Thursday, March 31, 2011

We made it!

It's here! Finally, Opening Day 2011 is upon us, and though the Red Sox don't actually play until tomorrow, THERE'S BASEBALL AGAIN! Despite the fact that I will struggle mightily to keep up with MLB in the coming months (though the internet situation in Argentina is unknown - maybe that will be easier), I cannot remember ever being this excited to start a season.

Sure, we say something to this effect every year, but I honestly think this is different, at least for me. Like every year, Opening Day is a clean slate (let's forget the 89 wins of yesteryear right now, ok?), but this year it means even more, for some reason.

I think partially because I've been hitting a wall lately on my study abroad program, but I really need baseball to keep my sanity intact, now more than ever. I absolutely cannot wait to throw all of my energy and my free time into repeatedly checking and rechecking stats and standings and replays, and if I ever have enough bandwidth, I will hopefully be able to stream a game or two.

I'll put up a more Sox specific post later, but I really needed to get this out there first thing in the morning: Happy New Year, Red Sox Nation - we made it!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fantasy Baseball 2011: I have no idea what I'm doing

Despite the fact that I will be missing a large chunk of the baseball season while in Senegal and Argentina, I've decided to try my hand at fantasy baseball for the first time. One of the kids on my abroad program decided to organize things, and we did our live draft on the 6-hour bus ride to a rural African village. We're an 11-person league, and a few of the participants were tuned out/uninformed during the draft (there was one girl who chose her team based on physical attractiveness and interesting names, and a guy who only drafted from the bottom fifty from our top-300 list), so even though I had the ninth pick I think I ended up with a pretty solid team.

If this is totally uninteresting to you, feel free to check back later in the week for a Red Sox post (OPENING DAY WAHHH!!!), but for now I'll just run down my 2011 fantasy baseball roster - feel free to leave comments or criticisms for me.


1B Adrian Gonzalez: This was my first pick, and I'm excited for obvious reasons. I think Gonzalez will have a monster season at fenway Park, and unlike some of my competition, I don't think the shoulder surgery from last year will be an issue.

2B Brandon Phillips: The guy with the number 1 pick took Pedey in the second round, and then Robbie Cano and Ian Kinsler went before I picked, so I ended up with Phillips. I don't know too much about him, but his ranking on ESPN's top 300 list (51; 4th out of second basemen) along with his stat line from 2010 make me pretty excited about him.

3B Kevin Youkilis: Unsurprisingly, quite a few players ranked lower than Youk went before him in our draft (he was #19), and I capitalized. At this point, I don't think people will ever truly appreciate what a quality ballplayer Youkilis is: he's constantly turning in killer seasons, but he doesn't have the "look" of a star, and so he'll forever be underestimated. In terms of this fantasy baseball draft, I'm okay with that.

SS Troy Tulowitski: Somehow, Derek Jeter was taken before Tulowitski in our draft, despite the fact that Jeter is ranked 45 slots LOWER than Troy on our ranking sheet. There were a few Yankees homers in the draft, and I exploited that fact. Also, the fact that Tulowitski plays for the Rockies in the NL West meant that only 4 of 11 people participating had even heard of him. Yes, please.

C Matt Wieters: The would-be phenom hasn't lived up to his enormous hype in the last few years, but I have a good feeling about 2011. His power numbers went up last year from his rookie season, and he will be turning 25 at the beginning of the season, so he still has time to come into his own. I think this is the year he realizes his potential and becomes a star.

OF Colby Rasmus, BJ Upton, Aubrey Huff: Not a trio with too much star power, but they pack a good amount of punch between them. I'm pretty sure they were mostly overlooked due to the fact that they play for St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco, respectively, and very few people in the draft are hard core fans, so the big names went fast - though these three names should be bigger, in my humble opinion.

Starting Pitchers:

LHP CC Sabathia: Obviously excited about this. CC turns in nearly 20 wins every year, and is a reliable workhorse. I'm confident that he'll be a fantastic pick for me. Though it will be hard to root for a Yankee to win. Speaking of which...

RHP Phil Hughes: Someone please explain to me why Hughes isn't the number two guy in the Yankees rotation? Anyway, I think 2011 will be a big year for him, and, by extension, a big year for me. He was one of their two reliable starters last year, and he's heading into his age 25 season - fortunately for my fantasy team, and unfortunately for the Red Sox, I see big things in Hughes' future.

RHP Clay Buchholz: So Clay was only ranked at #140, and I took him before we had even gotten all the way through the top 100. I was judged by my fellows, but I absolutely do not regret this pick. Despite all the speculation about his luck last year with BABIP, but I don't foresee too much of a downslide. Bill James might not be too optimistic about Buch's 2011 (13-9, 3.54 ERA), but I am.

RHP Ubaldo Jimenez: I'm pretty sure 80% of the people participating in the draft had no idea who Jimenez is, which certainly worked in my favor. After winning 19 games in 2010 (while pitching in the thin air of Coors Field), I see him being a pretty consistent contributor to my squad.

LHP CJ Wilson: After being moved into the Rangers rotation last season, Wilson really came into his own, going 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA. In addition to on-field contributions, Wilson is quite the clubhouse character. I know this doesn't actually help with the whole fantasy baseball thing, but I find Wilson endlessly amusing (follow him on Twitter), so I'm glad he's on my roster.

Relief Pitchers:

RHP Neftali Feliz: Since Feliz is actually going to remain the Rangers' closer, I'm pretty pumped to see his stats rack up. Feliz, the AL Rookie of the Year in 2010, saved 40 games last season, and struck out 71 batters in 69.1 innings - and he's only heading into his age 23 season.

RHP Brad Lidge: This one is a gamble on my part, given Lidge's age (and that he's starting 2011 on the disabled list), but I think he still has something left in the tank - it was only 2 years ago that he was perfect, saving 41 games in the process. Last year he saved 27 games, so if he can do that again - and the Phils should give him plenty of opportunity - I'll be happy.

RHP Daniel Bard: This one was a no-brainer for me - even though he was ranked pretty low, and even though he won't get many save opportunities with Paps and Jenks ahead of him, I'm confident he'll once again be racking up the strikeouts.

RHP Rafael Soriano: Yes, another Yankee. Soriano signed his three-year, $35 million contract this offseason with New York - to be the set-up man to closer Mariano Rivera. He should get a lot of innings this season with all the question marks in the Yankees' rotation, so hopefully he can continue the excellence he displayed in 2010 (45 saves for the Rays) in his new role and under new pressure in the Bronx.

Bench Players:

OF Vernon Wells: The former Blue Jay had 31 home runs last year - if healthy, he should perform well for the Angels.

OF/DH Manny Ramirez: This was mostly a nostalgia pick. After last year's injury fiasco and taking a bargain-basement deal (in Manny-terms, that is) to come to Tampa Bay, it would be easy to write off the aging slugger. However, I think that with the chance to DH more often to rest his ever-ailing knees, and with the presence of old friend Johnny Damon to keep him grounded, Manny might actually have a chance at a productive season.

LHP Mark Buehrle: Not the best pitcher out there, but he's pretty consistently turned in a dozen or so wins for the last decade or so, which makes me feel okay about having him as my backup. Plus, he shows flashes of brilliance now and then, so he has the potential to be totally domination at times.

So what do you guys think? I'm sure many of you are avid fantasy baseball players, and know what kinds of things I should have looked at. We're playing through Yahoo!, so I don't exactly know how points are calculated, but it's just for fun - and bragging rights - so let me have it in the comments if you think I made any major miscalculations.

Monday, March 21, 2011

More tweaking for Matsuzaka

Opening Day is getting closer and closer every day, and things are starting to solidify for the already-pretty-solid Sox. We've got a relatively set lineup (though Tito is hesitant to say as much), and an eviable rotation (Lester, Lackey, Buchholz, Beckett, and Matsuzaka) - the only thing in any state of flux seems to be the bullpen, but that's a topic for another day.

Today, I would like to discuss a man who is a bonafide legend not just in his hometown (most major-leaguers are) but all across his nation. Yes, this is going to be a post about Daisuke Matsuzaka, the pride of Tokyo. [I'll try to make it easier to read than he is to watch.] We'll skip over the usual hyperbole about his enigma status and jump right into the reason for this post: Sox pitching coach Curt Young thinks he may have a solution.

So what is this "solution?" Is it voodoo? Magic? Icy-Hot? According to Young (via the Boston Globe online), the secret might just be shuffling Matsuzaka's off-day workouts. In MLB, starting pitchers are on a five-man rotation, meaning they usually get four days off between starts. Matsuzaka operated with a six-man rotation back in Japan, meaning that he did his long-toss and bullpen sessions on the same day. [This seems strange at first: why do everything on one day if you have extra time? The theory seems to be that you can do a more intense workout because you have the extra day to recover.]

Since coming to the Red Sox in 2007, Matsuzaka has been doing his workouts his way, and Young thinks switching things up, with long-toss and bullpen on the second and third day after his start, respectively, could make a positive difference.

On behalf of Red Sox Nation, I have one thought to sum up the whole Matsuzaka predicament: whatever the change is, JUST DO IT [apologies to Nike]. Hopefully this change will cure him of that horrible tendency to nibble the corners instead of challenging hitters, as well as allowing him to pitch well past the fifth inning - both skills that have thus far mostly eluded Matsuzaka in Boston.

For me [and I'm guessing for many of you] the most frustrating thing about Daisuke is that he HAS been the dominating guy we thought we were getting... for Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, where he went 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA and was awarded the WBC MVP Award. Great. And as I'm sure you all remember, he played in only 12 games for the red Sox that season, going 4-6 with an ERA well over 5.

Hopefully this is the year that we'll finally see that guy playing in a Red Sox uniform. Will we see the mythical gyroball? Probably not, but I'll settle for a quality season from a player who certainly has the talent.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Adventures of Josh 'n' Jon: Opening Day Starter Edition

In the least shocking news since the third reelection of FDR, Jon Lester has officially been named the Opening Day starter for the Boston Red Sox. As Manager Terry Francona said, after the first game, the rotation order is sort of a non-issue until the playoffs, but I'm sure it's nice for Lester to get that recognition.

In case you were concerned about 2009 and 2010 Opening Day starter Josh Beckett getting jealous, there's no need to fret; the big Texan is here to assure you that there are absolutely no hard feelings: "It's a really big honor and he should be proud of it. It's something he has earned."

How much of this is genuine, and how much is just for the press/team unity/warm fuzzies? It's difficult to say. Beckett has never been one to censor his feelings about his own performances, or even to hide his disdain when reporters ask him redundant questions. There's no doubt that he was extremely disappointed by his injury-marred 2010, and it's probably true that he believes Lester deserves it more this year.

However, that's not to say that the righthander isn't a little jealous, or even a bit bitter. Just a few years ago, Beckett was the young phenom who made fans excited with every pitch. He was a World Series Champion at a young age, just like Lester, with the added exhilaration of being a leader on a young and talented team, and then being a centerpiece of the trade that sent Hanley Ramirez to Florida.

Now, despite the shiny new contract extension Beckett inked last year, he's all but forgotten. All the press about Boston's rotation is the 1-2 punch of young guns Lester and Clay Buchholz, or the well-documented struggles of the enigmatic Daisuke Matsuzaka. I'm quite certain Josh is absolutely aching to be the big-game pitcher he was only a few years ago, with all the respect and accolades that comes with that.

I don't see this causing any discord in the clubhouse. For one, I really don't imagine Lester and Beckett to be the kinds of people who sit around and talk about their feelings - they strike me as more of the "act first, question later" types. Mostly, both pitchers (along with the rest of the staff) are too professional to let something like this affect their performance - but here's hoping Beckett uses it as motivation to return to the form he had just a few years back.

* * *

For those of you interested in my travels, I am currently in Dakar, Senegal. There's a lot of random MLB gear around here, and sadly, much of it says "NEW YORK" on it - and it's not usually the National League team, either. So far, I've seen jerseys and/or hats for the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Rangers, and Nationals (who knows?), as well as quite a few Celtics and Lakers jerseys. I'm having a great time so far, and trying to spread Red Sox Nation across the globe.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Red Sox, wine, and charity - a perfect combination

The last time that Red Sox players partnered with Charity Wines, I had to ask my mother to buy them so that I could keep the bottles. Now, at the glorious age of twenty-one, I will proudly drive myself to the store and buy a bottle each of ChardonClay and CabernAce.

Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are just the latest in a line of Sox stars to put out wines for charity with the aid of Longball Cellars/Charity Wines. Their predecessors include Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling,Tim Wakefield (2007), David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis (2008), Jacoby Ellsbury, and Josh Beckett (2010).

Buchholz's vino will benefit the Jimmy Fund, while the proceeds from Lester's will go to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Neither slugger will get a penny of the proceeds - they all go to charity - so there's no reason not to go out and buy a few of each (the bottles themselves are pretty cool, if you ask me).

Both varieties will be available in the New England region starting in May, after a May 5th Wine Tasting and Launch Party at the House of Blues - sorry kids, members of the media and wine community only. [Those of you living outside the geographical confines of Red Sox Nation can purchase your bottles via the Charity Wines website.]

The press release from Charity Wines contained the following information about the two charitable foundations:

The Jimmy Fund
Clay Buchholz can be untouchable, proven by the no-hitter he tossed in just his second big league start. Yet, he reaches back and connects with those in need across the community. Buchholz is a Co-Captain of the Jimmy Fund, an official charity of the Boston Red Sox, and a portion of proceeds from ChardonClay support the Jimmy Fund in the fight against cancer at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, helping to raise the chances of survival for children and adults with cancer locally and around the world. Cheers. Learn more at

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Jon Lester knows the importance of overcoming barriers in life and on the diamond. Less than two years after being diagnosed with lymphoma, he pitched the biggest game of his life, helping his ballclub win a world championship. That's why proceeds from Jon Lester's CabernAce support Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the development of targeted immunotherapies. This pitch helps researchers maximize the body's own ability to strike out disease so lymphoma patients can win their own games in life. Learn more at

[Thanks to Charity Wines for emailing me the press release!]

Sunday, March 6, 2011

10 minute musings [Live from Delhi!]

A free morning for me = a blog update for you:

1. Indian cricket fans are just as crazy as Red Sox Nation. I know I said in the last post that the match I went to was poorly attended - and it was. However, it was the West Indies playing the Netherlands, in Delhi, so it wasn't surprising that there weren't too many Dutch or West Indian fans in attendance... it's sort of a long trip from Europe or the Caribbean. There were lots of India fans there, chanting "IN-DIA! IN-DIA!" and it sort of reminded me of Red Sox fans chanting "Yankees suck!" while we're playing the Blue Jays.

2. I'm very heartened by David Ortiz's spring thus far. I know it's silly to count spring performances as indicators of what's to come, since many players have torn up Spring Training only to flop over the course of the season, and vice versa. But it still seems like a good sign that he's swinging the bat well, especially given how lost he looked in the opening months of 2009 and 2010. Here's hoping we skip the struggle this year - though if Papi falters, we have a few more big bats to fall back on.

3. Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez seem to be adjusting well. Though it's possible that Crawford is still creeped out by the whole private investigator/due diligence/much ado about nothing fiasco of a few weeks back, he seems to be at home with the rest of his teammates thus far. Quick to assure the media that no, he and Jacoby Ellsbury are NOT in competition, that they'll be great TOGETHER, Crawford is a team player (who wouldn't bet against himself in a footrace). Gonzalez is ahead of his schedule for recovery after last season's shoulder surgery, but in his case I think no news is good news... I can't wait to see them both in a game.

4. The Lester-Buchholz show is back - hopefully with some more reinforcements. Jon Lester is giving a strong showing so far this spring, and Clay Buchholz is determined to replicate (or surpass) his last season's results. Besides the little hiccup when Josh Beckett got nailed in the head shagging fly balls, the pitching staff looks to be gearing up for a strong season. They have a lot to prove after last year's poor performances - and they know it. Here's hoping they're up to the challenge.

5. I very much admire Jed Lowrie. This is a bit off-topic, since it's hardly baseball-related, but Lowrie is doggedly completing the last few requirements for his degree in political science from Stanford. Lowrie left in 2005 to play baseball, and though it would be easy to decide that he could go back when his playing career is over, he's opting to get it done now, even as he's fighting for playing time in a camp full of All-Stars. Full disclosure: one of my majors is poli-sci, so I have a soft spot for fellow students of politics.

6. I don't buy the whole "Yankees are the underdogs" thing. No, the Yankees did not have the high-profile acquisitions that the Sox did this offseason, but they are NEVER the underdogs. All you need to do is read their lineup to understand that, and though they are most definitely getting old, they are also a roster full of superstars. Add to that the ever-present potential for Brian Cashman to go out and make a big splash with Yankee dollars and prospects, and I'll most definitely be keeping an eye on the Bronx Bombers this season (hopefully in the rear-view mirror).

7. The kids are alright. Okay, so I didn't much like that movie, but the Sox prospects are performing well this spring. Though Lars Anderson is most likely trade bait, and Felix Doubront is destined for the bullpen for the time being, I'm always excited to see some young kids do well. Jose Iglesias is making me long for 2012 despite the enormous potential for this season's squad. According to more than a few people, he has the potential to be a star AND the solution to the revolving door at shortstop.

8. I'm [more than] slightly concerned about Daisuke Matsuzaka. Hardly groundbreaking news, but Matsuzaka's spring has been less than inspiring, and he's as much of an enigma as ever. Luckily, no one is counting on him to be anything more than a serviceable fifth starter - hopefully he can live up to that, at least.

9. No news is good news on Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. I was always a believer in the Sox last season, but when Pedey and Youk were officially down for the count I started to lose hope. Both are back for 2011 with no limitations, and we haven't heard much from them, which to me must mean that they are going to be A-OK - hopefully that's the case.

10. I'm both excited for and dreading April 1st. I'm going to be in Dakar, Senegal when the Red Sox open up their season against the Texas Rangers, and internet there is a great unknown. If I have a fast, reliable connection (and time - unlikely, but I'll try to make some) I'm going to buy and try to watch as many games as possible. If not, I'll be reliant on sporadic emails and access to internet cafes. Here's hoping it's the former!

[All factual info in this post was gathered from - fantastic coverge, especially for a baseball-starved student stranded in Delhi, India.]

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Photo Day Outtakes

I'm sure most of you have seen this, but I thought I should post something quick before I lose the internet - yet again.

When I have a more reliable connection, I'll be posting about my Cricket World Cup experience. I only was able to go to West Indies vs. the Netherlands, but I was unimpressed with fan turnout... Red Sox Nation has more fans for Truck Day!