Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Easy Come, Easy Go

How quickly can fortunes changes in a division race? In no time at all. The Red Sox went from being tied at the top, to having a 2-game lead, back to being tied in a matter of hours. It was remarkable really. It’s also remarkable how people still think it’s tough to make up ground if you need to. One weekend, and things were flip-flopping all over the place.
The Sox finished up the road trip we all expected them to have a lot of. They dominated weaker opponents on the road. They had their way with other teams. They simply took care of business. Until, of course, they ran into Justin Verlander. They’re not the first good team to be chewed up by the Tigers ace. I can’t exactly fault them for it. But, the rest of the trip? A job very well done.

Nor can I really fault them for laying an egg last night. After playing a double header on Sunday, and a late night of travel, I can forgive them for not being in top form. Even Lester. While he didn’t have to deal with the late night travel, a bad game happens. He wasn’t getting calls he wanted, and lost a little focus. If it happened all the time, it would be a problem. It doesn’t. It might not happen again this year. So, the Sox lost two in a row. I can’t get too upset about things.

The Sox have a choppy little homestand coming up. After going three weeks without a scheduled off day, they’ll have three in two weeks. They could use the rest. All the late nights, prime time games, and double headers are taking their toll. The bullpen is trying to keep up with the new lack of depth resulting from the injuries. They’re doing a great job at it.

Red Sox baseball is a lot of fun at the moment.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

List of 36

 Red Sox 20-game Hitting Streaks

1. Dom DiMaggio 34
2. Nomar Garciaparra 30
3. Tris Speaker 30
4. Johnny Damon 29
5. Wade Boggs 28
6. Manny Ramirez 27
7. Dom DiMaggio 27
8. Nomar Garciaparra 26
9. Johnny Pesky 26
10. Buck Freeman 26
11. Victor Martinez 25
12. Wade Boggs 25
13. George Metkovich 25
14. Nomar Garciaparra 24
15. Kevin Youkilis 23
16. Ted Williams 23
17. Buddy Myer 23
18. Del Pratt 23
19. Jacoby Ellsbury 22
20. Reggie Jefferson 22
21. Denny Doyle 22
22. Dom DiMaggio 22
23. Tris Speaker 22
24. Mike Greenwell 21
25. Jim Rice 21
26. Bobby Doerr 21
27. Todd Walker 20
28. Mike Easler 20
29. Fred Lynn 21
30. Babe Ruth 20
31. Nomar Garciaparra 20
32. Wade Boggs 20
33. Ed Bressoud 20
34. Smead Jolley 20
35. Ike Boone 20
36. Tris Speaker 20

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tied? Tied?

That’s right. The Boston Red Sox wake up this morning to find themselves tied in the standings. For first place. The team that everyone somehow decided was out of the race after one week of the season is now sitting at the top of the division. How did they do it? For starters, they became the team everyone knew they would be. They pitched like we all assumed they would. They’ve been hitting just like they were supposed to. More specifically? Carl Crawford has been hitting like he was supposed to.

Since Carl Crawford’s walk-off on May Day, the Sox have been among the major league leaders in just about every offensive category. It’s not an accident. This is exactly what Crawford is getting the big bucks to do. Ignite the offense. Get on base. Drive in runs when they’re out there. Go first to third. Steal bases. Score from first on a double. Basically torture the other team. He’s been doing just that. And, he’s been doing it from the bottom of the order. The question now becomes, what to do with him now that he’s hitting?

I assume the Red Sox would like him batting second. I know that’s where I’d like him. But this line-up is so potent it makes everything more difficult. Jacoby Ellsbury has apparently figured out how to lead off. He needs to stay there. If there’s a better third spot hitter than Gonzalez, I don’t know who he is. Youkilis has been great in the clean-up spot. Ortiz had been dangerous behind him. Suddenly, batting six or seven isn’t exactly a demotion. I heard someone on the pregame yesterday suggest fifth, in front of Ortiz. The thought being that if Crawford’s on first, they can’t play a shift against Papi. That was an interesting thought. It splits up the speed a bit, so there’s a chance of having a speedster on base almost every inning. It’s tempting.

It boils down to whether Crawford or Pedroia should bat second. I’m still leaning towards having Ells-Crawford start things off. So, does Pedroia shift to third, or seven? At the moment? He’s hitting more like a seventh place hitter. But, eventually, I want him getting more at bat. No matter how I look at it, I can’t stop myself from hitting him third.


Sure, moving everyone down gets them fewer at-bats…in theory. But, I’m willing to bet that Gonzalez will still be at the plate plenty of times. Even batting fourth. But, I think that’s the way it needs to be.

In the end? It probably doesn’t really matter. If everyone hits, this team will score runs with Salty leading off.

But, it would be more fun my way.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why hasn’t “Fisk Pole” caught on?

Fenway Park has two foul poles. One is located in right field, and the other in left field. They both have nicknames. Only one, however, seems to have caught on. It’s a little weird to me.

If a flyball is hit to the right field corner, the response from any announcing team is the same. They note that there’s a ball heading towards Pesky’s Pole. It doesn’t matter if it’s a local broadcast team, or a national audience. Everyone, it seems, knows that the pole in right field is Pesky’s. Why is it called Pesky’s Pole? I’ve seen various explanations. But, the gist of it is that Pesky once hit a home run either off, or around that pole. In excited celebration, a teammate exclaimed, “That’s your pole! That’s Pesky’s Pole!” And, the name stuck. I don’t know if the home run was a game winner. But, it certainly wasn’t a World Series winner or anything extremely significant. As a matter of fact, a much more important home run was hit off that pole. But, we still talk about how Mark Bellhorn hit his game winning home run in game 1 of the 2004 World Series off Pesky’s Pole. Bellhorn’s hit help win a World Championship, but the Pesky name has stuck for sixty years.

There is also a pole in left field. It also had a home run associated with it. Maybe you remember it. The home run that ended the greatest World Series game ever played clanged off that pole. In the aftermath of that amazing game, nobody called it “Fisk’s Pole.” In the 30 years following that game, nobody said that a flyball to left was getting close to “Fisk’s Pole.” There was a ceremony not too long ago officially naming that pole as “Fisk’s Pole.” But, still, a flyball is hit in the corner. Not to Fisk’s Pole. Why not?

If a batter uses body English to will a ball fair, or foul, Fisk is brought up. But, not if a ball goes off the pole he used to win the game. I can understand fans not using it just because the ownership gave it a name. If the Sox held a ceremony officially naming home plate the “Jason Varitek Plate, presented by Chinet” I wouldn’t expect that name to be put into everyday use. But, why wasn’t “Fisk’s Pole” already used by fans for years?

Why isn’t it Fisk’s Pole?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy 36th!

Today we wish a happy 36th birthday to Bartolo Colon. Now, I admit, I’m not usually in the habit of sending birthday wishes to Yankees. But, what’re you going to do?

I didn’t get the chance to see Colon pitch in a Red Sox uniform. I’m guessing that I’m not alone in that aspect. But, I did see Colon pitch a number of times with his former teams.

I saw him pitch for the Indians on 4/25/1999. The Indians lost to Pedro and the Sox 3-2. He pitched 6 innings, gave up 1 run on 9 hits, and struck out 9

I saw him pitch for the Indians on 6/8/2000. He lost to Pedro and the Sox 3-0. He pitched 7.2 innings, gave up 3 runs, 9 hits, and struck out 9.

I saw Colon pitch with the White Sox on 9/13/2003. He beat the Sox 3-1. He threw a complete game, giving up 1 run, five hits, and striking out 2.

So, he pitched pretty darn well in the games I saw him pitch. Hopefully, he doesn’t continue that streak if I see him play this season.

Happy 36th Birthday Bartolo Colon!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Sound of Silence

I had the great joy of attending Saturday’s game against the Cubs. I know. I sure can pick ‘em. So, I got to witness the meltdown in the cold with nobody warming up. I got to witness the goofy looking throwback uniforms. I still don’t know why you’d bother, even in 1918, to come up with a uniform that was just plain blank white. I also got to witness the 1918 sound. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that for the third and fourth innings, the Sox used the 1918 audio-visual system. Batters were announced by megaphone, the only scoreboard was on the Wall, and the only music was the organ. Some people liked the quiet. Some people complained about the silence. I hear, though, that the Red Sox were actually using the test to see if they should reduce the amount of noise at a regular game. So, just in case John Henry, Tom Werner, or Larry Lucchino are regular readers of this blog, I wanted to toss out my opinion. (And, if they are regular readers, a shout-out wouldn’t be inappropriate.)

I liked the quiet. Obviously, they can’t do what they did on Saturday on a permanent basis. There needs to be some noise. I need to be able to hear the line-up, or substitutions. Even in the bleachers. I also need to be able to see the score, count, and other important info. (Yes, I know, I can just look at my scorebook. But the running total is nice to have at a glance) During the silence, David Ortiz hit the 300th home run of his Red Sox career. It’s too bad that couldn’t have been put on the video board so he could have gotten the deserved ovation. I’d like to know if the official scorer thought something was a wild pitch, or defensive indifference. But, there only needs to be a minimal amount of noise or presentations other than that.

I’ve always been glad that the Sox never went the “sound effects” route. They don’t play a slide whistle, or glass breaking, or a clang when a ball is hit in the stands. Nobody bellows out “Give that fan a contract!” That stuff is just clutter. But, the Sox do play a lot of music. And, some of it can just go away.

They’ve started playing a lot of situational song clips during the game. They play songs like “Walk Like an Egyptian” after a Red Sox player draws a walk. Or, they’ll play “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” when the opposing team visits the mound. While the songs are cute or clever the first time, they just seem forced. There doesn’t need to be music there. It’s almost to the point where they cram in the stuff that needs to be done so they can show off the campy music. On Saturday, they didn’t even have enough time after a walk to let the song get to the “walk like an Egyptian” line. So, you had to know that it was getting there yourself. That’s just music for the sake of playing music.

The music after a homerun just seems weird too. If it’s an important home run, the fans will create enough noise. I didn’t even notice that there wasn’t music after Ortiz’s shot on Saturday. So, the music would be unnecessary. If it’s not an important home run? The fans still create plenty of noise. If they don’t, adding music just sounds pathetic. The Yankees play a bell or a gong after every run scores. (They still do that, right?) It’s all fine and good. But, when a run scores on a groundout to cut a deficit to six runs in the ninth, it just seems a little sad to make a big deal out of it. Plus, if you have to play a home run song, then announce a batter, then play an entrance song, it gets a little crazy. Background music is one thing. It’s almost gotten to be a chore.

I don’t mind entrance music for closers at all. It takes a while for them to trot in and warm up. It’s nice to have something to listen to, and it makes for a nice effect. I’ve always said I love the first few bars to Papelbon’s entrance. Much like the home run, it’s probably not needed. But, at least there’s enough time to actually get it in without cramming it.

I also don’t mind all the video and music between innings. I didn’t come to a game to talk to my friends about a party last weekend. I came to immerse myself in the Red Sox experience. So, videos of players on the farm, or legends are great. Trivia questions are fun. (Dot races are not) I don’t mind wedding proposals or birthday wishes. All those fees go to charity so how can that be bad? The video they’ve been showing depicting the making of “Fenway Green” paint is a little corny, but acceptable. They used to show a “rally video” when the Sox were trailing in the ninth. (I don’t remember seeing it this year) That was a fun way to pull for a comeback, without actually instructing fans when to clap. I can’t possibly have a problem with singing “Take Me out to the Ballgame.” Although, I’d really prefer they sing the verses as well. There’s plenty of time to belt out the whole song. Why shorten it? That’s a case where they’re cramming in too much. It’s not the music that’s the problem. It’s trying to fit in a whole music schedule.

That might actually put my feelings into a nice little nutshell. If you have time to play an entire song, the music is just fine. If it’s just samples here and there, it’s too busy and cluttered. So, between innings are pitching changes fine. The rest of it? Probably too much.

Is the ownership group listening?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Card of the Week

2008 Topps #258 Classic Combos

I like how Topps has started doing their “classic combos” subsets. Back in the day, cards like these would feature awkward posed shots of two players quickly taken before a game. I always used to wonder if they would take a picture of as many different combinations as they could, and find something to do with them later. But, the last few years, the company has moved towards standard action shots that happen to feature multiple players. That’s how you end up with this shot of Youkilis celebrating with Manny. At least they’re not fighting in the dugout. But, it’s a nice use of a shot. Rather than making a card of either Manny or Youk prominently feature the other player, they made it a card of the both of them. Perfect.

The card itself is OK. I still think the 2008 Topps cards have too much border. But, at least the Sox have the right amount of letters in their name so the bubbles don’t look weird. The Reds have too few, and the Diamondbacks have too may. It throws the composition all off. But, the Sox look about right. And, the team colors just work with the card.

Not too shabby.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Welcome Cubs!

Does anyone know what the price of gas was in 1918? How about a loaf of bread? If you don’t know, don’t worry. I’m sure Fox will tell us about 1 billion times Saturday night. Can’t make Saturday’s broadcast? No problem. I’m sure ESPN will have you covered on Sunday night.

Are we finally done with this? Are the Cubs the last team to visit for the first time since the Roosevelt administration? I can’t wait until all these interleague match-ups are just “another game.”  I’m tired of the throwback uniforms from the last time the teams faced each other. Sometimes they just look goofy. I’m tired of the endless graphics showing how life was different back then. Just play the games for goodness sake. Please?

I have to admit. I’m a little worried about the impending Judgment Day. Everyone always used to say that neither the Red Sox nor the Cubs would even win another World Series. In fact, if the Cubs and Red Sox ever faced each other in a World Series, the stadium would be swallowed by an earthquake just before the start of game seven. And, now, here we are. The Sox have won their World Series, but the Cubs are still without theirs. So, what’s going to happen just before the second game of the series in Fenway on May 21, 2011? A giant earthquake is going to signal the end of the world. Tell me that’s not creepy.

Assuming the world doesn’t end, the Sox will have an interesting task. They need to cobble together a pitching staff to get them through the series. Hopefully the offense will be able to carry them for a little bit until they figure it all out.

I know I have long been a fan of Terry Francona. But, only recently has his true genius been revealed. When the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford, most people assumed that he would bat second or third in the line-up. After all, any moron off the turnip truck will tell you that a player earning $20 million a year should bat at the top of the order. Not Francona. He could see that Crawford had value in other places. He knew that if he had Crawford bat second, someone else would bat seventh. So, in the bottom of the ninth, with the game on the line, it would be someone else at the plate. Francona knew this, and knew he wanted Crawford in those spots. So, three times in recent weeks his plan has worked to perfection. Crawford has been at the plate in crucial times, and won games for the Sox. True genius. But, now it’s time to stop showing off and get Crawford back up to the second spot. That’s where he deserves to be for the rest of the season.

As long as the world doesn’t end tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Should I Wear?

It looks like I’m going to be lucky enough to go to a game in Pittsburgh this season at PNC Park. I won’t be fortunate enough to be there when the Sox are visiting. But, the chance to add a new park to my pathetically short list is exciting to me. It does lead to a problem I’m having that I need your help with.

Which hat should I wear to the game?

Obviously, the first option is my standard Red Sox hat. It’s on my head for every game I go to. But, this will be my first non-Red Sox game. Do I want to be the guy who wears a hat of a team not even playing in the game? I always think it’s weird when I see people wearing Yankees hats to a Red Sox-Mariners game. I’m not sure I want to be “that” guy.

The second option is to go out and buy a Pirates hat to wear. This isn’t a bad option. I’m not sure I like the idea of professing support for a team other than the Sox. If I were going to Yankee Stadium to see a Yankees-Rays game, I certainly wouldn’t buy a Yankees hat to wear. I don’t think the Pirates hat would be exactly the same thing, but it still feels weird. Really, my main issue with this option is having a Pirates hat after the game. I have no idea what I’d do with it.

The third option is to make use of a hat I already have. I had relatives living in Nashua, NH in the mid 80’s when the Pirates had their AA team there. So, I do have a “Nashua Pirates” hat. It’s the really cool stovepipe version of the hat. The main problem? The hat is a little beat up. OK. It’s really beat up. But, I like the idea of going old school. I wonder how many people in PNC Park will know where the Pirates had their AA team 25 years ago. It also allows me look like I’m supporting the Pirates without actually supporting the Pirates.

So, there are the options I have come up with. Which one do you think I should go with? Leave your answer in the comments section. If there’s a fourth option I haven’t thought of, you can vote for that one too. Please help.

Now I just need to hope the game isn’t sold out.

Monday, May 16, 2011


So, as weekends go…that was a pretty good one, right? I’ve said it over and over, so I hesitate to say it again here. But, once again it was obvious how my attitude towards this team has shifted.

When the Sox were trailing last night, I wasn’t worried. Youkilis was up with two men on, trailing by three. I wasn’t expecting him to pop out. Or strike out. I was expecting him to do something good. And, of course, he did just that with a game-tying home run. Good things are expected from this team. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Speaking of Youkilis and home runs, his discussion of his home run on Friday was interesting. It was an opposite field shot that just cleared the right field fence. He correctly pointed out that he was lucky the game was in NY. That ball would have been an out in Fenway. It was nice to hear such an admission from a player. I’ve certainly never heard Derek Jeter confirm his career is a joke because of all the home runs he’s hit into the first row of that Little League Park they have there. It was also nice to see the Sox take advantage of that wall this series. It always seemed like the Sox would hit homers into the third deck while at the Stadium. They’d club shots that would leave any park. Then, the Yankees would win the game on a home run that went 315 feet. But, not this weekend. There was Youkilis’s homer. Then, David Ortiz blooped the go ahead run last night over the wall using a broken bat. To cap it off, Saltalamacchia added an insurance run that actually bounced off the top of that short wall. It was great to have that obvious advantage help the visitors for once.

I would be slightly remiss if I didn’t belatedly mention the Jorge Posada mess. I’ve never been a fan of Posada. I know. Shocking. He’s always been bush league in my book. An example? When a runner takes off from first on a 3-2 count, he’s the only catcher I’ve ever seen actually throw through after ball four was called. It’s worked more than once. Once it was Manny running to second. When the throw came through, the tag was applied to Manny before he reached the bag. The second base umpire, having been duped by the throw, called Manny out. So, Manny left second to walk back to the dugout, and he was tagged out. Posada makes that throw where the only purpose is to trick an umpire or cause injury to a sliding player. He’s never rated very high on my “classy” scale. So, his whining and crying about being last in the order didn’t blow me away. The only question I had about the incident was about Derek Jeter. Where was he? For the last 15 years we’ve been force fed tales of his leadership. He makes the team run. He gets the best out of every player in the clubhouse. But, here’s the position player who has been his teammate the longest quitting on the team? What happened to that leadership?  Where was Jeter after the game? Where was his support of a troubled teammate? Is it possible that Jeter didn’t dare make any comments about the incident because he’s the next candidate for a demotion to ninth? He needs to just sit back to figure out what he needs to do when his time comes.

This series is a great candidate for a turning point of the season. As with any turning point, it’s only any good if something actually turns. The Sox can talk all they want about finally getting to .500. They can expect all the momentum they want from finally getting there. If they go out and get swept by Baltimore, though, it won’t mean a thing. So, they need to keep the ball rolling. The pitchers need to pitch. The hitters need to hit. They need to dominate this homestand. The division is a clump right now that is ripe for the taking.

It’s time to go take it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Happy 36th!

Today we wish a very happy 36th birthday to former Red Sox reliever Steve Woodard. Woodard pitched for the 2003 version of the Red Sox. From my records, I attended one game that season in which he pitched.

It was the April 21 game against Toronto. The starter, John Burket, got into a little trouble. OK. He got into a lot of trouble. He gave up seven runs in 2.2 innings. Steve Woodard was brought in to put out the fire. Which, he sort of did. He gave up a double to the first guy he faced. But, after that, he pitched three innings giving up two runs on five hits. He struck out three batters in his three innings. Not a bad showing for a mop-up relief appearance.

Happy 36th Birthday Steve Woodard!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Scored!

It’s really hard to look at the scorecard and not see the glut of runs scored by the Red Sox. So, we might as well start there. The Sox scored a ton of runs. Fourteen of them to be exact. Which team was the victim of this barrage? The top of the card tells us. The New York Yankees. You’d probably assume the Sox got lucky and faced one of their pathetic rotation members. You’d be right. It doesn’t show on the card, by the Yankees starter was AJ Burnett. Looking down at the Red Sox box, you’ll see that the Boston starter was Junichi Tazawa. Really, once you saw the Burnett Tazawa match-up, you had to expect blowout.

How did the Sox score their runs? Lots of power. The Sox scored on a 3-run homer, a 2-run homer, and a 2-run double. Six batters had an RBI in the game. Who had the best game? That’s a tough call, as it often is in a blowout. I’m going to go with Kevin Youkilis. He had two home runs on the day, and drove in six runs. Dustin Pedroia also had a good game, scoring four runs. Victor Martinez scored three of his own before being lifted. Pretty nice production from the 2-3-4 batters in the line-up.

The goat of the day? Has to be Jacoby Ellsbury. His five hitless trips to the plate did their best to derail the offensive train. JD Drew and Jason Varitek gave him some stiff competition. They each posted two strikeouts, although at least Drew had an RBI double.

Really, it was a pretty impressive offensive output considering it was really only from five guys. The 2-6 batters scored 13 runs, and drove in 12. Wowsers.

So, it was a great game, even if the weather was apparently a bit hot. Anytime the Sox can dominate the Yankees like that is a good day. The rookie Tazawa held the Yanks at bay for six innings. It was an inning longer than AJ Burnett was in the game. The big bats did their job, and the Sox absolutely cruised to a late season victory.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Card of the Week: 1983 Topps #108

This is another great 1983 Topps offering. I love the design. The nice geometry. The head shot so you know what the players actually look like. It’s too bad they caught Glenn after an apparently tough workout.  Really, neither picture is all that stunning. A rather basic batting shot, and a simple head photo. Not exactly a grouping that will win many awards.

But, the card has everything I ask for. A design that doesn’t call attention to itself. The name and team clearly displayer on a corner. That allows for quick and easy searching. The color scheme makes sense for the team. It’s really the way a card should be constructed.

Pure and simple.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Carl Clinches

What a difference a week makes, eh? In April, Carl Crawford was a disgrace. He couldn’t hit worth a lick. He was the highest paid number eight hitter in baseball history. He couldn’t seem to figure out how to play in Boston. Now? He has two walk-off hits on the homestand. He’s hit in every game this month. He’s smacking the ball around with authority. He’s looking an awful lot like the player who had Sox fans jumping for joy last winter. Now it’s time to reward him.

Get him out of the eighth spot for crying out loud. It’s time to restore the order to what it should be. Now, I do admit to having one small problem with moving him up in the order. I don’t know how far. The logical move would be to simply flip him with a slumping Dustin Pedroia. But, oddly, Franconia has said he’ll be leaving Pedroia in his usual spot. It was an odd explanation in that he’s doing this because he knows Pedroia will come around eventually. Does that imply that he didn’t know that Crawford would? Kind of a slap in the face, isn’t it? I was pretty certain that Carl Crawford wasn’t going to finish the year hitting .195. Was Francona not as sure?

But, it’s the second spot that I still think is made for Crawford. With Ellsbury leading off, and Crawford hitting second the Sox would have speed at the top unlike we’ve ever seen. Current slump aside, the three spot might make sense for Pedroia. Is there a better spot to hit in baseball than after Ells/Crawford but before Gonzalez/Youkilis? Just might get something to hit, and I bet it will be a fastball. Come to think of it, it might be just the thing to get him going again. The rest of the order simply falls into place, just like we all had it put together in March. I can’t wait.

Speaking of things that we all knew in March, raise your hand if you knew Josh Beckett would come out blazing like this. He has been exactly what this team needed. He doesn’t just give the team a chance to win every time out. He pitches games that the Sox should win. It’s the Beckett the Sox always hoped they’d have. It’s been a lot of fun.

Adrian Gonzalez has been fun lately as well. He’s been peppering that wall just like we imagined he could. He just looks comfortable at the plate right now. Like he knows good things are going to happen whenever he swings the bat.

The Sox are resting comfortably at 3.5 games back in the division. The struggles of the early going are behind them. It’s just Red Sox baseball from here on out.

Oh, by the way. Crawford’s double last night, in extra innings, extended his hitting streak.

Now the Sox need to go out and win the road trip

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

The times, they are a changing.

From the end of last week, to the weekend, it looks like there were two different Red Sox teams on the field. As I’ve mentioned before, my attitude towards the team has certainly changed since the calendar switched over. I’m able to look at losses in their own contest. They don’t represent a greater struggle. The wins are expected now. I don’t see two victories like this weekend and see a possible change. I see them as what I expect to see. It’s a lot more fun.

And, really looking at each game in the last week or so, they all really make sense. You had the marathon last Wednesday. Those things happen. There was rain. Our starter had to leave, and the bullpens did their best. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Then, on Thursday you had a day game after an early morning game. Much like doubleheaders, it was really a coin flip game. Which beaten and depleted line-up would score more than the other? It didn’t happen to fall the Sox’s way. OK. Friday? The Sox needed their long man to make an emergency start. I love Tim Wakefield as much as the next guy. But, any time you have a guy making an emergency start against a well-rested opponent, it’s not a good feeling. So, yeah, the Sox didn’t take that one either. Teams will lose games like those all the time. The Sox just happened to have three flukes in a week. They’re past that now.

The weekend changed things around. The bats showed up in force. The pitching was there to help out. Clay Buchholz showed continued improvement this season. He really had it all working, as we’ve started to expect. The fact that he came out after the rain delay was a wonderful sight to see. He really saved the bullpen with that move. Every inning the bullpen doesn’t pitch helps them get one more inning of rest.

Even Dice-K had a good game. Coming off an injury shortened appearance followed by a poor relief stint, I had no idea what to expect. I even left him on my fantasy team bench, because I was so unsure. And, the first inning it showed. He got hit around a bit. He looked like a guy who had a few really short appearances and was just getting back into things. But, to his credit, he figured it out. You might say it was classic Daisuke. One terrible inning, and domination the rest of the time. But, he did enough to let the bats come back and do their thing. And, to prove my attitude change, I wasn’t surprised when it happened. When they were down four after an inning, it seemed ok. There was lots of time left for them to score. A month ago, a one run deficit in the first would have seemed insurmountable. But, not anymore. The times they are a changing.

Even Carl Crawford doesn’t make me cringe. He’s been hitting like he should have been hitting. I look at him like any other player at this point. It’s a wonderful feeling.

So, the Sox look to Beckett to keep the ball rolling. I can’t think of a better person to have on the mound in this situation. Hopefully he can pitch like he’s been pitching. That should be enough.

Four games out in May, with a series against the leaders coming up. Not a bad situation to be in at all.

This is going to be fun.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Card of the Week: 1985 Topps #350

I like the 1985 Topps set. Maybe it’s the first “good” set I remember growing up. I remember the great set that had the rookie cards of Puckett, Clemens, Gooden, McGwire, Hershiser, Saberhagen, and Davis. So, the design always stands out to me. And, it’s a nice design too. Simple geometric shapes. The team name in a box. The team logo in a circle. It’s nice and clean.

The picture of Boggs is great as well. How many times did he strike that pose in his career? He naturally made contact. He’s just trying to figure out where it’s going to go. It doesn’t look like a wall-ball double. But, it’s in play somewhere.

In 1985, Boggs would lead the league with 240 hits. He would hit a career-high .368 that season. I would say that he had an impressive .452 OBP that season. However, Boggs had a higher one in each of the next three seasons. Wowsers.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Section 36 Bingo

Introducing the Section 36 bingo game! This can be played the next time you’re at a game. I’ll admit to being a bit conflicted with this activity. Naturally, if you’re at the game you should be watching the game, not playing games. But, I realized this wasn’t much more of a distraction than keeping score. Plus, it means you have to stay in your seats and watch the whole game for the best chance to win. I can definitely get behind that. So, here’s how it works, even though I’m sure you all know.

I set up a page with 36 different Section 36 bingo cards. Before you head out to the game, decide how many people you think might be playing, and print out that many different bingo cards. (Make sure you pick different ones, or the game won’t be much fun.) While you’re at the game, pay attention. When you see something in the game, or in the stands, that matches a space on your card mark it off. First person to get five in a row marked off horizontally, vertically, or diagonally wins. The winner yells out “Bingo” nice and load so the rest of the players know the game’s over. This also allows the people sitting around you to look over, point, and make fun. So, it’s really a game for everyone. Obviously, if you want to play with some different rules, that’s fine. Maybe you want to fill in the corners. Or, fill in the whole card. At a baseball game, it might be fun to have to fill in a diamond. If you’re really clever, you can almost get the marked blocks to make a “36.” It’s all up to you.

So, print out some cards, and have a blast!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Walk-off Pix from 36

Loyal reader Bryanne was kind enough to send in more pix. This time it was from Sunday’s game. Let’s not waste any time and see what she sent us.

I like this shot of the seats. There’s some grime on the floor, but it makes for a nice picture.

OK. I guess that one is for the ladies.

This is a great shot of the Carl Crawford mob. When I see celebration shots like this one, I love the inclusion of an opposing player. In this case, it was Ichiro’s misplay that allowed the winning run to score. I can just imagine what is going through his mind as he is forced to run right by the celebration.

And here’s a shot of our benefactor, Bryanne herself. Looks like she’s enjoying the result of the game very much. Thanks again Bryanne!

Keep those Pix from 36 coming!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why Are Streaks Such a Big Deal?

In the recent issue of The Sporting News, they had a story on the top sports records of all-time. As is often the case, the Joe DiMaggio hitting streak was prominently mentioned. The Andre Ethier run to 56 has garnered daily news reports and it's only halfway there. I just, for the life of me, can’t figure out why.

Why is it so impressive to do a rather mediocre thing many times in a row? After all, a player who collects 200 hits averages more than a hit a game. It somehow matters whether you get two hits, then zero, then two hits as opposed to one hit in three games? How does that not seem weird? Ted Williams had a higher batting average than Joe D during the streak. So, he had more hits per plate appearance, but it wasn’t as good of a performance? If someone managed to get exactly one hit in every game of the season, his 162 hits would be more impressive than another player who got 240 hits, but gapped them up a bit? It even weirder when you look at close calls that extend streaks. There was a scoring decision during DiMaggio’s streak. A ball could have been an error, but was instead his only hit of the game. In another case, a hitless DiMaggio was on deck with one out and one on in the ninth. Rather than risk grounding into a game-ending double play, the batter bunted. DiMaggio then came to the plate and got his only hit. So because those oddities happened we get the greatest achievement in the game? What if the entire streak was made up of games like that? What if for 60 straight games David Ortiz bunted a ball down the third base line for exactly one hit every game. Is that impressive?

At least Joe DiMaggio had to do something to earn his streak. All Cal Ripken had to do was show up. I’ve always said that the most impressive part of Ripken’s streak wasn’t games 1000 to 2000. It was game 1 to 1000. It was amazing that a manager never gave him a day off for no particular reason early in his career. Second game of a double header perhaps. Sure, once the streak gets to 1500 games, everyone knows he’s staying in the line-up at all costs. But, why not in the early years? That’s amazing to me. But, in the end, there is any number of players who played in more games than Cal Ripken or Lou Gehrig. They just didn’t do them all in a row. So?

Some of my favorite blown out of proportion streaks are the pitcher streaks. Roger Clemens made news not too long ago with a win streak. Of course, there were several no-decisions mixed in there. There were cases where he left the game on the hook only to have his team come back to tie it up. And that makes an impressive streak? 

Team win streaks are always fun too. This team, or that team, has won ten games is a row. Boy is that amazing. Of course, nobody notices that they just didn’t face a quality pitcher in ten games. Or that it might be better to win every series as opposed to winning a bunch in a row, and then losing a bunch.

Streaks may be fun to talk about. Ones that start the season are always entertaining. For a while there, Shea Hillenbrand had a hit in every game of his career. That was fun. The whole hit-a-day-Shea was a nice rhyme. But, it wasn’t an amazing achievement. It was fun.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another of Those Great Pix from 36!

The Pix from 36 keep coming in. Thanks everyone!

This one is another from Jere, who had great seats last weekend. The very last row in Section 36 it appears. Look at the great shot he was able to get.

I don’t know if that’s Jere’s shirt in the picture, but it’s a nice one. I also like how Jere was able to get the Section 36 label in the picture, even if it’s at a bit of an angle. Thanks again, Jere, for sending this in.

And everyone else can keep sharing their Pix from 36!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sox Carl’d out of Potential Hole

So, here’s where we are. It’s May second. The Sox are currently 12-15. They sit 5 games out of first place. And, that’s after pulling out a win on May first. What does that mean? Well, last year on May second the Sox started the day at 11-13. They were 6 games out of first. After 27 games last year? They were 13-14, 6.5 games back. So, last season, the Sox were worse off then they are now. Great, you’ll say. The Sox missed the playoffs last year, remember? And, that’s completely correct. The thing that’s missed in that argument? In mid-May last year the Sox were an amazing 8.5 games back. BUT, by June 21, the Sox pulled back to within a half game of the lead. Of course, within the week the Sox lost Pedroia for the season, and V-Mart for a month, and then Youkilis. So, they never made up that last half game. But, if they don’t lose three of their best players? I think the half-game would have been doable. The Sox are closer than they were last year. They have to be healthier. Things look pretty good from where I sit.

They also look pretty good from where Carl Crawford is sitting. I know it probably looks a little pathetic when you’re excited about an RBI from a $20 million player. But, that’s a huge RBI. He’s been getting some hits lately. He’s been making very loud outs lately. Now, he made a tangible contribution. He made a direct contribution to the victory. The Sox were down to their last out in the inning, and he came up with the RBI. If that’s not a mental turbo-boost, I don’t know what it. What’s the next step? Get him out of the eighth spot. Let’s show Carl that the team believes in him. He’s a member of the offense. They don’t need to coddle him. He’s now expected to produce. He can just go out and play the way we all know he can play. Get him in one of the top three spots for tonight’s game. Leave him there from here on out. Let Carl be Carl.

Of course the elephant in the room (almost literally) is Bobby Jenks. I’m not going to say very much about him. He stinks. He hasn’t been pitching well. I’m guessing he won’t get a meaningful appearance for a bit.

Buchholz missed some time with the flu. Weaver apparently missed his start with the flu. Perhaps the Sox should especially avoid fraternizing with the Angels on the field before the game tonight. What do you say?

Let’s get rolling.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Red Sox by the Numbers, By: Bill Nowlin and Matthew Silverman

If baseball is a game of numbers, this book intends to tell us all
about them. This is a Red Sox history, in numerical order. It progresses through the different uniform numbers worn by the different Red Sox players over the years, and gives a quick biography of some of the key players. If you’ve ever wondered just how many players have worn number 29 for the Sox, and what their stories were, this is the book you’re looking for.

Unfortunately, this is another book that wasn’t written for me. When you’re trying to condense 100 years of history into 300 pages, you can’t go into much detail. So, the stories of the players who wore the different numbers were very brief. This would be a better book for a novice Red Sox fan. It’s a creative way to get a lot of information about the team organized. There were, however, several side stories that I found interesting. There were many discussions with clubhouse personnel discussing how numbers were assigned and selected. Unfortunately, these snippets were too rare. While I can imagine any number of people who would enjoy reading this book, I was not one of them.

Rating: 2 bases

What people are reading this week