Monday, June 30, 2008


The Red Sox have worn a variety of labels through the years, ranging from slugging station-to-station baseball to the more recent mantle of champions. Only recently have they become a team focused as much on balanced run generation and run prevention.

The acquisition of Curt Schilling became a landmark for that transition and the Hanley Ramirez trade for Josh Beckett marked the next step. The posting for Daisuke Matsuzaka continued the process and the development stage continues with the potential evolution of frontline starters (in particular) among Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Justin Masterson.

Effective starting pitching mandates disrupting hitters timing (changing speeds), altering where they 'sight' the ball (e.g. high or low in the strike zone), and controlling both sides of the plate. Lester has improved his ability to come inside to right-handers using his cut fastball, similar but not as effective as the way Ron Guidry used his power slider. Buchholz moved to Pawtucket to work on his fastball command to complement his offspeed armamentarium. Masterson's sidewinding delivery gives him an innate advantage to righthanders yet has left him vulnerable to left-handed swingers in the absence of consistent offspeed stuff.

The biggest asset on the horizon for the Sox is also the biggest question mark. We can't know where David Ortiz's recovery stands, and replacing him net-net with the likes of Coco Crisp or Brandon Moss clearly hampers the Sox' chance to repeat.

So far tonight the Sox have struggled against James Shields, mustering only three hits and a walk against the Rays' second best starter, an inauspicious start against the Fish.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

In Defense of the "Pink Hats"

It has become fashionable to bash the "Pink Hats", whom I will define as the "bandwagon class" of Red Sox Nation.

According to Kate Jackson "Next to Yankees caps and Giants jerseys, the pink Red Sox cap has become the most polarizing piece of clothing a Bostonian can wear." She argues that the pink hat generation simply hasn't suffered enough.

That reasoning pervades many arenas. Old time physicians who took call every second or third evening and who worked 100 hour weeks in training argue that younger trainees don't pay the dues that they did. Some military veterans argue that the armed forces have watered down recruit training (boot camp) to accommodate the younger generation. Even my children lament the reading, long hours, and tests challenging them in college? Who knew? I don't remember studying hard or taking tests in college?

Maybe people have forgotten the old saying "Baseball is too much of a game to be a business, and too much of a business to be a game." For professional sports owners, merchandising team loyalty is a dollars and sense business. Surely not every Red Sox fan is a Fever Pitch Ben Wrightman clone, but many of us own Red Sox jackets, hats, sweat shirts, T-shirts, wastebaskets, and more. Don't we?

"Victory has a thousand fathers and defeat is an orphan." Right? The Red Sox success has spawned its own literature in the wake of the conversion of the franchise from bedraggled to champion that began in 1967 with Carl Yastrzemski and "The Impossible Dream". The Red Sox streak of 388 consecutive Fenway sellouts coming into 2008 is proof enough of that conversion.

For me, the Pink Hats only represent another means of telling the world "I am part of something bigger than myself." They also symbolize a shared passion throughout the region. Whose food doesn't taste better and water cooler conversation go better than after a Sox win. Heck, you could even get a free iced coffee or tea at Double D's after a win.

For those indignant at the Pink Hats, how much suffering is enough? Did you hear the Red Sox games during middle school on the intercom? Did you watch Lou Brock run wild against the 1967 Sox and see Jim Lonborg never stand so tall? Did you have to watch the seventh game loss to the Big Red Machine after Fisk's Fair Pole shot? Do you have Bill Buckner's picture tacked onto your dart board, or a Grady Little voodoo doll? Have you ever heard of Don Buddin, Bob Tillman, or John Wyatt? Who died and made you King Fan?

The Pink Hats are simply part of the evolution of Red Sox Nation from the dark days antedating the tectonic shift of 1967 to the Apocalypse of 2004. Their loyalty and their dollars fueled the Sox' championship crowning achievement only made possible through combining Big Market royalties with smaller market smarts. The Pink Hats help the Red Sox 'overpay' for vital cogs in the machine while transitioning to accelerating player development with younger players with critical contribution at 'bargain' prices.

Pink may make you see red, but be sure that Sox ownership sees not pink, but green.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reality TV Invades Fenway - RemDawg Day Afternoon

Jerry Remy gets recognized as a Red Sox lifer, which can't be a bad thing. The RemDawg brings a breadth of baseball knowledge and affability to the park daily, and a sense of humor that seems unflappable, unless Don Orsillo impedes his post-game departure.

The best part of RemDawg Day Afternoon for me was the reunion of former teammates, including Rick Burleson, Jim Rice, Carleton Fisk, Dennis Eckersley, and coach Walt Hriniak.

Other worthwhile memories include some Ned 'Rooster' Martin clips as Remy's first partner, and Lenny Clarke yelling for Heidi Watney, who was sitting virtually behind him.

My wife asked about Hriniak. Hriniak was legendary for his willingness to tutor hitters with his 'style' that rescued the careers of some (Dwight Evans notably) and impaired others (Rich Gedman didn't seem to hit with the helicopter swing by my recollection).

Meanwhile, the action on the field left something to be desired, as Doug Davis appeared to be Jamie Moyer reincarnated with the Sox mostly mesmerized by his offerings.

Once again some ferocious rain and thunderstorms brought on a late start, only adding to the lateness of the affair.

Justin Masterson continued his OJT (on the job training) with a mostly serviceable evening, excepting a two run homer and four RBI from Chad Tracy.

With Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz absent from the lineup, the Sox looked mostly punchless, with Manny Ramirez scuffling with his hammy, and the replacements (Moss, Crisp) not having much impact so far. Pedroia continues to creep back toward .300 (at .284) with his homer, single and pair of RBI, and Chris Smith looked very sharp out of the pen.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Every game has unique features, that aren't necessarily unique but by convention are. For example, Kevin Youkilis gets hit in the face by an infield warmup toss and has to leave the game. And the Red Sox run short of substitutes, so Brandon Moss's appearance at first base costs them a run on a spinning dribbler.

Julio Lugo was hitting over .274, but it seems like the weakest .274 ever, with a homer and thirteen RBI...a real eye rubber.

The Sox finally pushed across in run in the eighth inning and trail 2-1 with two down. I don't love the matchup of Manny against ultra hard throwers like Tony Pena. But you never know with Manny being Manny.

Meanwhile, statistically the Sox have moved into fifth in pitching in the AL and remain in second in the AL in runs scored. The Sox have finally pushed over the '2' mark in strikeouts to walks, partially from the bullpen, but also from improved work from Jon Lester. Lester has grown in front of our eyes, to the point that he is becoming a number two starter. Eighth in the AL in ERA for starters, He had a 2.97 ERA in six May starts and has a 1.63 ERA in three June starts. He is also third in the AL in innings pitched.

Monday, June 16, 2008

High Colon-ic

The Red Sox are amazingly close to the Pounding Phillies, considering that Bartolo Colon came out with about nothing. His first inning fastball was mid-80s and Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard went yard for a quick 3-0 lead at Citizens Bank Park.

Howard took another Colon offering into the left field seats for the fourth Philly run before the Sox struck back with back-to-back jacks in the fifth by Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew...leading to Javier Lopez entering the fifth inning.

Heidi Watney reports that Bartolo Colon left the game with back spasms. If it were the National Hockey League, we'd call it a suntan from the red light going on. Actually, I like Colon and he's probably more svelte than Mickey Lolich.

Daisuke Matsuzaka's rehab start at Lehigh Valley is delayed.

Minor Consideration. In the hitter's league California League, the Sox have several major prospects hammering the horsehide. Jorge Jimenez, Josh Reddick, and Lars Anderson all are hitting over .300 and slugging at least .892.

Injury distort. The Yankees' righthander Chien Ming-Wang injured his foot running the bases and is expected to miss six weeks.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Big Red (Sox) Machine

Red Sox Nation rolled into the Great American Ballpark today sans Manny Ramirez (hamstring) and David Ortiz (wrist). The result? A 9-0 thrashing of the young Reds, behind home run power among Coco Crisp, Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew, and Dustin Pedroia.

The Red's biggest question is where in the world Ken Griffey, Jr. heads for the pennant stretch. Griffey, the 38 year-old, injury-riddled outfielder has numbers .246//358/.394/.752 that don't support what is listed as an 8 million dollar plus salary. And a team like the Sox doesn't need veteran leadership, just performance.

For the most part, the Sox held down Red phenom Jay Bruce, other than his Friday night leadoff homer off Justin Masterson. Sox pitching might give clues as to how Bruce's power can get turned into a summer of 4 to 3 (groundouts to second base).

Josh Beckett had better feel on his breaking stuff today, raising his record to 7-4, with seven scoreless innings.

The Sox decision to hold onto Coco Crisp looks better daily, with Manny Ramirez's fallback position to DH, and the Sox benefiting from the superior defensive play of an outfield of Ellsbury, Crisp, and Drew. The latter continues his torrid pace, with three homers, eight runs scored, seven RBI and a 1.462 OPS in the last seven games.

The Sox invade Philly tomorrow, with the Phils carrying the fifth best record in MLB. The Sox have the second best record in MLB behind the (gasp) Chicago Cubs. Coming into today, the Cubs also have the greatest runs scored/prevented differential, just ahead of Philly. What is absolutely shocking is the Angels number three record while allowing more runs than scoring.
Terry Francona gets something of a homecoming with his Philadelphia return. One has to wonder if Philly fans acrimony toward the manager with a pair of World Series pelts has faded. Maybe they'll leave their tar and feathers at home.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Youk Can Go Home Gain

The Sox struggled through game two of the Cinci series with Kevin Youkilis pulling the bleachers' hole card to a Royal Flush of the Reds. The Cincinnati Kid returned home leading the Sox to a 6-4 extra-inning victory at the Great American Ballpark with three hits including the game winner.

Youk's blast pleased 140 friends and family on hand to celebrate his return. Meanwhile, Coco Crisp tacked on an insurance run following up Youk's blast with one of his own, and Jacoby Ellsbury added a pair of stolen bases to run his total to 31. The Red Sox rookie leads the majors in stolen bases with 31 and is third in the AL in runs scored with 48.

The Sox also have three players in the top eight in on-base slugging percentage, led by J.D. Drew (two), Manny Ramirez (five), and Kevin Youkilis (six).

But it wasn't all offense, as Tim Wakefield delivered seven innings of two-run pitching. Unfortunately, the bullpen struggled as Jonathan Papelbon allowed a two-out ninth inning homer on what looked to me to be a hanging slider. Craig Hansen came on in the tenth and earned his first major league save, surviving a two-out two-on warning track shot by Brandon Phillips.

The Sox came in with a game and a half lead on the resilient Rays, who are even in the loss column, and tussling with Florida in the annual Fish Fry series.

Major League Baseball is rumored to be seeking implementation of instant replay for home runs with a target date of August first. Football has long had instant replay, basketball implemented it for buzzer beaters, and hockey for goals. But baseball seemed determined to live in an anachronistic world of high tech performance-enhancers, for everyone except umpires. God forgive umpires be stripped of human error. But a series of erroneous calls on homeruns seems to have tipped the scales in favor of progress instead of history.

But nobody wants to offend the umpires, who will have to initiate the call. Can you imagine the umpires who screw up a home run call and refuse to initiate replay?

Jorge Orta called safe at first in the 9th inning of Game 6 in the 1985 World Series. Clearly Todd Worrell has the ball on first base before Orta arrives.

Maybe Don Denkinger would be remembered for more than his blown call (above) if baseball had a challenge-related replay system. But maybe not, as any replay system initially gets implemented for boundary calls (homers and potentially fair-foul calls).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Southpaw Exposure

Statistics IP H BB SO W-L ERA

Player A 89 84 37 57 5-3 3.43

Player B 94 88 24 86 7-4 2.85

Player A has a salary of $421,000 and is 24 years old and Player B is 29 years old and his salary is $16.98 million.

Player A is Jon Lester, who hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in his last nine starts. Player B is Johan Santana. I'm not claiming that Lester is the equal of Johan Santana. But for a young pitcher learning his craft, Lester has performed admirably and improving steadily throughout the season.

The Sox had three homers tonight, ironically the 10th of the season for each of Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, and J.D. Drew. Has that ever happened before.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Why is it that watching the Orioles seems so painful? It's probably a total lack of star power.

I grew up in an era where the Orioles dominated the AL East, with Frank and Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Mark Belanger, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, and more. The era of pitching and the three run homer.

Now the Os have Brian Roberts and nobody. Jeremy Guthrie could be pretty good. George Sherill is a solid closer. Luke Scott could be pretty good. Kevin Millar and Jay Payton are Sox castoffs.

Can't be the Sox can it? I don't think so. Bartolo Colon put on a good show, the power Sox drill a couple of homers (the Fenway over-under for homers must be 1.5), and the running Sox pile up the stolen bases (Ellsbury, Lugo).

Anybody notice the action in the minors? Jason Place has started to hit at Lancaster, with a .400 average in ten games with twelve runs, ten ribbies, and four dingers. Lars Andersen has raised his average to .313. Josh Reddick has double digit homers (okay, it's Lancaster). Daniel Bard is finding the strike zone at Portland. And that doesn't even count the top shelf prospects like Clay Buchholz (AAA), Michael Bowden (AA), and Jed Lowrie (AAA).

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Pitch Back

The Red Sox have lowered their team ERA below 4, to 3.92. How?

The current pitching rotation:

  • Josh Beckett, the ace, ERA 4.07, 6-4, finding his groove
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka, disabled
  • Jon Lester, ERA 3.50, 4-3, the maturation occurring
  • Tim Wakefield, ERA 4.33, 4-4, last 3 starts 22 innings, 5 ER
  • Justin Masterson, ERA 2.59, 3-0, looks like he belongs
  • Bartolo Colon, ERA 3.91, 3-1
  • Clay Buchholz, ERA 5.53, 2-3, inconsistency and injury resulted in a trip to the Pawsox
The Sox June ERA has been 3.34, and the bullpen has improved their K/BB ratio to 1.89 and their ERA to 3.93. The quartet of Papelbon, Okajima, Delcarmen, and Hansen have recently given Terry Francona the stability and reliability not seen during the early season.

The Sox have developed pitching throughout the organization and have promising prospects on the horizon should injury or ineffectiveness require it.

Five Sox in Sagarin Top 23

Jeff Sagarin's offensive ratings at USA Today.

Five Red Sox in the top 23:
  • Drew (2)
  • Ramirez (5)
  • Youkilis (17)
  • Ellsbury (19)
  • Ortiz (23)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Comfort Zone for Drew and Commodity Education for You

The Red Sox have several players who have returned to more normal performance this year, notably Julio Lugo (including his defense). But the biggest defense in the lineup is the Guess Who's Coming to Dinner winner, J.D. Drew.

With three hits today, Drew is now sixth in the AL in OPS and fifth in the AL in batting average, in the top three in on base percentage, and just outside the top ten in runs scored. Drew obviously looks much more comfortable offensively both making contact and driving the ball, delivering his seventh homer of the season today.

Jeff Sagarin gives overall production ratings at USA Today, and using his ratings, Drew ranks fifth in the AL.

The Sox have avenged last night's whupping by the Mariners, presuming the Mariners don't hang double figures on Papelbon.

The SP500 with a point-and-figure chart with the COLUMN of Os moving below a lower column of Os. That's a negative in stock trading. John Henry would know that.
For Mr. Henry, COPPER, a.k.a. Dr. Copper, for its diagnostics on the economy (a critical component of houses, automobiles, and electronics) also is negative...unlike the general commodities index shown yesterday.

Charts courtesy of Stockcharts.

More comprehensive market education available at my other site.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Suspended Animation and "Ownership" Status

Major League Baseball trotted out its 'Three Blind Mice' disciplinary squad and with all the precision of an Edwin Jackson fastball suspended Coco Crisp for 7 games, Jon Lester for 5, and Sean Casey for 3. As for the Rays, who cares? And what fine did Joe Maddon get for his supervisory role?

Does this bring the Sox closer together or has the incident been divisive? Did Youk and Manny disagree on their role in the punchout?

Tonight it's FITNESS NIGHT at the ballpark, as my idol Bartolo Colon (a couple more pieces of garlic bread and I'm there) climbs the hill for the Sox against the Mariners.

The Sox go from the fish to the fishermen, as the Mariners invade Fenway Park.

According to ESPN, several Red Sox players take umbrage with Youkilis' temper tantrums after outs. Youkilis has filled Paul O'Neill's role with the Yankees, designated hothead. Of course, Yankee fans don't see it that way, because O'Neill was a 'competitor'.

Chris Carter, we barely knew ya'.

Holy crap! The Red Sox muffed up a 1-6-3 DP, as it didn't appear that the Sox knew who was covering. Then on the next play, Colon throws to first instead of getting the force. Two unnecessary runs.

Stat Boy.

The Sox are first in on base percentage, and second in runs, total bases, and on base slugging percentage, behind Texas. Mirabile dictu the Sox trail only Tampa with 56 stolen bases.

On the hill, the Sox are sixth in ERA (3.93), first in strikeouts, and fifth in batting average against. So the combination of balance in run production and run prevention have led the Sox to the second best record in the AL.

"Turn those machines back on."

Don't cry for John Henry, Argentina. The JWH commodity trading business looks healthy after some struggles.
It's not hard to see why, if you look at the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index Exchange Traded Fund. This is a three year weekly chart on a parabolic move...JWH can just coin money under these circumstances.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fish Out of Water

The Red Sox continued to enjoy home cooking and the Rays faced road woes as the Sox swept Tampa and moved 1 1/2 games into first place.

The game had a series of highlights:
  • Jon Lester with 6 plus innings of 1 run ball
  • A bench clearing brawl after Coco Crisp charged the mound after being thrown at
  • Manny Ramirez jacking a three run first inning homer
  • Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis having a shoving match in the dugout
  • Jacoby Ellsbury hurting his wrist making a diving catch
Lester raised his record to 4-3, lowered his ERA to 3.5, and didn't allow a walk, critical progress for the young lefthander. Timlin and Aardsma finished, with a total of 177 pitches in something less than economy.

Crisp charged the mound, avoided a James Shields right hook, got tackled by Dioner Navarro, and then played punching bag to Johnny Gomes and Carl Crawford.

Manny got subbed out early for a pinch runner after hitting a homer...and Youkilis.

Ellsbury appeared to hyperflex his right (glove hand) wrist making a diving catch.

The genius of Francona may get tested in his explanation of the Ramirez-Youkilis set to...I'm guessing that Manny was making an argument for John McCain and Youkilis was a Ron Paul guy.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Swimming Lessons

The Red Sox hosted the Rays on a misty Wednesday evening, and when the skies hadn't cleared, the Sox emerged in first place, a half game ahead of Tampa.

The game had a set to between Coco Crisp and Rays' manager Joe Maddon, as Crisp took on Rays' second baseman Iwamura on a hard slide after Jason Bartlett had blocked Crisp from sliding head first into second.

Josh Beckett raised his record to 6-4 and lowered his ERA to 4.07 with six innings of 1-run ball. The Sox also had three innings of solid relief work from Delcarmen, Okajima, and Hansen, the latter emerging as an effective component of the Sox bullpen.

The Sox bullpen has shown new life and a revised pecking order:
  • Closer - Papelbon
  • Setup - Okajima/Delcarmen
  • Primary middle - Delcarmen/Hansen
  • Long - Aardsma
  • LOOGY - (lefty out of the bullpen guy) - Lopez
  • Looking for a role - Timlin
The umpires missed a homerun around the Pesky Pole by Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia needs a little luck and looks to have shaved his head for a change of luck. Another blow for instant replay...for the Neanderthals in MLB, who also recently lost an intellectual property suit for statistics.

The Sox have improved their overall K/BB ratio to 1.89, still lower than desired but a big improvement from where they were.

It was an agricultural blight for the Pawsox and SeaDogs, who combined for three hits in two games (the latter in five innings). Clay Buchholz tossed five shutout innings for Pawtucket while battling to regain his place in the rotation. In pitching starved MLB, the Sox have chosen to have pitching depth and you can't have too much.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Two Words

No controversy in Boston? Is David Ortiz out for a month or for the season? The Yankee fans already have danced around with visions of sugarplums in their heads.

Two words answer the need. And they don't have to trade a draft choice or Michael Bowden or anybody else.

Baggage? Of course, as much of life comes with baggage. Two words. The greatest (med aided) slugger of our times. Can he run? Can he still hit? Barry Bonds.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Outfield Defense

Is tonight's outfield with Jacoby Ellsbury, Coco Crisp, and J.D. Drew the best defensive outfield in modern Red Sox history? All have good defensive instincts and two have exceptional speed. Drew has a solid arm in right, Ellsbury has an average arm, and Crisp is below average.

What do we have for comparison? In 1967, at times the Sox had Yaz in left, Reggie Smith in center, and Tony C. in right. Yastrzemski's defense was exemplary, Smith had the best arm I've seen on a Sox outfielder, and Tony C. was solid.

The mid to late seventies saw Jim Rice in left, Fred Lynn in center, and Dwight Evans in right. Rice was a lot better than people give him credit for, Lynn was outstanding, and Evans was the best defensive right fielder in modern Sox times.

I can't speak to the defense of the legendary Tris Speaker, who can't be considered 'modern' in any sense.

There's some honorable mention out there, too, with Rick Miller in center tracking them down and Tony Armas better than expected.

Maybe my dream Sox outfield would have Yaz in left, Evans in right, and Crisp in center. Maybe Ellsbury will eclipse Crisp and Lynn in the long run, but for now it is what it is.