Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Walking Wounded

As Spring Training ended, and the season began there was quite a bit of debate. Who was the fifth starter? Should Ellsbury lead off? Who’s the best option in the three spot? What about Papi/Lowell? When the questions and answers were sorted out, the line-up and rotation worked out something like this…


Look about right? This is the set of players we all expected to play 150 games this season. As the Sox head into this series against the Rays, this is how that line-up looks…

Ellsbury – Still on the DL, where he’s been for most of the season.
Pedroia – out for a month with a broken toe
Martinez – out for some time with a broken toe
Drew – just returned from hamstring issues
Cameron – after missing most of season, working way back into everyday line-up
Beckett – On DL
Matsuzaka – Just back from DL
Wakefield – would be in ‘pen were it not for Beckett’s injury, replaced by Buchholz…who left his last start with injury

Really? That all happened? Add in the fact that both Ortiz and Pedroia went through EXTENDED periods of being completely unproductive and Lester had a poor April yet again. How has this collection of emergency room patients fared? How far gone is the season? Second place in the division? Huh? Two games back? Huh? Second most wins in the majors? No, really.

How do you explain this success? I have no idea. I’m reminded of a Yankees game I was watching a few years ago. The Yankees had a young group of players in the game like Cano and Cabrera. One inning, the announcers would say how amazing the Yankees are for pulling together with the young guys and still winning. The next inning they’d mention how wonderful the organization was to have such great players to fill in when they needed them. I kept wondering which it was. Were the veterans pulling together to help carry the team despite the stiffs they had to play with? Or was the organization pure genius for having Mays and Mantle in the system waiting to fill in? That’s the question I have with this year’s Sox. Who gets credit? I’m guessing they all do.

Theo gets credit for having capable players in the system that can help in a pinch. They might not all have been household names, but they all can apparently do what they needed to do. The rest of the team also gets credit for pulling more than their weight to get them through. Beltre has been amazing at the plate. (Ok. Maybe Theo gets credit for that too) Ortiz and Pedroia shook off slumps and did what they needed to do. It’s been amazing to watch. And it’s scary to think that eventually, the team will be at full strength. Eventually the line-up will be just like it was supposed to be. Eventually everything will fire on all cylinders. Eventually, the rest of the league had better watch out. The Yankees could only get a 2-game lead with all of Boston on crutches. They’re in trouble once the bandages come off.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Red Sox A-Z: R is for…

Ramirez, as in Manny.

I’ve talked a lot about Manny Ramirez on this site. I have to admit, I’m probably going to have trouble finding anything new to say about him. He was one of my favorite players while he was in Cleveland. He was one of my favorite players when he was in Boston. I still curse the day he was traded away for a bag of beans. Manny was Manny, and there won’t be another one quite like him.

The Red Sox have acquired their share of marquee talent the last few years. None of them brought the level of excitement Manny brought when I first saw that Red Sox hat photo shopped onto his picture leading off SportsCenter. He was the missing piece. He was the answer to the Red Sox troubles. He was everything they needed. How could I not dance around the room? Manny favorites? There are many. To pick a couple…

I have the DVD of the Red Sox 100 seasons put out a few years ago. One of the special features is the replay of Manny’s mammoth home run he hit off of Chris Carpenter in Toronto. Manny absolutely crushes the ball to left, and then looks out at Carpenter. He wasn’t taunting, really. It was almost pity. It’s like he was asking, “How could you throw me that pitch? Didn’t you know better?” Even better than that is the close-up view of Carpenter. He just gave up a 500-foot home run. He looks out at the ball, sees it land, and almost smiles. He starts to, but then remembers he was the opposing pitcher. It was a glimpse of even an opponent being simply amazed at what Manny could do.

The closest thing I have to a personal Manny encounter happened in batting practice a few years ago. I was staking out centerfield (in front of Section 35. Shhh) and happened to have a good bit of real estate to myself. I was watching Manny launch ball after ball to all parts of the field, and over the fences. Suddenly, he hits one of the balls right at me. It’s sailing out to center field, and I know I’m going to get it. It’s getting closer and closer, and suddenly I realize something. This is a ball that Manny hit that will travel over 400 feet by the time it gets to me. It has to be going pretty darn fast. If I try to catch that, it’s going to HURT! I can’t possibly try to stick my hands in front of that, can I? So, as the last minute, I step to the side and let it bang into the front row of seats behind me. My immediate plan is to grab it after it bounces off those seats. Naturally, the ball bounces off those seats, off the wall in front of me, and back about ten rows into the stands. There, of course, a couple kids fight over it and I’m out a ball. I do, however, have a hand with all its bones in the correct places. That’s why I always bring a glove now when I get to batting practice. It’s all thanks to Manny.

R is for Ramirez, Manny.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

TTM Success!

Especially if, as I do, you consider a success anything better than being completely ignored. In this case, I had two wonderful responses on the very same day.

These were new response forms for me. I have been sending letters to Red Sox players for quite some time, and never had this. It wasn’t enclosed in the SASE I sent, which is usually the way I know I got a response. In this case, it was in a Red Sox envelope. I looked at them and wondered…why are the Red Sox sending me a letter? Why are they sending me two?

They were responses to my requests from Tim Wakefield and Jonathan Papelbon. When I sent out the request, I mentioned that I didn’t expect Wakefield to respond. I had heard he only signs for charity. So, I was really only hoping for a form letter telling me how to do that. Papelbon was also risky. As an elite player in the league, I figured he got his fair share of fan mail. So, the chances of being lost in the shuffle were pretty high. What I think is most interesting about the letters is how they are different, in spite of being so alike.

Starting with the Wakefield letter, it was very well written. He thanked me, and explained the situation. He enclosed the team issued picture, which is great. It even has a facsimile autograph on it so it will display nicely. Wake was kind enough to include the extra note saying he was sorry, but was too busy to personally respond. He even went so far as to send my card back. (Unlike Youkilis and Francona, it even appeared to be the same card I sent him.) It was really a fantastic response.

The Papelbon letter is also a great one. It’s even worded differently than Wake’s version. Wouldn’t you imagine that Pap and Wake would use slightly different vocabulary? He also included the great team issued photo in the letter. Papelbon didn’t return my card, but that’s OK. It’s a great response as it is.

But, once again, a response from a Red Sox player has left me with questions. How does this all work? From what I remember, I didn’t send the Wakefield and Papelbon requests on the same day, but they were returned to me at the same time. The letters themselves are interesting. They both have the same basic format and paragraph structure. That would certainly imply that the players didn’t sit down and write them out themselves. Did they have any part in it? Were they given a mad lib? “Dear Fan, Thank you for the letter it was (adjective).” Were they interviewed, and a staff writer put it into a letter? Did some flunkey write the whole thing, but know that Papelbon would say “awesome” but Wakefield wouldn’t? Fascinating.

Despite the questions, or maybe because of them, I couldn’t be happier with the responses. I certainly want to thank Tim Wakefield and Jonathan Papelbon for whatever role they played. I also need to thank the Red Sox organization. It’s this sort of fan respect that makes them so classy. They provided paper, an envelope, postage, and a picture just to respond to someone bugging one of the players. Pretty cool.

Guess I need to write more letters.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

List of 36: Things it Would be Nice to See Live at Fenway.

1. A batter hit for the cycle
2. The return of a former Sox favorite
3. A ring ceremony
4. A well-known person throw out the first pitch
5. A Major League record set
6. A future Hall-of-Famer
7. Throwback uniforms
8. A walk-off win
9. A playoff game
10. A flyover
11. A major league debut
12. An inside-the-park homerun
13. A famous person in the stands
14. A bench-clearing brawl
15. A 100 mph pitch
16. A number retirement ceremony
17. A pitchers duel
18. A statistical career milestone
19. A ball off the Pesky pole
20. A Yankees loss
21. A no-hitter
22. A home opener
23. A position player pitch
24. An out at the plate
25. A three-homerun game
26. A pitcher strike out 15 batters
27. A grand slam
28. A well-known singer sing the National Anthem
29. A triple play
30. A pitcher throw a perfect game
31. A pick-off
32. An All-Star player
33. A steal of home
34. A World Series game
35. A player’s last game
36. A clinching victory
Oh, and for the record…I’ve seen 29 of these. How about you?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Trade Time!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I love the internet!

As you may have noticed, I've been posting my wantlists for various Red Sox baseball cards. I started with cards I need from 1975, and have been working my way up. I figured it was way too boring to make too many wantlist posts in a row. So, this could take a while. Wait, I had a point. When I posted my 1979 wants, I got an e-mail from Emerald City Diamond Gems saying that he had many of the 1979 cards I wanted, and een had some 1981's from an unposted wantlist. How could I go wrong. I quickly said to send them over. I was able to find some Mariners cards to reciprocate, and a trade was made. I couldn't be more pleased with what came in return. For whatever reason, those years a re a dead zone in my collection. I was amazed to discover that there were the first 1981 Topps cards in my collection. How did that happen? I'm not even showing all the cards that were sent over. This is just a single-scan sampling. Fantastic!

So, thanks again to the Emerald City. Trading couldn't be more fun.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rollin' Red Sox

So, I was lucky enough to attend Saturday's game at Fenway. Here's what I saw when the Red Sox took the field...

On the mound was Tim Wakefield. Why Tim Wakefield? Because Sox ace Josh Beckett is still on the disabled list. The starting outfield was (get this) Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, and Bill Hall. Really? Why was it that collection of "huh"? Because leftfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is still out withbroken ribs, and has been most of the season. Centerfielder Mike Cameron has been missing time off and on with just about every odd injury you can think of. Rightfielder JD Drew was out with a hamstring problem, which hopefully will clear up in a few days. Yup, that's right. Four subs in the starting nine. So, what happened? Just a walk-off win. Just a win that preserved their spot as the team with the most wins in baseball. Oh, and I didn't mention. Their number four starter has also been on the DL for the last two weeks. Crazy doesn't even begin to describe it.

Wasn't this the bridge year? Wasn't this team incapable of scoring runs? Wasn't this team completely out of it a month ago? Think again. Thaks to the return of David Ortiz, the line-up looks fantastic. Even without Ellsbury and Cameon, 1-7 looks like a formiddable force. There isn't an easy out in the bunch. Scutaro and Pedroia have been setting the table. Ortiz, Youk, and V-Mart have been driving them in. Perhaps the surprise of the buch has been Beltre. He was supposed to be a light hit, super glove guy. The glove has been somewhat underwhelming, but the bat has been all we could ask for and more. Add in JD Drew, and that's a group of guys that can win some runs.

The pitching staff is rounding into form...once they're all there. Lester and Lackey are expected to give a good start every time out. Buchholz has been fantastic most of the time he's on the mound. He gets hit with young pitcher inconsistantcy once in a while, but who doesn't?

All I can say is, "Wow!". Now, it looks oike Dice will be back this week. Camearon is back off and on. Hopefully Drew will be up to his old tricks withing a few days. This team is leading the majors in wins, and not a full strength yet?

This could be fun.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy 36th Doug Mientkiewicz


I spent three months of 2004 repeating that over and over to myself. When the Red Sox acquired Doug Mientkiewicz in that ill-advised deadline deal, I knew the least I could do was learn how to spell his name. I also knew that I would have to write a little bit smaller than I was used to when I filled out my scorecard.


The Sox acquired Mientkiewicz along with Orlando Cabrera in exchange for Nomar Garciaparra. Theo’s explanation was that the team’s defense was a flaw that he didn’t want to turn fatal. That was a clever line. I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now. But, that’s been discussed enough. What the Sox got in Mientkiewicz was a fantastic defensive first baseman. He could be brought in late in games, and the Sox knew the defense at first was set.


As such, he was on the field at the end of many games of the 2004 season, including the historic postseason. He was the player who caught Keith Foulke’s underhand toss to end the 86-year championship drought. He was also in a little bit of media-created controversy when the Sox indicated that they’d like that ball back. But, Doug had done his job. He had secured the out that Red Sox waited so long for. Because of that, he will forever have a place in Red Sox history.


After the 2004 season, Mientkiewicz left the Sox and hitched on with a few more teams. But, he’ll always be pictured with his arms in the air, celebrating the long awaited World Championship.

Happy 36th Birthday Doug Mientkiewicz!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Visitor's Views

It’s once again time to inject some opposing viewpoints into this blog. Since the Los Angeles Dodgers will be visiting Friendly Fenway tonight, I contacted Dodger Bobble. I asked him to answer a couple questions for me since it’s a great Dodgers blog. He, thankfully, agreed. I asked him the same questions I asked all my visiting fans. I wonder how the answers compare. Here’s what he had to say:

When did you start blogging?
Started blogging March 2010.

What is the theme/goal of your blog?
The theme is anything Los Angeles Dodgers, bobbleheads, and baseball.

Which member/group of the Dodgers are you most confident in?
I have the most confidence in the pitching staff

Which member/group of the Dodgers concerns you the most?
Right now, it's the Dodgers offense.

Which member of the Red Sox scares you the most? (Yes, you have to pick one)
I'm not really sure. But I will say former Dodgers tend to go off when they play us, so maybe Adrian Beltre. Plus, Beltre is on my fantasy team, so there will be a conflict of interest for me.

Which member of the Red Sox do you like the least?
I hate JD Drew with a passion.

What’s your prediction for the upcoming Red Sox/Dodgers series?
Dodgers sweep of course

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say the number “36”?
First thing I think of is Greg Maddux. He wore 36 for the Dodgers.

I hope these questions offer some insight into the Visitor’s Section. (If you have a question you wish I had asked, let me know. If I do this again with other visiting teams, maybe I’ll use it.) Thanks again to Dodger Bobble for helping me out. I wish the Dodgers luck
Once they stop playing the Red Sox.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Another Top Ten List

When I answered a blogger challenge not too long ago, I posted a list of the ten best baseball games I have ever seen. From that post, I was asked to spawn off another list…the ten best games I have ever attended. That one sounded like fun too. I again used the theory that if it was the first one I could think of, it must have been the best. So, here is what I came up with. The top six were easy since they were on the other list. If you want to know more about them, you’ll have to see the other post. Again, in no particular order (other than being ranked from #10 to #1) here is my list of top ten games I have attended:

#10. May 7, 1999. Angels of Anaheim vs. Boston Red Sox. A buddy of mine called me up at the last minute with an extra ticket to this game. I couldn’t say yes fast enough. It was the return to Fenway of Mo Vaughn. If that wasn’t enough, Pedro Martinez would be on the mound. We were all giddy at the prospect of Pedro facing the Hit Dog. As was usually the case with Pedro, his performance didn’t meet our expectations. It far exceeded them. Pedro struck out 15 batters over eight innings, including Big Mo twice. It was just another example of why there’s nobody else like Pedro.

#9. April 10, 1998. Seattle Mariners vs. Boston Red Sox. Another game with Mo Vaughn in the storyline. This was the home opener of the 1998 season. I’ve talked about this game already here, but a quick run-down. The Sox were manhandled by Randy Johnson for eight innings. When he left in the eighth, the Mariners countered with Heathcliff Slocumb. After watching Slocumb blow save after save for the Sox, everyone in the park hoped the Sox could pull something out. And pulled they did. A Mo Vaughn walk-off grand slam sent everyone in Boston home happy.

#8. April 6, 2001. Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs. Boston Red Sox. Manny Comes to Fenway. This was Manny’s very first appearance at Fenway in a Red Sox uniform. The Sox had started the season on the road, and Sox fans were already excited about what their off-season signing could do. When the Devil Rays jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first, fears of “here we go again” filled everyone’s minds. In the home half, the first two batters reached. But, an out made a squander a real possibility. Enter Manny. On the first pitch he sees, he deposits a game tying three-run homer into the screen. Everything was different. Manny led the Sox to an Opening Day victory, and showed everyone that things would be different with Manny on the team.

#7. October 16, 1999. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox. Game three of the 1999 ALCS. I’m actually a little surprised that this game didn’t make the original list. I guess you need to draw the line somewhere. In the first trip by the Red Sox to the ALCS in quite some time, they faced the Yankees. It was the first ever play-off meeting between the two. Down 0-2 in the series, the Sox sent Pedro Martinez to the mound facing Roger Clemens. Old ace vs. new ace. Past vs. present. The hype was beyond the moon. Once again, Pedro rose to the challenges. Once again, Clemens scurried away dragging his tail. Pedro struck out 12 over seven innings of shutout ball. Along the way, he handed the Yankees the only loss they would get in the ’99 postseason.

(#6 - #1)
#6. October 10, 1999. Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox
#5. April 27, 2002. Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs. Boston Red Sox
#4. October 20, 2007. Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox
#3. October 23, 2004. St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox.
#2. October 17, 2004. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
#1. July 13, 1999. National League vs. American League

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Phun Philled Weekend

OK. I guess it’s ok that the Sox had to play the defending National League champs while the Yankees played the Mets. During a six game season series, the Phillies did their best to roll over so the Sox could rub their bellies. While I find it hard to believe that the Sox are as good as they looked, or that the Phillies are as bad as they looked, it was certainly a good weekend.

The biggest story to come out of the three games is the wonderful debut of Daniel Nava. Maybe you heard about it? His first at-bat is exactly why I think every player should swing at the first pitch they see in the major leagues. Nobody will remember if you fly out in your first at-bat. Nobody will remember if you go “2-unassisted”. But, if you homer on the first pitch you see? That’s where you go immortal. Every time another player makes his debut, they’ll mention your accomplishment. So, hack away. In this case, it was about as good as it gets. There is nothing more you can do after one pitch in the majors that is better than that. Part of me thinks he might as well have just retired right there. But, he didn’t, and went on to have a great weekend.

I noticed his parents in the stands. Maybe you saw that they had them on camera once or twice. There’s his dad taking home video. I know my dad always said he hated taking home movies since he felt like he was missing the action. It’s hard to savor the moment when you’re staring into a lens. So, I always wonder when I see famous people taking home movies. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to put the camera down, enjoy the moment, and ask Fox for a tape of the game later? I bet they did a pretty fair job of capturing the moment. I remember seeing Tiger Woods’ mom walking around with a video camera. I always wondered if she forgot there were about a million professional cameramen following Tiger as well. At least in her case, I’m sure she was getting some unique shots. Tiger behind the rope line. Tiger chatting in the crowd. All Nava’s dad got was choppy footage from a side angle. Odd.

The games on Friday and Saturday reminded me of the good old days. The Sox of ’04 would kill pitchers like that. If there was a veteran pitcher without overpowering stuff, you felt good about their chances. With as much film as they must have on Jamie Moyer, how could the Sox not do well? It’s like the Patriots against Peyton Manning. When the guy throws a million touchdowns, there’s plenty of tape to study of him throwing touchdowns.

I guess that probably doesn’t apply to Tim Wakefield though. After 3000 career innings, there’s still probably not enough tape to figure out a knuckleball. (It must be the extra thousand innings on tape that helped the Sox with Moyer.) Congratulations to Wake on reaching another career milestone.

With Matsuzaka going on the DL, it makes Wakefield even more important. They need as many arms as they can get right now. It makes me wonder though. The Sox are staying pretty close to the division leaders at the moment. Have they ever had their starting 9-main line-up along with their 5-man rotation at the same time? What will happen if they’re ever at full strength?

Happy Flag Day everybody!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Team Set: 1989 Score

Players Included: Marty Barrett, Todd Benzinger, Mike Boddicker, Wade Boggs, Tom Bolton, Dennis Boyd, Ellis Burks, Rick Cerone, Roger Clemens, Dwight Evans, Wes Gardner, Rich Gedman, Mike Greenwell, Bruce Hurst, Dennis Lamp, Spike Owen, Larry Parrish, Carlos Quintana, Jody Reed, Jim Rice, Kevin Romine, Jeff Sellers, Lee Smith, Mike Smithshon, Bob Stanley

Best Picture: Wade Boggs. This is a great shot to show to kids. Future Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs is letting a pitch go by that he doesn’t like. But, he’s still paying attention. His eyes are locked onto the ball, even as it is only inches from the catcher’s mitt. It’s almost like he still might decide to take a hack at it. I wonder if it was a strike.
Hall of Famers: Wade Boggs, Jim Rice
Future Hall of Famers: Roger Clemens
Reason to Buy the Set: There’s not a lot going on here. Once again, the two Hall-of-Famers are the main draw.
Overall Reaction: I like the design of the set. The baseball diamond on the bottom makes for a clever frame around the basic information. This was the second year that Score released a baseball card set, and they were doing a pretty good job. While there’s nothing about the ’89 team itself that draws me in, this is a nice set to have in a collection, even if it is the definition of “eh.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Scored! June 3, 2000

What might jump out at you as being a little different about this scorecard is up at the top. Sure, the team is listed as the Red Sox. But, “away” is circled, and the field is listed as Veterans Stadium. Yup. This game was in Philadelphia. It was my first chance to see the Red Sox on the road, which was pretty exciting. It also led to the disappointment I had with the “pitchers” box. While I was traveling, I didn’t have regular access to sports news. But, when I left home I knew that Pedro Martinez was scheduled to pitch. What could be better than seeing a guaranteed win in an away park? So as I filled out my scorecard, I happily listened as the PA announced the starting pitcher for the Red Sox. Number forty…nine? Wait. Pedro is forty-five! Yup. Pedro was hurt and had to miss the start. So, an automatic win became a question mark. Bummer.

Another interesting part of the card is in the notes section. Nomar Garciaparra hit his 100th career home run during the game. It’s always a little depressing when a player hits a minor milestone on the road. I’m sure he would have gotten a much bigger ovation back at Fenway.

One of my lasting memories from the game, other than how hard it was to find a cheese steak, was the t-shirt they were selling under the stands. The slogan was “Battle of the Rookies of the Year” and featured Nomar Garciaparra and Scott Rolen. They were, of course, their respective leagues ROY in 1997! So, three years later, that’s the best angle the t-shirt people could come up with. Looking at the Red Sox line-up, that’s not so surprising. It was pretty weak. So, it’s not surprising that they’d hype Nomar. Nor is it surprising that he went 2-3 and scored two runs. What’s more surprising is that he only had the one walk. Why pitch to him?

So, the Red Sox were pretty much shut-down. Their ace was injured. The fill-in wasn’t up to the task. The bottom four in the order went 0-14 with 9 K’s.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Visitor's Views

It’s once again time to inject some opposing viewpoints into this blog. Since the Philadelphia Phillies will be visiting Friendly Fenway tonight, I contacted Jim of The Phillies Room. I asked him to answer a couple questions for me since his was the phinest Phillies blog I’ve seen. He, thankfully, agreed. I asked him the same questions I asked all my visiting fans. I wonder how the answers compare. Here’s what he had to say:

When did you start blogging?
Last March. I had been lurking on a few of the more well known baseball card and Phillies blogs over the past few years and I thought - why not have a blog that combines my baseball card collection and my passion for the Phillies? I have an actual Phillies Room in my house (my wife rocks) so this is the virtual version.

What is the theme/goal of your blog?
To have fun, to feature custom Phillies baseball cards I've created and to give me an outlet to follow the Phillies. I created Phillies scrapbooks for several seasons in the '80s and '90s when I was growing up, so this just feels like the next generation of those scrapbooks.

Which member/group of the Phillies’s are you most confident in?

Roy Halladay. He comes as advertised. I was one of the many who couldn't believe we were giving up Cliff Lee to go after Halladay, but I get it now. It still would have been nice to have them both, but I've bought into the idea that the Phils didn't want to completely gut their farm system in the process.

Which member/group of the Phillies’s concerns you the most?Brad Lidge. He was just awful last year, which was all the more difficult to take after his perfect 2008. There's nothing more deflating than getting to the 9th inning with a lead and exiting the inning not more than 20 minutes later with the lead (or the game) gone. Lidge is such a professional, even in defeat, so it's hard not to pull for the guy though.

Which member of the Red Sox scares you the most? (Yes, you have to pick one)
I'll go with a group of guys - the starting pitchers. It's no secret the Phillies have been struggling mightily at the plate recently, and they looked pitiful against Wakefiled and Dice-K a few weeks ago. We missed Buccholz last time, so hopefully we'll miss him this time around again.

Which member of the Red Sox do you like the least?
J.D. Drew. Boooooo! Drew (via his agent Scott Boras) held out for more money when the Phillies drafted him with their first pick back in '97. The franchise was in shambles back then (as Tito Francona and Curt Schilling can attest) and his refusal to sign with the Phillies just poured salt into the wound. I think it all worked out OK for the Phils though. They went on to put together and lock up a solid nucleus of players without Drew, which they may not have been able to do had they thrown Drew all the money he was seeking.

What’s your prediction for the upcoming Red Sox/Phillies’s series?Phillies sweep. I'll admit I'm a passionate fan and not necessarily a realist. I'll go a step further and predict that either Charlie Manuel or Terry Francona will get ejected during one of the games.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say the number “36”?
That's easy - Robin Roberts. The Hall of Famer recently passed away and the Phils are wearing a black memorial patch with Roberts' "36" on their sleeves for the rest of the season.

I hope these questions offer some insight into the Visitor’s Section. (If you have a question you wish I had asked, let me know. If I do this again with other visiting teams, maybe I’ll use it.) Thanks again to Jim for helping me out. I wish the Phillies luck.

Once they stop playing the Red Sox.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sometimes You’re the hammer…

…and sometimes you get shutout by a guy you traded away and lose the game.

OK. If you were walked in the eighth inning last night, raise your hand. I was sitting and watching TV, and went to a 3-0 count. There’s really nothing good to say about last night’s debacle. Thankfully, as they say, momentum in baseball is tomorrow’s starting pitcher, and the Sox send their best to the mound tonight. With that, I’d like to move on to some old news that I meant to mention last night.

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least make a passing comment on the major league debut of Stephen Strasburg. For one thing, it was a pretty big deal in the baseball world. For another thing, I could use the hits from all the people still doing Google searches today.

I was watching the Celtics host the Lakers while the Washington Nationals were hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Yup, that ought to help today with random hits from search engines) I saw the scroll come across the bottom of the screen, and watched the progress that way. The first time I remembered to check, it said he was through three innings and had struck out six batters. That’s quite a pace. But, I thought, it’s his first run through the line-up. He’s a new pitcher that nobody had seen before. Let’s see how he does after the line-up turns over. The next scroll I saw noted that he had lost the lead on a 2-run homerun. There it is, I thought. He’s seeing the hitters again, and not fooling them as much. Let’s see what happens now. Well, it appears what happened then was Strasburg striking everybody else out. I hate it when young pitchers get rattled like that.

So, is this guy the real deal? It sure seems like that. But, I’m reminded of when Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter in his second start. Everyone assumes it’s the sign of a great career. Then they show other people who threw one pretty quick, and none of them turned out to be superstars. Apparently two pitchers in history have struck out more than 14 batters in their debut. I hadn’t heard of either of them. Billy Rohr pitched a one-hit shutout for the Red Sox in his major league debut. I only knew that because it was during the impossible dream season. (And, I couldn’t remember his name without looking it up) So, the future certainly looks bright for Strasburg and the Nationals. It just doesn’t mean his Hall-of-Fame induction is a mere formality.

As a Nationals pitcher was making history, the Red Sox had a pitcher make some of his own. Tim Wakefield set the Red Sox team record for innings pitched, passing Roger Clemens. He had already passed Cy Young earlier this season. I was a little surprised that there was no talk of cutting into the game so everyone around the country could witness history. (When Derek Jeter broke a Yankees team record in hits, it got more coverage than a royal wedding.) For someone who has been both a starter and a reliever, this career mark was quite a feat. So, congratulations to Tim!

Beat LA!



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

TTM Success!

Once again, that beautiful sight arrived in my mailbox. Flipping through Friday’s mail, I saw that little envelope addressed in my own handwriting! Where did it come from? Who could it be? What will I find inside.

The first part of opening it was a little confusing. As a rule, I only send out cards to players that picture them with the team they’re currently on. I don’t know why. It just feel like they’re a member of that team now, and I should respect that. Sort of like when Derek Lowe wore a Sox jersey to the 2005 ring ceremony even though he was a member of the Dodgers. So, I was a little surprised when opening the back of the envelope revealed this card. The first thing I saw was the “Reds” team name. Who did I send a card to in Cincinnati? This is a pretty old card too. So, I pulled it out t reveal the one and only Terry Francona. Much like Kevin Youkilis did not too long ago, Francona decided to send along a card of his own. It’s a great card, and a great signature. I’m thrilled that Tito took the time to send it back to me.

It asks the same question that I brought up with Youkilis though. If I didn’t send this card, where did it come from? The one from Youk was a recent card, issued in the last year or two. Francona selected one from over 20 years ago. Has he been hanging onto a stack of 1988 Topps cards since then to send off to people? Did someone else, this year, send him 5 copies of that card to sign, but Francona sent one to me instead? How interesting.

However it happened, though, I’m glad it did. That’s two responses already this year and I couldn’t be happier. It makes me want to get together another batch to send off! So, thank you Terry Francona for adding this gem to my collection.

It looks just great.

Monday, June 7, 2010

So Close!

I mentioned not too long ago that it didn’t do the Sox any good to sweep the Rays if they were going to lose to Kansas City. Since then, they went 2-2 against KC, 2-1 against Oakland, and now 2-1 against the Orioles. 6-4 in their last ten. Not too shabby.

Interesting, by the way, how things would change. I look at that streak and think, .600 ball is a pretty good clip. Imagine, though, the Sox had pulled out yesterday’s game. I’d be talking about this ungodly .700 streak they were on. What if they hadn’t pulled out Friday’s game? I’d be discussing a rather pedestrian .500 week. Funny how numbers work like that. It’s just one game in a week and a half, and it could throw the entire feeling towards a team into a jumbled mess. Numbers, eh?

I like yesterday’s loss for one thing, though. John Lackey pitched very well. No, he wasn’t “lights out.” No, he wasn’t Pedro out there. Yes it was against the Orioles. But, if the Sox get that performance out of him every start from here on out, they’ll be in great shape. Frankly, as long as they get more of those than not, it will be a great sign for the future. Add that to the fact that Lester seems to remember that he was good, and the rotation is looking up. How ironic is it, by the way, that Lester and Ortiz were named pitcher and hitter of the month in May. They were both falling off the face of the planet in April, with concerns stacking upon concerns. Then, they both flip a switch and become the best in the AL the next month. How does that even happen?
The Sox have another weak team to deal with at the moment. The Indians are just hobbled by injuries. (Well, that and recent firesales, poor management, and bad players.) Hopefully the Sox don’t take them too lightly. I don’t expect the players to slack off at all. Hitting a major league pitcher really has nothing to do with how good the rest of the team is. Facing a major league line-up is still getting a series of hitters out. Where the problem often comes is from the manager. How often in years past have Sox fans seen a series like this, a week team right before a great team, and saw the managers take the week off. You’d see line-ups resting every starter in preparation for the Phillies. Luckily, Francona hasn’t seemed to subscribe to that way of thinking during his tenure. Besides, with all the injuries, the Sox are already featuring their bench at a pretty good frequency.

I think someone told me not to draft Ellsbury in the first round.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blogger Challenge

As I mentioned earlier, Brian over at 30-Year Old Cardboard issued a challenge to other bloggers. He wondered what we all considered to be the 10 best baseball games we’ve ever seen. If you’d like to see what other people listed as their top 10, there should be links to everyone over at 30 YOC. Check them out, if you’d like. Of course, since you’re here, you might as well read what I have to say first.

The rules of the challenge said that you didn’t have to see the games in person. Although, I was in the stands for most of my list. The rules didn’t state it, but I assumed that I had to watch them in “real” time. No fair counting ESPN Classic replays. From there, it’s always tricky to make lists like this. I decided to just make the list. I figured if it was the first game that came to mind, it must be the best game I’ve ever seen. So, I think I switched one game from the first list I pounded out. But, otherwise, they just as I thought of them. So, in no particular order (other than being ranked from tenth best to best of course) here are the ten best games I’ve ever seen…

10. October 10, 1999. Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox. This was game four of the 1999 ALDS. The Sox had fallen into a early 0-2 hole in the series. The Sox won game three at home, but still trailed in the series 1-2. This wasn’t good enough for Mike Hargrove. He knew one thing. Pedro Martinez was looming over a potential deciding game five. Sure, Pedro had to leave game one with an injury, and his availability for game five was in question. But, he was out there. Hargrove wanted no part in a game five with Pedro on the mound. To avoid it? He called on Bartolo Colon to start the game on short rest. He didn’t save him to potentially duel with Pedro on regular rest. He wanted to end the series right there in game four. It didn’t work. Colon got lit up. So did every other pitcher called on that night. The Red Sox stormed all over the Indians 23-7 to take the series back to Cleveland. It was an amazing show. It was a poor decision. It was a fantastic game.

9. October 28, 2007. Boston Red Sox vs. Colorado Rockies. This was, naturally, game four of the 2007 World Series. A World Series clincher at number 9? Yeah. I was a little surprised too. I guess I didn’t have it higher because it wasn’t much of a game. Sure it ended up being one run. But, at no point did I think the Sox would lose. And, even if they did, Beckett was scheduled the next game. No way he was losing that. So, this game was a joy to watch, but I never got the feeling that it was a “great” game.

8. April 27, 2002. Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs. Boston Red Sox. A Rays game in April? How could that be great? Of course, that was the day Derek Lowe decided to announce himself as a starting pitcher. He threw a no-hitter that day as the Red Sox crushed the Devil Rays. I was in the park that day, and had chills for about three innings. The ninth inning was all standing and cheering and shaking. If that’s not great, I don’t know what is.

7. October 20, 2007. Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox. The was game six of the 2007 ALCS. I’ve already talked about the game here, so I won’t bore you with the details. You know the drill though. Sox down in the series. J.D. Drew earns his contract. Sox win.

6. October 23, 2004. St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox. This was game one of the 2004 World Series. The Sox were finally back in the Fall Classic. Would this finally be the year? The game itself was an absolute nail-bitter. The Sox couldn’t hold a lead. Finally, Mark Bellhorn clanked one off the Pesky Pole for a lead the Sox would finally hold. They were on their way.

5. October 17, 2004. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox. The Key to it all. Without this win, the seven that followed it don't happen. The Sox don't win the World Series in 2004. Who knows what happens after that? Plus, this was a great game. A blown save. A walk-off home run. It had it all.

4. October 27, 2004. Boston Red Sox vs. St Louis Cardinals. Yup. The end of the curse. This game's here more for historical reasons that actually being a great game. The Sox jumped out to an early lead, and never looked back. It probably wouldn't do much for a non-Red Sox fan. But, it was the game that changed everything.

3. October 11, 1999. Boston Red Sox vs. Cleveland Indians. Game five of the 1999 ALDS. I loved this game. Two teams socking away at each other. Neither pitcher being able to stop the bleeding. The Sox ace hurting. But, he finally gets the call, and the home crowd goes silent. Silent! A hobbled Pedro Martinez shut down the best offensive team in 50 years, and the home crowd saw it coming. Amazing. Add a pick-your-poison showdown starring Nomar and Troy O'Leary, and you've got a top notch contest.

2. July 13, 1999. National League vs. American League. Yup. It's an exhibition game. But, what a game! What a pre-game! The ceremony celebrating the top 100 players of all-time would rank this game pretty high on its own. The Ted Williams entrance would put it near the top. When Pedro came out and embarrassed the National League, you get the number two game on my list. All-Stars everywhere, and Pedro making it look like they should be in Little League. I still get chills.

1. September 10, 1999. Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees. There it is. The top spot. Pedro's "Yankee Game." It's always the first game that comes to mind when I think of the best games I've ever seen. To make that good of a team (The Yankees won the previous World Series, would win it again in 1999, and 2000) look that pathetic was a sight to see. Pedro toyed with them for nine innings. It was the most amazing combination of throwing and pitching I've ever seen. There can be no other.
I'm sure you'll agree.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wantlist: 1981 Topps

841 Frank Tanana

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Blogger Challenge

Brian, the author of the fine baseball card blog 30-Year Old Cardboard has offered a challenge of sorts to the blogging community. He has suggested that everyone in eyeshot post, on Sunday, a list of the ten best baseball games they have seen. I thought that was a pretty good idea, and will faithfully accept the challenge. Which ten games will I pick? You’ll have to check back on Sunday. It wouldn’t be fair to let you know ahead of time, now would it?

Naturally, any time there are list like this, the question comes up as to what makes a game “great”. (I know my “List of 36” has sometimes raised that same question.) What makes one game better than another? Is it a great pitching match-up? Is it an impressive offensive display? Is it historical significance? Is a boring playoff game greater than an exciting regular season contest? Is a game featuring 6 future hall-of-Famers performing poorly greater than a no-hitter by a soon to be washed up pitcher? Of course, there is no right answer to any of those questions. Why do you think people make lists? To instigate debate. It’s what makes sports great. There are endless questions to argue about with no right answer. Why was the best hitter? Who had the best season? What are the best games?

So, when you come back Sunday (You’re coming back, right?) you’ll get to see what made my list. It is nice that I have an “out” of sorts in that they’re games I’ve seen. That limits the field a little bit. But, you’ll get to see how my list compares to one you would make. You can also see if I ranked my ten the same way you would have. What could be more fun that that?

Especially on a Sunday.


How does Selig not come out today and change the official scoring to an error? They change official scoring days later all the time after looking at replays. They just need to see that the ball beat the runner to the bag. If the ball was there, the only reason that the runner would be safe is if the pitcher made an error. It would be circumstantial, but give him the error and no-hitter. Nobody would even question it, and it would be within current baseball rules.

I do have to fault Jim Joyce a little for not reversing his call. Leyland (I assume. Joyce mentioned "Tigers") came out and told him he was out on the replay. Can't he huddle with the other umpires at that point? With the four of them, come up with some line...Joyce was blocked a bit from seeing the bag but the second base guy could see that Galaraga beat the runner to the bag so I'm reversing the call. They don't have to tell anyone that they reversed it because of the replay. They could stand by the story that another guy had a better view. (It wouldn’t be the first time Jim Joyce was in a better position but was overruled by another umpire. Right Mr. Bellhorn?) Joyce states he knows that the pitcher had the ball in his glove before he got to the bag, and the second base guy knows that the pitcher beat the runner to the bag. Reverse it right there on the field.

I'll restate my desire for them to add the fifth umpire in the booth. I don't want replay slowing down the game. I don't want "challenges" like in football. But, by the time Leyland was on the field to argue the call, the replays had already shown that the guy was out. Why not have the fifth umpire already in the booth. If he quickly sees a replay that solves the problem, he radios down and fixes it. It would be no different than asking another umpire if he had a better view. They’d just be asking another umpire with the best view. If the replay guy can't make an overrule in 2 seconds, he stays out of the way.

After the 2004 ALCS, when umpires huddled and reversed two crucial calls, they were praised. They made the wrong call, but took the time to get it right. They ignored what was done in the heat of the moment, and used all the information they had to make the correct call. It was promoted as exactly how umpiring should be done. Would it have been any less correct if one of the umps glanced at a TV camera before making the correct call?

Why can’t they just get every call right that they can?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

36 Questions: Are the Sox actually sending Julio Lugo paychecks?

It was mentioned again when the Sox recently played the Baltimore Orioles. Julio Lugo was on the Orioles. When the Red Sox shipped Lugo off to St Louis not too long ago, they added a large chunk of cash to cover his remaining salary. But, the announcers didn’t quite word it like that. They actually said Lugo was still receiving paychecks from the Red Sox. Can that be true?

I understand the concept of sending along money. The Red Sox make a trade. Say, they send Mike Lowell to Texas. But, the Rangers can’t afford to take on that kind of salary. So, the Red Sox offer to include $9 million along with Lowell. That makes sense. I guess I always assumed that it was up to the Rangers to decide how to then use that money. They had $9 million from the Red Sox. If they decided to expand their offices with it, that was up to them. As long as they gave Mike Lowell his full salary, the rest was just bookkeeping.

But, is it done differently? When the Red Sox trade the $9 million, do they not actually send it to the Rangers? Do they just promise to send it directly to Lowell for the remainder of his contract? That sounds like something Lowell would have to agree to.

Lets go back to the Lugo example for a minute. The Red Sox made a deal with St Louis, and included an amount of money that escapes me at the moment. The exact number isn’t important. So, we send Lugo along with, say, $10 million. So the Cardinals have Lugo now, and enough money to cover the rest of his salary. They then ship him off to the Orioles. In theory, couldn’t they not send any money over to the Orioles? They could say, he’s only got $5 million left, but that’s all on you. In that case, the Orioles would have to pay Lugo. The Cardinals would have $5 million of the Red Sox deal left over that they aren’t going to give Lugo. It would be a money making maneuver for the Cards. But, is that not what happens? If you want to believe the announcers, the deal went more like this. The Cardinals traded Lugo to the Orioles. They told Baltimore that Lugo still had $5 million left on his contract. But, don’t worry; Boston is still under the agreement to send him his paychecks to cover that. Lugo checks his mailbox every month, and gets a letter from 4 Yawkey Way. That just seems weird to me.

I wouldn’t even think that the money would still be “on the books” for a team like Boston. When they offer another team $9 million along with a player, I doubt they break it out over the next couple years until the contract expires. Wouldn’t they just take a $9 million hit the year they make the trade?

Are Julio Lugo’s paychecks still signed by John Henry?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Visitor's Views

Once again, I’d like to inject some opposing viewpoints into this blog. I have reached out to my fellow bloggers to see what they had to say. Since the Oakland A's will be visiting Friendly Fenway tonight, I contacted Jim, the fine writer of Tastelikedirt. I asked him to answer a couple questions for me since his was the finest A's blog I’ve seen. He, thankfully, agreed. I asked him the same questions I asked my other visiting fans. I wonder how the answers compare. Here’s what he had to say:

When did you start blogging?

I started the A’s Tastelikedirt blog in January of 2007. I had a few various A’s related websites in prior years, you know, free website templates that you fill in. They were mostly photos I had taken and were not updated with any regularity.

What is the theme/goal of your blog?

It’s a blog about the Oakland A’s. I think the original goal was to keep track of significant things that happened during the season and to use baseball cards as graphics, also to document games that I went to personally and to use photos that I took at the games as graphics. I also started sending baseball cards through the mail for autographs and posting the returned cards and writing about the players cool enough to sign for me TTM.
In 2007 there was only a handful of baseball card blogs, and even fewer A’s blogs. You really had to seek them out. I could read ‘em all each evening. I figured I was filling a niche. Somewhere in, I don’t remember exactly when, the middle of 2008? There was an explosion of baseball cards blogs. Which is awesome. I tried keeping up with them all. Reading them and adding them to my blogroll. There’s so many now I can’t keep up. I see new ones all the time. Surprisingly the number of A’s blogs has not really gone up.

Which A’s are you most confident in?

Catcher Kurt Suzuki is the first one to come to mind, second baseman Mark Ellis…Adam Rosales has done real well as a super utility guy in his first year with the A’s.

Which A’s concern you the most?

Ben Sheets, Jack Cust, Eric Chavez…I’m concerned with the young pitching staff to see what way there all going to go. I’m getting more confident in them though things in the pitching dept are looking mostly pretty good this year. Perfect Game anyone? Oh, the most obvious problem is the Offense. Big concern right there. Even if pitching and defense keeps the A’s around 500 all year and they manage to win the weak AL West, the terrible offense should end their play off run pretty quick…but, you never know.

Which Red Sox player scares you the most?

Well, all their scary players are getting old now aren’t they? My wife gets a kick out of that thing that Papplebon does, where he’s getting ready to pitch and he has his head down and brings it up slowly to reveal the crazy look on his face and bug eyes…HA! That never gets old.
Which Red Sox player scares you the least?

Well, a week or two ago that would be Ortiz, hands down. My general knowledge of the Red Sox this year, is that they were built/re-stocked with a focus on pitching and defense and the pitching and defense have not been extraordinary so far this year. Maybe the Red Sox GM wearing disguises to Pearl Jam concerts scares me the most, or is it the least.

What is your prediction for the series?

I’m thinking the A’s take two of three. Is it a three game series? I have not seen the pitching match ups, but Josh Beckett is probably one of the scarier Red Sox to have to face.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see “36”?

Oddly enough I think of the guy who played Safety for the Oakland Raiders when the played the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Whatever his name was. Mike Davis? I don’t know.

Since I am far from a professional interviewer, I hope these questions offer some insight into the Visitor’s Section. (If you have a question you wish I had asked, let me know. If I do this again with other visiting teams, maybe I’ll use it.) Thanks again to Jim for helping me out. I wish his A's luck.

At least when they’re playing the Yankees.

What people are reading this week