Friday, May 30, 2008

No Baseball

"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do: I stare out the window and wait for spring." - Rogers Hornsby

I hate off days. I have no idea what to do with all my extra time.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Watching Baseball: Discovering the Game Within the Game - By: Jerry Remy with Corey Sandler

This book explains some of the thinking behind what goes on in a
baseball game. Why is 2-0 a hitters count? When is a good time for a squeeze play? Why does the shortstop keep opening his mouth behind his glove? It allows the reader to look at a baseball game the way a manager might, and explore it beyond the swings and misses. It hints that people who don’t like baseball, or think that it is boring, simply don’t understand enough about it.

Unfortunately, this book was not written for me. If you’ve watched Red Sox baseball with any regularity, you’ve heard Remy discuss most of the items in this book many times. Therefore, I was already aware of most of what was explained in the book. The things that were new to me were way beyond the effort I want to spend when watching a ball game. I can only watch the footwork of the left fielder so long before I start missing the actual game. While this book claims to be for the “rainy day fan and the avid addict”, it’s definitely geared towards the former. I want to like this book a lot more than I did.

I’d rate it at 2 bases.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits by David Ortiz (with Tony Massarotti)

As the title would imply, this is an autobiography of Red Sox
slugger David Ortiz. It chronicles his life growing into the most feared clutch hitter in baseball. It follows him as a youngster trying to get a break, through his early years with the Twins, and his stellar stint with the Boston Red Sox. It also includes sidebar interviews with Pedro Martinez, Torii Hunter, Theo Epstein, among others. The result is the definitive tale of the creation of Big Papi.

As with many autobiographies of sports figures, you have to deal with the fact that they’re sports figures and not writers. One day I’ll figure out what the “with” or “as told to” person does to get his name on the cover. It certainly wasn’t correcting grammar or word choices. It also appears that this book may have been translated from Spanish. That may explain the overuse of words such as “killin’” or “Bro”. In any event, you have to get past the writing to enjoy this book. Once you do that, it’s a great book. It fills in a lot of holes in Papi’s career. Since Papi pretty much burst on the scene when he got to the Red Sox, not much was reported of his earlier career. This is a chance to learn it all. It explains what goes through a person’s mind what they get released, or signed. It gives views inside a clubhouse, and a team as a whole. It’s also always nice to read about the 2004 World Series run. I never tire of that. All an all, it was a book I had trouble putting down.

Rating: 3 bases.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My All Stars

As I mentioned before, All-Star game voting is currently underway. Get yourself to, or any of the other places to get a ballot, and pick your team. If you need some help, here’s what my ballot looks like.

National League
1B Lance Berkman (Astros)
2B Chase Utley (Phillies)
SS Hanley Ramirez (Marlins)
3B David Wright (Mets)
C Russell Martin (Dodgers)
OF Matt Holliday (Rockies)
OF Ryan Braun (Brewers)
OF Chris Young (Diamondbacks)

Wow. Every player is from a different team. That’s interesting. Does that imply that the NL is wide open? As for reasons… Berkman is having a monster year to push him ahead of the likes of Howard, Pujols, and Fielder who are slumping. Utley may be the MVP this year. Ramirez might be the best player in the NL…why can’t the Red Sox get players like him? David Wright got the nod over Chipper Jones mostly because the game is in NY this year. Russell Martin is the best catcher in the NL. Holliday could have been the MVP last year, and is keeping it up. Braun simply looked amazing in Fenway last weekend, so that’s enough for me. Chris Young might be a little…ok…Young. But, he’s a star in the making, and I couldn’t find a player to vote for over him. Besides, the NL’s best team should have a player somewhere.

American League
1B Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox)
2B Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox)
SS Michael Young (Rangers)
3B Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
C Jason Varitek (Red Sox)
DH David Ortiz (Red Sox)
OF Magglio Ordonez (Tigers)
OF Grady Sizemore (Indians)
OF Manny Ramirez (Red Sox)

Quite a few Red Sox ended up on the team, but that’s certainly OK with me. Youkilis is having a great year at the plate, and is still playing a stellar first base. None of the usual suspects at the position are thrilling me. Dustin Pedroia is having a solid start to the season. He’s among the league leaders in a few hitting categories. I could have gone with Kinsler, but didn’t. At Shortstop, Michael Young deserves some recognition. I know that there’s no way Jeter doesn’t start the game at Yankee Stadium, but I couldn’t bring myself to actually vote for him. At third, injuries to ARod and Lowell open the door for Cabrera based on reputation alone. At catcher, Varitek has been having a great start, including catching a no-hitter. A weak field can’t overcome that. David Ortiz could lead all players in votes again this year, so that was an easy vote. In the outfield, I wasn’t overwhelmed by anybody. I like the way Sizemore plays. Magglio could have been MVP last year, and has a great bat. Manny’s just Manny. I could have voted for Crawford, Hunter, or Guerrero, but didn’t. The likes of Jones or Gomez are too raw for my liking. I’ve never been a fan of Ichiro, so I couldn’t vote for him either. So, I went with the three I went with.

There’s my ballot. What does yours look like?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lester throws a No-Hitter!

Even more proof that you never know what to expect when you go to the ballpark. One day after staff ace Josh Beckett struggles his way through a victory, inconsistent #4 starter Jon Lester comes out and throws a no-hitter. Incredible. We’re getting a little spoiled around there as far as no-hitters go. After going almost 40 years without having a no-no at Fenway, we’ve now had three in less than ten. We better not start expecting them.

This marks the second straight no-hitter baseball wide to be thrown by a Red Sox pitcher under 25 years old. The farm system “machine” that Theo talked about appears to be in full swing. You can always use young pitching, and the Sox look to have lots of it.

Jason Varitek has now caught four no-hitters…the most ever. I know that no-hitter are fairly fluky, and hit-or-miss…but that has to be more than coincidence, right?

Speaking of fluky no-hitters, how odd is it that Lester has one, Hideo Nomo has two, and Pedro never got one?

Only Lester could throw a no-hitter while walking only two, and still chuck up 130 pitches. Even while dominating, he’s throwing as many pitches as he can. Maybe that’s just him?

There’s another example of the Yankee-Red Sox role reversal. It the late nineties, the Yankees were winning the division every year, and their pitchers were throwing no-hitters left and right. Doc Gooden, David Cone, David Wells all pushed across no-nos in those years. And here the Red Sox are with four no-hitters since 2001, and they’re the class of the league. Once again, is it coincidence?

Congratulations Jon!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Wet and Wild Weekend

I was finally able to make it back to another game at Fenway. I came up with a couple thoughts as a result.

It was nice to see up and coming stars in Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. I was glad to have the chance to add them to the list of stars I’ve been able to see in person. I’ll have to actually compile that list at some point.

I was surprised to hear Papelbon’s “entrance” song was still Wild Thing. They wait until he’s actually introduced into the game to play I’m Shipping Up to Boston. It’s a shame.

The All Star ballots were at the game. I detest the fan ballot system. I wrote to Bud Selig on the matter, but haven’t seen my suggestions implemented. I’ll post a copy of the letter I sent later. For now we’re stuck with the voting system as it is. At least do your part and vote, either at the park or online.

Dice-K pitched a masterful game. He seems to be putting more of them together these days. perhaps that is why someone actually asked him after the game if he was the Red Sox ace. His answer is the one I’m sure most fans would give. He’d like to keep on winning, but he considers the Red Sox ace to be Josh Beckett. I thought it was laughable that someone actually asked the question. Then I started to wonder…is he the ace? Listening to the EEI talking heads, not even close. But, look at the numbers. He has a league leading 7 wins. He’s third in the league in ERA, and has a fair number of strikeouts. Is there more you can expect from an ace? When I was talking to a buddy “Stock the Yankee Fan” once about another pitcher, I explained that he was struggling during a game since it was only the third inning, and he had already given up a couple runs. Stock looked at me and said, “Boy, Pedro has just ruined you, hasn’t he” Is that what’s happening with Dice-K? We all remember Pedro simple shutting down other teams in a way baseball has never seen. Does that make me consider other pitchers not up to snuff? Imagine Dice-K ends up the season leading the league in wins, third in ERA and top 10 in strikeouts. Wouldn’t that by Cy Young caliber? I get the feeling that if that happened, Dice might win the Cy but wouldn’t get either of the Boston writer’s votes. Even Beckett last year wasn’t Pedro-dominant. He piled up a lot of wins with a pretty good ERA, and should have won the Cy. Does it matter that Dice makes it interesting along the way? Are we determined to slam him because everyone talks about the $100 million the Sox spent on him? (I don’t know why people insist on adding in the $50 mil posting fee. That was made up in no time off the field) What is it about Dice-K that makes everyone turn away from the numbers? In the sixth inning yesterday, Dice gave up a lead-off single followed by a double. The next three batters? Strikeout, strikeout, flyout. Would Pedro have done any better? I don’t think so. Give Dice a break. He’s going to be fun to watch.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Manny Being Manny

I love watching Manny Ramirez. I have never been as excited to see the Red Sox get a player as I was when they nabbed Manny. Sure, he’s a goof. Sure, he has an occasional mental lapse. Frankly, I just don’t care. The man can flat out hit, and now we see that he can toss around the leather too. (If we were watching, we already knew that) The enjoyment Manny brings to the game may never be topped. The sight of him giving a high-five to a fan before turning a double play is priceless. (For his sake, thank goodness he was able to turn the double play…if he throws it away after that, he’d never hear the end of it) If Manny were happy and funny, and that was it he’d still be a great member of the Red Sox. The fact that he may be the best right-handed hitter ever makes it amazing. (I said may)

Five Manny Moments I’ve particularly enjoyed:

1. Manny hitting the first pitch he saw at Fenway as a member of the Red Sox for a first inning game tying three run homer- That was a joy to watch. The new acquisition paying off immediately, and proving that he could help save the offense.

2. The early intentional walk- In a 2001 game against Oakland, Manny was walked intentionally in the bottom of the tenth inning…with nobody on base. That right, the Oakland manager put the winning run on base in extra innings in Fenway rather than pitch to Manny with nobody on. (Of course, it worked…maybe there was something to it.

3. The trade deadline RBI-Manny was publicly on the trading block on deadline day. To help him mentally, Manny was given the day off during the home game at the deadline. Deadline comes and goes, and nobody in the park knows if Manny’s still with the team. Until…Manny steps into the on-deck circle to pinch-hit to a thunderous ovation. Not willing to stop there, Manny singles up the middle to plate the eventual winning run.

4. Manny robbing Miguel Cairo- At least I think it was Cairo. On a deep drive at Yankee Stadium, Manny reaches into the crowd to pull back a home run. Cairo didn’t imagine Manny could have done this, and actually circles the bases in his home run trot. Not until he gets back to the dugout does he realize he’s been out the whole time.

5. The ALDS game winner- Manny hits a walk-off three run home run in the bottom of the ninth, and stands to celebrate. He took a little flack for his celebration, but give him a break. If you hit a home run that important, and that far, off that good of a closer, you deserve to raise your hands. My favorite part is the catcher’s reaction. I don’t even think Manny has finished his swing before the catcher gets out of his crouch and heads back to the dugout.

Naturally, there are many more. Or should it be Manny more? Any favorites?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Odds and Ends

I made my first itunes purchase this weekend. I added “I’m Shipping up to Boston” to my collection. It’s easily one of the best closer songs out there. It would be even better if it were more like a WWE entrance music, where you didn’t know Pap was on his way. Imagine being at the TokyoDome, where you can’t see the bullpens, so you don’t know for sure who’s warming up. Suddenly, the first few notes sound through the stadium, and you know it’s over. Perfect. I will say, though, that the rest of the song is just bad. I really wish the Dropkick Murphys would stop being the official band of the Red Sox. Tessie was bad enough. Now, I have to be sure and stop Shipping before the screaming starts. Oh well. Still glad to have the song.

There’s been some debate all season about the Coco/Jacoby issue. Obviously, Jacoby is very exciting, and people want him to play as often as he can. There was a stat floated about recently, that in games Jacoby starts, the Sox are scoring something like three more runs per game than in Coco starts. The airheads at EEI are using this as proof that Ellsbury should be the man. But, the stat begs the question…after 40 games, can one player make a 3 run difference? I don’t have the actual stats in front of me, but let’s try some things. Let’s say each player bats 4 times in a game they start. And, just for fun, let’s say Jacoby has a .500 OBP, and Coco’s .250. So, Jacoby reaches base twice a game, and Coco once. So, even if Jacoby then scores every time he’s on base, and Coco never does…that’s only two extra runs by Jacoby. Plus, that had more to do with the batters behind them, since it’s not Coco’s fault nobody drove him in all the time. There’s no three-run difference there. So, what if every time they’re at bat, there was a man in scoring position? (every time after the first inning, at least) Jacoby would get on base twice a game in that instance, and Coco once. So, Jacoby could drive in the man twice, and Coco once. So, that would get you the three runs. If they both came to the plate every time they could with a man in scoring position, and they had those fictitious OBP’s, and were both driven in every time they reached base, then Jacoby would account for three extra runs. Did any of that happen? Of course not.

The real explanation? Jacoby has played in more high scoring games thus far into the season. It’s as simple as that.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Red Sox: Where Have You Gone? - By Steve Buckley

This book gives insight into many former Red Sox players. Some
of them, everyone knows. Some may not be recognizable to their parents. Each one has a story to tell about their life, and how baseball played a role. Life after baseball treats everyone differently. Some are prepared for it, while some go kicking and screaming. Whether they were an all-star or a has-been, everyone has something to say.

I think I was a tad young to really enjoy this book. A vast majority of the players involved were from well before my time of true fandom. Which meant, if I had heard of the player, I probably already knew what they were up to. If I hadn’t heard of the player, I wasn’t really interested in that they had done with themselves. But, it was still nice to hear the stories.

I’d give this book 2 bases…and maybe just a fan interference double at that.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

First Pitch

I’m trying to imagine what was going through the mind of Freddy Dolsi last night. He was in the bullpen, warming up to make his major league debut. Do you think he was paying attention to the batting order? Was he realizing that he was on line to face the meat of the Red Sox order? At what point did he realize that the first pitch he threw in the major leagues would be to Manny Ramirez? So, there he is on the mound. Knees probably a little wobbly, stomach a little churney, and he has to figure out how to pitch to a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. I know he was probably just thrilled to be pitching. But, you know in the back of his mind he was wishing it was Lugo at the plate, not the best right-handed hitter in a generation. Thankfully, he didn’t have to shudder for long. It was over in a second as Manny sent the first pitch of Dolsi’s career into the centerfield bleachers. Welcome to the bigs, Freddy. Do you think they got the ball back for him?

The other story of the game was the dominance of Tim Wakefield. One game after the Tigers did more walking than Nancy Sinatra, the knuckler didn’t allow a single free pass. Only two tigers were able to reach against Timmy, and only one got to second. This was just one of those nights where Wake had the feel for the ball, and could make it do whatever he wanted. Thankfully, the bats didn’t waste the effort this time. The offense has had resurgence of late. Last night started early, with three runs in the first, and Wake made it stick. Even with Coco and Cash in the line-up, the Sox won going away.

This last week, or so, the Sox have been everything we hoped they’d be. The pitching has been great. Even Dice-K was able to get the win despite a career high in walks. The offense is finally playing their part as well. Watch out American League. Going into the season, April looked scary for the Sox. The Japan Hangover was a huge fear. The schedule was inhumane, with games against NY, Cleveland, LA, and Detroit clogging it up. Add to that the fact that Lowell went down, and Papi’s been grinding and it looked pretty bleak. After all that however, here on May 7, the Sox have the best record in the league. And, it just gets easier from here.

This will be a fun season.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The more things change

…the more they stay exactly the same. Hey, it’s a cliché for a reason, right?

For the third time in two games, a Sox player hit a single with the winning run on second. Jason Andrew Varitek's single last night gave the Sox two wins in a row on the last play. Simply amazing.

There are a couple ways to look at what has happened the last couple games with the Sox. The pessimist grumbles that the Sox are getting lucky. They can’t expect to get pitching like they’ve been getting. That if they don’t score more runs than they’ve been getting, they’re in deep trouble. And, that’s probably all true.

I, on the other hand, like to look at the way things are going well. It’s great to see the pitchers carry the team a little when they need it. I can certainly imagine that the offense will save their butts later in the year. What gets lost sometimes is that averages don’t mean, “usually happens”. So, if you average 5 runs a game, you won’t score 5 runs every game. You’ll get shut out sometimes, and you’ll score ten runs sometimes. It comes with the territory. Right now, the Sox are in a stretch of scoring a run or two. It will be offset eventually with a run of double digit run totals. I don’t mind waiting until that happens. It’s the mark of how good this team is that they’re still winning during this lean stretch.

The line-up will gel soon. And, then, watch out!

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