Thursday, October 31, 2013

How Full is Your Bucket?

Because, mine is completely overfloweth.

I recently referenced a post I made with a bucket list of sorts for the Red Sox fans. Things it would be cool to be at Fenway to see live. Of the 36 things on the list, the one that gnawed at me was a clinching victory. I didn't have one of those yet. Well, to be honest, I didn't have one by the Red Sox yet. As I mentioned a little bit ago, I had seen three other teams clinch something...including the Yankees twice. But, I had been dying to see the Red Sox pile on top of each other in the middle of the diamond. This event was one of the trickier items on the list. If you want to see a playoff game, you just need to buy a playoff ticket. If you want to see a ring ceremony, buy a ticket to next year's home opener. It's assured. You have the ticket, so you'll be able to cross it off the list. The clincher is a little bit trickier. You don't know when those will be, or even if they'll be. Sure, you can increase your chances. If you're buying a playoff ticket, get a game later in the series. Or buy lots of tickets for September. But, you can still miss the exact game they decide to clinch. I've actually gone to a game immediately before or after a clincher. But, it hadn't happened yet. Until this year's ALCS that is. Thanks to Victorino and his three little birds, I finally crossed that item off the list.

Last night, it was crossed off with a big bold marker.

My bucket overfloweth.

What an experience. To watch the Red Sox pile up as World Champions was something I never even dared think about. After all, what are the odds of it even happening, let alone being there for it. I'm definitely going to have to rethink a few items on another one of my lists.

I don't think I've been to another game quite like that one. Which makes sense, since there hasn't been one like that for me to go to in almost 100 years.I remember thinking that the fans seemed oddly confident. Maybe it was just hope spilling into bravado. Whatever the cause, you could feel it. Sitting in your seats was optional, but frowned upon. I think I actually used my seat for maybe three innings, total. Every out was cheered as if it were a game winner. Every run was savored. Everything that moved us all closer to the goal was celebrated.

I remember the feeling in the ninth inning of Derek Lowe's no-hitter. I had chills knowing that I could witness something very special. This was just like that, but it lasted nine innings. And there was no fear of a base hit ruing it.

That was the best part. Once the Sox decided to score three runs in back-to-back innings, the pressure was off. Sure, it got tight there at the end with a few more base runners than we'd have liked. But, even that would have only made the game closer. It wasn't it doubt. It was just anticipation.

Until it was released.

Then all hell broke loose. Everything that had been barely contained all night was let loose. Those physical issues I mentioned yesterday? They were gone. It was all jubilation!

Every little thing was alright.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Game Seven Tonight

The Sox should act as if tonight is a must win. I want absolutely no part of another game tomorrow night.

One reason is personal. I’m a friggin mess. I haven’t slept in a week. I’m living, basically, on coffee and Mt Dew. My appetite is gone due to nervous anticipation. My stomach is in knots. I’m jumpy and cranky, and just need them to win now.

It’s funny. I don’t remember this level of distress with the other championships. I think 2004 happened too fast to get all worked up. Once they went down 0-3, there wasn’t really the stress of coming back. More of a “Boy, be nice if they won this one so they won’t be swept.” Then, “gee, they forced a game seven after all.” By the time they got to the World Series, it was cruise control for a week. There wasn’t time to be nervous. In 2007, it was different too. The Red Sox were clearly the better team in every round. Even going down 1-3 wasn’t stressful because you knew Beckett was going to win before you came back home. In the series, the Rockies had no business being there in the first place. There wasn’t time to be worried. Tired, yes. Stressed? Not really. I actually remember the feeling of being able to enjoy that series.

This year? Not so much. I still don’t trust this team unconditionally. I can’t sit back and say, “They can’t touch Pedro, or can’t get Manny out.” They’re going to scrape and claw, sure. But that’s not a comforting feeling. Do I think they’re a better team? Absolutely. Do I feel it in my bones that they’re going to win the game? Certainly. Can I think straight today? Nope. Heck, even the most dominant closer in maybe forever can’t help me out. He gave up baserunnes at a lower rate than anyone else ever this year. But, as I’ve said, it’s not like I can rest my nerves on a devastating fastball. He’s tricking people into missing his splitter. Much like a Rivera cutter, sometimes the trickery goes away.

So, I stress.

Of course, the other reason in baseball related. Game sevens are the worst. For the same reason a one game wild card is unfair, so is a game seven. One play can throw it all away. One terrible obstruction call. One error on a damp ball. One anything, and it’s all over. Plus, it’s not like the Sox have Smoky Joe Wood sitting back there to start. While I have faith in Peavy…I don’t have that much. And as much as people like to say “everyone’s available” that hardly ever actually works. So, I’d prefer to stay away from another game on Halloween. I’d much prefer being able to dress up tomorrow as a fan of the World Champions. Win tonight!

Sox in six.

Monday, October 28, 2013

FOX Must Be Loving This

Seriously. They couldn’t have planned this any better. In two consecutive games, the most important, controversial, talked about play was the last one of the game. Everyone who went to work today to talk about the games with their coworkers needed to have watched the whole game. How could anyone not stay up and watch the whole darn thing tonight? You might be completely lost tomorrow. You might just miss THE play. Why would you risk it? It’s perfect for FOX.

So, about those two games. They were pretty incredible. Back and forth. Huge pitching performances. Timely hitting. The games had it all. Too bad the Sox aren’t up 3-1.

Which they might have been was it not for the call in game three. An absolutely terrible obstruction call. I know I’m probably late to the party. But, I was waiting a bit to hopefully let the dust settle and become a bit more objective. But, it didn’t work. It was a terrible call then, and now I think it’s even worse.

Everyone keeps talking like it’s a black and white rule because it doesn’t mention intent. But, check out the last line of the example given right in the rule. It says that a fielder who dives for a ball, and stays on the ground in the runner’s way has “very likely” committed obstruction. Very likely. Not “has” but “very likely has.” It’s not cut and dry. It obviously allows for the fielder to dive and be in the way of the runner without it being obstruction. There’s obviously umpire judgment allowed. So, what are some cases where it wouldn’t be obstruction? If this case wasn’t one of those “exceptions” I don’t know what would be. When a runner runs the wrong way to create contact with a fielder lying on the infield grass? If that’s not a time to not make the call, when is? Did you hear the umpire Q & A following the game with Torre? He read the rule for the crowd…but obviously was reading it cold. When he got to the “very likely” part, you could see his whole demeanor change. Like he suddenly realized it wasn’t black and white after all.


It also annoys me that Joyce made the call for all the “wrong” reasons. At the press conference he mentioned that the runner has the right to use the baseline. But, Craig had the whole baseline open, and chose not to use it. They had to come to his rescue and talk about the runner establishing the baseline as opposed to the, you know, actual baseline. So, if the runner takes a wide turn rounding third, the baseline follows him. Weird that the runner can also decide to establish a baseline going in the wrong direction directly towards the fielder for no apparent reason. Joyce also said he made the call because Craig was literally on the chalk. Obviously he was nowhere near the chalk. Basically everyone else at the table spent the whole interview telling people to ignore what the person who made the call thought. So, he blew the call he thought he was making, but everyone let him off the hook by pretending he had gotten it right anyway. Bogus.

As for the ending of last night, that’s just terrible. There are any number of reasons why a player might take a big lead at first base. Steal the base. Try to eliminate the force out. Enable you to go first to third on a single, or help you score on a double. There’s nothing wrong with getting yourself into position to make a play.

Until you get picked off to end the game with the second best postseason hitter in the series at the plate.

So, the series stands tied with three left. The Sox need to win two out of three, with two games at home, and games started by Lester and Lackey. You have to like the situation. While it’d probably be wrong to look back at game one and say the Sox should take tonight’s game…at least you know there’s a blueprint on how to do it. And, the last time Lackey and Wacha met up, a throwing error decided the game. As Johnny Gomes pointed out last night, the Sox have stopped throwing to third. (By the way, I don’t blame Salty for the wild throw. He saw a slow runner going to third, and took a good chance. If Molina doesn’t kick his foot as Salty is making the throw, I bet the ball doesn’t end up in left field. Nothing he could do about that.) Obviously, I hope the Sox just get it over with in the next two games. Based on games one and two, I like their chances.

Sox in six.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2004 Topps World Series Gift Set

First off, rest assured. This card has borders. Scanners just don’t like borders for some reason.
This card is from the hastily thrown together money grab put out by Topps following the Red Sox World Series win. It’s actually a nice set, with cards featuring the members of the team, as well as highlights from the year. It takes its design from the 2005 Topps set, which was an interesting choice for a set celebrating a 2004 accomplishment.

This card certainly celebrates a great accomplishment. The first World Series start of Pedro Martinez’s career.  It was in Game Three, in St Louis. I was always disappointed it wasn’t in Fenway, but that’s the way it works sometimes.

This is a nice card, with a big picture of Pedro. The World Series logo is clearly displayed on his hat, which is fantastic. It has all the important information tucked onto it. It’s game three. A clever headline, and the game result. I’d normally say the Red Sox logo is too large. But, since this is a Red Sox themed set, it doesn’t bother me as much.

The important thing is that the card celebrates a great moment in the Red Sox postseason, and in Pedro’s career.

And does it well.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

That Was The Best They Had?

Yeah, I know it’s just one game. But, that one game couldn’t have been more lopsided. The Cardinals are the team that’s been in the World Series most recently. They were in the NLCS just last year. They should have been poised and ready. Instead, they looked like the nervous newbies.

This was going to be the big game for the Cards. They had their ace on the mound. A true ace. If ever there was a time for the Cardinals to steal home field away from the Sox, this was the game. Instead, the Sox knocked their ace out after five innings. The Sox starter on the other hand was Jon Lester. He asked in spring training what he needed to do in order to be considered a true ace. I’m guessing something like what he did last night. 7.2 shutout innings in game one of the World Series. Yeah. Something like that.

And it got better for the Sox from there.

The Cardinals were a good defensive team, but one of their best defenders made two errors. They make three as a team. Four if you count a terrible mental error. At times they looked like a little league team.

Even when the Cardinals tried to salvage something from a lost cause, it went bad. They brought their young lefty specialist into a 5-0 game to face David Ortiz. It was a good idea. Get the kid into a World Series game in a relatively low pressure situation. Take advantage of the circumstances to get his feet wet before you really need him. Except that the kid went and threw up in his mouth. The first pitch he threw went for a two-run home run. The first homer he’d given up against a lefty all season. Not exactly the exposure to the situation the Cardinals were looking for.

It happened again later when they brought in Martinez. Another young reliever with a live arm. Again, a good idea to get him into a low key situation. Let him get exposure, and his feet wet. He proceeds to give up a double, a wild pitch, and allows a run. Oops. That’s not thy type of thing you want to build on for the next appearance. Unless you’re the Sox.

So, the Cardinals have to throw another rookie tonight in a big spot. Sure, he’s pitched well in this postseason. And, it’s not quite a must win for the Cards. They only need to win one game in Boston. But you have to wonder what it will take to get into his head a bit. Or the rest of the team?

It reminds me a bit of ALCS game one. The Sox were supposed to be the great offensive team. But the Tigers were able to not only limit their damage, but shut them down completely. The Sox were able to overcome that disaster. It’s time for the Cardinals to see if they can do it too. Or, it’s time for the Red Sox to see what it will take to send them into a spiral they can’t get out of.

It’s time for game two.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Who Are These Guys?

When I first sat down to write something about the World Series, I had an immediate problem. I realized that I didn’t know who the Cardialns were. No, not in a “They’re so bad that they’re nameless to me.” way. More in a “I don’t pay attention to the NL Central” sort of way. For instance, I didn’t realize that Matt Holliday was still on the team. He’s certainly a star. I just didn’t think about the Cardinals enough to get that into my mind.

So, this makes it hard to think about this series. Can I name five guys on the Cardinals? Probably. Certainly couldn’t spell them all correctly. That means when I look at the series, I have to look at overalls.

This Cardinals team had the best record in the NL. They must be pretty good. They took down Kershaw twice, so they must have good pitching. They’re young, which may be a good thing after a long season.

On the other hand, the Red Sox had the best record in the AL, so they must be pretty good. They scored the most runs in the league, so they must be able to handle pretty good pitching. After all, their four wins in the ALCS came in games started by Sanchez, Scherzer, and Verlander. They’re an older team, but that means lots of them have been here before.

The one thing that stands out to me is that this Red Sox team might be the best suited to playing in an NL park that I’ve seen in a while. Their bench has always been a strength this season. That could be big when you have the pitchers batting. Sure, in years past you sometimes had David Ortiz forced to the bench as a super-sub. But, now you also have Johnny Gomes. And Will Middlebrooks. Guys who certainly could be starters are sitting and waiting to get their hacks in. Losing the DH has never seemed less crippling.

It’s also telling that Koji was named the ALCS MVP. I think the biggest question mark going into the series was the bullpen. Specifically, the bridge to Koji. Obviously, that wasn’t a big problem. In fact, it might have been the strength of the team in the ALCS. If your only weakness ends up being your strength, you’re in pretty darn good shape.

So, maybe knowing who that Cardinals are isn’t a big deal. Besides, those head-to-head match-ups are useless anyway. The Tigers got the edge at third last series, while the Sox got the edge in right field. Does that mean they added up to a draw? Hardly. Unless one team sweeps every category, it’s just an exercise in getting something posted. Is checkmark next to bullpen enough to offset the checkmark for the other team in batting? Being weak at short doesn’t matter as much if your second baseman is four times better than theirs.

What does any of this mean? It means that two good teams will start facing each other tonight. It means the best AL offense will face a great NL pitching staff. It means Koji better keep being Koji. In the end, I think the Red Sox offense ends up being too much for the Cardinals. The depth of the line-up will wear them down, even in St Louis. While it probably won’t be a sweep, I don’t think it needs to go seven.

Sox in Six.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Image Question

I finally got to check one of the biggest items off my list. After being at Fenway to watch the Yankees
celebrate an AL East title, the Indians celebrate an ALDS championship, and the Yankees celebrate an AL championship, I finally got to see the Red Sox clinch something.

It was, of course, outstanding.

It did leave me with one problem, though. When I’ve been lucky enough to witness a big playoff game, I like to grab an 8x10 for the wall of the key image of that game. David Ortiz with his arm extended after homering in 2004 ALCS game four. Jonathan Papelbon pumping his fist after saving 2007 WS game two. Saturday’s game left me with two images that help define the game and the series to me.

-Shane Victorino leaping in absolute jubilation as he rounded first base after his grand slam.

-Prince Fielder lying face down on the third base line after his “dive” for the bag came up 5 feet short.

Which picture would you hang on your wall? Although, I suppose, only one of those images has had me singing “Three Little Birds” non-stop for two days.

That also helps point out the best part of clinching on Saturday. You get an extra day to bask in the glow! And I’ve been doing a lot of basking the last day or so. Maybe it’s because I’m so sleep-deprived. Maybe it’s because that song is just so darn catchy. But, it’s been a pretty enjoyable weekend.

Just look at how that game turned out on Saturday. You had the pitcher’s battle to start the game. Things were so tense that the park absolutely erupted when Pedroia hit a foul ball. Then after the Tigers took the lead, there was the brief period of dreading a game seven, and Verlander. That was put to rest by Victorino. I don’t think I sat down after that homer…for the rest of the game. Once there was that three run lead, I don’t think anyone thought the bullpen would blow it. I’ve always said that Koji’s pitching style has never given me that complete confidence. It was easier to convince myself that Papelbon’s fastball was just too filthy for the other team to do something with that it is to convince myself that Koji’s splitter is tricky enough to fool the other team. But, on Saturday night you could feel it. It was just a matter of counting down. It was time to party. All we have to do it wait for Wednesday night.

And to decide which picture to hang on the wall.

Friday, October 18, 2013

One More

Well, ok. Really five more. But, one step at a time.

What a game last night. If you were smart, you went to bed when the Sox were up 4-0, and missed all the tense drama at the end. But, you missed a heckova ballgame.

The most important part of the game last night? Pedroia getting a hit in the first. Just to remind the team that they could hit Sanchez. I’m sure they all knew they could. But, if they don’t get a hit in the first, or the second….it gets a “here we go again” feel to it. Maybe the Sox start expanding the strike zone like they did in game one. Maybe everything’s different. But that one hit took the pressure off. For a first inning single, it was huge.

What a job by the kid last night. I know that nobody seems to be able to stop talking about the maturity of Bogaerts. But it’s still impressive every time it shows up. When he started that key double play in the eighth, he couldn’t have looked calmer. He took his time and gave Pedroia a perfect throw. There was no rush in his movements. The situation didn’t seem to bother him. Nor did it when he came to bat in the ninth. He put a great at-bat together when it was really needed. The best part was after he was almost called out on the check swing. He knew what to do with his new life. The exact same thing he did with the old one. He wasn’t rattled. He didn’t try to do too much with the gift. He took a pitch just low for ball four. Fantastic.

By the way, did you know that he speaks four languages?

What happened after the walk was one of the confusing parts for me. Farrell sent Will Middlebrooks in to pinch run. I didn’t realize that was a big upgrade speed-wise. Even if Middlebrooks is faster, he’s not as fast as Berry, right? Why not put the speed demon in representing a key insurance run? Could have just taken him right out and put Middlebrooks in defensively. An odd choice, I thought.

Can anything else be said about Koji Uehara? How does a guy with his track record become such a surprise? I mean, he was always good. Heck, the Rangers had to add someone to Chris Davis in order to get a package big enough to trade for him. He had 13 saves for Baltimore a few years ago. But, he was third on the depth chart for closer with the Sox. They only let him give it a try out of desperation. Then he goes out and dominates like nobody’s done since Eckersley. Sometimes when you’re putting a team together, it helps to be lucky.

So, now the Sox sit one win away from the World Series. The next game is at home, and they have their best pitcher on the mound. Not too shabby. I know Clay didn’t look great last time out. But, I trust that that was an oddity. The one shaky start that skews the averages up. He has too much history this year of putting it all together.

Once again it’ll be important for the Sox to score early. Leyland’s already shown this series that he’s prone to panic. Trailing in an elimination game would only magnify that.

Let’s just close it out.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Changing the Story

Tom Brady won his first three Super Bowls. He was steadily marching towards his place at the greatest quarterback of all time. Then, he lost his next two. Some people started to whisper, “Maybe he’s not as good as we thought.” (These people are fools, but bear with me) After all, he just barely won a couple of those championships. Were it not for a couple last second field goals, maybe he doesn’t have any rings.

To some people, the story had changed.

That’s what the Red Sox did yesterday to the Tigers.

The first game had a clear story. The Sox were almost no-hit, for crying out loud. They were dominated by the Tigers. Many people assumed that the Tigers had an unbeatable staff, and this was more proof. Then, the Sox were no-hit for the beginning of game two. Even though the Sox came back for a dramatic victory, it was viewed almost as luck. Sure, they squeaked one out after Scherzer left the game. They were still dominated two games in a row by that Detroit starting rotation, and Verlander was waiting for them.

Then yesterday happened.

The Sox beat Verlander himself, and turned the story…and the series…completely around. Suddenly, it’s not about the Sox offense that somehow can’t score runs…or even get hits. It’s about the Sox pitchers who just won’t give up runs. It’s not about the Sox being in trouble when they lost the Lester start. It’s the Tigers trailing in the series, even after winning the Lester start. Just like Brady, you start to go back and look at the other two games more closely. Sure, the Tigers took game one. But, they only scored one run. They didn’t even have many more baserunners than the Sox did. The Sox actually brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth inning of a game they were supposed to have been dominated in. Detroit had a big lead in game two. But, they scored most of their runs in one bad inning. Maybe they haven’t been as dominating as everyone has been implying. Maybe the teams are pretty evenly matched. Maybe that’s actually bad news for the Tigers.

After all, the Sox just took back home field advantage. After all, the Sox just won the two games started by Scherzer and Verlander. After all, if those two pitch again, it will probably be in Fenway.

They say momentum in baseball is the next day’s starting pitcher. That’s why Sunday’s dramatic victory wasn’t going to help the Sox. Verlander would settle things down. So, it would still be tough to say that the Sox now have the momentum. But, the Tigers now know that the Sox can beat their bullpen. They now know that they can beat their ace. The Tigers now know they have to win some games. That may not be momentum.

It’s a new story.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Don’t you hate it when a series, especially a playoff series, is hyped up but then ends up falling way short of expectations?

Thank goodness that didn’t happen this weekend. Those were probably two of the most interesting, exciting, frustrating games in quite some time.

Let’s start with Saturday. I don’t know what to make of it. The obvious thing to notice is that they were almost no-hit. But, I have trouble getting too worked up about it when they walked so much. They almost had as many baserunners as the Tigers did thanks to all the walks (and a strikeout). So, I never really got the sense they were being dominated. If FOX had ever stopped mentioning the potential no-no, I’m not sure I would have noticed. Sure, the Sox were striking out a ton. But, it always struck me as a missed opportunity, and not a pathetic effort.

What about all those strikeouts? I’m tempted to blame Joe West. When the basis of your team’s offense is knowing the strike zone, working counts, and only swinging at strikes…it can throw you off when the guy behind the plate doesn’t know the strike zone. After that first run through the line-up, the Sox started realizing they needed to swing at anything, and they did. That’s outside their comfort zone. Teams that swing at balls all the time might be able to compensate for a ball that will be called a strike. But for the Sox, it’s outside muscle memory. The outrageous number of swings and misses and check swings would help suggest that. They weren’t sure what they were swinging at, or if they should be swinging at all.

At least, that was my theory until last night. That’s when the Sox kept striking out a ton even with a new guy behind the plate. Was that them being tight from the night before? A little pressure getting to them? Was it just Scherzer continuing a great season? I think it’s interesting that once that first hit came, it’s like the floodgates opened. The pressure of looking out and seeing that zero was gone, and the hits started coming all over the place. That would suggest the poor performance to the game was a carryover from the night before. Once they stopped trying to not be no-hit, they just played.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you can send Big Papi to the plate.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2004 Topps Postseason Highlights

This card celebrates one of the bigger moments of the 2003 ALCS. It displays emotions getting high during a couple exchanges in game 3. If Topps was looking for a postseason highlight, it would be hard to go wrong with this one.

The card itself is fine, even if it includes too many Yankees for my liking. The design itself is fairly basic. They took the large foil lettering common to the top of all the Topps cards that year. The rest is just jamming what you need into the confines of the border. Not sure I can see a lot of artistic thought put into it.

The Topps logo is a little bigger than I would prefer, but not as ultra-obvious as some others. The ALCS logo is prominently placed, which makes sense. The photos they chose for the three moments are spot on. Pedro is clearly responding to an aggressive glare from Garcia. Posada is right there sticking his nose (or maybe his ears) in where it doesn’t belong. I especially like the third picture. Posada is clearly doing all he can to hold Manny back and protect his pitcher. Wait. That hand has a mask. That’s the umpire holding Manny back. Posada is standing there idly by as someone charges his pitcher with a bat. What a teammate. The ump had to go all the way around Posada to get into the action. Wonder if Posada tried to stop him as he went by.

I like the captioning done for the pictures. It adds some additional information that’s important to the card, as well as the game. Nicely done.

Although, would have been better if Pedro had won that game.

Friday, October 11, 2013

I Love Tigers

I mean, what's not to like about them. Strong. Powerful. The biggest cats in the world, and the only animals that actually consider humans prey. Spectacular.

Of course, I'll put those feelings aside while we're talking about the Tigers from Detroit.

How do I feel about the match-up? Not sure yet. I thought I would have preferred to face the A's. But, I always wondered if I only thought that because I didn't exactly see many games in Oakland. Besides, Detroit has the star power. Verlander. Fielder. Cabrera. How can you not fear that?

On the other hand, the Sox won four more games than the Tigers this year. Despite the obvious star power. And, despite the fact that the Tigers had both the Twins and White Sox in their division. So, that has to mean something. Right? Or the fact that the Sox scored 20 the last time these teams faced each other?

The difference might very well be the home field advantage that the Sox were able to grab. Obviously, that's a direct help to the Sox in the ALCS. Home games are generally better than not. But, the secondary effects are also sitting there. That advantage definitely helped the Sox get rid of the Rays quickly. By doing that, they didn't have to play the game last night. The Tigers, on the other hand, had to use Verlander. That gives the Sox a couple games where they don't need to see him. The other beautiful thing is that the game last night was out it Oakland. So, because it's a Sox home game, the Tigers need to come all the way across the country to Boston, as opposed to Detroit. While it's not the same as having to fly over from japan or anything (especially with the off-day today) I'd definitely rather be the Sox sitting and waiting. So, while we all know that the games this weekend aren't "must wins." They represent the games with the advantage tilted towards the Sox the most.

Can't wait to see how it all plays out. Is Cabrera healthy? Will Buchholz be back to form? How many runs will Iglesias take away? Can Peavy continue his dominance? It's going to be crazy around here.

Try to get some rest today.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Back to the ALCS

My goodness what a game last night. It actually changed my plans for the evening. After a late night for game three, I knew I couldn’t do two late nights in a row. So, last night made sense to call it early. If the Sox lost game four, I certainly didn’t want to watch them do it. And, I could catch game five and get to see them play again. If the Sox won, I could get the result on the news in the morning, and get ready for Saturday. But, either way I could get some sleep.

I figured I’d just watch a few innings first.


I couldn’t stop. The pitchers kept tossing zeroes. The teams kept squandering chances. By the time the Rays took the lead, I was vested. I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. I’m certainly glad I decided to stick it out.

While I was watching the game, I realized who Joe Maddon reminded me of. No, not Carl Fredricksen (although he does). It’s Jimy Williams. Remember Jimy? Used to make move after move just for the sake of making moves, and he got credit for great managing when it worked out? But, if you looked into it deeper, it wasn’t usually his move that worked out. He’d pinch hit for a guy in a one run game, and he would reach base on an error. Then, he’d pinch run for him. Then Manny would hit a two run homer. Williams would be credited for making all the right moves to lead to the big inning. But, if you really looked at it, the guy he pinch hit should have been out, and the pinch runner didn’t matter because of the home run trot. I get the same feeling with Maddon. He’ll pinch hit for guys. He’ll lose his DH. He’ll have his starters go one inning. And, if the Rays don’t blow it, he gets credit for making all these great moves. But, the guy he pinch hit for made an out. He didn’t need to lose the DH first if he wanted to pinch hit the back-up catcher. And, if he wanted to get his starter out after an inning, just have the other guy start in the first place. But, he made all the moves. He managed all over the place. So, he must be a genius.

Thankfully that doesn’t matter anymore. The Sox got past the Rays, and now are in the familiar position of waiting to see who they get to host in the playoffs. Once again they will be rested and in order while the other team will need to play an extra game. Once again the Sox can sit and wait as the other teams burn through pitchers just for the chance to come to Boston. In this case, it looks like both Justin Verlander and Bartolo Colon will be rendered unusable for the weekend because they have to pitch tomorrow. That’s a pretty nice advantage for the AL East Champs. Once again, the Sox hope the game goes about 19 innings.

Another nice thing that happened last night was pinch hitting Xander Bogaerts. I’m not one of those people who have been screaming for him to replace Drew in every game against a lefty. But, chances are at some point the kid will need to be in a tight spot. Being able to get him in a couple of those last night was a wonderful luxury. Hard to imagine a situation will get much more intense than late in a close potential close-out game. The fact that he stayed patient and was rewarded will be a great example for him should the situation present itself later.

As a team, this game was very important. We already knew this group could win a playoff game when they scored a bunch of runs. The fact that they also won this game was a big test passed. They can win a game when it comes down to manufacturing a run. They can stay confident when they squander opportunities. They can come through. Which is great. I’m guessing they’ll need that skill in the games to come.

Go Pirates!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Quirky Fenway

Well, that went just about as well as two games can go, right?

I think my favorite part of the whole weekend was Joe Maddon’s post game comments where he said that the Red Sox took advantage of Fenway’s quirks better than the Rays did. That’s why they won. I could see where he’d be frustrated, though. After all, his home ballpark doesn’t have any quirks whatsoever.

Oh, wait. That’s right.

But, to be fair, the Trop doesn’t have the same quirks that Fenway does. For instance, I was watching one of the games this weekend. The left fielder was drifting back for a flyball, when suddenly the grass under his feet turned into a dirt strip. This quirk made him turn around to watch the ball bounce off a wall, and scoot right by him. Once, it resulted in a triple! What a freak feature of the park.

There was this other weird one. At least a couple times David Ortiz hit a flyball to right field. Myers ran back to catch the ball. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, this wall popped up. Myers had to stop running, and the ball went over the wall. Ortiz was able to run all the way around the bases uncontested. What’s going on with that?

Then there was the best one. Again with Myers. He’s drifting back to catch a ball hit by Ortiz. (Wow, that Ortiz guy is lucky. He must know where all the quirks are, and hit the ball towards them.) Myers is camped out under the ball ready to make the catch, when suddenly out of the corner of his eye he sees another Rays player. This quirk makes Myers think this other player can catch the ball so he ducks out of the way. The ball bounces past him and over the wall. Ortiz actually ends up at second on the play. What other park would have these random people on the field dressed in Rays uniforms? It’s really unfair to the visiting team to allow these things to happen.

Maddon was right in that none of the quirks seemed to help the Rays either. I saw this one play where a Rays batter hit a ball that scooted along the ground. Instead of hitting a rock and bouncing over the fielder’s head, the ball went right into the glove. Sometimes, this even resulted in two outs on one play!

All this puts the Sox in a very good position. Maddon is calling the Sox lucky. David Price is busy bragging about how many strikeouts he had in a Little League game. Molina’s saying that nobody wants to be in their terrible position. (Of course, he’s ignoring all the teams that didn’t even make the playoffs. I’d say there’re at least 20 teams who would be thrilled to be in his position.)  They’re a far cry from the team that won all those elimination games in a row. They look completely outmatched.

And Clay Buchholz goes tonight.

That was the beauty of the Sox rotation, right? There’s a depth there that not many teams can match. When your number three starter has a sub-two ERA, things are looking very good for you. You have to assume that runs will be at a premium for the Rays. That’s not what you want when you’re fighting for your playoff life. Especially with your ace out of the next two games.

This will be a big top of the first inning. If the Sox can scratch one across early, it could go a long way towards getting in the heads of the Rays. Imagine going to the bottom of the first down 1-0 and Clay on the hill. Or even just a few momentum grabbing plays.

Something off the catwalks would be perfect.

Then the Sox could out-Trop the Rays too.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

From the Pedro Binder

2004 Skybox Limited Edition League Leaders

I have no idea what to make of this card.

Let’s start with the good. It’s actually a nice picture of Pedro, set against the red background. It really makes Pedro pop in contrast with the white of the rest of the card.

The rest of it? I’m not so sure.

It does have all the important information on the card, but it’s done horrible. Pedro’s name is plainly written on the bottom. That’s fine. What team does he play for? You need to look at the tiny foil stuck in the middle of the picture. How about the logo for the card company? There it is front and center. I going to assume that the “limited” part of “limited Edition” means it was limited to the number of cards that could be printed by running the presses 24 hours a day for the season. But, the name Limited Edition did allow Skybox to be much too clever with the League Leader set. See how they capitalizes the LE in both LEague and LEader? Oh, how clever they are. So, what was Pedro the league leader in? I’m looking…looking…looking. OH, there it is! See the tiny foil print on the bottom of the card? Yup. 2003 AL ERA Leader. Was that an afterthought? Did they forget to put it on, so just had some guy hand stamp it before they went out the door? Bizzare. At least the hand stamp guy would have had it easy.

After all, it’s clearly a “limited edition.”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

So It’s the Rays

OK. So none of the cool stuff I wanted to happen happened. There was no three-way tie that forced all the Wild Card teams to play an extra game. Neither the Rays/Rangers game nor the Rays/Indians game went 19 innings. The team the Red Sox face did not have to blow through their bullpen to get to Boston. The Rays actually come to town in pretty good shape. Thanks to an oddly scheduled off day, they’re pretty well rested and ready to play.

Oh Well.

The Sox are still the better team. They showed that time and again over the last six months. An unfortunate day of rest isn’t going to change any of that.

Can things go wrong against the Rays? Of course. Can Lester pick the absolute worst time to have a bad game? Sure. Can David Price pitch the best game of his life? Absolutely. That’s why the whole idea of a playoff to determine the best team is stupid. But you have to think the Sox should end up on top. Their depth and balance should be able to shine through in a five game series.

Do the Sox have weaknesses? Yes. But, some of those can be covered up in a playoff series. The middle relief is sometimes a question mark. But, in October you don’t have to deal with the question marks. You can roll out your A-team over and over. Some of the things that worry you during the season don’t show their head in the playoffs. Dempster and Doubront aren’t in the starting rotation any more. Any contribution they made to the season is irrelevant.

All you can do is look at how the Sox are constructed going forward. The four starters the Sox will throw in the ALDS might be the best foursome in baseball. If you’re looking to win a five game series, that’s a damn good place to start. Their closer has been as good as it gets. The line-up can put up runs against anyone. The bench has all the required parts to win close games. Speed. Defense. Pinch-hitting.

Oh, and nobody in baseball won more games than they did during the season.

What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Red Sox 1-36: 28 is for…

28 Times Manny Ramirez and Trot Nixon homered in the same game

Another statistic that begs the question, “What does it really mean?”

Trot Nixon and Manny Ramirez homered in the same game 28 times as Red Sox teammates. Is that a lot? Well, it’s tied for fifth in Red Sox history. So, that must be a pretty good amount. Especially given all the stars the Red Sox have had over the years. The team leaders in that category? Jim Rice and Dwight Evans. They homered in the same game 56 times. Exactly twice as often as Manny and Trot. But, that’s probably to be expected. After all both Rice and Evans were both borderline Hall of Famers whose careers almost exactly matched up. It would be natural to assume that just by chance they would have homered in the same game quite a bit. As you look up and down the list of Red Sox leaders, you see a lot of those types of combinations. The second place tandem is Ramirez and David Ortiz at 48 games. Again, two sluggers whose prime years overlapped. That’s to be expected. The same with Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams or Tony Conigliaro and Carl Yastrzemski. Then you get to Manny and Trot. Of the names on the leader board, I think Nixon is clearly the one who was carried by the other guy the most. It certainly looks like Manny hit so many home runs, that he was bound to hit one in the same game as lots of teammates. That’s probably why he’s on the top ten list twice. Only Yaz is on more, with an amazing five different teammates. But, Yaz is on with other sluggers. Manny was able to elevate Trot Nixon. That’s saying something.

I think it’s fairly clear that inclusion on the leaders list for this category is mostly good circumstances. Yaz happened to be paired with lots of sluggers. Ted Williams, apparently, was not. (That’s why the team leader in homeruns is only paired with four teammates that cracked the top twenty.) Rice and Evans helped each other. It would be a lot more interesting if a couple middle infielders somehow combined to get on the list.

Manny and Trot are as close as we get.

28 is for the 28 Times Manny Ramirez and Trot Nixon homered in the same game

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