Friday, November 27, 2009

The Halladay Buzz

One thing I like about the Hot Stove season, is that it's sort of like buying a lottery ticket. You know when you have a ticket in your hand, and you know you're not going to win, but you start to wonder what you'd do if you did? Dreaming about the houses you'd buy or the trips you'd take is almost worth the dollar you plunked down for the ticket. That's what the hot stove does for me. I know that 99% of the rumors out there are bogus, but it sure is fun to imagine the Red Sox roster with all those additions. Right now, I'm imagining a Red Sox rotation of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Roy Halladay, Dice-K, and Wakefield. My goodness, that would be fun to watch. So, am I drooling over the prospect of the Sox "pulling out all the stops" for Halladay? Sort of.

Obviously Halladay would be an enormous pick-up. But, I'm not sure he'd be on the top of my list. Of the names people (and morons) have mentioned as possibilities, I'd prefer Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Hanley Ramirez, or Felix Hernandez. Sure, those are dream wishes, but the names got out there somehow, right? So, tell me that those guys are completely off the table before you talk about Roy Halladay. From there, The Sox need a bat more than an arm. Does getting Doc stop the Sox from getting the bat they need? If they trade for him, I assume they'll have to sign him long term. Does that mean they can't afford to resign Bay? Does that mean they let Beckett walk after next year? If the choice is Beckett or Halladay, should the Sox keep the prospects and just go with Beckett? What about John Lackey? Should the Sox keep the prospects, and just sign the younger playoff tested pitcher as a free agent? How much money is Theo looking to throw around, exactly? Halladay and Beckett and Bay? Sounds doubtful. Two of the three? Let's go with the last two.

A whole lot more questions than answers in that last paragraph. But, that's what happens this time of year. I really need that first shoe to drop to see where Theo's headed.

Hopefully, it's someplace fun!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

List of 36: Things I was Thankful for from the 2009 Red Sox

1. Papi finally homering
2. Sunny Saturday afternoons
3. Terry Francona’s WEEI interviews
4. Dumping John Smoltz
5. Opening Day at Fenway
6. Ellsbury stealing home
7. The Patriots Day Game
8. Baseball in the rain
9. Dustin Pedrioa’s laser shows
10. Halladay rumors
11. September call-ups
12. Trading for Victor Martinez
13. Jason Varitek being a true professional
14. Daniel Bard’s fastball
15. JD Drew’s patience
16. The road uniforms
17. Dice-K in September
18. Keeping a scorecard
19. Jon Lester getting even better
20. Finding friends in the stands
21. Bard-Wagner-Papelbon
22. Beckett’s personal catcher.
23. Buchholz’s good stretch
24. Jason Bay turning in another great season
25. Mr. Splitty
26. The hanging Sox
27. Dual aces
28. Ellsbury’s steals record
29. Making the playoffs
30. Endless blog topics
31. Alex Gonzalez’s return
32. Winning streaks
33. Re-signing Tim Wakefield
34. Beckett or Lester debates
35. Beating the Yankees
36. The 2010 Red Sox 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Well, well, well. The voters got it right once again. Pretty impressive really. Joe Mauer won the AL MVP in an absolute landslide. The interesting thing about the MVP votes, is that you vote for ten people. So, you end up with some interesting players in the mix, just because of a fluke of numbers. Take Miguel Cabrera. He got the only first place vote that Mauer didn’t get. But, he ended up fourth in the voting. So, one person thought he was the best in the league…but most everyone else thought he wasn’t even second best. That’s also how players like Derek Jeter rack up points. Once everyone puts Maur in the top spot, the rest of the slots are fairly arbitrary. So, in order to help their reputation, they throw Jeter in at second or third. Nobody thinks he should have won the award…but he adds up enough points to finish pretty high in the rankings. Like the money winner in golf never winning a tournament. But, if you finish top few enough times, you end up with a pretty good year.
Jason Bay and Kevin Youkilis both finished in the top ten in the voting. Congratulations to them. I didn’t see last year’s winner, Dustin Pedrioa, anywhere in the list. That seems about right. Bay and Youk were major parts of the Red Sox this season, and deserved the recognition.
It’s also fun to see the bottom of the MVP lists. Much like HOF voting, it’s where voters have a little fun. Naturally, some writers toss Mariano Rivera a horrifically undeserved vote or two. Sometimes you have to wonder if voters can’t think of more than ten players, and just write names in to get the voting over with.
I’ve always struggled with what exactly the most valuable player is. Can you be the most valuable member of one team, even if you wouldn’t be very valuable to another? Is it the most valuable player to the league? This year is a poor example of that, since I can’t think of a team that couldn’t use a catcher what wins the batting title, OBP title, and slugging % title. But, how about Teixeira, the runner up? He’s pretty valuable to the Yankees. But, would Kevin Youkilis be any less valuable to the Yankees? Would either of them have won the award if they played for Minnesota? I’m not exactly sure where the comparisons are supposed to be made. Guess that’s another reason why I don’t vote.
I just complain about the people who do.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: K is for…

Kapler, as in Gabe
Gabe Kapler joined the Sox in 2003, and made quite a splash with the Red Sox. He immediately became a fan favorite, and was part of the Curse Busting 2004 World Champions.
Kapler was a hot prospect when he came up to the bigs with Detroit. He had all the skills to become a great player. His dedication to working out was well known. He even appeared in several muscle magazines celebrating his body. Unfortunately, that apparent raw strength never really transferred to the diamond.
By the time he made it to Boston he was clearly a third or fourth outfielder. That happened to be exactly what the Red Sox needed when they grabbed him mid-season. His Red Sox debut came on June 28 of 2003 against the Florida Marlins at Fenway. Gabe put on an absolute show. He fell a homer short of hitting for the cycle, and was an integral part in the Sox building up a big lead in the game. The next day, Kapler added the home run he missed the first game. It was quite a first weekend, and placed him squarely in the hearts of many Red Sox fans.
While Kapler didn’t continue the batting dominance, and really who could, he did become a solid member of the team. He appeared in all four World Series games in 2004, and was a valuable guy to have off the bench. Kapler was also late involved in one of the odder plays you’ll see. In Toronto, Bill Mueller (I believe) hit a line drive home run. Kapler was on first, and ran hard around second, not knowing if the ball would clear the wall. In Totonto they have the goofy turf, with patches of dirt at the bases. When Kapler rounded second and reached the turf on the way to third, he blew out his knee. Mueller, in his home run trot, came upon Kapler writhing on the ground, and had to stop. Obviously, if he passed Kapler, he would have been out, and the run wouldn’t score. He had to stand there as the training staff took care of things…mid play. The injury ended Kapler season.
Gabe even had a turn as a manager in the Red Sox organization, taking a turn at the helm of the Greenville Drive. He returned to the majors after the stint, and became a fan favorite in even more baseball towns. As a part of the 2004 Championship team, he will forever live in Red Sox lore.
K is for Kapler, Gabe.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Random Stuff

A few things bouncing around my head as I wait for the first big Free Agent signings.

Zack Greinke was awarded the AL Cy Young award yesterday. It was an exciting example where the voters actually got it right. They didn’t go with the big guy with the big name on the big team. They went with the most dominant pitcher, even if he didn’t win as many games as others did. Every once in a while the voters get their stuff in order and make the right call. I remember a stretch when Dave Stewart was robbed of Cy Youngs because of this voter flip-flop. It seemed like whenever he had the most wins, the award would go to the better pitcher. If he was the better pitcher, the award went to the guy with the most wins. This year, the voters thought it over, and gave it to the guy who most deserved it. I wonder if that will carry over to the rest of the awards this year.

The Sox announced that they would be raising their ticket prices on some tickets this season. This was hardly a surprise. They didn’t raise the prices last season in a bow to public relations. You just knew they weren’t going to take a hit two years in a row. But, they made it a soft blow. Some tickets were raised a small amount. It wasn’t so bad. It’s especially not so bad if they use the extra income to sign a power hitting left fielder, or extend the contract of a newly acquired Cy Young runner up. When they raised ticket prices after signing Manny, I certainly didn’t complain.

It’s not exactly Red Sox related, but I had to toss out an opinion on the “Fourth and Two” call. Maybe I can wind it in to the Sox at the end, but we’ll see. I loved the call! I loved it when I saw the offense run back on the field. I loved it then. I still love it now. It showed confidence. It showed power. It showed that the Patriots were the ones calling the shots. It was what the Pats did on every play during the 2007 season. On that play, they had two options. Go for it, or punt it. If they punted it, they would have given Manning the ball needing to go, what, 70 yards in two minutes. After watching the game up to then, there has to have been at least a 50% chance that Manning would march right down the field for the score. So, the Pats went the other way. They figured that there was at least a 50% chance that they’d get the two yards. If they missed it, they game Manning two minutes to drive 30 yards. How come all the people pointing to the number of three and outs the Pats defense put up don’t think they could have done it there? So, there must have been a 25% chance that the Pats could stop Manning from scoring, even on the short field. So, looking at the decision…a punt gives Manning a 50% chance of scoring. Going for it, gives Manning a 37% chance of scoring. I’ll take those odds. Plus, the big thing that doesn’t get mentioned much...they made it! The Patriots got the two yards they needed. Only a criminal spot by the official stopped the Patriots from keeping the ball, and ending the game as planned. So, does it still count as risky, or a bad call when you think you can do it, and then do it? Which brings us to the replay I’m begging for baseball to use. Football does it wrong. They limit the number of challenges since it takes so long. They tie it to the number of time-outs a team has left. So, because the Patriots had no time outs left, they couldn’t call for an official to easily change the spot of the ball. Basically, the Patriots needed to save a time out just in case they got completely hosed on a crucial play in the game. How crazy is that? That’s why baseball needs the “guy in the booth” replay. An extra official needs to be watching on TV, so he can quickly, without being asked, check a replay and get the correct call. In the Pats case, the blunder was followed by a change of possession time-out. An official in the booth had all kinds of time to check out the play. The rules just wouldn’t let the Patriots ask. Sports need to make sure they get things right. Obvious errors can’t be affecting important games.

Just a thought.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Team Sets: 1986 Topps

Players Included: Red Sox leaders (Dwight Evans), Tony Armas, Marty Barrett, Wade Boggs, Dennis Boyd, Bill Buckner, Mark Clear, Roger Clemens, Steve Crawford, Mike Easler, Dwight Evans, Rich Gedman, Jackie Gutierrez, Glenn Hoffman, Bruce Hurst, Ed Jurak, Bruce Kison, Tim Lollar, Steve Lyons, Rick Miller, Al Nipper, Bob Ojeda, Jim Rice, Dave Sax, Bob Stanley, Dave Stapleton, Marc Sullivan, Mike Trujillo, John McNamara (mgr)

Best Picture: Steve Lyons. Lyons was nicknamed “Psycho.” I have to wonder if it’s because of this card. Lyons was obviously not ready to have his picture taken. I can’t believe that Topps didn’t have a better picture than this in the file somewhere. Anything would have to be better than making a player look as foolish as Lyons does on this card.

Hall of Famers: Wade Boggs, Jim Rice

Future Hall of Famers: Roger Clemens

Reason the buy the set: If you’re looking for value, it’s the hall of famers that will carry the set. It doesn’t contain a hotshot rookie. Minor stars like Bill Buckner or Dwight Evans would be nice to have. The main draw for the set is that it is the team set for the team that lost the ’86 World Series, and all the key players are there.

Overall Reaction: The team name on these cards is a little too prominent for me. The player selection is adequate. (The sets of this era usually contained most players on the team.) It’s a nice little set to have.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2009 Scavenger Hunt

Once again, we’ve reached the end of another baseball season. It’s more than three months before we can even talk about Spring Training. The Sox may have an interesting hot stove season, but that will be many more rumors than facts. How else can we all spend our time? Once again, I have the answer. I present the Second Annual Section 36 Scavenger Hunt! Last year, I tried using numbers as the items to find. This year, as promised, I’m trying pictures. So, here’s how it will work. Below, you’ll find a list of 36 items. When you find an item, take a picture of it and send it along to me in an e-mail. Whoever sends me pictures of the most items wins. We’ll make the end of the hunt be noon Eastern Time on the day Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to 2010 Spring Training. This both gives enough time to find the stuff, and fills all the time leading up to more baseball. Sound like fun? What do you win if you’re the best? Worldwide fame and adoration! I will post the winner’s name (and picture if one is provided) on this very site and hail them as the 2009 Scavenger Hunt Champion! I’m sure that Adam from Candia, NH has found his worldwide fame to be quite an honor this past year. This year, I’m also offering an official Section 36 scorebook to the winner. This book will use my custom scoresheet, and will be bound with enough sheets to score 20 games. Not too bad, eh? Here is this year’s list of items to get pictures of:

1. Hall of Fame Plaque of a player wearing a Red Sox cap

2. Ticket to World Series game played by the Red Sox

3. Statue honoring Red Sox player

4. Red Sox themed bumper sticker

5. Cereal box featuring Red Sox player

6. Red Sox bathing suit

7. Ticket from Red Sox game against the Yankees

8. Jon Lester baseball card

9. Kevin Youkilis t-shirt

10. Book authored by member of Red Sox (even if it’s “as told to”)

11. Autograph of member of 2004 World Series roster

12. DVD of movie with appearance by Red Sox player

13. Red Sox program

14. Red Sox media guide

15. Red Sox yearbook

16. Red Sox pocket schedule

17. Pink Red Sox hat

18. White Red Sox hat

19. Red Red Sox hat

20. Blue Red Sox hat

21. Red Sox socks

22. Completed scorecard from a Red Sox game

23. Newspaper with Red Sox related front-page headline

24. Magazine with a Red Sox player on the cover

25. Josh Beckett replica jersey

26. Red Sox player

27. Entrance to Gate C at Fenway Park

28. Official Program from 1999 MLB All-Star game

29. Official Program from 2003 ALCS

30. Red Sox calendar

31. McFarlane brand figurine of Red Sox player

32. Red Sox themed tattoo

33. Female Red Sox fan

34. Male Red Sox fan

35. Red Sox cup

36. Red Sox magnet

(As a quick clarification. Unless it says otherwise, “Red Sox Player” refers to anyone who ever played for the Boston Red Sox in a regular season game. That counts even if the player isn’t depicted as a Red Sox player in the picture. So, Johnny Damon wearing pinstripes would qualify.)

Now, since I once again want this to be a scavenger hunt, and not a google search, I’ll need a way to make sure you actually find these items yourself. So, in order to qualify any picture will need to have any one of the following three things in it.

1. You. This might be the easiest way. If you’re in the picture, I can be pretty sure you actually found the item. If you’re shy, I can block you out before using the picture if you ask. This has one advantage in that it doesn’t have to be a new picture. If you went to the Hall of Fame last summer and took a picture with Yaz’s plaque, that would work.

2. A copy of the official Section 36 scoresheet. Just print out a copy, and have it visible in the picture somewhere.

3. The address of this blog, “”, written somewhere in the picture. Either write it out on a piece of paper, on a sidewalk with chalk, on someone’s leg, whatever. (Just don’t vandalize anything). It has to be something in the picture, obviously, and not digitally added.

That make sense? So, send in your pictures to me, section36 at gmail dot com (I bet you know which parts to replace with symbols) It would be nice if you told me which items you thought were in each picture. To make it a little more interesting, if there’s a tie between people who have the same number of found items, the first tiebreaker will be the person who did it with the fewest number of pictures. So, if you get a picture of a Female Red Sox fan, wearing a pink hat and a Youkilis t-shirt while holding a 1999 All-Star game program, it would be 4 items in one picture. That’s a great start, although I’m sure you can do better. (In case you were wondering, the other tiebreaker will just be my judgment as to which pictures I like the best.)

As I’m sure you can imagine, if you send me a picture, you’re stating that you have the rights to send me the picture. You’re also telling me that I can use the picture on my blog in just about any way I see fit (other than the previously mentioned blacking out of faces, if requested).

I think that covers everything! It’s now up to you to start sending me your pictures. I’ll keep reminding you as the moths go by.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Collecting the Sox: World Championships

World Championship collectables are a fairly new category for Red Sox collections. Prior to about five years ago, obviously, items were a little bit hard to come by. There was an occasional t-shirt or magnet celebrating the 1918 World Champions. I picked up replica banners from each of the five titles. But, that was really about it. That all changed in 2004. Most companies can smell two things. A buck, and a sucker. The 2004 Red Sox championship provided plenty of the latter with plenty of the former. Suddenly you couldn’t move three feet without tripping over something with a World Series logo on it. No trip to the gas station, grocery store or mall was safe from stores wanting your World Series cash. If you didn’t set some limits on yourself pretty quick, you wouldn’t have any money left to buy things from the next championship.

To help with the impulse, I tried to get some advice. I asked a Yankees fan (as painful as it was) if there was anything he was glad he had, or wished he had from the 1996 championship. The 1996 one was similar to the Sox win in 2004 in that they both broke droughts of some length. The two things he mentioned were a World Series hat, and a picture of the pig pile after the win. Those made sense to me. They were pretty classic items that captured the feeling of the championship. Obviously, no self-respecting Red Sox fan would stop the buying with only those two things. But, it was nice to have some help in steering me in the right direction. As with anything else, World Series collectables can be broken down into a few themes, to help refine any collection.

There are things “used” in the World Series. Luckily, in this case, the St Louis Cardinals were a huge help. They raffled off, or sold, many items from the World Series that can be found if you look enough. There are pieces of the bench from the visitor’s dugout from game four. There are Gatorade towels from the visitor’s dugout. Dirt from the pitchers mound. Champagne bottles from the locker room. Ticket stubs from the game used tickets to game four. The list really does go on and on. Heck, an occasional World Series ring shown up on the auction block. It a great way to get an actual piece of history.

Beyond that, there are several more official items, just a degree or two away from being part of the action. You can find official World Series baseballs. Official celebration t-shirts and hats. Official parade sweatshirts. Official World Series hats, or sweatshirts, or knit caps. Official patches. Newspapers followed the money and printed edition after edition of championship headlines. Just about every paper printed at least two headlines the day following the win. These items may not have been used in any of the games, but they’re close.

From there, there really is everything else…probably including the kitchen sink. The logo was on soda cans, hats, pens, coolers, backpacks, statues, flashlights, key chains, cereal, and on, and on, and on again. The advantage of all the choices is that it’s easy to find something in your price range. The downside, is that it’s pretty easy to get carried away and end up spending a fortune.

It’s all out there. Anything you want to collect to celebrate a World Championship is at your fingertips. You just need to know what you want. Whatever it is, I’m sure you can find it.

Anyone have a favorite World Championship item in their collection?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Buying a Championship

Yankee fans have done some complaining lately about the rest of baseball pointing out that they bought a championship. Surprisingly, those fans make a couple valid points. True, they didn’t break any rules. It’s also true that spending money doesn’t guarantee a championship. As for the first point, I’ve been saying they should do something about the salary rule to make it harder to spend. The second point needs a slightly longer response.

Let’s say, for the moment, that the Boston Marathon is about to begin. People are standing on the starting line, waiting for the gun to go off. At this point, a race official comes to the crowd and picks a runner. This runner, it is announced, will start the race 5 miles ahead of everyone else. What is the reaction from the rest of the runners to this announcement? Do any of them simply gloss over it, knowing that the runner still has to win? Would anyone think that it might have been unfair to give one runner a head-start? I’m betting there might be some complaining from the masses. From there, the race starts. Does the head-start help the runner? Maybe. If the organizers gave me a 5-mile head start, I’m pretty sure the elite runners would pass me by mile 6. The advantage would be wasted on me. But, what if the fifth best marathoner in the world was given the advantage? There’s a pretty good chance he’d be able to hold onto that lead. If he did, would you have to at least mention that he got the head start when you’re writing about the win? Now, what if the best marathoner in the world, hands down, was the one selected. Even if he probably would have won anyway, was it fair to get the advantage? Would it cheapen the win? I’d think it would. The rest of the runners would have to say that he won, but he should have won. That’s what MLB has done to baseball. It has selected teams to get advantages.

To carry the analogy further…MLB has allowed the Yankees to have a ten-mile head start. It let the Mets have a six-mile advantage, the Angels and Red Sox probably a five-mile edge. From there, teams were spaced out with different advantages until KC comes along five miles behind the starting line with a rock in their shoe. The Mets did nothing with their advantage this year. Whether it was injuries, or poor management, they we like me. The advantage still didn’t help. The Angles did a bit more with their slot. They almost took down the Yankees, but in the end, they couldn’t close the gap. After running the extra five miles, they were worn down at the finish line. But, imagine what they could have done if it was even from the start.

Yankee fans will also point out that they spent a lot the year before, but lowly Tampa Bay beat them to the finish. And, that’s true. Even with a five-mile disadvantage, there’s a chance that some other runner will run the race of his life, and win the thing. If the weather was perfect, he was healthy, had just the right amount of food the night before, if all the stars aligned, some bottom dweller could sneak to the top. But, when they got to the Chicago Marathon, the chances of making up that deficit again aren’t very good. So, for one race, or one year, things can happen. But, on the whole, the guy with the head-start is going to do very well for himself.

He should at least mention it on the trophy stand.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I Scored!

April 10, 1998 – Red Sox Home Opening Day

Opening Days are fun. The field is fresh. The uniforms are crisp. Everyone is in a good mood. In this case, the home opener was a few games into the season. The Sox had been off to a good start. Everyone was excited about the new pitcher they had acquired, Pedro Martinez. He had already shown that he could be a lot of fun to watch. It was under all the pageantry and excitement that this game took place.

A couple quick notes about the scorecard itself. As I’ve said before, I created my own scoresheet because I could never find one with the space and set-up I wanted. In this case, I copied the scoresheet over from an old version onto my new sheet so it would present better for viewing. The old sheet had scribbles all over the margins, especially for the pitchers, since there wasn’t enough space for what I needed. Since it was a copy, I thought it would be a good chance to try the red ink. I’ve often thought if they’re the Red Sox, maybe I should score in red ink. I don’t think I like it. What do you think? You can tell this is an earlier scoresheet since I wasn’t especially good at it. I didn’t even remember to get all the uniform numbers of the players. A little research could help me fill them in, but I’d rather leave it as was.

If you look at the game, you may notice a few things. The Sox line-up was shut down early in the game. But, they were able to score a ton of runs late. Since I didn’t include the Mariners side of the sheet, the reason for that isn’t obvious. The game was started by Randy Johnson. He completely smothered the Sox for eight innings, holding them to 2 hits and 2 runs. It was only in the ninth inning, with the 7-2 lead that he was lifted. Everyone in the stands knew that the Sox might have a chance after all when the call to the bullpen went to Heathcliff Slocumb. He had been the terrible Red Sox closer the year before. He was shipped off to Seattle for a bag of beans, and we were thrilled with it. (OK, the bag of beans ended up being Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe…but who knew?) The joking went through the stands…now the Sox were back in the game.

A quick look at the ninth inning shows that we were absolutely justified in our glee. Slocumb gave up a single, walk, and double to the only three batters he faced. Old friend Tony Fossas was the reason for the maneuvering that occurred next. Once the lefty Hatteberg was announced, lefty specialist Fossas came in. Another pinch hitter nullified that, and Fossas issued the walk. With the one batter limit reached, another new pitcher came in. Mike Timlin couldn’t stop the bleeding. A singe and a hit batter, and suddenly the Sox were within 2. Yet another ineffective pitching change occurred in time for Mo Vaughn. All Vaughn did was clear the bases for a walk-off opening day grand slam. The Sox had actually won the game!

Looking back now, it’s great to see the players involved. Of course, there’s future Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson. He was just at the beginning of his greatness. Slocumb wasn’t yet the answer to a trivia question. Timlin was years away from solidifying the Sox pen in the World Series. On the Red Sox side, Garciaparra was still in the lead-off spot, having just finished his rookie-of-the-year season. Varitek was still wearing number 47, and didn’t have a “C” on his chest. Steve Avery was coming out of the pen for the Sox. Hall-of-Famer Dennis Eckersley was still pitching, in his last year in the bigs. Tom Gordon was yet to get all those consecutive saves, and yet to choke away 2004 for the Yanks. All those paths crossed in this one game.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thank You Yankees

Yes, the worst has happened. But, as is usually the case, there is a silver lining to the disgusting result of the World Series. There are a few reasons why it might not be the end of the world as we know it.
The Yankees are the bad guys again. A few too many people had started hating the Red Sox the last few years. Winning does bring some hatred from some groups of fans. That vile is now directed back at the pinstripes where it belongs. The Red Sox were also starting to collect some of the obnoxious bandwagon jumpers the last few seasons. That section of Red Sox Nation will now, also, be dropped back on the Yankees. Baseball is better when there’s a clear villain. It had been getting a little foggy lately, but now it’s all clear again.
If the Phillies had won, they would have two championships in the decade, just like the Red Sox. With a Phillies loss, the Red Sox stranglehold on “Team of the Decade” honors is secure for at least another year.
People can stop calling Derek Jeter “Mr. November.” That annoying nickname had spring up on a technicality a few years ago because he hit a home run in a game played in November. Thanks to MLB ridiculous schedule, there were several games played in November this year. It is clear that Hideki Matsui is the real “Mr. November.” His performance in this series was much more deserving than Jeter’s fluke in 2001. So, that’s one less thing for announcers to fawn over Jeter about. Of course, I expect that they’ll come up with another one any day now.
This may bring the debate over a salary cap to the forefront again. The team that spent (by far) the most money finally won the title. The way it happened this year was even worse than usual. A team with money and high payroll misses the playoff. So, they go one a spending spree that off-season, throwing money around like it was on fire. After collecting the top three players available, they roll to a title. If that doesn’t make people sick, I don’t know what will.
Just wait until they sign Jason Bay this off-season.

Happy 36th!

Today, we wish a Happy 36th Birthday to Johnny Damon!

Damon played for the Red Sox from 2002 to 2005. We’ll forget for a moment where he has played from 2006 ‘til now.

When he came to the Sox, he was exactly what the Sox needed. He was the typical lead-off guy. He could get on base. He could run. He would be a great person to have batting ahead of Manny Ramirez in the line-up. His Red Sox career ended up being even better than expected. He was everything fans hoped for on the field, and ended up as a rock star off it.

The numbers show a career where everything fell into place. He was on base as expected, and scored plenty of runs. His bat had a little bit more pop in it than some thought, and that was a great surprise. He played hard every day. He was great in centerfield, even if I could throw harder than he could. He got to every ball he was supposed to get to, and quite a few of the ones he wasn’t. Nobody could say he wasn’t a fantastic addition to the Sox.

In 2004, he took it one step further. He showed up at Spring Training with a head and face completely full of hair. Some people started referring to him as “Jesus”, and it took off from there. He gained an enormous cult following. Wigs and beards starting popping up all over Fenway Park. Damon may have evolved into the number one fan favorite on the team. It got so big, that Damon actually shaved off his beard once…for charity. A crowd of people showed up in the middle of a weekday to see his beard shaved off in exchange for a donation to charity from a razor company. (I have no idea what this says about Red Sox fans…but it definitely says something) By the time Damon led off Game 4 of the World Series with a home run, he could do no wrong. He was a hero, and a curse breaker. From there, it could all be downhill.

Which, is when we get to the elephant in the room. Following the 2005 season, Damon tested the free agent waters. As has become his standard, Theo offered a contract of a modest length. Damon realized that it was his last chance at a huge contract, and wanted a deal as long and profitable as he could. That deal came from the New York Yankees. I always thought the decision to sign with NY was another example of just how cocky Damon was. I read his book, and it is chock full of self-promotion. His post-game interviews were always just a touch too far for my liking. One clip that is always shown occurred during the 2004 ALCS. He had a terrible first couple games, 0-for-whatever with a ton of strikeouts. During the interview, he took responsibility for the losses. That’s fine. Many decent players would take the hit if they weren’t performing well. The iffy part to me was always when he went on to say that he was a catalyst for the team. I’m not sure where the line was, but I always thought he crossed it there. It’s one thing to say you stunk it up, and should be blamed. It’s another thing to say that the team doesn’t have a chance without you. But, I digress. The move to NY always made me think Damon didn’t get it. He was the rock star in Boston. He had the identity, the endorsements, everything. He was a World Champion. He’d never have to pay for dinner again. But, he didn’t quite realize the situation. He figured he could bring his star to NY, and really make a splash. But, once he went corporate, and shaved the hair, he was just another number. Suddenly, he wasn’t the top draw. Why go to Damon for endorsements? I’ve always wondered if he regretted leaving Boston. I sure would expect him to.

When it’s said and done, Damon was a 2004 World Champion, and an enormous part of that team. And if for no other reason than that, he deserves birthday wishes.

Happy Birthday Johnny!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Trailing with a 3-2 lead?

It’s becoming an interesting World Series. The Phillies didn’t really get it done when they should have. They needed to at least win two games at home. But, they were able to extend the series and bring it back to the Bronx. From here, things could get a little crazy.

The Yankees have gone with a three-man rotation for the World Series. (I can’t believe they couldn’t buy a decent fourth starter at some point.) Now that they’ve started it, there’s really no turning back. Burnett’s performance last night didn’t exactly scream “great idea!” It remains to be seen how Pettitte responds. On the surface, a Pedro-Pettitte match-up is probably a draw. Pettitte will be working on short rest. As an older pitcher, that has to take its toll. Pedro, however, will be on normal rest. Pedro’s performance was better than Pettitte’s the first time around in the Series. I also never bet against Pedro. If anyone can win a game on guts alone, I’m betting on Martinez. As if Pedro needed any more ammunition, this could be the final start of his career. Would he write it up any better than winning a World Series game in New York? Well, maybe pulling a Randy Johnson, win game six and game seven in relief. But, dominating game six would be a pretty good second option. I don’t imagine Pedro will be holding anything back. That could be fun.

As for game seven. The Yankees would go with Sabathia, once again on short rest. I know last year being used over and over on short rest got to CC. He was worn down by the time the playoffs came around. Each of his starts this postseason has been a little worse than the one before it. What will game seven bring? As for the Phillies, it’s all hands on deck. There will be a decision to be made even as to who will be the starter. Last year, it would have been an obvious classic match-up with Cole Hamels getting the ball against CC. This year…not so clear. Obviously, Hamels is an option. Cliff Lee could give some outs, I presume. (Tim McCarver pointed out last night that Lee would be available since it would be his throw day. I’ll renew my question as to what that means. It’s game seven of the World Series…what is he “throwing” for?) Basically, can the Phils get innings from enough people to add up to nine?

When do the Yankees start doubting themselves? Can they really blow another 3-1 lead? Did Jeter forget how to win? The media must be having a field day in NY. I wonder what will happen.

Go Phillies!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

36 Questions: What’s the difference between an excuse and a reason?

You hear a lot about excuses this time of year. When the baseball season reaches the playoffs, postgame interviews are covered with references to excuses. Mostly, it’s one team or player not wanting to use something as an excuse. Apparently, it makes you weaker to use something as an excuse. I’m just not exactly sure why.

After a poor performance, most reporters ask a player or team the same question. “What happened?” For some reason, though, the player isn’t really allowed to answer. If he does, he’s just making excuses. I just wonder, why can’t it simply be a reason, and not an excuse? If the player gives a reason, does that mean they couldn’t have done anything to prevent it? Isn’t it just an answer to a question?

Earlier in this postseason, Matt Holliday made a costly error on a fly ball. It has been suggested that he lost the ball in white towels that the fans were waving. But, he wouldn’t say that himself. That would have been making excuses. Why can’t he say, “I lost it in the little white towels. I should have done a better job of blocking them out, but couldn’t. If the towels weren’t there, I’m sure I would have made the catch.” Is that not all true? Is that somehow not taking fault for the error because he explained why he made it?

You see the “excuse” word used a lot when it comes to injuries. If a team loses it’s best player, the rest of the team will try to ignore it. Sometimes, they’ll actually say they won’t use it as an excuse? Why not? Isn’t it fair to say that if Mark Teixeira goes down with an injury during a game, that the Yankees will be at a disadvantage? Why can’t they say that? “Boy, we lost our best player, and top run producer. It really put us in a hole that we couldn’t climb out of.” Instead, Jeter will trot out something closer to “We can’t make excuses. We just need to buckle down, and get the job done.” Which begs the question, if the Yankees could just buckle down and get the job done without Teix, why give him the $150 million in the first place?

Maybe we’d get actual answer from players if they were allowed to give actual answers. If it’s 30 degrees out, so Beckett can’t grip his curveball correctly leading to control problems, I want to know that. I don’t want to know that he needed to try harder. If Drew has a pulled hamstring, and couldn’t make it to that ball in the gap in time, I want to know. It’s not an excuse. It’s a legitimate point. Why not make it? Whenever one team wins, and another loses there are plenty of reasons why.

Why can’t everyone just talk about them? 

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