Monday, June 28, 2010

The walking wounded

Just before the season started, the cynics predicted the Red Sox would miss the playoffs. They claimed that Theo Epstein's roster, as assembled, couldn't compete in the American League East. They scoffed at the signings of Bill Hall, Scott Atchison, and Jeremy Hermida, and insisted that the likes of Adrian Beltre and Mike Cameron couldn't possibly contribute enough.

Three months and change later, and those doomsayers look even more foolish than usual, as key contributions have come from, of all people, Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, and Atchison, among others.

Even Kevin Youkilis appreciates McDonald.

Somehow, the Sox are just two games out of first place in their division, while the Rays, who were the fashionable favorites early on to run away with it, are in third place. All this despite a rash of injuries, including many to key players, including Josh Beckett, Jacoby Ellsbury, and now Dustin Pedroia.

According to the Boston Globe's Extra Bases blog, the injury bug isn't about to abate, as most of the key players are weeks away from rejoining the team. Beckett, though feeling better, still needs to complete a rehab assignment, and the Globe's Pete Abraham puts his return around the last week in July. Ellsbury is a mystery. The outfielder is still in Arizona, and no one seems to know how long the recovery will take, so don't hold your breath on seeing him before the All-Star break.

As for the more recent injuries, Pedroia will be out approximately six weeks with his left-foot fracture (I'm dying already), while Victor Martinez is a rare bright spot, who might - MIGHT - be able to play in a few days if his swelling goes down, even with a fractured left thumb.

The heart and soul of the Red Sox... and me.

This team has showed uncommon pluck in 2010, and if they can just weather the storm for a few weeks more and stay in contention until after the All-Star Game, help should be returning in droves. I for one think they can do it, especially if Pedroia hangs around the clubhouse in the meantime. What he means to that team in terms of spirit and drive absolutely cannot be overstated, and if he can be around to encourage and talk trash at the appropriate times, I think they'll pull through.

Baseball gods willing.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Say it ain't so, Pedey!

I was away from Red Sox baseball for two days - two days! - and the worst possible thing has happened. I'm never taking a weekend out in the woods again, since the world has obviously been punishing me for my irreverence for the Sox schedule by taking my favorite player out of commission.

Dustin Pedroia fractured his left foot on Friday when he fouled a pitch off of himself, and he'll be out for possibly six weeks or more, though the team doesn't have a timetable yet.

Selfishly, this is a huge blow, as Pedroia is my all-time FAVORITE player to watch: the way he puts everything on the line, every play, accompanied by his good-as-gold postgame comments make him my can't-miss player.

Of all the injuries this season (Ellsbury, Cameron, Beckett, Hermida, and now Buchholz), Pedey's will hurt this team the most, as he's not only a Gold Glove caliber defender and MVP type hitter, but he's the heart and soul of that team.

Since the "idiots" of 2004 disbanded, many fans have complained that the team lacked personality, and Pedroia certainly supplied his fair share of that. He's the undisputed spark plug of the team, and was coming off a "laser show" performance Thursday with three homers when his reality shattered.

Now that's personality...

“I’m just going to try to be positive for all the guys,’’ Pedroia said. “They know how I play the game, and they know I’ll be in the dugout watching the game and trying to see things on the field to help us win. I don’t know. I’ve never really done this before, so it’s not real fun.’’

His manager and teammates are almost as dissappointed as Pedey himself:

“He means a lot," said Bill Hall (who will be starting in Pedroi'a stead), "To me, he’s our second captain. Obviously, [Jason Varitek’s] No. 1. Pedey with his emotion and how hard he plays and the big hits he gets, he means a lot to this team emotionally. We’re going to miss him a lot. If he’s in the dugout, I know he’s going to be rooting for us and giving us that same energy and we’re going to need that.’’

I would take that even further and suggest that Pedroia is the de facto captain. I know Varitek is the one who wears that "C" on his chest, but with a diminished role this season he isn't as visible as he once was, while Pedroia is out there every play, putting his body on the line, and running his infamous mouth in the clubhouse.

This could easily be the straw that breaks the camel's back - there's no replacing Dustin Pedroia:

Said Tito, “You can’t replace Pedey. That’s why he’s Pedey. But we’ll do what we always do — look at the lineup, see who’s pitching, and tell guys the night before who’s going to play.’’

Of course, Francona has performed admirably this season, mixing and matching his way to the third best record in the majors, but he's right about Pedroia. You can scoff all you want at the notion of "intangibles," but Pedey's got them in abundance, in addition to his resume loaded with very real and measurable accomplishments, and the Red Sox are going to miss him.

As for me? I miss him already. I'll continue watching the Sox no matter what, but it just won't be the same without Pedroia on the job every day. Here's hoping Pedey's recovery time is as quick as his wit, because I'm already having withdrawal.

[All quotes in this post are from the Boston Globe online.]

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sunny side up

I know it's tempting to look at last night's loss and focus on the negative: Papelbon blew a save, and in the most painful way possible, by giving up two home runs, including the game winner to former Yankee Jason Giambi.

I (for once) am choosing to look at the positive... the bats came back with a vengeance last night, and against one of the best young pitchers in the game. Before last night, Ubaldo Jimenez had a 1.15 ERA. The Sox singlehandedly raised that to 1.6o. They scored six runs off of the right hander, more than any other team this season, and they were just the second team to score more than three runs off him.

Darnell McDonald had a two-run homerun of Colorado's ace, while Daniel Nava notched three RBIs. Not bad for two guys that weren't supposed to see any big league action this season.

Google search "daniel nava red sox" and this is the best you get... Sad but true.

So I'm pretty optimistic about tonight: the Sox have Daisuke Matsuzaka back on the hill after a brief absence, and the red-hot bats get to try their stuff against Jason Hammel, a righthander with a 5-3 record, 4.03 ERA.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Train'em early

Today was the first day of my summer job, and as a counselor at a day camp I see a wide variety of baseball caps. The little league teams in my town are named after Major League teams, and their uniforms have MLB logos, including the hats they all keep after the season.

So when I saw three Oakland A's hats and a Yankees hat this morning, I assumed they were just repping their little league teams, and I was partly correct. Unfortunately for my sanity, I have a ten-year-old bandwagon Yankees fan on my hands.

How do I know he's a bandwagon jumper? I asked him to name five players on the current roster, an easy feat for a reasonably tuned in fan, especially with a roster full of all-stars, but he failed my test. He managed to name Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira before he gave up.

But seriously... he only got one of the core four.

He challenged me to do the same for the Red Sox, and I complied, with about 15 extra names for good measure... I was going for the complete roster, but he stopped me.

Let me be clear: it's not the Yankee fan thing that upsets me, but rather the bandwagon thing. It's a kid from New England who picks the Yankees because his friends love the local nine, and he wants to be disruptive or controversial. The people who don't know a bullpen from a dugout, and yet claim to be all about "their" team.

As for the young man in question, I told him his fandom was being temporarily revoked until he could name more Yankees players than I can. I did, however, let him keep the hat.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sabermetric Tidbits

I stumbled upon MLBNetwork's League Leaders, and I have to say, it was quite an eye opener. I won't get into the merits of the various statistics, because that's a whole other post, but for those of you that like this stuff, here are some of the more interesting tidbits from last night's show. (All stats are as of Monday morning.)

* When will Kevin Youkilis start to get recognition as the amazing player he is? He was in the top five in a lot of offensive categories, including runs scored (most in the league), OPS, and OPS+ (first in the league). I think most Sox fans see Youk as a great asset, but most of us don't see him as in the same category as a Mark Teixeira, Josh Hamilton, or Evan Longoria. He is on par with those players, and ahead of many of them in important ways. Let's show Youk some LOVE!

* Old friend Justin Masterson is tops in the league with 173 ground ball outs. We saw that firsthand in Cleveland last week, but I don't begrudge Masty some success. Baseball's never seen a nicer guy.

* The Red Sox are third in MLB against lefthanded pitching, and first in the American League. They also come in first in arguably the most important offensive category: runs scored. Unfortunately, the Yankees and Rays are second and third, so this catfight for the division isn't going to end any time soon.

* Joe West may have had a point way back after Opening Day.. Not about the Sox and Yankees being a "disgrace to the game," but that their games are just a bit lengthy. The Red Sox have the longest average game times of any team in baseball, with 3:07, and the Yanks come in at just a minute shorter with 3:06. It's not mistake that two of the best teams take the longest to play, however, and someone should inform West.

* To go along with length, David Oritz is tops in pitches seen per plate appearance, making the pitcher toss an average of 4.53 pitches every time he steps to the dish. Similarly, Dustin Pedroia has seen more pitches in 2010 than any other player, with 1409, more than 20 more pitches than his next closest competitor. Of course, seeing a lot of pitches is part of making every at-bat a battle, and wearing down starters quickly in order to get to the inferior pitching in the bullpen.

* For all the clutch hitting woes experienced by the Red Sox early in the season, they've obviously bounced back, led by third baseman Adrian Belte. Beltre leads the league in batting average with runners in scoring position, batting .392 in such situations.

* I know we were all freaking out about holding baserunners on, but in the American League, a high success rate for opposing teams corresponds with a good record, and vice versa. The two teams who are best at controlling the running game are Toronto and Oakland, in fourth and third place, respectively. The three teams who let opponents run wild on the basepaths are all fighting for first, in the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels (in that order).

* As for that heralded "run prevention" thing? Marco Scutaro is tied for first in most outs recorded, with 221, while Captain Intangibles himself, Derek Jeter, must content himself with second place. Maybe those unnecessary pirouettes make him sleep better at night.

Yes, I know statistics aren't everything. They are, however, an important part in the evaluative process. I know I can't get enough information about my team, and I know some of you are the same way. I can highly recommend MLBNetwork's League Leaders if this stuff interests you: Monday nights at 10PM... You can bet I'll be watching!

Young Guns

Need more proof that the American League East is the toughest division in baseball? The three pitchers with the most wins in the AL all reside within our division: David Price (Tampa Bay), Phil Hughes (New York), and our own Clay Buchholz all have 10 wins on the season.
Even more impressive? Their average age is twenty-four. In fact, Clay is the elder statesman among them, and he'll be twenty-six in August. The pitcher with the most wins in the National League, Ubaldo Jimenez (13-1), is just twenty-six himself. So what does all this mean?

None of the teams with the leading pitchers have records under .500, and, of course, of the AL teams, all three teams are within a game of first place in their division. The importance of pitching cannot be understated, and the Red Sox have come to appreciate the truth in the age-old adage, "you can never have too much pitching."

At the beginning of the season, we were fretting over how all six starters would get enough innings, and somehow, two of the games I've been to this month were started by Scott Atchison and and Felix Dubront, respectively. Of course, both games ended in a "W" for the Sox, so I won't complain, but we're a long way from the "How will Tim Wakefield get to start?" "What happens when everyone's healthy?" shenanigans of Spring Training.

Who would have thought that it would be Clay Buchholz who would be leading the Sox in wins in late June? After Josh Beckett's contract extension, the signing of former Angels' ace John Lackey, and the de facto coronation of Jon Lester as Sox ace, Buchholz came in just before Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka in terms of expectations. Sure, he showed flashes of brilliance at the end of last season, but we didn't know what to expect from him in 2010.

If there were any doubts left, Clay can handle himself, and he's part of a wave of great young pitching emerging across MLB. I for one am glad he's on our side.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An ode to Dustin Pedroia

When Dustin Pedroia came to the plate yesterday afternoon to a tie game in the bottom of the ninth inning, I wasn't worried. I trust Pedey to give it everything he has, every time he's on the field: as Manager Tito Francona said, "he kind of wills himself to do something good."

Tito loves Pedey... and I trust his judgment.

So I definitely wasn't surprised when Pedey came through with a walk-off hit into right field. I was, however, blown away when I heard it was his first career walk-off.

Pedroia's been coming through for the BoSox since he snapped out of an early-season 2007 slump... He hit a homerun in his first ever World Series at-bat, homeruns on Opening Days 2009 and 2010, was the 2007 Rookie of the Year, and the 2008 MVP of the American League. All these accolades, and never a walk-off hit?!

You all know my feelings about the Sox second-baseman, and it goes beyond the sparkling statistics. During the championship run of 2007, ROY Pedroia played for over two months with a painful cracked hamate bone in his left wrist, quipping, "You just try and have the adrenaline take over, and take a lot of Tylenol."

Also, unlike certain other Boston sports icons (ahem, Tom Brady), Dustin can support the local teams.

Yes, Pedroia is a true dirt dog, in the tradition of one Trot Nixon before him; he puts his body on the line every game, and every play, all for the good of the team. For the last month or so, Pedey has been battling a bad knee, which had been quite detrimental to his hitting (I use the past tense because he's been on fire this homestand, to the tune of 15-for-31).

Despite the pain in his knee, a joint we can all agree is of tantamount importance to a baseball player, Pedroia knew that it was better for the team that he play, even if it was only at 75%. You HAVE to admire that "team first" attitude, and the grit and will to win don't hurt, either.

It also doesn't hurt that his son, Dylan, is the cutest child EVER.

Of course, I love the witty remarks he comes out with, and I only wish we got to hear them all - you just know that the few that trickle down to the fans are the tamest of them. As for the cockiness? On a man of normal size, it might be annoying, but on Pedroia, a 5'8" (in his spikes, maybe) balding twenty-six year old, it's somewhat endearing.

What can I say? I've been head over heels for Pedey since he came up in late 2006 - wearing number 64 - and I won't hide my unabashed admiration for him. Hopefully, there will be no more need for a walk-off hit from Speedy Pedey in the bottom of the ninth... but if we need one, there's no one I'd trust more.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I wasn't sure what to expect yesterday at Fenway Park. I can see both sides of the Manny situation: without his bat, the Red Sox would, as Joe Torre said, "never have hung those banners." But the end was brutal: quitting on the team, phantom injuries, disrespect to team employees.

I hadn't decided how to receive #99 when he made his first appearance by the time we got to the game, and then I reallized that the indecision WAS my decision: I couldn't bear to boo Manny, but neither did I think he deserved my cheers, and so I remained silent. When he came to the plate in the second inning, I think I was the only silent person in Fenway Park, as everybody got to their feet (you had to, just to be able to see). From where I was sitting, it sounded like the boos and cheers were about 50/50, and so my personal indecision felt defensible.

A bromance for the ages...

Not surprisingly, Ramirez is refusing to do any interviews while in town (he never particularly liked them), but he did speak animatedly with several current Sox players during batting practice, including Victor Marinez (whose son was in tow), and David Ortiz. While this was going on, people were cheering for Manny, and an usher stationed near my vantage point muttered, "steroid using asshole."

Of course, he said this loudly enough to be overheard, and several people looked at him in surprise: "What?" he asked, "I've been here twenty years... I know what goes on." This is an especially interesting tidbit when considering what really turned the tide on Manny's public opinion ratings was his mistreatment of another team employee, traveling secretary Jack McCormick.

It's worth noting that the team did nothing to stop Manny's skid from popularity. Manny Ramirez is exactly the kind of distraction that Theo does not want on the team, while Tito spent years trying - and apparently failing - to meet Manny's many needs, both on and off the diamond.

But through all the drama, we knew we were watching something special. Manny Ramirez has one of the most beautiful, effortless, right-handed swings in the game, and though a cynic might wonder how much of that power is due to chemical enhancement (especially since that incident with a certain banned women's fertility drug), from 2001 until mid-2008, no one was saying such things. It was "Manny being Manny," and we put up with all the lackadaisical defense and the off field antics, just for the chance to watch him belt one onto Landsdowne Street.

Thanks for the memories, indeed. And thanks for 2004, and for 2007.

But then it all came screeching to a halt, and I can remember the trade like it was yesterday: I was in the car, and I heard the news on WEEI. Unfortunately, the station was going in and out, and I didn't hear all of it, so I texted my baseball crazy cousin to confirm, and confirm he did. Manny was going to Hollywood, and we were getting some guy named Jason Bay.

Bay did a pretty good job, of course: he performed at a high enough level, with no off-field shenanigans, that some of us swore never to miss Manny. Last night, WEEI handed out posters that read "Who needs Manny?" and during that game, we didn't need him, and maybe we never did (depsite Papi's cries for lineup protection)... But it sure was fun watching Manny being Manny while it lasted. Happy trails, #99, I hope LA is treating you well.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Interleague Check-in

The elderly Jamie Moyer did us all a favor last night, allowing just three hits in eight innings as the Phillies took down the Yankees, 6-3. A.J. Burnett was terrible, going just 3.1 innings and giving up all six Phillies' runs. Meanwhile, the Rays were busy losing to Atlanta, as the Braves continued to roll, and the Sox took another game from the struggling Diamondbacks, putting them just 3 games back in the AL East.

In the last ten games, the Yankees are 7-3, the Rays are 5-5, and the Sox are 6-4. The teams have upcoming series against the Mets (37-28), Marlins (31-34), and Dodgers (38-27), respectively.

[NOT] Shockingly, the Red Sox are the only team in the group to be facing a first place team, as the interleague schedule continues. Personally, I always root for the National League - unless they're playing the Sox - since an AL loss can only be good for the Red Sox's standings. John Lackey goes tonight for the Sox, while the Yanks have the red-hot Pettitte, and the Rays will run out Shields.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Clay Buchholz had an uncharacteristically poor start his last time out (it's worth noting that 7IP and 3 earned runs has become a "poor" performance by the emerging ace), and I'm sure he's eager to redeem himself tonight against the Diamondbacks.

Poor Arizona. The D-backs have won just nine games on the road compared to twenty-two losses, including a ten game road losing streak. On the other hand, their scheduled starter, Ian Kennedy, is 3-3 with a 3.17 ERA.

That's pretty good, but it's not the 8-4, 2.52 ERA belonging to Buchholz. I'm off to Fenway Park for tonight's game, which is why this is so short (sorry!). I'll be sure to be back tomorrow and share my reaction to Clay's start.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Jacoby Ellsbury has played in exactly nine games for the big club this season. Yes, he has been injured. But he's rapidly getting a reputation as a "JD Drew" type player. In fact, Drew has missed just three games this season, but that's not the point: as a player, JD is viewed as "soft." He has a reputation for requesting time off for the slightest of ailments, and hangnail jokes are commonplace.

The perception in some circles is that agent Scott Boras is pulling the strings: fearful playing at less than 100% might hurt Ellsbury's numbers in an eventual arbitration hearing, Boras cautions him to take it slow.

Uncharacteristically for the organization, Dr. Thomas Gill spoke out about the situation: "It's simply not there," Gill said. "But whether it's there or not is not medically relevant. You treat it exactly the same."

The Red Sox have been more vocal than normal about their frustrations with the fragile Ellsbury, which is to say that they've actually let on that they're upset. Tito, who is famously tactful, has mentioned some concerns publicly, and the club sanctioned a "conference call with reporters to address what [Dr. Gill] called 'misconceptions.'"

This issue has divided Red Sox Nation. Essentially half the fanbase wants Ells to suck it up and get back on the field, while the other half is livid at the first half for insinuating that Golden Boy is less than perfect.

As for me...? I'm leaning toward the former: I don't want Ells to hurt it worse, but if no further structural damage is being risked (as Dr. Gill and Tito insinuated), it's time to put his teammates before his stats. The team needs him, even if he's only 60-80%. But that's just my opinion... feel free to share yours!

[All quotes in this post found on the Boston Globe Online]

Quote of the Day

Today's quote comes from the Celtics' Nate Robinson, and he's referring to the dominant performance turned in by Big Baby Davis and himself:

"We're like Donkey and Shrek."

I love you, Nate Robinson. LOVE.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Masterful Performance

If we had to take a beatdown, I'm at least glad it came at the hands of this man:

Seriously, the one time this season Masterson dominates, we're on the receiving end. If I didn't know Masterson was too nice to have an once of revenge in him, I'd say this was payback for trading him last summer.

Now, I wouldn't go back and undo what was done, but last night's performance FINALLY vindicated me for promising a Cleveland fan (they do exist!) that he'd love Masterson. Last year's trade was special in a couple of ways: it made both clubs happy (at least for a time), and it made both players tear up.

Both VMart and Masterson had an unusually high level of attachment to their respective teams, and were extremely taken aback by the trade. And last night, in a particularly ironic twist, VMart mustered one of just two hits allowed by Masterson in a complete game shutout.

I would say I'm happy to concede a game to the struggling Indians, but that would be a lie - especially since both Tampa Bay and New York won last night. I'm counting on Jon Lester to put away Mitch Talbot tonight, and get our boys back on track before interleague restarts.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Slow it down, Cooperstown.

Stephen Strasburg made his Major League debut last night. If you don't know who he is yet, you've been living under a rock, but here's some background: the young righthander was the number one pick in the draft exactly one year ago, chosen by the Nationals, and he was being talked about as a future Hall-of-Famer before he threw a pitch in the majors.

Yes, Strasburg had an impressive debut. He pitched seven innings, striking out fourteen batters, and throwing 94 pitches, 65 for strikes. According to MLBNetwork, a DC area restaurant just unveiled a new dish, the "Strasburger," named, or course, for the young phenom. But before we put in the order for the the 21-year-old's Cooperstown plaque, let's remember that this was against the moribund Pirates, that he's barely of legal drinking age, and will be dealing with HUGE expectations. Hell, he's so new that baseball-reference doesn't even have him in their major league section yet.

Yes, Strasburg was very poised; he did everything right, but for me the most impressive number was 40,315. The Nationals sold out their stadium last night, and so the accolades for Strasburg as a franchise rescuer were clearly warranted. Here's hoping Strasburg lives up to everything the Nationals hoped for - and that he plays his entire career in the National League.

Knuckling into history

Tim Wakefield, the current longest tenured member of the Boston Red Sox, just overtook Roger Clemens for the club record of most innings pitched, with 2,777.

I have the utmost respect for Wakefield. The man is 43 years old - practically elderly in baseball years, and he's still answering every call from the Sox. Sure, he might resent being sent to the bullpen, but he's earned the right to air those concerns, so long as he keeps on knuckling. Best wishes to Wakefield... hopefully he'll topple some more records before hanging up his spikes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Woe is the Baltimore Orioles

This weekend must have been hell for the Baltimore Orioles. Sure, they managed to salvage one game out of three from the Sox, but that's the only thing that could possibly go in the "positives" column on their weekend tally.

Poor Jeremy Guthrie tossed a great game Saturday... and then the bullpen gave it up.

They got absolutely destroyed on Friday, getting shut out by a dominating Clay Buchholz, and were shut down pretty well by a slightly less masterful Jon Lester the following night. They DID manage to scrape out a win last night, but it took 11 innings! To top it all off, their manager just got fired, as if it's his fault they're 21 games back in a division where the top three teams have won the AL Pennant in the last three years, and four of five teams are over .500.

In fact, the NL West is the only other division in baseball to have four of five teams playing better than .500, and their fourth place team is 29-27, a far cry from the 33-25 (Boston and Toronto) second to worst record in the AL East.

It's no wonder Baltimore can't compete. And not only that, but the only times they play in front of a sold-out crowd at beautiful Camden Yards, the visiting team has more fans than they do. That must be a pretty horrible feeling, wearing your home whites with little to no fan support.

The Orioles were once a proud franchise, winning the World Series in 1966, 1970, and 1983, and the AL Pennant in 1944, 1969, 1971, and 1979. Unfortunately, the O's have made the playofs just twice in the Wild Card Era, in 1996 (WC), and 1997 (AL East Champs), and so their loyal fans have suffered with them.

Yes, Orioles fans exist! I worked on a project with one such fan last semester, and at the end of a group email after the O's swept the Sox I added a postscript: "PS The Orioles are ruining my life!" He took it in stride and emailed back the information I needed for the assignment, adding a note of his own: "GO O'S!"

I'm pretty sure I never saw him without an O's hat.

At the time, I was a little annoyed, but looking back, I should have offered him my condolences - for me, the Orioles were a passing annoyance, and they're back to being a doormat - for him? The O's have been a frustration and disappointment since he was eight years old, and the immediate future isn't looking too bright, either.

I feel bad for the players, sure... But they have the chance to leave town via free agency or a trade. As for the fans? Their only other regional choice is the Nationals, and I don't know about you, but I'd stick with the once great Orioles and bide my time rather than jump ship to a oft-moving, ever failing club like the Nats.

So godspeed Orioles fans, I wish you all the best - just not when you're playing Boston.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Clay Buchholz is a BOSS

THIS is what I looked forward to this season: dominating pitching performances. Yes, I know that the Baltimore Orioles are essentially the doormat of the American League, but throwing a five-hit shutout is impressive regardless of who it's against.

Buchholz controlled the situation all night, walking just one batter in nine innings, and allowing just six baserunners. For me, the most impressive number of the night was 101, the number of pitches required to make 27 outs (and face 31 batters). Clay recorded just two strikeouts on the evening, proof that he is absolutely unafraid to pitch to contact.

In the past, everyone knew Buchholz had the stuff to be a number one or two in a rotation, it was the maturity and confidence we were all waiting on, and I'd say that's arrived. Clay has the lowest starter's ERA on the team (2.39), with only Manny Delcarmen and Daniel Bard below him.

Interestingly enough, it is the home grown pitchers who are doing the best thus far, despite the much heralded arrival of John Lackey, and the excitement over Josh Beckett's extension. Jon Lester (2.97), Daniel Bard (1.91), Manny Delcarmen (2.36), and Buchholz are the only Sox pitchers with ERAs under 3.00. In fact, the only homegrown pitcher on the staff with an ERA over 3.00 is the closer, Jonathan Papelbon (3.13).

Why do I bring up these stats? The draft is rapidly approaching, and the Red Sox have recently done very well in that area. Besides the aforementioned pitchers, the Red Sox drafted and developed current Sox players Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury, as well as Marlins star Hanley Ramirez (who was traded for Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett). Personally, I can't wait to see what the team comes out with this year... Another boss like Buchholz, perhaps?

Sox Superlatives: 2010

It's that time of year again: most colleges have already had their commencements, and high schools around the country are in the thick of graduation season. You know what goes with graduation? YEARBOOKS, and my personal favorite part of any yearbook is the superlatives. Though the Red Sox are just about a third of the way through the season, Off the Monster will take a stab.

Most confident:
I know the popular choice would be Pedey, but hear me out. Clay Buchholz was always that prospect who "had to work on his confidence." The stauff was always there; we were waiting for the mentality to catch up. Well, I'd say he's caught up now, and the results are BEAUTIFUL.

David Ortiz was the AL Player of the month for May, and he is absolutely destroying the ball rght now. It's almost like having vintage Papi back, and I have to say I like it.

Most likely to kill a deer:

Most ridiculous accent:

Jon Lester is from Washington. Yet somehow, he speaks with a southern twang. I'm going to go ahead and pin this one on Josh Beckett.

Again, DUH.

Most likely to be on his knees:

No, not like that! Adrian Beltre makes defensive plays from his knees, but he's also hit two homers this way. It's so ridiculous. Also, AWESOME.

Most likely to be found in the nurses office:
This is a no-brainer. Ells has spent most of the season on the DL, and there are no signs indicating that this will change any time soon. Valid or not, speculation that his pain threshold is too low, or that he's somehow "soft," have been buzzing around for a while now.

Teacher's pet:
It's no secret that Theo LOVES JD Drew, even defending him against the haters. But honestly, I love him too. His numbers speak for themselves, and he's the most badass ginger ever. Drew Crew forever!

Father of the year:
Dustin Pedroia just has to win this one. Have you ever seen a cuter child? I'll answer for you: you haven't, because Dylan Pedroia is the most adorable baby ever. Also, Pedroia has been quoted as saying "He's growing so fast. He's bigger than me." Love it. He clearly LOVES his Uncle Tito... I wonder if Dylan can beat the skipper at cribbage?

Best dressed:
I have to give this one to Paps, even though they all look pretty snappy. You can tell by the look on his face that he's really COMMITTING to the outfit. And you just know that he'd wear that getup on the mound if Theo would allow it.

Most likely to succeed:
Last year, I picked Daniel Bard, which turned out to be a good call. This year?It's a more difficult choice, as there aren't any prospects as close as Bardo was. Nevertheless, I'm going to go out on a limb and nominate the recently promoted OF Ryan Kalish. We might not see him this year, but I'm keeping an eye out for him in 2011.

Class flirt:
Come on. You know I had to do it. Jason Varitek, Nick Green... Who's on her radar this season?

Any I missed? Sound off in the comments!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

An addendum on Jim Joyce

Last night I wrote a post fueled by emotions (chiefly indignation), that lumped umpire Jim Joyce in with the likes of Angel Hernandez and Joe West. This was a mistake. Joyce made an honest mistake, and he has since apologized to Armando Galarraga:

"It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the [shit] out of it," said a tearful Joyce, "I just cost that kid a perfect game. And there's nobody that feels worse than I do."

Well, perhaps Galarraga does, but it's clear that Joyce is truly remorseful, that he understands the implications of the call he blew last night. Galarraga showed maturity way beyond his 28 years last night when he accepted Joyce's apology.

"Nobody's perfect," opined the young pitcher, without a trace of sarcasm or even a seeming awareness of the ironic nature of his statement.

As I type this, Bud Selig and Major League Baseball are discussing this situation. Technically, Selig has the power to rewrite history and reverse that call, awarding Galarraga the the perfect game he deserves. In this situation, I would support a decision to correct the past, but baseball is aware that such an action might start a tumble down a slippery slope. If this call can be overturned after the fact, what's next? Does Pedro Martinez get his perfect game for 27 consecutive outs, even though he gave up a hit in extra frames?

Hopefully this will jumpstart the discussion of expanded use of replay - with specific and stringent guidelines - so that future Armando Galarragas won't lose out on their place in history, and previously good umpires like Jim Joyce won't be vilified based on an honest mistake.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Attack of the Evil Umpires!

What is with the umpires lately?!? Joe West has recently been fined an undisclosed amount by Major League Baseball for a variety of bad behaviors, including publicizing his schedule, making some inappropriate remarks, and being a bit laissez faire with his ejections (just ask Mark Buehrle and Ozzie Guillen). Angel Hernandez just today made an absolutely terrible call today in a Tampa Bay/Toronto game, and has been ejecting players left and right.

Ozzie gets into it with Joe West.

But the most egregious blown call was made just minutes ago in Detroit, when Jim Joyce incorrectly called Indians' shortstop Jason Donald safe at first base. Donald was the 27th batter in the perfect game bid of Armando Galarraga. Even Donald was shocked, because it looked as if Joyce was about to signal "out," and abruptly changed his mind and called the rookie safe. To Galarraga's credit, he allowed himself just one fleeting look of disbelief, then promptly retired the following batter and ended the game.

Galarraga is the epitome of a class act.

Personally, I'm at once shocked, angry, indignant, and sad. I hope Johnny Damon and Jim Leyland are waiting for Jim Joyce in the parking lot after that blown call. Leyland looked angry enough as he shouted at Joyce after that last out, and as for Damon? I just want to believe that old "idiot" has a shred of empathy left - plus, he's totally the type to fight an umpire.

One of the unique things about baseball is the umpires: the lack of widely-used instant replay and timers give it a distinct human element that the other major professional sports lack. Baseball needs this element. However, one of the other great things about America's pastime is its history, and Jim Joyce single-handedly kept Armando Galaragga out of the history books this evening.

Now, until tonight, I had never heard of Jim Joyce, which means that he's probably a generally good umpire, as the most well-known are generally the worst of them all (ahem, CB Bucknor).

Baseball is not about the umpires. Far too many umps have thrust themselves into the spotlight lately, and MLB needs to do something about it. Bud Selig, for the love of god, DO SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR UMPIRES! I understand that they have a powerful union, but this is getting ridiculous.

Now I know that Major League Baseball won't say it; so I will. Defiantly, rebelliously, and, in the eyes of MLB, erroneously, Off the Monster is making a statement: there are twenty-one perfect games in modern Major League history, capped off by the most recent, Armando Galarraga, June 2, 2010.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

2010 ASG: A Middle School Popularity Contest

Click to enlarge

According to, these are the leaders for the 2010 All Star Game in the American League. I didn't include the outfield list because (A) no Red Sox player is in the top 15, and (B) no Red Sox outfielder has played at an All Star level so far this season anyway.

But there is a reason for this post: to encourage you to vote! As a political science major, I am a major believer in the old adage that every vote counts... and as a realist and baseball fan, I use the email addresses of everyone I know to vote for the All Star Game.

Before you accuse me of being a shameless homer (which, at times, I am), let me just say that I'm not going to tell you to vote across the board for Red Sox stars. At many positions, the Sox starters just don't deserve it this year (although I would be surprised if Jonny Lester wasn't selected, but pitchers are different). However, the epitome of an undeserving leader is the Yankees' Mark Teixeira.

Another strikeout for Teix...

Teix is hitting an abysmal .221 thus far, bad even for the notoriously slow starter, and though he's known as an on-base guy, his OBP is just .338. For comparison's sake, the #2 vote getter at first is the Twins' Justin Morneau, who's hitting a league-best .377 with 11 HRs (3 more than Teix). Boston's own Kevin Youkilis is third, and he's hitting .298 with 10 HRs, and an OBP of .445. Youk has scored more runs (45) than anyone else in baseball, and he's also drawn the most walks (42).

I'll just concede Jeter's start right now, even though he's not nearly the best SS in the AL, or even in that top 5 listing. The ASG is a popularity contest, and always has been, which is why Dustin Pedroia still retains second place among second basemen, despite a .255 BA (though he has just as many homers as one Mark Teixeira).

Obviously, Joe Mauer will start behind the plate, and he absolutely deserves it. It's looking more and more like Evan Longoria will be at the hot-corner, and I can definitely get behind anything that knocks A*Rod down a notch or two. The outfield will, as always, include Ichiro Suzuki (the secret ninja).

He's also secretly related to Spiderman.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm pushing for YOUK to break through... or at least Morneau. Because if Mark Teixeira wins the starting spot for AL first baseman, it'll be the biggest popularity contest/travesty since a middle school class president election. So get out there and VOTE, Red Sox Nation!