Monday, August 31, 2009

Try to Sweep Up Before You Go

Quite a weekend for the Red Sox. Pitching was good to great, and the offense showed up when it was needed. When those two things happen, good things happen for the team.
I’m going to steer clear of Josh Beckett for a little. I have no earthly idea what to make of his last few outings. It reminds me of school, when teachers would pick one specific thing to grade a report on. This time, spelling is important. Next time it’s punctuation. That’s what Becket is up to. On time, try to limit walks. Next time, limit home runs. The rest of the outing can blow out of the water. I assume one of these times he’ll get back to limiting runs. Clay Buchholz, on the other hand, was masterful. Once again, he showed a flash of what the Red Sox think he can be. Every few starts he puts it all together and everyone yells, “There! That’s why we didn’t trade him for Halladay!” Frankly, it’s the same sort of thing Jon Lester went through as he found his way. Lester’s a little younger though, so it’s not so bad.
Yesterday, the Sox once again went to a veteran player signed in the hope that he could show his old form. The Smoltz and Penny experiments went so woefully, I didn’t have real high hopes for Paul Byrd. Byrd showed, however, that if you throw enough stuff at a wall, eventually some of it will stick. Wearing number 36, Byrd went out there and outpitched Roy Halladay. I can’t imagine asking more out of a spot starter.
Hopefully the spot starter gigs can stop soon since Daisuke Matsuzaka is on his way back to the rotation. What does it mean to give up 5 run in 2 innings during a AA rehab start? I have no idea. He’ll probably say he was working on conditioning, or mechanics, or something. That the score doesn’t matter. All that matters is that he didn’t have a setback. It’s really just spring training for him. He’s probably right. It just doesn’t look very good.
With Dice looking iffy, and Wakefield apparently having trouble getting out of bed, I have to wonder why the Sox didn’t put a claim in for Scott Kazmir. Of the Byrd/Tazawa/Kazmir option, isn’t he the way to go? I know he’s expensive, but that hasn’t stopped the Sox lately. Is he more than what they’ve given to Smoltz, Penny, Byrd, etc this season? Does he make the starting rotation a little crowded next year? Maybe. I assume the Sox have had a chat with Tim Wakefield to see exactly what the future holds for him. I think I’d feel more comfortable with Kazmir in the rotation that Buchholz next season. I don’t know. I could probably come up with a handful of reasons why they shouldn’t have claimed him. I could probably come up with a handful of reasons why they should have. It just seemed like the sort of thing that would have helped…and he wouldn’t have gone to the Angels. At least the Rays got rid of him just before the Sox go down to Tampa. Does this meant the Rays have given up on this season? Does this make the Sox remaining games against them a little easier?
I guess we’ll see.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Last weekend, I was able to go to the Sox-Yankees game on Saturday. It's always nice to pick the winner in a series like that. As usual, I kept score at the game, and thought I'd share the card with you.

Right away, we can see two things. Kevin Youkilis had a great day. His line might as well have been filled right in. Second, Jacoby Ellsbury had an awful one. Jason Varitek didn't do any favors with his two K's. But, an 0-5 at the top of the order would have killed many teams. It's amazing that the Sox scored 14 with that performance.

Anyone else have a favorite scorecard to share? (Especially if it's one of mine)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Collecting the Sox: Bobbleheads

Bobbleheads are an old collectable that has made quite a resurgence in recent years. With the improvement in manufacturing and materials, they have become an affordable collectable. So much so, in fact, that they are becoming a standard give-away at stadiums across the country. Minor league parks, in particular, can’t seem to get enough of them. What are they, exactly? They are exactly like they sound like they are. They’re a statue of a ball player made out of plastic, or ceramic, or resin, or whatever. The player has an absurdly large head, sort of like Phil Hughes. The head is connected to the neck with a spring. If you nudge the head, it will bob (or bobble) up and down on the spring. It’s really a silly little concept to become so popular. They’re a little campy, and a little different. They look pretty odd with a bunch of head bobbing away. Which is probably their charm.

These days, in the strive to be different, bobbleheads have come out with things other than bobbling heads. Following the 2007 Red Sox playoff run, a bobbleleg came out featuring Jonathan Papelbon. This allowed the collector to reproduce his famous Irish jig. My favorite bobble variation has to be the Grady Little bobblearm. This was a give away from a minor league team (I wish I could remember which one) in the aftermath of the 2003 ALCS. In this case, the bobbling was Grady’s arm signaling for the pitching change he never made. I love its cleverness. The bobblearms created enough of an issue that the team never did give them away. But, apparently Grady calmed down and allowed their release, including his autograph. It one of the things I keep meaning to grab off eBay, but just haven’t.

As a collectable, the bobbleheads are a nice one. They’re generally not very big, about the size of a large soda at Fenway. It wouldn’t take much space to display a decent sized collection. They’re not super-expensive either. If you go to the right ballgames, you might be able to grab some for “free.” For a while the secondary market for the give-aways was crazy, but I think that’s clamed down a bit. There’s also quite a selection. As I said, minor league parks love these. The low level Red Sox affiliates pump out bobbleheads of current Red Sox to draw fans. They’re also available in retail settings for a reasonable price. It’s a nice combination, really, or scarcity and availability. They’re not everywhere to the point of over saturation. You can have some fun trying to track them down. But, they’re not so rare that they’re not worth collecting. That sounds just about perfect to me.

Anyone have a favorite bobblehead?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

He Do Run Run Run, He Do Run Run

Jacoby Ellsbury stole his team record 55th base last night. He broke the record previously held by Tommy Harper when he stole 54 in 1973. (36 years ago, by the way) This wasn’t exactly unexpected. It’s no secret that Jacoby had a pair of wheels. He stole 50 bases last year in his first full season. It was never a question as to if he was fast enough to do it. The only questions were if he was going to get on base enough, and if the Sox were going to let him.

For years, the thought of a Sox player leading the league in stolen bases was laughable. The stereotypical Sox team was a line-up of mashers who plodded from base to base, waiting for someone to finally knock one over the Wall. When a Sox player stole 20 bases, he was the team speedster. I was never sure if the Sox were a station to station team by choice, or if they just happened to get slow teams. The Sox teams of recent years have been faster (both Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp could swipe a bag when needed), but still didn’t steal a lot. Recently, statistics have suggested that the stolen base isn’t worth the risk. Teams across the league have been toning down on steal attempts. That doesn’t stop Ellsbury though. Even hard-core statisticians agree that a stolen base is valuable when you do it. With Ellsbury’s speed, even a pitchout doesn’t often stop him. So, the Sox have let him run almost at will. That has lead to him finally laying claim to the record. I would certainly expect him to push it even higher.

The Sox finally acquired Billy Wagner. Apparently, the desire to try and steal a ring was too great. As I said before, I only hope he’s healthy enough to be useful. From what I’ve seen, he main concern with the Sox was ruining his arm under the pressure of a playoff push. I can understand that. He has the chance to ease into things with the Mets. Pitch just enough to prove to everyone that he can still close. He wouldn’t want the Red Sox pitching him all the time as the race gets to the end. But, those fears have been resolved. The Sox aren’t in this to pitch him every day. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Having a second top tier lefty in the bullpen is great, no mater how often he’s used. The prospect of him out there might be enough to change the way some opposing managers think. Imagine a left-right-left stretch in a line-up. If they wanted to, the Sox could use Wagner just for the first lefty. Follow with, say, Delcarmen, and still have Okajima to pitch to the other lefty and the rest of the gap to Pap. Or, will the Sox use him just to close when Pap doesn’t? If Pap had a long outing one night, it could be Wagner’s turn the next night. Throw Wagner only in that case, once a week or so. I know, he’s a darn expensive part timer. But, apparently, it’s only money.

I know the Red Sox once had Jeff Reardon and Lee Smith at the same time. But, just looking at name value, has any team had a bullpen with Papelbon-Saito-Wagner type members in it? Those are three dang good closers setting up for each other.

Who has a better one?

Monday, August 24, 2009


I must say, when I saw the pitching match-up for the weekend series, going 1-2 seemed about right. I just got the order a little screwed up. Does that mean anything?

The Yankees scored 29 runs of Red Sox pitching over the weekend. The Red Sox scored 29 runs off Yankee pitching over the weekend. Can you draw any conclusion from that? Only if you really want to, and try really hard. Which, of course, is why I’m here. Of the six starting pitchers who pitched over the weekend, only four would be expected to start in any sort of playoff series. In such a series, Pettitte, Burnett, and Sabathia would probably be the Yankees #4, #2, and #1 pitchers respectively. So, the Red Sox were able to score runs off three pitchers they’d need to face in the ALCS. For the Sox, only Beckett would get a start, as the Sox #1. The other two games don’t really mean much for the Yankees. So, the Sox did a much better job, in the long run, than the Yankees. How’s that for spin?

The reality is, that’s actually the truth. This isn’t the Sox team that will finish the season. This wasn’t the Sox rotation that will finish next week. The Sox are pretty much hoping to hold their own until the cavalry arrives. That’s really what they’re doing. They have a lead in the wild card, with Wake coming back tomorrow and Dice-K on the way. No more Smoltz and Penny blowing games left and right out of need. Suddenly the rotation of Beckett-Lester-Dice-Wake-Buchholz looks a lot stronger. Not to mention that Tazawa has shown me a lot over his starts. He doesn’t get rattled. He can work out of jams. He looks like he could help this team if given a chance.

I don’t know what to make of Beckett’s recent struggles. I know all pitchers, other than Pedro, go through blips every once in a while. But, it’s not the most comforting when the blip comes in August or September. I still assume he’ll turn it around in time for the playoffs, it’s just a little annoying.

Speaking of Smoltz…did you notice that he set a Cardinals record by striking out 7 straight batters? I know. Why can’t we get pitchers like that?

The Sox look to be close to acquiring Billy Wagner. (I don’t know how tough it may really be to get him to waive the no-trade clause) I assume this means he can actually pitch. If he’s going to need a few games to find his form, the Sox don’t have the time. If, however, he can be counted on right away to throw some quality innings, I’m all for it. I also hope he can adjust to not being a closer. That didn’t work so well the last time the Sox brought in a former elite closer to set-up. Although, the Sox did win the World Series that year.

With six games left on the homestand, the Sox really need to win both series. As long as they keep doing that, everything else should work out for the best.

They’re too good for it not to.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Where to Begin…

Lots of stuff has gone on recently. To touch on some of it, in no particular order:

After being cut loose by the Sox, John Smoltz signed with the Cardinals. Some people out there are trying to use the signing to compare Smoltz to Bret Favre. He looks like just another athlete who doesn’t know when to quit. I don’t see it like that. Obviously, Smoltz was awful in Boston. As a pitcher who might be on his way to the hall of Fame, he certainly wouldn’t want to end his career on that note. So, when the Cardinals call, why wouldn’t he play? He’s already in game shape. He had been planning on pitching, I assume, the full season anyway. Why wouldn’t he jump at the chance to try to salvage something? He can give it a while in the weaker NL, to see if he can get his numbers down. He might even get a chance to improve on his career playoff numbers. If not, can he do worse than he did in Boston? A stop in St Louis doesn’t look like it could possibly tarnish his reputation any more. As for the Cardinals? They get what the Red Sox hoped they would get. They get a proven pitcher who may help them, with little risk. How this move doesn’t make perfect sense, I don’t know.

Do you think that when Clay Buchholz heard CC Sabathia was pitching Sunday, he assumed he would be on the mound against him? For a third/fourth/fifth starter, he sure has seen a string of aces lately. What’s impressive is that he has completely held his own. Just having a 1-2 record against Sabathia-Verlander-Halladay would be ok. But, he’s actually pitched very well in all those game. Although, I’d still trade him for Halladay. Think the Sox could convince Toronto that they should take the winner for the loser?

Josh Beckett pitched the worst game he’s thrown in a long time Tuesday night. Coincidentally, Papelbon had a pretty lousy outing of his own. The reason being tossed around? Varitek wasn’t calling the game. Does that matter? I have no idea. I’ve asked before what exactly the line is between pitcher and catcher. Are we to assume that Beckett isn’t pitching, it’s Varitek catching? Does the fact that V-Mart caught the last two AL Cy Young Award winners mean anything? Does Varitek have scouting on opposing hitters that he’s not telling Martinez? Could that possibly be the reason? Maybe. Pap would have less reason to complain. I doubt that it’s the first time Martinez has caught him, and I’m sure many other have done so in the past. He was just off. Beckett? I don’t know. Is there a trust factor? If Beckett’s unsure about a call, does that affect his delivery? They always mention trust when a pitcher bounces a pitch with a guy on third. It’s always the trust in the catcher that allows the pitcher to throw the pitch he needs to throw. Does the same apply to a curveball? A fastball? Or is catcher trust a Jeter-type quality. It really applies to every player, but is only brought up to promote Jeter. Is trust only mentioned when there’s a “good” catcher behind the plate? Could it have affect Beckett to simply be looking at something different behind the plate? That’s possible. If he’s grown accustomed to seeing the same mitt and catcher’s gear every time he pitches, I could see it throwing him off a bit. Could he have just had an off night? Probably.

I don’t know about you, but if I have a big series coming up against the Yankees, I’m hoping I can get Penny and Tazawa on the mound. Nothing like tossing the number four and five (or six, seven, eight) guys when you need wins. Although, as has been said before, you can sum baseball up in one word. “You never know”

Sox need this series win.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: G is for…

Gordon, as in Tom

Tom Gordon joined the Sox for the 1996 season. He had spent the previous seasons of his career with Kansas City. He was a highly touted young starter with a devastating curveball. I remember his baseball rookie cards being quite hot, and traded often between my friends. He had won as many as 17 games with the Royals. While he hadn’t had the same success in recent years, he was coming off three straight double-digit wins seasons. The Sox were certainly hoping he could keep that up, if not return to his younger form. The first season with the Sox went about that well. He picked up 12 wins that year, despite an ERA over five and a half. The next season didn’t go so smoothly. He only managed 6 wins, and ended up being shifted to the bullpen. While in the pen, he did manage to rack up 11 saves. Somebody had the bright idea that with that curveball, he could be great in the closer role. He started the 1998 season as their closer, and excelled in that spot. He made the American League All-Star team. He ended up with 46 saves to lead the league, saving his last 43 chances of the season. He was a major factor in the Sox making the playoffs that season.

It that year’s playoffs, the Sox quickly went down 2-1 in a five game series against Cleveland. Pedro had won his start, naturally, but the other two games went to the Indians. Game 4 presented a much-debated problem. Does Pedro get the start, on short rest, or not? Jimy Williams decided to throw Pete Schourek instead, and save Pedro for game five. He almost got away with it. Schourek pitched great, and the Sox clung to a 1-0 lead entering the 8th inning. Williams decided to try and close the door right then and there, and called for Gordon to start the 8th. As is usually the case with the Sox in those days, Gordon chose that moment to blow his first save in 44 tries. The Sox lost the game, and the series. I was fortunate enough to be at that game. This may have been my introduction to the heartbreak of being a Red Sox fan. It was definitely my first chance to experience at Fenway. Here we were, with it all playing out perfectly. As happened way too often, Jimy’s ridiculous move had actually worked. By dumb luck the Sox were going to win the game, and have a rested Pedro to win game 5. All that needed to happen was to have the best closer in the league close out the game. Figures.

After leaving the Sox, Gordon was able to fashion quite a career for himself. He closed for several teams, and even set up for a while in the Bronx. It was in that role that he couldn’t hold leads, allowing the Sox to come back from down 0-3. It’s funny, sometimes, how things come full circle.

G is for Gordon, Tom

Monday, August 17, 2009

Revolving Doors

Well, I guess that in order to have a true revolving door at shortstop, it had to start over again at some point.

The Sox acquired Alex Gonzalez once again. Those who remember his 2006 stint in Boston remember him as one of the best defensive shortstops they’ve ever seen. Apparently, Theo decided they needed that kind of wizardry once again. The fact that Gonzalez was awful at the plate doesn’t seem to matter. The fact that that’s the reason he wasn’t kept the last time he was here doesn’t seem to matter. Theo needed a PR move, and people had been missing Gonzalez’s defense. Is Gonzalez better defensively? Yes. He’s better than what the Sox have had this year. Can he hit any better? Doubtful. Do I have a problem with the trade? Not really. Once again, the team is probably better after the trade than before it. It’s the image that I have a problem with. Just like with Doug Mirabelli, Theo has grabbed an old friend to help him out without it being much of an upgrade. If he’s going to keep trying different players at short, at least make them different players. Or, if he is going to repeat some guys, couldn’t it have been Nomar?

The Sox have fallen out of a playoff spot for the first time since April. I’m not going to panic after only taking 1 of 3 from a playoff caliber team, on the road. The Sox just need to keep doing what they’re doing, and it should be Ok. Getting Wake and Dice back would certainly help as well.

Watching the Rangers games made me wonder about Josh Hamilton. How does he get treated when he goes back to Tampa Bay? Perhaps the Rays fans aren’t into it yet. But, I’m trying to think of how Fenway would treat a loss like him. Imagine the Sox used the first pick on a can’t miss guy, only he drank or smoked, or whatever himself out of the league. Once the Sox finally cut ties with the guy, he cleans himself up and goes on to be the superstar they thought he’d be. The Rays should have him in centerfield. They should have won the World Series with him hitting third last season. Does that bother the fans?

It will be interesting to see where the Sox are one week from today. It could be a whole new race by then.

Can’t wait for the ride.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happy 36th!

Today, we wish a Happy 36th Birthday to Damian Jackson!

Jackson played for the Sox, during the 2003 season, as a jack-of-all-trades utility player. He could pay the infield, or the outfield if you needed him too. There was one thing, though that he could do very well. Because of that, even though he played in 2003, I think he had a huge effect on the 2004 World Championship.

Jackson wasn’t an all-star, but he was a very valuable member of the team. He knew how to steal a base. It wasn’t just being able to rack up steals, like Jacoby Ellsbury. He could steal a base when everyone knew he had to steal a base. He had 16 steals for the Sox in 2003. I’d swear 14 of them were as a pinch runner in the ninth. If the Sox were down a run in the ninth, and someone got on, Jackson was the runner. Even though everyone in the ballpark, and watching at home, knew he was running he would steal second to get in scoring position. It was an awesome weapon to have, and helped greatly.

Jackson didn’t play for the Sox the 2003 season. When the 2004 season started, I thought the team was pretty stacked. I always thought that the only thing they were really missing was that pinch runner like Jackson. If they needed a run late in the season, they needed that guy that you knew could get the extra base for you. It was something that I never knew was handy to have until Jackson led the way. Once the team had it though, I knew they needed it again. As it turns out, Theo must have agreed with me. At the 2004 deadline, the good move he made was to go out and get just such a player. Dave Roberts.

We all know the story from there. Three outs from being swept out of the ALCS, the Sox are down a run when Kevin Millar walks. In comes Roberts to a situation where everyone knows he’s running. The story goes that Francona gave Roberts a wink to let him know he should run. Tito could have stood on the top step of the dugout with a megaphone and poster telling him to steal. It wasn’t a secret. Even under those circumstances, Roberts took off and beat the throw to second. He scores the tying run seconds later, and the rest is history. The Sox are World Champions for the first time in 86 years, thanks in large part to that steal.

And I don’t think it would have happened without Damian Jackson.

Happy Birthday Damian!

Friday, August 14, 2009

One last Attempt

If at first you don’t succeed, give up. No use being a darn fool about it. At least that’s what Homer Simpson once said. I’m just not listening though. I’m giving one last attempt at getting autographs through the mail. I’ve picked two more former Red Sox players for my last try of the season. Which two, you may ask?

My first shot will be to Johnny Damon. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. He’s with that New York team now. But, he was also a World Champion with the Sox. Plus, if I remember, he was a pretty darn good player when he was in Boston. So, asking for his autograph isn’t exactly a stretch. Plus, the card I have for him is just begging for a signature. Where’s the harm?

The other player I’m trying is Andre Dawson. He’s obviously a great player. His best years came well before he joined the Sox, but he’s still got the stats to warrant attention. He’s also a great reminder of the types of teams the Red Sox used to have. The aging veterans were once a Red Sox staple. Now that the organization has moved on, it’s noce to remember the past.

As always, I’ll let you know if anything works out. One of these days, I have top be able to say something good.


Team Sets: 1991 Upper Deck Team Set

Players Included: Larry Anderson, Marty Barrett, Mike Boddicker, Tom Bolton, Wade Boggs, Tom Brunansky, Ellis Burks, Roger Clemens, John Dopson, Dwight Evans, Wes Gardner, Jeff Gray, Mike Greenwell, Greg A. Harris, Dana Kiecker, Mike Marshall, Rob Murphy, Tim Naehring, Tony Pena, Carlos Quintana, Jeff Reardon, Jody Reed, Luis Rivera, Mike Greenwell (CL)

Best Picture: Marty Barrett. A great action shot. Barrett is applying the tag to a potential base stealer. Closer inspection reveals the base runner to be none other than Rickey Henderson. The best part of the shot is that the 1991 UD cards also had a picture on the back. In this case, it’s the continuation of the same play, as Barrett looks to the ump for the call. A little research may be able to find if it was a stolen base, or not. Until then, however, we’re left guessing at the outcome.

Hall of Famers: Wade Boggs

Future Hall of Famers: Roger Clemens

Reason the buy the set: When the set came out, the Phil Plantier was the star attraction. Upper Deck was one of the best versions of Plantier’s rookie card, so prospectors would have hoarded this card during the season. Today, Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs and legendary Roger Clemens would drive any value the set may contain. With just the two true baseball stars, this set would have more appeal to a Sox fan.

Overall Reaction: The design of the 1991 Upper Decks is a bit stale. In its third year, Upper deck had produced three sets with a line going along the border. While some thought it made the three sets look like baselines (the ’89 stripe was on the right, the ’90 was along the top, ’91 along the left), I think it’s just boring. The quality of the cards and photography was very high, one of the top sets in that area. Upper Deck was really pushing the envelope in those days. It makes for a nice little set.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Now, That’s a Team Player

You have to give Kevin Youkilis a lot of credit. He saw the writing on the wall. He knew that there were five players for four positions, and that put Francona in a tough spot. He could see that his captain could be losing some playing time to the new guy, and that just wouldn’t do. So, Youk took it upon himself to foolishly charge the mound last night so he could get suspended. And, just to make sure it really helped, he threw his helmet at the pitcher on the way to add a few more games. Now Francona’s off the hook. He’s left with four guys and four positions. It’s almost too easy.

The Sox did a couple things wrong during the brawl last night, which need attention. First, Youkilis threw his helmet too early. If you’re going to carry that thing all the way out to the mound, wait until you’re in range to let it fly. For proper technique in throwing your helmet at a pitcher, Youk needs to look up “Martinez, Pedro.”

The other person who needs some classes is Jon Lester. Quickly scanning the pile, I glimpsed him right in the middle of it trying to keep the peace. Someone needs to tell him that isn’t his job. If he wants to be a staff ace, he needs to know that there’s a special role for him during any bench clearer. His job is not to go anywhere near the pile. His job is to find David Ortiz and stand directly behind him. If he’d like he can point and yell from there. But he’s never to leave Ortiz. Come to think of it, if he’s looking for proper technique, he should also look up “Martinez, Pedro.”

One person who should not research Pedro Martinez today is Josh Beckett. I can’t imagine that the game would start tonight without warnings being issued to both benches. If a batter is hit, it could lead to immediate ejections. Pedro wouldn’t care. If a guy needed dotting, he got it. Beckett, however, needs to care. The Sox need his seven innings tonight more than Youkilis needs vindication. I usually love that Beckett has the attitude, let’s just hope it’s under control.

I wonder if the fight was a good thing for the Sox. They probably had a lot of pent-up energy raging inside them. With the Ortiz garbage, and the Bronx slip-up the team was probably wound to the breaking point. I nice release might just be what they need. It certainly seemed to help Bay and Lowell.

How would you like to be that Lambert guy from the Tigers? He grew up in Manchester, NH…I can only assume as a Sox fan. Probably dreamed of the day he would pitch at Fenway Park. He’s sitting in the ‘pen taking it all in. Suddenly, there’s a brawl and he has to race in from the outfield. Once it settles, he goes back to the bullpen, only to be told he’s in the game. He has to trot out and start to warm up. Even though he’d get all the time he wants…you know it’s human nature to rush a bit with everyone watching you. So, he’s not quite warm. His blood is rushing from just being in the brawl. His knees are knocking from finally being on the mound at Fenway. All he has to do is face Jason Bay. I think I’d throw up right there on the mound. Was there any possible result other than a three-run homer?

Can this fight be 2004 all over again?

Red Sox are Everywhere

I had this photo given to me from someone who just finished up a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. At the EPCOT park, they have a world showcase with different pavilions for different countries around the globe. At each stop, since it’s Disney, there are gift shops where you can buy country-appropriate items. In Germany you can buy beer steins, in England you can buy a little red phone booth…that sort of thing. In the American pavilion, you can buy Obama mugs, and baseball stuff. Here’s is a picture of the baseball display. It would appear to feature three teams. The Dodgers have a hanger or two and a hat shelf. The Red Sox have a large prominent display. The Yankees also had a similar display to the Sox, but it was cropped out for the picture. (I don’t recognize the logos on the hats and shirts above the Dodgers. Maybe a minor league team? Anyone?) I especially like the Red Sox “punching gloves” on the top shelf. Not only would I imagine them to be expensive, they look pretty bulky. You’d have to be a real fan to want to lug those things around all day in 90-degree heat.

It makes sense to have baseball stuff in the shop. Baseball’s still America’s pastime after all. What’s interesting is the team selection. I can see the Yankees. Like it or not, they’re still the Yankees and one of the most recognizable teams worldwide. They also play in the biggest city, so it makes sense. The Dodgers play in the second largest city, so I can see their inclusion as well. The Red Sox don’t play in the third largest city. If I remember correctly, they’re around #6. They’re not a local Florida team, like the defending AL Champion Rays. They’re not the defending World Champion Phillies. So, it’s simply a testament to the marketing of the current ownership that they demand the attention they got. The people at Disney have two teams from the Northeast because they had to include the Sox. They could have picked a Chicago team to get a big city in there, that would have also spread things out a bit. I could understand them changing in every defending champion. But, no. They went with the Red Sox, and made sure everyone saw it. Pretty incredible.

Anyone else have a picture of the Red Sox showing up unexpectedly? Send it along.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What in the Name of Fenway Park was That?

“Losing streaks are funny. If you lose at the beginning, you got off to a bad start. If you lose in the middle of the season, you’re in a slump. If you lose at the end, you’re choking” – Gene Mauch

If I came to you on April 1, and said that after 12 games, the Sox would be 8-4 against the Yankees, would you like that? How about if I said that after 110 games, the Sox would be pace for 91 wins? Not too bad. I would have taken both those scenarios, and I still would. So, what’s the problem?

The Sox looked pretty bad the last few games. That happens. The offense couldn’t find a hit with a map and a compass. When they finally did, the bullpen decided to break down in front of our eyes. But, there was still a lot of good to come out of the weekend in the Bronx.

The pitching was really pretty good…if not very good. Smoltz got his hat handed to him, sure. But, he’s apparently not on the team anymore. Beckett pitched like an ace on Friday, and the bullpen followed up his seven scoreless innings with seven of their own. Masterson pitched very well in a big spot. Lester continued to show that he gets “it” now, and is evolving into an ace right before our eyes. That’s not bad news going forward.

The offense couldn’t get out of its own way. I could give credit to the Yankees pitchers, but why would I do that? Frankly, the way the Sox have owned Sabathia in the past, I’m reluctant to give him much credit for getting outs. It just seems that every other hitter in the line-up is struggling…not matter what the line-up is. Pedroia has looked bad for a while. He’s making some poor outs in key spots. Not exactly what you hope for from the reigning AL MVP. Bay has been in and out with injuries, and slumping pretty good before that. But, the line-up was still able to knock around Joba Chamberlain, who Adam still claims has great stuff. Victor Martinez is proving to be a great pick-up as well. The guy can just hit. It’ll be great to see him fill some holes in the games to come.

Papi apparently didn’t do steroids, so that’s a good sign. Believe him or not, maybe he can get his head back into the games now.

Am I happy to be 6.5 games behind the Yankees? No. Would I prefer to not be tied in the Wild Card? Of course I’d rather have a nice lead. Am I scared? Not yet. They just need to figure some things out.

That’s what Francona’s for.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I’ll Never Learn

It’s getting a little sad. I keep sending out autograph requests through the mail, and the players keep ignoring me. Does that stop me? NO!

I tried two more former Red Sox today. Both won games for the Sox during the historic 2004 World Series. Both would be great additions to my collection.

I tried Derek Lowe. I’ve always been a huge D-Lowe fan, and thought it was about time to give him a shot. I was lucky enough to be at his no-hitter, so it would be great to be able to add his autograph. I’ve also historically had good luck with Braves players. Hopefully some of that luck rubs off on Lowe.

The other pitcher is Pedro Martinez. I shouldn’t have to explain why his autograph would be great. If he’s not the best pitcher ever, he’s in the conversation. The funny part is, this isn’t the first time I’ve sent a card to him. I sent him a request once when he was with the Dodgers. I sent him a card that pictured both him, and his brother Ramon. I asked him if he could sign it, and also have his brother sign it. I never heard back. It’s great to think though, that I actually tried to use Pedro, just to get Ramon’s autograph. My how times have changed. Hopefully, with the Phillies he won’t be so busy with fan mail. Maybe my letter will have a shot.

If not…what else is new?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Well, that wasn’t great

It’s funny, sometimes, how some teams just seem to have other teams number. Even good teams manage to find someone they just have trouble with. Lately, the Sox are just getting beat up by the Rays. It’s almost understandable though, if you think about it. I remember the Yankees always had trouble with the Angels. Even during the Yanks super 1998 season, they struggled against the Angels. Why? Match-ups. The same match-ups that trouble the Sox when they play the Rays.

The Rays are a young team. They’re a fast team. They’re an aggressive team. The Sox are an older team. A slower team…other than Jacoby. And, while they might be aggressive, their team speed doesn’t allow much craziness. Some of the things the Sox do well that work against other teams don’t work so well against the Rays. The stolen base comes to mind. The Sox don’t hold on runners well. It’s a team philosophy to not waste the attention. Usually, that’s not a big deal. Most teams only have a guy or two who would even try a steal. So, that might be a problem for them once or twice a game. Against the Rays, though, it seems like everyone’s always running. Allowing one or two extra bases a game is probably worth keeping a pitcher focused on the hitter. Seven or eight extra bases starts to be a problem. There’re a lot of problems like that with the Rays. They Rays might not see as much of an advantage against other teams with slightly different match-ups, and the Sox would perform slightly better against teams with slightly better match-ups. It’s just one of those things.

Another big series is on its way for the Sox. They head into Yankee Stadium for four games. Looking ahead, I’ll predict a split. I’d love the Sox to take the series, and really only fear a sweep. The pitching match-ups seem to flip flop between the teams. I do wish that the Sox could find a way to win the first three games. Imagine a national broadcast Sunday night where the Yanks still hadn’t beaten the Sox this season. What a great game that would be to listen to! But, as much as I hate to write off Smoltz, he hasn’t shown me enough lately to make me think he can take tonight’s game. And, that’s too bad. Nor am I close to delusional enough to think that Clay has the advantage over Sabathia on Saturday. But, there’s always a chance, right?

The Sox enter the series 2.5 games behind the Yanks. If the win one game, they’ll leave NY 4.5 games behind. With almost two months to go, I can handle that.

Can I dream of taking all four?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Shopping at V-Mart

The Sox did end up pulling off a pretty sizeable trade at the deadline. Any time a playoff team gets a player to bat third in their line-up, without giving up key pieces it’s a huge trade. In Victor Martinez, the Sox were able to add an all-star who can play a few positions for them. It adds significant depth to the line-up, and allows plenty of flexibility for Terry Francona. I’d say it was a pretty great move.

I was hoping for a blockbuster, and while this wasn’t exactly it, it was a great deal. It does a lot for the Sox, with very little downside. It will be interesting to see how Francona approaches it. Will it be a strict rotation between Martinez, Ortiz, Varitek, Youkilis, and Lowell? Does Varitek now only catch 3 out of 5 games? Is Lowell slated for 3 out of 5 as well? Does Ortiz sit against lefties? Assuming Tito can keep everyone happy, that flexibility does a lot for the Sox. Lowell needed more rest than he was getting. Who knows…maybe his rest will be a couple weeks at a time with DL stints. Varitek’s not as young as he used to. Assuming he can swallow even more pride, he could use an extra day off as well. The best part is, that whichever one of the five that isn’t playing can be a big boost off the bench. If I had a choice between Mark Kotsay, or Mike Lowell as a pinch hitter, I like the Lowell option.

Beyond the flexibility, Martinez can flat out hit. He’s not exactly a utility guy just brought in for versatility. He’s now second on the team in RBI, and proved over the weekend he can hit a ton. If he only helped at one position, it would be a great pick-up for the offense alone. Remember, he was an all-star catcher…without being a very good defensive catcher. This isn’t adding Jerry Hairston here.

I also love the way the Red Sox could flaunt their depth. They had the chips to trade away to acquire a current all-star, and most of Red Sox Nation was thankful that they didn’t give up their good prospects. Personally, I liked Justin Masterson. I liked his make-up. I liked that he already has shown that he can pitch, and be effective. Given the choice between him and Buchholz, I may have tossed a coin. The point is, that the Sox could make that coin flip. The traded away a guy who may slide immediately into the #3 starter role, but considered it a small price. Amazing. That the Sox could make a trade for Martinez, and be left with enough chips that they could still trade for whomever they wanted is amazing. It’s exactly what a farm system is supposed to be about.

This may be the first deadline that I’ll give Theo high marks for. A Cliff Lee or Halliday move may have been nice. But, he added a great player, without losing one. That’s a pretty good day in my book.

It should be a fun couple of months.

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