Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Gabbard, who rose from obscurity to outwin Roger Clemens (4 to 3) during his brief Sox tenure, became expendable with the return of Jon Lester and the pending return of Curt Schilling.
Absent Kason, the Sox rotation will look like Beckett, Matsuzaka, Schilling, Wakefield, and Lester.
Trade talks for Jermaine Dye fell through when the White Sox and Ken Williams demanded the sun, the moon, and one of Jupiter's moons for the soon-to-be free agent slugger.
The Sox made this trade from strength, not desperation, which is a nice change. They did not give up (as far as we know) Ellsbury, Lowrie, or Moss, their top three position players. They also didn't give up Buchholz, Bowden, or Masterson, their top three minor league pitching prospects. For once, the locals didn't give up what seemed to be too much, to get something for a salary dump.
Meanwhile, being a Ranger fan (apologies to John Mauldin) has gotten a lot worse, reminiscent of the book, "Seasons from Hell."
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Tim Wakefield has gone into one of his 'productive' streaks. People argue about 'streakiness' in players, and I'm one who believes that it exists. Obviously, everyone has a set 'baseline' whether it's .240 or .300...
Why do Major League players feel obligated to have facial hair? I'll agree that Youkilis' facial rug is impressive, but does everyone have to be a copycat?
Have you ever walked into a busy Dunkin' Donuts in the morning and NOT seen at least one person wearing a Red Sox hat? Not in July, baby. You've got the basic ones, the red hat, the throwback '78 hats (I hate those, it reminds me of Mike Torrez), green, and the ladies pink hats. I've got a black one with the Red Sox logo on one side of the front and the 'B' on the other side. A patient gave it to me, and it gets a lot of comments.
I read an article somewhere today arguing that New York could support a third MLB team. Isn't two enough competition already. It reminds me of our city, the second smallest city in Massachusetts. We have a CVS downtown, a Brooks/Rite Aid in another part of town, and they're building a 24 hour Walgreens across the street from Brooks. Is that really necessary? It's kind of like the Red Sox getting another DH. There are only so many at bats out there.
The Red Sox bullpen has really been outstanding. Manny Delcarmen seems to have turned his career around after fanning Sammy Sosa with the sacks drunk. As Jerry Remy would say, success breeds confidence.
Don't you love the Raymond-Wally-Remy feud? The card last night with 'P.S. you stink', to Remy really went over the top. Wally might put some itching powder in Raymond's suit. You never know.
When Curt Schilling comes back, who goes?
I'd have the power ratings these days at:
Obviously, the question becomes who leaves the rotation (Gabbard or Lester most likely), whether everyone stays healthy, who has options, and whether anybody gets moved near the trading deadline.
I still will argue that trading any of the Buchholz, Masterson, Bowden triad would be a major error. Bagwell for Andersen...Bagwell for Andersen...Bagwell for Andersen...and I know that Andersen had a 1.23 E.R.A. after coming to the Red Sox.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Let's presume that you're not going to do anything major with your position players. That's probably a fair presumption, because your most valuable commodities are low-salaried players, guys like Youkilis, Pedroia, and Coco Crisp.
You have three major pitching talents in the minors, Clay Buchholz who fanned ten in five innings in his last start, Justin Masterson who has been lights out since promotion to Portland, and twenty-year old Michael Bowden who has scuffled somewhat lately, but has a high ceiling.
Jacoby Ellsbury has already been deemed virtually off the market as your top minor league position player. Jed Lowrie (shortstop) has a major league future, and the Sox seem overloaded with lefthanded outfielders like Brandon Moss and David Murphy.
What exactly is Wily Mo Pena, besides an enigma? At best he is a mediocre defensive outfielder, and offensively he has major holes and plate discipline issues, but right handed outfield power is hard to come by. Would you trade the disappointment Pena for Octavio Dotel, and what would you have to add?
Who do you really want pitching against the Yankees? Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Schilling all fit the bill, and Wakefield's struggles against New York argue for trying to bypass him.
Consistency, not talent, has plagued the Sox this season. Injury to David Ortiz shows, and Manny Ramirez hasn't been fully in gear, although he croaked a couple of tape measure shots tonight.
Problems, problems. But still in first place, and doing better than the Dow Jones Industrials lately.
Red Sox Randoms. Although not specifically the Sox, Chris Gasper was brilliant today on Globe 10.0 with Bob Ryan. Gasper showed a lot of energy, knowledge, and charisma as Ryan previewed questions about the Patriots this year. Gasper's a keeper. Amalie, how about some words on Justin Masterson and his transition from struggling at times in the bandbox at Lancaster to domination at Portland?
Sunday, July 22, 2007
As the trading deadline nears, the Sox principal need is right-handed power. Although Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia have overachieved, neither provides much power. The three-four duo of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez have not produced as much as expected, because of injury (Ortiz) and probably because of lack of protection for Ramirez, as J.D. Drew has struggled mightily.
The bullpen has carried the team, with Papelbon, Okajima, Delcarmen, and recently Timlin all providing overproduction. The rotation has stabilized with Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Gabbard, with Schilling on the fast track to return, and Wakefield once again delivering innings and .500 ball.
The bench has limited speed, and the quartet of Cora, Mirabelli, Pena, and Hinske doesn't provide "quality flexibility." Presuming the Sox can make the playoffs, it is reasonable to assume that Ellsbury will have a speed and defensive role, and if they started tomorrow, Wily Mo would have to sit. Period.
Everyone wants Buchholz and Ellsbury, whom the Sox will not trade easily. More problematic are the future of Moss and Murphy, both lefthanded hitters, with Moss seeming to have more value. A minimum quintet of value remains
on the minor league mound, with Jon Lester, Michael Bowden, the fast-rising Justin Masterson (a beast, allowing only one run in three double A starts), Craig Hansen who has regained his slider, and Daniel Bard who is working his way back from injury and control problems.
Sox fans have lost confidence in Theo Epstein's ability to rate major league talent, which only makes it worse. Currently, the Sox cannot be rated the favorite in the AL with the Tigers having the strongest overall team, unless Epstein's acquisitions miraculously revert to form (Lugo has recently). Sox fans must urge patience, lest the Bagwell Blunder be repeated by the current administration.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Guys get a reputation as a leather guy or something less. Wily Mo Pena, falling in the latter category, draws an error on a hard liner to left. Okay, maybe he should have had it. Julio Lugo makes a diving stop of a rocket, and has to rush a throw, and Youkilis can't handle it. E-6. That's BS, whoever is scoring.
Later in the game, Youkilis, riding a long errorless streak, can't handle an easier play than Lugo's and it's a hit. I'm not saying that it should have been an error, but it was an easier chance than Lugo's.
You kind of expect the benefit of the doubt at home; is that fair? Probably, a play should have a hit or an error because it merits it sui generis. If sportswriters don't give benefit of the doubt, then why should we?
Friday, July 20, 2007
You wake up sweating, and not because the humidity has reached Panamanian proportions. The superstitions invoked have failed, such as not wearing team paraphernalia or avoiding watching the games in HD because of bad karma. Your food taste bad, but you're still trapped by stress eating. Really, you need professional help. Stop watching the Red Sox.
Last night, even an hour and fifty-six minute rain delay couldn't save the Sox from themselves.
Last year Tony Massarotti bemoaned the lack of seats in "America's Most Beloved Ballpark", as though nouveau fans abrogated long-timers 'rights'. Now the latecomers have the same access to headaches, spastic colon, and mood swings as their forbearers.
And what exactly do Red Sox fans root for? The Fenway ten (DH league) have simply become Yankees Light, with the same astronomical payroll, which allows the spend without end philosophy, places player development on a lower tier, and creates fandom with 'entitlement'.
Evidence-based baseball? Well, the pitching has improved, thanks to the imports (Beckett, Matsuzaka, Schilling (when healthy), and Okajima. But the bats remind more of the struggling Pedro Cerrano than Murderer's Row. On a good day lately, the best the Sox can hope for is some manufactured runs from Lugo and Crisp, as the core of the lineup hasn't delivered.
In a society where recriminations and blame mean everything, where does one begin? It's hard to blame John Henry who hasn't tightened the purse strings. Player development seems to have improved (Pedroia, Delcarmen), with a host of prospects on the fringe of advancement (Lester, Ellsbury, Buchholz, Moss, Murphy) and some talents (Bowden, Lowrie, Masterson) showing promise at intermediate levels. Where fans want to point fingers are trades and free agent acquisitions that have brought Drew, Crisp, and Lugo, and Pena, who haven't panned out.
While Sox haters understandably shout with glee, locals only assuage their disappointment with merchandising distractions - picnics at Fenway, Red Sox Nation contests, Reality Dating shows, and miscellaneous sideshows that Real Baseball fans roll their eyes at.
At least they're not the Bruins or the Celtics, for whom we have already exhausted our supply of tar and feathers. That's the Good News.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Reality television has its place in American culture, and the spillover into local sports can't surprise anyone. Politicians, sportswriters, celebrities of every stripe, and even ordinary fans can throw their hats into the ring. In an act of extraordinary hubris, the Sox also intend to charge a $14.95 nomination fee.
First, I'll review why I have the credentials to serve in an executive capacity for Red Sox fandom.
- Experience - with 45 plus years of following the Red Sox, I've seen the highs, the lows, the ups, the downs, and the gamut of the bizarre that comprises the Red Sox experience. From watching Joe Lahoud hit three homers in a game, to heckling Sox killer Amos Otis, and NOT celebrating the 1986 erstwhile championship too early, I've been there and done that.
- Like Theo Epstein, I'm local, with only a ten year hiatus in military service interrupting my putting down roots.
- For the patricians, like Larry Lucchino, I've had an Ivy League education AND played (I use that term sparingly), college baseball. So I, too, can put down Theo (figuratively) and ask him to fetch coffee or the Wall Street Journal.
- If Dr. Charles Steinberg can serve the Red Sox, then this doc can, too. Heck, if he can do it, anyone can.
- For the financial services sector and John Henry, I'm more than familiar with the nuances of the money arena, and can talk technicals or fundamentals, currency (once the French, Swiss, or Belgian franc), derivatives, spreads, and play short, long, volatility, or some combination, like a volatility spread with long and short options. In other words, I'm a diversified specialist.
The President of Red Sox Nation by necessity shouldn't want the mantle of responsibility and recognition. She must have the seat of power thrown upon her, almost as removing the Sword in the Stone or being chosen as some Alexander cutting the Gordian Knot. She shouldn't be a household name BEFORE selection, but her story must capture the loyalty and honor of Red Sox Nation after her selection. She has to represent courage and confidence carrying out the official duties.
So, therefore, I suggest that when the balloting actually begins, fans find that paragon of virtue, the deserving person battling and trying to overcome obstacles that most can only imagine. Maybe we should celebrate a single parent struggling to raise a family, a formerly homeless person finding their dignity against adversity, or a disabled veteran seemingly tossed aside by society. The first President of Red Sox Nation must be no false prophet, nor have a vision, or a mission statement, only a good and caring heart. They deserve your respect and your vote...and they'll get mine.
Monday, July 16, 2007
By the way, Gabbard is only twenty-five years old. He's not Sandy Koufax, but he could be another Jamie Moyer or Mark Buehrle.
I expect the post-gamers to reveal the answer. When Schilling resumes his spot in the rotation, you have to expect Gabbard to maintain his, lowering his E.R.A. to 3.41 and completing the game in UNDER 2 and a half hours. That comes close to miraculous.
Ortiz and Ramirez have come out of the break showing some more power, and the Sox got a much-needed win after a tough split against the Jays, particularly with the Jays lying down like dogs (just kidding) against the Yankees tonight.
Don't look now, but the Sox are fifth in fielding percentage in the AL, and fourth in fewest errors.
Does anybody else think Manny could play about twenty feet deeper out there?
Sunday, July 15, 2007
"Dear. Mr. Dork, Here's your ball, now please tell me what gas station you work at so I can come and yell at you when you're working. Please sit down, shut up and enjoy the game. From your favorite centre fielder, Vernon Wells."
I don't go to sporting events to heckle players. Heck, at these prices, I rarely go anymore. But heckling and bench jockeying has a long and viable tradition in sports. Somehow I know that thousands of years ago, prehistoric man shouted, "you can't hit the broad side of a bison with that."
Literally, the last time I went to a Red Sox game, some drunken fool next to me yelled, "hit 'im in the head", for three consecutive hours (crack Sox security removed him in the eighth inning). It was annoying, almost as annoying as people getting into and out of the row to buy beer every three minutes. Maybe if somebody around us yelled, "hit that drunk in the head" that would have been funnier. I dunno.
Heckling comes in different forms. The 'Aint's' fans took it to another level with the Bagheads. Elegant, sophisticated, subtle. Red Sox fans had blonde 'masks' to lampoon A-Rod after his night on the town with Boom-boom LaRue or whomever she was. Fans bringing brooms to the games to signify 'sweeping' a series just isn't original at this point.
Racial or ethnic slurs go way over the line. Intolerable, grounds for dismissal. Immediately.
Rhythmic chanting? The 'Da-ryl' chants directed at Daryl Strawberry always seemed lame to me.
Good heckling has an impact. A high school girl (star opposition player) came up to one of my twin daughters (whose teams lost six games in four years) before a game a few years ago and said, "this year we're getting the W's." One of the twins' teammates replied, "I didn't know that this was a coed league", which sent the girl wobbly and crying back to her bench. She later put up a zero-zero-zero night. That was effective trash talk.
In Seeing Red, the mean-spirited one himself, Dan Shaughnessy discusses Red Auerbach's techniques for working his players, officials, and opponents. Nobody would confuse the Redhead with a wallflower.
Peyton Manning's hopping around behind the line of scrimmage probably induces some comments from opposing front sevens. Maybe Manning finds that distracts them...or maybe that explains the Super Bowl winner's quick release, trying to avoid getting 'distracted' by them.
Hockey and soccer probably don't need trash-talking. Hockey players can just decide to drop the gloves or rarely take cheap shots with body or stick. Nothing like a good head butt to liven up a World Cup soccer game.
If you have to heckle, then try to be more creative than Yankee fans, notorious for throwing batteries. First, batteries can cause permanent injury. Second, throwing objects reveals YOU to be the idiot.
Let's have some sample heckles...show some imagination.
"Hey, Jason, I've got a great discount growth hormone dealer."
"A-Rod, you got a corked bat in your pants or you happy to be in Toronto?"
Even including this season, Delcarmen's career statistics aren't overwhelming, but Delcarmen now 'gets' the Ray Miller triad, "work fast, throw strikes, and change speeds." Delcarmen always had the live fastball, touching the mid-90s, but he's throwing it for strikes and has a hard curveball and change that he has improved, and the stats speak volumes.
In 12 appearances (13.2 innings), Delcarmen has 13 strikeouts, ERA of 1.32, a WHIP of 0.73, and has recently dominated American League hitters. In his last five appearances over the past 11 days, the Hyde Park righthanders has pitched six and two-thirds innings, yielding 2 hits, 1 walk, no runs, and fanned 10.
Last season Delcarmen seemed either unable or unwilling to throw strikes. With success has come a bit of a swagger, and Delcarmen can challenge hitters as he did last night with Frank Thomas and the Red Sox killer Reid Johnson, or fool them with his offspeed offerings.
Here's to success for the local kid.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Julian Tavarez' has done a 'credible' (gawd I hate that word) job as the Red Sox fifth starter. Do I really believe that? Maybe he serves as FOM (Friend of Manny) and talisman for Daisuke Matsuzaka, but throwing him out there every fifth day has become pure pain.
For the season, he is 5-7, E.R.A. of 5.15 and WHIP of 1.52. I won't argue that win-loss record accurately reflects pitching performance, but let's digress to WHYDFML (what have you done for me lately?).
In his last three starts, he has gone 14 2/3 innings, allowing 23 hits, 30 baserunners, 12 earned runs, and not surprisingly has lost all three games.
Yes, he has 'entertainment value' (wild gesticulations, bowling to first, peculiar expressions) and a great story (rags to Major League riches) but do the Sox have ANYBODY (including Jon Lester) who can pitch equally poorly or better?
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Boston fans have a reputation for sophistication, and a mean spirit. Maybe we're not Philadelphia fans booing Santa Claus, but we've had more than our share of negativity moments. Local fans tend to have the cannibalistic maternal instincts of a new hamster mother. Nitwit radio dominates the airwaves, with the morning princes (Dennis and Callahan) formerly suspended for racist remarks, leading the sarcasm. Callahan remains on the DL with a laryngeal problem.
But maybe a new day has dawned for Bostonians. Surely an eleven game cushion in the AL Least helps, but as surely as Turdus migratorius signals springtime, recent events make you wonder.
This week, fans joined a disabled singer, struggling to find his way through the National Anthem. Their voices supported his, allowing him to recover and complete the anthem prior to the Sox game.
Later fans encouraged (note: did not cheer in derision or mock) struggling shortstop Julio Lugo, who then delivered a key single to plate a pair of runs against Sox nemesis Scott Kazmir. Not another summertime Kazmir sweater for Bostonians that night. Lugo, mired below the Mendoza line, seemed genuinely touched by support.
What we'll need to watch for is the "Yankees $%&#" cheers, shirts, hats and buttock tattoos disappear from our presence. When class and sophistication replace crassness, vulgarity, and boorishness at "America's Most Beloved Ballpark", then we'll know the Parousia awaits. I'm not holding my breath.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Bonds, Cheating, and the National Pastime
“The love of money is the root of all evil.” --Timothy 6:10
Sports reflects society, and baseball cheating is neither new nor unusual. Whether John Wyatt with a tube of Vaseline, Gaylord Perry and the splitter, or numerous players with corked bats, cheating has always been part of baseball.
A more insidious form emerged in the late 1980s and 1990s, the probable widespread use of performance enhancing drugs, particularly anabolic steroids. In pharmacologic doses, steroids provide key benefits to elite athletes. As Barry Bonds prepares to eclipse Hank Aaron’s record, he has received almost universal vilification as a cheater and a fraud.
Is Bonds so different than what we witness throughout society? Individuals cheat in school, for better grades and better opportunities. In Freakonomics, Levitt shows how teachers cheated in order to have a better chance at merit pay linked to students’ academic performance.
Half of marriages fail, and extramarital relationships constitute the cause in many of the cases.
Innumerable Americans ‘cheat’ on their income taxes. I heard a radio program once where callers reported claiming pets as dependents. A Money magazine issue showed how a single tax return could produce fifty different tax liabilities when viewed through the eyes of fifty different accountants. Cheating or something in-between?
When it comes to public safety, the link between drinking and driving and accidents cheats society and individuals. One of thirteen drivers is drunk after ten P.M. and one of seven is drunk after one A.M. Do you trust your life under those circumstances? Speeding contributes to many accidents. Is speeding cheating, bad judgment, or something else.
Commerce overflows with examples of unethical behavior. The term ‘watered stock’ came from farmers feeding cattle salt and water to elevate their weight. Adulterated products, such as in Boston’s Big Dig, enhance profits and produced unsafe construction. Las Vegas spends millions to reduce fraud and cheating, but suffered its biggest losses from a rampaging tiger.
Investing became legendary for its cheats, frauds, and scandals. We had Enron and its “Smartest Guys in the Room”, and Frank Portnoy’s compendium of scandals with “Infectious Greed”. Numerous examples of insider trading dot the trading landscape,
And some countries continue to use off-balance sheet accounting to conceal debt and deficits. A national trading contest was recently investigated for cheating. Accounting fraud plagued Cendant and many more companies. Fannie Mae’s accounting ‘mess’ has yet to be completely unraveled, and the current Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO scandal) may still have widespread implications in financial derivatives markets.
Politics and Government remain rife with scandal from both sides of the aisle. Politicians do more than reneg on campaign promises, with a variety of subversions of democratic and ethical principles in the name of victory. Honesty and honor fall by the wayside compared with power and greed. Even the CIA declassified “Family Jewels”, exposing the dark underbelly of a major government agency.
Michael Moore’s latest ‘epic’ Sicko challenges the medical establishment’s credibility, and lawyers are taught to do what is necessary to serve their client. Bending the law and bending the truth become part of the mainstream fabric of their craft.
Sports and recreation have produced some famous cheats. Rosie Ruiz bypassed much of the route of the Boston Marathon before being exposed as a fraud. Boston College had a point shaving scandal, and tonight Katie Couric highlighted cheating at tournament fishing!
Jose Canseco reported broad use of performance enhancing substances in baseball, yet nobody seemed to believe him. Numerous hitters went from ordinary to extraordinary, with outlandish performances like those of Brady Anderson (fifty homers) and Rafael Palmeiro (averaging fifteen homers his first five full seasons) becoming a forty-plus homer slugger.
Should we simply shrug our shoulders when Barry Bonds passes Hank Aaron, or should we acknowledge his achievement as another sign of the times? Does an asterisk belong next to Bonds’ name in history? And does a used car salesman Commissioner of Baseball carry the moral weight of God?
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Clemens, winning his 350th game, presents an imposing figure, honed by years of rigorous training (devoid of suitcase lifting however), while Gabbard looked more like a pool guy with a five o'clock shadow.
We shouldn't minimize the importance of the Gabbards of the Red Sox organization. Their success, obtained at a fraction of the cost of free agents, allows the Red Sox to 'hide' their mistakes. The promise of the Lesters, Buchholzes, and Bowdens of the world allow the Sox capital to either draft or buy Manny Ramirez version 1.1.
While we enjoy the Sox productive first half, we also look to ownership and management to develop their long-term strategic plan. And any business worth its salt, regardless of iconic and monopolistic status, must figure a way to maintain its prosperity or wither away (see Boston Celtics)...
As the newspapers go gaga over the Clemens milestone, let us not forget about the lesser luminaries who get it done on the cheap.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Suffice it to say, we Red Sox fans have no shame. Five All-Stars are not enough, and we have absolutely no pride about stuffing the ballot box. As they used to say in the Mayor Richard Daley era in Chicago, "I've been active in politics all my life, and intend to remain active after I've gone.
All you have to do to participate in Sox serial Democracy is go to the link above. You too can become part of the All-Star experience. Shake those pom-poms, people. I'm not saying that Okajima doesn't merit an All-Star selection, rather it just makes it a 'cheesy' way to add him to the team. The little southpaw with the funky delivery has contributed mightily to the Sox success in 2007. With the Okie-Dokey, he even has his own pitch. David Ortiz earned the starting first base job (sort of), joined by reserves Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell. Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon received spots on the pitching staff.
So if you're willing to brave potential eyestrain, carpal tunnel, CRT headaches, obesity, and the most dreaded disease of all, "seat fatigue", grab yourself a piece of the action and type, type, type for the home team. If we could only bypass the validation code...
Sunday, July 01, 2007
AAA will afford Buchholz a bigger challenge while he continues to develop his command and control, particularly of both sides of the plate with his fastball, and better location of his 12 to 6 breaking ball.
For the season at Portland, Buchholz sports a 1.69 ERA, allowing only 53 hits and 21 walks in 85 innings, a sub-one whip ratio and a strikeout to walk ratio of almost six.
In his last three starts (17.1 innings), the 22 year-old righthander has yielded only 10 hits, one earned run, walked four and fanned twenty-one. In his last ten starts, with limited pitch counts and innings, he has exceeded ten strikeouts four times and had at least eight strikeouts six times. For the season, opponents hit .177 against Buchholz.
Theo, it's time. Take him to the next level.
Respecting the game rules include playing hard, not stealing or bunting when your team has an overwhelming lead, not 'admiring' your home run, in general, not showing up the other team.
Then there are the 'common sense' rules, don't throw fat 0 and 2 pitches, throw to the correct base, hit the cutoff man, and so on. Last night's rules violation by Julio Lugo was an egregious one, DO NOT MAKE THE FIRST OR THE LAST OUT AT THIRD BASE. With Lugo pinch running, he provided extra speed to help score in the bottom on the eighth if Kevin Youkilis got a hit. He not only got thrown out at third base, he didn't slide, and generally acted as though he had just arrived from another galaxy.
Did Lugo lose the game for the Red Sox? No. Should we tar and feather him? Absolutely not. But Sox fans expect full physical and mental effort, whether you're making a king's ransom or the major league minimum (also a princely allowance). Come on, Julio, we want you to succeed, throw us a bone, already.