Saturday, April 30, 2005

Surf's Up (W9-2) Season 12-11

Channel surfers' delight as the Sox won (9-2) for the first time in seven games in Texas and the Celtics evened their series at two with the Pacers with a 110-78 blowout.

Seven strong innings from 'Then Came' Bronson Arroyo, three hits from Kevin Youkilis (the Talisman is back), and homers from Johnny Damon, Trot Nixon, and Jason Varitek made for a relatively easy win. Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke closed out the win. Foulke had his command back and his fastball was in the 88 range, up from the mid 80s.

Arroyo held the powerful Rangers to 5 hits and a walk while recording five strikeouts. Former Sox fill-in Pedro Astacio got touched up for the loss, as after three decent starts he has reverted to his struggling form over the past couple.

Unfortunately for the Sox, the Yankees and Orioles both won, and the Orioles moved to 16-7, behind a game tying homer from Miguel Tejada and another shot from Brian Roberts.

Texas Trip Notes. Terry Francona sat out his second game of the Tampa beanbrawl suspension, and Brad Mills filled in for him. Damon and Nixon went back-to-back jacks, a change from the more usual Ramirez and Ortiz. Jim Rice and Dwight Evans are the two Sox who have most often gone back to back.

The Sox are now 6-4 at home, 6-7 on the road, 5-3 during the day, and 7-8 at night.

The Kevin Millar homerless streak lives on, although he drove one out to the track.

Statistical oddity. In Carl Yastrzemski's MVP/Triple Crown season, he slugged .622, with only 69 strikeouts accompanying 91 walks. For his career, he only fanned 1393 times to go along with 1845 walks. During his two seasons at age 42 and 43, he only struck out 79 times in 739 at bats, and hit 26 homers during those years. Conversely, last year Adam Dunn .266/.388/.569 fanned 195 times, walked 108 and had 5 HBP. In other words Dunn had 308 appearances without contact, and had 46 homers in the 373 at bats in which he made contact. Amazingly, he had no sacrifice flies in 681 plate appearances.

Farm Land. Abe Alvarez (3.90, 2-1) got his head on straight for seven innings of one-run ball as the Pawsox blasted Wilkes-Barre 13-2. Chip Ambres had a slam and six RBI. The Sea Dogs were rained out.

Latest from Dirt Dogs

Fehr and Yawning: Selig Will Get Rejected on 50-Game Penalty for Steroids(The Smart Players Using the High-End 'Roids Can Beat the Low-End Tests Anyway)

Newsweek: Nomar and the S Word

What's the best word for Fehr, anyway? Smarmy, unctuous, weasel, unscrupulous, untrustworthy, treacherous, duplicitous, mendacious, disreputable, perfidious, disgusting, fulsome, cloying?

Stop the Madness


Stop the Madness Posted by Hello

The Curse of Kevin Youkilis

Never unnecessarily cloud the truth with facts. Maybe that would be an alternative mantra for Washington after 'plausible deniability.'

After languishing without a World Series title for 86 years (Henry's comet appearing with lesser frequency than Halley's), the Sox finally broke through in 2004. The solution? The appearance of Billy Beane's 'Greek God of Walks', Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis made his debut in Toronto with unusual fanfare, a home run in his first game, followed by the infamous 'air five', a variation on the Silent Treatment.

He went on to have a solid if unspectacular season, the talisman smashing the curse. Of course, that is the stuff of legend, and fantasy, as the principal curse-buster was the simple answer: pitching, pitching, and more pitching. The work of Schilling, Pedro, Lowe, and Foulke in shutting down the Yankees and the Cardinals, not curses, spells, or voodoo provided the answer.

Naturally the season got off to a sluggish start again this year, followed by improvement, and then exile of Youkilis to Pawtucket, coincident with the miasma known as Springtime in Boston. Youkilis goes down, the Sox struggle, so why not bring him back?

Damn, reality sets in, with the Sox at 5-5 when Youk got the bus ticket, and he returns with the team in a funk and fade, now at 11-11. So, .500 with Youkilis, and .500 without the Walkbino. It's time for Youkilis to prove himself to be the real stopper, and give this column a happy ending.

Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude: taking pleasure in another person's pain or misery.

No doubt that much of Baseball America is taking pleasure at the Sox demise, not only with respect to the return to mediocrity, but also the way they've done it, accelerated by injuries to high paid aging stars. That would be the 'mean reversion' of age and injury impacting a pitching staff that was fortunate to avoid that last season.

Sure, the Yankees have fared worse, even last night as back to Cy Young form Roy Halladay blanked the Bombers and RJ 2-0. With 140 games to go, the chowderheads who said Johnson would win 30 better hope for a 30 game winning streak in 29 starts. That's schadenfreude. Not to mention at 205 million dollar payroll, but of course, the season is young.

At this point,with six losses in a row in Arlington, and 8 out of 9, I'm beginning to believe my 'strip joint' theory, and suggest that a number of us go on a 'fact-finding mission' to uncover the truth ;)

Friday, April 29, 2005

Staff Infection (L7-2) Season (11-11)

First, the good news. The Sox remain at the .500 mark. Now, the reality check, getting the road trip off on the wrong foot.

The Sox grabbed the lead on a two-run triple by Kevin Millar that Gary Matthews probably should have caught. Aside from that, the offense was on holiday.

Tim Wakefield weakened in the sixth, as quality start became a historical term for the Sox, as the Rangers went on to top the Sox 7-2 behind quality work from Chan Ho Park. Is he in a contract year?

While the Sox have had Jin Ho Cho and B.K. Kim, the Rangers have had the best of the lot in Park. Park, entering this season 13-18 in three AL seasons, allowed two runs in seven innings, mixing his pitches well in sending the Sox to the ignominy of the post-game mean and retreat to their watering hole to recharge for tomorrow.

There's no time for wallowing in self-pity, as the offense feels the urgency to start producing during the pitching staff infection. Ouch.

The best part of the game is Rico Petrocelli doing the post-game. That's sad.

Theory and Practice (game 22 in progress)

"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." Yogi Berra

The Sox are testing out my hypothesis about selected road trips. Last night on WEEI, the announcers speculated that excessive nightlife was a cause for the D-Lowe departure after last season. Rumors about Lowe's post-game styling were flying. Of course the Sox elected to replace Lowe with a pitcher picture of decorum, David Wells.

Anyway, although I haven't been to the Arlington area, my guess is that there are plenty of distractions available for young guys with too much money and time on their hands. A quick search of the Internet, er, revealed seven strip clubs in Arlington, Texas. While the home team is enjoying a little quality family time, it takes little imagination to envision American League visitors losing sleep and brain cells out on the town.

Statistically speaking. If I had to be stranded on a desert island with one book, the Baseball Encyclopedia might not be a bad choice (presuming that a survival manual wasn't another choice). Carl Yastrzemski is second in career at bats, seventh in hits, and sixth in doubles. Cy Young has not only the most career wins but the most career losses and career complete games. Pedro Martinez has the highest career winning percentage, and Jim Thome has an astounding percentage of at bats without contact (17 percent walks and 30 percent strikeouts). Mark McGwire has the highest percentage of homers per at bat.

Thus far after 21 2/3rd games, neither Mark Bellhorn nor Kevin Millar has homered. No homers for your fifth hole hitter at this point in the season?

The Sox called up righthanded reliever Tim Bausher from Pawtucket. The Pawsox immediately felt the loss, blowing a five run lead to lose to Scranton 8-6. Denny Tomori is one Japanese import that hasn't done well on his road test, taking the loss.

Meanwhile, the dreaded Norwich Navigators of the Eastern League dope-slapped the pride of Portland, thumping the Sea Dogs 8-0. Chris Durbin raised his average to .373 with two hits and Jeremy West raised his average to .347. Kason Gabbard (3-1) absorbed his first loss of the campaign.

Don Orsillo informed us that the day after Kevin Millar's twins were born, the lottery number came up 1515 (Millar's number is 15).

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fever Pitch

No game tonight, so my wife and I went out to see Fever Pitch.

My first impression (naturally) is that Fallon's character, Ben Wrightman, makes the rest of us merely devoted fans look much better to our wives than the obsessed beyond belief Fallon. Second, the movie truly has loads of terrific sight gags and oneliners, to the point that my wife said that she thought she would be sick she laughed so hard,

Pitch captures the wide emotional swings that captivate Red Sox nation. Even tonight, in the wake of the double disabled dip, the debate rages on Sports Radio about why the Sox were willing to 'break up' their championship team (a mere 150 million dollars or so would have locked up Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, and Derek Lowe). The film also explores the complex relationships between and among men and women. The scene depicting the distribution of season tickets was sidesplitting.

Sure, there's a little baseball tossed in with the humor, with a few season and postseason highlights, but the amalgam of comedy and baseball makes for a great evening out, at a fraction of the cost of Fenway.

Any Red Sox fan has to see Fever Pitch. I can't wait for the DVD.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wounds to be licked. Rain Out.

Memorable rain out/rain delay moments? Rick Dempsey of the Orioles always had some with his comedy routines, and as I've mentioned, I saw a grounds crewman have sudden death at the first game I ever attended as they ran out the tarpaulin.

The Orioles and Sox both have an open date tomorrow, but I haven't heard when the game is rescheduled. One would think the Sox might want it to be played later (presuming they might be playing a bit better).

The timing of an extended road trip (starting against the nightmarish Rangers) that can eat up pitching, coupled with key injuries creates more than a few problems. With less quality pitching, the Sox absolutely will have to carry that extra pitcher (12) and the offense (that historically can struggle on the road) has extra pressure on it.

The Pen is mightier than ... nothing. The Sox relief corps is last in OPS, next to last in strikeouts per 9 innings, and next to last in losses (5). Keith Foulke just hasn't found the groove, and as a finesse pitcher, he needs to get there soon. He's been like the little girl with the curls: "when he is good he is very good..." His stats this year? One win, three losses, and 13 hits and 5 walks (with 4 strikeouts) in 10 innings, with an OPS of 1.027. For his career he has a strikeout to walk ratio of four to one, and last year he allowed 63 hits in 83 innings during the regular season, and 7 hits with 19 strikeouts in 14 post-season innings. Patience is indeed a virtue.

Offensively, the Sox are relying on Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz right now to do almost all the lifting. One statistic I found amazing was that Mark Bellhorn either walks or strikes out in 40 percent of his at bats. Unfortunately, strikeouts occurred in 28 percent.

The ankle xray shown over at www.bostondirtdogs.com shows an ankle fracture, so I hope that it isn't anybody we know.

Baseball tonight. The PawSox got the short straw again, losing 9-8 at Rochester. Kevin Youkilis (.220) went 2 for 5 and Chip Ambres homered. Scott Cassidy gave up 5 runs in 5 innings and Anastacio Martinez got lit up for three runs in the ninth, so there's a crisis in confidence on the farm, too.

The Sea Dogs are at Binghamton after losing to the Mets farm club by a field goal, 13-10 last night.

Uber-prospect Hanley Ramirez is at .300/.355/.471, Jared Sandberg at .302/.397/.619, and second base convert Dustin Pedroia, the little engine that could, is at .350/.452/.550. Olise (Cla) Meredith has seven saves and a .000 ERA thus far.

Schilling on the DL

The sky isn't falling. Ah, maybe it is. Whatever we do, I hope it is not in the Bobby Sprowl tradition. That is, do not try to 'rush' guys who aren't ready (Papelbon, Alvarez, Lester) out of desperation and make them head cases forever.

My argument about starting Wakefield every fourth day makes more sense to me now.

Pen Pals (L11-8) Season 11-10 (GB 3)

Tedious. That's the only way to describe last night's game, from the glacial pace to the outcome. It felt like a World Series game - played at night, lasted forever, and made it impossible for children and tired old men to see the outcome.

The less said about this game, the better.

If the Billy Beane triad of the season is evaluation, repair, and completion (what has Beane won is a legitimate question) then themes are emerging. First, that the offense has largely been adequate, particularly at Fenway. Even with neither Manny Ramirez nor David Ortiz at peak production, the Sox are scoring runs. However, if the Sox are Achilles then the bullpen has been their heel. Keith Foulke became the culprit this time, torched for four runs late when asked to deliver a two inning save.

Well, as they say 'momentum lasts only as long as the next day's starting pitcher' so we'll see what Tim Wakefield can deliver tonight. Heading off to Texas for an extended roadtrip, the Sox can use a stop.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Get Wells Soon

After awkwardly coming off the mound last night, David Wells has an unspecified foot injury and has been placed on the DL. We haven't heard whether he has a sprain, stress fracture, or other injury. Lenny DiNardo has been called up, and John Halama will go into Wells' slot in the rotation.

Obviously, many eyes are on Wade Miller's progress as an alternative. I've always wondered about pitching Tim Wakefield every fourth day, and working other guys around him. For example.

Clement
Wakefield
Off day
Schilling
Arroyo
Wakefield
Clement
Schilling
Spot Starter
Wakefield
Arroyo
Clement
Schilling
Wakefield
Spot Starter
Arroyo
Off Day
Schilling
Clement
Wakefield

The cons: this disrupts the pitchers' customary schedule.

The pros: you get only two appearances from spot starters, with more starts from Wakefield who is likely to outperform your spot starter, and you get an occasional extra day of rest for one of your other starters. Would Wakefield be more OR less effective (or no different) on three days rest?

Conclusion: very unlikely to be worth the difference or very agreeable to players.

A Case for Luis

Originally published at www.uwritesports.com by Ron Sen

Election to the Baseball Hall of Fame shouldn’t be a popularity contest. But, if it were, shouldn’t a popular player get an even break? Concerning Cooperstown, that sleepy village in northern New York state, Luis Tiant remains on the outside looking in. We can only ask why and examine Tiant in comparison with some of the Hall entries.

I remember Tiant as the Cuban, cigar smoking, whirling dervish on baseball’s Mount Olympus, the mound at Fenway Park. He looked more like a sausage vendor than an athlete, cut from the John Kruk mold, playfully butchering the English language, but on the mound he was all business. In Game 1 of the 1975 World Series, he carried the Sox to an improbable victory, not only with his pitching, but with his bat, delivering a hit and scoring a key run.

From a longevity standpoint, Tiant pitched in 19 seasons, winning 229 games and losing 172, a winning percentage of .571. One of Bill James’ principles is that won-loss record in a single season is not a great measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness, but the Hall of Fame is about careers. Tiant’s career ERA was 3.30, significantly better than the average league ERA of 3.74 during those years. He never finished higher than fourth in the Cy Young voting, despite winning the ERA title twice, winning 20 or more games 4 times, and leading the league in shutouts 3 times. He finished in the top 30 pitchers all-time in strikeouts (30) and shutouts (21).

How does Tiant stack up against some other contemporary Hall of Fame pitchers? His ‘similarity scores’ compare strongly with HOFers Jim ‘Catfish’ Hunter, Jim Bunning, and Don Drysdale. Career totals are noted below.

Pitcher-------- Win Loss K--- ERA/LgERA
Tiant----------- 229 172 2416 3.30/3.74
Hunter- --------224 166 2012 3.26/3.39
Bunning -------224 184 2855 3.27/3.74
Drysdale-------209 166 2486 2.95/3.57

Hunter was the consummate big game pitcher, pitching on 5 World Series champions. There is no argument against Hunter, but he also had the good fortune of playing for outstanding teams, and having premier relief help, Rollie Fingers, perhaps the greatest relief pitcher ever and Goose Gossage another dominant closer. Drysdale’s luster may have dimmed against teammate Sandy Koufax’s, but he too had World Series glory behind him. Bunning, the affable Kentuckian, has a lower winning percentage, only 1 twenty game season, more strikeouts, and never even appeared in the post-season.

Perhaps, the ‘politics of glory’ aspect contributed to his Hall entry.Bill James’ newest effort, ‘Win Shares’ attempts to provide quantitative analysis of player production. Baseball fans with more than a passing interest in Sabermetrics should consider putting it on their bookshelf. No one would argue that any individual metric should determine entry into Cooperstown, but we can at least stack up Tiant against some entries using this standard. The All-Time Win Share leader was Babe Ruth with 756, and the highest rated pitcher was Cy Young with 634. The highest rated player not in the HOF is Pete Rose with 547. Everyday players obviously have the opportunity to contribute to more wins than pitchers.

The overall analysis favors everyday players (hitters) over pitchers, but again we are comparing apples with apples. By this measure, Drysdale had 258, Bunning 257, Tiant 256, Hunter 206. During the 1970s Tiant had 158 Win Shares and Hunter 157.

During the four year run of Sandy Koufax from 1963 to 1966, he had 124 shares, averaging 31 per season. ! During Bob Gibson’s stunning 1968 season with his 1.12 ERA, he contributed 36 win shares, while Denny McLain had 33 with his 31 wins.

There are not an abundance of Latin players in the Hall of Fame. Quickly coming to mind are Luis Aparicio, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente, and Juan Marichal. Surely, as African-American and Latin players have become dominant, we should expect to see an influx of deserving candidates and entrants.

As we embark on the 2005 baseball marathon led by Pedro Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Vlad Gueriero, Manny Ramirez and others, we should pause for a few moments to recognize players who made the game special for us. Having grown up in the era of Mays, Aaron, the Oriole Robinsons, Gibson, Koufax, and Yastrzemski, I can only wonder why every year, there isn’t a case for Luis.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Did You Know?

From age 30 to age 39 (average season)

--------------Runs-----HR-----RBI

Player A----- 90 ----- 23.5 -----87

Player B----- 84 ----- 20 ------ 87

Answer below
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Answer:

Player A, Dwight Evans
Player B, Carl Yastrzemski

Unfortunately for Dewey, the first half of his career didn't match up to Yaz.

Injury Bugs (L8-4) Season 11-9 (2 GB)

My son, an Orioles fan, informs me that teams with pitchers who achieve at least 7 strikeouts per nine innings are likely to win at least 95 games. I'm not sure where this statistic comes from, but he's a master of statistical manipulation.

The Birds jumped on David Wells, aided by mediocre defense (they say you can't hide bad defense, and that adage proved true). Wells left with pride and foot injured, and Matt Mantei limped off later.

Johnny Damon had a spectacular game with 3 hits, 2 walks, and has reached base nine times in the past two games. Don Orsillo regaled us with the fact that the Sox have won 8 of 10 games in which Damon scored. Make that 8-3.

The Sox are currently second in runs scored in the AL, and sixth in ERA, but after one streak of hot pitching, they've cooled off. It won't get easier for them after the Baltimore series as they travel to Arlington to face the Rangers.

I have this theory about why teams have problems in certain cities, and it has to do with late night entertainment. I hope that I'm wrong.

The bullpen doesn't seem to be the paragon of reliability, and is 13th in OPS allowed, 12th in K/BB ratio, and tied for last in K/9 innings with the Yankees. Sox starters are 9-5, with a middle of the pack WHIP and OPS. One theory is that there is hangover from last year's heavy use of Timlin and Embree. A better explanation is that aside from Timlin and Myers, and to a lesser extent Foulke, the pen hasn't done the job, period.

Farm stand. The PawSox were postponed with wet grounds and the Sea Dogs had a day off.

Gotta know what's going on in the minors. Minor League Baseball.com http://minorleaguebaseball.com/app/index.jsp?cid=milb is a terrific reference.

Snickers (In Game Update)

Not going anywhere? I've never seen cricket, but somehow I think it must look something like this.

How's the joke go? My wife wants me to call her Pedro, because I never take her out. Terry Francona appears to need a map to locate the bump, because Wells doesn't have his command tonight, missing around the plate, or over it.

Brian (Don't Call Me Brady Anderson) Roberts had an incredible first inning with a single and two stolen bases to manufacture a run.

Meanwhile the Sox keep threatening Bruce Chen (Bill Lee lite) while unable to get the big hit to open it up. I have this nagging fear that Abe Alvarez is cut from the same cloth, Mark Buerhle without a fastball.

B.J. Surhoff is one of my favorite players...in game 161 a few years ago at Fenway I saw him backing up a throw at third base (from left field), with the Birds down 8 - 3 in the bottom of the eighth inning of a meaningless game. Playing the game right.

Memory Lane

http://www.baseball-reference.com/v/valenjo02.shtml

More thoughtful comments on Red Sox past. John Valentin had a breakout season in 1995 which landed him megabucks. Unfortunately he never again achieved the same proficiency, although he did have a terrific ALDS and solid ALCS in 1999.

My recollection of Valentin was as a solid but unspectacular defensive player, but as I recall he moved (pretty much kicking and screaming) to third base to make way for Nomar Garciaparra.

In some ways, I wonder if Bill James would consider him a prototypical player, peaking not far from age 27 and declining steadily from there. Serious knee injuries contributed to his decline, but isn't that a part of sports, too (ability and durability - the Patriots Way).

Confessions of a Red Sox Addict

Come on, admit it, you're more addicted than ever. Winning never gets old.

1. My mom used to get upset with me for wearing out the batteries on the transistor radio from falling asleep on the west coast games.

2. I still have my ticket stub from Game 1 of the 1975 World Series. $4.50. Can you buy a beer at the park for that?

3. Speaking of that, have we Sox fans forgotten how great Luis Tiant was, and what a big game pitcher he was.

4. I used my 1966 Carl Yastrzemski card as a noisemaker on my bicycle wheels. Anybody else remember doing that?

5. Shaughnessy makes me crazy; but He Who Must Never Be Named is a good one.

6. Anagrams fascinate me. Daniel Shaughnessy = Dan lies as he hugs NY?

7. Cursed be the great Red Sox killers of the past forty years - Gates Brown, Tom Tresh, Amos Otis, Larry Hisle, Derek Jeter, and so on.

8. Does Wade Boggs still eat chicken every day, or was that just a superstition?

9. The best game I ever personally saw pitched in Fenway was Jim Palmer throwing a two-hitter and totally dominating. Why can't we develop guys like that?

10.Is Kelly Shoppach now the lead trade bait, presuming that Hanley's going nowhere?

11. When you go overseas, do you check the Internet daily for scores? But did you blog daily from overseas?

12. Does it ever bother anybody how one or two good seasons allow extraction of a king's ransom for life? I guess it didn't bother Mike Greenwell or John Valentin.

13. Do you secretly wish for ex-Red Sox to struggle, just a little?

14. Theo Epstein reportedly gives his endorsement money to charity. Yet another reason to admire the Young Jedi Master. Psst, get Jeremy Bonderman.

15. A real estate guy told me years ago that the Sox weren't building a new stadium anywhere, and that key allies of major politicians had bought up land surrounding Fenway. I wonder if that really were true. Where's the "I Team" when you need them?

Content and Context

A number of posters present thoughtful response to my commentary on 'head-hunting'.

Steve D writes, "The problem with your scenario (heavy fines and suspensions etc.) is that it's impossible to prove intent." Both leagues have personnel assigned to mete out discipline in exactly this situation after review of the context of the situation. Steve is correct that every pitcher says "the pitch got away". Using that logic, managers should never be warned, and no one should ever be ejected, because no court, judge, and jury were assembled to prove intent.

A secondary (and surely less plausible point for most) note is where wildness occurs. Generally, RHPs will be wild inside to RH hitters (natural ball movement) and LHP outside to RH hitters.

Having pitched from Little League, Babe Ruth League, Legion, high school, college, the Intercity League, and even in an old men's league, I don't think I hit 3 lefthanded batters, and nobody anywhere near the head. Maybe that's why I was such a mediocre pitcher?

Steve adds (lacking due process) "your "remedy" is sorely lacking in my opinion." That seems to be a trend in society, both nationally and internationally, as each of us, from individual to government 'knows what is right' and acts on that knowledge. A very valid criticism.

Redsoxer questions, "In your perfect world, why stop there? What about the owners who hired the managers?" My column states exactly that. How many owners would want to pony up $250,000 because their employees decided to take baseball justice into their own hands?

He adds, Re: "Will that happen? Of course not, because the “labor unions” will prevent harsh treatment of their coddled members." Never mind. Ah, class war!

MLBPA resembles most labor unions the way a sledgehammer and a ballpeen hammer are both hammers. Last time I checked, the average 'dues paying union member' makes over 2 million dollars. I remember seeing the Texas Rangers waiting for their charter at BWI. The younger players were playing cards and spitting tobacco juice on the airport carpet. The 'grizzled' veterans were carrying briefcases, wearing three-piece suits and reading section C of the Wall Street Journal. They're entitled to their lifestyles because they have skills that you and I lack, but let's not confuse them with Everyman.

What will happen? There WILL be suspensions and fines, appeals, and then suspensions and fines will be enforced. Then the cycle will repeat itself, until the next Conigliaro happens.

We are talking about degree. As George Bernard Shaw wagged, "we already know what kind of woman you are. We are negotiating over the price."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Beanballs and Birdbrains (commentary)

Originally published at Steve Silva's www.bostondirtdogs.com

“It’s pretty funny until the rabbit gets the shotgun.” – John Salley

A baseball thrown at a major league hitter at ninety miles per hour allows him about 0.4 seconds to analyze and react. Prior to today’s action, there had been 99 batters hit by pitchers in the National League and 101 in the American League, not a significant difference. Judging by today’s action between the Red Sox and the Devil Rays one wouldn’t know that.

The feud between the Red Sox and the Devil Rays goes back literally years, although like many conflicts, few remember the origins. However, each year it seems that the quid pro quo expands, unchecked by changes in management, managers, and players. This weekend a series of hit batsmen again erupted in gang warfare, culminating in an attempted drive-by hit on David Ortiz by Lance Carter after Carter had brushed back Manny Ramirez who promptly responded by hammering the next Carter fastball into the bleachers. Ortiz then nearly became the victim of the purpose pitch, the purpose “being to separate the head from the shoulders.”

During the Red Sox pennant quest of August 1967, Angel righthander Jack Hamilton beaned budding superstar right fielder Tony Conigliaro, causing severe eye injuries, beginning the downward spiral of Conigliaro’s career. Neither Carter nor Ortiz were born then, and perhaps neither is aware of Conigliaro’s significance to Red Sox history. However, all those of us who remember that nightmare never wish to recall it or see another Boston or opposing player in similar circumstances.

Although the designated hitter rule has become the focus for the problem of beanball wars, it’s not so simple. Pitchers need to use both sides of the plate against today’s bigger, stronger hitters and hitters diving in on the plate need to understand that every inside pitch is not a ‘purpose pitch’. On the other hand, when intent is clear and contempt not control becomes the issue, major league baseball needs to act with clarity and immediacy.

The pitchers involved, management, and managers should be severely reprimanded, suspended and fined. There should be no warning and no appeals. The umpiring crew involved should be suspended for one series without pay for failing to control the game. Both the Red Sox and the Tampa management should be fined a minimum of $250,000 dollars, both managers and pitchers suspended for a minimum of ten days, and Bud Selig should contact every team and assure them that this is the end, not the beginning of the zero tolerance policy to a baseball tradition that must end now.

Will that happen? Of course not, because the “labor unions” will prevent harsh treatment of their coddled members. The idiocy will continue and baseball machismo will manufacture more manure, while the action serves up post-game highlights and ESPN moments. Maybe NESN can have a ‘beanballs and birdbrains’ segment.

Hit Bay Pitch (W11-3) Season 11-8

The Red Sox closed out their road trip with an 11-3 mashing of the D-Rays, a game marred by a beanball war.

Bronson Arroyo (2-0, 4.01) collected the win, allowing 3 runs in 6 innings, although he was ejected following a hit batsman leading off the seventh inning.

Following Arroyo's ejection, Mantei, Myers, Timlin, and Halama combined to shut out Tampa over the final three frames.

The longstanding feud between the Sox and Rays erupted over the weekend, particularly fueled by Scott Kazmir hit batsman and reinforced by Red Sox retaliation. Lance Carter hit Manny Ramirez today, who followed with a homer on the next pitch, and Carter narrowly missed beaning David Ortiz during the next at-bat, leading to benches clearing and numerous ejections.

Jay Payton broke the game open with the second grand slam of his career in the eighth, and Ortiz then delivered his seventh homerun of the season deep into the right field bleachers.

Johnny Damon (.333) had four hits leading the way, and Edgar Renteria (.240) showed some life with a consecutive two-hit game.

I'll have more commentary about the necessary response to this latest beanball episode later.

Dismal Science (L6-5) Season 10-8 1 GB

To paraphrase the old movie Parenthood, baseball is much more of a roller coaster than a merry-go-round. Also, by virtue of playing almost daily, the Red Sox and others are subjected to our microanalysis, which overplays the importance of each game.

First, to lighten the mood, another story from the late Vin Orlando. Years ago, the players were congregated in the clubhouse, being regaled by the troubled Jimmy Piersall about how strong he was and how he could outperform anyone on the team on an arm-strengthening machine. The machine had a broomstick/dowel fixed to a rope and pulley system with a weight on the other end. By rolling your wrists and tightening the rope, a player could develop his forearm strength. Piersall boasted that he could do three times as many as any player on the team. Ted Williams told Piersall to shut up and "stop being an asshole."

As players occasionally do, they made a friendly wager, with players putting their money on Piersall or Williams. According to Vin, everyone except shortstop Don Buddin went with Piersall, who proceeded to grind out 50 repetitions. Williams got in position and proceeded to make the weight ascend and descend "like a machine", stopping at 150. He left Piersall with a thought, "Jim, by the way, I invented this machine."

Tampa knocked off the Sox again Saturday night, topping the Sox 6-5, sending the Sox and Curt Schilling to a second consecutive defeat. Schilling appeared strong and loose, but had trouble with his command, and like real estate, it's about 'location, location, location.'

Wasted in the defeat were two tape-measure shots by David Ortiz (6) including the latter estimated at 455 feet. The Sox had opportunities in the eighth but couldn't push across the tying run.

Before Manny Ramirez grounded out to end the game, he took a 2-2 Travis Harper offering that appeared to be strike three. Unfortunately, Ramirez' out obviated a likely Lou Piniella meltdown.

Farm Aid. The Portland Sea Dogs, the Sox AA entry in the Eastern League, lost 4-3 Friday night to Harrisburg in fourteen innings and got rained out yesterday. Top prospects Dustin Pedroia (.358), Hanley Ramirez (.312), and Brandon Moss (.212) had two hits apiece. Jared Sandberg hammered out another home run.

Here's a report from www.soxprospects.com on Portland http://www.soxprospects.com/news/04.20.2005.htm

Kelly Shoppach homered twice in one inning for the PawSox as they routed Buffalo 14-5.

At High A Wilmington, Anibal Sanchez has 28 strikeouts and one walk in 14 innings.

Local kid report. Righthanded pitcher Eric Drown from Ipswich continues to rehab with the St. Louis Cardinals at extended spring training after undergoing off season arm surgery.

Useless daily stats. The Red Sox are now 8-3 (.727) in games with quality starts and 2-5 (.286) and have fallen to 2-5 (.286) in one-run games, which generally reflects on the bullpen.

Although the Sox lost, sports fans had a lot to be thankful for yesterday, including the NFL draft (day 1) and the Celtics blowing out Indiana in Game 1 of the NBA playoffs.


Friday, April 22, 2005

Bay Watched (L5-4) Season (10-7)

Can't stand prosperity. Despite 6 decent innings from Tim Wakefield (4 runs, 2 earned), the D-Rays folded, stapled, and mutilated the Sox bullpen after the Sox tied the game with a two-run ninth inning rally.

Eduoardo Perez launched a walkoff homer deep into the left field seats off Alan Embree's first offering. Embree continues to struggle.

Mark Bellhorn and Johnny Damon had delivered key ninth-inning hits to tie the game at four.

Although he didn't get the win, Scott Kazmir was outstanding holding the Sox to one run in seven innings.

Truth be told, having just got back from Mexico, I'm excited to see baseball again, after watching soccer on Fox, soccer on ESPN, soccer on some German channel, soccer on RAI, and CNN-international.

Bill Muellar sat out with the flu, with Ramon Vazquez starting a key around-the-horn bases loaded double play in the bottom of the eighth to keep the game in reach.

Farm stand. Miller Time. According to the Sea Dogs web site, Wade Miller will make a rehab start on Saturday as he makes his comeback from shoulder woes.

The PawSox were rained out Friday night. The PawSox are in last place of the IL North Division with a 5-9 record. Kelly Shoppach .270/.413/.649 four homers has paced the offense. Scott Cassidy is 3-0 with 13 innings of work, 8 hits allowed and 15 strikeouts.

Feeling Down? Curt Schilling takes the hill Saturday against Tampa, and if you feel sorry for yourself, consider UNC with Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Marvin Williams are seeking greener (NBA) pastures. AND the Patriots suffer through yet another number 32 pick as the reigning NFL champs. So, it's not so bad.

Paper Cuts (W1-0) Season 10-6

The Red Sox behind the combined shutout pitching of Matt Clement (2-0) and Keith Foulke (S3) defeated the Orioles 1-0 to take over sole possession of first place in the American League East. In doing so, the Sox evened their road record at 4-4.

The Sox pitching staff recorded their second consecutive shutout over the Baltimoreans.

Ramon Vasquez had a groundout in the second inning to plate the game winner.

At the 16 game mark, one-tenth of the season, what can we say about the season thus far? From a team perspective, the Sox have the largest run differential in the AL, at 25. The Marlins have the largest overall at 33, having allowed only 44 runs all season. The Sox are tied with the White Sox with eight wins in their last ten games, and their only deficiency with a small sample size is a 2-3 record in one run games.

Offensively the team is third in runs per game, third in slugging percentage and fourth in on base percentage. At the same time, overall production has diminished only slightly. The team struggled early, as Manny Ramirez slumped, but Ramirez heated up with 5 homers and 17 RBI after the slow start. Jason Varitek has carried the load from the outset, both offensively and defensively, batting .353 with a 1.024 OPS.

The pitching has outperformed expectations after a slow start. They now have 10 quality starts in 16 appearances, with an eighty percent winning percentage with those starts. They have moved up the list on WHIP (walks and hits per nine innings pitched), tie for the league lead in shutouts (3) and have converted three of four save opportunities. Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo have overachieved, Clement and David Wells have rebounded with two strong outings apiece, and Curt Schilling is expected to be, Curt Schilling.

After a slow start, possibly attributable to a bit of championship hangover, the Sox have played consistent, winning baseball sparked by excellent and consistent starting pitching, the primary question mark headed into the season.

Alumni note. Nomar Garciaparra´s injury is believed more serious than previously expected, and he is considering surgery. Playing in yet another contract year, after turning down 60 million dollars over four years of Henrybucks, Garciaparra's groin isn´t the only thing that's hurting. All of which reminds me of the old Wall Street adage, 'bulls can make money, bears can make money, but pigs get slaughtered'.

Farm boys. The Sea Dogs got back on the winning track, topping Harrisburg 5-4. Dustin Pedroia had a three-run double, Keith Gabbard (3-0) picked up the victory and Cla Meredith (25th consecutive minor league save) saved it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Wells Well (W 8-0) Season 9-6

"Fatman Returns" or some other meaningless title as the Sox seized the moment behind eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball by David Wells (2-2) to move to 9-6 and regain a share of first place with Baltimore. Jason Varitek added a three-run homer off former Sox Bruce Chen.

The Sox shutdown hot-hitting Brian Roberts and Miggy Tejada en route to the rout.

This was the second consecutive shutout appearance for Wells, who lowered his ERA to 3.51, and has allowed only 2 walks in more than 25 innings.

Matt Clement faces Oriole ace Rodrigo Lopez (2-0, 2.66) today.

Stat mongering. The Sox road record went to 3-4 versus their 6-2 home slate thus far. Although the Sox have been productive lately, only two regulars, Varitez and Johnny Damon are hitting over .300, so even better days could be ahead.

The Sox are second in runs scored (the penultimate stat after wins), third in OPS and tied for second in home runs. They are 12th in stolen bases, to which we all will recall the importance of Dave Roberts.

They are 6th in ERA, 5th in strikeouts per nine innings, and fifth in strikeout to walk ratio. Unbelieveably, Minnesota has a strikeout to walk ratio of 5.88, that must lead the history of baseball, even at this juncture.

On the quality start watch, the Sox are now 7-2 in games with quality starts, and 2-4 in games with non-quality starts.

Alumni field. Does it really matter how Sox alumni are doing for their new teams? No. But we watch anyway, right? Nomar Garciaparra (is it true teammates called him "Glass" in the minors(?)) was carried from the field with a severe groin injury. Nomar has been hitting .157 with limited production thus far in a contract year. Derek Lowe is 1-1 with a sparkling 1.27 ERA for the streaking Dodgers while Pedro is 1-0 with a very solid 2.45 ERA for the surprising Mets. Dave Roberts is hitting .286 for the Padres in very limited action and Doug ("ballhawk") Mientkiewicz is hitting .275 with a .776 OPS for the Mets.

Farm Boys. The Portland Sea Dogs fell to 11-2 losing 6-5 to Binghamton. Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia both got the collar and Manny DelCarmen got roughed up for two homers in the first two frames.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pen runs out (L4-3) Season 8-6

Nobody wins everyday, not even the World Champions, not even with more power from Manny Ramirez (5) and David Ortiz (4). Even a quality start (7 innings, one run) from Bronson Arroyo wasn´t enough as Embree and Foulke left the cold cuts on the table and the Jays ate the Sox lunch. Arroyo departed with a 3-1 lead, and the pen ran dry, yielding a pair of Toronto runs in the 8th and the game winner in the 9th. Boo-freaking-hoo.

Fourteen games into the season, few patterns have emerged. Starting pitching seems to have righted itself with the return of Curt Schilling, and the ´new dudes´as the Patriots say (Wells and Clement) seem to be acquitting themselves pretty much as expected. The offense looks to produce baserunners and power, while matching them will determine the extent of offensive success. The bullpen has been inconsistent thus far. While the start hasn´t been fantastic, it hasn´t inspired panic either.

Wake up. The Sox announced an extension for graybeard knuckler Tim Wakefield, the AARP representative on the team. Wakefield, who has just about seen it all during his ten year Sox career, agreed to an unspecified extension. It looks as though the starting pitching is relatively set for the next couple of years, presuming reasonable health and contributions down the line from over-the-horizon types Jon Lester and Jon Papelbon.

Farm boys. The quick view comes from http://www.soxprospects.com/ Hanley Ramirez is ripping the cover off the ball and has to be viewed as "hair apparent" to Johnny Damon. As the Sox try to establish payroll sanity, they are going to need to have some lower priced regulars to supplement the high-priced spread (see New England Patriots playbook). Dustin Pedroia, the diminutive second baseman with the pillow-soft hands is also pounding the ball at Portland. Less heralded third baseman Jared Sandberg (Ryne´s nephew) was named Eastern League Player of the Week. Papelbon is 2-1 and lefty Lester is struggling a bit with an ERA of 4.85 but has a stunning K-BB ratio of 19-4 in 13 innings. http://www.seadogs.com/stats.html

Lower down the food chain, Anibel Sanchez was Carolina League Pitcher of the Week at Wilmington.

http://minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&did=milb&cid=533 Meanwhile at Pawtucket, Kevin Youkilis is struggling while Justin Sherrod and Kelly Shoppach have produced. Generally, most observers view AA as the "launching pad" and AAA as the "taxi squad" for players who can fill in immediately for injuries or special situations. Yeah, that´s an oversimplification, but not outlandishly so.

For the first time in many years, the Sox seem to be drafting and/or developing players with a real opportunity to make a difference. As noted previously, the only home grown contributor on the roster now is Trot Nixon. The last home grown pitching prospect we´ve had was Casey Fossum, part of the Schilling heist.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Home Cooking (W12-7) Season 8-5

Curt Schilling picked up his first win of the season with ten strikeouts and five runs allowed in five innings as the Sox extended their home record to 6-1. Manny Ramirez continued his tear with a pair of homers to move into a tie for third in the homer lead and second in RBI.

Stat notes. The Sox are now 3rd in runs scored and second in OPS (.805) trailing league-leading Baltimore. The Orioles, along with Cleveland were my sleeper picks before the season.

The Sox moved into a first place tie with Baltimore and are now 6th in ERA in the AL.

Quality starts 7, record 6-1
Non quality starts 6, record 2-4

Baseline expectations for the newbie - QS winning percentage around 70%, non QS expected about 30%

...anyone going onto the playing field or in any way interfering with play will be subject to arrest and prosecution or losing their season tickets. The Sox did the right thing by pulling season tickets from fans who had 1) contacted or 2) doused Yankee right fielder Gary Sheffield. Admittedly, Sheffield is a hothead Juice Guy, but he´s entitled to play the position without being assaulted.

If Yankee fans had done something similar to Trot Nixon, can we imagine our outrage?

Meanwhile, the Yankees broke their losing streak and George Steinbrenner can take off the straight jacket. As the saying goes, can you imagine being a four-year old in New York and having to grow up without having celebrated a championship, yet?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Winning Never Gets Old (W 3-1) Season 7-5)

The quality start mantra came true again, as the Sox moved to 7 quality starts in 12 outings with a 6-1 record during those games. This time it was Contract Year Tim Wakefield coming through, abetted by a Renteria homer (Fenway does affect your power).

Did the World Championship season dull your interest in the Sox? Didn´t think so. Why else would you be here?

I ask myself which is better, the nuclear attack of sustained offense or the synchronization of a thousand merciless woodpeckers drumming enemy lumber? The answer of course is both.

In O´Nan´s and King´s Faithful, they recite the tale of woe of our sister team, the Hanshin Tigers, the misery loves company tale of playing second fiddle to the Japanese Evil Empire, the Yomiuri Giants. Sure enough, last night I meet a couple from Japan, who are baseball fans, of the Yomiuri Giants and Matsui in particular. They speak little English but understand the Tigers-Red Sox connection. Baseball is universal.

Winning never gets old, anymore than crack addicts tire of the high it brings them. Do you care about the Patriots less because they´ve escaped the woodpecker or have less interest in the Celtics now that they can compete on a regular basis with more youth and athleticism?

Stat-Head section. Yankee opening season payroll, 205 million dollars, no wonder George isn´t happy. The Sox have climbed up to 4th in runs scored and second in OPS as the ´Moneyball´approach starts to yield dividends. The Rangers lead the league in homers, but the Sox only trail by three (Weaveresque pitching and three-run homers a proven methodology). The Sox are 5th in wins, 10th in WHIP, 7th in ERA, 8th in K/BB ratio and 7th in K/9 innings. The team with the statistical anomaly now is Seattle with the low K/9 and K/BB ratios but second lowest ERA in the AL.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Manny Happy Returns *W 6-2 Season 6-5

Another day of firsts, with Clement earning his first win, accompanied by two Manny homers, including a grand slam.

Four consecutive wins calm the animus of The Nation, as the "football mentality" that afflicts us requires us to dissect each victory and loss.

Steven King in "Faithful" reminds us that we "hate what we fear, and sensible Red Sox fans fear the Yankees." The hangover of victory from 2004 continues, gradually eroding the fear of failure transcending generations of Sox fandom.

The Sox hold a two game lead over the Yankees, who previously dominated the Orioles, but seem baffled bz the Baltimore Birds of 2005.

Fenway Frank. Does anyone believe that the 275 buck a pop seats will hold down the cost of attendance for the riff-raff? There is no truth to the rumor that John Henry will replace Grant on the fifty...

Holy visual impairment, Batman! Brian Roberts, the banjo hitting second sacker of the Orioles leads the league in hitting and home runs.

Quality Starts. 6, Win 5, lose 1, non-quality starts, win 1, lose 4. A pattern seems to be emerging.

Stat-heads. The Sox have moved up to 8th in ERA at 4.34, and 4th in runs scored. Obviously, statistical reliability depends on sample size as well as the data set used.

Today, Sox killer Scott Kazmir faces Wakefield, let us hope tis a sweater for Kaymir...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Book Review WATCHING BASEBALL

Jerry Remy has done a terrific job throughout his baseball life, from an extensive major league career and 1978 All-Star appearance to broadcasting since 1988. Watching Baseball gives Remy´s insights into how to watch and anticipate the daily race that comprises baseball´s annual marathon.

He reviews a number of fundamentals about hitting, pitching, fielding, and baserunning. He also shares a little bit about the psychology of the game, the rise through the minors, and the relationships that players and management have.

Occasionally, he gives great insight into ´behind the scenes´insight such as Dick Allen saying รก slump is only as long as your last at-bat´or that Cal Ripken didn´t have great positional play early in his career. But most of the time he paints with broad strokes, yielding information best suited to your novice to intermediate fan.

For those who have played higher level baseball (college or semi-professional) there probably isn´t enough meat to go on the ample bones about the framework of the game. For example, if you know the difference between run-and-hit and hit-and-run, then you might not get a lot out of this book. If you want to know about the physics of the curveball and the Bernoulli principle, then this is not your read.

He does present some good statistical tables supporting arguments about pitchers versus hitters counts, and how various contemporary Sox players fare under those situations.

This almost feels like a prequel to something bigger, work that could bridge the gap between superficial knowledge and the clubhouse intrigue of Ball Four. If you´re a baseball diehard or lifer, then you probably better with Men at Work or The Head Game. This isn´t a knock on Remy, but rather a comment on his target audience. If you want a broader overview of the fundamentals of baseball situational and positional play, then Watching Baseball might work for you.

All´s Wells (W 10-0) Season 5-5

Out of the cellar and the home cooking sizzles with a shut out and double digit victory.

You don´t see this. LHP shutout in Fenway.

Running totals.

Quality starts - 5, 4-1
Non QS - 5, 1-4

TEAM STATS. Pitching 9th in ERA (4.87), 11th in WHIP, Batting 7th in runs, 9th in OPS.

I didn´t see the game so it would be silly to say much about it.

Did read Management Secrets of the New England Patriots, by Jim Lavin, an astonishing book about success.

An anecdote- about Rodney Harrison driving his mom´s beat up car and being humiliated in high school, vowing never to be in that position again, working to ensure success so that he could get his mom a house and a car.

I hope to read Jerry Remy´s book today.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Messterpiece Theater (W 8-5) Season 4-5

The Sox captured the rubber game of the series and their first series of the season, defeating New York 8-5.

After an uneventful and depressing game Wednesday, the Sox and Yankees returned to Fenway under the lights in the rubber game of the series. You never know when you'll get a pitchers' duel at Fenway. That didn't come tonight with Randy Johnson against Bronson Arroyo.

The Sox struck early with a two-run shot by Jay Payton into the centerfield seats, and the Yanks got a run back in the third. Edgar Renteria also got his first Fenway tater with a two-run Monstah job in the third. The fun got started in the fourth as wildness by Arroyo and 'three blind mice' umpiring by plate umpire Greg Gibson resulted in a two-out full count walk to Gary Sheffield that opened the floodgates to a four-run inning. Both teams objected throughout to Gibson's inconsistency. Ultimately Sox Skipper Terry Francona got tossed for arguing balls and strikes. It was Francona's first ejection of the young season.

The Sox tied the game in the 4th on Varitek's 3rd homer of the season into the Monster's Lair, and Arroyo was lifted in favor of Embree in the 6th.

Randy Johnson worked seven innings in tonight's game, leaving with a no decision. Those maniacs predicting the Big Unit would win thirty regular season games this year are working on a pretty tight schedule.

The Sox elected to bring in Foulke in the eighth in one of those Bill James 'key appearance' situations.

You never see this. On Jason Varitek's insurance two-run eighth inning triple, a fan appeared to graze Sheffield while both reached for the ball. Sheffield took a swing at the fan before throwing the ball in. The fan was ejected, and we'll see whether Yankee ass-kisser Bob Watson hands out a suspension, however token, to Sheffield.

You never see this, part deux. Absolutely fabulous screenshots comparing Derek Jeter's walkoff homer at Yankee Stadium to his inning-ending flyout at Fenway. Jerry Remy's analysis complemented the pictures perfectly.

Edgar Renteria complemented his first inaugural Sox homer with a left-centerfield wall shot to plate Damon with the go-ahead run on the hit-and-run in the eighth. Here's hoping that Manny will at least take a shot behind the runner. False hope. Damn. Predictably, Joe Torre elected to follow that up by walking David Ortiz.

Foulke had no command in the ninth, loading the bases and throwing over 50 pitches in two innings before finally getting pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra to foul out to end the game.

Sox profile. Jay Payton had two decent seasons in Colorado and San Diego with OPS of .866 and .761, not so bad for a potential fourth outfielder. During the past four seasons, he's had only 22 stolen bases, so he isn't a Dave Roberts clone. He does provide reasonable defense and a bit more offensive pop.

Sox notes. Arroyo's outing was the fifth non-quality start of the season. If scoring is about getting runners on base and bringing them in with power, then pitching is the converse. The Sox currently rank 12th in WHIP ratio, with a substandard 1.52 walks and hits per inning pitched.
Add the Sox ranking last in OPS allowed (.840) and it's easy to understand the early season struggles. Fortunately the pitchers have been stingier with runners in scoring position, with a 1.33 WHIP and OPS of .719.

Quality starts 4, record 3-1
Non-quality starts 5, record 1-4

Life's a Pitch. Sandy Koufax echoed the teachings of college coaches: "I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it." What he meant was that effectiveness can entail conservation of energy as hitters make poor contact against good pitches. Strikeouts aren't everything.

Peter Gammons of ESPN reports that Theo (Yoda) Epstein's speaking and endorsement money goes to charity. Kudos to the young GM Master.
Yoda would say "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Chilled (L5-2) Season 3-5

Most of you probably saw the game, so I'll deliver the Letterman 10 reasons not to watch this game.

10. April games are too damned cold. The only good thing about that is your beer stays cold.

9. The Yankees and the Red Sox shouldn't be playing 6 games in April. That's not right.

8. The curse of no Kevin Youkilis, Billy Beane's Greek God of Walks. Youkilis was sent down and Blaine Neal lives. Blaine must have incriminating photos of Master Theo.

7. Christopher Trotman Nixon may have lost weight, but not any skill, as he has an early season OPS of 1.048 including 2 homers and 7 RBI. Unfortunately the effort got wasted tonight.

6. If you didn't watch tonight, you wouldn't have seen Curt Schilling (tiring in the 6th, give up homeruns to Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams.

5. You also wouldn't know that Manny Ramirez had the longest streak of homerless games to open his career.

4. You could have saved your money to watch Randy Johnson pitch against lead guitarist Bronson Arroyo tomorrow. Let's hope that Bronson can play a tune on the Yankees.

3. If you hadn't watched tonight, you would think that Edgar Renteria remained below the (Mario) Mendoza line. Was it Mendoza who had the line 'bench me or trade me?'

2. Absent Sean McDonough, we have a key deficit of the 'INANE BANTER' so essential to the baseball marathon.

1. You never see this. Tonight's game was remarkable for the total absence of anything remarkable at all. There was a deficit of great fielding plays, key hitting by the Sox, any late rallies, or any apparent fan shenanigans.

Baseball Factoid. The pitching rubber was initially designed to be 60'6" from the plate, but the plans were read incorrectly.

Running totals from the useless stat department. Games 8, quality starts - 4, record 3-1
non-quality starts - 4, record 0-4

It's always about the pitching. "The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field." - Earl Weaver

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Better a Day Off than an Off Day

What do baseball players do on open dates? For the Sox players, after Spring Training and an opening road trip, I imagine that most are home with their families. Ballplayers are famous for going to the movies (although a few wouldn't for fear that it would affect their eyesight), and most of the Yankees must have seen the sights in Boston by now. Probably not too many would be in line to see Fever Pitch.

Asked about whether he would be wearing his Sox World Series ring very often, Curt Schilling reported (on WEEI today) that his daughter took his ring for 'show-and-tell' today. Pretty cool day at school, huh? Let's hope that the ace has something for show-and-tell tomorrow. By the way, Schilling also predicted that both Hideki Matsui and David Ortiz would have big years because of a determination to take chances, making adjustments to get better.

Statistical anomalies. Ichiro has followed up his fantastic spring by hitting .464 thus far, and courtesy of the Sox, Eric Hinske and Gregg Zaun lead the league in RBIs with 10 and 9 respectively. Scott Posednik of the White Sox and Carl Crawford of the D-Rays each have four stolen bases, and Dmitri Young (Detroit) has an OPS of 1.403, thanks to his three homer day. David Ortiz is third at 1.218.

On the mound, Johan Santana leads the league in strikeouts, followed by Jeremy Bonderman, Randy Johnson, Matt Clement, Freddy Garcia, and Rodrigo Lopez. Of pitchers with at least two appearances, the ERA leaders are Lopez (0.64) and Tim Wakefield (1.32). Bob Gibson's 1968 ERA of 1.12 isn't likely to be challenged. For those who need a reminder, ERA is calculated by multiplying earned runs allowed by nine and dividing by innings pitched.

Doug Pappas, in the 2004 Baseball Prospectus has some fascinating comments about the vicissitudes of pro baseball teams. He reminds us that in 1991 that Oakland had the highest payroll, and that the Pirates won their division three years running. Pappas creates something called the Marginal Payroll/Marginal Wins using the formula:

((winning pct. - .300)/162)/(payroll - (28 x MLB minimum))

He explains that the .300 comes from estimating that a replacement player team would go .300 (not 0-162) and assumes a 25 players roster and three player disabled list. He then classifies players by either low or high Marginal Payroll to Marginal Wins ratio compared to their record. He examines MLB from 1995 to 2003. He explains that a low MP/MW ratio and good record equals good management and that a high MP/MW ratio with poor record suggests poor management. A high MP/MW with good record means buying wins, and a low MP/MW with poor record means undercapitalization (or ownership stinginess).

The results aren't entirely expected. Teams like Florida, Oakland, and Minnesota trended better, and teams like the Cubs, Orioles, Tigers, and Mets trended worse. The Braves spent more and won more, and the Yankees weren't necessarily the high rollers per win. I don't know the originator, but the saying goes, "money can't play." I guess the aging Celtics were a great example of a team that aged itself out of competition.

Fantasy player of the week. Pat Burrell, Philadelphia, with four homers, seventeen RBI, and a 1.446 OPS in eight games.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sox Bloody Yanks 8-1 Game 7, (3-4)

The Red Sox opened their home campaign with a convincing 8-1 victory over the AL runnerup, the New York Yankees.

Tim Wakefield (1-0) pitched seven innings without allowing a run, lowering his ERA to 1.32. While Wake provided the interest, batterymate Doug Mirabelli added the dividends, powering a two-run shot over the monster in the second inning to put the Sox up for good. Following Wakefield, Matt Mantei and Keith Foulke completed the rout with two solid innings of scoreless relief.

The Sox touched up Mike Mussina, (0-1, 4.91) for seven runs, four earned in five innings. The thirty-six year-old Mussina was 12-9 with an ERA of 4.59 in 2004 and allowed 178 hits in 164 innings last season.

You don't see this. The Red Sox unfurled a massive championship banner engulfing the entire left field wall during pregame ceremonies. The Sox also handed out World Series rings to players, including Derek Lowe and Dave Roberts who returned for the ceremonies. Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, Richard Seymour, and Tedy Bruschi, no strangers to championships, tossed out the ceremonial first pitch.

Warning, tasteless joke ahead. President Bill Clinton and Hillary attended opening day at Camden Yards. Just before the game started, the President grabbed the First Lady by the neck, and shoved her from the stands onto the field. Alertly, a Secret Service agent whispered in the President's ear, "Mr. President, you're supposed to throw out the First Pitch".

Reality Check notes. Manager Terry Francona returned to lead the Sox into his second home opener. Before the game Francona acknowledged that perhaps he needed to put things into better perspective and relax more.

Managing the Red Sox can definitely be hazardous to your health, although a few former Sox skippers appear to have left unscathed. Kevin Kennedy seems to have a sense of humor and Joe Morgan left with his honor intact.

Baseball insight of the day. My college coach, Loyal Park, knew a phenomenal amount about baseball, and as little about people. He taught first basemen to position themselves in such a way to impede a hitter's turn subtly to make it more difficult for him to get a double.

Reading List.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/rivals-in-exile-way-too-early/ The Hardball Times looks at the Sox-Yankees rivalry.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/v/vitiejo01.shtml Born today, Stoneham's Joe Vitiello.

http://baseball1.com/bb-data/bbd-bj1.html Bill James' baseball primer. This is definitely evidence-based baseball, as James is Red Sox senior baseball advisor. Of special note are the relationships between minor league and major league performance, the association between ballpark and production (see Nomar Garciaparra), opinions about college versus high school prospects, and the importance of defense to pitching results.

Baseball quotes, from baseball-almanac.com

"Bad ballplayers make good managers, not the other way around."- Earl Weaver

"Baseball has been good to me since I quit trying to play it." - Whitey Herzog

"Don't let yourself get beat by Superman." - Sparky Anderson

"If you don't have outstanding relief pitching, you might as well piss on the fire and call the dogs." - Whitey Herzog

"Baseball is a game, yes. It is also a business. But what it most truly is, is disguised combat. For all its gentility, its almost leisurely pace, baseball is violence under wraps." - Willie Mays

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Baseball Stories

Here are a couple of stories people that I found interesting. The first was inspired by David Wells yielding three consecutive homers. Somebody heard this story on the radio:

"A Cincinnatti pitcher had yielded back-to-back-to-back homers, and a cannon had been shot off after each homer. The pitching coach came out to discuss it with the pitcher who was visibly upset. The pitcher cursed and muttered something about not needing time to collect his thoughts. The pitching coach replied, "I was just giving the guy time to reload."

The second story is a brief story told to me by former Red Sox equipment manager Vin Orlando. Vin was a great guy; he gave me an All-Star Wally that helped break the curse. Sadly he passed away a few years ago. Vin said he was the first Sox employee to greet Ted Williams off the bus from San Diego when he arrived to Spring Training in Scottsdale, Arizona. Vin gave him a tour, and Williams noticed a white house behind the right field fence. Ted asked if anyone had ever hit a ball over the house. Vin told him no. The Splinter told him that he would, and sure enough, he did.

My late father thought he knew a bargain when he saw one. While I was away in the Navy back in the late 1980s, he came upon some of my childhood baseball cards, including a 1966 Mickey Mantle Topps card, in excellent condition. Naturally, he took it to a dealer, sold it, and told me he got a great deal, thirty-five dollars. I didn't really have the heart to tell him that Mantle cards were highly valued by collectors. Mantle cards go for anywhere from about 50 bucks to 250 bucks on EBAY, but as a childhood baseball memory, the card would have been priceless to me. I still miss my Dad and hope you take a minute to remember or call yours, if you can.

O-Dog Days (L 4-3) 2005: 2-4

Canada Dry. The Sox lost the second series of the year, 4-3 at Rogers Centre, despite a ninth inning comeback.

The good news - Edgar Renteria keyed the ninth inning rally with a two-out, two-strike opposite field single. The bad news - once again, the bullpen fell apart, this time Mike Timlin who allowed a one-out opposite field double to Orlando Hudson scoring Reid Johnson.

Yet another day, the Sox just didn't do the little things necessary to win, hitting behind the runner, taking the base when opportune.

Matt Clement's quality start went for naught, largely due to relatively weak offense.

The Sox return home for their first homestand of the season, maybe a little home cooking is just what they need. The home opener will pit Tim Wakefield against Mike Mussina and the Yankees. Curt Schilling is scheduled to face Jaret Wright on Wednesday, and Bronson Arroyo tangles with Randy Johnson on Thursday. Welcome back, Terry Francona.

Stat Notes: Last year the Red Sox hit for an .883 OPS at Friendly Fenway and scored 517 runs, an average of 6.4 runs per game. On the road, they had a .783 OPS and scored 432 runs, 5.3 runs per game.

You never see that. Today's 'unique' action was anything but, the Ramirez two-out steal of third.

Down on the Farm. www.MaineToday.com profiles the Sox pitching farmhands on the Portland Sea Dogs radar screen. http://sports.mainetoday.com/seadogs/stories/050406dogspitchers.shtml

Do the Right Thing

We hear about locker rooms with signs "play like a champion". The writing doesn't appear to be on the Red Sox wall.

Does anyone feel that somehow the 'sense of urgency' is lacking? Jerry Remy gave a handwaving argument why Kevin Millar shouldn't care about hitting behind the runner (after an Ortiz double) because he might as well try to hit a home run. At least to me, that's like saying that because Antoine Walker isn't a great free throw shooter, that he shouldn't work on it.

Johnny Damon failed to take third on a short hopper to third base, that can only be described as a concentration lapse. That may have cost the Sox a run via a sacrifice fly. Manny Ramirez, of all people, gets an uncontested steal of third. Either Ramirez makes a terrific heads up move or it's a gross violation of don't make the first or the last out of an inning at third base.

Meanwhile, Matt Clement shows off the 'frustration factor', as he has trouble throwing strikes, getting into constant trouble. I believe that the statistic is something like 60 percent of leadoff walks lead to a run. Clement has terrific stuff but he is leaving a lot of balls up and in, as he appears to be opening up with his body too soon and his arm can't catch up. Again, maybe it's just me, but he also doesn't appear to follow through consistently (yes, I did pitch in college, but not effectively).

There's no reason to push the panic button but Red Sox Nation grows restless for quality baseball. Do we detect a bit of a hangover from last season? Welcome to the land of Bill Belichick; last year is last year.

The Art of Pitching

Few sports initiate action from the defensive side of the ball. Baseball is one. Nothing happens until the pitcher starts play. Pitching demands a different approach than most sport activities, because more than anything else, it is about deception, not necessarily brute athleticism. Mickey Lolich presented adequate testimony to the difference between athleticism and pitching prowess. If hitting is timing, pitching is about disruption of timing.

Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller preaches three concepts: throw strikes, work fast, and change speeds. Changing speeds disrupts hitters' timing. Major league hitters, even with only 4/10th of a second to evaluate and swing, will catch up with a straight fastball. Witness Matt Mantei's struggles thus far.

A number of extremely successful pitchers, present and past, relied on their ability to change speeds, more than to overpower hitters. For the Sox, Keith Foulke has the 'Bugs Bunny' changeup that seems to stop in midair. Doug Jones, recently, and Stu Miller, in bygone days had similar styles.

Pitchers like Pedro Martinez or Sandy Koufax have multiple 'out pitches', stuff that can be thrown in any count and any situation. Martinez' effectiveness dwindled when he lost enough off his fastball to reduce him from nearly unhittable to merely mortal. His late inning struggles seemed to me to be the result of his ball 'straightening out' with time. The Orioles' Jim Palmer had the ability to work both sides of the plate with both his fastball and slider, taking away the hitter's ability to choose what he would 'give' the pitcher.

Varying arm angles and deliveries presents other alternatives for pitchers. Luis Tiant had the ability to come at hitters overhand, three-quarters, or sidearm, as well as having the peculiar 'back to the hitter' windup. Pitches move differently depending on the arm angle employed. Generally, the over-the-top delivery has less movement than the ball thrown three-quarters or sidearm. Pitchers can also alter their location on the rubber to change the angle to the hitter.

Pitchers can alter ball movement by throwing with the seams (sinking action), across the seams ('rising action' or failure to sink), or alter pressure with their fingers to get the ball to run away from or in on hitters (e.g. the cut fastball). Obviously, specialty pitches (knuckleball, split finger fastball) capitalize on altering ball rotation (less with the fingertip ball-the knuckler thrown with the fingertips) to deceive the hitter.

Catchers and pitchers often study hitters' stances to predict what might be effective. For example, consider a hitter like Carl Everett, with a closed stance, standing close to the plate. These hitters are generally unconcerned about the inside pitch, particularly the fastball, but may be more vulnerable to offspeed pitches and deliveries away. It is said that if Carl Yastrzemski expected a fastball, he would be saying to himself, 'be quick, be quick' and if he was looking offspeed he would say, 'stay back'. Catchers could literally read his lips. If a hitter stands at the front of the box, he is more concerned with offspeed pitches and at the back, looks for a split second longer to deal with hard stuff.

The 'natural corner' for the righthanded pitcher is the inside corner to the righthanded batter. The natural movement of the righthanders pitch is down and in. Generally, pitchers find it more difficult to control the other half of the plate from their natural corner.

Righthanded hitters generally prefer the ball up (waist), while lefthanders are more often lowball hitters. Similarly, because lefties most often see righthanded pitching (down and away), they usually are capable of handling that pitch. You will usually see righthanded pitchers try to get 'under their hands' with hard stuff (fastballs, cutters, sliders) inside and preferably hard stuff up and in (watch how they approach David Ortiz, or remember how they pitched Mo Vaughn). Detailed advanced scouting (the strike zone divided into 9 smaller zones) also allows objective assessment of player strengths and weaknesses.

From a hitter's perspective, there is nothing harder to handle than overpowering fastballs up and in. If a pitcher is blessed with that type of stuff, adding offspeed pitches, particularly breaking stuff down and away, makes hitting a formidable challenge.

I hope you find these generalities interesting while you watch this season and seasons going forward.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Miller Time?

Tom Tippett's Diamond Mind site (www.diamond-mind.com) always has a wealth of baseball information. Tom runs the seasons projections (100 seasons worth of play, three seasons worth of statistics used) with his text-based program (Diamond Mind Baseball) and projected the Yankees (97 wins) to top the Sox by a game, with Minnesota and Oakland also reaching the AL playoffs.

The importance of winning early in the season is also discussed in another article http://www.diamond-mind.com/articles/espn9809.htm.

Observations on the early season are preliminary and obvious. Absent Curt Schilling, the starting pitching has been mediocre at best, with two quality starts and three poor starts. The bullpen hasn't been any more consistent, with Neal and Halama just plain shaky, Foulke unable to find his groove thus far, and Timlin and Embree average to above adequate.

The Schilling and Wade Miller watch will be moving to the front burner.

We know that Manny Ramirez will hit (.300, 35, 120 if no injuries) and the rightfield production should increase presuming that Nixon stays healthy. Nixon appears to have lost at least 15 pounds. Hmmm.

In the infield, Renteria has gotten off to a very slow start both offensively and defensively, while the remainder of the infield has produced about what we can expect. David Ortiz appears poised to follow up his breakout year with sustained productivity.

Matt Clement goes Sunday as the Sox attempt to capture the rubber game of the series before returning home for Opening Day.

Down on the farm, the PawSox have gotten off to a slow start while the talent-laden Sea Dogs (Hanley Ramirez, Brandon Moss, Jon Papelbon, Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, et cetera) are 3-0. Abe Alvarez (the very poor man's Mark Buerhle) got rocked in his first AAA start of the season. For the first time in years, the Sox appear poised to have prospects one to two years away from possible big league action.

Examination of the current Sox roster shows only Trot Nixon as a regular contributor and Kevin Youkilis off the bench.

http://www.pawsox.com/
http://www.seadogs.com/news.html

Game 5: L12-5 (Quantity Start ) Season (2-3)

The Sox don't die easily, but they died nevertheless, in a day game following Friday's near nightmare at the Rogers Centre. The pitching matchup didn't favor the Sox with Roy Halliday facing David Wells. Wells (0-2) puked up a quantity start including back-to-back-to-back jacks by Corey Koskie, Vernon Wells, and Shea Hilenbrand. As Gary Peters used to say, Wells had the worst kind of wildness, "wild in the strike zone".

Trailing 5-1, the Sox pulled within one in the sixth on a titanic David Ortiz three-run homer to dead center field, and got even in the seventh when an Eric Hinske throw pulled shortstop John McDonald off the bag. While trying to complete a 3-6-3 twin-killing, McDonald had to reach to the right field side and this time, the umpire didn't call the 'neighborhood play' a routine out.

Wells started the seventh, yielding a leadoff double, and Matt Mantei couldn't put out the fire as the Jays took the lead for good 6-5. Mantei, John Halama, and Blaine Neal made their case for innings surrendering 6 runs in the Toronto eighth, including a grand slam by Gregg Zaun, who now has 40 career homers.

You never see that. The three consecutive homers by the Jays.

If Brad Mills were to be asked about the Sox execution today, he'd have to paraphrase John McKay's line, "I'm in favor of it."

Quote of the day, from Trader magazine (Alan Schwarz)- "If you want to sign a free-agent starting pitcher who will yield as few runs as possible, the most illuminating statistic is, strangely enough, not earned run average. Believe it or not, according to exhaustive regression analysis done by the Red Sox (and many others), a pitcher's rates of strikeouts and walks have a much higher correlation to future ERA - even more than ERA itself."

Did you know? John Brittain summarizes Curt Schilling's place in MLB pitching history at The Hardball Times. http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/under-the-radar/

Statistics are for losers. After four games, the Sox were tied for 5th in the AL with 18 runs and were 11th in ERA and 13th in WHIP ratio at 1.50.

Underrated

Statistics have a special allure for baseball fans. Many of us know of baseball's Pythagorean Theorem and Moneyball introduced many fans to statistically-based player analysis. But statistics don't tell everything, especially about our idiosyncratic devotion to certain players, past and present. So, in a departure from statistics-based analysis, I present my 'wish list' of Red Sox acquisitions that aren't going to happen from around the American League. Well, actually, I will use some stats, because I can't help myself. Because we have arrived in the new 'positive attitude' era in Boston, I'm not going to make any negative comments in this column.

Baltimore Orioles: Tough choice with two logical candidates, Melvin Mora and B.J. Ryan. First, who wouldn't want a guy with quintuplets? Mora must want to play two everyday, just to avoid diaper changing. As for Ryan, a strikeout pitcher like his namesake. Pick: Ryan.

Toronto Blue Jays: We've got the Remdawg, and Toronto has the O-Dawg, slick fielding 2B Orlando Hudson, who hums the ESPN Da-da-da, Da-da-da while trying to make highlight plays.

Tampa Bay D-Rays: Speed kills. Gotta love Carl Crawford. Johnny Damon back to his native Florida and Crawford in center. Nice.

New York Yankees: Okay, so maybe we don't want any Yankee players. I'd bet that Matsui would look pretty good in Sox home whites. A very tough Japanese import...

Minnesota Twins: the easy choices are guys like Johan Santana and Joe Maurer. 23 year-old first baseman Justin Morneau has major power potential, and the Sox need first base solutions long term.

Cleveland Indians: Travis Hafner hit 28 homers and had an OPS of .993 in 2004.

Detroit Tigers: Don't need to check out the roster here. Bonderman, Jeremy Bonderman. Roger Clemens 2. 22 years old, throws hard, throws strikes.

Kansas City Royals: Zack Greinke isn't a big guy, but an ERA under 4 and a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) ratio of 1.17 gets my attention. Plus he's got a 330,500 salary, so that doesn't hurt, either.

Chicago White Sox: I love Mark Buehrle. Great name for 'Hangman' a crafty lefty who knows how to win, having won at least 14 games a season for the past four years.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, USA (LAACUS) - So you don't like the Lakers, maybe you could like the LAACUS. Garrett Anderson, Orlando Cabrera, or K-Rod? I guess I'll take Darin Erstad, another guy in the Nixon mold, plays hard, plays hurt. Trot is a better player, but if he's on the DL, Erstad fills the inspiration gap.

Oakland A's.: Gotta go with a Moneyball player, Nick Swisher. Swisher's a product of the Oakland system who's going to be a staah.

Texas Rangers: Mark Teixeira. He's rightfully our guy, drafted by the Sox but never signed. Pennywise and pound foolish? 25 year-old (As of April 11) switch hitter with a .930 OPS and 38 dingers in 2004. I'd trade Hanley for him.

Seattle Mariners: Ichiro. Is he the best 'average' hitter in baseball? His overall production isn't quite as good as a healthy Trot, but Ichiro has a higher average (.374) against lefties over a three-year span. He steals about thirty bags a year and is a great defender. He paved the way for other Japanese players, who proved they had what it takes to make it in MLB.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Game 4 (2-2). Bush - League? Win 6-5.

The Sox journeyed to Rogers Centre (nee Skydome) to help the Blue Jays open their home schedule. Rogers Centre features a new, more grass-like 'Field Turf' surface.

Things you never see. The Jays opened with promising righthander Dave Bush (the poor man's Alan Sele?) and when he departed, they followed with sidewinder Brandon League. Bush - League?

Whatever became of Homer Bush anyway? The former Yankee prospect and Blue Jay second baseman had his career derailed by nagging injuries, including hip problems.

With manager Terry Francona remaining on the shelf, acting manager Brad Mills sought to extend his winning streak.

Bronson Arroyo pitched six innings yielding 3 hits, a walk, and two runs for a quality start. People 'pooh-pooh' the quality start as a statistic, but it has meaning. A quality start is any start lasting at least six innings and yielding three runs or less. David Smith produces a scholarly treatise on quality starts at Tom Tippett's Diamond Mind Baseball site. http://www.diamond-mind.com/articles/qstart.htm The point is that quality starts produce an almost seventy percent winning percentage, and only a small percentage (about 5 percent) produce 6 inning, 3 run games (4.50 E.R.A.).

Just like old times, the Red Sox provided an Earl Weaver 'two-pack' ninth inning allowing the Blue Jays to score two runs and leave the bases loaded as Keith Foulke showed uncharacteristic wildness. Nevertheless, he closed out the win for Arroyo (1-0).

Nuts and Bolts. The MarK watch. Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same). As of the 8th inning, Mark Bellhorn had fanned an additional 2 times, bringing his total to 9. Unfortunately, he grounded into a double play tonight, making the strikeouts look a lot more palatable. Johnny Damon swiped the Red Sox first base tonight. The Sox had 68 stolen bases in 2004 (11th) with a percentage of 69% (7th), showing how unimportant the collective statistic is. But we all remember how important Dave Roberts' stolen base, so it's no how many so much as when that counts.

Useless facts category. The Hard Rock Cafe above centerfield at Rogers Centre served absolutely the best nachos I've ever had. The Renaissance at Skydome Hotel, built in 1989, has 404 rooms, an indoor pool, and has rooms from 177 US dollars per night. Courtesy of Larry Mahnken at www.thehardballtimes.com , the Yankees fielded an All-Star at every position on opening day, and had 17 active players who have been All-Stars a collective 71 times.

A Quick Look at Cheating

Cheating isn't new in baseball; to an extent, it's an art form. Traditional approaches include stealing signs, 'peeking' (hitters trying to check the catcher's position), and baserunners trying to get an idea about pitch type and location from the catcher. 'Peeking' tends not to work, as it can generate brushbacks, and catchers may give deceptive initial location, as Jason Varitek does.

Baseballs can be 'doctored' by cooling them (reducing distance) and Whitey Ford/Yogi Berra were known for innovative 'cutting' of baseballs. Who can forget the spitter, Vaseline ball, et cetera from the likes of Gaylord Perry, John Wyatt, and others?

Club approaches to 'cheating' include tailoring the field (Tiger Stadium grass growing to prodigious lengths to slow grounders), manicuring foul lines to help or hurt bunting, fluffing the dirt in front of the plate to slow ground balls, and watering the basepaths to hinder speed. The Twins have been accused of adjusting the air conditioning somehow, but I can't imagine that makes a difference.

Non-traditional cheating includes corked bats, corked players (steroids, human growth hormone), and electronic surveillance (the Cleveland Indians were accused of having a surveillance camera for signs). I'll add more as time and memory permit.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Baseball Reading List

You'd like to learn more about baseball, especially the craft of baseball. Some good reads include:

Ball Four, Jim Bouton
October 1964, David Halberstam
Men at Work, George Will
Lords of the Realm, John Helyar
Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame, Bill James
The Head Game, Roger Kahn
The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, Bill James, Rob Neyer
The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James
Baseball's Great Experiment, Jules Tygiel
The Heart of the Order, Thomas Boswell

Sox Club Robo-Closer (W 7-3, season 1-2)

Two games gone into the season, Terry Francona was hospitalized with chest tightness. Francona has a remote history of pulmonary emboli following surgery, and certainly will be evaluated for heart pain as well. We can only hope he had a case of reverse pennant fever, also known as performance anxiety. As I said in another column, managing a bunch of idiots isn't so simple. Sox fans wish Francona a speedy recovery.

Absent the Skipper, first Mate Gilligan, er, Brad Mills led the locals to a stirring 7-3, comeback victory as the Sox handed uber-closer Mariano Rivera another blown save, this time with a defeat cherry on top. Three hits, three walks, and a timely A-Rod error led to a super-sized crooked number as the Sox pushed across five runs in the ninth.

Tim Wakefield produced a quality start for the Sox, and Mike Timlin picked up the Sox first victory of the year. Edgar Renteria got off the schneid with a key two-run RBI single in the ninth, getting those ducks off the pond. If the adage of you win 60, you lose 60, and what happens in the other 42 determines your season, the Sox lost 1, and split 1-1 in 'the other'.

The Sox outhit the Yankees 14-4 in today's meaningless statistical entry. "Basehit or No-hit" Mark Bellhorn solidified the pole position in the strikeout race with seven after three games, but is hitting .417.

Today's 'you don't see that' feature, count Rivera's three walks. Usually, it's boom, boom, boom with the hard fast ball inside and the cutter away, but one wonders whether the Sox have gotten inside Mo's head.

The Sox head next to Toronto for a date with Canadian Club.

Baseball education of the day: pitchers and catchers use a variety of indicators for the signs. My favorite: the first signal is the indicator, for example, two fingers means that the next sign will be the 'real' sign. One finger down first means fastball, although you can also call for the heater with a sequence like 2-1-1-2 or 3-2-1-2.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Sports Pet Peeves

Originally published at www.uwritesports.com

Having advanced deep into middle age, I can't help but know more answers than there are questions. Small children even look inquisitively at me and point. Unfortunately, they never ask the really important questions.Although we live in the City of Champions, formerly known as The Hub, that hardly insulates us from pockets of sports folly. I'm sure you have your own list, but I'll start us off.

1. Blatantly, patently offensive hometown officiating. Gene Hackman pretty much covered it in Hoosiers, but it's become an art form unto itself in the NBA.

2a. Shot selection from hell. I know that Raef LaFrentz shoots 36% on three-pointers, but why is it that I've seen him make three this year and miss seventy seven? Do they count his shots during practice as well? (Illinois, you should read this)

2b. Seven foot tall guys not named Dirk who think they should make a living shooting three-point shots. Brad Lohaus, Travis Knight, Raef LaFrentz, and Shaquille O'Neal-three of these guys are kind of alike, and belong on Sesame Street. One is a real NBA center. Raef, get in the paint.

3. Timeouts in the NBA that allow the ball to be advanced to half court. I'm in favor of allowing the ball to be advanced directly underneath the other teams' basket. Makes about as much sense.

4. Bill Cowher. The angst on his snarling face just nauseates me. Take your medicine.

5. Abominable free throw shooting. I'll excuse Shaq, because his hands must be so big, it feels like shooting a grape. High school kids think that all that 'And One' stuff is basketball. Put 'em on the line and it's Mystery Science Theater 3000'.

6. Guys who constantly insult John Madden and Joe Morgan. Madden and Morgan know more about their sports in their little finger than most of their critics in their supersized-ego brains.

7. Nitwit radio. On the morning after the NCAA Championship game, which was competitive and hard-fought, we have to listen to Right Wing radio , with the apotheosis of Anne Coulter. Does Anne know anything about hoop? If so, she's welcome on the radio. I actually had to put on the "Fountains of Wayne CD' to hear 'All Kinds of Time'. At least the song is about football.

8. Mel Kiper. Actually, I'm just jealous because he has more hair than I do, as does the average onion.

9. Jerry Remy calling runs 'points', as in put another point on the board. Love the RemDawg, but stop calling runs points.

10. Truly, madly, deeply outrageous college sports fans. Okay, so I went to Harvard, and we haven't won anything except debate competitions. We can't even win Presidential elections anymore. But there needs to be a March Madness tournament for the most obnoxious fans. Number one seeds: Notre Dame, Nebraska, Duke, and Michigan.

11. Bad Mascots. The Phillie Phanatic is cool, the Chicken an icon, but Wally scores low.

12. The LaRussa Doctrine. We need a maximum number of lefty-righty switches in an inning. Tony LaRussa (a genius on the downside, absent great players) pioneered the three-hour baseball game. Stop the madness.

13. Publicly financed sports stadiums. I always thought the biggest ripoffs in society were college, weddings, funerals, and divorces- until the proliferation of multimillionaire owners going on the dole.

14. Artificial turf basketball flooring. If it doesn't come from a tree, then it doesn't belong on the floor.

15. Donald Fehr. Marvin Miller had a certain savoir faire, plus in his era, the Simon Legree owners did take advantage of the players. Fehr is a smarmy weasel who makes the owners look good, which isn't easy. (Gene Orza, you're tied for Fehr status).

16. Work stoppages. Actually, they're play stoppages. You NHL guys are never getting that money back, and neither are the vendors, security people, bull crew and everybody else who actually needs the money to take care of their families and send the kids to college.

17. The 3-point shot line in high school. Actually, it's not the line, it's where it is. Move it out to twenty-three feet, and put it in play for the last three minutes of the game. Same for college.

18. Signage. Well, I know the Red Sox need two-hundred and seventy two signs across every free surface in Fenway. I'm expecting to see a Coca-Cola emblem on the mound, Microsoft on the skin part of the infield, and DELL carved into the outfield grass. Oh my gawd, I've suggested it, now Theo and the Trio will probably get it done.

Why only eighteen? Why not? It's Dave Cowens' number, and I like it. Plus, to paraphrase 'Billy Madison' anybody reading sports columns goes home dumber. May God have mercy on our souls.