Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shortstop of the future - for somebody else

I'll admit it: I was one of those people howling in rage and sadness when I heard Jose Iglesias was getting shipped off to the Tigers. I didn't want Peavy, and I didn't want to lose Iglesias. Late last night, I didn't immediately see the wisdom of Ben Cherington's latest move.

Though I am still somewhat sad to see Iglesias go, I'm on board with the Jake Peavy trade. By all accounts, Peavy is a fighter. He's competitive and talented, and when he can keep himself healthy, he's a guy you want on your side.

As the inimitable Chad Finn put it, between Peavy and Clay Buchholz, we're getting a "heck of a pitcher for 32 starts."

But despite my acceptance (and even happiness) with having Peavy join the Red Sox, I'm sorry to see Iglesias go. I know his batting average has been falling faster than investment in his new home city. I know that same average is partly due to flukey infield hits. I know Xander Bogaerts is waiting in the wings. None of that changes how I feel about seeing Iglesias go - emotions don't care about logic.

Iglesias is fun to watch, and he'll continue to be fun to watch, but spectacular plays are never as great when they're made by a guy in another team's uniform. Jose Iglesias is going to win a Gold Glove someday, and it's going to be for some other team, in some other city. Is it possible to feel nostalgic for something that hasn't even happened yet?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Irate Ortiz explodes in Baltimore

Via @TheScore
Last night, David Ortiz was ejected by home plate umpire Tim Timmons for arguing balls and strikes, and took out his frustrations on a seemingly indestructible dugout phone.

Despite the fact that Ortiz's frustration was legitimate, his behavior was not. I'm perfectly aware that ejected players and coaches often unleash their anger on inanimate objects - but it usually happens down in the tunnel, away from the prying eyes of television cameras and eliminating the risk that a teammate might become collateral damage.

You can see Dustin Pedroia leaning away from Papi's display of rage, covering his head in an attempt to protect himself from flying shards of shattered bat. After three coaches kept Ortiz from reapproaching Timmons, Pedroia gave the irate DH a piece of his mind.

Via @TheScore
Despite some Twitter speculation of a suspension, I suspect that Papi's punishment will be limited to a fine of an undisclosed amount, and perhaps a public apology for the bad example he set for all the kids out there.

But there's another issue being overlooked in all the drama over Ortiz's outburst: Tim Timmons WAS TERRIBLE last night. There needs to be a system of accountability for MLB umpires, because Timmons' poor performance wasn't a matter of a few close missed calls, but rather a constantly fluctuating strikezone.

David Ortiz's behavior was certainly inappropriate, but Timmons umpiring job was nothing less than embarrassing.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pedroia extension the right move

© Kayla Chadwick 2012
I could spend weeks waxing poetic about what Dustin Pedroia means to the Red Sox organization, the city of Boston, and the fans, so to say I was thrilled when I found out about his new contract extension would be an understatement for the ages.

Yes, I understand why some people have reservations about the length of the deal. One of Pedroia's greatest strengths is also one of his biggest risk factors: the man puts his body on the line every single play. Perhaps the best example of this dedication came during the very first game of the 2013 season, when Pedey dove headfirst into first base in the ninth inning - with the Red Sox already up by six runs.

He was out, which makes sense given that diving headfirst into first base nearly always slows you down much more than running through the bag, and he stood up with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. But the injury that might have sent a different player to the bench for two months of recovery was described by Pedroia as being "nicked up."

No one who pays attention to the Red Sox could claim that Pedroia isn't an injury risk: the all-in style of play fans love so much also makes us worry that any moment could bring on a season ending injury for the scrappy second baseman.

But I don't think Pedroia's value will deteriorate as quickly as some doomsayers are predicting. This is a guy whose game is based on getting on base and scoring runs by any means necessary. His career isn't built on raw speed or power, but on hard work and baseball smarts, two things that fade much more slowly than other skills.

If nothing else, Pedroia is the kind of player you want in your clubhouse, both to mentor young players coming up through the minors and to show incoming free agents how things work in Boston.

This deal is what Pedroia deserves. It's what fans want. I personally don't think I could handle seeing Dustin Pedroia come into Fenway Park wearing another team's uniform. Even if he's a shadow of his youthful self in the final season of his deal, I still want this guy in my corner in 2021. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Braun suspended - who's next?


Ryan Braun has been suspended for the rest of the season by Major League Baseball. The former NL MVP tested positive for PEDs back in 2012, but the test results were thrown out as a result of a procedural mistake.

There's no running from this Biogenesis scandal for Braun - and there will be no denials of Anthony Bosch's credibility from other players named in Biogenesis records now that Braun has acknowledged their accuracy.

Between Braun's admission and the 2012 cases of Biogenesis clients Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera, there's very little wiggle room for other players linked to the "anti-aging" company.

This likely means that Alex Rodriguez and Nelson Cruz will be getting suspensions very soon - a first offense is good for fifty games without pay.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Baseball's back!

Probably the most inspiring thing that's happened in the last four days. Source

I've always felt that the best function of the All-Star Break is reminding fans how good we have it between April and September: there's never more than one day off in a row, and if you pick a secondary team to root for, there's always something to monitor. Then we have four full days without our teams taking the field. Sure, there's the home run derby and the All-Star Game itself, but those are mere distractions.

The All-Star Break is a subtle reminder that summer doesn't last forever. The days of daily baseball are limited, and though we're guaranteed 162 games per team per year, we should always be bracing ourselves for the offseason. As they say on Game of Thrones, winter is coming. Luckily for us, that's still a distance down the road - there's still the second half to play.

The Red Sox will take the field again tonight, when the Yankees make their first 2013 trip to Fenway Park. Is there a better way to kick things off than a homestand against a struggling (but still hated) rival? This year has been full of schadenfreude for Red Sox fans: long DL stints for Derek Jeter , Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and even old friend Kevin Youkilis have the Yankees on the ropes.

Even with injuries to so many key players, the Yankees are just six games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, and there are thirteen more games between the two clubs before the end of the season. I learned long ago to never count the Yankees out, so while I feel pretty good about the Red Sox chances, things could still change rapidly.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Workman gets the start

I can deal with the Red Sox loss from last night, because it came with some indications that Jon Lester might be getting back on track. Lester pitched a quality start, and while he was tagged for the loss, the fact that he made it through 6.1 innings and allowed just three runs gives me hope for the rest of the season.

I suppose it's appropriate for the final start before the All-Star break to go to rookie Brandon Workman, especially in a year full of youthful contributions and surprising successes. Workman made his major league debut just three nights ago, giving up three runs in two innings out of the bullpen, and setting his ERA at an unwieldy 13.50.

Interestingly enough, Workman will face off against 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, the portly pitcher who cut his one Red Sox season short when he hurt himself swinging a bat during interleague play in 2008.

Colon is having his best season in over a decade, so a win tonight could be a tall order for Workman - but after being shut out last night, I have to believe the Red Sox bats are due for some fireworks, so hopefully the rookie will get a hefty amount of run support.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Winning tactics

Apparently I was mistaken when I assumed that the Red Sox disliked the West Coast as much as I do. Of course, since my hatred for West Coast road trips burns with the intensity of a thousand suns, it would be highly unlikely that anyone could loathe them nearly as much as me. As far as the Sox go, it actually seems like quite the opposite: they haven't lost a game since the day I tried to pin their losing on geography.

Of course, the team has different ideas about what might affect their win-loss record, and it's nowhere near as mundane as simply playing well or poorly. Apparently while in Seattle Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes took a little rendezvous to the famous Pike Place Market for a meal, and brought back a bouquet of flowers as a prank.

The flowers have had a place in the dugout for all four games since then, and the Red Sox have won every single one of them. Jose Iglesias has been assigned the happy task of transporting the flower arrangement from park to bus to plane to park, and has reportedly been successful in keeping the plants alive.

I don't think anyone on the team has delusions that the colorful good luck charm will make it through the All-Star break, but it's likely that it will at least last until tomorrow evening. Given the results of his last few outings, Jon Lester could certainly use all the luck he can get for tonight's start - hopefully the magic of the Pike's Place flowers can last just a little bit longer.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I love this team!

Today's Red Sox victory perfectly encapsulated everything I've come to love about this team. Sure, it started off badly, with Ryan Dempster turning in an absolutely putrid start. But pitchers have bad days, and good teams have to learn to find a way to win, which is exactly what the Red Sox did.

Though Dempster made it through just 3.1 innings and gave up all seven Mariners runs (four earned), young knuckleballer Steven Wright came to his rescue and tossed 5.2 innings of shut-out baseball.  On the offensive side, today was truly a team effort as seven Red Sox had at least one hit, and three had two.

The Sox managed to claw their way back, and the score was tied at the end of regulation play. Ryan Lavarnway walked to lead off the top of the tenth inning, and Jackie Bradley Jr. took his place as a pinch runner. Brock Holt executed a successful sacrifice bunt to move Bradley into scoring position, but Jose Iglesias lost a battle of an at-bat, striking out after eight pitches. Jacoby Ellsbury was intentionally walked after the home run he hit in the first, but Daniel Nava hit a two-out single to put the Red Sox up by one run.

Koji Uehara, spurned by the All-Star Game Final Vote, went out and recorded a save, facing just three batters and striking out two of them. Wright earned his first ever major league win, and the Red Sox extended their new winning streak to three games before they head to Oakland tomorrow, proving once again that you can't count these guys out. How can anyone resist loving this team? 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Red Sox end West Coast losing streak

Before last night, I was beginning to get a little worried that my support was acting as a jinx for Red Sox prospects. I'm probably the least superstitious and most skeptical person I know - except when it comes to baseball. I don't utter the words "no-hitter" when one is happening, I wear the same shirt to the ballpark as long as the Sox win when I do, and I won't leave my seat (at home or at the park) when there's a rally going on.

So when I bought Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks shirts at the beginning of the season, and they both struggled before being demoted to AAA, I was worried. My concerns were only exacerbated when I decided to hold off on the purchase of a Jose Iglesias shirt, and he went on to have an incredible first half, both defensively and at the plate.

So I'm essentially convinced that I'm a jinx. Or I was, until Jackie Bradley Jr. contributed a home run to the Red Sox win last night. In fact, Bradley's homer was the blow that finally put the Sox on top for good in a game full of offense and somewhat devoid of masterful pitching performances on both sides.

The victory stopped what had become a string of Red Sox losses, albeit at only three games long. Indeed, had the Sox not come back to win last night, it would have been the very first four-game losing streak of the 2013 season. The West Coast has not been friendly to the Red Sox this week, but hopefully last night's game is the beginning of a turnaround: they're 2-3 so far on this road trip, but they have another two games against the Mariners and then three against the A's before the All-Star Break.

As long as I hold off on buying any more player t-shirts, I think they have a good chance of ending the West Coast trip on a positive note.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

West Coast takes its toll

Before last night's loss, the Red Sox hadn't lost three games in a row since May 11-14th against the Blue Jays and Rays. The beginning of May was rough on the Sox, as they lost three in a row three separate times in a span of just over two weeks, but the beginning of July isn't shaping up too well, either.

Since making it over to the West Coast, the Red Sox have just one win in four games, and they're playing like they hate the time change as much as I do. The first loss was credited to Craig Breslow, but we all know that the big loser was Andrew Miller, who hurt himself and will be out for the rest of the season.

John Lackey actually pitched very well on Sunday, allowing just two runs in seven innings. Unfortunately, he was charged with a loss because his teammates couldn't get anything done against Angels starter (and Lackey's former teammate) Jered Weaver. Last night was a toss up from the get-go, as Jon Lester has been less than impressive lately, and the Mariners had King Felix Hernandez on the mound.

So who do we look to in order to stop this skid? None other than Allen Webster, the rookie righthander who earned his very first win just last week. It's a tall order, especially since the Mariners will trot out Hisashi Iwakuma, who has seven wins this season to go with a sparkling 2.60 ERA. But the Red Sox bats are due for some firepower after being silenced pretty effectively the past few days. I have faith in Webster, even if I might not have the energy to stay up and watch his entire start. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Error GIF > error message

If you type an incorrect URL within the domain, you get an error message, just like any other website. What's different about the MLB messages is that they include GIFs of errors on the field, by players, coaches, and even mascots:

There might be more, but I refreshed for a few minutes and these seven were the only ones that popped up.  I have a couple of Red Sox GIFs in my personal collection, and I'd like to suggest that MLB add these to the rotation:

Kelly Shoppach's failed slide.

Daniel Nava after completely losing a fly ball.

Dustin Pedroia reacts to being hit by a pitch.

And Salty totally incapacitated by laughter during photo day.

Are there any memorable errors you'd like to see immortalized in GIF form on the redirect page?

Solid All-Star selections from fans

Typically I'm pretty dubious about fan voting for the MLB All-Star Game. It tends to skew the roster toward players from big-market teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, and yes, Red Sox, because those teams have legions of fans that they can mobilize to vote. In a true exhibition game, that wouldn't matter as much. Since the players and managers fill out the rosters after the initial fan voting selects the starters, they ensure that all teams are represented.

But because the winner of the All-Star Game determines who gets home field advantage in the World Series, fan selection seems like a big responsibility, and we've certainly made some questionable selections in years past. I was somewhat apprehensive about the unveiling of the voting results last night, but I could have saved myself the trouble  because the fans did a pretty solid job all around - while there were a few minor snubs, there wasn't anything egregious.

The National League starting infielders are Yadier Molina (C) of the Rockies, Joey Votto (1B) of the Reds, Brandon Phillips (2B) of the Reds, David Wright (3B) of the Mets, and Troy Tulowitzki (SS) of the Rockies, and the outfielders are Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals, Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, and Bryce Harper of the Nationals. There's some controversy over Harper's selection, as the young sensation has missed significant time this season with a knee injury, but I don't think the selection is unreasonable.

On the American League side of things, the infield will include Joe Mauer (C) of the Twins, Chirs Davis (1B) of the Orioles, Robinson Cano (2B) of the Yankees, Miguel Cabrera (3B) of the Tigers, and JJ Hardy (SS) of the Orioles. Starting AL outfielders will be Adam Jones of the Orioles, Mike Trout of the Angels, and Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, while Boston's own David Ortiz will be the starting DH. I don't really have any qualms with this, though I would obviously love to see Dustin Pedroia get the nod (he will be at the game as a reserve, so I'll have to settle for that).

The managers of the two teams, Jim Leyland for the AL, and Bruce Bochy for the NL, along with player votes, fill in the reserves and the pitchers - with the exception of one player on each roster. The Final Vote started yesterday, and will continue until Thursday, where fans can choose the last player for each league from a list of five. Interestingly enough, all five options for the American League are relief pitchers, and all five from the National League are field players. The AL vote will probably come down to Red Sox closer Koji Uehara and Yankees reliever David robertson, while Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig is heavily favored to win the NL's final roster spot.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Rotation keeps rolling

The last time a Red Sox starter didn't turn in a quality start was about a week ago, on June 30th; the team still managed to come away with a win, but starter Ryan Dempster earned a no decision. Since Dempster's last turn in the rotation, all four of his peers have managed to record quality starts (at least six innings pitched and no more than three earned runs allowed), and all but the unlucky Jon Lester also saw their efforts rewarded with a win. 

John Lackey started the run of excellence with a truly outstanding start against the Padres on Tuesday, tossing eight innings and allowing just one run. The next day, Lester pitched seven innings, allowing just a single run, but taking a no-decision. Allen Webster completed the sweep of the Padres on Thursday with six innings pitched, two earned runs allowed, and his first major league win.

Yesterday's game saw Felix Doubront make it through 6.2 innings and give up two earned runs in a win to kick off the ten-day West Coast road trip.  Dempster will look to continue this run of spectacular performances tonight as he faces off against Angels starter Jerome Williams. The usual Angels suspects are those who have fared the best against Dempster in their careers: Albert Pujols is 21-for-60 with eight home runs, Mike Trout is 4-for-10 with one home run, and, interestingly enough, Mark Trumbo is 5-for-10 with a home run.

But Dempster should be able to depend on his teammates, as those who have faced Williams in the past have done pretty well for themselves: Mike Napoli is 6-for-14 with two home runs, Mike Carp is 3-for-10 with no homers but four RBIs, and David Ortiz is 3-for-5 with two home runs. However, I'd hazard a guess that Big Papi might not see too many pitches to hit after his towering homer off of Dane De La Rosa last night clinched the win for the Sox.

It's not as if Dempster's last start was anything to be ashamed off, as he was just two outs shy of a quality start when he was pulled for Craig Breslow, but his teammates have all managed to show him up since then. Obviously Dempster's the kind of player who shows up determined to win, regardless of what his teammates have been up to - but it never hurts to have a little extra motivation.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Preparing for sleep deprivation

I hate Red Sox West Coast road trips. Like, I really, seriously LOATHE West Coast road trips. I'm one of those people who's really finicky about my sleep schedule, to the point that I'll ditch my friends to go home and sleep. But as you all know by now, I'm also extremely serious about the Red Sox, and I'm willing to sacrifice a consistent sleep schedule for a few days to watch them play.

That being said, I'm pretty happy that there are two afternoon starts during this particular trip, as well as Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, meaning that the game will start at 8pm this Sunday. If ESPN didn't have this Sunday's game, we'd get a third afternoon start, so in addition to suffering through the inanity of non-NESN play-by-play, we have to do it until around 11pm.

The Red Sox will have Felix Doubront starting for them tonight against Angels lefty C.J. Wilson. Though Doubront's ERA is nearly a run higher than Wilson's, I have confidence that he can begin the road trip on a high note for the Sox. The Red Sox bats have been on a roll lately, and they made quick work of Wilson the last time they faced him, so Doubront should have enough run support to earn the win... around 1am tomorrow.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

With West Coast trip looming, Sox earn another win

The Red Sox completed a three game sweep of the San Diego Padres with an 8-2 win at Fenway Park this afternoon. Rookie Allen Webster earned his first career win with a quality start, six innings pitched with just two runs allowed on a hot and humid Independence Day in Boston.

Webster had some serious run support from all over the lineup: leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury scored three times (once on his third home run of the season), Mike Napoli scored twice, and Shane Victorino, Brandon Snyder, and number nine batter Jose Iglesias scored once each, Snyder on his first homer of the season.

The Red Sox are kicking off a ten-game West Coast road trip tomorrow in Anaheim, where they'll play three games against the Angels, then heading to Seattle for four against the Mariners, and finishing up their tour with three games in Oakland before returning to the East Coast for the All-Star Break. Both the Angels and the Mariners are playing below .500, while the A's are in first place and currently claim a 50-36 record. Doubtless all three teams have better records than they would if the Astros hadn't been moved into their division.

Even so, it's important that the Sox maintain their winning ways while we struggle to stay awake during the seven of ten games that will end past 1am on the East Coast. John Farrell emphasized the importance of this road trip after today's victory, and with John Lackey dealing, Jon Lester seemingly back on track, and rookies stepping up, I'd say the Sox are likely to maintain their momentum heading into the All-Star Break.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Manny's back stateside, hilarity sure to ensue

The Texas Rangers have signed former Red Sox and Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract, and he'll start with the AAA Round Rock in central Texas tomorrow. Ramirez has spent the last few months playing for the EDA Rhinos of China's Professional Baseball League in Taiwan, making a tiny fraction of what he became accustomed to in the majors.

Manny reports that he's unconcerned with money, and that he's even planning to give his minimum salary to charity, a lackadaisical approach that fits with his persona. Throughout his successful (and apparently artificially enhanced) major league career, Manny has been something of an enigma: he was the proud owner of the league's highest salary for a time, yet always played with the reckless abandon of a little leaguer (perhaps a little leaguer with ADHD?).

Like the time he cut off Johnny Damon's throw from center field...? We never did get an explanation for that.

It was clear by the end of his tenure in Boston that the city was finally tired of putting up with Manny's antics, from often questionable defense to phantom injuries that only seemed to crop up when he was annoyed with someone. When the Dodgers took him off our hands, it seemed like a good deal for everyone - Boston got rid of an expensive and troublesome fielder, and LA had the fun-loving celebrity type their fans love so much.

Even the steroids allegations and suspensions weren't terribly surprising. Certainly we were disappointed, but nothing's unbelievable when it comes to Manny Ramirez. I mean, have you ever checked out his official website? It's difficult to describe, but quintessentially Manny.

The Red Sox have already wrapped up the season series with the Rangers, so even if Manny gets called up, he won't be making any Fenway Park appearances this season, barring a Texas/Boston playoff matchup. However, I'll still be keeping an eye on him, because if nothing else, Manny always generates controversy, entertainment, and hilarity everywhere he pops up, and it makes baseball extra fun to watch - especially since he's no longer causing friction on my team.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sox top Padres

I missed the first eight and a half innings of tonight's game because I was in class: graduate school started yesterday and we've hit the ground running. Of course, I surreptitiously monitored the progress of the Red Sox as consistently as possible, and was thrilled every time I checked in by the excellent start from John Lackey.

You can't script it any better than this: the starter goes eight strong innings, allowing just a one run on six hits and a single base on balls. Lackey had excellent control tonight, striking out six Padres in his eight innings before giving way to closer Koji Uehara for the ninth. Uehara nailed down the win for Lackey with a clean inning, facing the minimum number of batters and returning to the dugout in victory soon after he took the mound.

As much as I'm enjoying my classes so far, I'm looking forward to tomorrow - no night class means I can watch the Sox from beginning to end.

Monday, July 1, 2013

David Ortiz: Ultimate DH

Unsurprisingly, David Ortiz is currently the leading vote-getter for the designated hitter position for the 2013 All-Star Game. Ortiz has played in every All-Star Game since 2004 (winning the Home Run Derby in 2010), with the exception of 2009 when he didn't hit his first home run of the season until May 22nd - he managed to hit 28 homers that season, but most of them came in the second half.

That season aside, it's no secret that David Ortiz is one of the greatest designated hitters to ever play the position, especially since so few players really make a career of it. For many teams the DH spot is a great place to stick your aging players to lengthen their careers, and a convenient way for those recovering from injury to ease back into playing every day - but not for the Red Sox, not since Big Papi came onto the scene in 2003.

Of course, 2004 was the year that David Ortiz earned that nickname and his legendary status, "The Greatest Clutch Hitter in the History of the Boston Red Sox," and neither he nor the Red Sox have looked back. Even Sports Illustrated recognizes Ortiz's special status in a special postion: in their June 24th issue, they ran an excellent article entitled "In Praise [Ducking] of the DH," (paywall at the link) and though it was largely the story of the first DH, Ron Blomberg, the cover photo is a collage of notable designated hitters.

It's no mistake that Ortiz is the central and largest player in that group, despite playing forty years after the first DH stepped into the batter's box. Big Papi is portrayed even slightly larger than Edgar Martinez, a man so talented at the position that the Outstanding Designated Hitter trophy was renamed after him. There aren't many people you want to see at the plate more than David Ortiz with the game on the line, and his prowess is so renowned that the phrase "designated hitter" is basically synonymous with one man: he's leading the All-Star Game voting for the AL DH by a large margin, and will likely be starting in New York next month.