Thursday, June 30, 2011

Some things never change.

Back in Little League (or, in my case, elementary school softball), you stuck the player you didn't want handling the ball too much in right field.  When I was in second grade and the youngest player on my softball teams, they stuck me in right field, so I could be distracted by dandelions in peace (do you know how rare lefthanded pull hitters are at that age?).

Last night was a similar story.  The Sox stuck Adrian Gonzalez in right field, and (I'm sure) practically prayed he wouldn't have to make any difficult plays.  It worker: he handled the ball just once defensively, playing it on a hop and getting it back in.  A pulse-quickening ball hit in the eighth went over his head and bounced of the wall, but it was ultimately corralled by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

Hopefully this plan proves more fruitful tonight... as good as the Phillies are, I am NOT okay with being swept by them. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Terry Francona: Maverick

The current mid-week series in Philly is being billed by many of the talking heads in the sports business as a Fall Classic preview.  The Sox and the Phils are the toast of the bigs, despite the fact that Boston is a game and a half behind New York in the standings right now.

Tonight pitted Josh Beckett against Cliff Lee.  Though Cliff claimed the "W," I won't hold a grudge because I still worship the ground mound he walks on for spurning the advances of the Evil Empire during the offseason.  He's an honorary favorite for life, though that might change if we actually end up meeting him in October.

Despite the fact that I generally approve of Cliff Lee (and Philadelphia generally) I was very happy when Lee gacve up his first hit to the Red Sox, a single to Marco Scutaro in the sixth inning.  The only other Sox hit of the night was clubbed by Darnell McDonald, who doubled to lead off the top of the eighth inning.

We have John Lackey going for us tomorrow, and the big righty has been a bit of a mystery this season.  Personally, I'm inclined to cut him rather more slack than I normally would, because his wife Krista has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and I know how draining, distressing, and rattling it can be to watch a family member fight that battle.

Tito (a better maverick than John McCain ever was), has been hinting that he will combat the uncertainty of Lackey on the bump by putting David Ortiz in the lineup.  As all of you know, playing in Philly means Papi will have to play first base... thus sliding Adrian Gonzalez to right field. Yes, right field.

I could give you my perspective on this plan, but, as always, Dustin Pedroia's take is much more entertaining, so I'll leave it with this sentiment from my favorite second-baseman: "It'll be good offensively, but damn, I've gotta play second, first and right. That's a lot of ground to cover, man. I've got small legs."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Help - I'm being taunted by a Cleveland fan! [Part 2]

You may remember my friend Mike from this post back in April.  Sadly, we're into late June and despite the fact the Red Sox have won FOUR MORE games than the Tribe, he's still finding things to laugh about.

So today I'll keep it simple, and just hope the Sox shut him up :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Red Sox Canine Soulmates

Since there was  no game yesterday for me to recap (Sox offdays are DEATH for my fantasy team - and my sanity), I decided to get a little silly with today's post.  If you were looking for insight, statistics, or reasoned discourse, you should come back tomorrow, because I found a website that is too fun to be allowed.

It's called Doggelganger, and yes, it does exactly what you think it does.  So of course, being me, instead of putting my own photo into the matcher, I put in tonight's (presumable) starting lineup.  So without further ado, the canine soulmates of the Boston Red Sox [click the photos to enlarge]:

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury and Max

 2B: Dustin Pedroia and Kim

1B: Adrian Gonzalez and Tiki

3B: Kevin Youkilis and Grace

DH: David Ortiz and Ella

LF: Darnell McDonald and Seamus

RF: JD Drew and Grace (Yes, the site paired Youk and Drew with the same dog. I don't know about you, but the mental image of them sharing a pet brings me to tears of hilarity.)

 SS: Marco Sutaro and Sheilah

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Cade

P: Jon Lester and Lady

Yes, I know, useless from a baseball point of view... But some of these dogs are probably really good defensively.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Boston is Titletown

Let's face it.  We're spoiled.  Since the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2002, Boston (with most of New England by its side) has celebrated a major sports championship in every year except 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2010 - and there were two in 2004.

Boston-area teams have also set another record, winning one of each major championships within a span of six years (Patriots in 2005, Red Sox in 2007, Celtics in 2008, and Bruins in 2011); the next shortest span is twety-one years, and that distinction is held by New York.

It goes without saying that I am a HUGE fan of this trend, despite the fact that my devotion to the Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots pales in comparison for my love for the local nine.  However, I think it also goes without saying that we need to be careful how we handle these new found riches.  Like the multi-millionaire who complains about the price of milk, we should probably tone down the crying when one of our teams goes through a minor losing streak.

I know what you're thinking: "HYPOCRITE!"  Yes, I moan about small misfortunes in this space all the time, but I don't honestly think that Boston fans have problems, not when compared to what I've seen my friends from Cleveland go through.

Likewise, I plan to try to avoid bragging as much as possible - after about a week's grace period to celebrate the Stanley Cup - lest I come off like an obnoxious Yankees fan who can't say anything except "TWENTY-SEVEN RINGS WOOOOO!!!1!!1!!!!"

However, since I have a seven-day window to celebrate like the loud and proud Boston sports fan I am, GO BRUINS!!! [And Red Sox since you're the only Boston team currently playing.]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bruins take Game 7!

Since this is a baseball blog, I'll leave the commentary to this photo of Zdeno Chara with the Cup... At least until tomorrow, when I'll blog about Boston's SEVEN MAJOR SPORTS CHAMPIONSHIPS IN THE LAST TEN YEARS!

The least appreciated one-hitter in Boston history...


I'm sure many of you, like me, are currently watching the Bruins go for a Game 7 win, and have been since the B's started playing in about the 4th inning.  It's too bad, because Josh Beckett just tossed an absolutely dominating game down in Tampa Bay.

The big righty went the distance, giving up just one hit to Reid Brignac, walking none, and notching six strikeouts.  As good as James Shields was yesterday, Beckett was better tonight.  Obviously, Beckett won't care that he had fewer spectators than normal, and I don't think any of the Red Sox would hold a grudge because their fans decided to watch a Game 7.

But if you're sad you missed the badassery (and I know I am), NESN airs Sox in 2 at midnight.  I might just stay up to watch it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

James Shields: Dream Crusher

As the Remdawg said after the final out of the ninth, "he was outstanding."  Sadly, James Shields shut down the Red Sox for a full nine innings, allowing just five hits and three walks in his third shutout of the season.  Sadly, Tim Wakefield's quality start was wasted, as the knuckleballer went seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits and five walks.

The Sox didn't do too much to help themselves, as they grounded into three inning-ending double plays, despite the fact that "Big-Game James" as he calls himself, has historically had very limited success against the Red Sox.

The local nine, of course, saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end, and as the Yankees are currently administering a beating to the Rangers in the Bronx, both the Rays and Yankees will pick likely up a game on the Red Sox in the American League East standings.

The story of the night was Carl Crawford's return to the Trop for the first time since signing with the division rival Red Sox this past offseason.  The left-fielder definitely heard some boos as he came to the plate for the first time, but there were more cheers - I think most Tampa Bay fans realize what he did for the team, and they certainly can't expect all of their players to sign team-friendly, long-term deals like Evan Longoria did.

Like I said in my last post, winning is the best revenge, and the Rays certainly didn't need Crawford tonight - Shields performance was more than enough to get them the win.  It's just a pity that it came against Wakefield, who is inching closer to the Red Sox all-time record for wins (192, held jointly by Roger Clemens and Cy Young). 

Timmy is just 10 wins away, and time is ticking... it's unlikely that the Sox will sign him for next season, and it sucks when Wake gets a worthy start wasted.  However, as much as it pains me to say this, Shields deserved the win tonight.  Hopefully Wakefield gets to stay in the rotation and keep chugging toward his dream.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Winning: The Ultimate Revenge

Okay, I'll admit it: like many of you, I'm sure, I went to bed before the Red Sox were done with their game last night.  After a 3 1/2 hour rain delay, the game finally got started when it should have been ending, and I only made it through six innings before my eyes started drooping and I went to sleep. 

Sadly, I surrendered just one inning too early.  When I left at the end of six, the Sox were trailing 0-2, and by the end of the seventh, they had exploded for eight hits and seven runs in the seventh inning.  David Ortiz had a single and an RBI double, notching his own personal payback for being beaned by CC Sabathia earlier in the game.

Ortiz didn't blame Sabathia for the HBP, which isn't terribly surprising considering the two are friendly.  What is interesting is that Papi blamed the media for getting plunked.  Until last night, Ortiz had made it 160 games against the Bronx Bombers without getting hit by a pitch, and that fact was well publicized. 

To be perfectly honest, after Beckett hit Captain Jetes and A*Rod early on, I fully expected Youk to bear the brunt of Yankee payback - he's traditionally been their favorite target.  [However, I guess I shouldn't be surprised since Joba Chamberlain, Youk's usual tormenter, is on the DL.]  It was pretty obvious that both of Beckett's HBP were accidental, and he made sure to speak to Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt and make sure he would still be able to pitch inside.

On the other hand, despite the fact that Sabathia claimed the ball simply "got away" from him, his control had been pinpoint until that moment;  it was payback, plain and simple.  I'm okay with it, though... the Red Sox got the last word, pulling 2 games ahead of the Yankees in the division, and gaining a commanding 8-1 lead in the season series.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

No surgery for the Laser Show

I'm just going to take this time to note how ecstatic I am that Dustin Pedroia, by all accounts, will not need surgery on his troublesome right knee.  According to's Extra Bases blog, Pedey has suffered nothing more serious than a bruised kneecap, and will be reunited with the Red Sox tomorrow.

Terry Francona noted that while Pedroia does have some cartilage damage, most baseball players do - including the skipper himself.  What is far more worrisome to me is that it was bothering Pedroia enough not only for him to mention it, but enough for him to ask for time off to get it checked out.

It's obviously been affecting his performance, as his line this year is less than stellar.  With damage that required surgery, we could have seen a repaired and rejuvenated Dustin in about a month.  As things stand now, we don't know how things stand.  It's obvious that Pedey is the sparkplug and heart and soul of the Red Sox.  It's also clear (to me, at least) that they could survive a month without him to get him back full steam for the remainder of the season.

If there's no simple surgical solution for what ails the feisty second baseman, what can we expect as the season continues?  That's the big mystery, and since Pedroia himself has admitted his poor performance is due to the pain in his knee and his surgically repaired foot than to any sort of regular slump.

Hopefully he doesn't go the Nomar route: I simply cannot watch another promising, talented, homegrown player go through a string of injuries and DL-stints.  Luckily, I absolutely cannot imagine Pedroia sulking, refusing to play, or demanding a trade.  Keep your fingers crossed he heals up soon... I've been missing the Laser Show.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

FAQ: The First Year Player Draft

Since there was no Red Sox game last night, I decided to watch the first round of the MLB First Year Player Draft on MLBNetwork until the Bruins played.  My mom, a casual fan, was watching with me, and had a lot of questions about the process.  If she had questions, I'm willing to bet some of YOU have questions as well:

  • How do they decide who picks first?
    • Generally, the teams pick in reverse order of the final standings from the previous year.

  • But they didn''t pick in exact reverse order - what's up with that?
    • Here's where it gets a little more complicated.  When teams sign top-ranked free agents, they have to sacrifice some of their draft picks.  Elias Sports Bureau ranks players by position every year, and the top 20 percent are considered Type A, while the players lower than 20% but in the top 40% are Type B.  Teams signing Type A free agents must surrender their first round draft pick to the team the FA is leaving, and that team will also receive a pick in the supplemental first round.  Teams that lose a Type B free agent only get a supplemental pick.

  • That's a little confusing; can you explain it in terms of the Red Sox?
    • Sure!  This year, the Red Sox had to give up their own first round pick to the Tampa Bay Rays, because they signed Type A free agent Carl Crawford.  However, they received first round picks from the Detroit Tigers for Type A free agent Victor Martinez, and from the Texas Rangers for Type A free agent Adrian Beltre.

  • Who gets drafted?
    • The pool of players for the MLB draft is quite large.  Players must be from the US or Canada, and must be high school graduates.  Any high school graduate who has NOT attended college, players attending a four-year college who have finished their junior or senior years, and any player attending a community or junior college is eligible to be drafted by any team.

  • How many rounds are there?
    • As many as 50.  A club can choose to "pass" it's pick at any point, after which they may make no more selections in that year's draft.

  • Why so many rounds? The NBA only has two!
    • Unlike the other major sports in the US, baseball draft picks are almost never expected to make a major impact at the major league level right away.  There are 4 levels of minor leagues that players can progress through, and each of those levels must be able to field a full team.  Thus, players taken in the later rounds are almost never expected to make it to the majors, but are essentially used to fill the rosters of the minor leagues.  Of course, now and then a pick from the lower rounds will surprise everyone.

  • Do most players take high school players? College players? Junior college players?
    • I'm sure many of you are familiar with the bestselling book Moneyball, which made the argument that college players are nearly always the better investment, since they play against a known level of competition, and so their stats might actually mean something.  However, teams often pick high school phenoms, with the understanding that it will take a large signing bonus to lure them away from the college they might have committed to.
That's all my mom asked me, but I'm happy to answer anything else you guys might want to know.  Leave any further questions in the comments section!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

さようなら, Daisuke

Despite the fact that we are still waiting on an official club announcement, the murmurs are growing louder, and Tommy John surgery seems to be in the cards for Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Maybe it had to end this way: a surgical procedure with an excruciating recovery period for a pitcher who has often been excruciating to watch.

In his 4+ seasons in Boston, Matsuzaka has notched a 49-30 record with a 4.25 ERA.  He has pitched 622.2 innings, recording 568 strikeouts, issuing 301 walks, and allowing 64 home runs.  His best season was in 2008, when he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and played 4th in Cy Young voting.  In his very first season in the Majors, Matsuzaka recorded 15 wins and helped the Red Sox to their second World Series win in four years.

Since 2008, Daisuke has hit the DL multiple times each season, and has become as enigmatic as AJ Burnett when he is able to pitch.  He has been the opposite of Pedro Martinez, in that you attempt to buy tickets to ANY OTHER GAME because his performances are lame and forgettable as he nibbles around the strikezone for about 5 innings.

Remember the hype surrounding him back in the 206-2007 offseason?  He was coming, and then he wasn't.  And then he was, and he was bringing his gyroball with him.  THAT certainly never panned out, but we were all equally excited at the possibility.

The first season was satisfactory, and even if it hadn't been, it ended with a World Series, so any hiccups would have been swept under the rug in the honeymoon period.  2008 was fantastic, though Matzukaka didn't nail it down in the playoffs.

Since then, it's all been down hill.  16-15 in the last three years, and just 45 games started - I don't know about you, but I'm not all that torn up to be saying goodbye.  Sure, he's turned in a gem or two over the years, but the stinkers were much more consistent, and for me, much more memorable.  Sure, it's a lot of money lost, but it's not like John Henry can't afford it, eh?