammates scored only two runs. He left with the 2-1 lead and turned the game over to the Sox' go-to guys, Hideki Okajima (0.46 ERA) and Jonathan Papelbon (1.26 ERA) to pitch perfect eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

This wasn't any bunch of scrubs Tavarez faced today. The Tigers, defending American League champions, are neck-and-neck with the Indians atop the AL Central, fourth in the league in runs scored, and have three players batting over .300 (Magglio Ordoñez, Placido Palanco, and Carlos Guillen). Nobody would have been surprised if they had knocked Tavarez out of the game early. Of the two Red Sox starters going today (Curt Schilling starts tonight's game), Tavarez is the one you might have expected to lose.

The fact that he won a pitchers' duel says something about the strength of this team's pitching staff. He kept the team in a close game, never trailed, and allowed the bullpen to go into the other half of today's doubleheader rested and ready.

His days as a starter may be numbered, but they don't have to be. The organization has the luxury of giving Jon Lester more time at AAA Pawtucket because Terry Francona has a fifth starter who gives his team a fighting chance to win. It's an enviable position to be in; just ask any other AL East manager.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

  Train Kept A-Rollin'

Ten wins in the last 12 games.

14 of the last 18.

Most wins in MLB (26).

Best record in MLB (.703).

Most runs scored in MLB (205)

Best team on-base percentage in MLB (.369).

Best team OPS in MLB (.814).

Most walks drawn in MLB (170).

Tied for fewest blown saves in MLB (2).

Highest team batting average in the AL (.283).

Highest slugging average in the AL (.457).

Lowest opponent's batting average in the AL (.231).

Fewest home runs allowed in the AL (23).

Second-best team stolen base percentage in the AL (86%).

Second-best team ERA in the AL (3.21).

Not to mention baseball's winningest starter, another with the second-best ERA in the AL, stellar defense by one rookie and an absolutely beautiful complete game win by another.

Yeah, I'd say the Red Sox are on a roll.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

I viewed last night's GEM over NESN, in a Queens Pub, to the chagrin of certain Fans of The Yankees, in celebration of a Possible Dice K Start on Sunday @ 2:05PM, vs Los Bravos:

I'm 1-0 in Interleague @ Fenway & 1-0 on Sunday @ Fenway;

T'is a Journey WORTH MAKING.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

  Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Time to Go Shopping

Really, if it weren't for the fact that I had only until 6:00 to buy the items for a gift basket to be raffled off for charity, I wouldn't have missed the last couple innings of today's game. When I left, the Sox were down 5-0 to Baltimore. The Triumphant Mama called me on the cell as I was checking out at the Christmas Tree Shop to say the Sox had the tying run at bat. After a quick stop at Jo-Ann Fabrics, I got to my car just in time to hear Dave O'Brien doing a post-game interview with Julio Lugo about the dramatic come-from-behind victory for which Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo's brain fart is at least partly responsible.

Not that any old team would have been able to take advantage of such an opportunity. Most players would have a hard time getting themselves pumped up enough to put together a game-winning rally with two out in the bottom of the ninth and trailing by five runs. But through 36 games, this isn't any team and these aren't most players. As Lugo put it, these players on this team believe they have the ability to win any given game.

Is it too early to start drawing comparisons to 2004? Probably, but I'm not the only one doing it. O'Brien and Joe Castiglione remarked about how this team right now feels like they can come from behind to win—and at least for now, they probably can. Even the Triumphant Mama said, "This is just like what they did in 2004, isn't it?" And I can't disagree.

The difference in 2004, of course, was that the team really didn't start to gel until last July. On this date in 2004, Boston was five games over .500, not 14 over like they are now. They had only one win in their last five games and had been through a five-game losing streak earlier in the month. They were in second place a half game back, not eight games ahead. We fans weren't feeling especially comfortable. It would be another two months before Bill Mueller's walk-off homer against Mariano Rivera and the Yankees, two and a half months until the Nomar trade and the beginning of a red-hot August. Hell, on May 13 last year, many of us were still smarting over the 2003 ALCS.

My only point is that what goes on in May doesn't necessarily portend what will be happening in October. I realize that, as I'm sure the Red Sox themselves do. But as I have said over and over in the last few weeks, they are making hay while the sun shines, a metaphor that implies the rainy periods all baseball teams weather at one point or another during the long season. The bigger the cushion the team builds for themselves now, the better prepared they will be to weather whatever rough patches they'll hit later on. And rest assured, the entire rest of the American League East won't be under .500 for the whole season.

Just as the team is storing wins for a rainy day, I suppose I should get all the enjoyment I can out of all those wins, because before the 2007 season is finished, there will be at least a few games I will need to walk away from. It will be then that I'll drive out to Borders or go window shopping for shoes or find comfort in some Kentucky Fried Chicken. Not now. No more thinking I can make better use of my time by doing something else. Until further notice, I'll be glued to the TV or radio until the 27th out.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

Since I'm a Distance Red Sox Fan(217)miles from Lansdowne, by way Of Queens & Originally from Brooklyn, I managed to score an Outfield Grandstand Seat, for Sunday's 2:05PM Game vs the Braves:

I had to get away from the Insanity of the NY Subway Series;

Mike


Friday, May 11, 2007

  The Thrill of Victory

Just because I haven't posted in five days doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention. Last night, for example, I couldn't help but notice that Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox cleaned Roy Halladay's clock and completed the three-game sweep of the collapsing Toronto Blue Jays. Said clock cleaning occurred mere hours after Jays closer B.J. Ryan underwent the infamous Tommy John surgery, "Tommy John" being a medical term for "You won't even be able to scratch your butt for at least 10 months." Man, it sucks to be them right now, doesn't it? No wonder there were only about 22,000 people in that monstrosity of a stadium, and about 25% of them were Red Sox fans, and half of those who weren't were comatose by the end of the third inning. I doubt general manager J.P. Ricciardi is feeling all that secure in his job right about now. He may be back home in Worcester before the All-Star break.

The Red Sox' 8-0 win last night follows 9-3 and 9-2 on the two previous nights. As the team heads back home for a weekend series against Baltimore, the following warrant mentioning:


Thanks to my sistah Booklady, I'll be at tonight's game, sitting in a totally sweet seat mere spitting distance from home plate. It's my fourth BoSox game of the season. I hope they don't pick this game to end their winning streak.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Sunday, May 06, 2007

  Waste, Waste, Waste

We now know that the untimely death of St. Louis relief pitcher Josh Hancock wasn't the tragic accident we all initially thought, but rather the entirely avoidable result of his own stupid actions. Autopsy results document that Hancock's blood alcohol level when he died was almost twice the legal limit, and the police investigation of the crash concluded that he was both speeding and talking on his cell phone at the time of the crash. To add insult to injury, he had a marijuana and a pipe in his glove compartment.

Obviously, his family, friends, and fans still have every right to be sad. They lost someone dear to them long before nature intended. But they also have a right to be angry, not at unfortunate circumstances that brought about the death of someone they loved, but at the loved one himself, who after all should have known better and acted better in so many ways. Only if he had taken someone else's life too could it be any worse for those now mourning Hancock. As it is, they are left without the opportunity to smack him upside the head and scream, "What the hell were you thinking?" in an effort to keep him from making the same foolish mistakes twice. The bad news is that he doesn't have a chance to learn his lesson. The good news is that he doesn't have a chance to hurt someone else.

Not that Hancock's death is "good news"; far from it. He destroyed by his malfeasance not only his own life but also the lives of those he left behind. They know that his death, and their resulting pain, is his own fault, and he isn't around to atone for it. They will never be able to escape the fact that he did this to himself and to them. It's hard to imagine being able to come to terms with that.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I don't think so. The fact is that I have no sympathy for drunk drivers. Perhaps that's because shortly before my high school graduation, I nearly lost two friends and neighbors who were hit and critically injured by a drunk who passed out at the wheel. When my sister-in-law was a pre-teen, many years before I knew her, her older sister was killed by a drunk driver. I'm sure those drivers had friends and family who loved them too, but the fact is that their act defined them as irresponsible and dangerous people who hurt, and in one case killed, someone who didn't do anything to deserve it. Why should I have warmer, fuzzier feelings about another drunk driver merely because he was a professional baseball player?

Only by fate, luck, the grace of God, or whatever unknown forces dictate events did Josh Hancock not, in his last moments of life, become a killer. But that doesn't excuse what he did, to himself and those now forced to live without him. Shame on him. What a waste.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 5

When I think about Hancock's parents, the pain they must be feeling, part of it is rooted in the idea that they outlived their son. We're both parents and believe our children will outlive us; no parent should have to bury their child. We think they should live long, healthy and happy lives.

At the same time, their pain is knowing their son dies needlessly. His intoxication lead him to his fate. His thinking was impaired and finding drug paraphenalia in his vehicle only serves to diminish his reputation as a responsible person; something that adds more pain to the parents. I can only imagine their guilt for the possibility of believing they somehow failed their son.

No good ever comes from the loss of a life undr such circumstances. Hancock is not a poster boy for anyone, as his death was due to poor choices, made under muddled awareness. His teammates mourn his passing, as does his family. There is little comfort in any of that.

RIP Josh

Tru

Tru, you said it better, and more gently, than I did.

Hancock is guilty of everything you said here but he was also guilty of not wearing his seatbelt. In most states it's against the law not to wear a seatbelt though I don't know if that's true where he had his accident.
Most of us have made poor choices at some time in our lives and not been killed or seriously injured because of the stupid choice. Josh isn't getting the chance to think back and say he'll never do that again. I hope other people will look at what happened to Josh and alter how they behave...especially when driving.

Great point, Brenken -- with all the other stuff, I didn't really pay attention to the lack of seat belt use. Given the way the wreckage of his car looked, he still may not have survived even if he had been belted, but it would have been one less thing working against him. It's also possible that he didn't buckle up because he was drunk. I'm an automatic seat belt buckler, but I can't be sure I would have that presence of mind if I were impaired.

Lousy all-around situation. I hope parents whose kids are fans use this as a teaching opportunity, i.e. if this can happen to a major league ball player, it can happen to you.

Great post. Exactly how I feel about it. You're not being too harsh at all. All I've been able to think about has been all the innocent people he could've killed. I think of that and what a horrible thing he did before I think of his family.

And about the seatbelt: I did read that even if he had it on, it wouldn't have saved him. It was that horrific a scene.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

  Why Pitchers' Win-Loss Records Mean Nothing

Just what does a pitcher have to do to get some run support around here? You can't blame Tim Wakefield for asking that question despite getting the win in last night's 2-0 Red Sox defeat of the Minnesota Twins. After all, had he given up a mere one or two runs, he would have ended up with a no-decision and a record of 2-4 despite a 2.11 earned run average. It isn't fair, but that's how it is in a sport that gives a W or L to the single player least in control of whether or not his team wins. After all, it is possible for a pitcher to do everything right and lose 1-0 because of, for example, a fielding error followed by a passed ball followed by bad catcher's throw on a stolen base attempt followed by a sacrifice fly. If his nine teammates whose job it is to actually score runs don't, the pitcher gets the loss. In no other sport is one player so officially assigned the blame for his entire team's failure.

Wake's woes, reminiscent of last year, are nothing new. Back in 1996, the last season Roger Clemens spent with the Red Sox, he was widely vilified for a lacklustter 10-13 record. What the critics ignored was that Clemens' ERA of 3.64 was the sixth best in the American League, that many of his losses came in games his team scored fewer than two runs, and in several other games he left with a lead only to see the bullpen blow it and leave him with a no-decision. By comparison, the team gave terrific run support to another starter who finished the season at 14-13 despite an ERA of 5.15. That fortunate starter was Tim Wakefield.

The Wakefield of 1996 was in many ways like last year's Josh Beckett, the beneficiary of others' actions giving him a record far better than what his own performance earned him. Beckett last year was 16-11 with a 5.01 ERA, the veritable poster child for the cause of de-emphasizing W-L as a meaningful pitching stat. At the same time, he is an example of how the rest of a team can pick up someone who is struggling until he can get his act together, which Beckett seems to have done in time for this season.

Which brings us to the topic of Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose record is better than Wakefield's despite an ERA 2 1/2 times as high. Might Matsuzaka be this year's version of Beckett, the beneficiary of offensive support in what is no doubt a year of major adjustment? If Beckett's adjustment from National League lineups to the superior AL hitters was tough, just imagine how much more so it must be for Matsuzaka, coming from a league that by most accounts isn't quite on a par with North America's major leagues. It's that parallel that keeps me from panicking about whether Matsuzaka can be a dominant pitcher over the life of his contract here. He clearly has exceptional skill, great maturity, and what appears to be a winning attitude. If what's missing is experience facing superior American League batters, he'll get that in due course. And if what the Red Sox get from him this year is anything close to what they got from Beckett last year, I can live with that.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 2

Hey, if you wanna see a true Red Sox fan check out

http://youtube.com/watch?v=ujZ89cn3KJI

"Long Live Big Papi"

Excellent timing with this post.

Tavarez pitched well enough to win tonight. Too bad his teammates couldn't get off their asses to help him.

Two nights in a row of no run support = bad things to come if this keeps up.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

  Josh! Josh! He's Our Man!

Everyone remembers what a terrific start Josh Beckett got off to last season, his first since being traded by the Florida Marlins to the Red Sox. He was 3-0 and allowed only 4 earned runs in his first three starts. In his next three, though, he was 0-1 with 18 earned runs allowed. It was around that time that fans, simultaneously observing the strong performance of Beckett tag-along Mike Lowell, began describing Beckett as the guy we had to take to get Lowell instead of the other way around. The rest of 2006 would be a mixed bag, with Beckett finishing 16-11 despite an ERA of 5.01. So it isn't unwarranted that some people were skeptical of Beckett's similarly strong start this season.

Six games in, however, the difference is clear: Beckett is a much more effective pitcher now than he was a year ago, and that effectiveness has translated into more Sox wins. With last night's 6-4 Boston victory over Oakland, he has earned the win in each of those six starts, the first Red Sox pitcher to do so since Roger Clemens in 1991. Infielder Alex Cora said it best in a post-game interview last night when he remarked on how Beckett has changed:

"He's a pitcher now, put it that way," Cora said. "Last year, when he got in trouble, he was just throwing. A lot of balls were going out of the yard. Now in situations when he has runners on second and third, he starts pitching. No big innings. That's what the great ones do."

The numbers through six games illustrate what Cora is saying. This year, Beckett is 6-0; last year, he was 3-1 in the same number of starts. His ERA in that stretch is 2.72 this year compared to 4.74. He is a bit more economical with his pitches, throwing 14.77 per inning this year compared to 15.95 last year. His control is better, as evidenced by his improved WHIP (1.06 compared to 1.26), strikeouts-to-walks ratio (3.89 compared to 1.44), and home runs allowed (1 per 39.2 innings compared to 1 per 6.1 innings). The most telling stat in my view is the drastic reduction in the number of fly ball outs, which comprised 41.3% of his outs last year compared to just 28.2% this year. Since the difference between a deep fly out and a home run can be a matter of just a few inches, it isn't hard to see how keeping the fly balls down can make a big difference in runs allowed over the course of a season.

What we may be witnessing is the fruit of another year of experience, an adjustment from the National League to the American League, and Beckett's greater maturity as a smart pitcher. Presuming he stays healthy as he did last year, this could well be the year that Josh Beckett officially becomes a premier American League pitcher.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

  Papelbon Blows Save, Yet Somehow World Keeps Turning

They can break your heart, can't they? First they grab hold of it, cradle it in their arms, make you believe that anything is possible, because that is the special magic of the kid pitcher. They make you dream impossible dreams. They make teams rethink entire organizational philosophies.

"When you see a young kid with talent, and with command, ... it gets your imagination running."

Of course, nothing can be more terrifying, either. You were reminded of that last night, weren't you?

That could be the beginning of an article about last night's blown save by Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in a 5-4 loss to the Oakland A's. But it isn't. It's about the Yankees' Phil Hughes blowing out his hamstring in the seventh inning of a no-hit bid. It's a reminder that the Red Sox have much to be thankful for, including the fact that they aren't the Yankees.

Still, it was shocking—really, wasn't it?—when Papelbon coughed up two runs in the ninth inning, allowing Oakland to tie the game 4-4. Except when the game was scoreless in the top of the first, the A's had trailed throughout the entire game. Curt Schilling left the game after seven innings and handed a 4-2 lead to Hideki Okajima, who pitched a perfect set-up eighth, after which most of us thought the win was in the bag.

Anyone who tells you they expected Papelbon to open the inning with a single and a homer on five pitches is a liar. He had blown saves last year, but the first wasn't until June 9, when he entered a one-run game and gave up the tying run before his teammates got it back to get the win. In fact, in only one of his six blown saves of 2006 did he allow more than one run, and that didn't happen until August. In doing so last night, he jacked his ERA up to an astronomical (for him, anyway) 1.74. Okajima, meanwhile, is down to 0.66. Loser Brendan Donnelly's ERA sits at 1.29 after he allowed one run in the tenth and final inning.

Even NESN announcers Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy seemed genuinely stunned by the spectacle of Papelbon allowing two runs before he recorded an out. But sometimes, that is just the way it is. Big Papi won't always hit the walk-off home run, as we saw last night when he led off the bottom of the tenth with an infield pop-up. And the best bullpen in baseball won't always preserve the win, even if that bullpen includes a closer whose middle name might as well be "Sure Thing."

All in all right now, I'm pretty happy with our pitching staff. The starters have consistently gotten the team into the later innings, allowing the bullpen to be used appropriately and without panic. Everyone, knock on wood, is healthy, something that team at the other end of the AL East standings would double their payroll to be able to say right now. Yes, losing sucks. But we'll get 'em tonight.


One bright spot to take out of the loss: Coco Crisp. He contributed at the plate, going 1-for-4 with two runs scored and raising his average to .236; on the bases, with a stolen base in the first inning; and in the field, with an impressive running/diving catch of a Todd Walker sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. Also contributing hits were David Ortiz (2-for-5), Manny Ramirez (2-for-4), Kevin Youkilis and Eric Hinske (1-for-4 each), and Mike Lowell (1-for-3). In addition to Crisp's steal, Youkilis and Lowell each stole second as well.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

  Mini Homestand

This season's Red Sox schedule once again proves conclusively that the schedule makers at Major League Baseball are on some serious contraband substances. There is no other way to explain the two-game homestand tonight and tomorrow night against the Oakland A's, which was turned into a three-game homestand by the addition of a make-up game against Seattle on Thursday, thereby making it only marginally more worthwhile for the whole team to fly back to Boston. It isn't as if this team needs home cooking to get them on track; thought their home record (.700) is slightly better than their road record (.643), they did pretty well last weekend at Yankee Stadium, didn't they? Still, it's always a good thing to be home, however briefly, and I for one look forward to seeing them pad their lead in the AL East with at least two wins in the three games.

I wrote a girly post over at Sox Sistahs Speak earlier today (so sue me), and I really am excited to see Lenny DiNardo pitch. Sure, he has been a marginal major leaguer who probably wouldn't still be in the bigs if he weren't a lefty, but damn, he's beautiful and who would you rather look at, this:

or this?

Yes, I realize that Lenny is a reliever and Danny Haren is a starter, but is he not the scariest pitcher on their staff? I am indeed thanking my lucky stars we don't have to look at him in this series. Dan, get a haircut. And a shave, dammit.

On the topic of the actual games, the Sox stack up pretty well against the A's, who have the best staff ERA in the league compared to the Red Sox at number two. In batting, though, Oakland is near the cellar for average in 13th place, whereas Boston is fifth. In on-base percentage, Oakland is 13th, Boston is first. Slugging, Oakland is last, Boston is third. The A's have the decided edge infielding, however, with a fielding percentage of .987, second best in the league, to Boston's second-to-last .976. Since good hitting will score more runs that poor fielding will give up, the overall edge has to go to the Sox.

Tonight's Oakland starter, Joe Blanton, brings to Fenway a season record of 2-1 with ERA of 3.55, more than half a run better than his career mark. He throws strikeouts to walks at a rate of better than two to one. The current Red Sox are hitting a collective .264 against him, with Manny topping the list at .750. Julio Lugo has touched him for two homers in ten at bats.

Curt Schilling beats Blanton so far in both record (3-1) and ERA (3.27), although they are both giving up walks plus hits at a rate of 1.09 per inning. Schilling has also faced many more of Oakland's current players, who have a collective average of .271 against him, with the lineup most likely to face him being slightly better at .278. Former Red Sox infielder Todd Walker is 7-for-14 lifetime against Schilling.

Game time is 7:05, televised on NESN, on the radio on WRKO and affiliated Red Sox stations. See you then.

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Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


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