Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dear Red Sox:

Dear Red Sox:

You put up a good fight. What other team could have made it this far with a mostly Double-A lineup and season-ending injuries to a third of their Opening Day Lineup? You never gave up, even when *some* fans gave up on you.

I'm already giving in to the temptation to look back on the season and say "what if?" What if Jacoby Ellsbury had called off Adrian Beltre back in April? What if Josh Beckett had been A-OK from the start, and hadn't spent most of the year in limbo on the DL and the rest figuring out his shit? What if Dustin Pedroia had swung and missed at that infamous foul-tip? What if Kevin Youkilis hadn't broken his thumb?

We haven't had to say this in a while, but I guess we'll wait 'til next year. You've spoiled us, Red Sox... since 2003, we've had the excitement and joy of Soxtober six-out-of seven years. Of those six years, you've gone all the way twice - can you believe it?

I'm trying so hard to move on from this lost season, but it's so difficult to accept that there will be no miraculous comebacks, and no reasons for champagne at Fenway this autumn. The division was there for the taking, if you could all have stayed away from your freak accidents... What are your offseason habits, breaking mirrors and walking your black cats under ladders placed on the foul lines?

I don't blame you, dear Red Sox, but it would have been easier if you had lost out to the spectacular teams that Tampa Bay and New York were slated to be, but the fact is that they were both beatable. Tampa Bay has been scarred by injuries (albeit less severe than your own) and a balky bullpen, while New York has had a singular sure thing in its rotation all season (Sabathia) while the rest of the starters struggled with fatigue, age, or inconsistency.

I mean, Derek Jeter is having his worst season ever, and the words "Past a diving Jeter" are now even more commonplace in Yankee broadcasts.

Perhaps the most frustrating is the way you've performed against the "bad" teams. Splitting the season series with Baltimore is just not going to cut it - we're blaming your losses on the minor-league lineup you've dealt with, but the likes of Baltimore, Kansas City, and Cleveland play with those caliber lineups all year round, and you couldn't seem to beat them.

I guess I'm writing you this letter as more of a cathartic exercise for myself than anything else... there's a week left in the season, and you're stuck playing spoiler while I'm stuck watching you. Even when you disappoint me, I just can't quit you, Red Sox. I think you're my one true love, and I'll defend you to the death from my fellow students who just "rediscovered" their Yankee fandom, and from those few who have realized that the Rays are actually good.

You haven't made it easy to love you, but I don't mind showing my loyalty by giving anecdotal evidence of the wonderful games and team dynamic you've had this year, not to mention the grit and determination you've shown to keep things interesting right down to the wire.

The Martinez/Beltre dynamic has been particularly enjoyable... I hope we get to keep them.

I'll be watching you until the end, and I'll follow you throughout the offseason, wearing my Red Sox attire and hoping for your members to heal while Theo finds you some great new pieces.

Until we meet again in Fort Meyers, Red Sox, I remain faithfully yours,

Kayla Chadwick

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I miss you, Pedro!

I'm taking Spanish this semester, in hopes of both fulfilling Trinity's requirement and obtaining some sort of mastery of the language. Tonight's assignment was to choose a famous person of Hispanic heritage and write about them en espaƱol. Our choices ranged from Shakira to Antonio Banderas, or we could choose our own.

Shockingly, I chose my own...

I don't think it's any surprise that I chose to write about Pedro Martinez. In this time of darkness (the 2010 Parade of Carnage), it's nice to reflect upon the good old days when the Red Sox were on top and Pedro was king.

Of course, these two things were simultaneously true for just a few months: the Sox won it all in October, 2004, and Pedro would sign with the Mets that same December, but DAMN did it feel good while it lasted.

Pedro was the best pitcher in baseball for a number of years leading up to 2004, including a 1999 season that MLBNetwork has dubbed the best single-season performance by a pitcher in the history of the game. Unfortunately for me, I was nine years old at the time, and so on the rare occasion that I had control of the television for baseball, I did not appreciate the historic nature of Pedro's utter dominance.

Pedro's performance at the 1999 All-Star Game was one for the ages.

The speculation that Pedro Martinez felt slighted by the Sox' acquisition of Curt Schilling has been brought up before, but there's no way that team was winning without both of them on the roster (neither of them, by the way, were fathered by the Yankees, despite the unoriginal and obnoxious chants that follow Pedro to the Bronx). It is interesting to note that statistically speaking, Pedro Martinez's most similar player is Curt Schilling, according to baseball-reference.com (that is a better argument for Schill's HoF eligibility than any obscure statistic, in my opinion).

But even beyond the dazzling numbers and dominating performances, Pedro was a character, delivering memorable one-liners like "One of these days Buckner's gonna catch that grounder," proving that he was as indoctrinated as the rest of us in RSN, and sick and tired of that damned replay.

My personal favorite Pedro quote has to be from 2001, when he seemingly grew tired of answering questions about a certain slugger of yesteryear: "I don't believe in damn curses," he said. "Wake up the damn Bambino and have him face me. Maybe I'll drill him in the ass." This would have been comical if it were possible... Just imagine the undersized Pedro hitting the Babe, then trying to defend himself from the Bambino's superior bulk when the fiery Ruth charged the mound.

Of course, the best images of Pedro are those that show his character, both on the mound and in the dugout:

This might be my favorite Pedro picture. Being at Opening Day (Night?) this year and seeing him embrace Johnny Pesky was amazing. I'll admit to tearing up.

Obviously, Pedro Martinez meant a lot to hundreds of thousands of people. He was one of the only great players on some teams full of scrubs for a few years in the late-90's; he was proof (before Dustin Pedroia) that the short guy can succeed; he was fun-loving and competitive. Pedro Martinez was always dynamic and dominating... I don't know about you, but this year I miss him more than ever.

P.S. Don't forget Pedro's "lucky charm:"

"My friend is Nelson. His name is Nelson. He's 36 years old. He's from the Dominican Republic and very funny character, and very animated. Everybody's happy with him. He's our lucky charm now. Now a days. The guys are falling in love with him."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Book review: Theology

I won't be heading to Fenway Park this evening after all. My roommate broke her ankle yesterday due to a rugby accident, and so we will not be seeing Daisuke Matsuzaka nibble around the strikezone and get pulled before the sixth inning. Sad.

Instead, we gave the tickets to her cousin for the girl's birthday - here's hoping she gets to see a win!

Now, since I have nothing to say about the Red Sox today that can't be summed up with "Dear God, why!?", I've decided to start a series of posts reviewing the baseball books I so avidly devour, both during the summer, and over the offseason (which is looming closer by the day). Full disclosure: I was inspired in this endeavor by this article on the Boston Globe's website. It was less than I expected, presenting a list instead of the synopses the texts deserved.

So without further ado, hopefully the first in a series of reviews, a look at John Frascella's Theology: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land.

I have to say, I was sadly disappointed in the book. I know Theo Epstein is a notoriously private person, but I was hoping for more insight then I could get from a Wikipedia page.

There were literally no quotations or insights that I hadn't already read in the Boston Globe or Herald, and the book read more like a high schooler's rendition of a biography than a professional's. There were several typographical errors in my copy, which any editor should have caught, and it just made the whole thing seem even more like the project of a fan rather than an actual book.

I'm sorry to say I would not recommend this book to anyone but the most casual of fans; if you're anything close to die hard (as I assume my readers are), you already know that Theo has a small son, that he and Larry Lucchino aren't exactly bosom buddies, and the gorilla suit angle has been beaten to death.

Read the Wikipedia page instead: it's better written, and it's free.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sorry! Sorry!

I know, I know. I'm an awful updater. I had all these lofty hopes for posting every day when I started this thing, and all it took was a week as a junior in college to bring those ambitions to a screeching halt (okay, so they were already halted... but I've been BUSY). Anyway, you can look at the hiatus as foreshadowing, because I was MIA mostly due to the need to finish my application for study abroad, and when (if?) it gets approved, the blog will be relegated to part-time from about January to May while I travel the world(!).

Anyway, the last time we met, the Sox were nine games behind New York and 7.5 back from the Wild Card leading Rays. We had twenty-three games left.

We now have fifteen. We are 7 games behind New York and 6.5 behind Tampa Bay. We do not play the Rays again.

Nothing is impossible. We have six games remaining against the Yankees, but they will have to play just as badly as we play well for us to have a chance.

The fact of the matter is that we still have a chance at all. I won't reiterate the entire season's worth of shenanigans (my last post pretty much covered it), but it's impressive that we're not mathematically eliminated yet.

Despite the math, the Red Sox have been eliminated in the hearts of Red Sox Nation for a while now, which is why there are some terrific deals to be had on tickets for those of us who like baseball regardless of the fact the chances for Soxtober are slim. The upcoming midweek games against the O's have tickets starting at $5 on StubHub and $12 on AceTicket, so of course I had to buy some.

Despite a class at 8:25am on Tuesday, I just couldn't pass up $17 infield grandstand seats to Monday's game, and so my roommate and I will be shipping up to Boston in two days to (hopefully) see Daisuke beat up on the moribund Orioles.

Practical? No. But the Red Sox are (technically) still in it, and I refuse to listen to logic until they are systematically eliminated. I know some of you are already looking toward the offseason, but I'm determined to see more baseball NOW, before the long, cold winter arrives.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The 2010 Parade of Carnage

I wasn't happy after last night's joke of a game. However, neither did I feel the overpowering urge to scream and storm and throw things that a late-season loss to a divisional rival usually brings. When the last out was made, all I felt was a bitter sort of resignation - for all intents and purposes, this team was down and out long ago, and somehow they clung to hope far longer than they had any right to under the circumstances.

The Boston Red Sox are currently nine games behind the Yankees for the AL East title, and 7.5 behind the Rays in the Wild Card race. There are just 23 games left in the 2010 season, and 11 of those are against legitimate playoff contenders... Once, the Red Sox would have counted themselves among such fighters, but no longer. The 2010 Parade of Carnage dashed our collective playoff hopes long before we were ready to admit defeat. (And to be honest, I won't be ready to throw in the towel until the math says I have no choice.)

I could go through and list all of the injuries, player by player, but it's been done. Instead, I will SHOW how the injuries piled up, through screengrabs from some reputable Red Sox websites:

(via redsox.com; click to enlarge)

On July 11th, the Sox had a whopping eleven players on the disabled list (plus Junichi Tazawa, who was hurt in Spring Training). Since then, one has been traded (MDC, to the Rockies), one released (Jeremy Hermida), two are gone for the season (Pedroia and Ellsbury), six are back on the roster and producing some semblance of good baseball, and one (Josh Beckett) is stinking up the joint, despite his apparent "health."

(via boston.com's Extra Bases blog; click to enlarge)

On August 5th, we recieved word that Boston's most consistant hitter would be out for the season after a freak accident in the batter's box that would require him to undergo thumb surgery. At the time, few realized what a crushing blow this was, as several players were supposed to be on their way back, but Youk's absence has hurt us both on the scoreboard and in the field.

(via boston.com's Extra Bases blog; click to enlarge)

Within twenty minutes on August 18th, we were informed that two-thirds of our starting outfield would be AWOL until next Spring. Cameron's loss was somewhat glossed over because his stats left a lot to be desired this season, but keep in mind he was battling a severe sports hernia for much of the campaign, and never really got into a groove. Ellsbury, of course, is the type of dynamic player who really might have made a difference in some of this season's close games.

(via boston.com's Extra Bases blog; click to enlarge)

Then the most crushing blow of all: despite having returned for two games, Dustin Pedroia's foot was not healing, and so he would be lost for 2010. Besides being an excellent player, Pedey is the heart and soul of that clubhouse - the Sox couldn't be out of it until he SAID they were out of it... and Pedey doesn't admit defeat.

And so by today, the Sox DL looks like this:

(via redsox.com; click to enlarge)

Fewer players on the list, but none of them are walking through that door. Of the Opening Day Starters, four of nine are on that list. We've lost three Gold Glovers and the reigning stolen base champ; three All-Stars, and three former World Series winners. The worth of these four players absolutely cannot be overestimated.

If you look over the total missing players for the year, things get even more bleak: of the nine players on the field for the first pitch of 2010, six have spent at least 15 days on the disabled list. Shockingly, the only outfielder to stay healthy was JD Drew. Yes, JD Drew was the Boston outfield's version of Iron Man.

The ridiculous spate of injuries made writing the lineup card a daily adventure for Terry Francona...

(via baseball-reference.com; click to enlarge)

This is ridiculous. The Sox couldn't even be healthy enough to have seven games with the same lineup. SEVEN!

This team put up a hell of a fight - guys most of us had never heard of this time last year made real contributions, but in the end it doesn't seem to be enough. And for those of you ripping Theo for not getting reinforcements before the trade deadline, where was he supposed to get players of such pedigree? And most of them were supposed to come back; if they had in fact been healthy, where do you put the new additions?

No, you can't blame Theo, or Tito, or even the players. You can blame sheer dumb luck, and playing in a division with two of the best teams in baseball (and indisputably the one richest). Some of you are too young to remember that the Sox were not always perennial contenders (I'm on the cusp of that one), so let me remind you of the time-tested phrase of fanbases past: "Wait til next year."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hey... Who's that fat lady?

[Bonus points to anyone who knows what 90's TV show the title is from!]

Before I let the mysterious overweight woman following the Sox around sing her song, let me just say that I refuse to give up until the math tells me that there is no other choice. Remember our opponents in the 2007 World Series? Those Colorado Rockies won 21 out of 22 games down the stretch, proving that such a feat, while improbable, is possible.

I know in my heart that things are drawing to a close, and that each Sox loss and every Yankees and Rays victory takes us closer and closer to some October golf. However, just because the Sox look to be out of the championship hunt for 2010 does not mean that we should be giving up on this season: this is still an interesting team capable of playing great baseball.

We've got several players playing for a spot next year, both rookies hoping to earn a permanent spot, and free-agents to be looking to up their price for the upcoming offseason. And what of these pending FA? David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Adrian Beltre, and Victor Martinez all have contracts expiring when the last out is recorded this season (which looks more and more like it will be October 3rd).

Let's start with the easy one: Mike Lowell has repeatedly said he will retire after the season, to which I say "Happy Trails, Mikey." Lowell has meant a lot to me personally in his time with the Sox, and, lest you'd forgotten, he was the MVP of the 2007 World Series. I know he's been unhappy with the way things have gone this year, but if anyone deserves to be sent off with respect, it's Mikey.

David Ortiz will most likely be back - other teams are not going to be lining up to take a gamble on an aging slugger with Papi's history and body type. The Red Sox are probably not going to pick up the $12.5 million option for 2011, but it's all but certain that a deal will get done.

Beltre and Martinez are more complicated. The Red Sox need them, and they seem to thrive in Boston, which is certainly no given for many players. However, the sticking point between the sides will likely be length of contract, for both players. The Red Sox will not want to sign Martinez to a long-term deal as a catcher, as players at that position rarely age well, but it's possible that they see him as Papi's eventual replacement at DH.

Beltre is the most unlikely of all to be with the 2011 Red Sox, as his agent is Scott Boras, and he had excellent 2010 numbers. Boras always pushes his players to free-agency, and there will be teams that value Beltre more than the Sox will, and will be willing to pay him accordingly. It's a real shame, since his antics have kept the club fun, despite the continual reminder of the 2010 Parade of Carnage.

So maybe this is it... I hear the fat lady warming up backstage. But if the Red Sox aren't playing meaningful baseball this fall, we can at least take comfort in the memory of what happened the season after 2006 - the last time the Sox missed the playoffs.