Thursday, December 24, 2009

Barely Winter, No Discontent

The Red Sox have created flexibility this winter and a fair degree of media silliness. Let's examine some flexibility and silliness.

  • Dan Shaughnessy accused management of parsimonious behavior suggesting that the Sox were trying to rebuild on the cheap. "Nothing easier than spending somebody else's money, eh?" Silliness.
  • The Sox acquire outfielder Mike Cameron. Exit stage left, Jason Bay. As mentioned before, the "Winner's Curse" means overpaying, just because other people are bidding for merchandise. We all recognize that in an industry where the AVERAGE salary (not just AVERAGE player) gets around three million dollars, there's a lot of overpaying. Cameron has always been a terrific defender, has some pop, and strikes out a lot. It's what you're doing when you don't strike out that counts. Flexibility. Here's the top 20 career list in strikeouts...some pretty good players on the list.
  • Casey Kelly is highly regarded throughout baseball for potential. Is he 'likely' to be contributing to the Sox in August or September? Some organizational people privately project that. Reminds me of the 'curse of unlimited potential' applied to Ken Brett, back in the day. Cool the jets, people. Silliness.
  • The John Lackey Watch has begun. The number one for Lackey on the www.baseball-reference.com comparison list for John Lackey is Josh Beckett. Lackey is to Beckett what Luis Tiant is to Catfish Hunter. Look it up. Flexibility.
  • Jeremy Hermida comes to the Red Sox. Platoon or puzzle piece in some future deal for Adrian Gonzalez. Flexibility.
  • The Mike Lowell saga, is he coming, is he going, a medical love story. Everybody likes Mike Lowell*. Well, *that is, a healthy Mike Lowell. All the talk is about his thumb, and we seem to have forgotten that the poor guy (healthwise) can't run and has constricted range. Silliness.
  • "I'm okay with Casey Kotchman at first base." Come on, Terry, that's the organizational guy speaking, but Red Sox Nation doesn't share your enthusiasm, absent Kotchman getting some Brady Anderson kickapoo joy juice. Silliness.
Red Sox plans have plenty of reasons for optimism, including a new shortstop, the additional of John Lackey, maturing players possibly in Daniel Bard, Clay Buchholz, and Jacoby Ellsbury, and a full season of Victor Martinez.

Concerns? Well, we have to see whether Daisuke Matsuzaka looks more like Godzilla or the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and whether Jonathan (one-pitch) Papelbon will throw something besides the fastball this season. Papelbon's 38 saves belied a dramatic fall in his strikeout-to-walk ratio and rise in the WHIP ratio. Clean inning just wasn't something we heard too much.

Sure, you say, if Papelbon is all you have to worry about, then the Sox are golden. Frankly, it's never that simple.

Seasons greetings to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Baseball Meetings

As terrific as Roy Halladay is, does he merit something approaching 20 million dollars annually, and the loss of several top prospects, e.g. Buchholz and Kelly? If I'm ownership, I can't go in that direction.

Yes the Sox need a right-handed bat, and there are a few directions there, including Adrian Beltre. Whether Mike Lowell can handle the full load next year can't be known to Sox fans, and Beltre has considerable pop in his bat.

The Sox are rumored to want to lock up V-Mart heading into his contract year. Jason Bay? The news all seems negative, from money to location, and J-Bay looks like he's earned a Godfather contract, although the 5-6 week stretch of distress against breaking stuff away mid-season gives me concerns.

Among the possible pitchers, the best 'bargain' could be Justin Duchscherer, a former Sox farmhand, who has had health issues. Sure, you have the tantalizing Rich Harden, he of the DL, and Ben Sheets, ditto.

Reportedly, Brad Penny has found a new pitching home in St. Louis. Penny just never seemed comfortable in the AL, with great stuff and not so great results with selective hitters in the AL.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Market-Based Thinking; Caveat Emptor, Theo.

Whatever we might think about the Red Sox, they aren't cheap. But in the baseball landscape, you have two currencies, players and greenbacks.

The Sox have a variety of intriguing bargaining chips (relatively low-salaried players under extended obligation) including Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Ryan Westmoreland, Casey Kelly, Ryan Kalish, and more. If we use the commodity business as a model, then the Sox have a certain 'book value', budgeted salary plus the "proven reserves" model used in mining.

Of course, the proven reserves aren't so proven, but if they are assigned a 'value', trading them for high-salaried players depletes your future in both salary obligation AND in projected value. In other words, mortgaging your farm system to acquire 'expensive' stars makes you pay twice. For the Yankees, the bottomless money pit, spending 29 percent of free agent dollars in the past couple of seasons (per an ESPN article), that's simply business as usual.

For the Red Sox, they need to work smarter not more expensively, and trading the combination of a Buchholz, Kelly, and change for a Roy Halladay isn't as efficient as spending on free agents and developing players.

Clearly, the Red Sox management didn't exactly fall of the turnip truck. You never know what disinformation campaign exists to drive up the price (Boras style) in the Winner's Curse. Everyone can point to the Beckett-Lowell trade as bringing the Sox one title, a gamble worth taking.

But we've gone through the six year productivity of some of the best pitchers in history during the Santana discussions a couple of years ago. Historically, over that timeframe, some of the best pitchers in history (from Clemens to Pedro) have averaged about 15 wins. In the past two seasons, Johan Santana has won 29 games for the Mets, and one of the players rumored to be on the block for him, Jon Lester has won 31 games...at a fraction of the cost. Caveat emptor.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hot Stove or Ice Box?

You should never be in a hurry to make a poor choice. And currently, baseball's labor pool lives in the world of Buyer's Remorse, where generally ownership overpays for mediocrity.

Example: Marco Scutaro, a player whose price is at its peak, but what of value. Scutaro scored 100 runs and had twelve homers last season. He had NEVER hit double digit homers and never scored more than 52 runs in a season until the previous year (76). At best, I suspect the Sox view him as a placeholder until the anointed one, Jose Iglesias comes on scene. Meanwhile, shortstop remains the black hole of productivity and cost. Scutaro's career OPS is .721. Chrissakes, we are not talking about a great player. Lou Merloni had a career OPS of .716. Scutaro is Lou Merloni coming off an excellent season, a one-year wonder. Period.

Of course, we have entered the Tug Hulett era. Does that make you feel any better? I want to throw up in my mouth over both of the above.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

White Hot, the Hot Stove League Leaves Sox Fans Blue

The New York Yankees got their 27th championship, a magical combination of glory and greenbacks, and the Red Sox have Jeremy Hermida. So, we're all feeling a lot better.

The Sox seem destined for the poorhouse it seems, with Josh Beckett only a year away from free agency, Jason Bay suddenly the defensive talent of say, Mike Greenwell, and John Henry doing a chopshop job on his investment company. Maybe they can reclaim the Dunkin Dugout seats.

We'll find out soon whether it was really Brad Mills who broke the curse, or whether the Sox can fill the role of bench coach with some combination of Stephen Hawking and Dr. Tom Hanson. Theo, you really ought to think about it.

What we've learned in the offseason is how great J.D. Drew really is (I thought his season more than passable, although the Win Shares/dollar might be less so). If Win Shares mean something, then we should acknowledge that Drew was an estimated SIXTH in the AL at his position. We found out that Rocco Baldelli will seek employment elsewhere, and of course that four Red Sox have also won World Series with both the Red Sox and the Yankees, Babe Ruth, Johnny Damon, Eric Hinske, and Ramiro Mendoza. Holy carp!

2009 taught us that money can't buy happiness, but it can buy a title. That's alright with me, because the Sox are New York light, with the big market payroll albeit small market swagger.

The issues for the Sox headed in 2010:
  • Left-field. Bye-bye, Bay-be, good-bye?
  • Can we get more mileage from the Japanese import, Daisuke Matsuzaka?
  • Will the financial black hole/revolving door at shortstop ever close?
  • Is Theo Epstein's expectation of Jacoby Ellsbury hitting for power a steroid era fantasy?
  • If there's money to be paid out, who's going to claim it, Jonathan "more mouths to feed" Papelbon, Beckett, Bay, V-Mart, all or none of the above?
  • Is Daniel Bard the closer-in-waiting? Does Jonathan Papelbon intend to throw more than fastballs?
  • Is My Captain, My Captain going the way of "Nevermore"?
  • Does Mike Lowell have gas in the tank, or specifically the femur/acetabulum?
  • Will the real David Ortiz, please step up to the plate?
Mike Lowell's hip means a lot to the Red Sox.

How much would it take to get Justin Morneau from the Twins, because they're generally payroll parsimonious, and going to have to pay Joe Mauer? Heck, maybe they'll pay him less, because after all he didn't win the Hank Aaron Award, given to the best hitter from New York, excluding Mark Teixeira?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

2009 Post-Mortem

What post-mortem examination do the 2009 Red Sox deserve? The simplest and most deserving explanation follows that the Red Sox simply went as far as they deserved.

A team created to be balanced failed to show balance...underachieving on the road, including a dismal road show in Anaheim.

Overall the team went 95-67, but let's look inside the numbers.
  • They won 16 of 18 games against the Orioles, the worst team in MLB
  • They won 7 of 9 games from the next worse Indians
  • Therefore of their 28 games over .500, 19 came from just two teams
  • 7 teams other than Boston had winning records, New York, Tampa, Minnesota, Detroit, Los Angeles, Texas, and Seattle
  • The Sox split with the Yankees and Rays, and had a winning record against only two teams with winning records (Detroit and Minnesota).
  • In other words, the Sox couldn't beat good teams consistently
  • All of which brings us to why they're working on their handicap instead of freezing to death playing baseball.
Why can't the team perform on the road? If there were a simple answer, you'd expect ownership and management to know it. The Sox had an OPS of .753 on the road, and only one AL team, the Yankees had an OPS over .800 on the road. Six AL teams had OPS exceeding .800 at home, including the Red Sox, leading at .862. For all the sturm and drang about Yankee Stadium, the Yankee OPS only increased .036 at home, compared to the Sox' .109.

The tale of the tape for pitching is a bit surprising, with a .736 OPS against at home and .779 away. In other words, the Sox not only hit better at Friendly Fenway, but also pitched better.

Upset? Not really, as perhaps Red Sox Nation's "need to win" has lessened in the wake of a pair of World Series crowns. In other words, the sense of urgency isn't so great. "We haven't won a title in two years."

Maybe worse than the early playoff exit is the reality that the Sox, for the most part, don't generate much excitement. It wasn't as though everyone had a career 'down' year. V-Mart, Youkilis, Gonzalez, Bay, Ellsbury, and Drew all performed at least to most people's expectations. Pedroia and Lowell were at least adequate, and David Ortiz had half a season after struggling mightily.

But overall, the lineup inexplicably struggles to 'create' and 'prevent' runs on the road. With a largely 'mature' team, the Sox can't lack the knowledge on how to get it done on the road. Yes, we've heard of Sox past burning the candles from both ends, but again, that dog don't hunt. At least let's hope not.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Psych

How much psychic energy should we expend worrying about the Sox these days? Not so much.

Just as in the NFL, you have to make the playoffs, then we'll start to worry. The Sox have four starters pitching well into the playoffs, and the deepest bullpen. What SHOULD we care about?

  • Jason Varitek. The Captain's offense has disappeared in the second half and everyone on the opposition looks like Jacoby Ellsbury.
  • Manny Delcarmen. This looked like it would be Delcarmen's breakout season, until recently when he's struggled mightily. Still with the combination of Papelbon, Wagner, Bard, Okajima, Ramirez, and Saito ahead of him, Terry Francona has plenty of options.
  • Road worriers. The Sox haven't shown much on the road recently, even splitting a pair in Kansas City.
  • Fortune 500. The old deal about guys making a fortune and playing .500 ball...or less against good teams. That's what the playoffs are about, showing that you can beat the good teams.
  • Coaching defections? Should we worry about other organizations poaching Sox staff in the offseason? That's going to be a hard one to get Sox fans riled up about. It's not like Dale Sveum is coming back to coach third base.
Why don't we focus on 'what worked'?
  • The versatility of Kevin Youkilis moving seamlessly from first to third...forget about left field.
  • David Ortiz had a resurgence the second half, hitting .254 with 15 homers. Only J. Bay had more for the Sox with 16, while Pedroia, Drew, and Youkilis all had 9.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury has become a legitimate leadoff hitter, and the big inside 'hole' in his swing shrank.
  • J. Bay had a solid second half after a brief struggle.
  • V. Mart bolstered the offense with a 25 game hitting streak and clutch hitting.
  • Alex Gonzalez plugged the leak at shortstop and had unexpected offense, even though he nearly never walks.
  • Jon Lester became the best Sox lefty since...who knows when. Yeah, I know Bill Lee won 17 games three times; would you rather hit the Lester cutter or the Leephus?
  • Bay, Martinez, Youkilis, and Drew all had second half OPS over .900.
  • Balance. The Sox are third in runs, fourth in ERA, and fourth in fielding percentage.
  • As much as the Sox have struggled on the road, they've excelled at home.
  • Jerry Remy made a booth comeback.
No reason to nibble on the finger nails. The twin championships of 2004 and 2007 have simply exorcised the demons of yore.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday Well

  • I'm rooting for Dice-K...he's a proud guy and a fierce competitor. A healthy productive Dice gives the Sox a better chance to win the big one.
  • Yankee fans I'm talking to are not showing the bluster and confidence befitting their tradition. In fact, seeds of doubt creep into the Bomber Brains. Has the curse mentality become part of their collective psyche? We can only hope.
  • The MLB stolen base title race comes down to three.
  • Terry Francona's Sox managerial winning percentage? .582. They showed that Sciosia's Angels' record was .555.
  • The former Sox pitcher who is 41st all-time in pitching wins? Jamie Moyer, of course.
  • If Bill Belichick were a baseball manager, who would he be? Really.
  • To what would you attribute the Sox success? Fielding percentage, 5th in AL. ERA, 4th in the AL. Runs scored, 3rd. Balance.
  • I saw an autographed poster recently with Varitek and his two recent no-hit pitchers, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. The others? Derek Lowe and Hideo Nomo, methinks.
  • If an actor were to play "Terry Francona, the Manager", who would it be? Bruce Willis, Dana Carvey?
  • Good soldier? That would be Mike Lowell.
  • Seen anything more painful than watching Tim Wakefield run? Hint. I have a treadmill.
  • Is Sox opponent Vlad Guerrero a Hall of Famer? Over 400 homers, .957 OPS. He'd get my vote.
  • Where did the 'bullpen' get it's name? I'd say that Congress should be the "bull pen". But that's just me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

John!


  • John Henry, not Jon Lester! Frankly, I wish the owner would share his thought on the US dollar, lumber, natural gas, and other commodities instead of the Red Sox.
  • Brad Penny and John Smoltz sure look better in AAA...oh, the National League.
  • Buchholz, as of now, still has the best 'swing and miss' stuff on the team.
  • Yes, I noticed that Alex Gonzalez has yet to walk for the Sox. "You can't walk off the island." Heck, my wife knew that.
  • Intrigue in the front office. Did the Sox Fenway makeover maven get sandbagged? Can't hardly believe I care about that.
  • Will Pedroia climb to .300 by the end of the season?
  • Can Jacoby Ellsbury be the first Red Sox stolen base champ in a long, long time?
  • Heidi or Tina? Maryann or Ginger?
  • If V-Mart is the personal catcher for Lester and Buchholz, doesn't that change the 'conventional wisdom' about the contribution of Jason Varitek?
  • Jacoby Ellsbury has his OBP up to .350 and still isn't in the top 20 in runs scored. That doesn't sound right.
  • Jon Lester and CC Sabathia are statistically pretty much interchangeable. I imagine the run support has been a little higher for the hefty lefty (7.50 vs 6.77)
  • How valuable is Kevin Youkilis? A .997 OPS and enough versatility to play first or third make him a top 3 MVP candidate (Mauer, Jeter, Youkilis, Teixeira, M. Cabrera, Morales)
  • Orange Red Sox hats for sale. Am I color blind?
  • I like bonus clauses. I don't like it when teams hold out guys with bonus clauses.
  • Get well Carlos Pena...a good season (Taters) despite a tough average...
  • Summer sure disappeared abruptly. Is there any Indian Summer left?
  • Buchholz gets the 'change speeds' mantra.
  • Imagine if Daniel Bard had a change-up.
  • Of course, sometimes guys with great stuff don't want to throw it...like Billy Koch.
  • Terry Francona celebrated MJ's admission to the Hall of Fame.
  • Torn hip labrum. Don't even remember that 'being' an injury back in the day.
  • An autographed Roger Clemens photo was an auction item last night at a fundraiser I attended. Didn't even see anyone bid on it. Worse yet, somebody wrote in "Juicer" on the silent auction bid sheet.
  • Welcome to the future.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Late Season Ramblings: Devil in the Details.

  • The Red Sox brought the kryptonite to Tampa taking two of three. Since the Devil Rays became the Rays, hasn't the doormat factor disappeared.
  • Jonathan Papelbon started having some 'clean' innings. Good for him, with MLB hurting him in the pocketbook for 'slow play'.
  • Tonight's game has the two starters (Byrd/Garcia) with the worst fastballs among non-knuckleballers? It reminds me of pitching in an adult baseball league. If I were a hitter, I'd want to hit against me.
  • J.D. Drew has had a pretty good season, or maybe a pretty good month saved his season.
  • Drews August numbers? .329/.449/.644/1.093. Not too shabby.
  • Why do pitchers throw Jason Bay fastballs?
  • Second in OPS in the AL...Mr. Kevin Youkilis.
  • Yankee fans seem to have flawed memories. Some view Paul O'Neill as Mr. Congeniality...while some of us remember him as the "Watercooler Terminator"
  • Dave Roberts with the "ambush" strategy. A classic.
  • Victor Martinez seems like an even better player than we thought.
  • Rocco Baldelli has done a terrific job off the pine.
  • BP fastballs can leave the yard.
  • If I were a pitcher, I'd want to pitch in the NL.
  • Even Pedro overpowers the weak Giants lineup...aside from Sandoval, they have very little offense.
  • Last time I checked, the Sox had five guys in the top 20 in OBP...Youkilis, Bay, Martinez, Drew, and Pedroia.
  • Let's hope Josh Beckett found the cure for homeritis.
  • The top three in the bullpen are obvious...Paps, Wagner, and Bard. The lower half, among Delcarmen, Okajima, Saito, and Ramirez seem shakier lately.
  • Whatever happened to Alex Rios?
  • A lot of fans came disguised as empty seats in Tampa.
  • David Price sure didn't look like the next coming of Sandy Koufax last night.
  • Among all 97 major league catchers, Jason Varitek is last in stolen bases allowed (92%). Pierzynski is next at 80%. He also could hit below his weight for his second straight year. He must be hurt. Really.
  • The White Sox (White Flag Sox ) traded Thome and Contreras...and still are putting up a good fight.
  • Will payroll limitations send Tampa crashing back to the cellar sooner or later?
  • Which three Sox pitchers make hitters have the worst looking swings? Wagner, Buchholz, and Bard. Oh, to have gas...and a changeup.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dog Days Wind Down

The Red Sox always seem to inspire some extra emotion and controversy, and nothing changed today. The Sox acquired former closer Billy Wagner from the Mets, likely guaranteeing themselves a pair of first round compensation picks if nothing else.

After dropping two of three to the Yankees, the Sox rebounded with an ugly win over the Pale Hose last night and are battling ugly again tonight. Jacoby Ellsbury set the team record for steals; somehow I expected a Hendersonesque holding up the bag...fortunately we didn't see that.

Jon Lester pitched 6 2/3rds pretty good innings, allowing three runs, the last two on a wild pitch strikeout and a liner off Mike Lowell's outstretched glove. Unfortunate.

On the other hand, Victor Martinez delivered a pinch single to score Nick Green, pinch-running for Jason Varitek who had doubled.

More on Wagner...you can never have too many quality arms on the staff, and Wagner adds another option against the tough lefties like Matsui and Pena down the stretch. Daniel Bard seems to have hit the wall recently, not having many clean innings, and suffering 'wild in the strike zone' with too many centered fastballs.

Ironically, the key to the stretch run could be the return of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who won 33 games in two seasons, and has largely been unavailable this season.

If we have to rely on the combination of Clay Buchholz and Junichi Tazawa against the big dogs, then we'll all have pretty short fingernails by October. Let's hope that Tazawa can have a sizable fraction of the career of another 'three A' lefty, Frank Tanana.

Jerry Remy has returned seamlessly to the booth, which we would have expected from such a seasoned professional. He and Don Orsillo both seem to be able to view the RemDawg's ordeal with a touch of humor, even commenting on Remy's relationship with Wally, now back in the booth.

One of my daughter's California friends, displaced New Englanders got a new dog, which they've named 'Rem' as in Rem the Dog.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Better Days

I can look at Josh and think of 'better days".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On the Sox and Baseball: Random Thoughts

  • Congratulations to the Pedroias, joy into their lives.
  • Peter Gammons correctly noted last year (I think), that a lot of 30-something ballplayers would start to look old (absent PEDs). That prediction has come spot on.
  • What's a pitcher's out pitch? Does he have a swing and miss pitch? Buchholz may have the most swing and miss pitches on the staff.
  • Not to say that Beckett and Lester can't make you miss...
  • If Victor Martinez is the cause of Beckett getting lit up last night, then is the cause of Buchholz pitching well tonight?
  • Maybe Alex Gonzalez doesn't have his old range, but he still looks pretty good out there.
  • Maybe Jason Varitek is VERY banged up. A .505 OPS post All-Star break would bang me up.
  • I keep waiting for Ellsbury to eclipse Tommy Harper's base theft record. Could be getting really close.
  • Alex Rios to the White Sox for nothing...except tons of dough. Maybe Toronto ends up the winner on that deal.
  • Jonathan Papelbon has a career WHIP ratio of 1, and this season 1.31. More important, his career K/BB ratio is over 4, this year under 2.5. Boston, we have a problem.
  • I liked the Daniel Bard that wasn't Craig Hansen better...get well soon Craig.
  • Is Steve Strasbourg worth 15 million? He would have been worth even more to the Sox or Bombers.
  • Great to see Jerry Remy coming back part-time Friday. Be well, RemDawg.
  • That being said, I enjoyed hearing some other voices, too.
  • Some of Viola's anecdotes were precious, including the one about the catcher coming out to the mound for 'face time' on a national TV game.
  • With more back problems, is Tim Wakefield's career approaching life-support?
  • We're disappointed in J.D. Drew. Do you think J.D. is disappointed in us?
  • We don't appreciate what Kevin Youkilis means with his versatility.
  • I'm tired of beanball wars. It's gutless BS.
  • And that doesn't mean the inability to pitch inside.
  • When the first maple bat shatters and impales a player, will MLB do something about it?
  • What about if a fan gets injured seriously from the same?
  • Will the Sox need to restructure the team at 4 positions (2 OF, SS, 3B) next year?
  • Have you seed anything uglier than the Buchholz Baserunning this year?
  • Formula one? Remove the starter with the go-ahead run at the plate. Will Terry bite?
  • Does Francona really have a uniform top under his pullover?
  • Do you all know what "oil can" means? (Beer can)
  • Does anyone still throw the spitter?
  • I feel better when players catch popups with two hands. They do drop them.
  • I really want to see Junichi Tazawa succeed. Please don't have the Red Sox career of Jin Ho Cho...or Brian Rose.
  • Where have you gone John Wasdin?

Friday, August 14, 2009

State of the Nation: Mid-August

The Red Sox recovered from a disastrous road trip through Tampa and the Bronx, returning to win three of four from Detroit. The Sox face the Rangers tonight, locked in a wild card battle, not to concede the divisional race.

Unfortunately, the road has been Kryptonite for the Sox this season, with the Sox 38-18 at home and 27-31 away from Fenway Park.

Relative to some of the teams they face, particularly Tampa, the Red Sox seem to have less athleticism and more age among the position players. Jason Varitek to put it politely is not in the prime of his career, and the consistent availability and production from J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, and David Ortiz certainly have declined. Naturally, Ortiz homers just after I write this sentence.

It's no different for major leaguers than aging physicians (like me). When I recently worked seven days a week for several months, I'm feeling it. Big time. And I'm not doing it out in the heat. When does experience outweigh age-related decline? Bill James spends a lot of time figuring that out with his Win Shares system, which the Sox trend. I'd be shocked if they don't have a Win Shares/dollar calculus going as well.

As well discussed on Sports Radio today, a lack of reliable starting pitching (at times I've called it Lester and Beckett and the heck with it) taxes the bullpen, and produces tremendous inconsistency. Will Tim Wakefield get healthy, and will Clay Buchholz and Junichi Tazawa fill the gaps in the interim?

The loss of Kevin Youkilis to suspension could never come at a good time, as for the most part, he, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury have provided the most consistency, with Jason Bay and Lowell coming to life during the recent homestand. Overall, from a totally objective standpoint, the Sox do not have as good a lineup as either the Yankees, the Rays, or the Angels, and would be the underdog against any of them in a seven game series, despite the 8-4 advantage over the Yankees this season.

Of course, baseball being what it is, anything can happen in a short series. The problem for the Sox remains to get to the playoffs.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bitter Up

Six games against the Red Sox divisional rivals beckoned, and the Sox have simply spit the bit, with five consecutive losses, including two bitter extra innings defeats.

The Sox offense has disappeared, with eight hits and no runs in the past twenty-four innings of futility. Fans old enough to remember 1978, Bobby Sprowl, and the Boston Massacre have witnessed the biggest collapse in thirty-one years.

David Ortiz and the steroid fiasco simply become a sideshow, with the center ring futility focused not on management failures, but simply underperformance under the bright lights.

As fans, we ask does Jason Bay have not only a troublesome hamstring but a hole for breaking stuff away that opponents finally found as his Achilles heel? Will J.D. Drew ever find his stroke again? Is Mike Lowell finally succumbing to Father Time?

The Sox appear in dire need of a catalyst to awaken a team that is pressing, literally on life support in the divisional race. The start pitching, decimated by injuries became Lester and Beckett and the heck with it, and the offense has gone David Copperfield and vanished.

Blame Theo Epstein? He acquired more offense. Finger Terry Francona? He's a gunslinger with no bullets these days.

Sox fans simply have to take it, while waiting it out. Me, I'm reduced to watching Left Coast baseball at A T & T Park, with Matt Cain, garlic fries, and a Ghiardelli Sundae. Could be worse.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sox and Steroids

Did anyone doubt that Red Sox players would eventually appear on "The List"? We can diminish the 'cheating' aspect because we root for laundry, but our bitterness over a pair of Jason Giambi homers in the ALCS softens when we realize that Red Sox hitters had juiced, too.

We may never know who 'just did it' and who didn't, although we all harbored suspicions over bulked up cover boys and supercharged homer production and slugging percentage from guys who hadn't produced oversized numbers.

MLB and its players union never really wanted the genie let out of the bottle. Owners raked in the dough from fannies in the seats, players' salaries skyrocketed, and the game's popularity soared. When does exposing the man behind the curtain ever seem the thing to do?

High profile hearings embarrassing stars like Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire put the Commissioner and his minions on notice that public airing of needle-stained laundry didn't play nearly as well as a bloody sock.

Sox fans snickered at A-Rod's outing and the recent double dip of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz simply serves us the crow that we deserve. The inclusion of an Eric Gagne in the Mitchell Report didn't provide either red meat or a wake up call. But our fascination with Big Papi gets undermined by the realization that at least some of his production was tainted.

Of all baseball's cheaters, who has come off 'cleanest' and who's fared worst? The latter provides no challenge with Barry Bonds leading the parade, and Roger Clemens, never proven beyond all doubt, came a close second. Andy Pettitte took the smallest hit, containing the damage with an apology and a "taking one for the team explanation."

So what should David Ortiz say and what will he say? Obviously, we don't know the facts, and some players probably have inadvertently taken banned substances. The old saying about it's easiest to remember the truth comes to mind. But even within the truth, Ortiz might be able to contain the damages. Or not. But whatever he says, I hope he touches on the three R's - respect for the game, remorse for his actions, and regret that they might adversely influence behavior of younger athletes.

Baseball could have handled this with blanket amnesty for players who simply admitted their mistake and acknowledged a subsequent "zero tolerance" policy. But both owners and players (and their attorneys) had too much hubris and too much money, willingly defrauding the public who simply believed the lie.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Chronicles of Reddick

The Sox-Orioles contest produced not only a victory but signs of improved energy. Some story lines both overt and under the radar:

  • Kevin Youkilis with 4 hits and consecutive homer games
  • Victor (V-Mart) Martinez with his first Sox appearance, RBI, and standing ovation
  • Dustin Pedroia with a first inning homer
  • Josh Beckett gets his MLB leading 13th win
  • Josh Reddick showed contact and power with a pair of doubles in his MLB start
  • Daniel Bard gives another dominant relief appearance with 2 strikeouts in the ninth in a non-save situation; Bard has evolved into the number two option in the pen
  • The Sox turned three double plays to shutout the O's
  • The downside? J.D. Drew and now Jason Bay with hamstring tweaks
  • Sox fans seemed everywhere in Camden Yards as Fenway South proved friendly
  • Jacoby Ellsbury continued his outperformance with another multihit game and 48th stolen base as he closes in on the Sox record of 54 by Tommy Harper
The Sox had delivered more ennui than excitement recently and a short-term reversal is badly needed headed into Tampa and the Bronx.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Doses of Reality: A Very Big IF

Teams win baseball games at the intersection of run generation and run prevention. Management decided that run generation offered a more "buyable" commodity than run prevention.

The Sox obtained Victor Martinez at a lower base price (Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone) than obtaining Roy Halladay for Buchholz, Bard, and more. Red Sox Nation always embraces now over the future, and Theo Epstein balanced the opportunity with his calculus of future value.

Meanwhile, on the field, John Smoltz continues to struggle. Do we have an aging veteran, recovering from surgery who can turn it around or have his skills abated beyond the point of no return?

The concept of "never enough pitching" again comes true with Beckett, Lester and pray for bad weather, with injuries to Wakefield and Matsuzaka, coin-flip Penny, the enigma Buchholz, and Cy Old.

Adam, we barely knew ye. Goodby Adam, hello Casey Kotchman. Maybe Kotchman's return to the AL will help. He's a prototypical Red Sox on base percentage guy.

Victor Martinez has got to play. Who loses in the rotation? Martinez can show up as catcher, first baseman, or DH. If he DH's against most southpaws, then does he eat up starts at first (Youkilis to third), and catch (Jason Varitek didn't look ecstatic to hear of the trade). Can he catch the knuckleball. What of George Kottaras? Curious, George?

Presumably, the Sox bring up somebody, and right now Michael Bowden seems to be the guy, while Junichi Tazawa continues to assimilate. Tazawa allowed one earned run in his first PawSox start, walking none.

The best news coming out of the deadline was the Sox didn't give up their top talent, and set themselves up to compete, if the starting pitching can regain some semblance of consistency. A very big if.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hard Choices

As currently constituted, do the Red Sox have the horses to get to the World Series? Of course, an equally legitimate question remains, can the Sox hold off the Rays and get to the playoffs? Seriously.

Anyone watching the team recently understands the questions. In the outfield, Jacoby Ellsbury had a good series against lowly Baltimore after going one for the road trip. Jason Bay and J.D. Drew have struggled mightily; that's baseball.

In the infield, the hitting remains suspect, as while the Rangers may have swine flu, the Sox have the pine flew. Again, it can turn around...perhaps people have too many eyes over their shoulders with the trade deadline approaching, rather than on the ball.

Some (like Peter Gammons), say the clubs overvalue their prospects. Perhaps, but one can't easily dismiss the lure of low-salaried talent to most of the MLB 'have-nots'.

The Sox bullpen remains its biggest constant, the biggest change being the emergence of Daniel Bard as the Creature from the Bullpen Lagoon. His 100 mph heat and complementary breaking stuff have produced some "silly swings" in Eck parlance.

Meanwhile, we all know that John Smoltz is a first ballot HOF candidate with his resume of wins, saves, and guts. Unfortunately, we see John SmOLDtz getting lit up like a Christmas tree. Passion for success and flashes of the "young" Smoltz may not allow Theo Epstein the luxury of considering Smoltz a rotation fixture. Currently, it's Beckett and Lester at the top, Penny in the middle, Wakefield on the shelf, and Buchholz and Smoltz competing for the bottom of the rotation. In fact, recent outings make Justin Masterson look a lot better.

The playoffs are not a lock.

Friday, July 24, 2009

That's Baseball

Statistics don't lie. Or do they? The Sox haven't looked like the same team since the All-Star break, going on offensive holiday.

Even for the best baseball teams, losing comes as no stranger. A sixty percent winning percentage translates to 97 wins in the baseball marathon, and currently only the Dodgers and the Yankees have eclipsed that .600 mark.

If we (incorrectly) assumed that each game had the same (forty percent) chance of a loss for the best teams, then a five game losing streak would occur (.4 x .4 x .4 x .4 x .4) or 1% of the time over any five game period. And when you consider the number of teams playing and the length of the season, it's easy to see why losing streaks occur so often.

Nobody thinks that the Red Sox forgot how to hit, but conversely well, your lying eyes didn't deceive you either. Both the "big guns" and the rest of the lineup wasn't operating at a high efficiency level. We don't have invoke Newtonian physics to understand how the team has struggled. The Sox have hit .221 in July with an OPS of .699, and only Dustin Pedroia has hit over .300 (.368) among the regulars. Varitek, Ellsbury, Bay, Green, Lowrie, and Drew have all hit .200 or less in July. Remarkably, the Sox have still outscored opponents 73-71 during that time frame.

Will the Sox make a big trade? I generally favor the "Winner's Curse" theory, that when multiple bidders compete for a limited commodity, they end up overpaying. Young players with low salaries and limited service time have excess value, much like stock options because of the so-called "time value". Also, the money saved by not spending big dollars remains available to either sign your own chips to longer contracts or to compete for free agents.

If your offense can't produce at a higher level, then a surfeit of pitching may not necessarily put the Sox over the top.

Friday, July 10, 2009

All-Stars Inside the Numbers

Nobody said that statistics constitute the sole criteria for determining either value or selection to the All-Star team. Consider the following table:

WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) reflects the pitcher's ability to prevent baserunners from reaching. K/BB (strikeout to walk ratio) tends to predict future ERA even better than current ERA. More dominant pitchers tend to have low WHIP ratios and higher K/BB ratios.

Two of the above pitchers achieved All-Star selections on the 2009 American League squad. Which two? Pitcher A ties for the most innings, has the best K/BB ratio and an ERA sub 4. He doesn't make the team. Pitcher D with a K/BB ratio well under 2 and an ERA almost half a run higher does.

Pitcher A, Jon Lester.
Pitcher B, Josh Beckett.
Pitcher C, Brad Penny.
Pitcher D, Tim Wakefield.

There are three kinds of lies - lies, damned lies, and statistics. - Mark Twain.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

All-Star Sox

Major League Baseball announced the All-Star selections today, an amalgam of selections among fans, players, and managers.

Dustin Pedroia and Jason Bay got voted onto the team. Pedroia, the reigning MVP, checks in statistically behind Ian Kinsler and Aaron Hill, but the feisty second baseman got the love. Bay, newly minted as a US citizen, gets the nod in left.

Player voting brought Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon to the AL pitching staff, and manager selection added Kevin Youkilis and Tim Wakefield.

Wakefield's selection is his first, during a remarkable career.
  • Wakefield finished third in Cy Young voting in 1995
  • He is the Red Sox career start leader.
  • Won ten games or more ten times.
  • MLB career 140th in wins
  • MLB active 7th in wins
  • 71st all-time in strikeouts
  • 35th active in adjusted ERA+
  • 7th all-time in most hit batsmen
  • Has led the AL in both losses (15) and home runs allowed (35) in a season
  • On two World Series winners
  • Surrendered the walkoff homer in the ALCS championship game in 2003
Congratulations to the locals selected.

Friday, July 03, 2009

All-Star Break Ahead

Baseball has the best of the All-Star games, although for me the game changed after interleague play. I'm not too concerned about how many Sox players get selected or not, although I'm sure that contractually some probably have All-Star bonus clauses. If you make ten million dollars a year, should you be rewarded additionally if you perform TO expectations? Hey, that's what contract negotiations represent.

All that acknowledged, the Sox should focus on playing good baseball into the break. A strong homestand would help keep Tampa and Toronto in the rearview mirror. The Yankees are always the Jason Voorhees of the AL; you can never eliminate them.

From an overall performance status, the 'best' players on the Sox have been Youkilis, Bay, Papelbon, and Beckett. A lot of players have exceeded expectations including Varitek, Green, and much of the bullpen. To an extent Jacoby Ellsbury has also improved, as he's no longer easily 'defeated' by the hard stuff inside.

What Sean Casey emphasized tonight reinforced the organizational goals - consistency, professionalism, and effort. Mark Kotsay's at bat in the bottom of the eighth illustrated the 'tough at bat', as he worked the count long enough so that he could get a hittable pitch.

Red Sox Nation has changed since 2004 and especially since 2007. The fans expect success and 'the breaks', as opposed to waiting for the "piano from the sky" to fall and land on them. Surely, it doesn't always work out; baseball's vicissitudes ensure surprises. But no longer a priori do we anticipate the worst outcome.

As I've said many times, every game brings you something unexpected, the leads lost or deficits overcome, heroics or errors, baseball genius and faux pas. Half the players running off the field with only two outs? Happened this week. A nine run lead squandered and a four run ninth inning deficit erased back-to-back? This week.

Have a pair of World Series victories lifted the sense of urgency for fans? While some might argue that interest remains maxed out, I believe that the 'performance anxiety' overhang really has changed. Some things don't change, the rivalries, the 'our boys' mentality, and the intensity within the ballpark. But to paraphrase the Southwest Airlines ad, "the angst? It's off."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Three Month Observations

As we approach the All-Star break, maybe we can analyze the good, the bad, and the ugly about the 2009 Red Sox.

The Good.
  • Locking up Lester, Pedroia, and Lester was a key move by the Sox
  • The Sox seem to have the key ingredient (pitching) to deal with the tectonic shift away from performance-enhancing drugs toward more speed and defense
  • Jason Bay has proven himself to be an elite player, capable of beating up on the dogs and cats and the lions and tigers.
  • The Red Sox bullpen is the best in their modern era.
  • The front three of Beckett, Lester, and Penny give the Sox a chance to win 70 percent of their games...or more.
  • Nick Green has far outperformed expectations.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury continues to mature as a player, and is on pace to set a Red Sox stolen base record
  • Jason Varitek has maintained his defensive skills and had a mean reversion to offensive productivity, although June wasn't his best
  • Tim Wakefield, may he make the All-Star team, but maybe getting voted on by the fans would be best.
  • J.D. Drew is 21st in the AL in OPS. He's above Ian Kinsler, Adam Jones, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, and Carl Crawford to name just a few.
  • Terry Francona continues to be the Sox' version of Walter Alston.
  • Has ANYBODY caught Tim Wakefield better than George Kottaras?
The Bad.

  • Injuries are still out there. Mike Lowell has plenty of heart, but not enough hip. All of this makes the versatility of Kevin Youkilis even more critical.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka's non-excellent WBC adventure has been the skunk at a garden party.
  • David Ortiz's first two months were beyond forgettable.
  • The Amica pitch zone shows that the umpiring isn't too special.
  • Julio Lugo's range suffered early, but to his credit, he hasn't been a distraction.
The Ugly.

  • Dustin Pedroia's haircut
  • John Henry and Mark Teixeira won't be bosom buddies.
  • The weather in June. Boston fans get three months of decent weather, except June fell off the map this year.
Second half musings.

  • Will the Sox be able to get another bat?
  • Clay Buchholz.
  • Where does Jed Lowrie fit into the picture? Is he better than Green now?
  • Can Big Papi return to a 20 HR, 90 RBI, .250 season?
  • If John Smoltz pitches like tonight, he will be a factor.
  • Tampa still makes me a little nervous.
  • Who will be next user outed?
  • My dream World Series? The Red Sox and the Giants. The Giants fans deserve it, and they've got the pitching.
And in the category of "you never see that", half the team runs off the field with only two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Well, almost three outs. It didn't take "Bull from Night Court" Masterson to get the final out.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Opportunity Knocks; Are We Ready?

Baseball and life. Sometimes the season doesn't turn out the way you thought it would. As we approach the halfway point in the season, the Red Sox have the second best record in baseball. How the hell is that possible?

David Ortiz has only recently begun to hit, while the offensive core of the team, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia has fallen off a bit lately. The only players who have outperformed expectations offensively are Jason Bay and Nick Green. Jason Varitek had a great start, and now the jury has gone out offensively.

Among starting pitching, Tim Wakefield and Brad Penny have overachieved, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester have resumed their expected trajectory, and Daisuke Matsuzaka has suffered through any player's worst nightmare.

The obvious answer becomes the excellence of the bullpen. They have held leads, closed victories, and allowed the team to stay close in others. Recently, with short starts, the bullpen has shown a little fraying around the edges.

Management's overarching direction remains drafting and developing pitching, with bargain/risk oriented acquisitions like Penny and John Smoltz. The Sox have top-flight pitching prospects in Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly, and Junichi Tazawa and Michael Bowden are not far behind.

Unfortunately, the acquisition and training of the next generation of power hitters hasn't proven as consistent, making some nameless signings and/or power trade essential.

But we ask, the 2009 Sox, how good are they? In the post-steroid era, we're seeing a falloff in the overall speed and power throughout the game. Maybe the games haven't been quite as volatile, but I'm ready for a return to pitching and small ball, supplemented by an occasional three-run homer.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Keeping Faith

The manager's job never gets any easier, arbitrating among egos, streaks, the vicissitudes of baseball, and personal problems that we will never know. What affects a player, illness or injury, frustration, depression, or personal problems?

How a player gets treated also depends on the alternatives? Consider the choices:
  • Jason Varitek versus George Kottaras
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka versus John Smoltz
  • Julio Lugo versus Nick Green
  • J.D. Drew versus Rocco Baldelli
Each pairing has a 'starter' paired against a challenger. Let's avoid Matsuzaka for last...

Jason Varitek handles the pitching staff and calling the game. His offense has exceeded last year's performance, but lately he too suffers from "the dwindles." His June numbers are .154/.298/.256/.554. Whatever he tried in April and May seems to have evaporated in June. His left-right statistical differential is huge. Nobody (as far as I know) screams, "sit the old man down". The alternative doesn't sound that attractive either.

Nick Green has simply supplanted Lugo at shortstop. Lugo played the role of Wally Pipp, except Green and DiMaggio's only commonality remains letter G in their last name. So far Lugo has played the good soldier, and even produced in light duty. Their potential replacement, Jed Lowrie, won't make anyone forget Cal Ripken either. In other words, the amplitude of the discussion stays low.

J.D. Drew has yet to emerge in his third Sox season. Season one brings memories of a grand slam against the Tribe in the postseason and a decent World Series. Last year, he excelled in June, but didn't make anybody forget Babe Ruth. Aside from the megabucks he earns, Drew doesn't incite passion among Sox fans. He hustles, keeps to himself, and again the alternative, either Rocco Baldelli or innumerable "not ready for prime time" minor leaguers doesn't solve the problem.

All of which brings us to Daisuke Matsuzaka. No monetary consideration comes into play. He has a no-trade clause, the only one on the team. Almost nobody can muster an argument for Matsuzaka, but I'd recommend they let him use his approach and let the chips fall. Viable alternatives enhance the 'difference' with Matsuzaka, because the Sox have choices:
  • Five man rotation with Beckett, Lester, Penny, Smoltz, and Wakefield
  • They have two additional starters that fans don't cringe at the possibility, Buchholz and Masterson, and another back burner possibility in Bowden.
  • The guy most likely not to have a month-to-month lease has become Brad Penny, who has quietly seen his value skyrocket in the past month. His ERA has fallen each month, his K/BB ratio looks good at 2, and his June ERA is 2.70.
We don't have to make excuses for Dice-K, who we know to be a tireless worker, whose biggest fault emerged as his loyalty to his company over The Nation. He could be injured or just mentally out of sorts. Let's not forget that he won 18 games last season amidst our "what have you done for me lately?" mantra.

Sox fans know that the "too much pitching" problem always works itself out via performance changes, injury, or other Acts of God. With that in mind, patience might sound corny, but the best answer.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Long but Exciting

Not many thirteen inning baseball games can hold your attention, but the Sox-Phils marathon did tonight. The game had a number of highlights, twists, and turns, and hair-raising moments for the Hose.

  • John Lester became the first Sox left-hander to have three consecutive ten strikeout games. We're including Babe Ruth here, Mel Parnell, Bruce Hurst, Bill Lee, and Rogelio Moret, too. Lester's brilliance got lost in the shuffle.
  • Six Sox pitchers gave up five hits in thirteen innings.
  • Dustin Pedroia went 0-7.
  • David Ortiz played first, but won't win any Gold Gloves.
  • Nick Green made a pretty 6-3 double play against the speedy Jimmy Rollins.
  • Ramon Ramirez moved down the pecking order surrendering a ninth inning titanic game-tying homer to Ryan Howard. It happens.
  • Dave Roberts noted (correctly) that the Sox had lost momentum and energy; the Sox promptly rallied.
  • Justin Masterson surrendered (almost) the game-winning three run homer in the 12th. It was foul...by a hair.
  • The Sox pushed across three runs in the thirteenth, courtesy of an Ellsbury single, a Nick Green sac fly, and mixed in, a single by (crickets) Julio Lugo. Good job.
  • Daniel Bard, he of the 99 mph fastball, struck out the side in the ninth, earning his first save, with a walk and hit batsman mixed in. Cripes, who wouldn't be afraid of hitting against a guy who has that kind of stuff, and variable idea where it's going.
The Sox have the second best record in the majors, after the Dodgers.*

About the only thing I didn't see tonight was (another) coyote in my backyard.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Saturday's All Right

Quick hits:

  • John Lester was magnificent in a 2-hitter, with a perfect game for 6 1/3 innings. He had better stuff than he no-hit the Royals with last year, with a couple of different styles of curveball, the hard cutter, a turnover sinker, and touched 98 on the gun. He lowered his ERA to 5.06 with the complete game. Would the Sox consider realigning the rotation to have him pitch Thursday on four days rest against the Yankees?
  • Jason Bay had a key 2-run RBI single after a lengthy at bat to break the game open in the fifth inning.
  • David Ortiz hit the Pesky Pole for his 2nd dinger of the season and hit the ball hard a couple of times. Francona grabbed the big guy and encouraged him to take a recognition of the "Curtain Call". I'm sure Ortiz isn't looking for extra face time right now.
  • Julio Lugo is frustrated with his playing time. Most Sox fans are equally frustrated by his playing time.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Free Range Chicken

Anybody watching the Red Sox tonight has to wonder how long the Red Sox can stick with this formula...

Julio Lugo gets no jump in either direction and clearly his inability to make plays at short hurts the team. Brad Penny wore the victim's hairshirt tonight and the frustration sits on his sleeve like a dank mist. Yes, Lugo sustained an injury, but if he can't get the job done, he must sit. Fielding aside, Lugo hasn't confused anyone with the 1983 Cal Ripken at the plate either. The Sox have contractual obligations to Lugo whether he rides the pine or wets the bed at short.

Nick Green holds no fascination for me. Getting an everyday shortstop who makes plays should occupy Theo Epstein's thoughts 24/7. This has become unwatchable, a slow motion train wreck with your best friends aboard.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Sox Milestones

Julio Lugo. (crickets)

Daisuke Matsuzaka tossed a vintage 'dental extraction' victory, throwing a million pitches in five innings for his first win.

A bullpen parade featuring Delcarmen, Okajima, Ramirez and Papelbon iced the victory, although the Papelbonian ninth sweated out Sox fans, as he loaded the bases with none out before fanning the side.

NAME GP GS W L Sv QS Hld IP H ER HR BB SO K/9 P/GS WHIP ERA

Pitcher A
24 0 2 0 0 0 8 23.1 14 6 2 9 24 9.26 0.0 0.99 2.31
Pitcher B
22 0 0 1 13 0 0 23.0 22 6 3 11 28 10.96 0.0 1.43 2.35

Obviously, pitcher B has a lot more saves, but Okajima (Pitcher A) has pretty good stats relative to Papelbon, who does it closing.

David Ortiz...had the hat trick tonight...he didn't look quite as disconsolate though. Gerry Callahan's axe required surgical removal from Ortiz before the game. The former Chelmsford gridiron legend did the ultimate hatchet job on Ortiz in the Herald today. If you removed the passive voice from Callahan's column, you could tweet it.

Jacoby Ellsbury continued his solid hitting with a pair of hits and an intentional walk.





























































































































































Monday, June 01, 2009

Where's the Excitement?

"Chicks dig the long ball." Well, maybe it was just the synthetic testosterone.

The Sox have proved a bit frustrating because they simply have failed (at times) to play the best fundamental baseball. The Minnesota series proves the point. The Sox have far more talent (and payroll than the Twins), yet the Twins' execution and solid play earned them a split.

What's with all the hip labrum disease? Is this something newly found (Lowell, A-Rod, Delgado and more) or a new phenomenon?

Hooray for Jacoby Ellsbury's working to hit the ball on the ground/line drives instead of homerun swings for popups.

Can we find some superior fielding shortstop like A-Gonzo?

Maybe Lester and Beckett have found the answer. No substitute for a live arm, right Daniel Bard?

Remarkable how supportive Sox' fans are for David Ortiz. There's no way to plug a player into a meter and say "he's lost it."

Can you believe that Jason Varitek has a higher OPS than J.D. Drew? It's true.

I thought I saw a Red Sox catcher throw out a runner recently. Carl Crawford, be afraid, be very afraid. Justin Masterson held the runner on second by hitting him, unintentionally.

You can NEVER have too much pitching. If you had ten great starters, then you'd still find a way to have them injured, suspended, or otherwise unavailable.

Back to back carpet series. That, Martha, is not a very good thing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stripes: Earned, Changed, Defined

Stripes. A movie, animal skin, or something else?

Terry Francona has earned his stripes with a pair of World Series titles in five seasons. His success follows excellent players, supporting his veterans and promoting youth, keeping problems in-house, and maybe a little luck. Nothing wrong with that.

Zebras. That is, umpires. I think the calls on the bases are as good as ever, but the strike zone has begun to resume pre-Questek dimensions, with the outside corner not yet of Glavinesque proportions but getting there. Two consecutive replay days for homers for the Sox, but the locals went 0-2, although no way we could bellyache on the former, and we couldn't really tell on the latter.

Do you have to change your stripes sometimes? The Sox are facing numerous stripe-rearrangement questions?
  • Do they need another DH bat? Even when healthy, is Mark Kotsay the answer if Big Papi continues to struggle or has an injury?
  • Should Big Papi move down in the lineup? (Absolutely)
  • Do we have a shortstop controversy? Neither Lugo nor Green are going to make anybody forget Ozzie Smith. Green has a fielding percentage at shortstop of .922, with a mediocre range factor. Lugo has a fielding percentage of .931, and his failures to reach balls and turn double plays have affected at least two games. Neither is getting the job done in the field consistency, notwithstanding Green's sliding catch recently.
  • Closer. Jonathan Papelbon seems to be getting 'pigeon-holed' as a one-pitch pitcher. He certainly has a 'plus' fastball with command, but we're also talking American League. He doesn't throw sliders to left-handers and the splitter is pretty much the club in the bag these days.
  • Announcer. Jerry Remy get well soon, but Dave Roberts is a natural, easy to listen, obviously has an encyclopedic baseball knowledge, and works well with Don Orsillo. I just wish Dave would reduce the 'knocks' about fifty percent.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Promotional Considerations

I really liked what I saw of Junichi Tazawa in Spring Training (on television). He had an aggressive style, coming after the hitters, with a fastball with good movement and a better breaking ball than Daisuke Matsuzaka. He threw strikes.

Tazawa went to AA Portland, and what has he done lately? Let's focus on the appearances in May.First, I like to look at WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) and K/BB ratio, that predicts ERA better than previous ERA itself.

In five May appearances, Tazawa has pitched 28 innings, yielding 21 hits, with 7 walks and 28 strikeouts. He has allowed five earned runs, with the WHIP ratio of 1.00 and the K/BB ratio of four.

No doubt the Sox are working on fastball command and secondary pitches, but it looks like Tazawa has already achieved dominance at AAA. Next stop Pawtucket. Obviously, we don't know Taz' support system (interpreter) et cetera, but the Sox need to assess his abilities against better competition.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pop!

Red Sox Nation got a spiritual boost tonight with a two run homer provided by David Ortiz, his first of the season. Speculation raged over steroids, injury, or age discrepancy, but Ortiz, with tremendous support from Red Sox fans, delivered a blast into the centerfield camera.

Ortiz has been one of the most popular, if not the most popular Sox player for years, and fans shared Terry Francona's angst over Big Papi's struggles at the bat. He had gone from nightly hero to Mighty Casey almost overnight, with lunging, futile swings.

Meanwhile the Sox, who usually struggle against new pitchers teed off for five homers, a pair by Jason Varitek, and one apiece by J. Bay, Mike Lowell, and Papi.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Not Rocket Science

With four starters with ERAs over six (Lester, Beckett, Penny, and Matsuzaka), one has to scratch his head and wonder how the Sox have stayed close in the AL East. The Sox are 21-12 and only a game out.

But it's not difficult. Offensively, the Sox are second in the AL in scoring, about 5.7 runs per game, and the pitching is tenth in the AL in ERA. The Sox are sixth, however, in strikeouts to walks, and Red Sox data shows that K/BB ratio predicts future ERA better than ERA itself. Still, more telling is the Red Sox bullpen, that is third in ERA at 3.20 and leads the AL in saves with 11. With the AL overall bullpen ERA at 4.54, that's quite a differential.

This has translated into a 6-4 win-loss record in one-run games (good, not great) and their overall record exceeds their expected record using baseball's Pythagorean Theorem.

Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, and Jonathan Papelbon have ERAs of 0.52, 0.52, and 1.20 respectively, allowing four earned runs in 49 2/3 innings. They have allowed only 33 hits and 22 walks with 42 strikeouts.

Certainly, we can't expect the bullpen to have the collective success they've enjoyed so far, but consistent offense and superior relief have allowed the Sox to survive mediocre starting pitching.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ray Ban?

Happy Mother's Day! The pink bats, pink wristbands, and breast cancer ribbons are out.

The Sox play the Rays in the Game of the Week, and the Sox managed to keep Carl Crawford from stealing...as he scores from first on a two-out single by Pat Burrell. Crawford scored despite not running hard all the way...as I presume he thought Burrell's wall-ball was bound for the Monster Seats.

It's a big outing for Josh Beckett and the Sox, as Beckett has struggled and Matt Garza has looked like Bob Gibson circa 1967 for the Rays.

Before a national television audience, Terry Francona had the 'sense' to put Julio Lugo on the pine. Lugo's defense has been sorry so far this season...but he didn't pick up an error for his miscue yesterday. Unfortunately, Nick Green's defense hasn't been great either.

Hope is a four-letter world.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sox Celebrate Press Dinner

Tonight Washington congratulates the Press on their stewardship of journalistic integrity in covering the White House.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox took the roasting at the hands of the Tampa Bay Death Rays. It was another Kazmir sweater for the Sox as the Rays pounded the locals 14-5. The good news was that a slaughter rule deficit never came into play.

A lot of guys had roles in the afternoon no-delight, particularly Julio Lugo, who continues to play Superman at shortstop, handling baseballs like kryptonite. The difference between Jed and Julio? There's no 'D' in Julio. Jeff Bailey misplayed a pickoff into an error as well, although not costing the Sox a run.

The sacks were loaded more often than Professor Irwin Corey for the Rays, and the Sox exchanged the Friday Red uniforms for waving white flags.

The Rays did show a little mercy, as Carl Crawford (three) had more hits than stolen bases, and didn't add to his stolen base or strawberry totals. Every starter for the Rays had at least one hit, making their mothers proud even before their day.

Good news? Rocco Baldelli went yard for the first time as a Sox, and Javier Lopez had a scoreless inning, after yielding a run in the seventh. Fortunately, Lopez didn't have any fielding 'testers'.

Seriously, baseball is about your 'body of work', not solely one loss here or there. Today was one of those "John McKay" days, when if Terry Francona were asked about the execution of his team he could answer, "I'm in favor of it."

Better luck tomorrow...and Happy Mothers' Day to all.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Changing Face of K's

Hat tip to son Conor...the numbers guy...a.k.a. "The Big Brain"

Number of instances of 30 year olds having 300+ K seasons between 1945-1996: 5
Number of instances of 30 year olds having 300+ K seasons since 1997: 9

Pedro once (the year he was God)
Schilling 3 times
Johnson 5 times

Also note that the 2001 D-Backs, in addition to Schilling and Johnson, had Luis Gonzalez's 57 homer year, Jay Bell (2 years removed from his 38-homer season which came at age 34), Matt Williams...

Player (age that year) Strikeouts Year
Sandy Koufax+ (30) 317 1966
Mickey Lolich (30) 308 1971
Nolan Ryan+ (30) 341 1977
Mike Scott (31) 306 1986
Nolan Ryan+ (42) 301 1989
Curt Schilling (30) 319 1997
Randy Johnson (34) 329 1998
Curt Schilling (31) 300 1998
Randy Johnson (35) 364 1999
Pedro Martinez (27) 313 1999
Randy Johnson (36) 347 2000
Randy Johnson (37) 372 2001
Randy Johnson (38) 334 2002
Curt Schilling (35) 316 2002

Something is different?

Three Rules

My opinion on baseball or the Red Sox certainly isn't any better than yours. The only difference is that you may not have a forum to discuss your opinion. As we approach the quarter of a season mark, here are some thoughts and observations.

  • I still have concerns about the Red Sox starting pitching, particularly when Tim Wakefield has been the "ace" of the staff. Yes, Lester is coming around, Beckett hasn't had full command, Daisuke is still on rehab, and Penny hasn't consistently shown he can win in the AL. Masterson is really better in the pen, as he has issues the second or third time around.
  • The bullpen looks pretty solid, though.
  • Jason Varitek's 0.791 OPS is something we can live with, particularly when he has reduced his strikeout percentage to 18%. Has he lost something defensively? That's not clear.
  • Losing Youkilis' bat simply hurts.
  • Great to have beaten the Yankees five straight, but they're like Jason Voorhees...hard to put down.
  • Two of the three major offensive powers in MLB (A-Rod, Manny, Pujols) have now made steroid perp walks or the equivalent. Is that eye black or a black eye, sir?
  • Are they afraid of Pedroia's power, or just working him outside?
  • Has Carl Crawford become the Red Sox' new Lou Brock?
  • Has Joe Giardi lost his mind? Is Tim Bogar the Sox' secret weapon?
  • Many people are telling me they're tired of the Sox-Yankees marathons.
  • Haven't heard anything about Bob (The 26th Man of the Yankees) Watson giving Joba Chamberlain a warning about plunking J Bay...
  • I'm looking forward to seeing how Dave Roberts does as an analyst.
  • But we all want Jerry Remy getting better ASAP.
  • Not many guys have great nicknames like "Mudcat".
  • Longer-term, the Sox have no solution behind the plate.
  • Nick Green or Julio Lugo? Maryann or Ginger?
  • Not many pitchers of note have been outed on steroids. Cleaner or sneakier.
  • Manny Pacquiao. The real Manny?
  • Three rules to remember: HAVE FUN, GET IT DONE, DON'T BE A JERK. These were the motto of my late brother-in-law Michael Egan. He never violated his rules. May the Sox adopt them as well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Randoms

When was the last time the Sox won ten in a row to move into second place? Maybe 1967. On that interesting note, let's try some random thoughts.

  • The NBA's gone to plus minus in assessing contribution. Maybe the newspapers could introduce that for starting pitchers and catchers. Too random?
  • A Yankee fan took umbrage to my comment that Kevin Youkilis might be the Sox version of Paul O'Neill. Evidently, he viewed O'Neill as the New York version of Mother Teresa. Did she beat up water coolers?
  • Ramon Ramirez has been pretty effective...is he just wild enough to be scary?
  • Cliff Lee looks like he's got the kryptonite so far tonight.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury is on a 90 steal pace. With Scott Boras as his agent, will we know him as the Ellsbury Dough Boy?
  • David Ortiz still isn't making great contact. Does Papi need an eye check, or a wrist check?
  • Julio Lugo is back. I'm kinda good with Nick Green for now. Don't rush it, eh?
  • Tim Wakefield's biggest liability is the running game.
  • The Rem Dawg is in fine form this year.
  • Jason Varitek is still only hitting .216, but it's a hard .216, with a slugging percent of .510.
  • I still hate that damned drum at the Jake.
  • Do knuckleballers need pitch counts?
  • Mike Lowell has been a revelation at the plate this season.
  • Jason Bay...has he found a home in left. Let's hope so.
  • Good article today on the fairly dramatic increase in Papelbon's pitches per inning this season...a sign of diminishing dominance or just a statistical aberration.
  • Jeff Bailey has been tracking a few fly balls tonight like they were radioactive.
  • Will Ellsbury have enough cachet to compete for a Gold Glove this year?
  • The median attendance in baseball this season is 28 thousand and change. Last season it was 31 thousand and change. Too bad the Bureau of Labor and Statistics doesn't incorporate it into their economic calculus.

Yikes





Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Instant Classic" that Lasts Forever

First, I am a Red Sox fan, tracing my Sox roots back to the Yaz era that began in the early 60's. I've suffered though Mantle, Maris, and Ford, the dark days of Hector Lopez, The Stick, Roy White, and the resurrected Bombers of Reggie Jackson, BillyBall, and the Jeter era...and of course the Frustration of the New Millenium.

I remember Felix Mantilla, Jim Pagliaroni, and when Schilling was Chuck, not Curt. Culpability meant Ray Culp's location not two hundred million dollar payrolls.

So the Sox victory tonight brings their deficit to 64-68 over the past seven plus seasons. Still, watching these games brings plenty of time pain, as they almost never last less than four hours (4:21 tonight), as though swinging at a first pitch strike is a crime and you get paid time and a half for a full count.

Okay, so maybe extra innings gives some legitimacy to a four hour game tonight, but not by that much. If you love crisp baseball, you will find only annoyance in Sox-Yanks contests. John Lester and Joba Chamberlain must have combined for, oh, 800 pitches (actually 205) in their combined 11 1/3 innings. Pitch counting mercifully got both teams into the bullpens.

Mark Teixeira mostly got the silent treatment in his pinstripe debut. Before the game his press conference offered no raw meet and all the intensity of an episode of Mr. Rogers. Sox fans administered polite indifference more than rowdy rancor. Could respect actually be creeping into a rivalry more remembered for brawls than hat tips?

The Sox first run was a thing of booty, with Ellsbury singling, getting balked to second, and scoring on a steal of third/passed ball as Molina either got crossed up or butchered a curve, and Joba Chamberlain covered home plate as though he was approaching a mine field. Had he tagged Ellsbury with his glove instead of his backside, it might have been a close play. So before the two hitter had made an out, Ellsbury had turned a single into a run with his speed and Yankee charity.

Evidently Chamberlain must have gotten a love letter from Bob Watson, as he omitted his customary beanballs for Kevin Youkilis. Or he was again so wild that he was incapable of aiming the "purpose pitch". Is Chamberlain hurt? He doesn't look like the same guy as he throws mostly low 90s now.

Derek Jeter is starting to look old...although no doubt still carries himself with the dignity of a first ballot Hall-of-Famer.

Fans got 'treated' to Javier Lopez getting out of a bases loaded no out jam, courtesy of his own wildness, of course. If you can breathe and throw lefthanded, you too can be a LOOGY (lefty out of the bullpen guy) and make 1.25 million dollars. Jesse Orosco, where are you?

I must have seen Mariano Rivera pitch fifty times against the Sox, and he wasn't the same guy either. He now has an even dozen blown saves against the Sox. The cutter is now 91-92, still well-located, except for the hanger that Jason Bay deposited in the Monster Seats for a two-out game tying ninth inning shot.

The Sox wore their Friday night softball red shirts tonight, after wearing their Earth Day greens Wednesday with green hats. MLB properties knows no shame.

Sox fans took umbrage at Paul O'Neill's antics like "water cooler abuse" after a strikeout, and Yankee fans have the same anti-hero in Kevin Youkilis, the Sox version of O'Neill. Youkilis was part of the game tying and game winning rallies, finishing with a walkoff homer.

And Randy Newman haters ("Short People") got their comeuppance as Dustin Pedroia had a monster defensive game for the Sox.

And the rambling, stream of consciousness, Thomas Wolfe style? Could anyone who watched this mind-numbing "instant classic" not write this way?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ancient Rivalry Renewed

The Red Sox ride a seven game win streak into a weekend series with the Yankees, who have played well since their 22-4 destruction by Cleveland.

The Sox showcase Lester, Beckett, and Masterson while the Yankees counter with Joba "the Hut" Chamberlain, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte.

The first game of the series pits teams with identical 9-6 records tied for second place behind Toronto. Chamberlain pitched brilliantly in one start against the Sox last season, and Lester shutout the Yankees at the Stadium. Chamberlain has a propensity for head-hunting, with Kevin Youkilis the object for his disaffection. Yankee lackey Bob Watson ought to consider dropping a dime to Chamberlain with some reminders of the impact of the "purpose" pitch, using Tony Conigliaro and Kirby Puckett as tragic examples of baseball meeting heads.

Mark Teixeira (double 'e' before 'i') makes his pinstripe debut at Fenway Park leaving disaffected Boston suitors for a steamer trunk full of Benjamins. Like Willie Sutton, Teixeira simply knew "that's where the money is."

The Sox and Yanks are tied for fourth in offense, with both having scored 84 points in 15 games. The Red Sox have a team ERA of 4.14 while the Yankees (largely secondary to that 22 run outing) check in tenth at 6.02. The Bombers are second in fielding percentage in the AL while the Red Sox are ninth.

Early season punch for the Sox has come from Youkilis, J.D. Drew, and Jason Bay, combining for 10 homers, 35 runs scored, and 30 RBI. Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Nick Swisher have also produced 10 homers, 27 runs scored, and 34 RBI.

The Sox come in with starting shortstop Jed Lowrie on the DL, but otherwise reasonably good health, while the Yankees miss perennial All-star A-Rod on the DL following hip surgery.

Boston and New York split the season series last year, the Yankees led 10-8 in 2007, and 11-8 in 2006.

Sox fans should expect the usual playoff atmosphere when the Gothamites invade Fenway, although the Sox probably eagerly await their first trip to the new palatial Yankee Stadium.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Baseball 2009: Early Impressions

Maybe it's too soon to make overarching judgements about the 2009 baseball season, but we all have our early impressions. 

  • Is the offense better around the league or the pitching worse?
  • Break up the Marlins?
  • Balls are flying out of Yankee Stadium.
  • The Red Sox pitching may not be nearly as good as we thought.
  • Fortunately, the Yankee pitching may not be as good either.
  • Maybe Zack Greinke (ERA 0.00 after three games) IS the real deal.
  • You knew Tim Lincecum wasn't going to keep getting lit up forever.
  • Lou Groza's five field goals and a Browns touchdown were too much for the Yankees.
  • Kansas City. First place. 
  • Does Gary Sheffield's 500th homer (25th guy to do it) get a steroid asterisk?
  • Some think Bob Watson still acts in the Yankees' interest.
  • The New Look Giants have a record like the 2008 Giants.
  • Manny continues to hit (and field) like Godzilla. 
  • Anybody wondering whether the balls are juiced?
  • Johan Santana sure looks good. Should that surprise us?
  • Are the Orioles trying to keep Matt Wieters from reaching free agency earlier by keeping him down on the farm?
  • Speaking of catchers...Joe Mauer...get well soon.
  • Ryan Ludwick is on a 180 plus RBI pace (yeah, it's early)
  • Is Tampa crazy for keeping David Price at Durham?
  • The best team in the AL East (by run differential) by a lot...is Toronto.
  • Think that Roy Haladay has anything to do with that?
  • The worst team by run differential? The Yankees. Okay, so an 18 run defeat yesterday caused that.
  • Major league attendance figures? Eyeballing 'em...they're down. The median 2008 attendance was 31K and change. So far, it's 29 and change. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Glove Story

The Red Sox came back from an early nil-7 deficit to beat the Orioles last night. But was that the story?

Sure the Sox got some timely hitting, Dr. Longball from J Bay and J.D., and outstanding relief pitching. But wasn't the Woes defense the major contribution?

Jeremy Guthrie certainly could claim non-support, particularly with Aubrey Huff doing a Doctor Strangeglove imitation at first and Adam Jones not confusing anyone with Andruu Jones in center.

Certainly the Mothers' Day Miracle comes to mind in Sox comebacks for the nouveau Sox fan. For the slightly older, there was the playoff rally in the ill-fated 1986 playoffs against the Angels with the Hendu homer off Donnie Moore.

But for the long of tooth, in the Impossible Dream season of 1967, the Sox came back from an 8-0 deficit against the Los Angeles Angels, winning, if I recall, on a Jerry Adair homer. Adair would later have a key contribution (again with memory fading) in the sixth inning five-run rally against the Twins in the season finale. I believe he scored the tying run on a Yaz single.The point of all this being, that 'corporate memory' doesn't mean yesterday's news.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Musical Chairs

Most Sox fans are trying to avoid making too much of a start to the season marked by losing three consecutive series, to the Rays, Halos, and A's.

The strength of the team ostensibly is its starting pitching, which has largely betrayed them.

Josh Beckett contests a suspension, Jon Lester hasn't gotten it together, and Daisuke Matsuzaka goes on the DL, a casualty of the World Baseball Classic.

So what's logical?

  • Brad Penny goes Friday
  • Beckett is contesting suspension, and presumably would be available Saturday; then serve his suspension
  • Lester would go Sunday
  • Masterson would move into the rotation Monday against Baltimore
  • Wakefield would come back Tuesday.
  • Ideally the Sox use a spot starter callup Wednesday (Bowden or Tazawa)
  • Thursday would be an off day
  • Friday they bring back Penny
  • Saturday would mean Lester
  • Sunday night (having served his six game suspension) Beck against the Yankees.
Tim Wakefield was masterful today, sparing the bullpen, which now gets a travel day to recover.

The Sox need a day off to lick their wounds and recover some swagger. Winning a series might help...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ted Who?

Click photo to ENLARGE
Okay, it's a little early for that.

Livin' on a Prayer

Have the Sox ever opened on the road in California? Well, yes, after Japan last year, but on a glorious day (my daughter was there surely wearing a Sox tee-shirt), the Sox outlasted the Halos.

The Sox offense finally got going via Doctor Longball, with a two run homer by Mike Lowell and a pair of homers by Jason Bay. Bay's circus catch in left field was not reminiscent of anything Manny, and fielders seemed plagued by what they call in baseball a "high sky". Yeah, I know the sky is always high.

Jacoby Ellsbury definitely looks less helpless at the plate, although he got caught stealing after swiping his third bag.

Brad Penny didn't look like he could get loose early, but amped it up into the mid-90s as the game went along. He does have a bit of a Mickey Lolich look about him...but Lolich got guys out. Penny showed flashes of why he won 16 games two of the past three years. He reminds me of an upgrade on a Ray Culp, which isn't so bad. Think of a Ray Culp on steroids (note...I am NOT saying Penny takes steroids)...okay so Culp pitched forty years ago...I remember.

The pitcher who looked 'best' today, was Ramon Ramirez with a live fastball and avoidance of the heart of the plate.

All of which brings us to Jonathan Papelbon, who called upon for a four out save, pitched in the Bill Lee/Dice-K tradition surrendering both a homer and leaving the bases loaded in a one-run game.

All in all a comeback 'must' win on the road. Nothing wrong with that.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More than the Bases Were Loaded

Today sports fans mourn the loss of Nick Adenhart a promising young baseball pitcher, tragically killed in an automobile accident. Not long before, we learned of the death of an 'anonymous' person by Donte Stallworth. In April 2007, Cardinals' righthander Josh Hancock died in an car crash. The common theme? The tragedy that each involved a traffic fatality induced by alcohol.

Every year 25,000 people die in alcohol-related accidents, the equivalent of eight '911's every year. Supposedly, a person has a one in two chance of being involved in an alcohol-related accident in their lifetime. We parade athletes before Congress for use of anabolic steroids, yet seem all to willing to stand by and let history repeat itself, day after day after day.

Nobody demands that baseball be free of drunken fans, drunken players, or drunken managers. We celebrate the drunken exploits of "The Babe" or "The Mick". It's the misbehavior that we have no problem looking the other way.

It's not just famous athletes who die in alcohol-related accidents, it's mothers and grandparents, and children. Perhaps getting behind the wheel drunk stands as the ultimate narcissism, as the drunk driver has no regard for his fellow man. After ten at night, one in fourteen drivers is driving impaired; the number falls to about one in seven after one A.M. In other words, driving to or from work, chauffering your family and your neighbors, you take your life in your hands amidst a sea of drunks.

We can't do anything about Nick Adenhart, Josh Hancock or the departed thirteen year old sister (killed by a drunk driver) of a patient I saw today. Seventy other nameless 'Nicks' will die in alcohol-related accidents TODAY. We can work to change a culture where teenagers brag of 'getting wasted', adults show little leadership on the issue, and professional sports looks the other way, peddling seven dollar beers and showcasing distillers. It has to stop.