Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pitching is the story

Just as the story in the Red Sox success so far in 2013 has been the pitching, the loss this evening was all about the men on the mound. Jon Lester was less than sharp, giving up five earned runs in six innings pitched, before giving way to Junichi Tazawa, who gave up two earned runs of his own and took the loss. Joel Hanrahan, fresh off the disabled list, took the ball for the bottom of the eighth inning and gave up the ninth and final Blue Jays run of the night.

And so even on a night when the offense scored seven runs, the Red Sox suffered the loss. David Ortiz led the drive with a home run and four RBIs, while Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes also had homers. But it doesn't really matter how many runs you score if your pitchers can't stop the other team from rounding the bases.

There are obviously going to be nights like this. I'm not worried about Jon Lester - he's been so incredibly solid so far, this is just a blip on the radar. I'm also unconcerned with Junichi Tazawa, because his stuff is great, and I'm confident that he'll go back to being an important part of the bullpen. I do have to admit to being somewhat worried about Joel Hanrahan - but even if he turns out to be an enormous flop, Andrew Bailey has proven he can be the everyday closer.

The Yankees are about to pick up a game on us (they're currently experiencing the joy of playing the Houston Astros), but the Sox have Clay Buchholz on the mound tomorrow, going for his sixth win. I'm not worried.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Why Jason Collins matters

Living in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been the law of the land for nearly a decade, it's easy to forget that things aren't so simple for the rest of the country. I'm sure we've all seen the tweets from homophobes near and far, berating and threatening Wizards center Jason Collins for coming out as gay in a Sports Illustrated editorial, but the reaction from most people I know has been to shrug and give a variation of, "So what? Who cares?"

But Jason Collins matters. Sure, we've had retired professional athletes come out before, and all cited fears of retribution as their reason for waiting. It is a huge deal to have an out player in the NBA, and yes, it's because of his visibility.

I am a straight, white woman living in Massachusetts, and I cried when I read Jason Collins' editorial. I try to keep my politics out of this blog as much as possible, but this hit too close to home. I've written about my mother before in this space, but I've been vague enough to never clarify that I had two mothers.

My mothers and me with my sister and my brother-in-law, at their wedding in 2009.

It's not a secret anymore, but when I was growing up in rural New Hampshire, my parents risked losing their jobs if anyone knew about the nature of our family, so I had to tell any curious friends that I had two moms because they were "roommates." Of course, there were some parents who saw through the veneer, and told their children to avoid my sister and me, as if lesbianism was something contagious they could catch by riding bikes or jumping rope with us. The people who clutch their pearls and ask "What about the children?!" are the real problem - my childhood would have been perfect without the influence of their bigotry.

So what does all this have to Jason Collins? As far as me, personally, not that much. But every high profile, well-respected, out and proud gay person is another strike against homophobia. Children shouldn't have to keep a fundamental part of their very nature a secret from their parents. Parents shouldn't have to rely on their children to lie about a loving, nurturing family so that the neighbors don't have to rethink their own outdated biases.

Jason Collins wrote a beautiful editorial about the acceptance of his family and close friends, and I hope that the messages of support from teammates, opposing players, and fans far outweigh the inevitable and horrifying vitriol that's sure to come from some people. His presence in the NBA and the public eye means everything to millions of people and their families.

Is it unfair to Collins to ask him to be the standard bearer for gay men in professional sports, and by extension a role model for LGBT youth everywhere? Of course it is. In an ideal world, Collins would represent only himself - but we don't live in an ideal world. Jason Collins matters because he has been brave enough to stand up, when no one else could or would - and he knows he's not standing up only for himself, that this announcement means the world to thousands of little kids, gay and straight, all over the US and the world.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lackey's Back

John Lackey's first start of the season, back on April 6th in Toronto, was promising at first. He had eight strikeouts before clutching at his right bicep and leaving the game. After he lost 2012 to Tommy John surgery and recovery, the last thing John Lackey wanted was to start off this clean slate with a trip to the disabled list, but that's exactly what happened.

However, the time on the DL hasn't screwed up Lackey at all, and his second start of the season was even better than the first, as he pitched six innings, giving up just one run, scattering five hits, and earning the win. Lackey even managed to pitch himself out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth inning, going beyond what was probably expected of him this afternoon.

I wrote a post during spring training predicting that Lackey would have a solid, if not spectacular season, and I stand by that. Lackey's performance this afternoon, even after a stint on the 15-day DL, was extremely encouraging. If he can continue to turn in starts approaching the quality of today's, I can really see this team going places, especially given how well the rest of the pitching staff has performed so far.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Jonny Gomes: Mr. Congeniality

Jonny Gomes has played for five teams in his major league career, and his numbers at the plate have never really been spectacular, especially for an outfielder. So what business did the Red Sox have giving the 32-year-old two years and $10 million?

It's one of the luxuries that the Red Sox have being a big market team - sure, when it comes down to it, the Yankees can outspend us, but not many other teams can (though I'm still thanking the Dodgers for picking up the tab for Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez). It means that the Red Sox can overpay for that dirtiest of baseball words: intangibles.

No, I'm not talking about Derek Jeter and his "calm eyes" or whatever weird, fawning description Joe Buck has for him these days (Captain DL?), but rather about things like good positioning, and being a positive presence in the clubhouse.  Particularly last season, the Red Sox had trouble with the mood in the clubhouse - to be sure, they didn't have the best manager to handle that kind of issue, but the result was the same: poor performance, bad moods, and surly interviews with the press.

Enter 2013 and Jonny Gomes. Gomes has struggled at the plate to start the season, but he hasn't let it get to him, being unfailingly upbeat in the dugout and with reporters. When asked about his contributions to the team so far this season, Gomes emphasized defense: "There's two L's in this game. There's leather and lumber. Hopefully you can try and bring both every day. But you definitely have to leave the yard with at least bringing one."

When specifically prompted to talk about his own struggles at the plate (Gomes is hitting just .189 this season with a single RBI and no home runs), he shrugged it off: "When the team’s winning, no one is in a slump. No one at all. I don’t consider myself in a slump. I just haven’t started yet."

That kind of hopeful attitude is just the kind of thing that young, slumping players like Will Middlebrooks need to see from the veterans in their midst. The Red Sox certainly overpaid for Gomes - being a good role model while hitting below the Mendoza Line isn't worth $5 million a season, even if you spend all 162 games making your teammates laugh in the clubhouse and charming the press. But the Red Sox CAN overpay Jonny Gomes, without affecting their financial ability to after other pieces they need - we get to have our cake, and eat it too.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Buchholz keeps rolling

Obviously beating the Astros isn't an achievement for the ages; it's happened fifteen times already this season, after all. But it is worth noting that Clay Buchholz has officially become the very first starter in the majors to reach five wins this season - and he's done so without a single loss, with a sparkling ERA.

John Farrell thinks that Clay's success is sustainable, and we've certainly seen how incredible his stuff can be. The key to a successful season is always in the pitching, and given how both Buchholz and Jon Lester have pitched to start out the season, my expectations for 2013 are very different than they were on Opening Day.

The offense gave Buchholz a seven run cushion, but he didn't need it, giving up just two runs in 7.2 innings to defeat the newest punching bag of the American League (you're welcome, Mariners). Most of all, Buchholz is fun to watch when he's going well, and he's been a blast to watch this April.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Aceves approaching his end?

The only good thing to be said for last night's game was that it got called in the seventh inning. Alfredo Aceves struggled mightily, and while he was correct that the conditions were less than ideal, old friend Bartolo Colon was pitching in the same rainy weather and managed seven scoreless innings.

Luckily for the Red Sox, John Lackey is supposed to be back this Sunday, and will make a second run at his first win of the season - perhaps the reemergence of a (hopefully healthy) Lackey will finally mean the door for Aceves. Given Aceves' maddening inconsistency paired with his inability to take responsibility for his bad performances, it's increasingly obvious that he's not what this team needs in terms of chemistry.

Daniel Bard has been recalled from AA Portland, and will be in the bullpen this evening - if the former heir-apparent to Jonathan Papelbon can get his feet back underneath him in the bigs, Aceves' services might no longer be needed. Jon Lester starts tonight, and he's just the man I want on the mound after the abysmal performance the Sox turned in last night; he should be able togo deep into the game and spare the bullpen after last night's debacle.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Insane catch par for the course - for Red Sox fan

Some of you might have seen this crazy guy jumping head first down several steps at Fenway Park the other day to catch a foul ball, and I'm here to tell you that his actions weren't at all out of character. That's right, I know this madman, because he's my sister's brother-in-law, Ben Day.

The death-defying catch has made Day something of a celebrity, landing him on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays and splashing GIFs of the event all over the internet. In case any of you were concerned, Day is feeling just fine after vaulting headlong onto the Fenway Park concourse - this certainly isn't the first diving catch he's made in his time, as he was a three-sport varsity athlete in high school.

In a way, Ben's catch somehow echoes the best of Red Sox Nation: as a group we tend to be dedicated, unconcerned with the odds that we might end up hurt, and just a little bit crazy. I will, however, admit that most of us aren't capable of such an impressive feat of athleticism and hand-eye coordination.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sox topple A's

Despite giving up five walks and three earned runs over 6.2 innings, Felix Doubront earned his second win of the season this evening against the Oakland A's. The Athletics rolled into Fenway Park with a season record of 12-7, but it's worth noting that they've already played three games against the Mariners and six against the Astros (seriously, the Astros presence in the AL West is a literal GIFT to the other teams in that division).

It' always nice to start off a series with a win - and the Red Sox have done that in eery series so far in 2013. After yesterday's doubleheader, it was important for Doubront to log significant innings and preserve the bullpen, and though he struggled a little bit to be efficient, he made it into the seventh inning, with a sizable cushion provided by the offense.

Mike Napoli had a grand slam, and Will Middlebrooks made a start at breaking out of his slump with a three run homerun as the two led the offense to a nine-run outburst. The bullpen effort was spearheaded by Junichi Tazawa and Andrew Bailey, in what was truly a team effort. The Red Sox are first in the AL East, two games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, and two-and-a-half ahead of the Yankees.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Back to normalcy

It always sucks to lose both games of a doubleheader, especially when you lose the second one in extra innings. But the important takeaway from the weekend's games is that the Red Sox, and the city, are back to some kind of routine. Things may never be the same, but the quicker we can all regain any semblance of normalcy after the tragic and bizarre events of the last week, the better we will all recover.

Losing games is a normal part of baseball - indeed, teams that lose sixty games in a season are considered remarkable for their proficiency at winning. It's a function of having a sport where the teams play 162 games in a season: in football, it's possible (if improbable) to go 16-0, while going 162-0 is a practical improbability.

Losing is so normal in baseball that it's practically mundane. After the last week, we could all use things that are a little bit more mundane - Boston has had enough excitement for a while.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Not Tito's gameplan

There aren't a lot of people in baseball that I love and esteem more than Terry Francona. He was a great manager for the Red Sox, and though he was apparently less effective near the end of his tenure, he helped Boston to two World Series titles. And, let's be real, his relationship with Dustin Pedroia is a national treasure.

All that being said, I am totally pumped that the Sox swept Tito's Indians. Cleveland can certainly use the joy of winning to take their mind off of things more than any city besides Detroit during a normal week, but Boston's need is greater right now. The Red Sox rose to the occasion, and haven't lost a game when we need them most as a distraction.

When asked about the Boston connection and the upcoming series prior to Monday's events, Francona had jokingly said while he loved his time in Boston, and the players he managed, he hoped for an Indians sweep. Though I wish him all the best in ll endeavors not against the Red Sox, I'm glad that Tito's wish was denied this time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Red Sox know

Last night, the Red Sox did what we all needed them to do: they won (in spectacular fashion) and allowed us to check out of the constant barrage of replays and reminders of Monday's tragedy, if only for a few hours. There were pre-game moments of silence, and playing of Sweet Caroline all over Major League Baseball last night, but after the initial show of respect and solidarity, the teams got back to work.

I've written before about how baseball can be a coping mechanism, but this time it feels different. The relationship that Boston has with the Red Sox has always been special - since the Braves moved out of town sixty years ago, there has been just one local team. No split fanbase or Subway Series for the Hub, because Boston is a Red Sox town.

Though none of the players currently on the Red Sox roster are from Boston, they all feel a sense of pride and belonging to the city, and Monday's events hurt them, too. They know, like the members of the Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, and Revolution, that Boston is a place that largely defines itself by its sports teams: our heroes are practically canonized, while disappointments are chased out of town.

Though it's somewhat ridiculous to call men who play a game for a living heroes, especially given the amazing acts of heroism and selflessness from Boston police officers, firefighters, medical personal, marathon runners, and ordinary civilians on Monday, sometimes it feels nice to unplug and invest your emotions in something less dire.

Red Sox players know what they mean to us. They know that now, more than ever, we will be investing our emotions and hopes in them. They know that the city who proudly embraces the Boston Red Sox as an emblem of our culture will be seeing every victory for the baseball team as a proverbial FUCK YOU to the person or group who tried to tear us apart.

The Red Sox know. Just as the city has embraced them, they have embraced us back. They're playing every game for the city of Boston, more urgently than ever before. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Love that Dirty Water

I got up early this morning to depart on a trip to see friends in Washington, DC, and New York City. I sprung for a cab to South Station, because I had no idea what the newly "heightened security" would do to the commuting time on the T - though I was fairly certain that I would have been stopped and my two meticulously packed bags searched and disheveled.

I left my apartment just a little bit before 9am, and was struck by how empty the streets seemed for a weekday morning, though certainly part of that is due to school vacation week and the corresponding lack of school buses. When I walked up the stairs at South Station and saw two members of the transit police accompanied by two National Guard members in fatigues carrying semi-automatic weapons, I gasped.

It did not make me feel safer. You can say that the good guy with the gun is the only answer to the bad guy with the gun all you want, but when the proverbial bad guy has explosives, all the good guys with guns in the world won't make me feel better.

There were marathoners and their families in line with me, all looking tired but smiling. They were wearing their 2013 Boston Marathon jackets, and naturally the people around them asked questions about yesterday's events. One man had finished in three hours and fifteen minutes, and admitted to being disappointed with his time, given the "perfect maraton weather" that we experienced yesterday.

The conversation had a lighthearted, joking quality - sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. Passengers who had been watching along the route chimed in about their confusion and eventual shocked and dismayed enlightenment. One woman had been across the street from the second blast in a restaurant, and emphasized the disbelief she felt, but commented jocularly about her ability to bond with other patrons during the stressful time.

The talk turned back to the marathon, to Patriot's Day, and to what this tragedy will mean for the future of the event and the city. Naturally, people turned to the runners in line to ask them for their thoughts: "Will you run the Boston Marathon again?"

The man who was disappointed with his 3.15 finish turned around, the smile he had been sharing with his son (also a finisher) vanished as a look of utmost seriousness took over his face, "Next year," he promised.

That was about when the bus arrived. I climbed on, set my iTunes library to shuffle, and listened with disbelief and wonder as Dirty Water came through my headphones and accompanied my departure from the city.

The feeling that song gave me was just like the feeling that I get when I hear it at Fenway Park after a Red Sox win. It's a feeling of optimism, of joy, of determination. Boston might never be the same after yesterday's events, but Bostonians are notoriously tough. We'll get though this together.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hope after the Boston Marathon

This morning, I sat down to watch the Red Sox play the Rays in the only morning game in baseball. I was excited at the walk-off win, and resolved to blog about it later.

That feels like a lifetime ago. I don't have much to say about the tragic events of today, except that it's heartening that so many people rushed to help. Marathon finishers continued running to Mass General to give blood. People opening their homes to stranded runners. People giving so much blood that the Red Cross has announced that they've got all they need and more (they encourage people to make an appointment to give in the next week so that there will be donors when supply has somewhat tapered off).

Patriot's Day will never be the same. But Boston is resilient. It's already difficult to get a spot in the Boston Marathon, and I'm confident that next year's race will be more popular than ever. This horrible tragedy will not break us. Boston is a city largely defined by its sports - indeed, there was significant twitter chatter encouraging the Bruins to call off their evening game (they did). Today, one of our most famous and historic athletic events was brutally defiled, but the participants and spectators banded together.

Tomorrow the citizens of Boston will wake up, put on a brave face, and try to pick up their lives where they were before the holiday, but it won't be the same. Our illusions of safety, however flimsy, have evaporated - but if there's one heartening thing to take away from today's events, it is that though one evil person or group tried to splinter the city and it's people into a million pieces, thousands of us have come together in acts of kindness and hope.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Near no-hitter still a success for Buchholz

It's a strange day indeed when a 5-0 win is somewhat of a letdown, but here we are. Clay Buchholz held the Rays hitless through seven full innings this afternoon at Fenway Park before surrendering a broken-bat single to Rays' left fielder Kelly Johnson to lead off the eighth.

Buchholz was sharp, though not perfect, as he finished his outing with eight innings pitched, two hits, four walks,  and a creer-high eleven strikeouts in 106 pitches. The pitch count had John Farrell somewhat concerned, as Buchholz's walk and strikeout totals caused the total pitches to climb.

Farrell admitted in the post game press conference that he was somewhat relieved when Johnson finally earned a hit in the eighth - it's early in the season, and no one wants to have to decide between yanking a pitcher in the midst of a no-hitter and leaving him in too long and possibly damaging his arm for the rest of the season. Luckily Farrell didn't have to, and Andrew Miller came in with a scoreless ninth inning to finish things off.

It was truly a team effort, as the offense scored five times to give Buchholz a comfortable lead (though they waited until the third inning), and there was some fine work on the defensive side of things as well. Today's win guarantees a series win for the Sox, and since tomorrow's Patriot's Day morning contest is the third straight day game, it's nice to go into it with confidence.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Farrell doing everything right

John Farrell knows pitchers. Ask any Sox pitcher who was here when Farrell was the Red Sox pitching coach, and they'll tell you how phenomenal he was at getting through to guys, and getting the best possible performances from them. Terry Francona often said that Farrell could easily make the transition from pitching coach to manager, and everything we've seen so far backs up that assertion.

Farrell was right to put Joel Hanrahan on the mound this afternoon - and just as right with his quick hook after two straight walks from the closer. Any pitcher can have a bad outing. I was at the game on Wednesday night, and conditions were certainly less than ideal, making it totally reasonable (if not desirable) that Hanrahan might have a mistep.

After that kind of meltdown it's important for the manager to display his confidence that the poor outing was an outlier, which is exactly what Farrell did. But at the end of the day, the job of the manager is to put the right combination of players on the field to win games. Hanrahan couldn't find the strike zone, and the Red Sox were on the verge of wasting an excellent start from Jon Lester, so Farrell acted decisively and pulled him in favor of Koji Uehara.

With the exception of Hanrahan, the Sox bullpen has performed exactly as hoped (I can't be the only one with a budding love for Uehara), and Farrell has managed it admirably. Today's win was a nailbiter (I never would have expected that I would come out of it winless in fantasy baseball, seeing as I started both Lester and David Price), but all wins count the same in the end. Far more valuable that a decisive victory is the knowledge that Farrell will continue to make the difficult - and correct - decisions.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Great expectations for 42

Since tonight's game has already been called on account of inclement weather (luckily it's just rain and not the snow/sleet that's afflicting parts of norther New England), I hope that some of you will take this opportunity to go and see 42: The True Story of an American Legend. I'm planning to see it after the weekend with my roommate - she's out of town, and I promised I would wait.

One of the best things about being a baseball fan is the richness of the sports history - but it's important to acknowledge that not all of that history can be romanticized. The game of baseball is just as stained with racism as the rest of US history, and though Jackie Robinson was a revolutionary figure, his first game in the major leagues (exactly sixty-six years ago as of next Monday) was only the beginning.

I have high hopes for 42, but I will always point to Jule Tygiel's book, Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and his Legacy as the quintessential volume on the career and life of MLB's first African American player. By definition, a film has to cut out things that a book can expand upon - and the life of Jackie Robinson has far and away too many incredible moments to contain in two hours.

Jackie Robinson's legacy is incredible, and simply cannot be overstated. Though Major League Baseball only started officially celebrating Jackie Robinson Day in 2004, ballplayers have always been keenly aware of his amazing contributions; indeed, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was named for Jackie Robinson (if you're wondering, Sox fans, Jackie Bradley Jr. was named for his father, who was named for singer Jackie Wilson - though Bradley Jr. names Robinson as one of his baseball heroes).

If anything, this movie will bring the hard fought achievements of Jackie Robinson to light in a way that will make a younger generation pay attention. It's easy to pretend that baseball's racial struggles are in the distant past, but one of my mothers was born in 1947 - the very year that Robinson debuted with the Dodgers (the other was born later, but still four years before the Red Sox finally integrated). We are literally just a generation or two removed from such shameful segregation - on and off the baseball field - and it's important to acknowledge the shame of the past, even as we work toward a better future.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Sellout" streak officially over

As awful as it was to watch last night's meltdown from Joel Hanrahan, there was a kind of poetic justice about the whole situation. It was the first officially un-soldout game in nearly a decade, and it somehow seemed to mirror the tendencies of the Red Sox over the last couple of years.

Things started off pretty evenly, as the Orioles scored, the Red Sox evened the score, and then the Red Sox pulled ahead by two runs - but the Orioles closed the gap heading into the rain delay. I know I came into the game with high hopes, after seeing the Sox dispose of the Orioles on Opening Day.

The first part of the game was like a microcosm of the 2011 season: the Sox got off to a 0-6 start, but managed to pull themselves out and back into contention by midseason, just as last night's squad fell behind but stayed within reach of a win by the rain delay. Post rain delay, Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit two home runs, resulting in jubilation among the Fenway faithful, much like the incredible summer we enjoyed in 2011.

And then Hanrahan came on to close things out. After Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Andrew Bailey each pitched a scoreless inning, Hanrahan came in and couldn't close the deal - like the September 2011 meltdown of the entire Red Sox pitching staff (and, even more specifically, then-closer Jonathan Papelbon's personal meltdown against the Orioles on the last day of the season).

Andrew Miller managed to come in and get the last out, but then the Red Sox could not score in the bottom of the ninth - an exercise in futility that resembled 2012 in its entirety.

And so whether you buy my metaphor, last night was the beginning of a new era for the Red Sox. Hopefully the end of the "sellout streak" (which was fraudulent by the end, let's be honest) can be a clean slate for the Sox. Even after last night's loss, the Red Sox are still in first place in the AL East. Alfredo Aceves takes the mound tonight for the series finale, and while I wouldn't have chosen him as the tone-setter, he definitely has something to prove.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

John Lackey officially placed on the DL

John Lackey has officially been placed on the disabled list, retroactive to April 7th, after straining his right bicep in Toronto. Alfredo Aceves will start in his place tomorrow, and will take his slot in the rotation until he can make his return.

Thankfully, the recovery time for a strain like this is much, much shorter than the yearlong recovery from Tommy John surgery that Lackey had just completed. It's a real shame to lose John Lackey to a fluke injury like this, after all of his hard work getting back on the field, and especially because of the solid outing he was turning in against the Blue Jays at the time.

But the way things looked Saturday when Lackey grabbed at his arm and left the game in the middle of an at-bat, the 15-day DL is getting off easy. If Lackey can come back in two weeks and pitch the way he was pitching this weekend, I think it's safe to say that we all dodged a bullet. This is really hurting my fantasy team, but I think I can recover.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tito's Cleveland Misadventures

The early returns for John Farrell's managerial career in Boston are overwhelmingly positive, as the Red Sox won the home opener yesterday to bring their record to a division-best 5-2, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't still miss old friend Terry Francona. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating trying to snag him back from the Indians, but some days I'm overcome with nostalgia.

ESPN has a funny article about Tito somehow getting lost during his two-block walk to Progressive Field for the Indians opener yesterday. Francona commented about how he was unused to the friendliness of Clevelanders, but I don't take it personally, because I've always considered people outside of New England to be unnervingly affable.

Seriously though, click through and red the whole piece; it's super short, and a good use of three minutes - I promise you'll chuckle. I'm certainly happy with John Farrell thus far (though after the Bobby V. fiasco, I'm easily pleased), but Tito will forever have a special place in my heart.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Off to Fenway!

I'm headed to Fenway this morning for the home opener - and since I was at the last home game of the 2012 season, I'm pretty much picking up where I left off. Hopefully the Red Sox can keep up the momentum from yesterday's blowout (and from winning the first two series of the season) and defeat the Orioles.

Today's game is sure to be a sellout, but the team is understandably braced for the sellout "streak" to end within the next few home games. Though the team is doing better early on than expected, it's difficult to sell nearly 40,000 tickets to midweek night games in April - it's somewhat less than balmy in this part of the country when 10pm rolls around.

If any of you will be at today's game and want to say hello, I'll be wandering around the park with my obnoxiously large camera from the time that gates open until the festivities start (reportedly at about 1:30), and thereafter in my seat in the bleachers. And as always, you can tweet me!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Like night and day

It's hard to believe that the team that mustered just two hits over nine innings in yesterday's loss is the same as the one who just destoyed R.A. Dickey and the Jays today. After yesterday's debacle, the Red Sox needed a game like this afternoon's. Jon Lester pitched seven scoreless innings, and the offense absolutely exploded for thirteen runs, including six homers.

Will Middlebrooks had a spectacular game, with three of the six homeruns, a double, and four RBIs - I'll certainly be buying his jersey when I get the chance.  Jose Iglesias continued to rake, going 2-for-5 with a double, and bringing his four game average to .583. Sure, it's a tiny sample size, but Iglesias is clearly making a statement.

And so the Red Sox will return to Fenway for the Home Opener tomorrow, atop the American League East with a 4-2 record having won both of the first two series. I snagged a bleacher seat to tomorrow's game, and I can't wait - will I see any of you there?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cautious optimism for Lackey

When John Lackey clutched his right arm in the bottom of the fifth inning, I panicked. Though it was pretty obvious that the problem wasn't his surgically repaired elbow, things looked very serious as the heckled John Farrell (stay classy, Toronto) ushered Lackey off the field. 

I had predicted a season of redemption for Lackey early in spring training, and he was pitching like he meant to prove me right, with eight strikeouts through four and a third innings - indeed, his only mistake was a homerun to J.P. Arencibia. If only the Sox had managed any offense at all, things would have looked pretty promising.

As the game went on (and reliever Alfredo Aceves ensured that a win was out of the question), we got the news that Lackey had to leave with "right biceps strain." Afterwards, both Farrell and Lackey expressed optimism, though anything definite will have to wait for an exam in Boston.  Lackey compared the feeling to a severe hamstring cramp, "It's all in the bicep, wasn't elbow. Pretty frustrating, a little scary when it happened for sure."

Lackey also reported that he felt better almost as soon as he made it to the clubhouse, and teammates Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester were reassured once they chatted with him. I have to say that one of the most disappointing things about the situation were the jokes about it on Twitter. I don't care how much you dislike a player, joking about an injury is never funny.

The good news is that Lackey seems to be mostly alright. Severe strains can come with muscle tears and possible surgery - or it could be minor enough that Lackey just needs some rest, and he could make his next start. Here's hoping it's the latter.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Heading north

Perhaps I jinxed things yesterday with my unbridled optimism - I would be the first to admit that optimism isn't a natural state for me, as I'm much more comfortable with the cynic's role. In any case, the Red Sox suffered their first loss last evening, at the hands of the Yankees.

There were some good notes regardless of the loss: David Ross threw out two baserunners last night, and the kids continued to impress. Jackie Bradley Jr. had a double and an RBI, while Will Middlebrooks had two hits and an RBI of his own. Jose Iglesias, clearly gunning to stay with the big club even upon the imminent return of Stephen Drew, went 2-for-3 and bunted for a base hit.

Tonight they'll head north to Toronto, to a welcome that might be rather more hostile than one would normally expect from famously welcoming Canadians. The Blue Jays and their fans weren't exactly pleased when John Farrell deserted them after just two seasons to return to Boston - and you can't really blame them for feeling somewhat betrayed.

I can't imagine the hostility could last too long. Toronto is more of a hockey town than a baseball one, and we all know that Canadians are pretty much incapable of holding onto non-puck related anger for too much time. Either way, I'm sure Farrell won't let a few boos get to him.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ryan Dempster and early season optimism

You couldn't really map out a better start to the season than the last two days. The Red Sox marched right into the Bronx and took the first two games of the season from the Yankees in decisive fashion in their own house. Jose Iglesias is outperforming expectations, going 5-for-9 with a double and an RBI in the first two games. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been on base four times, and has already knocked in his first RBIs (and his first major league hit), with four runs scored.

Both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz each have a win to their name, and Ryan Dempster is preparing to make his Red Sox debut tonight. Though Dempster has struggled somewhat against the Yankees in his career, the sample size is rather small: just five starts in the last fourteen years.

Dempster is optimistic about his prospects, both in terms of tonight's game and the season as a whole:
“I’m thinking — I would love — my goal is 30 wins,” he said. “If I can get 30 wins, I”m going to take that. I won’t get greedy. I won’t get greedy, I won’t ask for 33 or 34, I’m just going to try to do that.”
Of course, Dempster has started more than thirty times just seven times in fifteen years (though, to be fair, he was a closer for a while mid-career). He seems to be meshing well with his new teammates, and it's impossible not to feel good when your team starts the season off 2-0.

Dempster will take the mound this evening against the 40-year-old Andy Pettitte, and with the Yankees' lineup as depleted as it's been, I feel somewhat confident about his chances to get his first Red Sox win.  It's been thirteen years since the Red Sox started off the season 2-0, when Pedro Martinez and Bret Saberhagen took down the Royals. In fact, the 1999 Red Sox won their first five games - maybe they're die for something like that again?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Robinson Cano fires Scott Boras

It's looking like Robinson Cano will be around to torture Red Sox pitchers and rob would-be gap hits for years to come. The Yankees' second baseman has reportedly ditched superagent Scott Boras and signed on with Roc Nation Sports, an agency headed by hip-hop mogul and Yankees fan Jay-Z.

Robinson is in a contract year, and rejected an extension offer from the Yankees this spring training while still represented by Boras, whose negotiating strategy is nearly always marked by testing the market in free agency to find the most lucrative deal. Red Sox fans will remember this strategy, because it's caused them to lose out on free agents to the endlessly wealthy Yankees multiple times, perhaps most notably Mark Teixeira in the 2008-2009 offseason.

Cano is my second-favorite Yankee (you can't beat out Mariano Rivera, at least for one more year). You might say I have a soft spot for second baseman, given my love for Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Marco Scutaro, and Cano. As much as I don't love watching Cano rake against Red Sox pitchers, I do love to watch him play, and I would hate to see him go to the NL where he'd undoubtedly be successful, but I'd miss watching him.

Though it's certainly possible that Cano ends up elsewhere, despite the much-lauded agent switch, things certainly look good for the Yankees.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Big things for Jackie Bradley Jr.

A simple glance at the box score wouldn't leave you with a ton of confidence about Jackie Bradley Jr.'s performance yesterday afternoon - but a simple glance wouldn't be doing him justice. After one game, Bradley has a batting average of zero, but with three walks (one after falling behind in the count to CC Sabathia, 0-2) his OBP is .600.

I'm perfectly aware that statistics like that are totally meaningless with a minuscule  one-game sample size, but a three walk game is a success no matter the context. It's easy to forget with all of the hype surrounding this rookie, but Bradley has never even played a game in AAA, or spent any time in left field. But obviously he was equal to the hype, since he waltzed right into Yankee Stadium on Opening Day, and scored two of the Red Sox runs with an RBI of his own, in addition to some great play in the field (pictured).

It's always fun (and ridiculous) to take Opening Day statistics and stretch them out over a 162 game season: for instance, the Sox would be on pace to go 162-0. If you averaged Bradley's Opening Day performance over an entire season, he would have no hits, 486 walks, 324 runs scored, and 162 RBIs. Certainly that would be an altogether absurd full season stat line, but I do see big things for the rookie this year.

In fact, I'm so confident that I added Jackie Bradley Jr. to my fantasy team last night. I had to sacrifice Lorenzo Cain, but I know it'll be worth it over the full season. There may not be any Red Sox baseball today, but I'm happily throwing myself into the euphoric and plentiful baseball-is-back coverage all over the internet. After all, if I survived six months of reflection about the worst Red Sox season in decades, I can certainly last one day on the sweet memories of beating New York on Opening Day in their house.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Opening Day Thoughts

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I missed watching today's game live, because I was stuck in Port Authority and then on a bus from 11am-7pm.  Luckily, I was able to listen to the WEEI coverage via the MLB AtBat app, and then I watched the Sox in 2 replay on NESN when I finally made it home.

I love Opening Day. It's truly a clean slate - everything about last year is wiped away, and, as they say, hope springs eternal. It especially helps when the team can start off the year with a decisive win over their storied rivals.

It was pretty strange to watch a Red Sox/Yankees Opening Day sans David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez - and it just seemed plain wrong to see Kevin Youkilis, clean-shaven and pinstriped, scoring the first Yankees run of the year. But everything went according to plan for the Red Sox, who didn't trail once during the game.

On a personal note, I have Jon Lester on my fantasy team, but I never got to set my roster (I was computerless in New York and New Jersey all weekend), so I won't be getting any credit for his first win of the season. Since that was the only negative aspect of the day, I think I can get over it.