Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Pesky Rule

Johnny Pesky has been an important part of Red Sox legend and lore for what seems like forever. He clearly offers the Sox no competitive advantage, and about fifty percent of Americans his age have significant memory loss. Even so, is MLB mean-spirited or just imitating the NFL (No Fun League) here?

So, let's consider the possibilities. Every team can have their designated 'Legend' or 'Coach du Jour' or whatever. Let's really be creative.

Somehow I don't think that even the Mets would be signing up Morganna.

We've already covered the Sox history of nepotism, allowing Marc Sullivan to be in the dugout for about five seasons if I recall. Wasn't there always somebody's kid playing 'A' ball who didn't have a prayer of making it.

We could dress up Front Office personnel's relatives as a coach, especially rich ones, and I'm sure that they'd get a kick out of hanging out with tobacco-chewing, womanizing, foul-mouthed players and coaches, the Red Sox exempted of course.

Ah, here's the rub. MLB doesn't get any MONEY FROM IT. So, define a designated coach, wearing a team uniform, except that it must be covered from head to toe with MLB logos, AND the minimum fee would be 50,000 dollars PER GAME, of which MLB would get half. BRILLIANT!

Everyone's a winner, the clubs, the rich buggers who can pony up the dough, and of course, MLB! But where does that leave Pesky? Like that really matters...

Friday, March 30, 2007

Growing Up Red Sox

So often, we live through our comparisons, the present with the past, youth versus experience, man versus man. Tonight's NESN special on the 1967 Red Sox reminds me of the differences between the past and the present, objectively speaking.

As a youngster my heroes were Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Palmer. Yaz fought to overcome Ted Williams ultimate shadow, carving out his own niche en route to Cooperstown. Yaz had issues, too, being accused of not hustling out every groundball before Manny Ramirez was born. Palmer wasn't even on the Red Sox, but had a dazzling over the top fastball that could dominate both sides of the plate. While the Sox fizzled, the Orioles dazzled, winning the title in 1966.

Every game wasn't on television, and the radio was the broadcast medium of choice. You could play catch and catch the ballgame on the radio, or hear the broadcast at Good Harbor Beach, before parking cost 'an arm and a leg'.

Fenway had the Green Monster, forbidding, not inviting with Monster Seats. A bleacher ticket cost a buck, not twenty. The players had to work in the offseason, not workout. Nepotism ruled the organization, with Marc Sullivan making it to The Show courtesy of Haywood. Ultimately what kept the Sox in the second division wasn't necessarily all the talent, just the pitching.

Of course, some things didn't change. The Red Sox never ran that much, and Doctor Longball has always been a Fenway favorite. Before Rico Petrocelli's soft hands borne of drumsticks, the Sox had Don Buddin and Eddie Bressoud. Bill Monbouquette was the staff ace, and underappreciated Earl Wilson had his best seasons with the Tigers.

But enough of the past. What battles within the team do we have to look forward this year?

Dustin Pedroia versus Alex Cora. Everyone struggles at times, and how will Pedroia respond to the inevitable offensive and defensive slumps? Especially, when Terry Francona has the reliable Alex Cora to bring in for a relief role.

Coco Crisp versus Willie Mo Pena. Crisp gets a pass based on his several injuries last year.
In 276 at bats last year, Pena had 11 homers, 42 RBI and hit .301/.349/.489. Pena played well in centerfield after struggling in right. Crisp doesn't have to look over his shoulder at Jacoby Ellsbury when Pena is legitimate competition in center.

Curt Schilling versus Daisuke Matsuzaka. The most ingratiating part of Schilling's demeanor is his willingness to confront every issue on his terms. Schilling isn't afraid to speak his mind, with few exceptions. Conversely, Matsuzaka's inner thoughts can remain his, cloaked, should he choose in the Tower of Babel. If Matsuzaka performs as well as I expect him to, expect Schilling to bring his game to the highest level, both professionally and rhetorically.

Manny Ramirez versus the Press. With so many other stories to cover, Manny really becomes superfluous to the media horde. Never a media trollop, maybe Manny can toil in relative obscurity putting up .300/.400/.600 in anonymity.

Some elements of the Boston media thrive in the negativity, most notably Dan Shaughnessy. Despite an impressive body of work, ranging from his Auerbach biography Seeing Red to Curse of the Bambino, Shaughnessy seems compelled to try to insinuate himself into the story, rather than contentment with writing. Perhaps every writer longs to become more than the chronicler of history.

So we wait, perched on the threshold of another precipice, wondering whether a wondrous ride or avalanche awaits. Only two words can provide the answer. Play Ball!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Rob Bradford has a great interview with our new Japanese imports. Worth your while. Great stuff.

It's great to see the Sox putting some wood on the ball tonight, especially against the Great Santana. Maybe he's just sandbagging them.

Monday, March 26, 2007

In Search of Controversy

It's not even the regular season yet, so we're struggling to find Claymation Death Matches. Let's try to come up with a rundown of possible candidates.

  • Dan Shaughnessy versus Curt Schilling. Evidently Shaughnessy wants Schilling off of his turf. Well, who really knows, because who's reading Dirty Dan these days anyway. At least we have reason to believe that Shaughnessy's work is his own, compared with a certain other Globe scribe under the cloud of suspension.
  • Devern Hansack versus Kyle Snyder. Well, Snyder won this one, because he had no options and the 'Nicaraguan Nightmare' gets to know Ben Mondor up close and personal.
  • Coco Crisp versus Jacoby Ellsbury. Coco had an injury-plagued, underachieving inaugural season with the Sox, although he did have his moments like the diving catch depriving the hated Mets of a victory...not as hated as the Yankees, but just a little payback for 1986. Very little. And the New Yorkers argue that Paydro Martinez' contract turned the franchise around. As for Ellsbury, he's just trying to live out the American dream.
  • Craig Hansen versus, well, Craig Hansen. Inside the current Craig Hansen is the 97 mph, nasty slider, lights out closer Craig Hansen. We can only hope that he can find his way out.
  • Mike Timlin versus Father Time. Timlin's timeline is somewhere around April 1oth; at least I think that I read that somewhere. That odometer is showing a lot of mileage, and we can only hope that Iron Mike can turn it back.
  • Julio Lugo versus Butch Hobson? We all hope that Lugo doesn't remind us of the 1978 version of Butch Hobson in the field, the proverbial scatter-arm.
  • Dustin Pedroia versus The Green Monster. The Monster isn't exactly the same with the net replaced by seats, but let's hope that Pedroia doesn't get seduced and Jack-Happy with the prospect of popping fly balls off of over over the Monstah. So far he's looked more like Doug Griffen at the plate than in the field, and that's not necessarily 'a very good thing'.
Daisuke had 5 walks in five innings today, but if you don't allow any hits, then you can get away with some walks. Of course, in the AL, those walks will kill you. Here's saying that the king of Doryoku (unflagging effort) was just working on some new wrinkles.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday Observations

NESN broadcast the Sox-Marlins from City of Palms today, so we all got a chance to judge for ourselves. And we had plenty to see.

  • Josh Beckett faces his second year in the AL and he had a very different approach. He threw his curveball more often and for strikes. He worked both sides of the dish with his fastball, including getting some tailing strikes to lefthanders. But most important, he slowed down his changeup to the point that it became a change, not a batting practice fastball.
  • Julio Lugo showed a lot of energy at shortstop.
  • Jason Varitek called a great game, but I thought he was pulling the bat through the zone, not snapping it. Sometimes you can have too much BP. Maybe I'm wrong.
  • Kevin Youkilis had a busy day scooping up balls in the dirt, and unfortunately booting one in the first inning leading to an unearned run. With 20 errors in 24 games coming into today, the Sox aren't the same defensive team as last year.
  • Orsillo and Remy were in midseason form, although the Rem-Dawg seemed a bit irascible about the length of Spring Training. Suspect that a little 'oil' will fix that squeak.
  • RemDawg had a little comment for Tina Cervasio - cryptic commentary on her thoughts about not being a fan?
  • Great segue on the Make-A-Wish program and how the kids interacted with the players.

And what's with the players wearing the red hats with the silly cutout panel on the side, while the coaching staff had the traditional blue hats. Oh, yeah, can buy either, or both at your local Sox merchandise outlet.

Great article on Daisuke Matsuzaka in the SI Baseball Preview issue. Matsu Matsu Man!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Addicted to Sox? has fantastic team pages, great photos and a terrific clearinghouse for the 'soft' news stories we all eat up.

Don't Be Hating

As Red Sox fans, we spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about issues beyond our control. 2004 notwithstanding, I'm not sure that we can help ourselves. Whether an outgrowth of a Puritanical heritage (not me) or something in the water, cynicism and fear in the Nation seem inescapable. So let's try to compile the issues to worry about, and those 'certainties' and see where we land.

WORRIES. Now I'm talking real, legitimate, dyed in the wool concerns, nettlesome, rock-in-the-shoe stuff that probably won't go away.

TICKET PRICES. Is it true that they make the ticket sellers wear masks, like Zorro? More seats, yet ever-inflationary ticket prices, Ben Bernanke aside. Well, there is that 160 million dollar payroll.

CONCESSIONS. I have my ticket stub from the 1975 World Series Game 1 around somewhere. That ticket cost about the same as a WATER now. Well, the Federal Reserve and the end of the RESERVE CLAUSE have pretty much destroyed the value of a dollar and the value of a player.

. What is worse, youth and inexperience or the infirmaties and uncertainties of age? Among the Sox greybeards, we number Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek. If it's possible to outwork age, these professionals will do it. On the other hand, I'm not sure that you can outwork the wear and tear of so many marathons. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the PEDROIA EXPERIMENT. No worries, as Alex Cora can capably fill in, turn the pivot, and plays with a savvy that we can only hope will be rewarded with a managerial job someday.

Summing the above, that's not such a big deal, as long as you bring your Kruggerands to the ballpark for a ticket, sushi, and sparkling Perrier.

SURE THINGS. Take it to the bank, good as gold, Old Faithful stuff.

TERRY FRANCONA. Yeah, the fans will turn on Francona like guests on Springer turn on each other, but realistically, do you really worry about him. He doesn't criticize players in the media, deals with the knucklehead players and media very professionally, and he knows the game. Every manager is only as good as the talent on the field. And he does have the pelt.

DYNAMIC DUO. Combined, does anyone expect less that .300, 75-85 homers, and 200-250 RBI from Manny and Ortiz? They are Supermanny and The Thing, and as entertaining off the field as on it.

YOUNG BLOOD on the MOUND. With Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Papelbon the Sox have three young guns that will deliver. We do have to hope that the presence of more 'pitchers' (Schilling, Matsuzaka, Papelbon, Okajmia) will somehow convince Beckett that throwing it HARDER will not necessarily fool the likes of the Travis Hafners of the league. I'm believing that Beckett figures it out.

The NEW GUY. Actually, there are a couple of them, with Julio (bing-bing-bing, Ricochet Rabbit) Lugo the energized one, and J. D. Drew, who will quickly become a fan favorite, because he can flat out play.

FRONT OFFICE. They did it. They coughed up the dough, and absent the competitive balance afforded by drafts and salary caps like the NFL, the Sox recognized that had weaknesses, and they fixed them.

FARM AID. Whether it pays off this year isn't known, but if you get enough live arms in the system (Lester, Buchholz, Bard, Cox, Masterson, Johnson, Doubront, etc) you'll get some pitchers or proven players in trade. With the Sox payroll the way it is though, they need to offset some of the mercenaries with the low-priced spread.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

News. At Last.

Rob Peter to pay Paul. Weaken the starting rotation to boost the bullpen. The Sox bit the bullet, moving Jonathan Papelbon back to the back end, and in doing so, strengthened their overall pitching. Obviously, the brain trust feared that they would be wasting efforts deep into the game by Schilling, Beckett, and Matsuzaka without a premier closer. And Papelbon had an Eckersley-like run before injury shut him down.

If the Sox can identify (or acquire) another closer at some time, then they can relocate Papelbon to the rotation. And the cost just went down, as dealing from weakness, you always end up dealing more than you want.

Julian Tavarez pitched effectively down the stretch last season, going 3-0 with a 3.52 ERA last September, a small sample size. Maybe he can at least fill the gap until either John Lester or another candidate for the five spot emerges, or another closer evolves.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Does Spring Training seem to be lasting forever? Do I have to keep watching Bobby Scales? Will the Sox ever score three runs in a game again?

Who's the closer? Does Devern Hansack get a chance to make the team, and can anybody see that Kyle Snyder is definitely one of the top six relievers.

Let's just look at the bullpen. Is Theo wedded to paying the high-priced spread, or is it an open competition?

Okajima is going to make it, as a lefty specialist and transitional object for Daisuke. Has to be. Donnelly makes it as the livest arm and the Ryan Duren Coke-bottle glasses lookalike. Tavarez gets a spot for versatility and payroll considerations. Does that leave three spots?

Timlin has a chance to be on the DL if he can't go 100 percent. Funny how that happens as Father Time starts participating. You'd have to figure Romero as another leading candidate, and contract issue. All this leaves Pineiro, Hansack, Snyder (no options), Delcarmen, Hansen, and the rest of the universe fighting for maybe two spots. You know the saying, "money talks and b.s. walks." The guaranteed deals may be doing the talking.

All I know is from little I've seen, Snyder belongs on the team and they'll be sorry if they dump him.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Matsu Man

Matsu Man

(to the tune of Macho Man, by the Village People)

Bosox...wanna feel my Bosox?
Bosox...such a thrill my Bosox
Bosox...wanna touch my Bosox?'s too much my Bosox
Check it out my Bosox, Bosox.
Don't you doubt my Bosox, Bosox.
talkin' bout my Bosox, Bosox,
check it out my Bosox

Every man wants to be a Matsuzaka fan
to have the kind of Bosox, always in demand
Jogging in the mornings, go man go
works out in the health spa, muscles glow
You can best believe that, he's a Matsu man
ready to get down with, any Boston Fan.

Hey! Hey! Hey, hey, hey!
Matsuzaka fan (Matsu man)
I've got to be, a Matsu man
Matsuzaka fan,
I've got to be a Matsu! Ow....

Matsuzaka fan
I've got to be, a Matsu man
Matsuzaka fan (yeah, yeah)
I've got to be a Matsu!

Bosox, its so hot, my Bosox,
Bosox, love to pop my Bosox,
Bosox, love to please my Bosox,
Bosox, don't you tease my Bosox,
Bosox, you'll adore my Bosox,
Bosox, come explore my Bosox,
Bosox, made by God, my Bosox,
Bosox, it's so good, my Bosox

You can tell a Matsu, he has a funky walk
his western shirts and leather, always look so boss
Funky with his Bosox, he's a king
call him Mister Epstein, dig his trades
You can best believe that, he's a Matsu man
likes to be the leader, he never dresses grand

Hey! Hey! Hey, hey, hey!
Matsuzaka fan
I've got to be, a Matsu man
Matsuzaka fan
I've got to be a Matsu! (all right)

Every man ought to be a Matsuzaka fan,
To live a life of freedom, Matsus make a grand,
Have their own life style and ideals,
Possess the strength and confidence, life's a steal,
You can best believe that he's a Matsu man
He's a special person in anybody's land.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

No Dice

NESN gave us another opportunity to view Dice-K's offerings, and it proved to be a mixed bag. In the first inning, he blended a combination of hard stuff with a dazzling changeup reminiscent of Pedro Martinez. After that, he scuffled, with the worst location, 'wild in the strike zone'.

Sox fans practically fell out of our seats seeing him throwing in the bullpen afterwards.

The Sox offense wasn't great, although Kevin Youkilis looks like he's got his stroke down. If Youk can cut down on his strikeouts and maintain his strength all season, I think .300 with 18 homers and 80 RBI out of the two hole would be doable.

Julio Lugo continues to show good energy out of the leadoff spot, and Joel Pineiro had a pair of scoreless innings as he continues the transition to relief duty and the competition for the closer role.

At least on my screen, NESN had audio problems for most of the game, with the field microphones louder than the broadcast. John Henry and Tom Werner reacted to the tremendous anticipation for the upcoming season, but I haven't felt pennant fever at my workplace, yet.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Slow Start

Why the slow start in generating interest in the Red Sox? Could it be the weather, as we try to evolve from the frozen tundra into blustery March and then the warmer winds of May and June?

Yes, we have alternatives, with the ACC tournament and BC hanging on by a thread, NFL free agency and The Brady Bunch, high school hoop playoffs, and March Madness.

And also the lack of suspense. Contested jobs? How suspenseful is it to wonder whether David Murphy is on the bubble or whether Theo 'Emeril' Epstein decides Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen need more seasoning? Bam!

Can Lugo throw the leather once he gets to the ball? Is the chinchilla on Kevin Youkilis' face going to stay there? Did J.D. Drew see Punxatawnee Phil?

How much can we milk Matsuzaka, the Jon Lester comeback, the Curt Schilling 'contract year', and the Devern Hansack Nicaraguan fisherman story?

How long will the Pedroia Experiment be an experiment before he proves he's got the right stuff, or we hear how Alex Cora will help him ease the transition? Or is a surprise trade for Todd Helton still in the works?

After awhile, the reporters must start looking for new angles, the best bait and tackle shops in the area, the bargain hotels, the top pizza joint, and how to spend twenty-one hours a day when you aren't watching baseball in Fort Myers.

What are the players' favorite web sites? Who's their favorite investment brokerage? Which golf ball do they use?

Who's the best sportswriter in Boston? Who's the worst? Who's the most hated? Who can ink a full paragraph without using 'E'?

That's why it's better to stick to basketball this month.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Genuine Articles

The Red Sox continued their exhibition/preseason/Spring Training campaign taking on Florida. Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched three scoreless innings against major league competition this time, as though we doubted his worth against collegians. Number 18 looks as though it may become numero uno on the knock off jersey side.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox seem to be grooming Jon Lester for another stint in the minors, although we can hope that he competes for the fifth starter spot with Tim Wakefield. That's no knock on Wake, but rather a desire for a real competition.

Of course, with forty-somethings like Curt Schilling and Wakefield, Josh Beckett only a blister away from trouble, and the vicissitudes of the rotator cuff, if Jon Lester is healthy and effective, he'll get plenty of innings in Boston in 2007.

The Fenway Fickle remain pretty concerned about Dustin Pedroia, at least as far as the diehards in my neck of the woods go. The Sox can use all the low budget success they can muster to offset the high-priced spread, so let's hope that Dustin's the one. Between the Lugo leather at short and the Pedroia Ruthian cuts, don't be surprised to see Alex Cora get plenty of defensive innings at short and spell the rookie at second.

Around the local scene, we have to wonder what's up with Ron Bore-Gas up on plagiarism charges (if everybody hates Borges so much, and if he copies other writers, should we be hating on them?). And then next year, Daddy-Oh Tom Brady will be wearing T. Brady on his uniform, to distinguish him from K. Brady, the tight end. Just when the Celtics have a lock on the ping pong balls, they go win four games in a row. That's March Madness. And then there's the Bruins, trying to get to the one and done stage of the NHL playoffs. At least we have A.D. to kick around some guys for us.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Springtime in Paradise

Florida baseball on television, a mixed bag. The warm sunshine (for others), the splendor of the green grass, and often watching scrubs determine the outcome of games while the stars polish their iron play.

That said, can we say anything about the Sox early season action. The starting pitching, even against lower-echelon competition, has to generate optimism. Daisuke Matsuzaka had the Jim Palmer-like ability to control both sides of the plate, and his curve ball breaks down hard and is thrown in the 80s. Nice. We haven't seen much of his offspeed stuff, which some say is his best pitch. Yes, it was against college kids and we'll see what the strike zone is, but he didn't look like Gary Waslewski out there. Schilling is fine, Papelbon threw loose and easily, and 'people' say that Beckett intends to change, like Rocky IV. "I can change, you can change..."

What's the margin of the roster?

Position players:
1. Ortiz
2. Manny
3. Drew
4. Crisp
5. Pena
6. Youkilis
7. Varitek
8. Mirabelli
9. Pedroia
11. Cora
12. Lowell
13. Hinske?
14. Murphy?
AAA Kottaras

There are only 15 position players on the 40 man roster. Murphy looks as though he has been lifting, or just growing into his body. That's good. Chad Spann looks really rough at third. Hey, it's only TV, but errors still look like errors.

1. Schilling
2. Beckett
3. Matsuzaka
4. Papelbon
5. Wakefield
6. Pineiro
7. Romero
8. Timlin
9. Donnelly
10.Tavarez? Delcarmen?
11. Okajima
DL Hansen?
AAA Lester
AAA Hansack
Gone: Snyder?

Is it possible that Lester could beat out Wakefield for the 5th starter spot, or will the Sox not want to 'rely' on him?