Thursday, February 28, 2013

Middlebrooks cleared

After yesterday's scare with Will Middlebrooks' wrist, it was good to hear that there was no structural damage. With broken bones, there can sometimes be pain long after everything's totally healed - but it's obviously even more worrisome when the bone belongs to a budding young star.

There's no question that the Sox medical team will be keeping a close eye on Middlebrooks and his wrist, since losing him (again) would be a HUGE blow to the team, at a time where the fanbase isn't prepared to accept many more setbacks. Unquestionably, Middlebrooks is extremely talented and fun to watch, so from a simple baseball standpoint they need to do everything possible to keep him on the field.

Middlebrooks described the swing that triggered the moment of pain as an unusual checked swing, implying that he committed more than usual before trying to suspend his momentum, and it's possible that even without a recently repaired wrist, the motion might have caused pain.  The important thing is that Middlebrooks has been cleared for all baseball activities by a hand specialist, and was able to take batting practice this morning.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Looking to the future?

A few minutes ago, the Boston Red Sox official twitter account posted the above photo with the caption: "Check out new banner being hung outside Clubhouse." The banner is populated by Red Sox greats from the distant and not-so-distant past: Johnny Pesky, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, Ted Williams, Luis Tiant, Dwight Evans, Jason Varitek, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Tim Wakefield, Carl Yastrzemski, Pedro Martinez, and Tony Conigliaro.

The Red Sox are certainly a franchise full of legendary players - the banner even leaves out old time greats like Cy Young and Tris Speaker - and there are certainly some great players on the current roster, as well.  But in recent years it's sometimes felt like the franchise is more vehemently selling the historic accomplishments of the team rather than the chance of future glory.

Nothing made that feeling more palpable than the juxtaposition between the pomp and ceremony of Fenway's 100 Year Celebration (which rightfully and expensively carried on all season), and the horrible losing season under Bobby V. during which nothing seemed to go right.

Throughout the year, Red Sox fans were bombarded with emails about various promotional items to buy - bricks! books! commemorative pins! patches! infield dirt! MORE BRICKS! SERIOUSLY BUY THE BRICKS! All the while, the actual team on the field was floundering under a manager who wasn't right for the team from the start, a flurry of injuries to key players, and one of the biggest trades of the decade that shipped some star players to LA.

Don't get me wrong. I love learning about Red Sox greats of yesteryear. I have dozens of books about baseball and Red Sox history, and I turned every possible writing prompt in college into a chance to wax poetic about the local nine. But I do bristle a bit when I feel like I'm being asked to pay for historical greatness rather than future prospects.

I think it's laudable for the franchise to encourage their current players to study hitting in the legacy of Ted Williams, to be resilient in the face of injury like Tony C., and to be loyal like the late great Johnny Pesky. I just want to be reassured that the front office has its eyes as much on tomorrow as it does on year's past.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The next generation of knuckleballers

Yesterday in the game against Toronto, the Blue Jays started knuckleballer and 2012 Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey against the newest Red Sox knuckleballer, Steven Wright. After Tim Wakefield retired during last year's spring training, the Red Sox went out and acquired Wright from the Indians for prospect Lars Anderson in July.

Although the Sox are now in need of some depth at first base, the Wright trade seems to be a good one. After a successful seventeen year trip down knuckleball lane with Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox were ready to invest some time in the next generation.

Wright is just 28, and if he was a "conventional" pitcher, he'd be entering his prime. For knuckleballers, a player's prime is somewhat more difficult to pinpoint; Wakefield had one of his best seasons when he was 40, then became an All Star for the first and only time when he was 42.

Wake is headed to spring training to work with Wright, and help Wright with the pitch as previous generations of kuckleballers assisted Wakefield. Because Wakefield doesn't have an official role with the Red Sox like former teammates Jason Varitek and Pedro Martinez, he's free to help out when and how he sees fit, and he's going to start by passing on his considerable knuckleball wisdom.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pedro Ciriaco: SUPER Utility Man!

I'm absolutely appalled with myself this morning: when I searched "Pedro Ciriaco" on my blog, there were ZERO results. After all the work Ciriaco did for the Red Sox last season, I apparently never dedicated a post to him.

Well, that's over - Ciriaco is a literal superman of utility fielders, and he was exciting to watch in a season without a lot to be excited about. In 2012, Ciriaco logged thirty-five games at third base, sixteen at second base, twelve at shortstop, ten as the designated hitter, three in center field, and two each in left and right. The only positions that Ciriaco didn't play at were first base, catcher, and pitcher.

The twenty-seven-year-old righthander is nothing if not a team player, and he even managed to hit .293 and steal sixteen bases (19 attempts) while playing 2/3 of the defensive postions last season. In yesterday's spring training win against the Cardinals, Ciriaco had two hits and two RBI.

Hopefully we get better health from the Red Sox regulars in 2013, even if it will mean seeing somewhat less of the superman performance of Pedro Ciriaco. He certainly adds a freedom to the roster with his ability to play nearly anywhere, and I personally love watching him play. I'll just have to savor the days when he's on the field, while hoping that they won't be very frequent. A little cognitive dissonance never hurt anyone, right?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Spring training pipe dreams

Today, the Red Sox did what they've become very good at recently: they lost a baseball game. Granted, it was only spring training, and the games are about getting everyone back into the proverbial and literal swing of things, not winning.

On the good side of todays events, Jose Iglesias hit a homerun in the loss to put the Red Sox on the board in the seventh inning. It's pretty clear that Stephen Drew will be the starting shortstop for the 2013 Red Sox, but it would be nice if Iglesias took such strides with his hitting that John Farrell was left with an impossible decision to make with Iglesias knocking on the door.

I realize this whole speculation is based of a single homerun in one spring training game, but isn't that what spring training is for? If I can't indulge my far-fetched dreams during spring training, when can I indulge them?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Spring Training games begin tomorrow!

Though the Red Sox played BC and Northeastern's baseball teams yesterday, actual spring training games against other major league teams will commence tomorrow at JetBlue Park versus the Rays.  There were some teams who began the games part of spring training today, but sadly for Red Sox fans, we'll have to wait until tomorrow.

It's funny how much I'm looking forward to this, because I know that in about a week's time I'll be counting down the days until it's over and the real games can get started.  But for now, it's nice to be able to watch established veterans playing with hyped prospects in February rather than July, knowing that the lineup is wonky because the games don't really matter rather than because so much of the roster is on the disabled list.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bringing back the #DrewCrew

Though JD Drew was never an extremely popular player during his time with the Red Sox, he did have a band of loyal fans on Twitter, and we called ourselves the #DrewCrew. Poor JD never stood a chance with fans. The front office knew they were getting a relatively fragile guy with good OBP and excellent defensive positioning, but many fans just saw a constantly injured player who was unexciting at the plate and wouldn't dive for a ball like Trot Nixon did (though that was mostly due to the fact that JD made it look too easy).

But I always liked him. JD Drew was sometimes bland, to be sure (I once wrote a post entitled "JD Drew has no feelings"), but he was a solid player, if somewhat overpaid.  As I'm sure you're aware, JD's brother Stephen has joined the Red Sox this year as a shortstop, and I'm predicting a huge season for him.

As such, I would like to take this opportunity to announce the revival of the #DrewCrew, this time in support of the Drew brother still playing professional baseball. You can even recycle your old JD Drew jersey (I know SOME of you have to have one of those), because Stephen is wearing #7, just like his brother did.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Greatest Day in Twitter History

I'm going to keep this short and sweet, but the greatest Twitter event of my life (and I've been on Twitter for four years now) has finally occurred. That's right, the one and only Dustin Pedroia is on Twitter, and when I woke up to this news, I literally jumped for joy.

As you all know, Pedroia is my all time favorite player - and he's a trash talker extraordinaire  so here's hoping we see a lot more exchanges like this one:

I've literally been looking forward to this for years, and I'd like to thank the people who tweeted at me/messaged me that this had happened, as I'm somewhat off the grid this week and might have otherwise missed days worth of priceless tweets from the Laser Show.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Red Sox and Mickey Mouse

Posting will probably be sporadic this week, as I am at Disney World with my mom. It is pretty cool to see all the Red Sox attire on people in the parks - and I'm making all kinds of friends with mine.

The most popular Red Sox thing I've worn this week is most definitely my Mickey ears: they're patterned like a baseball and and I had "Red Sox" embroidered on them in script. They're a big hit with fellow Sox fans (and baseball fans of other teams) all over.

I've bonded with at least a dozen fellow Red Sox Nation citizens this week, and we've commiserated about last year's disappointment, and shared our hopes about 2013. I'm not religious, and I don't have a particularly large family, so it's nice to have a group I people with which I know I immediately will have something in common.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bard back on track?

I grew up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, which is a pretty hefty three hour drive to Fenway Park - but only around ninety minutes to Hadlock Field and the Portland Sea Dogs.  When I was a kid, the Sea Dogs were a part of the Florida Marlins organization, but they joined the Red Sox farm system (Double A) in 2003, and locals rejoiced, because we could finally follow local minor leaguers up to our major league rooting interest.

I was at a Seadogs game late in the 2008 season, and many of the most promising prospects had already been moved up a notch as the Red Sox called up some players for roster expansion.  There weren't many players on the field that day who were Baseball America household names, and the crowd was paying very little attention to the late-season contest.

Daniel Bard came in as a relief pitcher (after a disastrous first year in the minors as a starter in 2007, the Red Sox converted him to a reliever, with great results), and I remember the sensation of hearing all side conversations around me stop, as fans noticed the skinny kid lighting up the radar gun after seven innings of pitchers tossing in the mid-eighties.

Nothing changed when he initially came up to the big club: he'd come in during the eighth inning (to set up for Jonathan Papelbon) and routinely clock pitches in the triple digits while the crowd cheered its approval. When the Red Sox announced that they were going to make him a starter last year, I wasn't worried - despite the fact that history told us how that experiment would end.

By all accounts so far in spring training, Bard looks like he's back on track. We won't know anything for sure until the games start (the real ones, not spring training games), but I have high hopes for him this season. The bullpen is shaping up to be a real strength for this team, and Bard - if he gets himself back to form - could be a huge part of that potential success.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sellout sham

Apparently Larry Lucchino and the rest of the Red Sox brass are ready to admit that the record-breaking sellout streak at Fenway Park is about to end.  Of course, anybody who was watching the last few weeks of 2012 knows that there have been empty seats at Fenway for quite some time, and it was obvious that the PR people were fudging the numbers to make it stand.

Lucchino has now predicted that the "streak" will end as early in the season as the second game of the year, citing lowered fan expectations and, of all things, April weather.  The chilly Boston springs certainly never stood in fans' way when we expected the team to perform, but these days our hopes are somewhat more measured.

I'm cautiously optimistic about this team: I think that if all kinds of things go right they could certainly be a contender - but if a few key things head south we could be looking at a second straight losing season, especially in a division like the AL East.  I do plan on taking advantage of fan disillusionment (and my recent relocation to Boston) to get to Fenway more often in April and May - after all, I'm a native New Hampshirite, and a little chilly weather won't keep me away, even if it successfully dissuades other fans from filling up Fenway.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Jacoby Ellsbury Farewell Tour

Ever since Jacoby Ellsbury signed with agent Scott Boras, we've all known this day was coming: Ells is in his last year before free agency, Boras has stated that he would do better on the open market, and team officials are joining them both in being awfully vague about whether anyone is particularly interested in an extension.

Players who sign on with Scott Boras are looking for a big payout when their turn comes, and Ellsbury is no exception. Sure, Ells is by all accounts a soft spoken, polite young man who plays the game hard and (when he's healthy, which admittedly hasn't been that often) very well, but at the end of the day, he's going to do what Boras tells him.

And because of past experience with Boras clients, we already know what Boras is going to do: he'll delay all talk of a possible extension until after the end of the season, then allow the bidding war to begin. We know that Boras is licking his chops, hoping that Ells will have a 2011 type season, so he can start measuring him for high-priced pinstripes.

Obviously, I hope that I'm wrong about this, but Boras has a well-established pattern. Perhaps I'm full of it, and Ben Cherington will call a press conference tomorrow with Ells, announcing a long contract extension - but I doubt it. The fit isn't right. The Red Sox don't like awarding long expensive deals to players who can't be healthy consistently (JD Drew notwithstanding), and Boras doesn't like to give up the chance for his clients to test the open waters of free agency.

So for my very first prediction of the 2013 season, I'm calling it right now: this is the last year that you'll see Jacoby Ellsbury in a Red Sox uniform. Enjoy the farewell tour and hope it's a good season, everyone, because we won't be seeing Ells in our dugout for much longer.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I'll love Youk forever

"I'll always be a Red Sock," Youkilis said. "To negate all the years I played for the Boston Red Sox, and all the tradition, you look at all the stuff I have piled up at my house and to say I'd just throw it out the window, it's not true." -[via the Extra Bases blog]

I went to Seaworld Orlando today with the friend that I'm visiting, and I saw a gentleman walking around the park wearing a Kevin Youkilis Boston Red Sox away jersey. It was a strangely emotional moment for me, as a lifelong Kevin Youkilis fan - I've kept my various pieces of Youk attire, but I don't plan to wear them while he's a member of the Yankees.

I was sad when Youkilis got traded last summer, though I recognized that it was Middlebrooks' turn and probably in everyone's best interest. It's slightly more difficult to fins the words to describe my range of emotions about Youk signing with the Yankees this offseason. I understood why he went there: a one year deal at that kind of money and I would probably sign with the Yankees and never look back.

It is nice to hear Youkilis' assurance that he won't be forsaking his Red Sox legacy just because he's in pinstripes; he'll certainly have to contribute a lot right away for Yankees fans to do anything more than tolerate him. I know a lot of you out there in Red Sox Nation have practically disowned Youkilis, but I'll always keep a place for him in my heart - even though he's reportedly shaved his famous goatee and adjusted his iconic batting stance.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How can you not love Dustin Pedroia?

On the plane yesterday, I finally got into Francona: The Red Sox Years (despite a gentleman behind me playing solitaire on his tablet at full volume for the duration of the flight). I haven't reached the end, but I certainly teared up during certain sections describing the 2004 playoff run, and then couldn't stop grinning like an idiot when Dustin Pedroia finally entered the stage.

I fully anticipated feeling emotional over an insiders view of the Pedey/Tito relationship - everyone knows that Pedey is my favorite player, and it's abundantly clear that Tito felt similarly (though I doubt Francona wanted to propose).

But who could blame us? Pedroia isn't just a dedicated and talented player, but plays with the exuberance and abandon of a child: he's excited to come to the field every day, and pouts if he's given a day off. He's totally pumped for the new things about the team, and is hoping that it will lead them back to winning.

A losing season isn't something he's used to - he told Pete Abraham of the Globe that it hasn't happened to him ever, not even Little League. Here's hoping that last season was just a passing blip on his lifetime win-loss record.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Greetings from Logan!

I'm flying out of Logan this morning on my way to Florida - surprisingly, not to Fort Myers, but to Orlando, to see a college friend.  However, the airport is filled to the brim with Red Sox fans heading down to see the team in action for the first time in 2013.

The crowd is mostly families with children young enough to be able to miss a week or two of school with no problem, all decked out in their Red Sox finest.  Official workouts for pitchers and catchers start this morning, and position players have until later in the week, with the first full workout taking place this Friday.

Everyone commenting about the team on record, from manager John Farrell to team owner John Henry, seems cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season. It certainly can't be much worse than last year's injury-riddled fiasco.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lightning and good luck?

Today is the official reporting day for pitcher and catcher in Fort Myers, which means, in my head, that SPRING HAS SPRUNG (despite the nearly two feet of snow outside my apartment). Of course, most of the pitchers and catchers have been in camp for a number of days, and their position player peers are trickling in, as well.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia had a nerve-shaking flight to Florida yesterday, when the plane they were on was struck by lightning in midair. Ells took this occurrence as good luck:

I'm not sure that I've heard anything about this particular kind of omen, but I'll take Ellsbury's word that it's good luck. No word from Pedey (whose lack of a Twitter account is bordering on criminal), but he apparently isn't a huge fan of air travel in the first place, so he was probably just happy to get his feet back on the ground (though you have to think he chose a tough career for a guy who dislikes flying).

Apparently, lightning strikes are somewhat routine for commercial airlines, with each plane being struck once per calendar year, on average. Planes are built to handle such stress, so while the passengers might be unnerved by the bright flash of light, there's typically nothing to worry about.

Hopefully Elssbury's assessment of the situation is correct, because if there's a team out there in need of some luck, it's the Red Sox. Luck to get the clubhouse back where it needs to be, luck to make John Farrell's first season as Red Sox manager a roaring success, and perhaps most importantly, luck to ensure that everyone stays healthy.

This is probably a lot to hope for from a simple lightning strike, but today is the first official day of spring training, the first of many practices and games for the 2013 season, and hope springs eternal, after all.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Yes, Bryce Brentz shot himself

You literally can't make this stuff up.  Outfield prospect Bryce Brentz literally shot himself in the leg whilst cleaning his handgun in January, and cost himself a trip to big league spring training.

Luckily for Brentz, the bullet passed straight through his left leg after he forgot to empty it of ammunition before he began cleaning it. Said Brentz, “I understand it could have been worse. I’m mad at myself because I respect firearms. I have a license to carry a gun. I’m an outdoorsman and I’ve been around firearms my entire life. It was just one of those things that happened that will never happen again. I have to be more careful.”

Brentz certainly isn't the only player in the system who owns guns - many Red Sox are avid hunters, though this is the first time in my memory that one has managed to sabotage his own playing chances this way. Obviously, the team has no policy about players having or handling guns - these people are grown men, and beyond the general expectation that they follow the letter of the law, they are expected only to make responsible decisions.

Brentz made a mistake that could have been fatal, and luckily he walked away with a relatively minor injury. Though the outfielder had hoped to be invited to big league camp for spring training, GM Cherington seemed to imply that was off the table.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Somehow, so close...

It's hard to believe, given the weather here in Boston, but official workouts for Red Sox pitchers and catchers start in just three days.  According to Manager John Farrell, about half of the players invited to spring training have already reported to camp.

The players who live full time in the Boston area might be a little late to report, as it's still snowing here at the moment, and the MBTA will be closed through today - flights out of Logan are dependent on individual airlines, but most have been cancelled through today and part of tomorrow.

Of course, having the late players coming from within minutes of Fenway Park has a certain delicious irony, since normally late players are those coming from other countries, who might be having visa issues. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

PEDs: the perpetual headline

Curt Schilling can't seem to help himself. After being an outspoken critic of the media during his playing career, he went and joined the ESPN team upon retirement, and now he's made an offhand comment that's landed him in the headlines just before spring training.

Apparently a member of the Red Sox medical staff suggested to Schilling in 2008 that he try HGH to repair the injured shoulder that would ultimately end his career.  Schilling reported the incident to Theo Epstein, who reported it to MLB, and there was an investigation. If you want to read more about it, there isn't any shortage of places to do so.

I don't know about any of you, but I am tired of talking about this. I'm tired of MLB all but assuring fans that the drug problems have been curtailed, and that now the game is clean and beyond reproach.  Anybody who thinks that is fooling themselves.  Since the onset of free agency in baseball, the steadily rising salaries in a league with no salary cap have all but guaranteed that the players who want to will be able to pay a premium for designer, undetectable PEDs.

Perhaps this year, with in-season HGH testing coupled with the testing to determine levels of player testosterone, it will be harder for players who are using to continue to fly under the radar - but these guys are multi-millionaires, and if they want to cheat, their money will enable them to do so.

Perhaps the most annoying part in all this is people who claim that "The Yankees should forfeit their titles, they had players on the roster doping," or "the Red Sox World Series wins aren't legitimate, Manny Ramirez was cheating," or any variation on this theme with any team and player. It simply proves you haven't been paying attention: there is no team beyond reproach, and I personally assume that every team has at least a few perpetrators.

On the team level, my suspicion is that it balances out - if both teams in a series have users on the roster, fairness is maintained. The parity breaks down when looking at individual players. There's no way to know for certain who is playing clean anymore, and all the players are evaluated assuming that they are (thanks to imperfect testing methods). We've been unfairly comparing the stats of non-users and users for years now, and there will never be a know to tell the truth.

I wish I could speculate that this topic will fade away with the imminent start of spring training, but I doubt it. Inevitably, the first players will be caught during team physicals, and news of their suspensions and speculation about how it will affect their team's performance will dominate the news cycle. We're going to be stuck talking about this for a very long time, and it's certainly a shame - in every possible way.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Does the early bird get the worm?

There are a pretty significant number of Red Sox players already participating in informal workouts down in Fort Myers, which can only be a good thing after last year's rash of injuries that seemed to surpass even the 2010 Parade of Carnage.

While a bunch of early arrivals don't guarantee in-season, or even Spring Training success, it's nice to know that the players are almost as eager to get things going as the fans. As was noted by Globe reporters Steve Silva and Nick Cafardo, being down at Fort Myers early doesn't mean those players are working any harder - most players have pretty legitimate workout spaces and regimens in their own homes.

I haven't seen any photos or reports of Dustin Pedroia in camp, for instance, but anyone insinuating that Pedey is working any less hard than his teammates would be in for a serious and indignant lecture from the outspoken second-baseman.

But it's certainly a good sign that so many players came down to work out together, and I'll hazard a guess that if Bobby Valentine was still employed by the team, we would be seeing fewer Red Sox so early. The pitchers in particular seem excited about Farrell, which (though not a sure thing) can only bode well for clubhouse harmony throughout the season.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A shot at redemption for John Lackey

There are quite a few pitchers down in Fort Myers already, though their official reporting date isn't until Sunday. Presumptive starters Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront are already on hand and throwing - getting their photos taken and even speaking to the early arrivals among the Red Sox beat writers.

The Globe has a great profile of Lackey out today (available online here), and some additional Q&A with the big righthander is available over at the Extra Bases blog. It details Lackey's first few troubled years in Boston, and his understanding of why the fans haven't embraced him.

I really think that John Lackey could be an important cog in the rotation this year - the projections for him from the Bill James 2013 Handbook are decent. Though the win-loss record isn't terribly impressive, James still projects Lackey to toss over 200 innings, something he's done five times so far in his career.

The first official workout for the pitchers and catchers isn't until next Tuesday, but Lackey was among the pitchers throwing bullpen sessions yesterday. Lackey looks to be in great shape after taking the entire 2012 season to recover from Tommy John surgery, and is eager to get started and prove to the fans that he's worth some of that enormous salary he's getting.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

American League Astros

By a show of hands, who is excited for the Astros to be playing in the American League this year?

In all seriousness, I was just completing my morning routine of checking Red Sox headlines, and my last stop was (as always) the Extra Bases blog, where there was a short blurb about old friend Jed Lowrie being traded from Houston to the Oakland A's (which is now an intra-divisional trade), and it included a list of the highest paid players on the Astros:

  • RHP Bud Norris ($3 million)
  • 1B Carlos Pena ($2.9 million)
  • RHP Jose Veras ($2 million)
  • LHP Wesley Wright ($1.025 million)
  • RHP Philip Humber ($850,000)
For reference, the five highest paid players in Boston are making considerably more:
  • RHP John Lackey ($16.5 million)
  • RHP Ryan Dempster ($13.25 million)
  • DH David Ortiz ($13 million)
  • OF Shane Victorino ($13 million)
  • SS Stephen Drew ($9.5 million)
Obviously, the highest paid players aren't always the best, and having a large payroll is no guarantee of success, but the comparison is pretty stark for the Astros. The Astros will be at Fenway at the end of April for four games, and then the Red Sox will head to Houston for a three game set at the beginning of August. 

Given how the Red Sox have been playing in the last year or so, even the moribund Astros can't be counted on as an easy win - but their presence in the American League can only be good for the rest of the AL's teams.

Monday, February 4, 2013

(Almost) Truck Day 2013!

Baseball always seems much closer from this side of the Super Bowl.  Red Sox pitchers and catchers report in six days, with their first workout taking place on February 12, in just over a week,  According to the's Extra Bases blog, the Globe's Red Sox beat writers are off to Fort Myers TODAY - there are enough players already in attendance to make the early trip worthwhile.

Tomorrow, of course, it will be time for a tradition unique to Boston: Truck Day, when dozens of fans gather on Yawkey Way to watch the team's equipment depart for spring training in the freezing New England weather.  It's the first harbinger of spring in this part of the country, and a quirky but fun way to celebrate the coming of warm nights spent at Fenway Park.

In the last few years, the Red Sox have realized that fans typically turn out of their own accord, and they've made sure to do some fan-outreach, like the attendance of Wally the Green Monster.  There's no info (that I was able to find, at least) on the Red Sox website or about this year's event, and  I'm still back and forth about whether I'll head over there.

Have any of you been to Truck Day before? Are any of you planning to be there tomorrow? Is it worth it? Let me know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

I'm sure many of you are still mourning the fact that the Patriots will be watching this game on television just like us, after coming so close only to be eliminated in the penultimate round. Perhaps some of you are planning to root for the Ravens, because they play in the AFC with the Patriots - or maybe you can't stand to see the Ravens win again, so you're going to cheer on the 49ers?

Maybe you don't care who wins anymore, and you're just looking forward to a game that you can watch and be totally relaxed, unconcerned for the outcome. And then there are those of you who couldn't care less about football if you tried, are just biding your time until pitchers and catchers, and might turn on the Puppy Bowl later if you get bored and/or starved for cuteness.

I decided a while back that the playoffs are always more fun if you have a team to root for, even if your first choice has been eliminated. This year during the MLB playoffs, I arbitrarily chose to root for the Orioles and Giants for the duration, and lo and behold, the Giants went and won the whole damn thing.

And since I bought some Giants merchandise to celebrate, doesn't know what to sell me anymore.

I've decided to stick with my winning city for this Super Bowl, and root for the 49ers, though I know even less about them than I did about the Giants (to be fair, I know at least a few players on every baseball team, but next to nothing about most football teams outside the Patriots and their perennial rivals).  So I hope no diehard 49ers fans will be upset that I'm jumping on their bandwagon so late - I seemed to be good luck for the Giants!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

No projection for Lyle Overbay

2011: 121 games, .234 BA, .310 OBP, .360 SLG, 9 HR, 47 RBI
2012 projection: 113 games, .248 BA, .335 OBP, .404 SLG 9 HR, 41 RBI
2012: 131 games, .259 BA, .331 OBP, .397 SLG, 2 HR, 10 RBI
2013 projection: [None]

After a rather disappointing end to the 2012 season, Bill James and his team didn't do projections for Lyle Overbay in the 2013 Handbook. The Red Sox have only signed him to a minor league deal, with an invitation to spring training.

Overbay will make a good counterpart for the right-handed Mike Napoli, and is by all accounts, a solid defensive first baseman - assuming he makes the team out of spring training.  The Red Sox willbe Overbay's seventh team in the majors, but just his second American League team, as he spent 2006-2010 in Toronto.

Overbay has a lot of experience in different clubhouses, and his presence could be a good thing for the Red Sox this season - in addition to possibly platooning with Napoli against tough righties.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Happy (belated) Birthday to the late, great Jackie Robinson!

If you went to Google yesterday, you saw that the Google Doodle was legendary baseball player, Jackie Robinson.  Jackie Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, and has been a household name in the United States since he broke baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. 
For all the glowing remembrances that float around each year on Robinson’s birthday and on MLB’S Jackie Robinson Day (each year since 2011 on April 15), the actual difficulties Robinson endured at the hands of white fans and even fellow ballplayers are usually glossed over.
In their first meeting [Dodgers’ General Manager Branch] Rickey asked his new second baseman, “I know you have the skills. But do you have the guts?” This meant, in effect, did he have the guts to take torrents of abuse and not respond?  A decade before the rise of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his movement of nonviolent resistance, Rickey was asking Robinson, a player with a hair-trigger temper, to turn the other cheek.
Robinson faced explicit racism from his managers, teammates, umpires, and white fans, and endured it all with a stoicism that might as well have been a superpower. Some onlookers decided that this meant Robinson didn’t hear or didn’t mind the taunts, racial slurs, and threats showered upon him at every turn, but that was never the case. When Robinson died of a heart attack at the age of 53, his wife Rachel reported that all those years of holding such powerful feelings of stress and rage inside had caused Jackie’s early death.
The definitive book on Jackie Robinson’s life is Jule’s Tygiel’s Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy and it’s a must read for anyone interested in baseball, race relations, history, or just the story of an incredible human being. It tells of Robinson’s amazing athletic achievements (starting with being a varsity letter winner in FOUR sports at UCLA), and of his passion for ending Jim Crow and segregation (including the tale of being court-marshaled and then acquitted for refusing to give up his seat on an illegally segregated army bus).