Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Andrew Bailey to the Sox


 According to Boston.com's Extra Bases blog, the Red Sox have traded for Oakland A's closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.  Josh Reddick will be shipping out to Oakland, and  Class-A first baseman Miles Head and Class-A pitcher Raul Alcantara will be headed to A's minor league affiliate.

I know some of you grew pretty fond of Reddick last season, since he spent more than half the season with the big club, but his shoes are sure to be filled by someone capable.  While Rookie Reddick was serviceable, batting .280 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs in 87 games, he played just 56 of those games in right field.  According to the Globe's Pete Abraham, the Sox were downright deplorable in right field last season:
Red Sox right fielders hit .233/.299/.353 last season with 14 homers and 58 RBIs. Going by OPS, only Seattle was worse in the American League.
It's unlikely that Sweeney would end up being the full-time right fielder, as he's capable of playing all three outfield positions, and he seems to be more of a utility/fourth outfielder type, batting .265 with 25 RBIs and just one home run last season in 108 games.  We'll probably be seeing a lot of Ryan Kalish, who has hopefully fully recovered from all of his ailments.  Obviously, Kalish won't just be handed the job - there will be some competition in Spring Training.

But we all know that the gem of this deal is 27-year-old Andrew Bailey.  Since the departure of Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox Nation has been understandably worried about who is going to be closing games, especially because former heir-apparent Daniel Bard has expressed interest in starting.  Bailey should be a serviceable replacement, as he has 75 saves in his three-year career, and though his ERA went up considerably last year (1.47 to 3.24), he had nearly four times as many strikeouts as walks.

It will be interesting to see how Bailey fares in the AL East, especially after spending his career in the somewhat cushier AL West (though I'm sure he's happy he doesn't have to face the Angels and Albert Pujols 18 times a season).  All in all, this is a solid move for new GM Ben Cherington - maybe it will even get Red Sox Nation off his back.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas - have some copyright infringement!

I got an email from Brett Rudy the other day tipping me off to this post on Boston Sports Then and Now - apparently the Sox weren't allowed to use the image and name of Rudolph for their holiday promotion:

“We had discussed the opportunity of linking together Rudolph with the Boston Red Sox last year, and I know that you mentioned that was not something you were able to do. Then today, this message was distributed to their fans, and it currently is posted on their website. I’m wondering what changed.” Then it added, “We are disappointed that our concept and presentation seems to have been leveraged without our involvement.”
Well, it turns out the Red Sox liked the idea too much to let lack of a license slow them down, and they opted to proceed anyhow. According to Sharma later that same evening, there was still no deal. “Nothing has changed (and thank you for bringing this to our attention) – this use is unauthorized and will be dealt with appropriately.”

 This is obviously disappointing, since the Red Sox, as a subsidiary of Major League Baseball, are extremely strict about who uses their brand, but seem to have no qualms about using someone else's.  Definitely head over to Boston Sports Then and Now and check out the whole article.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rudolph, the Red Sox Reindeer


If you have about ninety seconds to watch this e-card the Red Sox are sending out, please do. Best laugh I've had all day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Time for Tek to bow out - gracefully

Bring on the haters, but I am seriously so tired of people saying that the Red Sox are treating Jason Varitek unfairly:

"it’s just not right for the Red Sox to treat him this way. He wants to finish his career in Boston. He will always be part of the Red Sox because he was the true first captain. You will be greatly missed Varitek, we love you." [Tumblr post]

First of all, the Red Sox do not owe Jason Varitek anything but respect. They do not owe him another year on the team, especially if there is a viable, cheaper, and possibly much more productive alternative.  He CAN finish his career in Boston if he really wants - the man will be FORTY YEARS OLD in April, and younger players than he have gracefully hung up their spikes after fulfilling careers.

Where were Tek's FANTABULOUS leadership skills last season when apparently the bulk of the team decided to ignore the manager and their work-out plan? I know he was in the bullpen or on the field for most games, but surely he knew about the clubhouse hijinks? Why didn't El Capitan SAY SOMETHING - and if he did, and was ignored, then his leadership certainly isn't reason enough to keep a man who hasn't broken .232 or fifteen homeruns in four years on the team.

I'm also extremely confused about the "true first captain" comment: I'm pretty sure these men would have something to say about that.

Let me be clear: I love Jason Varitek.  I practically have a shrine to him in my room:

I also attended his Celebrity Putt-Putt charity event this summer:
I had a fantastic time, and I truly believe that Tek is a genuinely awesome human being. But it's time to face the facts, Red Sox Nation.  His glory days are far behind him, and his greatest value comes from "game-calling skills" - something many teams leave to the manager on the bench, relayed to the pitcher with signs.  I will always look back on Tek's time with the team fondly - I came of age with him behind the plate, and he'll always hold a special place in my heart.


But baseball has no room for sentimentality, and it is Tek's time to bow out gracefully. I really hope that for his sake, and the sake of the organization, that he takes the practical path to retirement - maybe someday he'll return to us as a coach (though he has said he's uninterested in such a job).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Deja Vu: A return to roots for a former Sox catcher

Remember that time we traded a homegrown catcher to the Indians for Coco Crisp?  And then he went to Tampa Bay for a player to be named later (who ended up being Mitch Talbot)?  Can anyone name that player?


If you said "Kelly Shoppach," you get a cookie! [But not really - I can't send cookies through the internet.]  When we originally sent Shoppach to Cleveland, he was a pretty promising young catcher, who had the potential and the tools to be a qualified offensive and defensive player, though he has done some back-sliding since.

So what does his return mean for the Red Sox? Well, for one, it most likely means that we have seen the last of Jason Varitek's playing days, at least in Boston.  This should come as no surprise, since Ben Cherington has been hinting that he's reluctant to bring back Tek (or Wake, for that matter) for a while now.  In addition, it means that the Red Sox have a viable backup catcher who has spent significant time in the big leagues.  Ryan Lavarnway held his own last fall (17 games, .231 BA, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs), but he could certainly use some more seasoning in the minors.

Over at Boston.com's Extra Bases Blog, Pete Abraham mentions the possibility of using Lavarnway as trade bait now that the Sox have a viable alternative, but cautions that possibility is unlikely.  The most prudent course of action would be to keep Lavarnway around and continue his development, in case the Shoppach experience leaves something to be desired.  It also bears mentioning that Shoppach is no longer a young prospect, as he'll turn 32 at the beginning of next season, so keeping Lavarnway is insurance for aging, as well.

This isn't a huge move for the Sox, and it isn't a great deal of time or commitment, either, as the deal is a single year at $1.35 million.  It should be interesting to have a new face behind the plate.

Last but not least, three useless trivia facts about Kelly Shoppach:
  • He drove in the first run at the new Yankee Stadium (April 16, 2009)
  • On July 30, 2008, Shoppach had five extra-base hits in one game, against the Tigers (three doubles and two homers)
  • For all you Tek fans, Shoppach has caught a no-hitter himself - calling Matt Garza's no-no on July 26, 2010

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hot Stove Check-in

A lot has happened so far this offseason - and because I'm such a terribly inconsistant blogger, I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about EVERYTHING I've neglected thus far.

Let's start with the Red Sox. So far, we've replaced the manager and general manager, lost our closer (thankfully to the National League), and a starter (to Tommy John). We have a right fielder who is presumably retiring, and a few other players who might do well to consider that option.  So what's the good news? Hopefully Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine can take the asylum back from the lunatics, and build us a winning team.  David Ortiz has accepted arbitration, and we can expect a typically good season from him, barring injury or unforeseen circumstances.

The biggest news of the offseason is the unexpected aggressiveness from both the Marlins and the Angels.  The Marlins will be moving into a new stadium soon, and it looks like they want to put the real deal out on the field, as well.  After signing Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle, the Marlins went hard after Albert Pujols, but were beat out by the Angels.

So Pujols will stay in red, but on the west coast and (sadly for the Red Sox) in the American League.  As fun as it will be to see Pujols play more often, I don't relish watching him face off against our pitchers at Fenway.  The Angels also committed big money to former Rangers ace CJ Wilson.

I don't really expect the Sox to make any big splashes in this year's market: for one, most of the big names are already spoken for.  In addition, holes in right field and the bullpen can ostensibly be filled from inside the organization, without losing too much in translation.  The big questions won't get answered until players start reporting: will Daniel Bard start, as he's requested? If so, who will close?  Will we be seeing Josh Reddick, or maybe Ryan Kalish, in right field?

Hopefully I'll be blogging more in the next few weeks - school is winding down, and I still have my 2012 Bill James Handbook to look through... All this studying for finals is making me wait to pay attention to what really matters: baseball.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Trails, Paps.


We can now add Jonathan Papelbon's departure to Philly to the growing list of offseason things that are both sad and unsurprising. The closer's new contract joins:
  1. The scapegoating and firing of Terry Francona
  2. The departure of Theo Epstein to Chicago
  3. The ever-growing list of rumors about the bad behavior of players
  4. The fact that we have lost another starter to Tommy John (regardless of personal feelings about John Lackey, looking for a starter in this market is rather depressing)
We all knew this was coming.  Paps never wanted to take a home-town discount, and the Red Sox were perfectly content to go year-to-year with him in arbitration.  The strategy makes sense, especially when you looks at the recent lack of success the Sox have had with long-term contracts for pitchers.  Being bankrolled by John Henry and Co., the Sox can afford to overpay year after year; it's the failed gambles that trap them in terms of years that they're wary of.

But even though it all makes sense from a clinical point of view, it stings.  Papelbon was one of the few players this season who didn't make excuses, who worked his butt off all season, and who was reasonably consistent (his heartbreaking final inning notwithstanding), and I for one am going to miss him.  I trust new GM Ben Cherington to figure this out, and whtehr Bard steps in as the closer permanently or he finds someone via trade or free agency, I don't think we'll be without someone for the ninth inning.

Dan Shaughnessy (which, hilariously, my auto-correct just tried to change to "Haughtiness"), said it poignantly last week: "A natural in front of the cameras, Papelbon was Cinco Ocho. He was the guy who put the cardboard 12-pack box on his head when the Sox clinched the pennant at home against the Indians in ’07. He was the guy who wore the kilt when he rode the duck boat."

Paps loved the spotlight, and I think Philadelphia will be good for him.  We'll see if they regret giving him all those years, but one thing is for sure: the Red Sox will miss him.

Monday, October 31, 2011

World Series Review: I Suck at Predictions



 Despite worries from baseball elite that this year’s World Series would be boring and unprofitable due to the absence of large-market teams full of superstars, it turned out to be one of the most exciting Fall Classics in years.  Their worries were certainly valid, as the biggest audiences will typically tune in when teams from either coast are involved, and this Series was, as Sports Illustrated put it, “Central Casting,” with both the AL and NL Pennants going to teams far from the coasts, the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively.
The network carrying the Series also doesn’t begin to make a profit unless the two teams play five or more games in the best of seven series: since they pay Major League Baseball so much money to gain the exclusive televising rights, the advertising revenue after just four games (like the sweeps in 2004, 2005, and 2007) barely covers their cost.  If a Series reaches seven games, like this one, the network can charge huge amounts of money on advertising slots to get a return on their large investment.
 The games themselves were particularly compelling: on one side you had the Rangers, who have never won a World Series (including in their time as the Washington Senators), who were back after losing to the San Francisco Giants in last year’s Fall Classic, and who had been the no-doubt winners of the AL West for quite some time.  Across the diamond you had the Cinderella story:  the Cardinals had been ten games back in the Wild Card race with a month to play, and had just a 1.1% chance of even seeing the playoffs, before taking down the Braves to make it in, then the favored Phillies (who had been practically crowned World Champs in February), and the Brewers.
While Texas hunted fruitlessly for it’s first title, St. Louis tried to provide more incentive for free-agent to be Albert Pujols to stay with the team this offseason, and it might have worked – when asked if a repeat would be possible in 2012, Pujols grinned and said, “Why not?” 
The Series it self was compelling all the way through, as the two teams traded victories through Game 4, and then Texas gained a 3-2 advantage by winning Game 5.  If you didn’t watch what happened next, you missed a hell of a game.  Game 6 was one for the ages: the Rangers were one strike away from winning their first title – twice.  They had a two-run lead in both the ninth and tenth innings, and then David Freese and Lance Berkman (both with two strikes against them) batted in the tying runs.  Freese would hit a walkoff home run in the bottom of the eleventh inning to send the Series to its seventh game.
 After the drama of Game 6, Game 7 was slightly less exciting, as the Cards earned the lead in the third and never relinquished it.  Hometown boy David Freese was named World Series MVP, and the city of St. Louis earned the right to party in the streets for the second time in five years.  Despite the absence of a big-market team, this World Series was one for the ages – it’s only too bad that it’s over.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Surprise! John Lackey "needs" Tommy John


So there's your answer, Red Sox Nation.  While we've all been wishing for Theo to take John Lackey with him to Chicago, new GM Ben Cherington and the front office had their own plan in mind.  It was obvious to everyone that Lackey simply could not spend 2012 in a Red Sox uniform, especially once you added the allegations (and then confessions) of drinking and general gametime shenanigans to a moribund record that spoke for itself.

So John Lackey, like Daisuke Matsuzaka before him, will disappear onto the disabled list for the foreseeable future, while the Red Sox staff looks to clean up their act - and their collective reputation.  It is a rather neat solution, though it won't save John Henry and Co. any money.  I'm guessing they shopped him around, saw absolutely no one was biting, and decided to relegate the big righty to baseball purgatory.

I know many of you had worked out elaborate trade scenarios for getting rid of Lackey, and some had genuine merit for all parties involved, but you can't really be surprised that no other team wanted to take a chance on the overpaid hurler.  Lackey just turned thirty-three, he has a body type that doesn't age well (even before the now infamous weight gain of 2011), and he hasn't performed at a particularly high level in over two years.

Add to all of this the fact that he is owed more than $45 million for the next three years (a huge sum for a pitcher who has never logged a season ERA lower than 3.01, and that just once - his career ERA is over 4), and Lackey is a pitching pariah, without even tackling the allegations that he was one of the ringleaders of the *ahem* unprofessional behavior in the clubhouse this season.

All of these factors make for the perfect equation for the baseball cynic: banishment to pitcher hell.  Of course, Lackey has had documented elbow trouble, something the Sox brass were aware of when they signed him, which is why the team option for 2015 will now be at the Major League minimum (this vested with the news of Tommy John surgery).

This seems like a win-win for fans.  We've all been screaming to get him gone, and this will certainly see him out of sight for an extended period of time; the money is a bummer, but the Sox would have been eating most of the contract even if they had managed to scrounge a trade partner.  If the surgery is particularly successful, perhaps Lackey will return in 18 months better than we've seen him, and hopefully having eaten a large serving of humble pie (and very little actual pie).

And if not? Well, I'm sure management can come up with another creative solution for the John Lackey problem when the time comes. For now, it's out of sight, out of mind. Hasta luego, Lackey... I won't be missing you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"World Series munchies"

Trinity's meal plan is advertising "game-time munchies." I do enjoy the Rangers and Cardinals logos slathered in butter, though. So classy.

World Series Preview: 2011


 Typically you would examine starting pitching matchups very carefully when attempting to predict the outcome of a seven-game series like the Fall Classic, but this postseason has been anything but typical for the hurlers of the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers.  During the LCS, the Card’s starters managed just one win in their six games, and posted an atrocious 7.03 ERA, while the Rangers’ starting staff didn’t do much better: zero wins in six games with an ERA of 6.59.
            Not a single Rangers starter has managed to make an out in the seventh inning all postseason, and there has never been a World Series Champion that could make that dubious claim.  On the other hand, both teams are averaging less than five innings out of their starters per game during these playoffs, and the last team to win the Fall Classic with that distinction was the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates.  Both teams have relied heavily on their bullpens thus far, so it should be interesting to see how the pitching situation shakes out.
            Assuming starters can stay in the game for a reasonable length of time, the Rangers have the edge, despite the fact that the National League Cardinals have home-field advantage by virtue of the NL winning this year’s All-Star Game.  The Cards were just 20-20 this season against left-handed pitchers, and Texas boasts three southpaws in their playoff rotation. CJ Wilson will start the Series off tonight against Chris Carpenter (RHP).  Wilson has turned into a bona fide ace for the Rangers in the last two years, making a seamless transition from his bullpen days.  Tomorrow night will see righthander Colby Lewis starting for Texas, with lefty Jaime Garcia taking the mound for the Cards. The Rangers round out their rotation with lefthanders Derek Holland and Matt Harrison on Saturday and Sunday, while the Cards will counter with righties Edwin Jackson and Kyle Lohse.
            Star power is provided by the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler (2B), Josh Hamilton – hero of the 2008 Home Run Derby (CF), and Adrian Beltre (3B), while the biggest story on the Cardinals’ side of things is free-agent to be Albert Pujols (1B).  The Cards do have other star players (left fielder Matt Holliday, right fielder Lance Berkman), but the big questions revolve around Pujols: will he follow the dollars to greener pastures this offseason, or will he stay in baseball-crazy St. Louis? And either way, will he lead the cards to another Championship?
            The last time the Cardinals won the World Series was just fie seasons ago in 2006 – just two years after being swept from the Series by the Boston Red Sox.  The Rangers have a similar feel of unfinished business to them, as they return to the Fall Classic after falling to the San Francisco Giants in just five games last October.  The consensus in the baseball world seems to be that Texas has a pretty strong edge – even though they will not enjoy home field advantage – but that expecting St. Louis to bow out in four games would be just another fallacy. Texas should take it, but we’ll give them six games to do so, and they’ll win their very first World Series in their fifty year history.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I stand by Tito.


Of all the crap being spewed today, and all the blame being tossed around, the parts that most disgust me are those concerning the now former manger of the Red Sox, Terry Francona.  Yes, he has to expect that the dirty laundry of his divorce will be aired (just like pitcher John Lackey) in a market like Boston, and even that his family will get dragged into things - I mean, who wouldn't be concerned if they had a son and son-in-law stationed in Afghanistan.

No, the biggest disappointment is the allegation that Tito's use of prescription pain pills was abusive, that the skipper had a drug problem that hampered his ability to manage.  Obviously SOMETHING was hampering his managerial skills, but since we've all been intimately aware of Tito's myriad health problems for years, why is the medication a problem NOW?

When Tito was fined back in 2007 for wearing a pullover during a game instead of his team jersey, everyone was up in arms defending him.  The man has poor circulation and gets cold easily - you're really going to make a stink that he's wearing a team sanctioned sweatshirt instead of a restrictive jersey? It's not like he's on the field; I'm pretty sure the umpires don't need to see a jersey to know which team's manager he is.

Even longer ago, in 2005, Tito was taken to the hospital from Yankee Stadium with chest pains, so his history of illness, injury, and the legitimate need for medication has been established for more than half a decade.  We all knew he was taking pain medication. We have known this for YEARS. As Tito said, “It makes me angry that people say these things because I’ve busted my [butt] to be the best manager I can be. I wasn’t terribly successful this year, but I worked harder and spent more time at the ballpark this year than I ever did.’’

Granted, if I were living in a hotel, I might be at work more often, too, but the point is clear: if anything, Tito had more focus invested in the Sox this season.  Something went wrong, that much is obvious, and Tito has owned it, admitting he just wasn't getting through to the players as he once did: “The guys that weren’t down on the bench, I wanted them down on the bench,’’ Francona said last week on an appearance on WEEI, “I wanted them to support their teammates.’’

So maybe something was lost in translation - certainly lots of games were lost during this time.  But throwing around accusations of drug abuse when Francona's doctor assured him that wasn't the case? That's just low. Low, and like much of the news today, disappointing. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Playoff Preview 2011



 The marathon is over.  One hundred and sixty-two games later, just eight teams remain, all hunting for the right to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy into the October night.  The road to the postseason was exciting for many, with the Rays and the Cardinals sneaking in on the very last day of the regular season – both avoiding potential one-game playoffs for the Wild Card against the free-falling Red Sox (winners of the dubious “worst September collapse in history” distinction) and Braves, respectively.
            Two games into the Division Series at press time, and only the Brewers have an edge (two games to none, over the Diamondbacks).  The Yankees and Tigers, Phillies and Cards, and Rays and Rangers are all tied up, with each team laying claim to a singular LDS victory.  The biggest surprise thus far has to be Cliff Lee’s Game 2 loss, closely followed by James Shields’ disastrous start on Saturday.
            In the best-of-five Division Series, the safest money is on Milwaukee to defeat Arizona in three or four games to advance to the NLCS.  The other series are a bit more convoluted to predict while tied 1-1 each – it essentially means you're predicting the outcome of a best-of-three series; something any baseball fan will tell you is a crapshoot.  Most people are betting on Philadelphia to advance over St. Louis, but the Cards won’t be making it easy, especially since Albert Pujols’ troublesome left ankle didn’t stop him from knocking in the go-ahead run on Saturday to tie the series.
            As for New York and Detroit, the advantage will fall to the team whose ace pulls through Monday evening. Writing this Monday morning, I’m giving the edge to the Yankees and CC Sabathia, despite the apparent Cy Young winner Justin Verlander going for the Tigers at home.  Down in St. Pete, the Rangers have Colby Lewis going against the Rays’ young star David Price.  Price struggled down the stretch, so it’s possible that the 224 innings he pitched in 2011 (by far his career high) are catching up with the young lefty. Conversely, Lewis ended his season with a win, and is 3-0 lifetime against the Rays, so I’m going to give him – and the Rangers – the advantage for Game 3 and the ALDS.
            Assuming all of the above, the ALCS should be Texas vs. New York (Yankees will have home-field advantage), and the NLCS should be Milwaukee vs. Philadelphia (Phillies will have home-field advantage).  This is where the pitching staffs will really start to show; baseball is all about pitching, and one hot or strong-willed started can will his team to a World Series – just ask vintage Josh Beckett (2003, 2007).  Though Texas lacks a Sabathia-caliber ace, the rest of their staff is much more reliable than New York’s: if AJ Burnett were more dependable, the Yankees would have my confidence.  As it is, I’m giving the edge to the Rangers.
            If the Phillies manage to get eliminated before the World Series, it will be seen as a failure.  Like the disgraced BoSox, the Phillies were practically crowned champions in February, before a single game had been played. Their pitching pedigree cannot be questioned, but the Brewers are young, hot, and ambitious. For now, the advantage is with Philly.
            In a Texas-Philadelphia World Series (Philly, as the NL team, has home-field because of the NL win in the All-Star Game), the Phillies win it.  It is, as they say, all about the pitching, and no one can beat the Phillies hurlers, at least on paper.
            However, anyone who has read (or now seen) Michael Lewis’ Moneyball knows that playoffs, and especially best-of-five series, are little better than a roll of the dice. Anything can happen, and probably will: I’m predicting a Phillies-Rangers Fall Classic, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Cardinals-Tigers, Diamondbacks-Rays, or Brewers-Yankees. That’s (playoff) baseball.

[Note: the strange timing of this entry - not at the beginning of the LDS - is due to the fact that it was originally written for the Trinity Tripod, and my deadline over there is Monday morning. This means I might already be wrong by the time it comes to press Tuesday night. Oops.]

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Breaking up a family: The legendary bond of Pedey and Tito

SO. MUCH. LOVE.
 
If you read this blog even semi-regularly, you know that I am an unabashed and shameless fangirl of both Tito and Theo.  Was there more that the two of them could have done this season? How much of the blame lies in the hands of the manager who makes the on-field decisions? How much lies with the GM who built the team? And, perhaps most importantly, what portion should lie at the feet of the athletes on the field?

The tales spilling out now that the season has been brought to a violent and screeching halt are eye-opening, in a word.

A commenter on Boston.com this morning, referring to this piece.

Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy claims that the parting of Tito Francona and the Red Sox was anything but a mutual decision: " [John] Henry has had Francona in his crosshairs for a couple of years. Ultimately, Francona was not enough of a numbers guy to satisfy Boston’s Moneyball boss."  Francona tells a different story: he wasn't getting through to the players, the constant scrutiny of managing a baseball team that is so much more than that to so many people, he thought eight years was enough.

As usual with this particular corner of blogdom, I look at this travesty through the eyes of one Dustin Pedroia.  Pedey and Tito have a well-chronicled bond; they passed straight through legendary bromance to honorary father-son territory long ago.  They trade jokes about their receding hairlines, about Pedey's height, and Tito's age, they played (ah, the past tense) cribbage before every game, and by all accounts enjoyed a refreshingly honest and functional relationship.

So if I'm heartbroken over the skipper's departure, it stands to reason that Pedroia would feel even stronger, and he didn't disappoint: "I love him. He’s given me every opportunity in the world and given me the respect to play the game with a freedom, and that’s what he allows us players to do. Geez, man, he’s done everything for me and everything for my family ... he’s done everything for me in the five years I’ve been in the big leagues. My heart’s broken for him and I wish he was back and I wish I could have played my whole career for him. It’s going to be hard. I’m sure he’ll come back a better manager and a better person for it. Us, as an organization, we’re going to move forward together."
 
If that didn't make you tear up a bit, you have no heart (or you're not blinded by a a deep-seated love and admiration for everything that our second baseman does and says).  Pedey also threw in a couple of jabs about player responsibility, but if you want to read those you can go to the source.  This post exists for the sole purpose of mourning the now defunct dream team of Dustin Pedroia and Terry Francona.  I'll be drinking for them tonight.

Life, school, and baseball

Anyone uninterested in a post that's more about me than the Red Sox (I suspect that's most of you) can come back later for a reaction to the sacking of Tito.  Right now I need an outlet, and since this is my blog, I feel entitled to use the space for that - at least once.

This morning, I got up at seven to take the LSAT.  Through a series of unfortunate events (and several dimwitted and sleep-clouded actions on my part), I missed the test.  I was upset, obviously, but as I drove back to school, I realized that I was much more distressed about the fact that I wasted $140 (a sum I don't really have to throw away) than the fact that I wouldn't be sitting the exam.

Lately I've been thinking about the future (an inescapable pastime for a senior in college - especially in the current economic climate), and I'm suddenly not as sure as I used to be that I even want to be a lawyer.  It's always been my dream to work in baseball; I've always said I don't care what I have to do, as long as I can be around the game.

My first choice would be to earn a living in sportswriting, but you don't generally get offered a job at The Globe straight out of college, particularly if you don't have a journalism degree (TrinColl doesn't offer that major).  It used to be that you would pay your dues at a small local and/or regional newspaper, and then hopefully your if your work was good it would get recognized by a national publication and you would move up the ranks. Now, as many of you know, those smaller newspapers are in trouble, much more likely to be shedding payroll than taking chances on unknowns.

The next best thing would be to work for a team, in any capacity.  Baseball is a well known boys' club, steeped in tradition and notoriously difficult to break into. Given the game's established proclivity for hiring men, and especially former players, I assumed that (as a woman who last played even softball in high school) my best bet was to get a law degree and try to work with contracts, either with a team or for an agency.


In the last few weeks, I should have been studying for this test. I bought the review book, I had free time, but I couldn't bring myself to sit down and focus on it.  I just wasn't passionate about any of the material, and even less excited about the prospect of mortgaging my entire life away for three more years of education that I have no way of paying for.

I've always been so sure about my direction in life; I was a third grader with a twenty-year plan for my future, and now I'm floundering.  I'm sure this is nothing new, or even unusual, but it's particularly jarring for me because I have always known what my next step should be.

I don't flatter myself that I could make a living as a writer at this point in my life - I need a LOT more practice - and so I'm lost. I don't know where I should be looking, or what I should be doing, and I'm going to be dumped (ceremoniously, in a cap and gown, but still dumped) into the cold, cruel world in seven months.  The only thing I'm still sure of is my love for baseball, and the Red Sox (yes, even after this disgrace of a season).  I know I've been absolutely terrible at keeping up this blog in 2011, and I'm sorry. I hope to be better while I figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

[Also, for anyone who managed to slog through all that existential crap, I thank you. To show my appreciation, here's a video of Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky baseball players putting on a show - during a rain delay.]

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Being a Red Sox fan is WORTH the heartache


We didn't deserve to make it.  As angry, depressed, disappointed, and bitter as I am right now (and it's toned down a lot since last night), I can see that.  The Red Sox mailed it in this September, and last night's debacle was nothing more than a microcosm of the last month.

They say you don't win pennants in April.  That might be true, but if nothing else, this season has taught us that you sure as hell can LOSE them in April.  If we didn't get swept by Cleveland (Cleveland!) the second series of 2011, we squeak into the playoffs last night - whether we could have done a damn thing one we were in? That's another story.

However, some of the reactionary stuff I was seeing on Twitter and Facebook last night was appalling, and - in many cases - downright foolish:
Let's start off with a tweet where the poster misspelled the closer's name, exposed his own misogyny, and blamed a player with a serious injury. I'm sorry, bro, but I know you personally, and there is no goddamned way you were playing through injuries like Salty's and Youk's. Despite the fact that Lackey has thus far been a HUGE disappointment for the money, he DID manage to win 12 games, and the suggestion to sign Prince Fielder is hardly going to help out our pitching.

Let's move on:
Gold. "Sell the team." To whom, I wonder? Are you going to buy it?  And it's not really like the owners can carry much of the blame here. Sure, if they had denied the money to sign a really important and obvious missing piece, but we all know that John Henry and Co. essentially have an open-wallet policy with Theo.  Perhaps that's where the blame should go?  But, don't forget we were all lauding Theo just eight months ago, and Sports Illustrated literally JUST ran a story extolling the virtues of his managerial technique (you might have to subscribe to SI to see it - sorry).

So this brings me to the most popular sentiment of the night:
You have got to be joking. Luckily, there sees to be just as many people on the interwebz who are violently disagreeing, and defending Tito.  I'm sure this conversation is of no surprise to Francona, after all, the double-edged sword of being a manager is that if the team wins, they were really talented, but if they lose, it's the manager's fault.  Could Tito have done more to light a fire underneath his team? Maybe. We will never know what he was doing in the clubhouse.  It is worth remembering that every single Red Sox is a grown-ass man, and therefore responsible for his own performance - Tito can only enhance.

And, to wrap up the evening, here's a status update that literally made me feel sick to my stomach:
Yes, that happened on my newsfeed last night. And FIVE PEOPLE "Liked" it.  Listen, I get the frustration, the thoughts that the team just doesn't work, that maybe starting over would be better - that it couldn't be worse. But these men are people. Just like you and me. They have families and lives outside of baseball. I don't care how much of a superfan you are, wishing for a plane crash just makes you a spectacularly shitty human being.

If anything, I hope this ending, this season, leaves us wiser as fans.  You don't win seasons in the offseason.  The playoffs are a special event, not a perennial birthright.  Sometimes you're on the losing end of epic chokefests.  All of these things kind of suck, and for fans like me, who didn't live through much of the storied franchise heartache (1999 and 2003, but before that was before my time), this is a stark reminder that we as Red Sox fans have lived a charmed existence.

But for me, it's worth it. I have seen two World Series Championships come to my team in my lifetime, and I believe I'll live to see many more.  Last night was crushing, painful, tear-inducing, because baseball and the Red Sox are my life.  But the feeling I got when I saw them win it in Colorado in 2007 and St. Louis in 2004 outweighs that heartache by an indescribable amount.  Being a dedicated (some might say obsessive) fan can fucking HURT sometimes - but when it feels good, it feels SO GOOD, SO GOOD, SO GOOD!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cinco-Ocho Speaks Out


 “Cinco Ocho loves haters, he loves to drink the Haterade, man. That’s what Cinco Ocho fuels his engine with — Haterade.  Some people in this clubhouse need to be told how great they are to go out there and succeed.  I like to be told I can’t do something. Cinco Ocho needs to be told he stinks, and then he just takes the Haterade and fuels his engine. That’s how he works, man. That’s the God’s honest truth.”

Ladies and gentlemen, your closer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tim Wakefield: 200 Game WINNER.

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield finally got to the 200-win mark this evening during the Red Sox romp against the Blue Jays.  On his eighth try for history, Wake was less than spectacular, allowing five runs in six innings, and departing when the Sox had a narrow one-run lead.

The blew it open after that, absolutely going to town on the Jays' pen, and looking for all the world like they were unleashing the pent-up aggression from their frustrating losing streak.

I'm going to keep this post short: you all know how I feel about Wakey, and I won't bore you with an account of how every win counts at this point.  You know as well as I do, as well as the Sox do, that the Rays are coming for us, that objects in mirror are closer than they appear, and that the division is ours for the taking - and missing the playoffs isn't yet out of the question, either.

Hopefully this victory can galvanize the troops for the home stretch - every inning counts.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tough luck, Timmy

 [Cartoon from Boston Dirt Dogs - I'm unsure of the date.]

Tim Wakefield was yet again denied his 200th win - despite leaving the game with a comfortable 8-5 lead.  Once again, the bullpen just couldn't do it for the iron man knuckler.

Unsurprisingly, in public Wakefield downplayed the personal importance of a 200th career win with the Red Sox, instead emphasizing the team angle, that the important thing now is for the RED SOX to win games, and get to the postseason: “If it happens, it happens.  If it doesn’t, it doesn’t change what I’ve done. I’d like it to happen. But more importantly, I think, is for us to get into the postseason. … That’s our ultimate goal.”

He's correct, of course, that not reaching 200 wins wouldn't change what he's done for the Sox in his nineteen-year career (seventeen years in Boston).  The fans (including yours truly) will still love and respect him, and I think we can all agree that we'd rather see a Pennant and a World Series win than Wakey's 200th W.

That said, I would REALLY like to see Tim Wakefield reach this milestone.  Over the course of his career he's been a team player (with a few notable, passive-aggressive exceptions in the last couple of years), and a perennial contributor to charity endeavors of all kinds. The cool thing about a team like the Red Sox is that not only are the fans all pulling for Wake, the players are, too. Judging by Daniel Bard's reaction to blowing the lead last night, I think we can safely say that he might have been more upset that Wakey was.

Personally, I'm not giving up hope, yet. The season has a few more weeks to go - and even if Tim Wakefield gets moved to the bullpen for the duration of the postseason (not unlikely), he has a good sporting chance of reaching his milestone.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why I give to the Jimmy Fund

Today, the Red Sox are hosting the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon to raise money and awareness about the Jimmy Fund. The following is a re-post of my September 25, 2009 entry entitled "Baseball as a Coping Mechanism," which should explain why even a broke college student like myself makes sure to give every year. 



 "Surviving cancer is, and will always be, my toughest battle. I laugh when people talk about how tough it is to deal with the boos of the fans or the high expectations of big market baseball. Hah! You want to know what tough is. John Kruk knows. Andres Galarraga knows. And Jon Lester has come to find out. When cancer comes calling, baseball takes a backseat. Having forty thousand people at Yankee Stadium tell me I suck is a nice diversion." -Mike Lowell, Deep Drive

Cancer took my mom last month. Today would have been her sixty-second birthday.

When I came back from boarding school with a renewed obsession for baseball, my mom humored me, watching all the games with me (with intermittent naps), and even picking a favorite player (David Ortiz). After I read Mike Lowell’s book, I knew she had to read it, too. The above passage caused Mikey to replace Papi in her affections.

The Red Sox were something that we shared. She didn't have any real affinity for professional baseball before I did (though she grew up in rural Connecticut, so the Sox would have been a logical choice), but she started paying attention because it was important to me: I loved the Red Sox, she loved me. Therefore, she loved the Red Sox, too. The other members of my family are what you would term "casual fans," they don't know very much about the players, don't really watch on TV, but, like all good New Englanders, they have Sox hats and are happy when the home town team does well.

When we were in the hospital last month, the Red Sox were on the telev
ision every night. The first night we were there was the night of Victor Martinez's two-out, go-ahead double in the ninth inning, and when he hit it I leaped out of my chair, feeling that I shouldn't yell in a hospital. My mom felt no such qualms, and shouted her excitement. She then looked at me and said, quite seriously, "You know, I really liked Justin Masterson... but this new guy looks promising." I couldn't have said it better myself.

The Red Sox provided an escape these last few years when I needed one, and they were something for my mom and I to enjoy together when we could. Her first trip to Fenway was last June, and Tim Wakefield pitched the Sox to a win over the Diamondbacks. We went twice this summer, once to see Jon Lester pitch 7+ perfect innings (and a complete game) against the Rangers in June, and once to see Brad Penny toss a gem against New York the next week.

"I never thought I'd get to go to Fenway Park," she told me more than once. I'm so glad that she did.

Even when I was away at school, she would watch the games so she could talk about them with me (and, as a lifetime coach and phys. ed. teacher, she had a deep love of sports). I have a saved voicemail on my cell phone from April 26, 2009. She called me during the game, while my phone was off, and left the following breathless message: "Wow, Kayla, I really hope you're watching the game, because Jacoby Ellsbury just stole home, and it was AMAZING!" As soon as I got the message, I called her back and we discussed it at length.

My mom valued sportsmanship highly, perhaps because of her keen awareness that life isn’t fair, she expected sports to be fair… She even infamously pulled out a rulebook in the middle of a field hockey game last season in order to correct the referee. As those she coached well know, she never advocated arguing with the umpire, so if she was upset, there was something very wrong. Sure enough, she was right, and another person learned that it’s very unwise to doubt Deryl Fleming when it comes to field hockey. She taught me to always respect the umpire, and the only time I ever saw her visibly upset over a call in MLB was last year. Mikey Lowell, whose book she had just finished, starting arguing balls and strikes with the umpire. "Well," she reasoned, "Mike never argues, so if he thinks it's a bad call, it's a bad call."

I can't thank everyone enough that helped her and our family through everything: all the food, and the rides, and the support, meant more than anyone will know. I wish there was some way for me to thank the Boston Red Sox, and specifically Mike Lowell, for giving her, and me, something to believe in and hope for right up until the end.  

To give, call 877-738-1234, go to jimmyfund.org, or text KCANCER to 20222 to give $10. Every little bit helps.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why are we using the CLOSER with an ELEVEN-RUN LEAD?!?



Snappy title, I know, but I'm legitimately lost for words. Can someone please explain to me why the hell Terry Francona decided that he needed to use the CLOSER when the Red Sox were sitting on an ELEVEN-RUN LEAD?  He couldn't have waited to see if Matt Albers could finish the thing, and only made the call to Paps if he started giving it up big? After, I don't know, six runs or so?

I'm really trying to understand the logic here, because I'm always the person trying to tell people that there's a reason Francona is the manager and not Joe "WEEI Whiner Line" - and it's because Tito generally knows what he's doing.

But I'm seriously struggling to understand this.  I know that the save is one of the most useless and overrated statistics in the history of baseball, but this was nowhere near a save situation, or even approaching a "high leverage" situation where you would want your best reliever out there (whether Paps is the Sox's best reliever can be debated, but for the purposes of this post, we'll say he's one of them).

Yes, Albers gave up a run in the eighth, but it was hardly time to push the panic button. WE HAD AN ELEVEN-RUN LEAD. Statistically, you could have thrown a postition player out there on the mound, and you would still have had a damn good chance of winning the game (is Nick Green available? I believe his ERA is still at 0.00...).

What's the harm, you ask? We won the game, you say, so quit your whining. Yes. Yes we won the game. We passed the Yankees, who lost to the Athletics, to take sole position of first place in the AL East.  But what happens if we need Paps tomorrow? Not unlikely, since we'll still be playing the Rangers.  And then what if we need him against Oakland? What if we need him for the next three games? What if we need him for more than three outs?

I know, I know... "You don't save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain." - Leo Durocher.  But I also adhere to my own radical school of thought about situations like this: don't waste a pitcher today when you have an eleven-run lead, tomorrow Andrew Miller might get shelled. 

Okay, so Durocher's quote is slightly less specific and more poetic than mine, but I literally just do not understand why you would put Paps in the game tonight.  If any of you can shed some light on this for me, do tell (in the comments, via Facebook, etc.), because I'm literally baffled.

Win-win for Red Sox fans



[This video has always pissed me off a little, since I feel it implies that female baseball fans are somehow unable to appreciate the nuances of a pitcher's duel, and can only pay attention to the fireworks of homeruns.]

Anyway, you all know that THIS female fan has a place in her heart for games of all types, from no-hitters to blowouts, they all have something to offer, and tonight's game had a little bit of everything.

Josh Beckett went six innings, allowing four hits and one run (a longball by Mike Napoli that this "chick" certainly didn't "dig"), then Franklin Morales came in and tossed a perfect inning with two K's, and Matt Albers came in for the eighth, giving up a single run on two hits and a walk.  For some inexplicable reason, Jonathan Papelbon entered the game, recording a one-two-three ninth inning, though it was nowhere close to being a save situation.

The bats were alive and well tonight - finally - as Adrian Gonzalez went deep for the second straight game, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford notched homeruns of their own.  Crawford, Marco Scutaro, and the newly returned David Ortiz all struck doubles, and Ellsbury swiped his thirty-fifth stolen base. 

When it was all over, the Red Sox had scored thirteen runs, and everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit.  Tonight's game was a win-win for Sox fans - whether you dig the longball, splendid pitching performances, or inexplicable calls to the bullpen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dustin Pedroia!

 
As you all know, Dustin Pedroia is my favorite baseball player. In fact, he's top ten favorite people, ever.  Today just happens to be his twenty-eighth birthday, and so I thought, what better way to honor Pedey than by publishing a list of my favorite Pedroia-isms and videos [sorry the formatting is weird]:

"When you have a physique like this, when you're shredded and everything, something might happen."

“I’m probably a 3 looks wise, but my personality is a 12, so it takes me to about an 8.” 

"To be able to say that i play for the Boston Red Sox is an honor in itself."

"I want to be here. I want to play for the Red Sox and I don't want to play for anybody else...We're going to have an opportunity to win every single year. The fans are the best, the city embraces their team. So why not? It fits."

"I always wanted to be a miniature badass."
 













 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Where has all the bitterness gone?"



I'm watching Baseball Tonight on ESPN, and one of their commentators wondered what had happened to the days when every Red Sox-Yankees series was fraught with animosity, and not just in the stands.  What happened to the brawls between Fiske and Munson, or Tek and A*Rod, or even Pedro and Don Zimmer?

Parity happened.  In the last 11 years, the Red Sox and Yankees both have two Championships each, and they've been relatively evenly matched.  Right now, for instance, the two teams have identical records in the AL East, and they're tied for first.  Only one of these teams will leave Fenway tonight with first place, and the best record in the American League.

Just seven years ago, a series like this would be overshadowed by the constant threat of beanings, brawls, and general enmity.  Now? Well, I'm sure you've seen Nick Swisher showering praise on Josh Beckett, and David Ortiz unabashedly bestowing hugs upon pinstriped rivals during batting practice.

Even among fans, some of the hatred has abated.  There are certainly Yankees fans that I avoid like the plague, but for the most part, I can respect their devotion and knowledge, just like I would with any other sports fan (however, anyone who chants "1918!" or utters the number "27" isn't worth the time. Let's talk about contemporary history. Kthanks).

So is this better?  It's less nerve-wracking, to be sure, but the lack of open hostility makes things just a little bit less exciting.  While it's good to be able to be confident that Jeter won't throw a sucker punch  a Gonzo when the latter rounds the bases, the games are certainly less of an event than they once were.

That said, I would NEVER want to go back to the way things were, because the animosity was so intense because the Red Sox (and we as fans) had a monkey on their backs, and we were reminded of it every time the two teams met.  Back then, we were still eighty-six-year losers, perpetually looking up at New York in the standings.

Now things are much more even, and if the price of that is that the edge comes off of the bitterness and rivalry a bit, I'll certainly take the tradeoff.  I'm calling for a Sox win tonight, on the back of one Joshua Patrick Beckett - he's given us no reason to doubt him, and I don't plan to start now.

Friday, August 5, 2011

(Not so) Bold Predictions

Erik Bedard's first attempt at a win in a Red Sox uniform was thwarted yesterday by his own bullpen and former Sox pitcher Justin Masterson.  The game wasn't pretty if you were rooting for the local nine, especially since it means we're in a tie for first with the Yankees, who are (conveniently) at Fenway RIGHT NOW for a three game set.

This man is pitching tonight - I think he can take them.

I'm going to go on record here and predict that the Sox take two out of three, with the Bronx Bombers taking the middle game (CC Sabathia over John Lackey).  Jonny "K" Lester should have no problems taking care of Bartolo Colon (remember that time he swung the bat so violently he was on the DL for the rest of the season, and then didn't want to come out 'pen so he ran home early? Good times.). 

Sabathia is likely to be his brilliant self, and since I've learned to not expect much from Lackey, I'll concede that game (CC is on my fantasy team, so at least there's that).  I'm counting on Josh Beckett to take his recent excellence to the mound to take on Freddy Garcia - no slouch himself at 10-7.

If the Sox can take two of three, it puts them one game ahead of New York in the East - and every game counts.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Of Hit-streaks and Nostalgia


Yesterday afternoon, in the eighth inning, Dustin Pedroia came to the plate hitless after his previous three at-bats (he did, however, have a walk).  The crowd, aware of his 24-game active hit streak, got to its feet and cheered, and were then rewarded when Pedey took a neck-high 3-2 offering from Greg Holland and deposited it in the Monster Seats, successfully extending his streak to 25 games.

The longest such streak in the majors this year belongs to Pedroia's close friend, Andre Ethier, with 30 games.  One can only imagine the ribbing Ethier will get if Pedey manages to notch hits in the next 6 games.

The most special part of the situation, in my opinion at least, was the fan reaction, and Terry Francona agreed: "I do think our fans are pretty special. They do react to things like that. It's part of what makes Fenway so great," he said. "We don't need to have President races or mustard racing ketchup. Our fans like our baseball. I actually really think that's cool. Nothing against mustard."

 This is part of why I find Fenway Park so special - we don't need the gimmicks that other teams depend on to draw and keep fans.  The new Yankee Stadium, for instance, felt to me like I was in a shopping mall and a baseball game broke out - it was plastered with technicolor ads and gimmicks, there were games and giveaways every half-inning on the scoreboard, almost like a minor-league stadium.



While Fenway does have a big new high-def scoreboard, it also hangs onto nostalgia with it's manual scoreboard under the very same Monster Pedroia homered into yesterday, as well as the same wooden grandstand seats in which your father and grandfather might have sat.  And the fans are just as knowledgeable and vociferous as they were when Teddy Ballgame was swatting homers from that very same batters box.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tim Wakefield: Ironman



Yesterday afternoon, during a typical day game/Mariners beat-down at the Fens, Tim Wakefield continued his solid march toward Red Sox immortality, notching his 2,000th career strikeout with the team, and his 199th career Red Sox win.

Wakey had a bit of a shaky start, giving up three two runs in the top of the first inning, but his teammates were there to back him up, putting a five up on the scoreboard in the bottom half of the first - a nice change, since Wakefield traditionally hasn't enjoyed great run support.

The streaking Sox blew the thing open in the fifth, tacking on another five runs, allowing Wake to stay in the game for the sixth, where he struck out Mike Carp to tally his 2,000th strikeout in a Red Sox uniform.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia was catching, and he headed out:

"I knew it was the 2000th. I gave him the ball and gave him a hug to congratulate him...  Not that guys watch their stats, but that’s a pretty big number so I assumed he knew he was getting close. When I told him, he was like, ‘Congratulations for what?’ I was like, ‘Crap, did I get this wrong?’ I wanted to make sure," he said. "I looked at the [video] board and it said 2,000. He looked up and saw it and just started smiling."

I've made my feelings about Wake pretty clear on this blog: I LOVE HIM.  Over the years, he's done it all for the Sox, from eating innings in the bullpen, to starting, to closing, and though there were some minor hiccups last season with his role, he's been relatively flexible over the years.  Timmy's next win will be his 200th (186th as a Red Sox), and he keeps marching his way toward the team wins record of 192, currently held by some guys named Cy Young and Roger Clemens.

Wake lacks the pure electricity of either of these pitchers, and his status in the record book is a testament to his longevity and tenacity.  Tim Wakefield is Boston's own Ironman, and I for one am extremely proud of him.


[Quotes in this post are from the Boston Globe's Extra Bases Blog.]

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jason Varitek Celebrity Putt Putt

As any of you who follow me on Twitter know, my friend Soni and I attended Jason Varitek's Celebrity Putt Putt on Thursday evening.  Why am I just posting about this now? MY COMPUTER IS FINALLY FIXED [also, I love Apple for extending my warranty for no extra charge!].  So I hope to close out July with a lot more entries to make up for the terrible job I've been doing so far this summer.  So, without any further ado, I present a flurry of photos from the event, with a little bit of commentary:

  















The entire event was awesome - I only wish more players had come.  Those in attendance included Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jed Lowrie, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, and, of course, Varitek himself.  Tek and Salty each signed two baseballs for me (well, one was for my brother-in-law).  Autograph seekers were aided and abetted by none other than Tek's fiance, Catherine Panagiotopoulos (bet she can't wait to change that name).

I really can't say enough nice things about Catherine: she was beyond friendly to everyone crowded around, and even carted armfuls of baseballs, photos, and memorabilia from the fans to Varitek, making it her personal mission to assure that everyone who wanted an autograph received one. (She's pictured above, signing a T-shirt for a staff member, and golfing.)

Overall, I would call the event a HUGE success - Soni and I certainly had a wonderful time - and it was extremely affordable, as Sox charity events go, at just $50 per person.  Proceeds from the event went to Journey Forward, an organization looking to improve the lives of people who have suffered spinal cord injuries through participation in sports. 

I'll close this post with a sentiment from Thursday night, which I stand by still, even three days later:

And he thanked me.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Basebrawl at the Fens


So if you somehow missed what happened last night, the bottom of the eighth inning featured some fireworks, though the Fourth was over on Monday.  It started when Orioles pitcher Kevin Gregg hurled a few pitches in tight to David Ortiz - one coming so close that Papi took a few steps toward the mound, brandishing his bat at the O's righthander.

With the count at 3-0, Ortiz took a hack at the next pitch, which he popped up toward shallow right field.  Big Papi, obviously disgusted, began to jog slowly toward first base, when Gregg decided to take this opportunity to teach the Sox slugger about "baseball ethics," shouting and geturing at him to run out the play.

Needless to sat, Big Papi took exception to this, and charged the mound, just missing Gregg's face with a vicious uppercut before the benches (and bullpens) cleared and Demarlo Hale restrained him.  Papi, Gregg, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (from the bullpen), and Baltimore relief pitcher Jim Johnson (also from the pen) were all ejected for their roles in the scrum.

I know it's not exactly professional to reveal my glee at baseball fights, but I just LOVE the way it causes teams to come together.  Remember in 2004? There are a lot of people who credit Tek stuffing his glove in A*Rod's face as the catalyst that turned that season around for good.  And don't even pretend you weren't impressed with Coco Crisp's Matrix-impression against James Shields in 2008.


After the game, Papi's teammates certainly had his back, though Gregg and the O's uttered their share of tough talking.  Josh Beckett took the opportunity to express his confidence in the Red Sox's productive lineup: "Maybe they saw something they didn't like or whatever. But if it's just because we scored eight runs in the first inning and they start throwing at our ... guys, it's going to be a long year."

Hell. Yes. There's a lot more baseball to be played, and I am beyond excited to see this season to the end.