Friday, October 30, 2009

Just like the Old Days

Once again, Pedro Martinez was on the mound. If it wasn’t already, the World Series Game 2 was instantly appointment television again.
I hadn’t been able to see Pedro pitch since he left the Sox. So, last night’s game was the first time since Game 3 of the 2004 World Series. It was obviously very different, but at the same time exactly the same. Even after all these years, Pedro still had “it.” The mound was his domain, and nobody should bother to mess with that. The velocity wasn’t there, of course, but everything else was. It was like the 1999 Pedro, with 10 MPH less on all his pitches. The hitters were off-balance. The curveball was still buckling knees. The change-up was still doing things that only Bugs Bunny could do before. The fastball was still faster than his other pitches, allowing him to blow people away at 88 MPH. People always used to say that Pedro could “pitch” even without his 98 MPH heater. Last night proved it. It was great to watch. Of course, even with all that, the Yankees were able to just barely outlast him. Pedro got the quality start. He would have won any number of games with the performance he gave. It just wasn’t quite enough. I look forward to game six…if necessary.
I remember Tony Pena once bunting with two strikes. It was commented at the time that it might have finally signaled the end. If he needed to be treated like a pitcher at the plate, maybe he was too much of a liability. Does this mean we can finally put to rest the ridiculous “Jeter for MVP” campaigns? Men at first and second, with nobody out late in a close game, and he’s bunting three times? Not exactly all that valuable if you ask me. Isn’t he supposed to own the postseason? Is that the ice water in his veins or his calm eyes telling him to give himself up at a crucial time? He just gave up!? Fox couldn’t mention enough times that he made the call himself to bunt. Apparently we’re supposed to think that he’s so selfless that he’s sacrificing his personal stats for the good of the team, without them having to tell him to. Frankly, I’d prefer that decision if it came from the bench. It’s one thing for Girardi to over-manage, and play percentages, and ask Jeter to lay one down. It’s another thing for Jeter himself to decide that he isn’t capable of getting a base hit…or flyball. I couldn’t believe it. Can you imagine Joe Mauer leaving it up to everyone else to drive in the runs? The so-called greatest player on the Yankees, in the house that he apparently built, can’t swing away? Are you freakin’ kidding me? I’m trying to imagine Jason Bay, or Dustin Pedroia, or Mike Lowell coming back to the bench after doing that. I can’t do it. Maybe it’s time for Jeter to selflessly remove himself from the Yankees line-up. Most valuable my foot.
The series starts anew on Saturday. This time, the Phillies have home field advantage.
Hopefully they can protect it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Fifth Anniversary!

“A ground ball, stabbed by Foulke. He underhands it to first, and the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions!”

When Joe Castiglione uttered those words five years ago tonight, it meant many different things, to many different people. Some cheered. Some cried. Some did both. I always assumed that I’d jump up and scream. After all, when Luis Gonzalez dropped in the single to win the 2001 series, I danced around the room for quite a while. That was just a reaction to a Yankee loss. How could I not expect the same thing when the Sox finally won? Oddly, that’s not what I felt. It was relief. I sunk into the couch, and my body just went, “phew.” Finally, it would all be different.

Finally I could enjoy baseball more. The worst wasn’t always going to happen. (I don’t know about you, but I just knew that the only reason that the Sox came back from being down 0-3 in the ALCS was so it would hurt even more when they blew their own 3-0 lead in the World Series.) Sometimes, things would work out. I didn’t have to keep waiting. I didn’t have to worry about a team being THE team. It would all just be easier. The pressure was off.

That’s going to sound pretty pathetic to anyone who wasn’t a Red Sox fan in the leaner years. But, people who were around get it. It’s not that the Red Sox were my life. It’s that the Red Sox affected my life. I mentioned to someone recently that even now, I’d prefer a Yankee loss to a Red Sox win. Especially with two championships in recent memory. The response was that I was a little sad. And it does sound that way. It makes me sound like I’m sitting in my basement wishing misery on others. But that’s not it. The simple reason is that if the Yankees and Red Sox both lose, Yankees fans will leave me alone. If both the Red Sox and Yankees win on any given day, the Yankees fans are there annoying me. It’s the Yankees loss that’s important. Well, 2004 was the mother of all Yankees losses. Not only did they choke in historical fashion. But, the Red Sox finally had a championship of their own. A whole line of comments was now useless. I could go to Foot Locker without harassment from the guy behind the counter with the interlocking N-Y on his cap. Red Sox games were quieter the next year. The subway rides were easier to take. It all just got a little bit easier.

I will say that there was one problem with the Sox finally winning it. The Yankees fans stopped their “1918” chant, so I was never able to figure out why it was supposed to bother me. Either your team was the defending champ, or it wasn’t. Did it really matter if the Royals won a championship 20 years ago? Does that take the sting out of the 2009 team’s performance? Sure, Yankees fans think it matters that they won 16 titles before my parents were born. Doesn’t help me much though. Patriots fans are starting to realize that the Super Bowls they won aren’t enough anymore. It’s been five years or so since the last one after all. So, whether it was 5, 10, 20, 50, or 86 years…it’s all more than 1.

Whatever it meant, it all ended on this glorious day 5 years ago in St Louis, under a lunar eclipse, of a blue moon.

Happy Anniversary! 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Congratulations Yankees…

…may you be thoroughly drubbed in the World Series. I had a few thought while watching last night’s deciding ALCS game 6. What better way to get them off my chest than to make you all read about them?

There was a video making the rounds not too long ago showing Mariano Rivera apparently spitting in the direction of the ball while on the mound. I haven’t seen the video myself, so can only say what I’ve heard. It sounds like the video shows Rivera spit, and it may have gone near the ball. People were claiming that it amounted to Rivera throwing a spitball, and action should be taken. MLB ruled that there was no infraction. Now, I don’t think that Rivera was trying to throw a spitball. I agree with people saying that if you wanted to throw a spitter, you wouldn’t just spit onto the ball in full view of a gazillion cameras. But, wouldn’t you think there’d be a rule against it? Pitchers can’t blow into their hands unless it’s really cold, just in case some moisture is transferred from hand to ball. So, there’s a rule for that, but not a rule against randomly spitting all over the mound when the ball is in the line of fire? That’s just odd. Why bring that all up now? Because Andy Pettitte was pitching last night. His routine on the mound has bothered me for years. When he’s in the stretch, he takes the sign with the ball in his glove. The glove is then placed against his face, so the tip of the glove, with ball inside, is covering his mouth. How is that allowed? Pitchers can’t blow into their hands, but Pettitte is allowed to blow directly on the ball? And, not that I’m saying he’s sitting there licking the ball…but who knows that he’s not? How that continues to be allowed is beyond me.

Fox made an interesting comment following the blown ball four call to ARod that forced in a run in the 8th. They noted that it was a blown call. I’ll give them some credit for even mentioning that the Yankees got the huge break. But, they immediately tried to diffuse it by saying that it really doesn’t matter since the correct cal would have just made it a 3-2 count to ARod. Am I missing something? Is a full count with no run scoring the same as ball four, and a run in? Seems to me that there’s about a run difference between the two. Sure, ARod would have gotten a chance to get a hit, and the run would have scored anyway. But, he may have made an out without the run scoring. I’d much rather have a 3-2 count without a run on the board. If the Angels didn’t feel that way, they would have walked him intentionally.

Later in the game, Mark Teixeira came to the plate with the bases still loaded. One of the Yankees biggest power threats, frankly one of the biggest power threats in the AL, was coming to the plate with a chance to break the game wide open. A single scores two runs. With the speed on the bases at the time for the Yanks, a double probably scores three. What does Teix do? Flies out to center. So, a single run is allowed to score in exchange for the out. Naturally, Teixeira is upset with himself, and walks dejectedly back to the dugout. Wait, no he’s not. He’s jumping back to the dugout, looking like his wife gave him permission to stay out late. He’s celebrating with his teammates, slapping high fives, smiles all around. So, basically, the high-paid power hitter batting clean-up for the New York Yankees is thrilled that he flew out? Heck, I’d expect Alex Gonzalez to fly out to center. If Jason Bay lofts a ball to center in that situation, I’m upset about the wasted opportunity. Why weren’t the Yankees?

If the Angels were going to completely implode and hand the series to the Yankees, couldn’t they have done it a series sooner?

Go Phillies! 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

List of 36: Best Red Sox Catchers of the Past 36 years

1. Jason Varitek
2. Carlton Fisk
3. Victor Martinez
4. Tony Pena
5. Rich Gedman
6. Scott Hatteberg
7. John Marzano
8. Bill Haselman
9. Jim Leyritz
10. Rick Cerone
11. Mike Stanley
12. Doug Mirabelli
13. Mike McFarlane
14. Bob Montgomery
15. John Flaherty
16. Kevin Case
17. Josh Bard
18. Eric Wedge
19. Marc Sullivan
20. Javy Lopez
21. Kelly Shoppach
22. Dave Valle
23. Rich Rowland
24. Bob Didier
25. Tim Blackwell
26. Bob Melvin
27. Wal McKeel
28. Andy Merchant
29. Joe Oliver
30. Dave Sax
31. Mandy Romero
32. Marcus Jensen
33. Roger LaFrancious
34. Tim McCarver
35. Fred Kendall
36. Dave Rader

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Umping like it’s 1999

The one problem with the baseball playoffs is when it comes to writing about it, the games happen very quickly. By the time I can figure out what I want to say, the next game is played and everything changes. Not that I’m complaining. I love the quantity of games stuffed together. But, I have a little break here with just the one game scheduled today, and lots to talk about from last night’s game. Everything from ARod to Umpires is just screaming to be talked about.

I guess I’ll start with ARod. He’s having himself quite a postseason. Nobody expected a talented player like himself to continue choking his way through every October. It all had to even out eventually. I just have to wonder about the Fox broadcast, and the glowing over him. He did admit flat out to cheating. Should we be putting him on a pedestal? How about just mentioning the accomplishments in passing? It just seems icky to be pumping him up like that.

Speaking of the Fox coverage, was there anything more repulsive than their references to the two Nick Swisher blown calls? The both happened within batters of each other. The pick off at second was enormously missed. How an ump could miss that when he's standing right there is incredible. He should be removed on the spot.  Then Swisher goes to third, and is called out for leaving early. Fox spends about an hour pointing out that the ump wasn't looking at Swisher. He was looking at centerfield. Where else should he be looking? If he looks at Swisher's foot, he has no chance of knowing when Hunter caught the ball. At least looking at center, he can pick up Swisher out of the corner of his eye. Then, Fox shows replay after replay of Swisher's foot and Hunter's catch. The problem is, that the view was from in front of Swisher. You have no idea if his foot is on the bag, or a foot in front of the bag. The perspective or view was completely wrong. How Fox could even say he was on the bag was poor reporting on their part. If you look close, Swisher's body is moving forward, and his leg muscles are moving. He certainly could have been off the bag. It's not like every part of his body was at rest. I have no doubt that the ump saw him moving early, and made the call. I have no proof whether he left early or not. In any event, from then on, Joe and Tim couldn't mention enough that the Yankee lead could have been even larger if the run hadn't been taken off the board. Poor Yankees were cost a run by a questionable call. They never mentioned that Swisher should have been out two batters earlier. He never should have scored in the first place. They went on and on about NY being cheated on a questionable call, while ignoring that the Angels were cheated out of an obvious call.

The other questionable call in the game was, of course, the double play that wasn’t at third base. To me, this is a classic case of the umpires not working together. There is a home plate umpire, and a left field umpire who have perfect views of the play. Especially the guy in left, since he really had nothing else to look at. Neither one of them cared to mention that Cano was two feet off the bag when he was tagged? Nobody wondered why, with Posada wandering by the coach’s box, the Angels catcher would go out of his way to tag a runner standing on the bag? If Cano was on the bag (where he should have been) they would have gone to tag Posada before he got away. If plays like the ones last night don’t scream out for replay, I don’t know what does.

Speaking of Posada, I always knew he was Bush…I didn’t know he was an idiot. First, he can’t score from second on a double because he doesn’t know how to run the bases. Then, right away he gets caught in a rundown on a groundball. He runs back to third, but doesn’t know enough to stand on the base. (Again, Cano should have been there. But, Posada needed to adjust) Then, to top it off, he later forgets how many outs there are, and leaves the plate unguarded with a runner on third. Quite the game by Jorge.

The interaction between Cano and Posada following the non-RBI double was interesting as well. Cano drills the double, and Posada clearly should have scored. Cano looks up, notices that he lost out on an RBI, and get grumpy. He stares out to rightfield, and can’t even look at Posada. Posada motions towards second, and apologizes to Cano, saying it was his fault. He didn’t apologize to his dugout, just to Cano. He wasn’t sorry that he cost the team a run. He was sorry that he cost Cano an RBI. In the middle of a playoff game, Cano was worried about his personal stats…and Posada knew it.

Here’s hoping that the Phillies take advantage of tonight’s opportunity and wrap their series up. That gives them time to line up their aces for the World Series. The Angels need to at least win tonight. Perfect world, they at least force a game seven. We’ll see how it goes.

Boy, the Phillies look tough right now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: J is for…

J.D. Drew

JD Drew is one of those players I wish I knew personally. I can’t help but wonder if the personality he projects is even close to what it really is. He’s a bit of an enigma for Sox fans, and that has led to a polarizing treatment from the fan base.

The Sox Signed Drew prior to the 2007 season, but most fans knew a lot about him before that. Everyone knew he was the guy who refused to sign with the Phillies after being selected second overall in the draft. He played independent ball for a year, rather than succumb to their contract demands. He was drafted the following year by the Cardinals, as the fifth overall selection. He ended up signing with St Louis, and made his major league debut the night McGwire hit his 62nd homer. He bounced around to Atlanta, and signed a big contract with LA. It was this big contract that he opted out of to allow the Sox to sign him.

Just that quick bio was enough for some fans to make up their minds about him. He was greedy, selfish. All he cared about was the money. Add that to the fact that he tends to miss a lot of games with injuries, and he wasn’t exactly the ideal player for many Boston fans. He was lazy, and didn’t really want to play. I have no idea if any of that is true. I’m also not sure I care.

Can I really blame the guy if he wants to get the most money he can? Why does everyone assume that because he “plays a game for a living” he should take whatever contract is offered him? Just because they’d like to play, he should act like it’s not a job? I’d really like to swim with Shamu every day, and wouldn’t really call that work. It’s just swimming all day, and that’s fun. Does that mean no whale trainer is allowed to ask for a raise? I say good for him. He had the leverage, and used it perfectly.

What is the fascination with playing hurt? Everyone always thinks that it’s a sign of weakness if a player sits out with a hamstring pull, or back tweak. Players should be on the field as long as all of their limbs are attached. After all 80% of so-and-so is better than the guy they put in his place. Is it? People like to point to Curt Schilling’s bloody sock game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. That’s how the game is supposed to be. He was out there outing it all on the line for his team. He’s a warrior. How come nobody brings up his game 1 start? He was still hobbled. He was still a warrior. But, he stunk up the joint. The Sox ended up scoring seven runs that game, but couldn’t dig themselves out of the six-run hole that Schilling put them in. It wouldn’t have been better for the Sox if Schilling hadn’t toughed it out? Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone else took the hill that game in his place? Could we expect his replacement to give up less than 6 runs in three innings? Why is it never honorable to remove yourself from a game for the good of the team? Can’t drew look at the bench and say, “If I’m half a step slower, and have trouble putting my normal swing on the ball, then the Sox are better off with Baldelli in right. He’s a good player after all.” Isn’t that selfishly sacrificing his personal stats for the good of the team? Isn’t that a good thing?

I like JD Drew. He’s a great player, and a great guy in the line-up. Do I think he’s overpaid? Probably. But, it’s not my money. At the end of the day, you look back at JD Drew and see that he contributes to an awful lot of Red Sox victories. That’s about all I expect out of a player.

J is for JD Drew.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Team Sets: 1987 Procards Pawtucket Red Sox

Players Included: Andy Araujo, Todd Benzinger, Tom Bolton, Ellis Burks, Chris Cannizzaro, Tony Cleary (trainer), Stephen Curry, Mike Dalton, Chuck Davis, Steve Ellsworth, Glenn Hoffman, Sam Horn, Mitchell Johnson, John Leister, John Marzano, Mark Meleski (coach), Mike Mesh, Gary Miller-Jones, Ed Nottle (mgr), Jody Reed, Mike Rochford, Kevin Romine, Hector Stewart, LaSchelle Tarver, Gary Tremblay, Scott Wade, Dana Williams

Best Picture: LaSchelle Tarver. Tarver could not look more bored. He’s doing what the photographer wants. He’s pretending to swing, but he’s just not into it. I wonder how many poses he had to take before this gem. How about after?

Hall of Famers: none

Future Hall of Famers: none

Reason the buy the set: Ellis Burks went on to have the best major league career of the members of this set. Most of it wasn’t with the Sox, but he did come back in time to get a ring in Boston. Otherwise, there are around ten players in the set who went on to play in the majors.

Overall Reaction: Minor league sets are fun. They contain the stars of tomorrow, as well as the busts. This was a pretty popular set back in the late 80’s due to Burks, Horn, Reed, and Benzinger. The quality of the cards themselves is lacking, as can be expected with a minor league issue. They just feel minor leagues. The design is appealing though, which helps. This would be a must have for fans of Red Sox teams from that era.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What Happened?

Ok, so I was a couple games off on my prediction. That’s pretty close, right? Can I get partial credit?
I know that before the series, several people were picking the Angels to take the series. I admitted, that the teams were pretty evenly matched, and it would be a close series. Did anyone think that the Sox would be swept, and the three losses would go to Lester, Beckett, and Papelbon? If anyone made that prediction, we need to check their garage for a DeLorean. That’s what’s most frustrating about the whole thing. The Sox had it just the way they wanted it. They just couldn’t get it done.
In Game 1, Lester pitched fine. He got knocked around a bit. But, lots of teams would love that performance from their starter. The offense just couldn’t get it done. Whatever it was…rust, nerves, the Angels pitching, tacos…the bats never came alive. The result wasn’t crushing. Losing a game 1 on the road is really to be expected. You had to assume that the line-up couldn’t go two games in that sort of a funk. Game 1 was also marred by a few terrible calls by first base umpire CB Bucknor. Sure, the calls didn’t actually cost the Sox the game. They didn’t help, but there was no direct affect. You can argue how much extra pitches really hurt a pitcher. Or, how Lester was affected mentally by the poor calls. Whatever it was, it happened. (As revenge some people took it out on Bucknor’s wikipedia page. I thought that was brilliant. It wasn’t crude, or obnoxious. It was thought out and clever. Just what you can expect from Red Sox fans.)
Game 2 was really more of the same. Beckett pitched just fine. He certainly wasn’t the reason they lost. Once again, though, the bats couldn’t do quite enough. It was widely pointed out that the Sox were only batting in the .150’s as a team after the two games, and that’s why they were down 0-2. It was less widely reported that the Angels were only batting in the low .200’s as a team. It’s not like they were knocking the cover off the ball either. Their hits were just slightly more effective. So, after two games, it was as close as a 2-0 series could be. There wasn’t a feeling of dominance from LA. It was just a couple more timely hits. Couple that with the Red Sox history during elimination games, and there was reason for cautious optimism among Sox fans.
Game 3 showed exactly why that confidence was warranted. The bats showed up at home, and scored plenty of runs. That was pretty impressive, really, considering all the trouble Kazmir has given the Sox over the years. As he has shown all year, Clay Buchholz pitched great when it mattered the most. Apparently he should only go against other team’s aces the rest of his career. That may be the definition of clutch. The Sox were able to hand the game over to Billy Wagner with a three run lead starting the eighth. Could Terry Francona have drawn it up any better than that? It just didn’t work. Wagner struggled, and Papelbon had to come in to put out the fire. Unfortunately, he didn’t put the fire out, as much as he threw kerosene on it. He allowed two runners to score, but was able to escape. Fine, no problem there, right? Papelbon will have the lead in the ninth. The Sox even added an insurance run for him in the eighth. Red Sox fans dream of the ball in Pap’s hands with a lead in an elimination game. Unfortunately, Papelbon picked this exact moment to channel his inner Schiraldi. With two outs, and two strikes three different times in the ninth, he couldn’t close it out. A whole new generation of Sox fans were introduced to a crushing defeat. All the kids who only knew of the Sox from ’04 and ’07 finally knew what their parents were talking about. It was the old Sox, blowing exactly what should have been theirs. Stunning.
I have no doubt, that if the Sox played the Angels enough, they’d come out about even. If the Sox had pulled out game 3, I would have felt pretty confident going forward. Just like in the 2007 ALCS, I felt the teams were pretty matched. Even when the Indians had the big lead, you knew that water would find its own level soon. Just like you knew the 2009 season series with the Yanks was going to end about even, I know the ALDS would have too. The Angels won the first three, and those are the only ones that count. That’s the beginning and the end of it.
Where do the Sox go from here? There are all kinds of questions entering this off-season. But, that discussion if for another time. For now… Go LA!
Both LA’s, come to think of it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Collecting the Sox: Magazines

Magazines are a great Red Sox collectable. They have many of the same advantages of a newspaper, with several plusses of their own.

Like a newspaper, a magazine is a record of an event or team as it happens. The magazine is usually published a little bit later than a newspaper, but that can be a bonus. Usually the stories are a little more in depth and thought out. Rather than a simple retelling of game 4 of the World Series, for instance, a magazine article might dive into detail of the fans reactions, or what the players were going through. Magazine articles also tend to be less reporting, and more writing. So, a feature article of Pedro Martinez will read more like a biography than a recount in the sports section of a newspaper.

Another great thing about a magazine is the photography. Magazines are usually full of bright color photos to augment the article. If the Red Sox are featured on the cover, that another chance for a great visual of the hometown team. Red Sox covers are also great surfaces for autographs. Yet another way to enhance a Red Sox collectable.

I also like the size of magazines. They’re much more compact than newspapers, and quite a bit more durable. After all, newspapers are only supposed to last a day or so. Magazines have a much longer shelf life. They also store nicely if you grab a couple cardboard magazine storage boxes at your local office supply store. They’re even small enough to frame your favorites without costing an arm and a leg.

With any good collectable, there’s room to narrow down your collection to fit your needs. If you’re a big fan of the 2004 team, and why wouldn’t you be, you can collect magazines with cover features on that championship. You can collect the official Red Sox magazines they have at Fenway. Naturally, those will give you an in-depth look at the current Sox team. You can chase down every appearance of Jason Varitek on a cover. Maybe you like the writing in Sports Illustrated, and just want to focus on Red Sox appearances in that publication. As always, the possibilities are endless.

I love looking back at old magazines. How great is the cover feature in SI on Daisuke’s rookie season? Or their baseball preview featuring Pedro as the reason the Sox will win the World Series? (They didn’t) I can’t get enough of the cover story from ESPN the Magazine discussing the dominance of Pedro and Randy Johnson. These little glimpses into the Red Sox past are wonderful to dive back into.

Magazines are easy to find. Just swing by your local bookstore or newsstand. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you already subscribe to a sports magazine or two. If there’s a Red Sox player on the cover, just hang onto it. They’re fun to read over and over.

Anyone have a favorite magazine in their collection?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What’s Going to Happen?

Well, clearly, since the Red Sox have owned the Angels in the playoffs, they’ll win easily again this year. They shouldn’t even bother with the series.
What’s that you say? I’m not a Yankees fan? I need to look at this year, and not the years of the past? Oh, well, if you insist.
It’s an interesting match-up. I never got a “dominant” feeling from the Sox this year. I think most of that came form the replacement starters they kept tossing in there. Smoltz was a disaster. Penny was iffy. Dice-K and Wakefield went down for long stretches. Even though the Sox ended up with 95 wins, you never had that long stretch of superior play. Every fifth game or so, Smoltz would throw up a stinker, or they’d have to start Tazawa in a pinch. So, at least once a week, the Sox had a big question. It was hard to think of them as an elite team in that case. I look at this series, and get that feeling the Sox may be vulnerable. But, once I remember that even the best teams lose almost 40% of their games that feeling goes away. Just because the Sox spaced out their losses pretty evenly doesn’t mean they are an inferior team. How does that help them in the 2009 ALDS?
First off, it looks like the Sox are considering a three-man rotation. That’s an interesting ploy. Can the Sox pull off an effective Lester-Beckett-Buchholz-Lester-Beckett run? Is it making the Angels shiver at having to face Lester and Beckett twice a piece in a five game series? Can the Angels win 3 of 4 from those two guys? That’s a great twist.
The Sox line-up has rounded into shape. It’s not the 2004 Red Sox offense, but it doesn’t have to be. Just like we want all our aces to pitch like Pedro, we want our offenses to hit like 2004. There’s a great heart of the order. V-Mart really shores things up. That might be some of the problem when looking at the Sox. If you go down through Martinez-Youk-Bay-Ortiz-Lowell-Drew, they’re really the same players. It’s not like the Manny-Ortiz attack of 2007. It’s more balanced. The Sox haven’t been this balanced in a long time, and that probably scares some people. There’s not the one or two people you can count on to carry the team. But, the whole line-up is a tough out. I don’t see a break anywhere in there. That’s a tough call for any opposing pitcher.
It really looks like the Sox and Angels are very similar teams. Both have some potent offensive players. Both have some speed at the top. Both teams have solid rotations. I don’t think the Angels have Lester or Beckett. That’s where I see the big advantage.
Tonight’s game is huge, even more so than usual. I don’t generally like a five-game series. I think it’s too short to be fair. It makes game 1 abnormally important. If the Sox win tonight, it will immediately put the Angels in a huge hole. It won’t just steal home field advantage away. It won’t just mean that the Angles will have to win 3 of 4, including at least one more of Beckett and Lester. It will mean they’ll have to go through another day of questions from the press on whether they can ever beat the Sox. They’ll be even tighter for game 2, and things could snowball from there. It’s a big game for LA. I don’t think they can pull it out.
I say Sox in 4.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It Figures...

Some teams just get all the breaks.

First, MLB creates a ridiculous rule that the team with the best record in the league plays the wild card, unless the WC team is from the same division. I don't know why that matters, but that's the rule. Normally, that would be a disadvantage for the division champ. After all, instead of playing the weaker (in theory) WC team, it has to play another division champ. But, not in this case. This year, it mean that the Yankees got to play the winner of the only division race left. So, instead of playing one of the teams that was setting its rotation and resting guys for the last month, they get to play a team in a dogfight until the end. It gets better for the Yanks...

The Tigers and Twins end up tied at the end of the season, so they need to play even one more game. There's a stadium conflict. So, instead of pulling rank and kicking MNF to the curb, MLB pushes back the playoff game another day. So, now the game will be played the day before the Yankees play the winner in Game 1. It gets better for the Yanks...

The game goes into extra innings! So, the Twins needed to use a whole host of pitchers, the day before Game 1. The game took forever, so the Twins couldn't get to NY until much later than they should have.

So, the Twins are tired, spent, and have to play the Yanks in NY with no pitching left. The Yanks are rested, waiting, and all lined up for the series. Incredible.

Maybe CC will blow up like usual, and it will all be moot.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Scored!

October 20, 2007 – Game 6, American League Championship Series

Any game six is a huge game. Obviously, one team is trying to close out the series. One team is fighting for their lives. In this case, the team one game away from elimination was the Red Sox. They needed to with to have any sort of chance. A couple things were in their favor. The game was at Fenway Park, and Curt Schilling was on the mound. If any team trailing in a series 3-2 could have confidence, it would be the 2007 Red Sox. They all knew that they just had to win these games at home, and everything would work out. This game also included the inclusion of Jacoby Ellsbury into the starting line-up. Coco Crisp was the established veteran. But, he had been performing pooly during the postseason. The fans had been calling for Ellsbury to get the playing time for a few games now. Francona finally agreed. When Jacoby was announced as the starting centerfielder, it brought a huge cheer from the crowd. things were looking up.

Right off the bat, things started to look even better. Schilling pitched a scoreless top of the first. The Red Sox jumped right out on the Cleveland pitcher, Fausto Carmona. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out. With Manny coming to the plate, the chance for a big inning was right there. Manny couldn’t do it though and struck out. That was followed by a Mike Lowell flyout that didn’t get it done either. That brought up JD Drew. The confidence in the Fenway crowd was not very high. Drew was at the end of a controversial first season in Boston. He was signed to a huge contract at the start of the year, which was hotly debated. He wasn’t the type of player that Boston Fans usually fall for. He wasn’t a “Dirt Dog” like the man he replaced, Trot Nixon. His skill was obvious, but it just didn’t look great in the packaging. His first season was even worse. As he strode to the plate, most people in the stands assumed he’d find a way to ground into a double play with two outs. Which is why the results were so shocking. He lined a pitch over the centerfield wall for a first inning grand slam. As he circled the bases, the crowd went nuts. They stood for him, and demanded a curtain call. To his credit, he gave them one. Personally, I would have told them all to stuff it after all they had put him through. But, he appeased the crowd, and the Sox were on their way.

It wasn’t really a game after that. The Sox scored six more times in the third inning to make it a laugher. It was such a blowout, that Eric Gagne made an appearance in the eighth. The Sox won that game, and the next five to capture their second World Championship in four years. This was a huge game in that run.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

36 Questions: Why is a season defined by a championship?

Why does one game, or one series, have the ability to negate or define an entire season? Why do sports leagues even play a regular season if the essence of the year can be defined by a one-month playoff? Especially, when the playoff structure, as I’ve mentioned before, makes the playoffs a much different animal than the regular season. Why not just start in May with a 30-team bracket, leading up to a championship? If that’s all it comes down to, make it really come down to it. Every team would start out even, with a seven game series against another random team. Last team standing wins. After all, the playoffs don’t reward regular season anyway. Let’s see how Kansas City would do in the playoffs of they could throw Grienke three times a series. Would they be able to beat many of the current playoff teams? I bet they could. So, why can’t we hail them as having a great season? If great regular seasons can be thrown out by a postseason loss, shouldn’t poor regular seasons be thrown out with playoff wins?

This came up recently with the Patriots. Sure, it’s another sport, but it’s an easier illustration. You may recall that the 2007 Patriots had an undefeated regular season, but lost the Super Bowl. Suddenly, the greatest team ever, was reduced to just another team with a decent regular season. But, explore it a little more. The Pats won 18 games, the most ever, and finished 18-1. The 1985 Chicago Bears also finished the season 18-1. They are considered one of the greatest teams ever, if not the greatest. The difference between the two? The Bears loss came in the regular season, while the Pat’s came at the end. That’s the difference? The timing of the loss? In 1985, the Bears loss came to Miami. The Bears didn’t face Miami again in the playoffs. So, they finished the season without ever having beaten the Dolphins. In the Pats case, they lost to the Giants. The difference? They had already beaten the Giants a few weeks earlier. Clearly, they were capable of beating NY. We’ll never know if Chicago was capable of beating Miami. So, if the Pats had lost the 16th game of the season, but won the 19th instead of the other way around, they’d be one of the greatest teams of all time? How bizarre is that?

Sure, the goal of every team, in every season, is to with the championship. But should it really define the greatness of a team? If the Yankees win 120 regular season games, but lose the ALCS because Beckett and Lester shut them out twice each, does that mean the season was a bad one? Why? Doesn’t it just mean the Sox have two better pitchers? When the Cardinals won the World Series after barely making the playoffs, does that really mean they had the best season? The best results, sure. But the best season? I’ve heard Derek Jeter say that the best teams make the playoffs, but the hottest teams win the playoffs. I know he was just using it as an excuse as to why he didn’t win. But, if that’s true, should his rings be held in the same regard?

Shouldn’t the best seasons belong to the best teams…not the hottest?

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