Monday, December 28, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: L is for…

Lowe, as in Derek
Derek Lowe came to the Red Sox as part of one of the best deadline trades in recent memory. The Red Sox sent Heathcliff Slocumb to the Mariners in exchange for Lowe and Jason Varitek. Varitek, of course, went on to be the best catcher in Red Sox history. Lowe had an up and down Red Sox career, but sure ended it in a blaze of glory.
I was lucky enough to be at what might be the highlight of Lowe’s career. I was in the stands when Lowe threw the first no-hitter at Fenway Park in quite some time. I’ve often said that I’ve been at enough games over the years, that I’ve been able to check off a lot of goals. I’ve been to a playoff game, and a World Series game. I’ve seen Cy Young winners and MVPs. But, those could be scheduled. I knew that if I went to an Orioles game, chances are Cal Ripken would be in the line-up. But, the special events are the ones that are harder to get. I had resigned myself to the fact that I’d miss out on a no-hitter. It was way too rare to count on. But, I got lucky with Lowe facing the Devil Rays.
Lowe wasn’t a typical dominating pitcher. He’s not someone you expected to throw such a gem. When Pedro was on the mound, you started counting down at the first batter. When he gave up his first hit, it was a bit of a downer knowing it wouldn’t be the day he finally threw one. Lowe, on the other hand, didn’t have that level of expectations. He also didn’t have the type of “stuff” that you noticed when he was pitching well. When Pedro was on, you noticed that he struck out 5 of the first six batters. With Lowe’s groundball outs, though, it was hard to notice a great performance. So, it wasn’t until the sixth inning that I even noticed he had a no-hitter going. I looked down at my scorecard, and realized that the Devil Rays were hitless. I didn’t dare think that this would be the day. But, with only three innings left, the chances were certainly better.
When the ninth inning started, I actually got chills. I noticed that the Sox let Derek lead them onto the field, to a loud ovation. Naturally, I was concerned that the Sox had just jinxed him. But, it didn’t. With a slow groundball to second base, Derek Lowe did it! I couldn’t believe it!
Lowe pitched a few more years for the Sox. Obviously, he ended his tenure clinching all three series of the 2004 playoffs. He’ll always be a World Champion. And, he’ll have always delivered one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at Fenway Park.
L is for Lowe, Derek

Friday, December 25, 2009

List of 36: Things I Wouldn’t Mind Seeing Under My Tree X-Mas Morning

1. Adrian Gonzalez Red Sox jersey
2. Clay Buchholz signed computer keyboard
3. Red Sox team calendar
4. Ted Williams Autographed bat
5. Carl Yastrzemski signed Impossible Dream record
6. 2007 World Series hat
7. Dustin Pedroia autographed jersey
8. Buckner/Wilson signed 1986 WS ball
9. Brick from Fenway Park
10. Josh Beckett signed 2003 World Series Program
11. Kevin Youkilis wine bottle
12. Mike Lowell signed 2007 World Series ball
13. Jose Offerman signed 1999 All-Star jersey
14. 1999 All-Star Game ball signed by Pedro Martinez
15. Daisuke Matsuzaka signed WBC ball
16. Johnny Pesky signed fungo bat
17. Game used Gatorade towel from 2004 World Series
18. Kevin Youkilis signed Greek Mythology Encyclopedia
19. 2004 World Series Game 4 ticket
20. Jacoby Ellsbury autographed cleat
21. Tim Wakefield signed rocking chair
22. 1975 World Series pennant
23. David Ortiz wine bottle
24. Red Sox towel
25. Jim Rice signed Hall of Fame postcard
26. 2004 World Series ball signed by Red Sox team
27. JD Drew signed Phillies hat
28. Dirt from Fenway infield
29. Brown Coco Crisp t-shirt jersey
30. Grady Little autographed bobble-arm
31. Carlton Fisk signed retired #27
32. John Lackey signed UNH poster
33. JD Drew autographed 2007 ALCS program
34. Team signed 2007 World Series celebration photo
35. Nomar Garciaparra signed 2004 World Series ball
36. Jon Lester signed photo of no-hitter

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Was that a Countermove?

In a bizarre move, the Yankees traded for Javier Vazquez yesterday. It became even stranger when I realized that they had to part with Melky Cabrera to get him. Huh? Some people have been reporting this trade as the Yankees counter to the Red Sox getting John Lackey. Really? I hope the Yankees counter every Red Sox move like that.

I watched my 2004 Red Sox DVD, Faith Rewarded, again last night. Just about every Red Sox highlight shown against the Yankees had one of two people on the mound. Mariano Rivera, or Javier Vazquez. Weren’t the Yankees sick of this guy? Wasn’t he soft? Didn’t he pitch poorly? Weren’t the Yankees thrilled to dump him off to the D-Backs when they got Randy Johnson? Hasn’t he been shipped from team to team to team since then? This is the guy they had to have back?

What about the young kids? From why I’ve been hearing, Hughes and Chamberlain will be battling each other for Cy Youngs for years to come. Was that just a smokescreen? Is Joba really nothing more than a middle reliever? From the press I’ve been reading, either one of them would have to be better than Vazquez.

And, what about Cabrera? Is he not an up and coming star? I’m confused.

Naturally, since it was the Yankees, this will be reported as a huge move. Just like when they traded for Granderson, it will be played up to be bigger than it is. From my end, this marks the second trade by the Yankees that I am thrilled with. They’ve picked up another guy who does nothing for me whatsoever.

This move screams of desperation. It’s great when the Yankees look desperate. The Red Sox made a move to bolster their rotation, and the Yankees got scared. They felt they had to do something, and somehow settled on Vazquez. They sent their most tradable player off for a mediocre starting pitcher. If I were a Yankee fan (shudder) I would be screaming at Cashman at the top of my lungs. What was he thinking?

I love it when the Yankees panic.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Don’t Know is on Third

It looks like Mike Lowell will be a Red Sox for the coming season. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

The way rumors fly during the hot stove season; it’s best to not get caught up on stories. I’ve often said it doesn’t happen until someone’s holding up a jersey at a press conference. In this case, you always had the feeling it wasn’t a normal transaction. Usually, when “reports” of a deal come out, it’s a matter of hours before everyone has it all buttoned up. This time, right off the bat they were wondering if it would really go through. That’s not a good sign for any trade.

The proposed deal would have sent Mike Lowell and $9 million to Texas for catcher Max Ramirez. That would have left a gaping hole at third base. The rumor mill went crazy with possible replacements. Would it be Adrian Beltre? Would the Sox shift Kevin Youkilis to third and trade for Adrian Gonzalez? Prince Fielder? As the trade wore one, though, none of the second shoes were falling. The Sox backed out of the Beltre pursuit, claiming he was too expensive. The Gonzalez deal was sounding like a pipe dream, even if it was a perfectly logical one. The Sox actually claimed to be OK with Casey Kotchman at first and Youkilis at third. That led to the obvious question. Why, then, trade Lowell?

After all, you were paying for him anyway. Was he that much of a hole in the roster that it was worth not having him? Even if he gives you 50 games, isn’t that better than 50 games of Kotchman? How about a DH platoon with Ortiz? If you’re not going to fill his hole with a superior player, aren’t the Sox better off with his production? I’d certainly think so.

So, assuming that Lowell has surgery, and can make it back in time to play…what does this mean? How does Lowell feel? The Red Sox almost completed a deal involving Nomar once, but it too fell apart. Nomar, naturally, felt unwanted and angry after the team basically agreed to trade him away. In that case, the trade would have made room for a comparable, if not superior, player. At least the Nomar/Manny switch for ARod/Ordonez could be talked up. How do you spin the Lowell deal? How do you convince Lowell that you think he’s anything other than a washed up has been? Can Theo look him in the eye and say he’s glad he’s on the team? “Yeah, Mike, I know we bribed another team with $9 million dollars to take you off our hands, and only wanted a third string catcher in return. But, you understand, we had to make room for Casey Kotchman.” Really? I know Lowell’s a class act, and won’t make it a distraction for the team. But, can he stop it from being a distraction for him? He’s already been a “throw in.” Does that prepare him for being a “has been”?

The trade rejection also, probably, signals the end of any major moves by the Sox. With Lowell at third, there’s no space to put a major acquisition. Unless, I suppose, they go the platoon route.

I wonder if Jason Bay can play first.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Collecting the Sox: Hats

Hats are yet another great Red Sox collectable. Every time an announcer mentions that an outfielder caught a ball “bill of the cap high” you’re reminded of have integral hats are to the game of baseball. As with any piece of merchandise in the last few years, the variety of hats has exploded, making it a great collectable to pursue.

As with any quality collectable, hats present a great variety. You can divide a hat collection into many different categories. One of the most obvious segments would be the official hats. This is one specific segment that has seen great growth in the last few years. These are hats like the players actually wear in a game. For years, that meant the navy blue hat with the red “B” on the front. For a while in the seventies, that color scheme was reversed. Those were really your only two choices. These days, with the introduction of the alternate hat, and the special hats, there are a lot more options. The Red Sox of recent years have worn red hats, or white hats. Hats with a “B.” Hats with the “hanging Sox.” They wore special hats during the World Series in ’04 and ’07. They also wore special hats on the Opening Days the following seasons. Players in the All-Star Game have yet another special hat. That’s a good five or ten different “official” hats out there for collecting. It’s also possible to find game used versions of these hats. That adds a special rarity to any collection.

Another segment is the commemorative hats. These hats aren’t worn in a game, but they celebrate a game or achievement. There are generally hats made for any playoff series. Those are basic hats, showing the teams involved and information about the series. If the Sox win a playoff series, or clinch a playoff spot, they also issue official championship hats. While these could be included in the previous category, they weren’t from a game. They were from the party after a game. These celebrate the clinching, usually in a flashy style. Opening Day is sometimes celebrated on a hat, as well as any special events. These are nice because they remind you of a special moment in a Red Sox season.

The last segment is the novelty hat. These are the ones you see at your local mall, or department store. They have the Red Sox logo on there somewhere, but the rest of the design can be anything. They could be black hats, or pink hats, or green hats, or striped and spotted hats. You name it. This segment allows for the most personal expression, as you can find a hat to fit just about anyone’s tastes.

I was a hat collector for a bit. When there was an important event, like the All-Star game, I’d grab a hat to remember it. I stopped, though, for a couple reasons. I wasn’t wearing the hats. For one thing, they’d get ruined. For another, I didn’t have the chance to wear a lot of hats. I found that I’d just stick to the classic blue. The hats started getting hard to store properly. They’re bigger than a baseball, and can’t really be stacked easily. So, I moved away from hats. I still like them, though. They look nice autographed, especially with multiple players on it. They look nice on a shelf, and add a splash of color to a room.

Anyone have a favorite Red Sox hat?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

OK…Let’s see…

Anything interesting to talk about today?

It looks like the Red Sox have responded a bit to their fans. Anyone who thought the Sox got shut out at the winter meetings, and were upset about the Yankees making moves needs to reconsider their complaints. The Sox didn’t sign Boof Bonser. I guess to be fair; I don’t think they’ve technically done anything. As I write this, I have yet to see a press conference with anyone wearing a jersey. But, if we can believe reports, the Sox have had a busy week. Shall we discuss?

The big chip to fall down would be the signing of John Lackey. I can’t not like this deal. When you can add a top of the rotation guy to your team, how can it be bad? This guy was a game 1 starter for a team in last years ALCS. And, he could be the third guy in the Sox rotation? The money doesn’t appear to be all that bad either. Of course, with baseball, that’s all relative. So, it’s clear-cut. Lackey is a great addition to the Sox. Now, if you want to get into other places they can spend their money…then maybe we can talk. When you have two aces, is money better spent on a bat as opposed to a third ace? If it really was a Bay vs. Lackey choice…I probably would have gone with Bay. But, if the Sox get Lackey, and can extend Beckett, that’s going to be one heck of a rotation for a few years.
The other move is less of a slam-dunk. The Sox are apparently close to signing Mike Cameron. If this is the replacement for Jason Bay, they fell a little short. Cameron is a nice addition. He’d a fine defender. He can hit a little bit. He’s a bottom of the order guy who won’t embarrass himself. It’s just not what the Sox could have. It looks like the Sox decided that Bay wasn’t an elite player, and they weren’t about to pay him as such. I can’t complain with that. I’ve always said that there’s a difference between best, and best available. I just think that that rule applies more to teams that don’t have $150 million payrolls.

What does the future hold? Not sure. There’s that odd trade with Texas that could make the Sox down a third baseman. If that really does go through, thoughts are the Sox will sign Adrian Beltre. A pretty even swap, if you ask me. Is there still another big move out there? Maybe. Could the Sox still ship Buchholz in a deal for Miguel Cabrera? Absolutely. But, as the Sox stand now, they’re better than the Yankees are. That’s good enough for me.

Is it April Yet?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Team Sets: 1991 Fleer

Players Included: Larry Anderson, Marty Barrett, Mike Boddicker, Wade Boggs, Tom Bolton, Tom Brunansky, Ellis Burks, Roger Clemens, Scott Cooper, John Dopson, Dwight Evans, Wes Gardner, Jeff Gray, Mike Greenwell, Greg Harris, Dana Kiecker, Randy Kutcher, Dennis Lamp, Mike Marshall, John Marzano, Rob Murphy, Tim Naehring, Tony Pena, Phil Plantier, Carlos Quintana, Jeff Reardon, Jerry Reed, Jody Reed, Luis Rivera, Kevin Romine

Best Picture: John Marzano. The young Marzano had the tall task of going out to talk to his pitcher…Roger Clemens. What does a youngster like Marzaono say to a multiple Cy Young winner? “Great pitching, Roger!” He looks a little out of his element in this shot.

Hall of Famers: Wade Boggs

Future Hall of Famers: Roger Clemens

Reason the buy the set: In 1991, the Phil Plantier card would have been a big draw. There are a lot of solid players, in addition to Boggs and Clemens. The yellow border itself might be enough of a draw.

Overall Reaction: This is a nice set. The yellow is a take it or leave it sort of thing. I like it, since it stands out in a collection. The player selection is great. All the budding stars are included, as well as some of the old dogs. It’s a fun set, that reminds me of one of the best core group of Red Sox players in a while.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2009 Scavenger Hunt Reminder

Let this serve as your monthly reminder to find the items for this year’s Scavenger Hunt! I’ve had several people e-mail me to let me know they were scoping out items. I can’t wait to see all the pictures. If you can’t remember the items you needed to find, or any of the rules click here or on the link to the right to find them.

So, start taking those pictures. Even if you don’t think you’ll find enough items to win, it doesn’t mean you can’t play. I’m sure we’d all love to see any items that you do find!

Happy Picture Taking!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Scored! May 6, 2000

This is what made Pedro Pedro. There was no such thing as a bad ticket if Pedro was on the mound. You can almost hear season ticket holders groan when they look at the schedule and see an early May game against the woeful Devil Rays. How are they eveer going to get rid of that ticket? They certainly don’t want to be at that game. Scalpers probably threw those tickets in with purchase. But, as you get closer to the game, and the rotation starts to clear up, and Pedro looks to be on the mound, everything changes. What was a ticket you’d have trouble giving away becomes one of the best tickets you can get. After all, on any given night Pedro could make history.

A couple things jump out at me when I look at the scorecard. First, look at the bottom of the order. Manny Alexander at third base, and Andy Sheets at short. Has there ever been a more pathetic left side of the infield? I don’t remember why Nomar wasn’t playing in that game. I hope it wasn’t another case of the manager resting the best players when Pedro was facing Tampa. It happened to Pedro a lot. The managers would rest players when facing bad teams, figuring Pedro wouldn’t need many runs. And, that was true. He didn’t need many. He did need at least one though. I also don’t know why it was Alexander instead of Valentin or Veras. But, that’s who the Sox went with that day. Frankly, look at the whole order. That was a pretty sad collection of nine guys. Remember, this is a team that was in the ALCS the year before. Unbelievable.

Second, I goofed in the ninth inning. Some people denote flyball outs with the F-8 designation. I assume it would contrast with an L-8, for a line out. But, other people use the F designation for a foul out. I had started out my scoring career using the former technique. I decided not too long ago that I couldn’t figure out when a fly ball turned into a soft liner, into a liner. So, I started using the F for a foul out. As you can see, sometimes old habits die hard. It’s also an example of how a scoring system evolves over time. I stopped using information that wasn’t helpful to me, and started using information that was more meaningful.

It’s very clear from the top of the card that the Sox lost a close one. That’s what makes the bottom of the card so gut wrenching. Pedro’s line almost makes you cry. Nine innings pitched. Six hits, one walk. (For the new fangled math fans out there, that’s a 0.78 WHIP.) That went along with SEVENTEEN strikeouts. Pedro Martinez tied his career high in strikeouts, gave up one run, completely dominated the game…and lost! Which co-ace was able to do that to poor Pedro? I bet many of you remember that it was the immortal Steve Trachsel. That’s right. Not exactly the result I was expecting when I went to the park. As you can see, the Sox could only muster three hits of their own. Pedro was outpitched, and beaten by Steve Trachsel. Incredible.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Granderson “Blockbuster”

Yesterday, the Yankees apparently acquired Curtis Granderson in a three-team trade. I have to admit. I’m having a little trouble whipping myself into a frenzy over this move. When I saw the headline that the Yankees were involved in a “blockbuster” I was, naturally, nervous. Which star player had they managed to wrestle from an underachieving team? When I realized that is was Granderson going to the dark side, I was actually relieved. It wasn’t Halladay, or Hernandez, or Gonzalez, or Fielder, or Ramirez, or any one of a dozen of names that flew into my head. It was Curtis Granderson. Phew.

Does the move make the 2010 Yankees better than they were three days ago? Yes. Of course, three days ago their outfield was Swisher-Gardner-Cabrera. Does it make the Yankees better than they were in 2009? I don’t see it. Sure, Granderson is a better player to have on the team going forward than either Damon or Matsui. But, Damon had a great year last year. So, the Yankees don’t look any more formidable than they did last season. Now, since Granderson in now playing his home games in a Little League field, his number will improve. It will look like a much better deal than it is, and that’s too bad.

Some Sox fans are pretty angry over this deal. I admit. It’s a little annoying when your team holds a press conference to introduce Marco Scutaro, and their main competition is trading for a former all-star. But, the Sox aren’t done. They didn’t “need” Granderson. The improvement over Ellsbury wouldn’t be staggering. Both are really more exiting than good. I’d much rather save the chips for a move that actually fills a need. Focus on filling holes. That’s what the Yankees did. They didn’t get a guy just because he was available. They needed a young quality centerfielder. The Sox already have one. If they want to make a move, a pitcher, or a shortstop, or corner infielder would make tons more sense. Heck, even a power hitting left fielder would make sense. Trading for Granderson would have been very disappointing. Especially since the Yankees apparently gave up a couple nice players in the deal.

I still wouldn’t call it a blockbuster.

Monday, December 7, 2009

TTM Success!

My complete hopelessness has been well documented. I look around at other blogs, and see request after request fulfilled. People are sending out autograph requests ten at a time, and getting responses in days. I, on the other hand, had been shut out for almost two years. But, this weekend that all changed. When I checked the mail, sitting there looking at me was the coveted envelope addressed to me in my own handwriting. It was an early Christmas present as I wondered what joys would lie within.

As always, the first thing I did was check the postmark, to see what clue that might provide. Brockton, Massachusetts. If I had thought about it, that would have been a huge hint. For some reason, though, I ignored it. I figured, of course a Red Sox player would have a postmark in the Boston area. So, it was only after I opened the envelope that I realized the card enclosed was signed by none other than local World Series hero Manny Delcarmen!

I love the way this card looks. It’s a classic pose of Manny, making for a great picture. Naturally, that’s why I sent it in the first place. I also like how Manny signed it vertically. It’s like he was thinking, “I’m not Mel Ott…I’m going to need some space.”

If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that I sent this card out to Manny during Spring Training. So, that means I got a response in just about ten months. Not quite the ten days that other blogs report, but I’m certainly not complaining. I always expect a year anyway. What’s more interesting is the timing. Obviously, I know nothing about the wants and needs of a major league ballplayer. When I sent out the card, I mentioned that my fastest responses have been to Spring Training. My guess was that the ballplayers have less to do down there. They don’t have families, or chores, so might as well sit in the hotel signing fan mail. Once the season starts, they’re either living at home, or on the road. I always figured, that of the two, when the player was on the road, they might sign some things. Grab a sack, and sit on the plane and sign away. But no. Manny waited until after the season, when he finally had other things to do. He was home with his family, with household chores calling to him. This is when he found the time to answer my request. I thank him fully for it. It’s just not when I would have expected it.

So, this response has renewed my thirst. For one thing, it proves that I had the right address. I was beginning to wonder. So, with the offseason in full swing, I’ll be thinking of more requests to send out once Spring Training starts up. Of course, I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you Manny Delcarmen!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Scutaro at Short

Well, he's definitely a shortstop.

That's really all I have to say about the signing. The free agent shortstop pool was shallow to say the least. (The second base pool wasn't much better...which is why shifting Pedrioa never made much sense. ) So, Theo decided on Scutaro. Is it a flashy signing? Nope. Are the Sox now locks for the playoffs? Not even close. Does it fill a hole so that groundballs won't go into left field? Yup. And, really, other than a dream of a trade that was about what the Sox were after. Someone to take up the line-up spot, and not embarrass the team. Oddly, you wouldn't think those were difficult qualifications. Theo has had some trouble, however, finding someone that meets them. After this, Theo needs to concentrate on the gaping hole in left field. Beyond that...if he'd like to acquire a power hitting first baseman or a stud starting pitcher, he's certainly free to do so. But, at least get a complete roster going. Let''s hope that Scutaro is a solid shortstop for the next two or three years.

Frankly, I'd be happy if the Sox aren't paying him to play somewhere else in 2011.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

36 Questions: What rights do the MLBPA hold?

I have a 2009 Fenway Park calendar…shocking as that must be. It’s an especially cool calendar in my case since I was at a few of the games they feature. The Calendar is licensed by MLB, so it has the Red Sox logo plastered everywhere. It’s the old circle logo, but I’ll give them a break since it’s the first year. The calendar is not, apparently, licensed by the MLB Players Association. It was interesting to me what I guess that means.

Most of the pictures are nice scenic shots of Fenway taken from well up in the stands. You can’t really tell who the players are unless you really think about it. That big guy in left with the long hair is probably Manny Ramirez. I assumed that was part of the lack of MLBPA license. They couldn’t have the players recognizable without their rights. The odd part was that they also airbrushed away their numbers. The May pictures us a nice action shot. There’s a batter at the plate awaiting the pitch. There are runners on at first and third, ready to pounce. But, I can’t concentrate on the action. My eyes are drawn to the solid white backs on the batter, third base coach, and the runner at third. The Players somehow own the rights to their numbers? The Red Sox don’t own the rights to the number 34 written in a Red Sox font…the player does? That seems a little odd. Does that only apply to the current player wearing the number? Can Steve Avery allow the licensing of a glut of “Red Sox 33” merchandise…or does it have to be Tek? If there is no current member wearing the number, is it up for grabs? Could the calendar have photo shopped in the number 21?

In the August photo, there’s a shot of the centerfield jumbotron. The player’s picture has been blacked out, as well as his name. The stats remain, though. So, if you really wanted to check, you could probably figure out who it would have been. But, the MLBPA has the rights to a picture that happens to be in the background? What about the fact that I can pretty easily figure out that it’s Dice-K on the mound? How is that different? In November, it got a little weirder. Again, there’s a jumbotron shot. Again the player’s picture has been blacked out. This time, there are no stats either. But, the player’s name is still there…it’s just slightly blurry. You can pretty easily tell that it’s Grady Sizemore though. So, they went through the trouble of removing everything else…but left the players name? Can they use the name as long as there’s not other identifying information? Without the picture or the stats, could it be some other “Grady Sizemore” who happened to be batting leadoff for the Cleveland Indians? Where is the line in the sand?

Who decides which rights are which?

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Halladay Buzz

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

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

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

Hopefully, it's someplace fun!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

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

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


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

Friday, November 20, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: K is for…

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Random Stuff

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

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

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

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

Just a thought.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Team Sets: 1986 Topps

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

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

Hall of Famers: Wade Boggs, Jim Rice

Future Hall of Famers: Roger Clemens

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

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2009 Scavenger Hunt

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

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

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

3. Statue honoring Red Sox player

4. Red Sox themed bumper sticker

5. Cereal box featuring Red Sox player

6. Red Sox bathing suit

7. Ticket from Red Sox game against the Yankees

8. Jon Lester baseball card

9. Kevin Youkilis t-shirt

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

11. Autograph of member of 2004 World Series roster

12. DVD of movie with appearance by Red Sox player

13. Red Sox program

14. Red Sox media guide

15. Red Sox yearbook

16. Red Sox pocket schedule

17. Pink Red Sox hat

18. White Red Sox hat

19. Red Red Sox hat

20. Blue Red Sox hat

21. Red Sox socks

22. Completed scorecard from a Red Sox game

23. Newspaper with Red Sox related front-page headline

24. Magazine with a Red Sox player on the cover

25. Josh Beckett replica jersey

26. Red Sox player

27. Entrance to Gate C at Fenway Park

28. Official Program from 1999 MLB All-Star game

29. Official Program from 2003 ALCS

30. Red Sox calendar

31. McFarlane brand figurine of Red Sox player

32. Red Sox themed tattoo

33. Female Red Sox fan

34. Male Red Sox fan

35. Red Sox cup

36. Red Sox magnet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Luck!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Collecting the Sox: World Championships

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone have a favorite World Championship item in their collection?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Buying a Championship

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

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

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

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

He should at least mention it on the trophy stand.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I Scored!

April 10, 1998 – Red Sox Home Opening Day

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

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

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

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

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

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thank You Yankees

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

Happy 36th!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Johnny!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Trailing with a 3-2 lead?

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

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

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

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

Go Phillies!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why can’t everyone just talk about them? 

Friday, October 30, 2009

Just like the Old Days

Once again, Pedro Martinez was on the mound. If it wasn’t already, the World Series Game 2 was instantly appointment television again.
I hadn’t been able to see Pedro pitch since he left the Sox. So, last night’s game was the first time since Game 3 of the 2004 World Series. It was obviously very different, but at the same time exactly the same. Even after all these years, Pedro still had “it.” The mound was his domain, and nobody should bother to mess with that. The velocity wasn’t there, of course, but everything else was. It was like the 1999 Pedro, with 10 MPH less on all his pitches. The hitters were off-balance. The curveball was still buckling knees. The change-up was still doing things that only Bugs Bunny could do before. The fastball was still faster than his other pitches, allowing him to blow people away at 88 MPH. People always used to say that Pedro could “pitch” even without his 98 MPH heater. Last night proved it. It was great to watch. Of course, even with all that, the Yankees were able to just barely outlast him. Pedro got the quality start. He would have won any number of games with the performance he gave. It just wasn’t quite enough. I look forward to game six…if necessary.
I remember Tony Pena once bunting with two strikes. It was commented at the time that it might have finally signaled the end. If he needed to be treated like a pitcher at the plate, maybe he was too much of a liability. Does this mean we can finally put to rest the ridiculous “Jeter for MVP” campaigns? Men at first and second, with nobody out late in a close game, and he’s bunting three times? Not exactly all that valuable if you ask me. Isn’t he supposed to own the postseason? Is that the ice water in his veins or his calm eyes telling him to give himself up at a crucial time? He just gave up!? Fox couldn’t mention enough times that he made the call himself to bunt. Apparently we’re supposed to think that he’s so selfless that he’s sacrificing his personal stats for the good of the team, without them having to tell him to. Frankly, I’d prefer that decision if it came from the bench. It’s one thing for Girardi to over-manage, and play percentages, and ask Jeter to lay one down. It’s another thing for Jeter himself to decide that he isn’t capable of getting a base hit…or flyball. I couldn’t believe it. Can you imagine Joe Mauer leaving it up to everyone else to drive in the runs? The so-called greatest player on the Yankees, in the house that he apparently built, can’t swing away? Are you freakin’ kidding me? I’m trying to imagine Jason Bay, or Dustin Pedroia, or Mike Lowell coming back to the bench after doing that. I can’t do it. Maybe it’s time for Jeter to selflessly remove himself from the Yankees line-up. Most valuable my foot.
The series starts anew on Saturday. This time, the Phillies have home field advantage.
Hopefully they can protect it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Fifth Anniversary!

“A ground ball, stabbed by Foulke. He underhands it to first, and the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions!”

When Joe Castiglione uttered those words five years ago tonight, it meant many different things, to many different people. Some cheered. Some cried. Some did both. I always assumed that I’d jump up and scream. After all, when Luis Gonzalez dropped in the single to win the 2001 series, I danced around the room for quite a while. That was just a reaction to a Yankee loss. How could I not expect the same thing when the Sox finally won? Oddly, that’s not what I felt. It was relief. I sunk into the couch, and my body just went, “phew.” Finally, it would all be different.

Finally I could enjoy baseball more. The worst wasn’t always going to happen. (I don’t know about you, but I just knew that the only reason that the Sox came back from being down 0-3 in the ALCS was so it would hurt even more when they blew their own 3-0 lead in the World Series.) Sometimes, things would work out. I didn’t have to keep waiting. I didn’t have to worry about a team being THE team. It would all just be easier. The pressure was off.

That’s going to sound pretty pathetic to anyone who wasn’t a Red Sox fan in the leaner years. But, people who were around get it. It’s not that the Red Sox were my life. It’s that the Red Sox affected my life. I mentioned to someone recently that even now, I’d prefer a Yankee loss to a Red Sox win. Especially with two championships in recent memory. The response was that I was a little sad. And it does sound that way. It makes me sound like I’m sitting in my basement wishing misery on others. But that’s not it. The simple reason is that if the Yankees and Red Sox both lose, Yankees fans will leave me alone. If both the Red Sox and Yankees win on any given day, the Yankees fans are there annoying me. It’s the Yankees loss that’s important. Well, 2004 was the mother of all Yankees losses. Not only did they choke in historical fashion. But, the Red Sox finally had a championship of their own. A whole line of comments was now useless. I could go to Foot Locker without harassment from the guy behind the counter with the interlocking N-Y on his cap. Red Sox games were quieter the next year. The subway rides were easier to take. It all just got a little bit easier.

I will say that there was one problem with the Sox finally winning it. The Yankees fans stopped their “1918” chant, so I was never able to figure out why it was supposed to bother me. Either your team was the defending champ, or it wasn’t. Did it really matter if the Royals won a championship 20 years ago? Does that take the sting out of the 2009 team’s performance? Sure, Yankees fans think it matters that they won 16 titles before my parents were born. Doesn’t help me much though. Patriots fans are starting to realize that the Super Bowls they won aren’t enough anymore. It’s been five years or so since the last one after all. So, whether it was 5, 10, 20, 50, or 86 years…it’s all more than 1.

Whatever it meant, it all ended on this glorious day 5 years ago in St Louis, under a lunar eclipse, of a blue moon.

Happy Anniversary! 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Congratulations Yankees…

…may you be thoroughly drubbed in the World Series. I had a few thought while watching last night’s deciding ALCS game 6. What better way to get them off my chest than to make you all read about them?

There was a video making the rounds not too long ago showing Mariano Rivera apparently spitting in the direction of the ball while on the mound. I haven’t seen the video myself, so can only say what I’ve heard. It sounds like the video shows Rivera spit, and it may have gone near the ball. People were claiming that it amounted to Rivera throwing a spitball, and action should be taken. MLB ruled that there was no infraction. Now, I don’t think that Rivera was trying to throw a spitball. I agree with people saying that if you wanted to throw a spitter, you wouldn’t just spit onto the ball in full view of a gazillion cameras. But, wouldn’t you think there’d be a rule against it? Pitchers can’t blow into their hands unless it’s really cold, just in case some moisture is transferred from hand to ball. So, there’s a rule for that, but not a rule against randomly spitting all over the mound when the ball is in the line of fire? That’s just odd. Why bring that all up now? Because Andy Pettitte was pitching last night. His routine on the mound has bothered me for years. When he’s in the stretch, he takes the sign with the ball in his glove. The glove is then placed against his face, so the tip of the glove, with ball inside, is covering his mouth. How is that allowed? Pitchers can’t blow into their hands, but Pettitte is allowed to blow directly on the ball? And, not that I’m saying he’s sitting there licking the ball…but who knows that he’s not? How that continues to be allowed is beyond me.

Fox made an interesting comment following the blown ball four call to ARod that forced in a run in the 8th. They noted that it was a blown call. I’ll give them some credit for even mentioning that the Yankees got the huge break. But, they immediately tried to diffuse it by saying that it really doesn’t matter since the correct cal would have just made it a 3-2 count to ARod. Am I missing something? Is a full count with no run scoring the same as ball four, and a run in? Seems to me that there’s about a run difference between the two. Sure, ARod would have gotten a chance to get a hit, and the run would have scored anyway. But, he may have made an out without the run scoring. I’d much rather have a 3-2 count without a run on the board. If the Angels didn’t feel that way, they would have walked him intentionally.

Later in the game, Mark Teixeira came to the plate with the bases still loaded. One of the Yankees biggest power threats, frankly one of the biggest power threats in the AL, was coming to the plate with a chance to break the game wide open. A single scores two runs. With the speed on the bases at the time for the Yanks, a double probably scores three. What does Teix do? Flies out to center. So, a single run is allowed to score in exchange for the out. Naturally, Teixeira is upset with himself, and walks dejectedly back to the dugout. Wait, no he’s not. He’s jumping back to the dugout, looking like his wife gave him permission to stay out late. He’s celebrating with his teammates, slapping high fives, smiles all around. So, basically, the high-paid power hitter batting clean-up for the New York Yankees is thrilled that he flew out? Heck, I’d expect Alex Gonzalez to fly out to center. If Jason Bay lofts a ball to center in that situation, I’m upset about the wasted opportunity. Why weren’t the Yankees?

If the Angels were going to completely implode and hand the series to the Yankees, couldn’t they have done it a series sooner?

Go Phillies! 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

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

1. Jason Varitek
2. Carlton Fisk
3. Victor Martinez
4. Tony Pena
5. Rich Gedman
6. Scott Hatteberg
7. John Marzano
8. Bill Haselman
9. Jim Leyritz
10. Rick Cerone
11. Mike Stanley
12. Doug Mirabelli
13. Mike McFarlane
14. Bob Montgomery
15. John Flaherty
16. Kevin Case
17. Josh Bard
18. Eric Wedge
19. Marc Sullivan
20. Javy Lopez
21. Kelly Shoppach
22. Dave Valle
23. Rich Rowland
24. Bob Didier
25. Tim Blackwell
26. Bob Melvin
27. Wal McKeel
28. Andy Merchant
29. Joe Oliver
30. Dave Sax
31. Mandy Romero
32. Marcus Jensen
33. Roger LaFrancious
34. Tim McCarver
35. Fred Kendall
36. Dave Rader

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Umping like it’s 1999

The one problem with the baseball playoffs is when it comes to writing about it, the games happen very quickly. By the time I can figure out what I want to say, the next game is played and everything changes. Not that I’m complaining. I love the quantity of games stuffed together. But, I have a little break here with just the one game scheduled today, and lots to talk about from last night’s game. Everything from ARod to Umpires is just screaming to be talked about.

I guess I’ll start with ARod. He’s having himself quite a postseason. Nobody expected a talented player like himself to continue choking his way through every October. It all had to even out eventually. I just have to wonder about the Fox broadcast, and the glowing over him. He did admit flat out to cheating. Should we be putting him on a pedestal? How about just mentioning the accomplishments in passing? It just seems icky to be pumping him up like that.

Speaking of the Fox coverage, was there anything more repulsive than their references to the two Nick Swisher blown calls? The both happened within batters of each other. The pick off at second was enormously missed. How an ump could miss that when he's standing right there is incredible. He should be removed on the spot.  Then Swisher goes to third, and is called out for leaving early. Fox spends about an hour pointing out that the ump wasn't looking at Swisher. He was looking at centerfield. Where else should he be looking? If he looks at Swisher's foot, he has no chance of knowing when Hunter caught the ball. At least looking at center, he can pick up Swisher out of the corner of his eye. Then, Fox shows replay after replay of Swisher's foot and Hunter's catch. The problem is, that the view was from in front of Swisher. You have no idea if his foot is on the bag, or a foot in front of the bag. The perspective or view was completely wrong. How Fox could even say he was on the bag was poor reporting on their part. If you look close, Swisher's body is moving forward, and his leg muscles are moving. He certainly could have been off the bag. It's not like every part of his body was at rest. I have no doubt that the ump saw him moving early, and made the call. I have no proof whether he left early or not. In any event, from then on, Joe and Tim couldn't mention enough that the Yankee lead could have been even larger if the run hadn't been taken off the board. Poor Yankees were cost a run by a questionable call. They never mentioned that Swisher should have been out two batters earlier. He never should have scored in the first place. They went on and on about NY being cheated on a questionable call, while ignoring that the Angels were cheated out of an obvious call.

The other questionable call in the game was, of course, the double play that wasn’t at third base. To me, this is a classic case of the umpires not working together. There is a home plate umpire, and a left field umpire who have perfect views of the play. Especially the guy in left, since he really had nothing else to look at. Neither one of them cared to mention that Cano was two feet off the bag when he was tagged? Nobody wondered why, with Posada wandering by the coach’s box, the Angels catcher would go out of his way to tag a runner standing on the bag? If Cano was on the bag (where he should have been) they would have gone to tag Posada before he got away. If plays like the ones last night don’t scream out for replay, I don’t know what does.

Speaking of Posada, I always knew he was Bush…I didn’t know he was an idiot. First, he can’t score from second on a double because he doesn’t know how to run the bases. Then, right away he gets caught in a rundown on a groundball. He runs back to third, but doesn’t know enough to stand on the base. (Again, Cano should have been there. But, Posada needed to adjust) Then, to top it off, he later forgets how many outs there are, and leaves the plate unguarded with a runner on third. Quite the game by Jorge.

The interaction between Cano and Posada following the non-RBI double was interesting as well. Cano drills the double, and Posada clearly should have scored. Cano looks up, notices that he lost out on an RBI, and get grumpy. He stares out to rightfield, and can’t even look at Posada. Posada motions towards second, and apologizes to Cano, saying it was his fault. He didn’t apologize to his dugout, just to Cano. He wasn’t sorry that he cost the team a run. He was sorry that he cost Cano an RBI. In the middle of a playoff game, Cano was worried about his personal stats…and Posada knew it.

Here’s hoping that the Phillies take advantage of tonight’s opportunity and wrap their series up. That gives them time to line up their aces for the World Series. The Angels need to at least win tonight. Perfect world, they at least force a game seven. We’ll see how it goes.

Boy, the Phillies look tough right now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: J is for…

J.D. Drew

JD Drew is one of those players I wish I knew personally. I can’t help but wonder if the personality he projects is even close to what it really is. He’s a bit of an enigma for Sox fans, and that has led to a polarizing treatment from the fan base.

The Sox Signed Drew prior to the 2007 season, but most fans knew a lot about him before that. Everyone knew he was the guy who refused to sign with the Phillies after being selected second overall in the draft. He played independent ball for a year, rather than succumb to their contract demands. He was drafted the following year by the Cardinals, as the fifth overall selection. He ended up signing with St Louis, and made his major league debut the night McGwire hit his 62nd homer. He bounced around to Atlanta, and signed a big contract with LA. It was this big contract that he opted out of to allow the Sox to sign him.

Just that quick bio was enough for some fans to make up their minds about him. He was greedy, selfish. All he cared about was the money. Add that to the fact that he tends to miss a lot of games with injuries, and he wasn’t exactly the ideal player for many Boston fans. He was lazy, and didn’t really want to play. I have no idea if any of that is true. I’m also not sure I care.

Can I really blame the guy if he wants to get the most money he can? Why does everyone assume that because he “plays a game for a living” he should take whatever contract is offered him? Just because they’d like to play, he should act like it’s not a job? I’d really like to swim with Shamu every day, and wouldn’t really call that work. It’s just swimming all day, and that’s fun. Does that mean no whale trainer is allowed to ask for a raise? I say good for him. He had the leverage, and used it perfectly.

What is the fascination with playing hurt? Everyone always thinks that it’s a sign of weakness if a player sits out with a hamstring pull, or back tweak. Players should be on the field as long as all of their limbs are attached. After all 80% of so-and-so is better than the guy they put in his place. Is it? People like to point to Curt Schilling’s bloody sock game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. That’s how the game is supposed to be. He was out there outing it all on the line for his team. He’s a warrior. How come nobody brings up his game 1 start? He was still hobbled. He was still a warrior. But, he stunk up the joint. The Sox ended up scoring seven runs that game, but couldn’t dig themselves out of the six-run hole that Schilling put them in. It wouldn’t have been better for the Sox if Schilling hadn’t toughed it out? Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone else took the hill that game in his place? Could we expect his replacement to give up less than 6 runs in three innings? Why is it never honorable to remove yourself from a game for the good of the team? Can’t drew look at the bench and say, “If I’m half a step slower, and have trouble putting my normal swing on the ball, then the Sox are better off with Baldelli in right. He’s a good player after all.” Isn’t that selfishly sacrificing his personal stats for the good of the team? Isn’t that a good thing?

I like JD Drew. He’s a great player, and a great guy in the line-up. Do I think he’s overpaid? Probably. But, it’s not my money. At the end of the day, you look back at JD Drew and see that he contributes to an awful lot of Red Sox victories. That’s about all I expect out of a player.

J is for JD Drew.

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