Thursday, October 31, 2013


In this episode:

  • We gleefully recap our favorite World Series moments
  • Matt and Max laugh at my happy tears
  • We talk parade plans
Feel free to download, share, and comment!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Pinnacle of the John Lackey Redemption Tour

This is it. The Red Sox will take the field in just about seven hours with a chance to win a World Series Championship at Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years.

It's also the very pinnacle of the John Lackey Redemption Tour. You all know the drill: Lackey was reviled by fans even before he disappeared for the disastrous 2012 campaign, and this year has been one for the ages for him.

Sure, his win-loss record is less than glamorous, but he also got almost no run support all season. Even as fans have come around (though there are a significant number of hold-outs, for some understandable reasons), Lackey's teammates have chimed in with their perspective: Lackey is the consummate teammate.

Lackey certainly is no stranger to big moments: sure, his last chance at clinching a World Series was eleven years ago, but he made it happen. He came in on Monday in the eighth inning and completed the bridge to Koji Uehara, on a day when he was only scheduled for a side session.

Lackey's home-away splits are striking, and the numbers bode well for a history-making start tonight. I can't wait.

Monday, October 28, 2013

We love the Red Sox... but they love each other more

GIF via Surviving Grady
One of the things Red Sox fans are most famous for is our undeniable (and at times a little creepy) level of devotion to the team. We've all been guilty of letting our fandom get the best of us; indeed, last night on twitter there were several implied offers of sexual favors for the heroes of Game 4... and while most of those were from straight women (maybe including me), that wasn't the case across the board.

But not so fast, Red Sox Nation. If you, like me, want to kiss the glorious beards of our local nine in gratitude, you'll have to get in line, because David Ross has beaten you to the punch.

Ross is just paying it forward: Mike Napoli planted one on the backup catcher during Game 6 of the ALCS, in celebration of Shane Victorino's grand slam.

It's hardly a secret that professional athletes often express their affection for teammates in physical ways. Between good luck butt pats, thanks-for-the-touchdown hugs, and handshakes that are more elaborate than wedding vows, professional sports can be just as homoerotic as your average episode of Glee.

But it's more than business as usual for the 2013 Red Sox. Their love for one another shines through on the bleakest of days - and when they win... well, they take "bromoerotic" to a whole new level.

"It's the pitching, stupid."

For all the shenanigans that went on last night, from the successful Big Papi pep talk to the game-ending pickoff of Kolten Wong, it would be easy to forget the most important piece of the victory. To paraphrase former President Bill Clinton, "It's the pitching, stupid."

The storyline coming into the game was all Clay Buchholz all the time. Buchholz had infamously declared that he thought he had "one more start" in him, and the internet went absolutely wild with speculation over his velocity and effectiveness before he ever took the mound.

Once he made it out onto the field, all the doom and gloom predictors took one look at the radar gun as confirmation of their worst fears. Buchholz hit 90 mph just a handful of times, but he allowed only a single run (unearned) in four full innings. As John Farrell said, "he gave us everything he could."

After Buchholz left, Felix Doubront came in, pitched 2.2 scoreless innings, and earned the win. Many of us scratched our heads when Farrell pulled Doubront in favor of Craig Breslow - the biggest error of the night, as it turned out, because Breslow immediately allowed an inherited runner to score.

But then Junichi Tazawa came in and put out the fire, allowing the Red Sox to escape the seventh inning with their lead intact.

Game 6 starter John Lackey came in for the eighth inning, faced four batters, and held the lead for Koji Uehara, who picked off Wong to end the game.

It was a true team effort, and I want to make sure none of these contributions get overlooked. Buchholz's gutsy start fell far short of his regular season standard, but he battled harder than any starter I've seen this postseason.

John Lackey was on his side day, so his pitching an inning won't effect his ability to start on Wednesday - but the difference between throwing a side session in the bullpen and a meaningful eight inning in a World Series game cannot be overstated. Though it's been nine years since Lackey threw a pitch in relief (to David Ross, of all people), he handled it like the professional he is.

Doubront was fantastic, Tazawa reliable - and of course, Koji Uehara was excellent.

After a night where Jonny Gomes was the main story, there wouldn't be a story at all without the combined efforts of Buchholz, Doubront, Lackey, Tazawa, and Uehara. It was the pitching, stupid.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Napoli sits under National League rules

Tonight, the Red Sox will take the field in St. Louis. In the absence of a designated hitter spot, starting pitchers must come to the plate - and while pitchers are, as a rule, not good at hitting, this is a particular challenge for American League pitchers, because they almost never get to practice in game situations.

In this year's World Series, the Red Sox need to endure just three games with these rules, but in addition to worrying about how their pitchers will fare, they must choose between David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.

On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer: Ortiz is easily among the greatest DHs to ever play the game. His postseason record is legend, and his defense at first base is more than passable. 

However, Napoli is the second hottest hitter for the Red Sox right now, and without some of his truly masterful picks at first, quite a few Stephen Drew highlight-caliber plays don't get completed.

With the Series tied at 1-1, John Farrell is going with David Ortiz for Game 3. With the possible exception of giving the ball to Craig Breslow on Thursday, Farrell's choices have worked out very well for the Red Sox this postseason.

As much as I'll miss Nap's bat and excellent beard in the lineup, the Red Sox need Big Papi tonight. 

Is it 8:07 yet?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

SoxCast in Syracuse: Episode 4

In this episode of SoxCast in Syracuse:

  • I finally get Andy's name right (we've known each other for months, I know I'm terrible)
  • We discuss John Lackey's incredible resurgence
  • Math is hard
Feel free to download, share, and comment!

John Lackey has the ball - and fans' confidence

This time last year, no one could have imagined the scenario Red Sox fans are facing tonight. Not only are the Red Sox up 1-0 in the World Series (a pipe dream all on its own), but John Lackey is starting, and he has the full confidence of Red Sox Nation.

After the fallout from 2011's collapse, John Lackey was basically the poster boy for all the that plagued the Sox. Fans saw him as surly, lazy, and overpaid. The announcement that he would miss all of 2012 for Tommy John surgery was met with jeers rather than sympathy.

This season, he set out to turn his image around, and succeeded with flying colors. Despite the misleading 10-13 record, Lackey's ERA was a solid 3.52, his lowest since coming to Boston, and the third lowest of his eleven-year career. He struck out 161 players, while walking just 40.

If it's possible, he's been even more impressive this postseason, taking Game 2 of the ALDS against David Price and the Rays, and then outdueling Justin Verlander in Game 3 of the ALCS.

Indeed, Lackey's Game 3 start is probably the most underrated performance of the postseason - FOX was too busy drooling over Verlander to note the fact that John Lackey out-pitched him, shutting out that vaunted Tigers lineup for six and two-thirds innings.

Lackey's home-away splits are well documented, and with Clay Buchholz dealing with shoulder tightness, it makes sense for Lackey to start Game 2 tonight.

Via Baseball-Reference
I don't for a second believe the Cardinals will keep playing like they played last night. The Red Sox will have to battle going forward - but Lackey is the guy I want on the mound tonight.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How did the Red Sox become baseball villains?

When the Red Sox clinched their World Series berth last Saturday, there were floods of delirious celebratory tweets, Tumblr posts, and Facebook updates on their respective timelines. Sure, there were the scattered mourning Tigers fans, and the bitter Yankees fans - which is certainly to be expected.

But what I didn't expect to see was a single disdainful tweet, from (of all places) a Chicago Cubs fan. It said something like, "How did we end up with an all-villains World Series? #RedSox #Cards"

Less than a decade ago, Red Sox fans were constantly lumped together with Cubs fans like that one: lovable losers everyone can root for because of the hopelessness of their respective plights.

Red Sox fans and Cubs fans were permanently dejected and cynical. The baseball world would collectively pat us on the back sympathetically, half-jokingly referencing the Curses of the Bambino and the Billy Goat.

Nine years and two World Series wins later, the Red Sox are no longer hard-luck also-rans, and we fans gleefully gave up the "lovable" part to shed the "loser" label for good. Our jubilee at breaking the curse in 2004, and then adding another title in 2007 for good measure, began to grate on fans of less fortunate teams years ago.

None of that is exactly news, but to be termed a "villain," the very term we've so long hurled at our hated Bronx-dwelling division rivals, is hard to swallow.

In a certain way, it's almost delicious to feel the jealousy of other teams' fans, but to call our team "villainous" when it's primarily made up of home-grown talent and journeyman free agents seems unfair. Gone are the days when the Red Sox front office entered a bidding war to sign whatever free agent would cost the most.

Instead, Ben Cherington and co. ignored the Josh Hamilton offseason circus (to the chagrin of some fans who have been mysteriously silent since May) and signed mid-range players like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, and Stephen Drew.

This team overcame preseason expectations to pull together one heck of a 2013 campaign. This is a team that put the entire city of Boston on its back after an unthinkable tragedy, and with a rallying cry of "Boston Strong," proceeded to own the American League. They wear their team spirit on their faces in the form of lumberjack beards - and how can you villainize a lumberjack?

In the end, I suppose it doesn't much matter whether casual baseball fans can get behind us; there will never be another 2004, and there shouldn't be. The 2004 playoff run was something unique, nerve-wracking, and beautiful.

The 2013 playoffs haven't been nearly as terrifying: the Red Sox haven't faced down elimination all year. But 2013 is shaping up to be just as special, albeit in a different way.

After all, I'd rather be a villain in the World Series than a saint playing golf.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Red Sox: Instant Smile

During Game 6 of the ALCS, I tweeted this:

I meant it. For the past two days, every time I've had a setback in class, or someone has cut me off in traffic, or I can't find my keys, I have a magic talisman against frustration and anger.

The Red Sox are going to be playing in the World Series.

I don't know if it's a measure of my devotion, or an actual barometer on the level of insanity in my life, but nothing can tank my mood when the Red Sox are American League Champions.

I won't say it doesn't matter how the World Series ends, because OF COURSE it matters. But I will say that even if the worst happens, it's heartening to know that the worst possible outcome for the Red Sox is better than the best effort of twenty-eight other teams.

That said, I'm picking the Red Sox in six - we'll finally get to see the local nine celebrating a World Championship at Fenway Park.

Friday, October 18, 2013

SoxCast in Syracuse: Episode 3

In today's episode of SoxCast in Syracuse:
  • We welcome Julianne to our cast!
  • Max invades my personal space...
  • We discuss Jose Iglesias' incredible catch, and the Red Sox taking Game 5 to return to Boston up 3-2 in the ALCS.
Feel free to download, share, and comment!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The John Lackey Redemption Tour Rolls On

One of the great ironies of last night's game is that it was nearly business as usual for starting pitcher John Lackey: he pitched a great start, and had the misfortune to be sharing the mound with one of the game's premier hurlers.

Thankfully, last night's game did not include the total dearth of run support Lackey tolerated in the regular season. Sure, the Red Sox scored just a single run, but it was enough as Lackey made it through more than six innings, giving up no runs on four hits and eight strikeouts - with just 97 pitches.

In the past, Lackey's tendency to wear his emotions on his sleeve has gotten him into trouble. He would grimace when his teammates botched a play, and shout when the umpire's call didn't go the way he wanted. Last night was no different in terms of transparent passion, but the context was much more positive.

It was obvious that Lackey didn't want to give up the ball in the seventh inning. It was just as obvious that he sincerely believed in the relievers coming behind him, and that there was no consideration of escaping the dugout for beer or chicken after his departure.

It's taken this miraculous season for most Red Sox fans to really root for John Lackey. Many of us saw him as overpaid and under-motivated, and Red Sox Nation certainly knows how to hold a grudge. But Lackey's teammates never had any such qualms, as the big righthander is often cited as one of the best and most supportive personalities in the clubhouse.

I've never been one of those people who thinks great personality and chemistry is a replacement for talent, and there's no question that the 2013 Red Sox have made it this far because they are excellent baseball players. But bad vibes in the clubhouse can sabotage talented clubs, as selfishness and prioritizing personal goals take over the culture.

There was never any danger of that happening to this team. The two biggest stars on the club, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, are exactly the hardworking personable types you want your young players emulating. The returning players had something to prove, and the new players signed on to a philosophy of team and winning first.

John Lackey, despite his less than impressive W-L record, has been part of that cultural shift. Last night, John Lackey outdueled Justin Verlander, and earned the win in Game 3 of the ALCS. You can bet he'll readily credit his teammates for grinding out at-bats and holding the lead upon his departure, just as surely as they would point to him for an incredible pitching performance.

Monday, October 14, 2013

SoxCast in Syracuse: Episode 2

This week on SoxCast in Syracuse:

  • We discuss the ALCS so far, and predict the rest of the series
  • We make fun of Max for falling asleep during Game 2
  • Five adults crowd into a 4'X5' room
Feel free to comment with suggestions for the future!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Red Sox have more fun than your team

  • Ryan Dempster described Junichi Tazawa’s locker as “a warehouse to a Costco.”
  • Clay Buchholz does NOT want to share an ice bath with Josh Beckett.
  • Will Middlebrooks says Mike Napoli (sunbathing on the pitchers mound) spends the most time looking in the mirror.
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia says he kissed Skip Schumaker’s wife.
  • Jake Peavy would sing “My Heart Will Go On” with Celine Dion at her concert
  • Jonny Gomes really wants to take a cross country roadtrip with Peavy, and Peavy was like, “Aiight.”
  • Peavy bought the Indian Chief statue from a cigar shop in San Francisco.
  • Peavy has vowed that the entire team will take a cross country roadtrip on a duckboat if the Red Sox win the World Series, and the Indian Chief statue is going to drive, and they’ll stop in Vegas to see Celine Dion.
  • David Ross has purchased “feminine products” for his wife, and found the experience embarrassing.
  • Jonny Gomes on Mike Napoli’s celebration antics: “If you had that body, why would you wear a shirt?” Gomes suggested Napoli play all nine innings shirtless.
  • Gomes offered Kevin Millar a job as his “man-nanny.”
  • Millar then invited Gomes to a “sleepover” at his hotel.
  • This team shares a beard brush.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cause of death: Boston Red Sox

Though I'm still in my early twenties, I have sort of a macabre imagination; during last night's stress-fest, I spent some time thinking about my own eventual death. Certainly not a normal thought process during such an exciting event, but bear with me.

With my heart racing and my hands shaking through nine innings, all I could think about were the inevitable words that will be found on my eventual death certificate: "Cause of death: Red Sox."

As a Red Sox fan born in 1990, I haven't endured nearly the anguish that my elders have - there's no way that all those years of heartache did their longevity any favors, either. But like Alfred Tennyson's famous poem teaches us, "Tis better to have loved and lost/ Than never to have loved at all."

I'd rather lose ten years off my life because of Red Sox induced stress (and the occasional Fenway Frank - those aren't doing us any favors), than live to be two hundred years old and never experience the euphoria of Red Sox playoff wins.

Because being a Red Sox fan is like being part of an enormous, neurotic family. Before Red Sox Nation was a cash cow for the owners, it was a phrase that described the most dedicated, self-aggrandizing, self-flagellating fans in baseball. It was a phrase that summed up a fanbase centered in Boston, but strong throughout New England, the United States, and the world.

As cliche as it might be, I feel instant kinship with anyone I see wearing Red Sox paraphernalia. I don't often strike up conversations with strangers, but Red Sox fans are a notable exception - it really is like having a huge extended family. And if I have to sacrifice years of my life to baseball-related stress, there's no other group of people I'd rather agonize with than my fellow Sox fans.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Koji Time

At the beginning of the season, I had Joel Hanrahan on my fantasy team. I had high hopes for Hanrahan, but even when he went down, I wasn't worried about the closer situation. If you're guessing I added Andrew Bailey to my fantasy team, you'd be correct - but I also added Koji Uehara.

It's goes without saying that my best add was certainly the last one, as we all know about Uehara's incredible numbers since taking over the ninth inning.

Uehara's brilliance hasn't gone unnoticed by his teammates either. Fellow pitcher Craig Breslow is blogging over at WEEI for the duration of the playoffs, and here's what he had to say:

But what he’s done is absolutely unbelievable. John Lackey and I were joking, why don’t we just start him and see how long he can go? If it’s three or four innings and 15 to 20 pitches and he gets tired, then we’ll worry about bringing somebody in behind him.

The best perspective on his stuff has got to come from a hitter because the way I see it, his stuff seems very pedestrian. It seems almost like, ‘Huh, maybe I can mess around with a splitter and get a pitch like that.’ Then you see the swings that guys take and you see the results that he’s gotten — not over an inning or two innings but 75 innings. I think collectively we’re all missing something, because the swings that guys take at that pitch are like he’s throwing a wiffleball.

Every time the rest of the Sox pitching staff can hand the ball safely to Koji Uehara at the end of each game, I'm confident in our chances. Gone are the days of heart-attack innings from Jonathan Papelbon circa 2011, or the nightmarishly unpredictable antics of Alfredo Aceves in 2012.

No, 2013 is different. It's Koji time - High Five City.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The man, the legend: Big Papi

I don't know about any of you, but when I heard that last night was David Ortiz's first multi-home run playoff game, I did a double take. This is a player who has put the Red Sox on his back during multiple postseasons spanning a decade.

Big Papi's postseason homers are legendary in Red Sox lore - a storied history already full of larger-than-life characters, and last night he added to that.

Of course, not everyone was thrilled. I'm talking, of course, about Rays starter David Price, who took issue with Ortiz's second home run, or more accurately, with the way Big Papi watched it leave the yard.

I sympathize with Price: we Red Sox fans know what it's like to be swept out of the first round of the playoffs, and that feeling is certainly multiplied when your performance is directly responsible. But it's part of the game: sometimes players are going to show you up, and during the playoffs, everyone's emotions are running extra high.

David Ortiz has not hit his last home run of 2013. But David Price has likely pitched his last game of this postseason - possibly even his last in a Rays uniform.

The Red Sox and Rays will resume the ALDS in the ugliest stadium on the east coast on Monday night.  Clay Buchholz will take on Alex Cobb at the Trop tomorrow: Buchholz will be looking to send the Sox to the ALCS, and Cobb will be desperately trying to ward off elimination for the Rays - again.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

On being a female sports fan:

As a woman and a sports fan, this is literally one of my biggest pet peeves in life: the misogynistic, paternalistic, arrogant, and dismissive ways that women sports fans are treated by many men. And not just men who are sports fans, but any guy off the street, seeing me in my team’s logo, thinks it’s his right to quiz me on stats and player names, in hoping to tric me into revealing that I’m not a TRUE fan, but a bandwagoner only in it for the attractive athletes.
This above photo is a fantastic example. Not that I expect much from CollegeHumor, but this juxtaposition is gross. For starters, they’re trying to decide on the “Best Kind of FOOTBALL Fan,” and they’ve got Jonah Hill’s character from Moneyball as the “Sports Nerd,” which is okay I guess, except MONEYBALL IS A BASEBALL MOVIE.
I also have to seriously wonder if the woman they so patronizingly label as “Princess Bittercup” agreed to have her photo disseminated in this manner? And as for the pink - who cares? I personally don’t own any pink sports attire, but I might buy some just to piss off assholes like whoever wrote that caption. Nobody knows why that woman chose pink: maybe she’s a breast cancer survivor, or maybe she just fucking likes pink (it’s not like the Dolphins’s colors of orange and turquoise are fucking beautiful). No one ever sees a guy in an alternate jersey color (like camo, or black-on-black) and assumes he’s somehow lesser.
I’m tired of having to prove to men that I’m a “real” sports fan, just because of my gender. I’m tired of reading the BOSTON FUCKING GLOBE and seeing columnists refer derisively to “Pink Hats” as a blanket term for bandwagon fans, and having to pretend that it’s not obvious misogyny, a petulant reaction to women invading their boys’ club. But most of all, I’m tired of men thinking that they have ANY RIGHT to judge whether my fandom is legitimate. WHO CARES if I find some players attractive? Guess what? I don’t spend all day lasciviously describing all the things I want to do to them - unlike half the men with whom I watch sports on TV who spend most of the game objectifying the sideline reporter.

[Reposted from my Tumblr blog of the same name.]

ALDS Game 2 Hopes for John Lackey and Co.

[Photo source]
Today is the first ACC football game here at Syracuse University, so of course I'll be there. However, kickoff is at 3:30pm, and Game 2 of the Red Sox/Rays ALDS starts at 5:37pm, so I'll probably leave at halftime to get home in time for my real love in life: baseball.

Yesterday's game was glorious. I won't rehash all of my reactions here (if you want them, check out the premier episode of my new podcast), but I will say that my favorite part of Game 1 was the team-first nature of the victory.

Sure, my favorite player is Dustin Pedroia; anyone who's spent two minutes with me or on this blog could tell you that. Yes, it was awesome that Pedey had the first hit in the Red Sox rally.

But the most incredible thing about yesterday was the most incredible thing about this team: it was truly a collaborative effort. Every Red Sox batter had at least one hit and one run scored. No Red Sox batter had a home run, and all that incredible production was the result of guys getting on base and trusting their compatriots to drive them in.

Jon Lester had an incredible start, and Junichi Tazawa and Ryan Dempster finished the game with barely a hiccup. Fenway aficionado John Lackey takes the mound tonight. The last time Lackey pitched in an ALDS, he took home the win - for the Angels, against Lester in 2009.

Once upon a time, before Tommy John surgery, before the chicken and beer debacle, John Lackey was lauded as a big-game pitcher. The Angels handed him the ball in their biggest moments, and he didn't let them down.

After a tough first few years in Boston, and the beginnings of redemption this season, John Lackey will climb the mound tonight looking to be that big-game guy once again. Earlier this season, I predicted a John Lackey resurgence... hopefully he'll continue to provide evidence for that point of view tonight.

And hopefully his teammates can duplicate some of the offensive fireworks from yesterday against Rays ace David Price. I have a good feeling about tonight.

Friday, October 4, 2013

SoxCast in Syracuse: Episode 1

I've been thinking about doing a Red Sox/baseball podcast for a while, and today I decided to jump right in.

If you feel so inclined, please listen to, download, and/or share episode 1 of Soxcast in Syracuse, the newest endeavor of my friend Max and me.

Let me know what you think!

The last time...

The last time the Red Sox won a playoff game at Fenway Park, Justin Masterson earned the win. The last time the Red Sox won a playoff game at Fenway Park, JD Drew hit a home run. The last time the Red Sox won a playoff game at Fenway Park, they overcame a seven-run deficit by scoring eight runs over the last three innings, beating the Rays 8-7 in Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS.

This year things look different. For one, Justin Masterson's season just ended - in Cleveland - and JD Drew is enjoying his retirement, probably hunting an alligator or something.

For another, the 2008 playoffs began with the Rays as the AL East champs, while the Red Sox were the Wild Card entry. Luckily for us, this was before the introduction of the second Wild Card and the one-game playoff.

In 2008, the Red Sox were looking for their second World Series title in two years, and their third in five years, while the Rays were looking for the first title in franchise history.

This year, the Red Sox are looking for their first World Series title in five years, and the Rays... are still looking for the first title in franchise history.

The ALDS starts this afternoon. A best of five series isn't nearly as terrifying as a one-game playoff, but it's still far from a sure thing, especially with the Rays pitching staff. That being said, I have faith in this team. These guys have proven over and over that they're worth believing in, and I can't wait to have my faith rewarded.