Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Schilling Retires. Respect.

Curt Schilling announced his retirement yesterday. The discussion today naturally centered on his legacy , particularly post-season accomplishments, and his prospects for the Hall of Fame.

What I'll remember as much as the "Bloody Sock" and the pair of World Series championships with Boston is something tangible, yet secret, the Schilling "book" on hitters. What the book symbolizes is the quest for excellence. Achievement might flow from great natural ability, but more often it intersects from aptitude, preparation, discipline, and determination. "Nothing great is accomplished without enthusiasm," read the quote so many years ago. Inspiration plus perspiration fulfill aspiration.

Pitchers know the aphorisms...
  • Left handed hitters like the ball down
  • Right handed hitters don't like to be jammed
  • A stance close to the plate means the hitter can hit the inside pitch
  • Hitters away from the plate can handle the outside pitch (usually diving into the plate)
  • First pitch strikes
  • Work quickly
  • Change speeds
  • Use deception
  • Remain on balance
  • Bend your back
  • Use your legs for power
  • Don't grip the ball too tightly
  • Work ahead in the count
But at the end of the day, the pitcher must identify a way to maximize his strength against the hitter's weaknesses. Man-to man, he must develop repetitive strategies to defeat an opponent farther away than in most sports. Yes, a few pitchers have such devastating talent that the exploding fastball and razor sharp curve of a Koufax can simply overmatch hitters. Mickey Mantle said of him, "it's just not fair."

As he progressed through his career, Schilling went from craftsman to artisan, capable of efforts like the one-hitter against the Athletics and post-season heroics against the Indians with far fewer arrows in his quiver.

What did he have in that tome? A series of game plans that Coach Belichick might envy, a portfolio that hitters hope never sees the light of day. Did any hitters have notations about their futility or their measurable success? Did some hitters have smiley faces or skulls and crossbones next to their name and history?

Will Schilling retire that book to his trophy case (one with three championships and yet no Cy Young Awards) or will it find its way to Cooperstown?

The Schilling log may never be a number one bestseller in the New York Times, but for Red Sox fans it contained the DaVinci Code, the keys to the kingdom.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


"It's difficult to make predictions, especially about the future." - Yogi Berra

With Spring Training going on, and on, and on, that gives us a chance to make predictions. 

1. The Red Sox will win AL East, because of their superior starting pitching.

2. The Red Sox consecutive game sellout streak will be broken this year under the strain of the economy.

3. Jed Lowrie will beat out Julio Lugo for the shortstop job. 

4. Lugo will ultimately be traded (and the Sox eat more shortstop salary).

5. Injuries in the bullpen will force some shuffling. Saito will have unexpected value.

6. Jason Varitek will continue to struggle from the left-side of the plate, but not as badly as in 2008.

7. Jacoby Ellsbury will increase his on base percentage to above .350. His dives in the outfield however, will have injury ramifications.

8. Rocco Baldelli will get at least 250 at bats.

9. Junichi Tazawa and Daniel Bard will both see time in the majors this season.

10. An injury caused by maple bats will cause either their ban or modification (handle reinforcement)

11. Jon Lester will lead the team in wins. 

12. The price of a water will equal the cost of a bleacher ticket in 1975 for the World Series.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Reality, Rumors

The Red Sox seem to be getting their mojo, with Jon Lester working 4.3 innings tonight, and narrowly avoiding a broken maple bat. They gotta do something about this...but won't until somebody gets seriously hurt.

Kevin Youkilis continues to fight foot and ankle problems. Ugh.

Pedro Martinez can't seem to hook on with anyone. Contract demands, I'm sure, as Pedro has always driven a hard bargain. Watching him throw in the WBC, he looked to be throwing harder, but the fastball didn't LOOK like it had the old movement...not as though I saw a lot of his pitches though.

Red Sox 'Georges?' Well, we have Kottaras, Scott (the Boomer), and Thomas (hey, I'm old). Add some more of your own...

Brad Penny has the heater up to the Florida heat.

The leprechaun with the Pedroia '15' taped on his back...that's the bomb.

A patient just returned from Fort Myers raving about the "Red Sox Destinations" trip, the games, the barbecue, and dinner with Terry Francona and several members of the team.

Is it me, or does it seem like Spring Training is lasting forever this year?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bard Excess?

Josh Bard, gone. Daniel Bard still likely to start the season in AAA. Do we have something against the Bard clan?

The Sox save the cost of half a night's water at Fenway by banishing Josh Bard.

Seriously, if they have confidence in the K-man, then it's all good, particularly with some left-hander power/contact which the incumbent has sometimes lacked.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sox Shorts

Let's face it...Spring Training seems like it's lasted about two months already, and we're only here on Friday the 13th of March.

Sox-Yankees on the tube tonight, and what can you say?
  • Saito and Tazawa both look good. Tazawa looked to have a superior breaking ball and plenty of poise on the hill.
  • Players are looking more 'normal' all the time. Not seeing any specimens in the Jose Canseco/Alex Rodriguez mode.
  • Big Papi goes yard. That's a crowd and Nation pleaser.
  • I can't help but root for Jeff Bailey.
  • Jonathan Papelbon induced a couple of bad swings.
  • Let's hope that the Sox can handle Wang with the same ease in September.
  • I'm having a confidence ebb in Tim Wakefield; of course my opinion means nothing.
  • Maybe pitchers should be allowed to run in the outfield during the regular season.
  • Good to hear Jerry in the booth. The real Oil Can.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Baseball's Rock in the Shoe

Manny Ramirez holds a certain fascination for Red Sox Nation. Sox fans recognize Ramirez as a complex man, with remarkable talent capable of great individual achievement. They also see a playful side to the man who sometimes enjoyed the give-and-take with fans.

But fans also saw a petulant and inconsistent side to the slugger, the feigned injury, variable effort, the assault on the traveling secretary, and the ultimate insult, Ramirez' quitting on the team. We wondered whether Ramirez pinch-standing appearance against Mariano Rivera was a "dead man walking" at bat. Manny left the Red Sox no choice but to get ANYTHING for him, and the Sox came away with a legitimate replacement, Jason Bay.

Two words summarize Ramirez and his agent, Scott Boras. TALENTED NARCISSIST. Both function among the leaders of their craft. Both have extreme ability. And both show the uncontrolled ego that hurts their image. Ramirez' humble origins probably contribute to his insatiable contract demands. As for Boras, bringing A-Rod's contract to the fore during the World Series reflected his need to be the ringmaster of baseball's circus.

Both Ramirez and Boras will probably both achieve entry into Cooperstown. Ramirez and Albert Pujols are the premiere right-handed bats of their era. Boras ranks along with Gene Orza and Donald Fehr as the greatest administrative anti-heroes of this baseball generation. We could only wish not that they go away mad, just go away.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Shank Shanks

"Does that make any sense? A guy with a herniated disk flies three hours in the teeth of a snowstorm to get a shot that could be administered in the training room at City of Palms Park. Who does that? And we are supposed to believe this is no big deal?" -- 3.4.09, Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe

Dan, where's your medical degree?

Many patients with back pain (been there, done that) require a variety of imaging and treatment approaches including LUMBAR EPIDURAL STEROID INJECTION (LESI). This procedure is done under fluoroscopy (not available in your kitchen or the Red Sox training room in all likelihood) by pain management specialists, anesthesiologists or other trained specialists.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Penny Anti?

The Red Sox hope that free agent signee Brad Penny can become a valuable contributor to their starting rotation this season. But he's having trouble getting loose, in Florida.

Meanwhile, there's a foot of snow in Boston, and I've spent as much money on Ice Melt as a pair of Dartmouth tuitions this year. I'm as worried about the miles per gallon rating on my snowblower as on my car.

While the Red Sox wrestle with the Grapefruit League while determining which Spring Training uniform to wear, fans can't decide whether to go with the really high boots, the full face-mask hat, and one or two pairs of gloves. "Home white" simply means snow covered everything, and "steal" means getting a North Face jacket without having to consult a mortgage broker.

Penny's done good work in Florida and in LA, but we've gotta wonder whether the frozen tundra is going to suit his makeup. Let's hope the Sox' renowned 'shoulder program' involves something for the 'cold shoulder'.