Monday, June 29, 2009

The Machine Keeps Rolling

Another road series, and another series win. What more could I ask for? Sure, it would have been nice to squeak out yesterday’s game as well. But, a 4-2 road trip is a really nice start. All the Sox need to do is win once of the games in Baltimore to have a successful trip. Even with Yesterday’s loss, and the Mets decision to lie down like dogs, the Sox still enjoy a three game lead in the East. Apparently, the Mets realize that if they lose the games now, it’s not choking. Maybe the fans will get off their backs a bit if instead of chokers, they’re just a lousy team. After the current road trip, the Sox have a nice long home stand. That should be fun.

I usually don’t get caught up in a player’s numbers against a specific team. I don’t care what Kevin Youkilis’s batting average is against Tampa Bay. It’s not like the old days where over a five-year span most of the teams had the same players. With the turnover rate of today’s teams, numbers against a certain uniform are irrelevant. That makes Josh Beckett’s domination of the Braves all the more interesting. The Braves have been a pretty good team lately. But, in the last few years, they have done nothing against Beckett. This last meeting was even more impressive since it came about a week after his previous meeting. Usually the more often a team sees a pitcher, the more they can hit him. It didn’t appear to be the case with Beckett. It’s too bad he doesn’t get to face them again this season.

Brad Penny had another game where he pitched pretty well, but didn’t get a win. I assume that trade value isn’t affected by the win-loss record. But, it would be nice to see him getting a W now any then. He’s been pitching a lot better than the record would indicate.

What is up with Wakefield? I know the knuckler has a way of running hot and cold. But, it’s been running pretty hot lately. Some people will look at his ten wins and say it’s a function of his run support. But, he hasn’t needed many of the runs he’s gotten. He’s just been mowing people down left and right. If he doesn’t land on the All-Star team this year, there’s something wrong with the system…more than usual.

This is probably more than Theo dared hope for at the beginning of the season. But, the Sox are going into Baltimore for a three game series, and are throwing Jon Lester, John Smoltz, and Josh Beckett. Is that even fair? Lester and Beckett are showing signs of being the co-aces we all hoped they’d be. If the Smoltz of his last inning shows up, as opposed to the one of his first, the birds don’t stand a chance.

I’d like to send out Birthday Wishes to two former Sox players today, Duane Wilson, and Peter Hoy. They have the honor of sharing a birthday with yours truly. Happy Birthday!

Bring on Baltimore!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Was That A Good Series?

Obviously, my standard goal is to split every series on the road. So, to win this series certainly is ahead of the game. But, are the Nationals the type of team that you HAVE to sweep? Are those three games you need to win in order to be a success? I really think that winning two of the three, even in DC, is a bit of a disappointment. I’m not complaining, exactly, but I wish they could have picked up yesterday’s game as well.

It’s nice to see Ortiz starting to swing the bat a little bit. I’m not quite at the point where I’m screaming that he’s back to normal. But, I’d rather have the last two weeks than the first two weeks of the season. I do think it’s interesting that the resurgence looks to have coincided with his eye drops. It’s probably as much mental as it is physical, but it may have worked.
If Brad Penny was looking to boost his trade value, having a so-so start against the Nationals might not have been the way to do it. He didn’t exactly get shelled, and the Sox ended up with the win, but I’d have liked it to have been a little cleaner than it was.

I still don’t know what I want the Sox to do as the trade deadline comes. If Dice-K’s really on the DL, I could almost see them not making a move. That would be a shame though. I hate to have so many great chips, and not use them for something. It’s not quite at the level of making a move for the sake of making a move. But, they have a chance to do something pretty fantastic here. What would I like to see? Good question. Obviously, they don’t need a starting pitcher. They could use a young catcher to take over after next season. I’m not sure Kottaras is the future plan. Pretty set at first and second I’d imagine. They could use a long-term shortstop plan, if it’s not Lowrie. Although, Lowrie would be fine with me. Lowell will need a replacement soon, so if the Rays want to deal Longoria, I’d listen. Left field is an interesting position. Will Jay Bay stay? If he’s bolting at the end of the year, this may be the time to grab a replacement. Ellsbury looks to have centerfield locked up for a while, and Drew still has right. The bullpen looks set for the near future as well. That’s it. A catcher, a shortstop, and maybe a left fielder. I want studs at those positions, and I’ll pay for it. What can you do for me Theo?

Before last night’s game, there was talk that Smoltz starting against the Nat’s was really just another rehab start. It would be tricky to tell how good he was really feeling when he dominated them. So, what exactly does it mean when he gave up five runs in five innings? Not a whole lot. I’ll cut the guy some slack for being rusty or nervous, or whatever was buzzing around his head for the first inning. He gave up some hits, and that’s fine. He pulled it together, though, and showed us a little bit of what may be to come. I’m pretty excited to see him in Baltimore.
Does Smoltz get any reaction this weekend in Atlanta? Obviously, he’s not pitching. I also don’t expect a ceremony or anything. But, do the fans give him a cheer when he shags flies during batting practice? I sure hope they show something.

Bring on the Braves!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

36 years ago…

The year was 1973. The Impossible Dream had come and gone. The World Series team of 1975 was still building. But, a lot happened during that year. I thought it might be a lot of fun to take a look back at the Red Sox year of 1973.

On January 3 the New York Yankees were sold. That might not strictly be Red Sox related. But, the fact that the new buyer was George Steinbrenner makes it fairly significant. When his group put up the $10 million to buy the team, I bet nobody could imagine what would be created. If the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry didn’t start with the Steinbrenner years, it was certainly increased a few levels into what it is today. I don’t know whether to thank him.

In another Yankee moment, on April 6th Ron Blomberg came to the plate against Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant. He ended up walking. What was significant about that? It was the first time in ML history that a Designated Hitter came to the plate. I think it’s great that he walked. That way, the first DH at-bat wasn’t even an official at-bat. Isn’t that great? Love it or hate it, and I love it, the DH rule is one of the most significant changes to baseball in a long time. Now, if the NL would just get on board. By the way, the Red Sox ended up winning the game 15-5.

On August 1, the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry was in full bloom. It was in this game that Carlton Fisk was run into by Thurman Munson to start a pretty heated brawl. When they retired Fisk’s number at Fenway a few years ago, they showed a clip of this fight on the jumbotron. Naturally, it drew a loud round of applause.

A few of the Red Sox players who ranked among the AL leaders in 1973:
Carl Yastrzemski’s 105 walks placed him 3rd
Yaz’s .411 OBP was 3rd, even if nobody cared back then.
Tommy Harper stole 54 bases to lead the AL.
Luis Tiant had 23 complete games! What is more amazing is that he was only 4th in the AL. (In 2008, the Red Sox had 5 as a team)
Bill Lee had a fantastic 2.75 ERA, good enough for 3rd in the league

As for major AL awards, Harper finished 13th in the AL MVP voting.

Tommy Harper also collected a couple team honors, winning both the BoSox Club Man of the Year, and the Thomas A. Yawkey Award as team MVP.

The Red Sox placed three men on the 1973 All-Star team. Carlton Fisk started the game at catcher. Bill Lee and Carl Yastrzemski joined him on the squad.

The Red Sox finished 1973 with an 89-73 record, good enough for 2nd in the AL East. The Orioles finished 8 games ahead of them.

1,481,002 people came to Fenway to watch them play. (In 2008, the Sox drew a club record 3,048,248)

Red Sox team leaders included:Reggie Smith with a .303 batting average
Fisk’s 26 homers
Yaz’s 95 RBI
Tiant’s 20 Wins and 206 ‘s
Lee’s 2.75 ERA

Anyone have a favorite 1973 memory?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Already?

Another Monday, and another off day for the Sox. To fill the time, here are a few thoughts I have floating around my head.

It’s a credit to Theo that the Sox stand four games ahead in the division. The Number three starter has been useless, and they’re on their third string shortstop. The Designated Hitter was a Designated Out for much of the season. But, still they have a significant lead. It makes me wonder what’s possible from here on out.

Speaking of the number three starter… Dice-K went on the DL again. I never know what to make of these things. Naturally, I’m not involved in the internal meetings for the Sox. Nor do they usually send me the minutes to those meetings. I have to wonder what the plan/hope is here. Do the Sox really think he’s hurt enough to go on the DL? Is the shoulder thing an excuse to get him out of the rotation for a while to work on his mechanics? If he’s really “hurt”, does this make penny less expendable? What do they really believe up there? Is this a month break on the DL until the trading deadline? This gives both Smoltz and Penny a chance to show what they really have. If the Sox claim Dice is on the DL, their bargaining position improves when trying to trade Penny. They can get a better deal if they can say they don’t need to make a move than they could when Penny was the 6th man and taking up a needed roster spot.

Is there anything better in baseball than having a four game lead, heading INTO a 3-game series against the Nationals? It’s amazing to me sometimes that one major league team can be so bad. The number of times I’ve seen a random Red Sox starter throw a gem, or some hitter have the game of his life makes me think that it has to happen for the Nat’s occasionally. Where are all those games?

Who would have guessed that the Tim Wakefield start would be the longer of the weekend games? Saturday’s game was absolutely cruising. It’s amazing how crisp games can be when there’s quality pitching to be had. Beckett’s season is starting to get a little more consistent. He’s reaching the point where I’m expecting a good outing from him. For a while there it was more of possible than probable in my mind.

Should be a fun week.

Friday, June 19, 2009

List of 36: Red Sox Baseball Cards I wish I owned

1. 1939 Play Ball Ted Williams RC #92
2. 2005 Upper Deck HOF Signs of Cooperstown Triples Autograph Doerr/Fisk/Yaz #DFY
3. 2008 Topps World Champion Relics Josh Beckett #WCR1
4. 2001 Fleer Red Sox 100th Spledid Splinters Game bat Babe Ruth #6
5. 2007 Ultimate Collection Daisuke Matsuzaka AU #126
6. 1983 Topps Wade Boggs RC #498
7. 2000 Fleer Greats of the Game Autographs Jim Rice #66
8. 2006 Topps Triple Threads Relic Combo Ramirez /Williams/Ortiz #97
9. 1997 Stadium Club Cosigners Nomar Garciaparra Autograph #C08
10. 1938 Goudy Heads-Up Bobby Doerr XRC #258
11. 1960 Topps Carl Yastrzemski RC #148
12. 2001 Fleer Red Sox 100th BoSox Sigs Roger Clemens #4
13. 2004 SP Prospects Dustin Pedroia AU RC #340
14. 1975 Topps Jim Rice RC #616
15. 1949 Bowman Johnny Pesky RC #86
16. 2000 Fleer Greats of the Game Autographs Dom DiMaggio #24
17. 1941 Play Ball Dom Dimaggio RC #63
18. 1954 Bowman Ted Williams #66
19. 2001 Topps Heritage Autographs Dom Dimaggio #THADD
20. 1955 Topps Harry Agganis RC #152
21. 1985 Donruss Roger Clemens RC #273
22. 1959 Fleer Ted Williams Signs for 1959 #68
23. 2003 Bowman Chrome Draft Jon Papelbon RC #51
24. 2001 Fleer Red Sox 100th BoSox Sigs Carl Yastrzemski #16
25. 1972 Topps Carlton Fisk RC #79
26. 2008 Bowman Chrome Prospects Lars Anderson AU #BCP249
27. 2002 Upper Deck Premier Prospects Jon Lester XRC #12
28. 1992 Upper Deck Williams Heroes Ted Williams Autograph #AU4
29. 2008 Topps World Champion Relics Jacoby Ellsbury #WCR6
30. 1965 Topps Rico Pertrocelli RC #74
31. 1914 Cracker Jack Tris Speaker #65
32. 2004 Donruss World Series Signature Dwight Evans #25
33. 2007 Bowman Hidecki Okajima AU RC #219
34. 1975 Topps Fred Lynn RC #622
35. 2005 Bowman Sterling Jed Lowrie Uu/Jsy RC #JL
36. 2001 Fleer Red Sox 100th Threads Ted Williams #7

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Five Hundred

Last night, the Red Sox hosted their 500th straight sellout at Fenway Park. It’s a remarkable accomplishment, even on the surface. Dig a little deeper, and it becomes an amazing achievement.

Last year, the Red Sox passed the previous record held by the Indians of 455 straight games. The team that now holds the third longest streak is the Colorado Rockies, with 203 games. The interesting part about the three is how different the Sox are from the other two. The Rockies were a fairly new team opening a brand new ballpark. The excitement level was high enough for the expansion Rockies. The newness of them might have sold out any stadium in the country. Add to that a brand new beautiful park, and the sellout streak was on. Even with that excitement, the streak was only two and a half seasons. The Indians streak also started with its new ballpark. Jacobs Field was just a year old when the streak started. By then, the Jake was the crown jewel of baseball parks. I could imagine that a good many of the tickets sold were to visiting fans just wanting to take in the new park. Jacobs Field completely transformed the Cleveland downtown area. The revitalization kept attendance at the field going strong for a long time. For five and a half years, the Jake didn’t have an empty seat. (Although, there were reports at the end of the Indians taking some unsold seats off the market to preserve the streak).

The Red Sox were nothing like those two examples. They weren’t a new team like the Rockies. They had been around for over 100 years when the streak started. They certainly weren’t in a new stadium. In fact, Fenway Park was the oldest park in the league for sellout number one. It is, admittedly, a small park. That certainly helps fill all the seats. But, it’s not the smallest park in the league, and it’s the only one selling out 500 straight games. It can’t even be attributed to championship glow. When the streak started in May of 2003, the Sox were coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs. It had even been a few years since their last trip to the ALCS. So, how did it happen?

The only answer I can come up with is quality marketing, and a quality product. The quality product is obvious. Even in the early years of the streak, the team had stars worth coming out for. Even Yankee Stadium might sell out if Pedro was starting with Nomar and Manny behind him. Naturally, once the Sox won it all in 2004, the afterglow helped immensely to draw the fans. With 2 titles in the last 5 years, the bandwagon fans alone could account for a few sellouts. Simply put, it’s been worth going to the ballpark to watch this team in action.

The marketing aspect has, thankfully, been less obvious. The organization has made a number of improvements to Fenway Park. Unlike many “improvements” to other parks, these have one goal…to increase the enjoyment of watching a baseball game. They haven’t added swimming pools or batting cages. There are no sausage races or after-game concerts. They simply made Fenway Park a great place to watch a game. Many of the seats now actually face the field. They have added seats, like the Monster Seats, that give unique experiences. They’ve added concessions, and made them easier to access. The restrooms are amazing…as restrooms go. They’ve let the product on the field speak for itself, and actually built everything else around it. What a novel concept.

Naturally, if you’re going to make these improvements, you might as well let everyone know about it. The relationship between the Sox and the community has been great. The traveling World Series trophies were a great way to get the Sox brand out to the people. They’ve joined with a NASCAR team to get even more exposure. NESN has almost become an actual television station, and not filler surrounding the games.

What’s really amazing is that it’s not like the Sox are the only game in town. There are two other sports teams in the area with championships in the past 10 years. When you have to compete with two other champions for top billing, it’s even more impressive to increase a fan base.
Simply put, 500 straight sellouts is an amazing accomplishment. Selling out one April weekday night game is pretty impressive in New England. To do it five years in a row is amazing.

I knew I should have invested in Red Sox blankets.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Series After and Before

When I draft a fantasy team, I try to have either Red Sox players or NL players to avoid rooting conflicts. (Although, my only hard and fast rule is that no Yankees are allowed) But, even with that goal, I had a dilemma of Friday night. Jon Lester is on my team, as well as Ramon Ramirez and Jonathan Papelbon. Unfortunately, so is Ryan Howard. So, when Ramirez came in instead of Pap, it was ok. A save from either is just as good. But, then Ramirez gave up the homer to Howard to blow the save. So, I lost a win and a save, but gained a home run. Luckily, I also have Saito, so I ended up with the win in either case. In the end, I traded a save for a home run, which isn’t great. What a mess.

I couldn’t help but be frustrated with the rain delay after 1 inning Saturday. You’d think that they would have known enough to hold off if it was going to rain that soon. It was especially annoying since the Sox scored five runs before the delay. I could just see them calling the game and erasing those runs. Luckily, the delay didn’t appear to affect Dice-K’s performance. Although, how would you know?

I’d love to be a fly on the wall of Theo’s office these days. Penny has been pitching great, and Smoltz appears ready to move into a spot somewhere…along with Buchholz and Bowden. He must be calling everyone he can think of to try to free a spot or two. I think he needs to find a three-team trade for best results. Trading Penny for a contender probably wouldn’t get the prospects/talent he needs. But if Penny went to, say, Philly and Philly sent a ML ready guy to KC and KC sent a prospect to Boston, that would be closer to the results I’d like. Although, I still want to bundle for a blockbuster.

Does it mean anything that after Beckett’s home run Sunday, I actually wondered for a second if that tied him with Ortiz?

I know that these days players switch teams all the time, so they’re always playing a former team. But, does Mike Lowell think of these games any differently? The Marlins basically threw him away using him as a penalty to getting Josh Beckett. There has to be a little incentive behind that.

With the Marlins in town, will that give Theo the chance to work on the trade for Hanley Ramirez? They have to be able to find a match somewhere, right? I’ll give them anything.
I really wish that MLB wouldn’t set aside these “interleague” games as a whole other season. Just mix them into the schedule like every other league does. The NFL doesn’t have “interleague” week where every AFC team plays an NFC team. The concept is old enough now that the match-ups aren’t anything special anymore. You don’t get “first time these teams have met since…” promotions anymore. It’s pretty much the first time since a few years ago. Just put them in the schedule. It makes them seem like exhibition games when you group them all together like this.

Pitchers batting still seem goofy to me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Maybe the Phillies will present a challenge?

I had just a few quick thoughts on the past series, and the one coming up.

Obviously, the whole “8-0” against the Yankees this season is more fun than actually meaningful. Even with the sheer embarrassment of three straight series sweeps, all the Yanks need to do is win 3 more games than the Red Sox do the rest of the way out to finish ahead of them. But, it sure is a lot of fun to watch the number grow. Plus, the last time the Sox started a season 8-0 against NY, they won the World Series.

I’m just guessing here, but when the Yankees spent 100 gazillion dollars on their rotation this offseason I think they expected more than 12.1 innings from them in a three-game series.
Don’t look now, but David Ortiz just hit two home runs in a single series.

Brad Penny keeps chugging along. He’s certainly not hurting his trade value these days. Heck, his record is better than Sabathia’s now. I still think they Sox will only be able to get a middle reliever, or a prospect for him. But, it’s getting better all the time. Of course, I still think they should use him in a package to overwhelm a team. Say, Penny, Lowrie, Buchholz, Bard, and more for Hanley Ramirez?

The Sox bullpen has just been stellar. Most teams would kill for half the arms the Sox seem to have back there. Imagine a double header. In the first game, the Sox can throw Okajima-Ramirez-Papelbon, and still have Bard-Delcarmen-Saito for the nightcap. It’s almost unfair.

I know it’s unusual. But, when I was watching the Yankee bullpen collapse in the 8th inning last night, I kept wondering where Rivera was. I know they like to just do a 1-inning thing for him. But, he should have been rested and the Yanks really could have used a save in that game.

I went to a Red Sox-Phillies game in Philly in 2000. They were selling t-shirts in the stadium promoting “The Battle of the Rookie of the Years” with images of Nomar Garciaparra and Scott Rolen. That was the best they had…the two unanimous ROYs from three years ago. Other than that, the teams didn’t have much going for them. This time, it’s a battle of the last two World Champions.

I know that Francona has said that Ortiz would do the sitting when the Sox are in the NL park this weekend. But, that was before. Now, with a couple home runs in the last few games, should he stay in the line-up? Is this the best time to get him out of whatever rhythm he may actually be getting into? I think I’d go for one day of rest each for Lowell, Youk, and Papi.

55 days before the Sox get to play the Yankees again.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Collecting the Sox: Baseball Cards

Baseball cards are one of the oldest and most common Red Sox collectables out there. They’ve been around since the team’s inception, and are still going strong today. The number of baseball card collectors makes up a large percentage of Red Sox collectors out there. As with most collectables, there are several reasons for their appeal.

They’re not especially hard to get. Obviously, if you’re looking for a specific card, it may take some looking. Although, eBay and the rest of the Internet has helped with that a lot. Generally, you can get cards in lots of places. Wal-Mart and Target usually have large displays devoted to baseball cards. Even your local convenience store or gas station usually has some by the register. So, grabbing packs of new cards isn’t a real hassle. Scrounging up older cards may be more annoying, but again the Internet has made this chore relatively easy.

These days, cards have become more than grainy pictures of baseball players on cardboard. Obviously, the quality has greatly improved since the early days. Companies have also inserted things like autographed cards into the packs. There are cards with pieces of game used uniforms or bats or balls stuck in them. Card collections are morphing into memorabilia collections as well. It adds a bit of variety to a collection.

If you’re focusing on Red Sox cards, and really why wouldn’t you, there are still a few directions. You can collect a favorite player, or favorite season, or just any card you can with a Red Sox logo on it. If you just love Josh Beckett, you can try to get as many Beckett cards as you possibly can. (This will take a long time to try to do.) But, you’ll end up with plenty of nice looking Beckett cards. Or, you could try to get every card of the 2004 Red Sox. Or, every card from the 2004 card sets. As with any collection, it should be tailored to your likes. I’ve thought about trying to get an autographed card from every member of the starting line-up from Game 2 of the 2007 World Series. (I haven’t started yet, but it sounds like it could be fun.) You can see that even with a very specific goal, it still can be an adventure to build a collection.

One perfect way to get it all is though team sets. You can pick a brand, and year and simply get every Red Sox card from that set. Say, the 1989 Fleer Red Sox team set. Then you’d have every card made that year by that brand featuring the Sox. It assures that you’ll have the stars, and the scrubs. That way you can flip through and see the whole team. It really is a way to preserve a memory of your favorite team.

As usual, storage can be an issue with baseball cards. You can store the cards in boxes. This will allow you to keep 5000 cards in an area about the size of a breadbox. Or, if you want to see the cards more easily, you can place them in protective sheets. These sheets can be put into binders to allow you to flip through them and see your collection. You’ll need more space for this method, but the trade off is easy access. A combination of the two is probably a nice approach.

No matter your goal, baseball cards are a wonderful way to display your love of the Sox.

How do you collect?

Monday, June 8, 2009

List of 36: For Red Sox fans, 36 is the number of…

1. games John Farrell won in his career
2. homers by Tony Armas in 1983
3. times Johnny Pesky struck out in 1942
4. games Jacoby Ellsbury started in left field in 2008
5. homers by Jimmie Foxx in 1940
6. double plays Jim Rice grounded into in 1984
7. games Kevin Youkilis played at third base in 2008
8. steals by Harry Lord in 1909
9. runs scored by Carlton Fisk in 1974
10. hits Dave Magadan had during the 2000 season
11. homers hit by Tony Conigliaro while playing right field in 1970
12. doubles Julio Lugo had in 2007
13. homers hit by Cleveland against the Red Sox in 1954
14. strikeouts the Red Sox pitching staff recorded in the 2007 World Series
15. games Justin Masterson appeared in during the 2008 season
16. home runs by Ted Williams during the 1942 season
17. postseason singles Manny Ramirez had during his Red Sox career
18. hits given up by Manny Delcarmen in 2008, before the All-Star break
19. homers allowed by Josh Beckett in 2006
20. total fielding chances Daisuke Matsuzaka had in 2008
21. Brad Penny’s 2009 uniform
22. innings the Red Sox staff pitched during the 2004 World Series
23. passed balls by Red Sox catchers in 1997
24. RBI Josh Bard had for Cleveland in 2003
25. double plays turned by Frank Malzone in 1960
26. games the Red Sox lost by one run in 1930
27. RBI Jason Varitek had on grass during the 2008 season
28. hits Jim Rice had during the 1989 Spring Training
29. doubles by Rick Burleson in 1977
30. RBI Dustin Pedroia had in 2008, after the All-Star Break
31. at-bats by David Ortiz during 2008 Spring Training
32. runs scored by Carl Yastrzemski during the 1981 season
33. homers by Jimmie Foxx in 1937
34. games Time Wakefield appeared in during the 1998 season
35. games started by Roger Clemens in 1987
36. strikeouts by Wade Boggs during the 1983 season

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: C is for…

Clark, as in Tony

After being claimed off waivers from the Tigers, Tony Clark played for the Red Sox during the 2002 season. Clark had a lot of talent, but he was never able to put it all together in Boston. He barely hit over .200, and his power numbers were almost non-existent. There were several theories thrown out as to why there was a decline. The one I like the most is that Tony was a player rep for the union, and this was a big contract year. He had to spend so much time, and brain activity, keeping baseball away from a strike, that it took away from his hitting. The numbers do seem to support that, since he became a serviceable player again after that season. In 2005 with Arizona, he even put together a .300/30/87 season. So, it’s possible that his Red Sox season was a bit of a fluke. Unfortunately, that didn’t help the Sox. No matter the numbers, it was never in doubt what a great guy Clark was. Fans loved his personality and love for the game. Teammates raved about him everywhere he went.

One Tony Clark story, involving myself, I like to share occurred during the 2002 season. The Red Sox Wives had organized a food drive outside of Fenway Park. If you brought in 5 cans of food, you would get an autographed picture of one of the Red Sox players. The wives would be out at tables collecting cans, and giving out the pictures. They announced that, to avoid riots, you wouldn’t know which player you would get. They would just hand you whichever photo came up. I went up to a table, that didn’t have anyone else at it, and handed over my canned food. Maybe it was because I was alone, or maybe they changed their minds, but they asked me which player I’d like. I was thrown by the question a bit, and said I’d take whomever they offered. One of the wives at the table asked if I’d like Tony Clark. I responded that of course I would, he’s great. I took my picture away very pleased. Only then did I look back at the table and notice that the wives were wearing the jerseys of their husbands. The wife who asked me the question was apparently Shea Hillenbrand’s. The one who gave me the photo? Mrs. Tony Clark. I was instantly grateful that I didn’t respond with, “Why would I want that bum?” I also realized that it was probably a risky question to ask. But, it all worked out for the best.

My other Tony Clark story happened later in the 2002 season. I was on vacation in Bermuda, sitting at a bus stop in the capitol city of Hamilton. I was wearing my Red Sox hat, as usual. As I’m sitting there waiting for the bus, an older gentleman leans over to me. He says, “Hi. I’m from Detroit. Thanks for taking Tony Clark off our hands.” It was one of those examples of the reach of baseball, especially the Sox. Here I am, sitting in a foreign country, and the topic of the Red Sox comes up. Apparently, Red Sox nation is international as well. It also showed how far Clark had fallen that year, with strangers going out of their way to mock me for it. But, I love it. That’s why I’m a Red Sox fan.

Overall, 2002 was probably a forgettable season for Tony Clark. But, he managed to fashion a nice little career for himself. I wish him well.

C is for Clark, Tony

Friday, June 5, 2009

Taming the Tigers

Just a few quick thoughts about the Sox sweep in the motor city.

I already talked about Tuesday’s game, and Dice-K’s usual performance. It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win. End up with 95 at the end of the season, and you’re in the playoffs.

Josh Beckett’s performance on Wednesday was great to see. That’s now quite a few great games that Beckett has strung together. It’s about time that Beckett started pitching like the ace he’s supposed to be. I’m starting to expect these kinds out outings from him again, and that’s always a good sign for the Sox.

When there’s a no-hitter going, I would think that the announcers have a duty to mention it. It’s not their job to play into superstitions, unless it affects the opposing team. I remember once when an opposing pitcher was no-hitting the Red Sox during a game, and the announcers took it upon themselves to talk about it every three seconds or so.

Strange line score last night. It ended up 6-3. The Sox scored all six of their runs in a single inning, and the Tigers scored all of their runs in a single inning. Makes for a nice clean ballgame.
Would someone please remind Papelbon that he doesn’t need to make it interesting every game? Maybe it’s time to mention him that “heart attack” closers don’t get the record setting contracts he looking for. If he wants the big money, he needs to start striking everybody out again. I would bet that the Sox have at least three other guys in the ‘pen that can allow a hit and a walk in an inning to close out a game.

Wakefield continues to give the Sox everything they need from him. He’s on quite a little run of his own. Can’t imagine a number four starter in the league I’d rather have. Suddenly, it’s not so obvious that he’ll be retiring anytime soon. The logjam in the rotation is going to get interesting, not only this season, but apparently for a couple more. When exactly does a spot open up for the young guys? Maybe it’s time to use them to overwhelm the Marlins in a Ramirez deal. (Buchholz, Bard, Anderson and Lowrie?)

Every time I see that dirt stripe from the pitchers mound to the plate in Detroit, I just ask, “Why?”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dice-sKape Artist?

I’ve asked it before, and I’m sure I’ll ask it again. When does luck become skill?

Last night, Daisuke Matsuzaka won his first game of the season. He’s been on the DL for a bit, so that’s not as bad as it sounds. But, it’s still been too long for a pitcher who was supposed to be your #2 or #3 starter. It was classic Dice. He went 5 innings, and walked 3 guys. He gave up 6 hits, and struck out 6. He gave up only one run. You could look at the 6 K’s in 5 innings, and brag about a Pedro-esque 10.8 K/9 inning ratio. His ERA for the game of 1.80 is also stellar. Or, you could look at the base runners and scream at the 1.80 WHIP. Which one is the most meaningful?

Nobody can be as lucky as Daisuke seems to be. Nobody can constantly put runners on base all the time and just happen to have the other team strand them. That really leaves two options. Option A: one day the odds will catch up to him and he’ll get blown out. Option B: he’s good enough to work around people he doesn’t like and attack the ones he can get out. Game by game? Option A is the answer. Look at Papelbon’s game last night. He was pitching fine. But, a bloop hit here, a seeing eye single there, and suddenly the bases are loaded. So, Matsuzaka’s definitely playing with fire having so many people on base all the time. Every once in a while the ground ball is going to be that extra inch away from Pedroia’s glove, and two runs will score. But, over the course of a season? It seems to work out ok. It’s kind of like Wakefield. Sure,
sometimes the ball doesn’t knuckle leading to a three-run homer. But, the rest of the time it’s fine. Sure, sometimes Dice will give up a big inning, but the rest of the time it seems to work out pretty well.

He throws a ton of pitches, thanks to all those base runners. He doesn’t go deep into games, and that’s annoying. It’s a flat out boring game to watch. He’s the last pitcher I want on the mound if I’m on the way to Fenway. But, I have to think that the Sox are glad he’s on the mound every fifth game. I would imagine that the powers that be consider his contract to be a bargain. I’m glad the Sox have him.

At some point, flukes become streaks, which become careers. Right?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Collecting the Sox: Pictures

If you want an attractive Red Sox collectable, it’s hard to go wrong with pictures. As with most collecting avenues, the options to build your collection around are almost endless. They come in different sizes, and colors, and can be acquired fairly cheaply. It’s a great way to start out decorating your very own Red Sox Room.

There are a couple different types of Red Sox pictures. Obviously, there are professional photos that you purchase or personal photos that you take yourself. They both have good points and bad points. As far as personal photos, they might be more meaningful. Naturally, if you took the photo, you have to have been there. Maybe you saw a player on the street, or at an event. Maybe you were at a game watching him field. Maybe it’s pictures of Fenway, inside or out. In any case, the picture is more than a collectable; it’s a permanent memory. You get to choose the subject and tailor the shot to exactly what you want. On the other hand, professional photographers often have better access to the really good shots. If you want a perfectly cropped, close up shot of your favorite player, you’re probably looking for a professional. Also, views like aerial shots are probably beyond the reach of most amateurs.

Once you decide the type of picture you like, it comes down to subject matter. Do you have a favorite player that you want to capture? Maybe a wall full of pictures of Jacoby Ellsbury? Or only pictures of him stealing a base? How about a picture of any Sox player wearing the Red Jerseys? There are also pictures of special events, or historic games. A picture of the last three Red Sox no-hitters would look nice. Or, team photos of all the World Championship teams. Pictures of you and players would add a personal touch. Or, pictures of you in different stadiums where you’ve seen the Sox play. The variety is almost endless.

The prices of photos are also conducive to building a nice collection. Naturally, if you take the picture yourself, it’s about 20 cents to get it developed. It might be a bit more for a larger size like an 8x10, but generally it can be done for a buck or two. Professional shots are going to be a bit costlier, but still not too bad. If you look hard enough online, even an 8x10 picture will cost you less than $10. At a store or gallery, it might run you twice that, or more. Framing will add a premium to the cost. But, you can get a frame cheaply if you need to. Again, the size of the picture is going to determine how much everything costs. But, it shouldn’t be hard to find something to fit almost any budget.

Like any collectable, storage is an issue with collecting pictures. An easy way to store them is in an album system. Pictures can be put in standard photo albums, or in binders. Either way, they fit nicely on a bookshelf. If you want to look at them more often than that, some sore of frame would be needed. You can get frames that sit on shelves, or hang on the wall. In either case, you need the space to put them. A 16x20 picture is going to take a certain amount of space, no matter how it’s displayed. It’s just something to think about before you buy.

All collections have good points and bad. Pictures certainly have a lot of good.

Any photo collectors out there? Want to share any favorites?

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