Monday, December 28, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: L is for…

Lowe, as in Derek
Derek Lowe came to the Red Sox as part of one of the best deadline trades in recent memory. The Red Sox sent Heathcliff Slocumb to the Mariners in exchange for Lowe and Jason Varitek. Varitek, of course, went on to be the best catcher in Red Sox history. Lowe had an up and down Red Sox career, but sure ended it in a blaze of glory.
I was lucky enough to be at what might be the highlight of Lowe’s career. I was in the stands when Lowe threw the first no-hitter at Fenway Park in quite some time. I’ve often said that I’ve been at enough games over the years, that I’ve been able to check off a lot of goals. I’ve been to a playoff game, and a World Series game. I’ve seen Cy Young winners and MVPs. But, those could be scheduled. I knew that if I went to an Orioles game, chances are Cal Ripken would be in the line-up. But, the special events are the ones that are harder to get. I had resigned myself to the fact that I’d miss out on a no-hitter. It was way too rare to count on. But, I got lucky with Lowe facing the Devil Rays.
Lowe wasn’t a typical dominating pitcher. He’s not someone you expected to throw such a gem. When Pedro was on the mound, you started counting down at the first batter. When he gave up his first hit, it was a bit of a downer knowing it wouldn’t be the day he finally threw one. Lowe, on the other hand, didn’t have that level of expectations. He also didn’t have the type of “stuff” that you noticed when he was pitching well. When Pedro was on, you noticed that he struck out 5 of the first six batters. With Lowe’s groundball outs, though, it was hard to notice a great performance. So, it wasn’t until the sixth inning that I even noticed he had a no-hitter going. I looked down at my scorecard, and realized that the Devil Rays were hitless. I didn’t dare think that this would be the day. But, with only three innings left, the chances were certainly better.
When the ninth inning started, I actually got chills. I noticed that the Sox let Derek lead them onto the field, to a loud ovation. Naturally, I was concerned that the Sox had just jinxed him. But, it didn’t. With a slow groundball to second base, Derek Lowe did it! I couldn’t believe it!
Lowe pitched a few more years for the Sox. Obviously, he ended his tenure clinching all three series of the 2004 playoffs. He’ll always be a World Champion. And, he’ll have always delivered one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at Fenway Park.
L is for Lowe, Derek

Friday, December 25, 2009

List of 36: Things I Wouldn’t Mind Seeing Under My Tree X-Mas Morning

1. Adrian Gonzalez Red Sox jersey
2. Clay Buchholz signed computer keyboard
3. Red Sox team calendar
4. Ted Williams Autographed bat
5. Carl Yastrzemski signed Impossible Dream record
6. 2007 World Series hat
7. Dustin Pedroia autographed jersey
8. Buckner/Wilson signed 1986 WS ball
9. Brick from Fenway Park
10. Josh Beckett signed 2003 World Series Program
11. Kevin Youkilis wine bottle
12. Mike Lowell signed 2007 World Series ball
13. Jose Offerman signed 1999 All-Star jersey
14. 1999 All-Star Game ball signed by Pedro Martinez
15. Daisuke Matsuzaka signed WBC ball
16. Johnny Pesky signed fungo bat
17. Game used Gatorade towel from 2004 World Series
18. Kevin Youkilis signed Greek Mythology Encyclopedia
19. 2004 World Series Game 4 ticket
20. Jacoby Ellsbury autographed cleat
21. Tim Wakefield signed rocking chair
22. 1975 World Series pennant
23. David Ortiz wine bottle
24. Red Sox towel
25. Jim Rice signed Hall of Fame postcard
26. 2004 World Series ball signed by Red Sox team
27. JD Drew signed Phillies hat
28. Dirt from Fenway infield
29. Brown Coco Crisp t-shirt jersey
30. Grady Little autographed bobble-arm
31. Carlton Fisk signed retired #27
32. John Lackey signed UNH poster
33. JD Drew autographed 2007 ALCS program
34. Team signed 2007 World Series celebration photo
35. Nomar Garciaparra signed 2004 World Series ball
36. Jon Lester signed photo of no-hitter

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Was that a Countermove?

In a bizarre move, the Yankees traded for Javier Vazquez yesterday. It became even stranger when I realized that they had to part with Melky Cabrera to get him. Huh? Some people have been reporting this trade as the Yankees counter to the Red Sox getting John Lackey. Really? I hope the Yankees counter every Red Sox move like that.

I watched my 2004 Red Sox DVD, Faith Rewarded, again last night. Just about every Red Sox highlight shown against the Yankees had one of two people on the mound. Mariano Rivera, or Javier Vazquez. Weren’t the Yankees sick of this guy? Wasn’t he soft? Didn’t he pitch poorly? Weren’t the Yankees thrilled to dump him off to the D-Backs when they got Randy Johnson? Hasn’t he been shipped from team to team to team since then? This is the guy they had to have back?

What about the young kids? From why I’ve been hearing, Hughes and Chamberlain will be battling each other for Cy Youngs for years to come. Was that just a smokescreen? Is Joba really nothing more than a middle reliever? From the press I’ve been reading, either one of them would have to be better than Vazquez.

And, what about Cabrera? Is he not an up and coming star? I’m confused.

Naturally, since it was the Yankees, this will be reported as a huge move. Just like when they traded for Granderson, it will be played up to be bigger than it is. From my end, this marks the second trade by the Yankees that I am thrilled with. They’ve picked up another guy who does nothing for me whatsoever.

This move screams of desperation. It’s great when the Yankees look desperate. The Red Sox made a move to bolster their rotation, and the Yankees got scared. They felt they had to do something, and somehow settled on Vazquez. They sent their most tradable player off for a mediocre starting pitcher. If I were a Yankee fan (shudder) I would be screaming at Cashman at the top of my lungs. What was he thinking?

I love it when the Yankees panic.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Don’t Know is on Third

It looks like Mike Lowell will be a Red Sox for the coming season. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

The way rumors fly during the hot stove season; it’s best to not get caught up on stories. I’ve often said it doesn’t happen until someone’s holding up a jersey at a press conference. In this case, you always had the feeling it wasn’t a normal transaction. Usually, when “reports” of a deal come out, it’s a matter of hours before everyone has it all buttoned up. This time, right off the bat they were wondering if it would really go through. That’s not a good sign for any trade.

The proposed deal would have sent Mike Lowell and $9 million to Texas for catcher Max Ramirez. That would have left a gaping hole at third base. The rumor mill went crazy with possible replacements. Would it be Adrian Beltre? Would the Sox shift Kevin Youkilis to third and trade for Adrian Gonzalez? Prince Fielder? As the trade wore one, though, none of the second shoes were falling. The Sox backed out of the Beltre pursuit, claiming he was too expensive. The Gonzalez deal was sounding like a pipe dream, even if it was a perfectly logical one. The Sox actually claimed to be OK with Casey Kotchman at first and Youkilis at third. That led to the obvious question. Why, then, trade Lowell?

After all, you were paying for him anyway. Was he that much of a hole in the roster that it was worth not having him? Even if he gives you 50 games, isn’t that better than 50 games of Kotchman? How about a DH platoon with Ortiz? If you’re not going to fill his hole with a superior player, aren’t the Sox better off with his production? I’d certainly think so.

So, assuming that Lowell has surgery, and can make it back in time to play…what does this mean? How does Lowell feel? The Red Sox almost completed a deal involving Nomar once, but it too fell apart. Nomar, naturally, felt unwanted and angry after the team basically agreed to trade him away. In that case, the trade would have made room for a comparable, if not superior, player. At least the Nomar/Manny switch for ARod/Ordonez could be talked up. How do you spin the Lowell deal? How do you convince Lowell that you think he’s anything other than a washed up has been? Can Theo look him in the eye and say he’s glad he’s on the team? “Yeah, Mike, I know we bribed another team with $9 million dollars to take you off our hands, and only wanted a third string catcher in return. But, you understand, we had to make room for Casey Kotchman.” Really? I know Lowell’s a class act, and won’t make it a distraction for the team. But, can he stop it from being a distraction for him? He’s already been a “throw in.” Does that prepare him for being a “has been”?

The trade rejection also, probably, signals the end of any major moves by the Sox. With Lowell at third, there’s no space to put a major acquisition. Unless, I suppose, they go the platoon route.

I wonder if Jason Bay can play first.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Collecting the Sox: Hats

Hats are yet another great Red Sox collectable. Every time an announcer mentions that an outfielder caught a ball “bill of the cap high” you’re reminded of have integral hats are to the game of baseball. As with any piece of merchandise in the last few years, the variety of hats has exploded, making it a great collectable to pursue.

As with any quality collectable, hats present a great variety. You can divide a hat collection into many different categories. One of the most obvious segments would be the official hats. This is one specific segment that has seen great growth in the last few years. These are hats like the players actually wear in a game. For years, that meant the navy blue hat with the red “B” on the front. For a while in the seventies, that color scheme was reversed. Those were really your only two choices. These days, with the introduction of the alternate hat, and the special hats, there are a lot more options. The Red Sox of recent years have worn red hats, or white hats. Hats with a “B.” Hats with the “hanging Sox.” They wore special hats during the World Series in ’04 and ’07. They also wore special hats on the Opening Days the following seasons. Players in the All-Star Game have yet another special hat. That’s a good five or ten different “official” hats out there for collecting. It’s also possible to find game used versions of these hats. That adds a special rarity to any collection.

Another segment is the commemorative hats. These hats aren’t worn in a game, but they celebrate a game or achievement. There are generally hats made for any playoff series. Those are basic hats, showing the teams involved and information about the series. If the Sox win a playoff series, or clinch a playoff spot, they also issue official championship hats. While these could be included in the previous category, they weren’t from a game. They were from the party after a game. These celebrate the clinching, usually in a flashy style. Opening Day is sometimes celebrated on a hat, as well as any special events. These are nice because they remind you of a special moment in a Red Sox season.

The last segment is the novelty hat. These are the ones you see at your local mall, or department store. They have the Red Sox logo on there somewhere, but the rest of the design can be anything. They could be black hats, or pink hats, or green hats, or striped and spotted hats. You name it. This segment allows for the most personal expression, as you can find a hat to fit just about anyone’s tastes.

I was a hat collector for a bit. When there was an important event, like the All-Star game, I’d grab a hat to remember it. I stopped, though, for a couple reasons. I wasn’t wearing the hats. For one thing, they’d get ruined. For another, I didn’t have the chance to wear a lot of hats. I found that I’d just stick to the classic blue. The hats started getting hard to store properly. They’re bigger than a baseball, and can’t really be stacked easily. So, I moved away from hats. I still like them, though. They look nice autographed, especially with multiple players on it. They look nice on a shelf, and add a splash of color to a room.

Anyone have a favorite Red Sox hat?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

OK…Let’s see…

Anything interesting to talk about today?

It looks like the Red Sox have responded a bit to their fans. Anyone who thought the Sox got shut out at the winter meetings, and were upset about the Yankees making moves needs to reconsider their complaints. The Sox didn’t sign Boof Bonser. I guess to be fair; I don’t think they’ve technically done anything. As I write this, I have yet to see a press conference with anyone wearing a jersey. But, if we can believe reports, the Sox have had a busy week. Shall we discuss?

The big chip to fall down would be the signing of John Lackey. I can’t not like this deal. When you can add a top of the rotation guy to your team, how can it be bad? This guy was a game 1 starter for a team in last years ALCS. And, he could be the third guy in the Sox rotation? The money doesn’t appear to be all that bad either. Of course, with baseball, that’s all relative. So, it’s clear-cut. Lackey is a great addition to the Sox. Now, if you want to get into other places they can spend their money…then maybe we can talk. When you have two aces, is money better spent on a bat as opposed to a third ace? If it really was a Bay vs. Lackey choice…I probably would have gone with Bay. But, if the Sox get Lackey, and can extend Beckett, that’s going to be one heck of a rotation for a few years.
The other move is less of a slam-dunk. The Sox are apparently close to signing Mike Cameron. If this is the replacement for Jason Bay, they fell a little short. Cameron is a nice addition. He’d a fine defender. He can hit a little bit. He’s a bottom of the order guy who won’t embarrass himself. It’s just not what the Sox could have. It looks like the Sox decided that Bay wasn’t an elite player, and they weren’t about to pay him as such. I can’t complain with that. I’ve always said that there’s a difference between best, and best available. I just think that that rule applies more to teams that don’t have $150 million payrolls.

What does the future hold? Not sure. There’s that odd trade with Texas that could make the Sox down a third baseman. If that really does go through, thoughts are the Sox will sign Adrian Beltre. A pretty even swap, if you ask me. Is there still another big move out there? Maybe. Could the Sox still ship Buchholz in a deal for Miguel Cabrera? Absolutely. But, as the Sox stand now, they’re better than the Yankees are. That’s good enough for me.

Is it April Yet?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Team Sets: 1991 Fleer

Players Included: Larry Anderson, Marty Barrett, Mike Boddicker, Wade Boggs, Tom Bolton, Tom Brunansky, Ellis Burks, Roger Clemens, Scott Cooper, John Dopson, Dwight Evans, Wes Gardner, Jeff Gray, Mike Greenwell, Greg Harris, Dana Kiecker, Randy Kutcher, Dennis Lamp, Mike Marshall, John Marzano, Rob Murphy, Tim Naehring, Tony Pena, Phil Plantier, Carlos Quintana, Jeff Reardon, Jerry Reed, Jody Reed, Luis Rivera, Kevin Romine

Best Picture: John Marzano. The young Marzano had the tall task of going out to talk to his pitcher…Roger Clemens. What does a youngster like Marzaono say to a multiple Cy Young winner? “Great pitching, Roger!” He looks a little out of his element in this shot.

Hall of Famers: Wade Boggs

Future Hall of Famers: Roger Clemens

Reason the buy the set: In 1991, the Phil Plantier card would have been a big draw. There are a lot of solid players, in addition to Boggs and Clemens. The yellow border itself might be enough of a draw.

Overall Reaction: This is a nice set. The yellow is a take it or leave it sort of thing. I like it, since it stands out in a collection. The player selection is great. All the budding stars are included, as well as some of the old dogs. It’s a fun set, that reminds me of one of the best core group of Red Sox players in a while.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2009 Scavenger Hunt Reminder

Let this serve as your monthly reminder to find the items for this year’s Scavenger Hunt! I’ve had several people e-mail me to let me know they were scoping out items. I can’t wait to see all the pictures. If you can’t remember the items you needed to find, or any of the rules click here or on the link to the right to find them.

So, start taking those pictures. Even if you don’t think you’ll find enough items to win, it doesn’t mean you can’t play. I’m sure we’d all love to see any items that you do find!

Happy Picture Taking!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Scored! May 6, 2000

This is what made Pedro Pedro. There was no such thing as a bad ticket if Pedro was on the mound. You can almost hear season ticket holders groan when they look at the schedule and see an early May game against the woeful Devil Rays. How are they eveer going to get rid of that ticket? They certainly don’t want to be at that game. Scalpers probably threw those tickets in with purchase. But, as you get closer to the game, and the rotation starts to clear up, and Pedro looks to be on the mound, everything changes. What was a ticket you’d have trouble giving away becomes one of the best tickets you can get. After all, on any given night Pedro could make history.

A couple things jump out at me when I look at the scorecard. First, look at the bottom of the order. Manny Alexander at third base, and Andy Sheets at short. Has there ever been a more pathetic left side of the infield? I don’t remember why Nomar wasn’t playing in that game. I hope it wasn’t another case of the manager resting the best players when Pedro was facing Tampa. It happened to Pedro a lot. The managers would rest players when facing bad teams, figuring Pedro wouldn’t need many runs. And, that was true. He didn’t need many. He did need at least one though. I also don’t know why it was Alexander instead of Valentin or Veras. But, that’s who the Sox went with that day. Frankly, look at the whole order. That was a pretty sad collection of nine guys. Remember, this is a team that was in the ALCS the year before. Unbelievable.

Second, I goofed in the ninth inning. Some people denote flyball outs with the F-8 designation. I assume it would contrast with an L-8, for a line out. But, other people use the F designation for a foul out. I had started out my scoring career using the former technique. I decided not too long ago that I couldn’t figure out when a fly ball turned into a soft liner, into a liner. So, I started using the F for a foul out. As you can see, sometimes old habits die hard. It’s also an example of how a scoring system evolves over time. I stopped using information that wasn’t helpful to me, and started using information that was more meaningful.

It’s very clear from the top of the card that the Sox lost a close one. That’s what makes the bottom of the card so gut wrenching. Pedro’s line almost makes you cry. Nine innings pitched. Six hits, one walk. (For the new fangled math fans out there, that’s a 0.78 WHIP.) That went along with SEVENTEEN strikeouts. Pedro Martinez tied his career high in strikeouts, gave up one run, completely dominated the game…and lost! Which co-ace was able to do that to poor Pedro? I bet many of you remember that it was the immortal Steve Trachsel. That’s right. Not exactly the result I was expecting when I went to the park. As you can see, the Sox could only muster three hits of their own. Pedro was outpitched, and beaten by Steve Trachsel. Incredible.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Granderson “Blockbuster”

Yesterday, the Yankees apparently acquired Curtis Granderson in a three-team trade. I have to admit. I’m having a little trouble whipping myself into a frenzy over this move. When I saw the headline that the Yankees were involved in a “blockbuster” I was, naturally, nervous. Which star player had they managed to wrestle from an underachieving team? When I realized that is was Granderson going to the dark side, I was actually relieved. It wasn’t Halladay, or Hernandez, or Gonzalez, or Fielder, or Ramirez, or any one of a dozen of names that flew into my head. It was Curtis Granderson. Phew.

Does the move make the 2010 Yankees better than they were three days ago? Yes. Of course, three days ago their outfield was Swisher-Gardner-Cabrera. Does it make the Yankees better than they were in 2009? I don’t see it. Sure, Granderson is a better player to have on the team going forward than either Damon or Matsui. But, Damon had a great year last year. So, the Yankees don’t look any more formidable than they did last season. Now, since Granderson in now playing his home games in a Little League field, his number will improve. It will look like a much better deal than it is, and that’s too bad.

Some Sox fans are pretty angry over this deal. I admit. It’s a little annoying when your team holds a press conference to introduce Marco Scutaro, and their main competition is trading for a former all-star. But, the Sox aren’t done. They didn’t “need” Granderson. The improvement over Ellsbury wouldn’t be staggering. Both are really more exiting than good. I’d much rather save the chips for a move that actually fills a need. Focus on filling holes. That’s what the Yankees did. They didn’t get a guy just because he was available. They needed a young quality centerfielder. The Sox already have one. If they want to make a move, a pitcher, or a shortstop, or corner infielder would make tons more sense. Heck, even a power hitting left fielder would make sense. Trading for Granderson would have been very disappointing. Especially since the Yankees apparently gave up a couple nice players in the deal.

I still wouldn’t call it a blockbuster.

Monday, December 7, 2009

TTM Success!

My complete hopelessness has been well documented. I look around at other blogs, and see request after request fulfilled. People are sending out autograph requests ten at a time, and getting responses in days. I, on the other hand, had been shut out for almost two years. But, this weekend that all changed. When I checked the mail, sitting there looking at me was the coveted envelope addressed to me in my own handwriting. It was an early Christmas present as I wondered what joys would lie within.

As always, the first thing I did was check the postmark, to see what clue that might provide. Brockton, Massachusetts. If I had thought about it, that would have been a huge hint. For some reason, though, I ignored it. I figured, of course a Red Sox player would have a postmark in the Boston area. So, it was only after I opened the envelope that I realized the card enclosed was signed by none other than local World Series hero Manny Delcarmen!

I love the way this card looks. It’s a classic pose of Manny, making for a great picture. Naturally, that’s why I sent it in the first place. I also like how Manny signed it vertically. It’s like he was thinking, “I’m not Mel Ott…I’m going to need some space.”

If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that I sent this card out to Manny during Spring Training. So, that means I got a response in just about ten months. Not quite the ten days that other blogs report, but I’m certainly not complaining. I always expect a year anyway. What’s more interesting is the timing. Obviously, I know nothing about the wants and needs of a major league ballplayer. When I sent out the card, I mentioned that my fastest responses have been to Spring Training. My guess was that the ballplayers have less to do down there. They don’t have families, or chores, so might as well sit in the hotel signing fan mail. Once the season starts, they’re either living at home, or on the road. I always figured, that of the two, when the player was on the road, they might sign some things. Grab a sack, and sit on the plane and sign away. But no. Manny waited until after the season, when he finally had other things to do. He was home with his family, with household chores calling to him. This is when he found the time to answer my request. I thank him fully for it. It’s just not when I would have expected it.

So, this response has renewed my thirst. For one thing, it proves that I had the right address. I was beginning to wonder. So, with the offseason in full swing, I’ll be thinking of more requests to send out once Spring Training starts up. Of course, I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you Manny Delcarmen!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Scutaro at Short

Well, he's definitely a shortstop.

That's really all I have to say about the signing. The free agent shortstop pool was shallow to say the least. (The second base pool wasn't much better...which is why shifting Pedrioa never made much sense. ) So, Theo decided on Scutaro. Is it a flashy signing? Nope. Are the Sox now locks for the playoffs? Not even close. Does it fill a hole so that groundballs won't go into left field? Yup. And, really, other than a dream of a trade that was about what the Sox were after. Someone to take up the line-up spot, and not embarrass the team. Oddly, you wouldn't think those were difficult qualifications. Theo has had some trouble, however, finding someone that meets them. After this, Theo needs to concentrate on the gaping hole in left field. Beyond that...if he'd like to acquire a power hitting first baseman or a stud starting pitcher, he's certainly free to do so. But, at least get a complete roster going. Let''s hope that Scutaro is a solid shortstop for the next two or three years.

Frankly, I'd be happy if the Sox aren't paying him to play somewhere else in 2011.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

36 Questions: What rights do the MLBPA hold?

I have a 2009 Fenway Park calendar…shocking as that must be. It’s an especially cool calendar in my case since I was at a few of the games they feature. The Calendar is licensed by MLB, so it has the Red Sox logo plastered everywhere. It’s the old circle logo, but I’ll give them a break since it’s the first year. The calendar is not, apparently, licensed by the MLB Players Association. It was interesting to me what I guess that means.

Most of the pictures are nice scenic shots of Fenway taken from well up in the stands. You can’t really tell who the players are unless you really think about it. That big guy in left with the long hair is probably Manny Ramirez. I assumed that was part of the lack of MLBPA license. They couldn’t have the players recognizable without their rights. The odd part was that they also airbrushed away their numbers. The May pictures us a nice action shot. There’s a batter at the plate awaiting the pitch. There are runners on at first and third, ready to pounce. But, I can’t concentrate on the action. My eyes are drawn to the solid white backs on the batter, third base coach, and the runner at third. The Players somehow own the rights to their numbers? The Red Sox don’t own the rights to the number 34 written in a Red Sox font…the player does? That seems a little odd. Does that only apply to the current player wearing the number? Can Steve Avery allow the licensing of a glut of “Red Sox 33” merchandise…or does it have to be Tek? If there is no current member wearing the number, is it up for grabs? Could the calendar have photo shopped in the number 21?

In the August photo, there’s a shot of the centerfield jumbotron. The player’s picture has been blacked out, as well as his name. The stats remain, though. So, if you really wanted to check, you could probably figure out who it would have been. But, the MLBPA has the rights to a picture that happens to be in the background? What about the fact that I can pretty easily figure out that it’s Dice-K on the mound? How is that different? In November, it got a little weirder. Again, there’s a jumbotron shot. Again the player’s picture has been blacked out. This time, there are no stats either. But, the player’s name is still there…it’s just slightly blurry. You can pretty easily tell that it’s Grady Sizemore though. So, they went through the trouble of removing everything else…but left the players name? Can they use the name as long as there’s not other identifying information? Without the picture or the stats, could it be some other “Grady Sizemore” who happened to be batting leadoff for the Cleveland Indians? Where is the line in the sand?

Who decides which rights are which?

What people are reading this week