Saturday, June 30, 2007

Yeah, but...

Click charts to ENLARGE. Best viewed in FIREFOX.

With Coco Crisp out with a thumb injury, and Joel Pineiro headed to the DL, the Red Sox called up 23 year-old centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to play centerfield. Ellsbury contributed an infield single in his second plate appearance but had a ball hit off the centerfield wall bounce over his head. No damage as it didn't impact the ultimate scoring. Ellsbury, the Sox top 2005 pick and number-one rated prospect coming into 2007, was one of Theo Epstein's success stories to date.

Meanwhile, Jon Lester got a win with five innings of two run baseball for Pawtucket, and Clay Buchholz worked five scoreless innings for Portland tonight. Will Buchholz (1.69 ERA) move up to Pawtucket?

Pedestrian. Mundane. Ordinary. Uninspiring. None of the seasons above shout out, "take me". Well, the statistics above belong to Nomar Garciaparra, Johnny Damon, Trot Nixon, and Bronson Arroyo. Yes, these represent snapshots, not finished products, but still.

Player E has less than half as many at bats as the above, so I've 'adjusted' his statistics up by doubling them. Nothing spectacular here either, you say. Of course, the Weapon of Mass Production (Wily Mo Pena) is still only 24 years old, and doesn't get regular playing time.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Bad Joke?

Recent Boston sports action reminds me of a joke I heard the other night. "Airport security has taken it to the next level. I get ready to board the flight, and the screener says, 'I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that you may board immediately. The bad news is that your prostate is enlarged'. "

The Red Sox (good news) returned to Fenway Park (good), got outstanding pitching (good), didn't hit (bad), but won anyway 2-1 (good). Don and Jerry (good) kept us distracted with inane banter about ballpark dating episodes (bad). At least Jerry didn't display his footwear (good), although I missed part of the game watching Man Versus Wild (very good).

On the other hand, the Celtics (bad) botched another opportunity known as the NBA Draft (good). In a bizarre plot to strengthen franchises close to his western home, Ainge once again dumped the high draft choice (bad) for an All-Star (good) with two bad ankles (bad), who knew God's dog as a puppy (bad). At least Ray Allen probably doesn't detest New England (good), having played at UCONN. Don't worry'll never be accused of making a bad high pick when you always choose the easy way out. Respect for the franchise. Puh-lease. The Redhead turns over in his grave, because he was the swindler, not the chump.

Defensively, the C's can't catch a cold. Interior defense? More like interior decorating. Maybe we can go Loyola Marymount and try to beat teams 145-140.

What more can Danny do to ruin the franchise? The GM appeased Paul Pierce (good, bad) and acquired a talented (good), rotund (bad) power forward in Big Baby Davis. Danny's Boys might be able to make the playoffs (big deal) in the Eastern Conference (bad), but we have become Clippers East now. We get a high draft choice annually and turn it into somebody else's.

The C's might have the sixteen banners hanging from the rafters, but the championship-driven mantra seems at odds with the parade of one (Wally) or zero-dimensional players (Raef Lafrentz, Brad Lohaus, Travis Knight, etc) who've unfortunately walked through that door. To refresh, Lafrentz was a consensus All-American, top three NBA pick who had no low post game, and inconsistently knew which way to roll on the pick-and-roll. And don't tell me different, because I always watch NBA players to see if they execute properly. Big Al, listen to the coaches, you're not doing it correctly often enough.

The Red Sox may have adopted some kind of Markov Chain philosophy to try to break the run scoring drought. With a trio of three hundred hitters with high on-base percentages at the top of the lineup, the Sox may have the opportunity to 1) get more men in scoring position and 2) get the best hitters more chances.

Julio Lugo is having sleep difficulties. If only that were his problem. He keeps waking up in time for the games. No, seriously, we all want Julio to sleep better and to hit better, as we want the jokes to be on the other team. Lugo's epic struggles have reached Herculean proportions. The Red Sox pitching staff may have had more hits in June than he did.

Jerry Remy has so many astute observations. Tonight's game brought the obscure to the ridiculous. First, J.D. Drew hit a ground rule double HIGH into the left field seats. Really. Second, the Sox had the winning run score on a fielder's choice, where the runner on second (second and third) got tagged out AFTER the run scored. Third, Papelbon missed getting a strikeout because the umpire missed an inside strike in the ninth when Varitek set up outside. Fourth, Dustin Pedroia probably deserves the save for getting Papelbon out of the umpire's face after a close call at first base. Papelbon couldn't cover quickly enough to beat Lofton. If Papelbon gets tossed, then who do you bring in.

Why is Youkilis successful? At least at this point in his career, he grinds, every pitch, every at bat, and curses his failures as aberrations. He's our Paul O'Neill, minus the water cooler destruction (as far as I know).

Terry Francona will never get enough credit. He's unassuming, humble, underpaid, keeps the nuttiness in-house, and never throws the players under the bus.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Not Sweepless in Seattle

If the Red Sox brass pays attention, they have learned a few issues existing on the team right now:

1. Problems against left-handed pitching
2. Right handed power
3. Offense on the road
4. Inconsistency from Tim Wakefield
4b. A back up catcher designed only for Tim Wakefield
5. The Lugo struggles continue
6. The fourth outfielder question. Can the Weapon of Mass Production do it?

Yes, Red Sox fans will complain about anything and everything, but Sox fans have concerns about a post-Interleague Play hangover against 'real' baseball teams.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How low can Lugo?

Nobody wants Julio Lugo to succeed more than Red Sox fans. Heck, we'd love him to be MVP. And nobody will put more pressure on a struggling player to perform, than the player. Does money increase the pressure? Maybe. If you're putting on a stock trade controlling 100 shares of something, it's different than owning 5000 shares. But when you're facing a Johan Santana slider, you're not thinking about your next paycheck.

I hate West Coast trips. At least I know enough to get some sleep, and don't stay up for the whole game anymore. Rarely.

Paul Pierce wants a veteran binky. Well, Paul, last time I checked, your position is swing guard, not GM. You aren't going to win a championship with the team with Kevin Garnett, with the major young talent traded. Should you express your preference? Absolutely, from a first amendment perspective. If Danny Ainge listens, however, then to paraphrase Bobby Knight, "if you listen to the knuckleheads in the stands (bench), then pretty soon you'll be sitting up there with them."

Coco Crisp must have had something to turn his season around. Could he share it with a few of the other guys?

The Mendoza line has locally earned the moniker, the Lugo Line. Come on Julio, get it going.

Does Barry Bonds really care whether Hank Aaron attends his record-breaking homerun? I'm more enthusiastic about Junior Griffey coming up on 600.

Does the RemDawg pay advertising rates for his Fenway All-Star promos, RemDawg Nation promos,, his hot dog joint or is it all written into his contract. I'll bet the latter. As for the jeans and no socks look, I'm not a fan. I don't like jeans.

The "Inane Banter" warning usually came up during hideously boring games, but last night the banter preceeded the blowout. Mark that one down as a possible superstition to watch for.

What are your superstitions? I'm afraid of HD.

Why didn't Pedroia get the base when he got his first career stolen base. ;)

Father Time Catches Up with a Good Soldier

Some players live on the expensive fringe of the major leagues. With current compensation high, few players leave at the top of their game. Who can afford to leave millions on the table?

Having allowed 5 home runs and 23 hits in 16 innings, this good soldier is done. The timeline has finally caught up with Mike Timlin. Timlin and his family have delivered quality, dignified professionalism to the Red Sox and the Boston community, but he is now relegated to mop-up duty, and simply cannot be trusted in close games.

Although he hasn't lost much off the fastball, he has the worst kind of wildness, wild in the strike zone, the kind of mistake pitches that turn into runs.

Thanks for the memories.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Beyond Spartan (Off Topic) - Stoneham Axes Sports Program

Call me sentimental. My children saw the Red Sox win a World Series without waiting fifty years. Okay, so that doesn't apply to Conor, who's an Orioles fan, falling on hard times.

Stoneham, vetoing a property tax override, has dismantled the entire athletic department. Local resident and Stoneham AD Mike Lahiff, has departed for another AD job, and as for the Stoneham children, no soup for them...

Growing up with the Red Sox, I followed all the local teams (the Bruins weren't dreck) and competed against the area high school teams, and even played on the Stoneham Legion baseball team. Stoneham had a terrific baseball team, a State Championship winner, with Bill Walczak, Carl Smith, Jim Haugh and others. They had some terrific hoopsters including Joe Donahue and Phil McLaughlin on an undefeated team. Stoneham's boys' soccer team won championships. Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan hails from Stoneham. Now they have nothing. Why?

Some communities, like Stoneham, have minimal inustrial or business revenue, and as a middle class community, have a limited tax base. The younger homeowner versus retired or older citizen dynamic leaves communities divided, with schools the casualties. Seniors, living on fixed incomes struggle to meet their needs and can't justify overrides that don't impact them directly. Some realize that better schools maintain or escalate their property values, but can't afford the overrides.

Community services, from police, fire, teachers, and so forth constantly increase in price, and state politicians sometimes seek to curry favor by reducing taxes, ultimately reducing state aid to communities. Ultimately, a new kind of class struggle emerges, not rich versus poor, but the older versus the younger. Younger workers fund older citizens entitlement programs (at barely sustainable levels) and simultaneously face Draconian cuts from seniors caught in between.

Participation in athletics improves girls' health (diminishing osteoporosis, breast cancer, and teen pregnancy), achieve higher academically, and have higher graduation rates. They have higher self-esteem and lower depression rates.

Students who don't participate in extracurricular activities are 'at risk'. (CLICK below to ENLARGE)

I'm not suggesting that the Red Sox have any obligation or duty to fund school sports, in Stoneham or anywhere else. What I argue is that a society which will pay top dollar for entertainment and entertainers can do better by its youth. As a youth coach locally, I put my time and my money where my heart is.

Throwbacks no Givebacks

The Sox went to beautiful San Diego, and my daughter's college roommate Meghan and her father got a bit of a disappointment as the Sox beat the locals. The Padres had their throwback Civil Defense helmets on, and the Sox the haze grey unis from the 1980s.

For the statistically inclined, Baseball Prospectus' Monte Carlo simulator pegs the Sox at having a 98% chance of making the playoffs.

The Sox remain with the best record in baseball, and a number of players have flown under the radar. Most notably, Kevin Youkilis remains with David Ortiz among the top five in the Sagarin Rankings for AL hitters.

Daisuke Matsuzaka clocks in tied for 4th in AL wins, aided by both better pitching lately and the 7th leading Run Support in the League. He also falls among the league leaders in the 'Rickey' stats, a reflection of pitching power, (innings pitched plus strikeouts) less (hits plus walks plus hit batsman).

Manny Ramirez has moved his average up to .304, leads the Red Sox in games played, and his OPS is up to .905.

Jonathan Papelbon with 17 saves in 18 tries, a career E.R.A. of 1.54 and 145 strikeouts in 128.2 career innings remains the force at the back end.

Dustin Pedroia has maintained an average at .323 and has a remarkable OPS of .854, which may catapult him into consideration for AL Rookie of the Year honors. Pedroia also has an above average fielding percentage of .988.

Of course, Pedroia's competition for AL ROY will include Matsuzaka, on pace to win 20 games, and Hideki Okajima who has surprised everyone with his performance. Okajima isn't likely to maintain a WHIP ratio of .79 or allow less than 5 hits per nine innings, but he has been a revelation.

On the frustrating side you have the mysterious disappearance of Julio Lugo challenging the Mendoza Line, although playing a consistent shortstop, and J.D. Drew's overall underachievement. Coco Crisp has emerged from his slump, either finally getting healthy or getting a push from Jacoby Ellsbury.

If you like characters, the Sox have the loquacious Schilling, the eccentric Tavarez, and of course, Manny. If you want cliche's and consistency, the Sox throw Terry Francona at you. And if quiet professionalism calms your soul, rely on Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell.

Sleep deprivation continues as the only legitimate gripe Sox' fans have these days.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sox Talk and Childhood Memories

Maybe a few of you out there are old enough to remember better than I. And maybe some of you are young enough to remember better. Today some of the Sox talk discussion focused on Little League, and how every player will get a chance to play the different positions.

Growing up Red Sox meant a rite of passage, the Green Monster, 37 feet and the net 23 feet above. Yaz, Tony C, Boomer, Lonborg, Radatz, and too many forgettable pitchers.

Right field. "Where you put the little kid" who was either too young, or too small, or too inexperienced to have a position at all. Everyone knows that you can't HIDE a player, no matter where you put them. Sure Henry Aaron, Clemente, and Kaline played right field. What did that have to do with a pickup game? Rocky Colavito wasn't telling us how important right field was, and Dwight Evans must have been playing Little League then.

Pickup games. The Shell Station near Dolbeare School had a fence in center field, about 300 feet away, that stretched out such that left-center was even farther. Everyone longed to hit one over the Shell fence, something of an accomplishment with the stone knives (wooden bats) and chisels (beaten up baseballs) that we used. Every day after school, the game began, with Barry Corbett, the Quirks, and some other wannabes. Most of the time you played five on five, with a center and left fielder, shortstop and third baseman, and pitcher. You threw out the batter by throwing to the pitcher on the rubber. Right field was foul. Everyone became a pull convention and by necessity.

I finally hit one over the Shell fence at age 15, not too bad considering the equipment of the day.

The Memories. We didn't have bases, we had cardboard cutouts. If you didn't know which base to throw to, or about tagging up to advance, the kids would look at you like you had two heads. Maybe that's why Sox fans are so unforgiving. We learned to play the game on the sandlot.

If you were lucky, and the days were always hot, you had fifteen cents to cross Vernon Street and go to DaVita's, a florist/greenhouse that had a Coke machine. Most of us didn't have the fifteen cents, but a Fanta sure tasted good when you did.

Barry Corbett hit the towering flies to the outfielders that taught everyone to shag flies. He really made it an art form. I hope he's out there hitting to some little kids now.

The Big Rock. My driveway had a big, round, smooth rock about four feet wide and three feet high. I painted a strike zone on it, about a foot across and maybe sixteen inches high. The driveway was probably about thirty feet wide, but with the end of the driveway, you could pitch about forty feet. You couldn't throw the high strike, because that meant chasing the ball either into the bushes or the back yard. You learned to keep the ball down, or else. You also learned to hit the corners, because that's what made pitching an art form.

The big rock still remains on the old homestead, although after forty plus years, the homeowner probably doesn't even think of it as a backstop or view the discoloration as anything but an anomaly. It doesn't mean anything to him, but it meant the world to me.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Power Ratings - Red Sox Pitching Staff

Just as has power ratings, so 'Reality Check' will issue some power ratings, which of course change over the marathon of the baseball season. Power Ratings reflect not only the full body of work of the pitcher, but recent performances. What they do not reflect are run support, media friendliness, or salary. Mike Greenwell need not apply.

1. Josh Beckett- All-Star caliber stuff and performance

2. Jonathan Papelbon - smoke 'em if you got 'em

3. Daisuke Matsuzaka - power growing, like The Transformers

4. Curt Schilling - sometimes dominating, but high percentage stuff occurring less often

4b. Hideki Okajimi - Everything's just okey-dokey for the little lefty

6. Julian Tavarez - usually gives you six plus with two or three runs nowadays (value rising)

7. Tim Wakefield - you never know what he'll give you, and the Yankees are his daddy (falling)

8. Javier Lopez - the LOOGY is getting the job done, more often than not

9. Kyle Snyder - would be the equivalent of a Rule V draftee exposed...healthy with three effective pitches now...could be critical later in the season

10. Joel Pineiro - developing more consistency to go with raw stuff

11. Manny Delcarmen - 95 mph heater, knee buckling curve, inconsistent control...if not now, when

12. Mike Timlin - running on fumes and reliability inversely proportional to age...veteran turning into old? Do nice guys get extra 'roster spot' points?

DL Brendan Donnelly

Sunday, June 17, 2007

If You Want Economy, You Have to Pay for It

Everyone wants those slick foreign imports, and the Red Sox were no exception. They opened the checkbook, and so far, I think they got what they expected.

Daisuke Matsuzaka delivered his eighth win of the season yesterday, lowering his E.R.A. to 4.18 with seven shutout innings against Barry Bonds and the Giants.

Let's review the Matsuzaka record, amidst a transition to the Hitters' League from Japanese baseball.

  • Eight wins, tied for fourth in the AL
  • Ninety-three strikeouts, fifth in the AL
  • Three losses where he surrendered three runs or less
  • A 4.18 E.R.A. 28th in the AL
  • Strikeout to walk ratio of over three; K/BB ratio predicts future E.R.A. better than previous E.R.A. itself
  • Last three games, 20 innings, 14 hits, 4 runs, 25 strikeouts, 9 walks, E.R.A. 1.80

Matsuzaka has helped pitch the Sox to an 8 1/2 game lead, and has done so with grace, humility, and lately very little run support.

What Sox fans and AL hitters have yet to see the complete package of full command and control, but slowly we acknowledge that Matsuzaka's acquisition represents a coup in baseball's Tong Wars. The Sox have a young, likeable, top-of-the-rotation starter with both talent and duende. And it may get better than he learns the hitters and makes the adjustments that superior players do.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sox with Holes

The Red Sox put up little resistance tonight, losing to an another anonymous lefthander, as Josh Beckett absorbed his first defeat of the season. Not just the weather has turned cold in June.

The spinning wheel dart board trotted out yet another lineup du jour, this one headed by J. D. Drew, taking a merciless beating from Fenway leatherlungs. But it's not all Drew, as much of the lineup has gone sour, with the well-documented struggles of Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp. It's as though the poisoned Big Apple got fed to the team.

Meanwhile in Pawtucket, Jacoby Ellsbury has two hit games in five of the past six, going 10-25 with two walks, four stolen bases, and three extra base hits.

Last year the Sox delivered a beatdown to the NL before collapsing in the second half en route to a third place finish. Whether the Sox need an official bat-burning, prayers to Jobu, or another untraditional ritual to exorcise the offensive malaise, they definitely need something.

The only energy in the park must have come from the pummeled patrons in the Monster Seats scrambling after Colorado Rockie homers. By the close of business, America's Most Beloved Ballpark resembled a Bruins' game, with the remaining fans disguised as empty seats.

At least somewhere, someone is doing something as Clay Buchholz fanned 12 in slightly more than five innings, although touched up for four runs in a Sea Dog victory. Usually their other Double A uber-prospect Michael Bowden follows, trying to right his ship after a rough outing last time.

Once again, the Sox don't necessarily need better players, only the existing ones to start playing better. If not, the past two days will feel like tropical days.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I was wrong about being wrong about Julio Lugo

I feel as though I'm reaching into the Gerry Spence How to Argue and Win Every Time trickbag, but let's critically examine Julio Lugo's production in 2007. I won't insult anyone's argument by saying that Lugo should hit leadoff or deserve any All-Star considerations. Let's just look at the facts.

First, here's the Baseball Reference overview. Nobody expected a .215/.274/.322/.589 season to this point. Ranked by OPS, Lugo is last among AL shortstops. He is 9th when examined by the Sabermetric Runs Created. Not great, especially when adjusted for salary. He is eighth in runs scored and tied for fifth with Miguel Tejada in RBI. Ranked by the sum or runs scored and runs batted in, he ranks seventh among qualifiers (plate appearances).

Among AL shortstops he ranks fifth in fielding percentage (.969), eighth in range factor (PO and Assists divided by innings), and eighth in zone rating (The percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive "zone," as measured by STATS, Inc.).

Of course, we all play the 'what have you done for me lately' game, too. And lately, Lugo has failed in a game marked by failure, with his last seven reading .125/.160/.292/.452. To paraphrase the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers' coach John McKay, when asked about his team's execution, he replied "I'm in favor of it."

The Red Sox have struggled to find a superior offensive shortstop since the departure of Nomar Garciaparra. Orlando Cabrera turned out not to be too expensive, Edgar Renteria too timid, Hanley Ramirez turned into Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, and David Eckstein just became himself.

Let's not totally ignore reality, however, as Garciaparra is .272/.316/.322/.638 at a corner position, with one home run and twelve fewer combined runs scored and RBI than Lugo, with one home run.

During the off-season, I wondered what was the attraction about Lugo mania. During the season, I've become more ambivalent, and having analyzed Lugo's contribution, I'm more frustrated than upset. Like many players in baseball, Lugo doesn't have to reinvent himself, he just has to return to 'normal'. Let's hope that he starts putting it together.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


The knuckleball's unpredictability dominates its description. We hear the different discussions of hitting it, "when it's high, let it fly" and how to catch it, "let it stop rolling and pick it up." And we know from personal and observational experience that it behaves most viciously when the wind is in the pitcher's face.

And as much as Tim Wakefield has struggled recently, his E.R.A. still fell to 3.92 with an eight-inning one run performance tonight. Doug Mirabelli deserves props for handling the flutterball in all its glory tonight, especially dealing with it with a man on third, although the Rockies brought in the tying run.

The Rockies, what an alphabet soup of players they have. Historically they've played like Tarzan at home and Jane on the road, but they got outstanding pitching tonight.

Papelbon. Tonight he performed like a mixture of King Kong and Darth Vader, with his stare down only exceeded by his heater, which touched 98.

Justin Verlander tossed a no-hitter tonight, and with respect to Danny Haren, Johan Santana, and Josh Beckett, I think that Verlander - with three great pitches (fastball, curve, change) is the best starter in the AL.

Larry Lucchino discussed the possible 'election' for the President of Red Sox Nation. All I ask is that we get a non-track, non-tennis LBJ statement ASAP from Jack Welch, "if nominated I will not run, and if elected I will not serve." Who are some logical candidates? Johnny Pesky, if you want the President to be as old as the Pope...but I think I'll throw my support behind an inspirational figure, Travis Roy, if he wants the job.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

All-Star Considerations

Unfortunately for the DH situation, the All-Star balloting gets complicated, but let's see if we can parse the data and come up with an appropriate roster

I will presume 10 pitchers and 20 position players


We first have to consider 'distribution"




Yes, controversies always arise. Mariano Rivera doesn't get a lifetime achievement award this year. Manny Ramirez might not deserve it on production, but will likely get voted in. Cano gets voted in but doesn't deserve it at second.

Baltimore has to place either Jeremy Guthrie or Erik Bedard on the team. Gil Meche deserves it and is KC's representative. Bobby Jenks makes it from Chicago, and Hideki Okajima clearly deserves the honor, but might not make it because of distribution. Do you need more relievers?

Does Johan Santana NOT make it because of distribution? If Beckett can't go because of the 'avulsion' then you could add Lackey.

Tory Hunter or Alex Rios are both deserving outfielders, but probably won't make it. Curtis Granderson is playing better than either Hunter or Rios. Should Johjima outpoint Ivan Rodriguez at catcher? I think so.

Anyone else you'd want on YOUR team. If I had to win to get into the Series, I'd like Hafner's bat. Andy Pettitte still has it, but should get frozen out on distribution.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rohr for the Sox

40 years after Billy Rohr's near n0-no, Curt Schilling duplicated Rohr's performance with 26 outs of no hit ball before Shannon Stewart lined a first-pitch fastball into right for a single. Forty years ago Elston Howard broke Sox' fans' hearts with a ninth inning single dumped in front of Tony C. Schilling righted the ship to get the tough Mark Ellis to foul out to end the game. The Sox didn't exactly tear the cover off the ball, however, getting only a first-inning homer (11) from Big Papi to drive the offense.

Speaking of offensive, the LA County Sherriff released Paris Hilton after five days of custody, sending her home with an ankle bracelet. Undoubtedly, Paris is bemoaning having to miss all that free detention facility room and board, probably having to rough it on caviar and champagne in her mansion. Allegedly she was released for health reasons, presumably because she was driving everyone in the LA police crazy.

The Red Sox drafted Washington southpaw Nick Hagadone in the Sandwich Round, who must have the size and appearance of the big lefty in "The Natural", whom Robert Redford takes deep to win the big game. As for appropriate players to draft in the sandwich round, it's not so easy to come up with them. Tim SALMON might be a good sandwich selection, and maybe readers can help me out on this one.

The Sox travel to the BOB for GM Showdown, with the Real Theo, Theo Epstein, squaring off in a Texas Death Match against Theo Light, Josh Byrnes, and other expatriots like Josh Byrnes. Rumor has it that after getting stymied twice by lackluster lefties Lenny DiNardo and Joe Kennedy, the Sox will run up against another pair of lefties. Evidently the D-backs want to keep the hot-hitting J.D. Drew from wreaking havoc on them. Maybe not. Or maybe Drew will break out of his season-long slump.

Incredibly, at Portland, after a miserable start, Jed Lowrie has lifted his average about .300, .with .431/.479/.910 numbers at shortstop. Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden have remained productive as well, although the organization isn't looking to rush the early twenty-somethings.

In the amazing what can be done when it doesn't matter who gets the credit, both Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino have remained quieter than mice peeing on cotton. Maybe the draft was keeping them occupied.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wake or Funeral?

West Coast trips have always had special meaning for me. Listening to my mother's transistor radio, with Dean Chance spinning his magic for the Los Angeles Angels, and now insomniac nights with the Sox in the Oakland Mausoleum, or McAfee or whatever it is.

Oakland doesn't have a lot of great memories for Sox fans. There was the playoff comeback (2003?) and just not a lot of great games there. The foul territory never seems to end. They do present some 'mirror' problems with their Moneyball players like Nick Swisher, although I'm not a big fan of the Prince Valiant look. Maybe I'm just jealous of youth, good looks, money, and hair.

Tim Wakefield goes tonight for the Sox, and it's trick or treat. With his last three outings with an ERA of over 10 and the inability to find the zone with a dog and a cane, you have to feel badly for Wakefield. He's always been streaky, and if anyone can stick with someone during a bad streak, that's Francona.

Will Jon Lester have to pitch 20 starts for Pawtucket before Theo feels he's better than the bottom of the Sox current rotation?

The current Sox doldrums seems more to represent what is normal for a baseball season than any return to last August. Maybe the Sunday Night game did have some overhang, but then maybe Lenny DiNardo will get as many DPs in his next four starts as he got last night.

Amalie Benjamin broached the delicate subject today of who's coming and going in the bullpen/rotation, and the broad conclusion: nobody knows. As I've said before, Romero looks shaky (Lopez has outpitched him), I don't think they eat Pineiro's money, and Kyle Snyder would get claimed off waivers in a nanosecond. Maybe somebody gets a sore foot, like Giambi.

Speaking of Giambi, he's going to testify and cooperate with George Mitchell. Hahahahahaha.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Schadenfreude for A-Rod

A-Rod certainly got the last laugh last night, as Big Rod used his Big Stick to deliver the game winning home run.

Of course, A-Rod has his own fan site, too.

Like Colbert's Report, we'll have our own word today, SCHADENFREUDE.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

You Don't Know Jack

Please explain to me the frequency with which I have to watch Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO, on the Red Sox pregame show? Neither I nor Jack Welch resemble Robert Redford, and Welch's grating voice won't displace an announcer from Bangor to Block Island.

His professional or personal credentials aside, does Jack have pictures of Red Sox or NESN management? Is there a reason why the Sox have to ingratiate themselves to this long-time fan? Has anyone heard or seen Welch offer one insight into either the Red Sox or baseball?

Now I can think of a thousand reasons why Jack Welch would want to be on television, and 999 of them involve an insatiable ego. But unless Welch wants to offer up an occasional tidbit of news or information, tell NESN management, "just say no."

What would I like to see more of on Red Sox broadcasts? I'd like to see more 'baseball stories', not lurid hotel stories of the Ball Four vintage, but simple war stories that guys like Remy, Rice, and Eckersley can spin. No, I don't want to hear about guys sitting on birthday cakes, but maybe more about guys who were the best baserunners, had the greatest arms, or hands, or could steal signs. "Inside baseball" stuff, how to read the pitcher to get a better lead, how to stand in the right place to disrupt a baserunner without drawing a call.

Excuse me if I've told this one. When the Bruins trained at Harvard in the mid-seventies, I overheard the following conversation between two players. "What's the definition of a successful road trip?" (Answer:) "When you get laid four times." All of which goes to show A-Rod's antics show neither originality nor novelty. "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose."

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Commentary Sox on FOX

I don't know about the rest of you, but it's hard for me to listen to Buck and McCarver. Admittedly, most baseball fans couldn't fill three hours of 'action' with intelligent commentary. And the commentators haven't avoided the Stray Rod controversy, although they haven't tackled the broader issue - how many major league ballplayers have the same tendencies but have remained cloaked in obscurity?

But what about the ridiculous observations, that Scott Proctor wasn't throwing at Kevin Youkilis? Proctor has already served time for one suspension this year, and one can only guess that a baseball version of the Invisible Hand saved Proctor from a second trip to the penalty box. In fact, these skirmishes present the best argument against the DH. Accountability rears its head, literally, in the batter's box. How 'tough' would baseball's principal offenders be if they feared for their careers?

As for Melky Cabrera being a defensive talent, didn't he turn a line drive by Trot Nixon into an inside the park homer?

As for the game itself, so far both pitchers have kept loose enough grip on the handlebars. Somehow Melky Cabrera kept an inside pitch fair for a homer inside Pesky's Pole, and the potential Weapon of Mass Production (Wily Mo Pena) came around after a leadoff double.

Dustin Pedroia kept his hitting streak alive, despite promotion to the number 2 hole. Pedroia (and Francona) gets credit for showing that he is a major league second baseman, offensively and defensively.

J.D. Drew came down with a pulled muscle, maybe just in time for now. Drew continues to struggle offensively.

Francona manages to contain most of the damage within the clubhouse. With Timlin and Lester on the horizon, who lives on the bubble? Does the Red Sox version of the Hellenic Flu beckon?

Presume that the Sox will go with 13 postion players and twelve pitchers.

Starters: (5)

Wakefield (talk about Wake reeling off 15 victories in a row disappeared pretty fast)

Bullpen (6)
Long: Tavarez
Split: Pinheiro (big dollars and pitching better)
Setup: Donnelly
LOOGY: Lopez (has excelled at getting the situational lefty)
Setup/alternate closer: Okajima
Closer: Papelbon

On the bubble: Romero, Timlin, Snyder (no options as far as I know)

Of the latter three, Timlin has the longest organizational ties and most likely impact on 'chemistry'. Conversely, Snyder would get snapped up in five seconds and could start for some teams (e.g. Kansas City and others) and easily be a bullpen regular on MOST teams.

GM Theo Epstein could try to trade (everyone needs pitching), but realistically, he would be dealing to clubs knowing the Sox will be dumping...and soon. You would hope that Theo would sound out Francona, Farrell, and sotto voce key team leaders to assess the impact of personnel moves. It goes without saying that baseball is a business, and one where careers have finite life spans.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Reggie Smith (actually like Yaz, I believe his first name was Carl) appeared in the booth with Don and Jerry, bringing back a lot of old memories. Although Smith started the season at second, he became the everyday centerfielder for the Impossible Dream Sox.

What are my Reggie Smith memories? (CLICK ON BOX TO ENLARGE)

  • First, he wore number 7, which I remember because that was my sister's birthday (7/7)
  • Second, Reggie had a great arm, one of the best ever. I saw him throw out Dave McNally on an attempted sacrifice fly just in front of the 379 mark.
  • I also heard that in a throwing contest with Yaz from the Sox dugout, Yaz barely reached the left field wall. Reggie pegged a seed into the screen!
  • But my biggest Reggie memory is his 'player comparison'.

I'm not saying that the two players are the same, although both were outfielders, both won Gold Gloves, and both played in the World Series.

If you don't remember Reggie as being that good, consider that he had more than thirty homers twice, had an OPS of more than 1.000 one season, and finished in the top 5 in MVP voting twice. As for Player B, he had a nice career, too. Fred Lynn, Reggie's number one match on similarity scores.