Sunday, February 28, 2010

Second Place is the First Loser

Be that as it may, I’d like to acknowledge the runner-up in this year’s scavenger hunt. Kayla from Durham, NH was leading until the last moments when Jere edged her out. I wanted to share one of her entries for a couple reasons. First, it’s fun to look at the pictures people sent in. Second, I like how she found her items. She didn’t have them handy, so she went out looking for them. I felt I should reward the effort with an atta-girl.

Caps for sale! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!

Thanks to Kayla, and everyone else who submitted entries. And, congratulations again to Jere for coming out on top. I hope the fame this win has brought you hasn’t gone to your head.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

TTM Time!

Since Spring Training is in full swing, it’s time to start requesting autographs through the mail. I’ve prepared a stack of requests to some of my favorite Red Sox. Following the recent Manny Delcarmen success, I have high hopes for this season. This year, I’m trying…
Jacoby Ellsbury. I realized that I have already tried Ellsbury. But, I didn’t realize it until after I wrote the new request. So, I’m sending it out anyway. All I need is a 50% success rate, and I’ll be good to go.
Terry Francona. He’s skippered two Red Sox teams to World Championships. He is the only manager to be 8-0 in the World series. He gives a fantastic radio interview. What’s not to like? His autograph would be fantastic.
David Ortiz. He had a rough season last year. But, he still has two rings, and a place in Red Sox lore. He would be a great addition to any Red Sox collection.
Dustin Pedroia. Maybe I should have insulted him in my letter. I bet if I said that people are saying that he is too short to respond, he’d send back 100 signatures. But, how can I not try for someone with his trophy shelf?
Jason Varitek. One of the best Red Sox players ever, and probably their best catcher. He apparently would like to keep playing in Boston. Definitely would be great to add the captain.
Kevin Youkilis. I always forget how good Youkilis is. He’s so consistent that his production isn’t newsworthy. But, a great player with a great mental approach. It would be another great thing to get returned.
So, those are the super-six requests that went out to Spring Training. As always, I’ll let you know if anything happens.
Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

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

1. Nomar Garciaparra
2. Rico Petrocelli
3. Luis Aparicio
4. Hanley Ramirez
5. John Valentin
6. Orlando Cabrera
7. Edgar Renteria
8. Rick Burlson
9. Glenn Hoffman
10. Alex Gonzalez
11. Tim Naehring
12. Spike Owen
13. Poke Reese
14. Julio Lugo
15. Jody Reed
16. Luis Rivera
17. Rey Quinones
18. Mike Benjamin
19. Donnie Sadler
20. Jackie Gutierrez
21. Jed Lowrie
22. Alex Cora
23. Lou Merloni
24. Ed Romero
25. Craig Grebek
26. Frank Duffy
27. Ed Jurak
28. Esteban Beltre
29. Mario Guerrero
30. John Kennedy
31. Stan Papi
32. Julio Valdez
33. Bill Selby
34. Carlos Rodriguez
35. Jeff Manto
36. Juan Beniquez

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Happy 36th Mike Lowell!

Today we wish a very Happy 36th Birthday to Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell!

Mike is certainly no stranger to Red Sox fans. While most fans considered him a throw in, or anchor, to the deal that brought Josh Beckett to Boston, he has become a valuable member to the team. In fact, he was the most valuable member of the 2007 World Series. How’s that for a turnaround. Mike’s swing seems perfect for Fenway Park, and he has filled a key spot in the Red Sox line-up.

My favorite Mike Lowell moment came during Game 2 of the 2007 World Series. In the fourth inning of a game the Sox were trailing 1-0, Lowell drew a walk. Drew followed with a single to right. Lowell’s wheels might not be what they used to be, but he knew he had to try to get to third base. He lumbered in, and just beat the throw with a headfirst flop. With him now at third, he was driven in with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. The Sox ended up winning the game 2-1, so that was a key run. It was a clear example of a savvy baserunner using whatever skills he had left to make all the difference. This season, injuries have left Lowell without a position, and that’s too bad. Hopefully he’ll be able to help the team. I’m sure if there’s a way, he’ll find it.

Happy 36th Birthday Mike Lowell!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Red Sox A-Z: N is for…

Nomo, as in Hideo

Hideo Nomo joined the Red Sox starting rotation for the 2001 season, following an up and down career. He started it off in a blaze of glory with the Dodgers in the mid 90’s. He was the first major Japanese import, and everyone went crazy over the rookie with the tornado wind-up. He ended up winning the NL rookie of the year award that season. After that, he had a more mediocre stretch. Obviously, nothing could match the hype of his debut season. By the time he joined the Sox, he had kicked around a couple years, and he wasn’t a major free agent pick-up. He ended up having a fine season for the Sox. He led the team in wins (with 13!), innings pitched, and complete games. He led the American League with 220 strikeouts. That total was the 13th best in Red Sox history. He started his Red Sox career about as well as he could, as well. He threw a no-hitter in his very first start with the team. That’s even better than Clay Buchholz.

I was lucky enough to see Nomo pitch live five times during the 2001 season. He got a no-decision against the Yankees and the Athletics. He picked up three wins, against the Phillies, Braves, and Expos. Interesting that he won the three games against NL teams, coming from the NL as he did. It’s the Montreal start that I remember best, since it was in Montreal. It was the second time I had seen the Red Sox play outside of Fenway Park. It was also the second time I had seen a pitcher with a bat in his hands. The stadium was crazy. At the time, Montreal was drawing about 8,000 fans to a game. For the Red Sox series, they had about 30,000 each game. Nomo got to the plate three times in the game. He struck out the first time with men on first and third to end the inning. He struck out the second time as well. The third time, with Brian Daubach on second, he singled. He almost got an RBI, but Dauber was cut down at the plate. We were all very excited. Nomo was removed during the next inning, after giving up five runs in five-plus innings of work. Not a stellar performance, but it was enough for the win. Nomo struck out 7 batters in that game.

All told, I saw him strike out 28 of his league leading total live. In the five games I saw him, he pitched 27 innings, and gave up 15 earned runs. It’s amazing to think that he was 3-0 in those five games with a 5.00 ERA, and a 1.37 WHIP. That’s how it does sometimes. I don’t remember what happened to Nomo after that season, but he bounced around a few more years as he toured the major leagues. His stop in Boston ended up being one of his better stints.

N is for Nomo, Hideo.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And the Winner is…

Congratulations to Jere from RI (author of the fine Sox blog: A Red Sox Fan from Pinstripe Territory) for being the 2009 Section 36 Scavenger Hunt Champion!

It was a tight race for a while there, but Jere’s entry swooped in and had the most items found. He even created a blog specifically to hold the entry pictures. Now, that’s dedication! Here are a few of my favorite examples from Jere’s submission...

A tiebreaker wasn't needed, but this picture would have sealed it. 21 items in one piture!

There's a rule somewhere that says everyone needs a picture with this statue.

Good thing I picked gate C!

Just like I suggested. Hard to tell, but the 2009 wall must have Rice on it.

That's a pretty cool tattoo! I wonder where it is.

Great job! Thanks to everyone who played along.

Congratulations again Jere!

Time’s Up!

This year's Section 36 Scavenger Hunt has ended. Once I sort through all the entries, I’ll be able to announce our new champion!

Sadly, today also marks the end of Adam, from Candia NH’s reign as champion. How about a nice round of applause!

Thanks to everyone who played. I hope it was fun!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2009 Scavenger Hunt Reminder

It’s just around the corner! Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 18th. That’s TOMORROW! The Scavenger Hunt will end, therefore, at NOON Eastern Time TOMORROW! That means you have exactly 24 hours left to get your pictures in! I’ve had several people e-mail me to let me know they were scoping out items. You’re running out of time. 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, keep taking those pictures. Remember, even if you’re a fan of another team, you can enter!

Happy Picture Taking!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Collecting the Sox: 2010 Baseball Card Releases

Not too long ago, baseball card companies were a lot like car companies. Even though that Ford Focus is a 2010 model, it might have been made in 2009. Similarly, you could buy your 1987 baseball cards in time for Christmas, 1986. You would usually have enough time to complete your entire set before the calendar turned to the correct year. That changed a few years ago. In an attempt to make their baseball cards less confusing, the MLBPA set a few new rules for it licensees. One of them stated that cards for a specific year couldn’t be released until it was actually that year. A pretty simple concept, really.

What does that mean for Red Sox card collectors? Depends on what kind of collector you are. There are still plenty of cards to buy. My local Target still has boxes and boxes of 2009 cards on the shelves. (I think I saw some 2008 boxes not too long ago) It’s not like the decision deprived anyone of buying cards. What it did do is create a little excitement. When the calendar changes, it’s time for the new releases! The baseball card blogs out there have been going wild posting their reviews of the new products, and which cards they have been able to get. So from that end, I’m a bit behind the times. (That’s ok though, since from the beginning I’ve promised that I wouldn’t be breaking any news. There are a lot better places than here to get that stuff.) But, the new sets have a lot to look for from a Red Sox fan. Personally, I’ve always been a Topps fan. I’ve always liked their family of brands. It worked out well for me, since they were the only company given an MLB license this year. They released their standard base set (2010 Topps) not too long ago, and it looks sharp. Really, as I’ve mentioned in the past, there’s not a lot you can do with a baseball card design. So, as long as it has all the information on it, and isn’t annoying, I’m happy.
As with any base set, the checklist contains many of the players on the Sox you’d really want to see. The standard cards, like the Youkilis, are nice and clean. They have the basic info… name, team, and position. There are also attractive looking inserts that can enhance variety in a collection. The “ToppsTown” Kevin Youkilis is an example of those. In this case, there’s a code on the back that you can use online. It makes surfing the web a little bit more fun. There are even special cards displaying players from years gone by. The Fisk card shown depicts his most famous moment. (I do think it’s odd that the card is titled ‘The Wave” but the picture shows him after he was done waving.) So, whether you’re a fan of Red Sox teams of the past, or the current crop there are cards out there for you. There really is a little bit for everyone. Now that the releases are out, it’s time to start buying.

Now, if they’d just make more sets without Yankees.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For all of you scrambling for last minute gifts, remember…we have it easy. Red Sox items are RED…perfect for the Holiday. So, run out and grab your red jerseys, red hats, and red socks. Fold them up into a heart shape, and you’re good to go! If you’re not great at the folding…if you tilt your head just enough, you could convince yourself that the “hanging sox” logo looks just like a heart on its own! So, no excuses.

Isn’t that better than flowers and candy?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Team Sets: 1988 Topps

Players Included: Marty Barrett, Todd Benzinger, Wade Boggs, Tom Bolton, Dennis Boyd, Ellis Burks, Roger Clemens, Steve Crawford, Dwight Evans, Wes Gardner, Rich Gedman, Mike Greenwell, Sam Horn, Bruce Hurst, John Marzano, Al Nipper, Spike Owen, Jody Reed, Jim Rice, Ed Romero, Joe Sambito, Calvin Schiraldi, Jeff Sellers, Bob Stanley, Marc Sullivan, John McNamara (mgr)

Best Picture: Roger Clemens. Something about this picture has always said “wow” to me. The white border of the card and the red team name call out the white uniform with red lettering. The whole thing just pops. It’s one time where I think the baseball card would look better than the picture would look alone.
Hall of Famers: Wade Boggs, Jim Rice
Future Hall of Famers: Roger Clemens

Reason to buy the set: This was a very hot set at the time. It has the three superstars in Clemens, Boggs, and Rice. It has Mike Greenwell, who was having an MVP type season in ’88. It was also chock full of rookie cards of the group of youngsters that would lead the Sox to several titles. Obviously, it didn’t pan out that way. But, the rookie cards of Benzinger, Burks, Horn, Marzano and Reed were quite the pull. It’s also interesting to have the John McNamara manager card included. 1988 was, of course, the season that McNamara was replaced by Joe Morgan. Morgan Magic took the Sox right into the ALCS.
Overall Reaction: I love the design of the 1988 Topps. The banner with the player name, and the floating team name seem less intrusive than other designs. There’s not a lot to get in the way of the photos. It’s a great set to have, if for no reason other than to remember Morgan Magic, and the amazing run.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Born to Play - By Dustin Pedroia with Edward J Delaney

Despite being generously listed at 5’9” and 180 lbs, Dustin Pedroia
has become a young superstar in Major League Baseball. In only two full seasons, he has collected a Rookie-of-the-Year award, a Most Valuable Player Award, a Gold Glove Award, and a Silver Slugger Award. Not a bad trophy case for a 26-year old second baseman. In Boston, and most everywhere else he’s been, his bravado is legendary. He has turned a chip on his shoulder into an attitude that screams success. As you could imagine, a personality like that must have an interesting story to tell. This book follows his life from his younger years growing up, through college, the minor leagues, and his seasons in Boston. It explores how a kid who knows he can play convinces everyone else he’s right.

As with most sports autobiographies, it’s a good thing that Dustin Pedroia can hit a baseball because he’ll never make it as a novelist. On the other had, the writing closely follows the way you’d expect him to talk. The book is full of laser shots, and Pedroia is pumped to tell you all about them. That’s a good thing. It would be flimsy if Pedroia became a modest guy in the book. If he’s not telling you how great he is, it wouldn’t be Pedroia. The book also has several guest writes talking about various things in Pedroia’s life. People like Dave Magadan, Ben Cherington, and Kelli Pedroia add insights into Pedroia’s life that enforce what Pedroia is saying. It changes the pace a bit as you’re reading it. I liked the book a lot. I love stories of college teams and minor leagues. I love how all the future stars mix and match as they come up through the systems. What must it have been like to be on a college team with Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler? The stories were genuine, and gave a lot of background on the Red Sox, and their second baseman. It was well worth picking it up.

Rating: 3 bases

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I Scored! April 8, 2008

It’s a weird place to start a scorecard tour, but look at the notes section in the lower left. It really tells you all you need to know about the game. “Home Opener/Ring Ceremony.” The rest of the game is secondary to the ceremony that took place beforehand. To the right of the notes section, it gets even better. The weather is listed as “Sunny, 60 degrees.” So, it was a beautiful day in the bleachers to watch a game and a ceremony.
Leading off the game is the Rookie of the Year, Dustin Pedroia. It was great to be able to cheer Pedey right away for all his accomplishments. It looks like he didn’t want to repeat his slow start of the year before. He was able to grab two quick hits in this game. It’s interesting, though, to see who wasn’t leading off. Not only wasn’t Jacoby Ellsbury in the lead-off spot, he wasn’t even in the starting line-up. Even after he almost won the World Series MVP, Coco Crisp had the starting role in the home opener.
Some other things that stand out? Manny Ramirez had a triple. Yes, he must have had his wheels going right from the start. He even managed to score on an error. Manny used his speed and hustle to create a run. Imagine that. Julio Lugo also had a heck of a game. Really. Julio Lugo. Right there at the bottom, two for four, with two runs scored. Might have been his best game in a Sox uniform. I also love Daisuke Matsuzaka’s line. Four his and four walks in almost seven innings. But, he struck out 7, and didn’t give up a run so he got the win. If that’s not classic Dice-K, I don’t know what it. Baserunners all over the place, but enough strikeouts to stay out of trouble. He had 17 more games just like that one in ’08.
To top it all off, the Sox won the game in shutout fashion. Delcarmen and Okajima pitched great to close out the win. Youkilis drove in two runs, and scored a third. It was pretty much the same line-up that won the championship only months before. They looked well on their way to another great season.
And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Can I Quote You on That?

In the end, it all comes down to talent. You can talk all you want about intangibles, I just don’t know what that means. Talent makes winners, not intangibles. Can nice guys win? Sure, nice guys can win-if they’re nice guys with a lot of talent. Nice guys with a little talent finish fourth, and nice guys with no talent finish last. – Sandy Koufax
So, I guess Sandy Koufax doesn’t care about Derek Jeter’s calm eyes then, eh?
Of course it all comes down to talent. It doesn’t come down to heart, no matter what Trot Nixon or Dustin Pedroia fans like to tell you. It doesn’t come down to effort or being a “dirt dog.” It comes down to being able to play the game, or not. If you can’t hit a curve ball, that’s the end of it. You can try to hit a curveball. You can really want to hit a curveball. You can get all your teammates excited about hitting a curveball. But, if you can’t hit a curveball, you’re going to make outs.
That’s also why “clubhouse cancers” keep getting jobs. They have talent.
I think it was Bill James who once pointed out that most of the people promoting qualities like “clutch hitting” or other intangibles are announcers…who are often ex-players. He pointed out that it would be in a players best interest to convince people that not only were they simply lucky to be born with superior athletic ability, but they are better mentally too. They would love to imply that they’re not just blessed with amazing size or talent. They’re also better people. But, it never really made much sense. Is it really just the effort that makes a great player? Is it just the ability to stay calm? Is it the ability to play nicely with others? Wasn’t Babe Ruth kind of a butthead?
So, I’m content knowing that I’m not a Major League baseball player because I’m not talented enough to be a major league baseball player. It’s not that I didn’t try hard enough. It’s not that I didn’t want it enough. It’s not that I wasn’t nice enough to my teammates. I didn’t have the talent. I have talents in other areas, just not in playing baseball.
Sandy Koufax sure did though.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

2009 Scavenger Hunt Reminder

OK. We’re getting pretty close now. Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 18th. The Scavenger Hunt will end, therefore, at NOON Eastern Time on Feb 18th. That means you have exactly two weeks left to get your pictures in! 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, keep taking those pictures. Remember, even if you’re a fan of another team, you can enter!

Happy Picture Taking!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Groundhogs Day!

Well, once again those crazy people in Pennsylvania got up entirely too early in the morning to drag a groundhog out of its makeshift home. And the weird part is…they do it even though the groundhog is almost always wrong.

This year, the prediction is for six more weeks of winter. Clearly, that’s way off. As anybody knows, spring will begin on February 18 when pitchers and catchers report. That’s only two and a half weeks away! In six weeks, the Sox will have already played fifteen spring training games. In six weeks, the Sox will be playing split squad games against the Rays and Astros. That’s not the start of anything. That’s things already in full swing.

Oh well, I guess it’s just a groundhog.

Monday, February 1, 2010

36 Questions

Where do athletes get each other’s phone numbers?

It comes out a lot during the offseason. A free agent will get a call from someobody convincing them to join their team. Or the free agent will call a player on a team he’s interested in and ask him about the team or the city. It makes a lot of sense. But, how do they get the number?

It happened recently with the Mike Cameron signing. The asked him about the fact that he was a centerfielder, and Jacoby Ellsbury also plays center field. Cameron said that he called Ellsbury to talk it all over with him to make sure he was ok with it. Who gave him the number? Does Cameron ask Theo? Does he say, “Hey I’d like to call Ellsbury to talk it over…can you give me his digits?” Does Theo just hand them over? Does he pull the old, I’ll call him and give him your number? Is it really a conference call with Theo in the room to make it all professional? What if Jacoby doesn’t want to give his number out? What if he thinks Cameron is a jerk and doesn’t want him knowing where he is? What happens than?

And that’s a simple example involving two players with a common thread in the same sport. What about across sports? I remember when Nomar Garciaparra had his wrist surgery. It was reported that he called a member of the Bruins who had had a similar surgery to talk about the recovery with him. Who gets Nomar that number? Does he call the Bruins Customer Service number and ask? Does he happen to have a common friend? Is there a “Boston Area Sports” phone book somewhere that I don’t know about? Why does Nomar have access to this discussion when I don’t? Just because he’s famous, other famous people agree to talk to him? If I have wrist surgery, can I call Nomar up to see how he dealt with it?

My favorite example, though, is Peyton Manning. When he was a junior in college, he was trying to decide whether or not to leave school early. Tim Duncan, had faced a similar decision, and decided to play out his college career. So, Manning called Duncan to talk it over. Who on earth was the match-maker in that one? This college punk wants to call the NBA rookie of the year. Can we make that happen? Manning wouldn’t have an agent who knew people. Did the AD at Tennessee know the Wake Forrest AD and go through it that way? Again, is that option available to everyone? If I’m a college junior, and wonder if I should drop out to work on my family farm, can I call Manning? If I have wrist surgery while in college, can I set up a conference call with Manning and Nomar? If I wanted to talk to a random accountant or engineer, I wouldn’t have any idea how to get their number. How on earth do you break into the inner circle of a professional athlete?

How do I get my hands on that phone book?

What people are reading this week