Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Seriously Unserious

Check out this week's installment of Seriously Unserious - featuring Sammy Sosa, Tracy McGrady, Vince Young, Joe Maddon, and more.

Lackey deals in Red Sox win

Photo by Matt West
What a difference a week makes - it hasn't been that long since we were crediting the bullpen with being the most reliable part of the Red Sox pitching staff. But last night the starter led the way, as John Lackey tossed eight innings, scattering six hits, no walks, and giving up just two runs.

Lackey departed with a sizable lead, and Edward Mujica came on for the ninth with a five run cushion - but he couldn't nail it down. Mujica managed to get two outs, but it was messy, as he allowed a leadoff double to James Loney, and a walk to Wil Myers - both of whom scored on a single and a throwing error by Xander Bogaerts.

At that point, John Farrell had apparently seen enough, and called out to the bullpen for Koji Uehara, who was able to close out the game on three pitches, striking out Ben Zobrist. How is it possible that Mujica couldn't pitch a single inning with a five run lead?

Luckily for the Red Sox, they now have the roster they had hoped to start the season with, meaning that the bullpen should have more leads to protect in the upcoming weeks. Hopefully Mujica can straighten himself out, because Uehara is thirty-nine years old, and even his seemingly magic arm needs regular rest.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

North of the border, a roller coaster win for Red Sox

When Clay Buchholz gave up three runs in the bottom of the first inning yesterday at Rogers Centre, all I could think was, Here we go again.

But Buchholz got himself out of the inning - and through six more without giving up another run. It's a testament to Buchholz that he didn't melt down completely, even though it was clear early on that he didn't have his best stuff.

It certainly helped that Buchholz's teammates regained the lead for him in the top of the third, led by a grad slam by the often-frustrating A.J. Pierzynski, and a solo home run by prodigal son Will Middlebrooks.

Interestingly enough, it was only after Buchholz left the game that things got tense. The bullpen has so far been the most reliable part of the Red Sox season, but yesterday was an exception. Junichi Tazawa came in for the eighth inning, and promptly gave up a home run.

Traditionally, Tazawa has not pitched well at Rogers Centre (his ERA in Canada is 9.00 - the second worst of anywhere he's pitched after the 27.00 ERA he put up in the third of an inning he pitched at Dodger Stadium).

After Tazawa gave up his second run, John Farrell called out to the bullpen for Chris Capuano, who managed a strikeout and a walk before being replaced by Koji Uehara. The ever-reliable Uehara got the final out in the eighth, and then closed out the ninth - albeit with the slight hiccup of giving a home run to Jose Bautista.

It was a wild ride from start to finish - but even the ugly wins count. Jon Lester takes the mound tonight against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, giving the Red Sox a chance to sweep the series and get back to .500 on the season.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Red Sox crush Blue Jays

Last night's Red Sox looked like an entirely different team than the one that got demolished by the Yankees on Thursday. Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino are back in action, and their presence helped the offense score eight runs on the hapless Blue Jays.

Jake Peavy pitched seven innings and gave up just a single run, then Chris Capuano and Andrew Miller each pitched a scoreless frame to finish out the contest.

Every Red Sox batter had at least one hit - and the seemingly hopeless A.J. Pierzynski had three. It was a game that triggered pleasant memories of last season, a fantastic romp through Rogers Centre that was almost enough to wipe away the rotten taste from the loss to the Yankees the night before.

Was yesterday's game the harbinger of things to come? Have the Red Sox turned the corner on their horrible start? The return of Middlebrooks and Victorino certainly won't hurt - and now that we know about secret knuckleballer Mike Carp, things are looking up.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Seriously Unserious

If you need a laugh after last night's travesty of a game (and who doesn't?), check out my newest project, Seriously Unserious for a satirical take on recent sports headlines.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lackey is brilliant in Red Sox win

John Lackey's 2013 postseason brilliance was overshadowed by FOX's lovefest for Justin Verlander - and his brilliance last night is being overshadowed by Michael Pineda's blatant flouting of a rule that basically everybody bends.

But even with the shenanigans going on in the opposing dugout, Lackey was dominant in yesterday's game, holding the Yankees to a single run over eight innings. More impressively, Lackey had eleven strikeouts, no walks, and gave the bullpen some much needed rest.

People scoffed at me when I drafted Lackey for two of my fantasy teams, but I believe I'll have the last laugh. Throughout his career, Lackey has been a workhorse, and since his incredibly successful Tommy John surgery in 2012 he's been extremely solid.

Last season, Lackey suffered from a serious lack of run support, but even though he lost more games than he won, he tossed 189 innings with a 3.52 ERA, and won the clinching game of the World Series. Before last night's game, Lackey hadn't been all that impressive so far this season, but I see great things in the future - last night was just the opening salvo. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In Defense of Jacoby Ellsbury

Even when Jacoby Ellsbury won us all free tacos in 2007, even when he was healthy, I always kept myself from embracing him fully. He certainly helped the Red Sox during his time here, and by all accounts was a good teammate; he even grew a beard during last season's magical run.

But through all that, there was a lingering certainty that Ellsbury's presence in the Red Sox dugout, and in center field at Fenway, was temporary. You don't sign with Scott Boras to take a home town discount.

I understand that fans were upset at Ellsbury's departure. He was a young, talented, home grown player with the kind of speed we rarely get to see in a Red Sox uniform. But unlike certain other beloved players who have defected to the Bronx, Ellsbury never claimed he wouldn't play for the Yankees. Ellsbury never promised to be a Red Sox for life.

Hell, the Red Sox didn't even offer Ellsbury a contract, knowing full well they would have to commit to him for more years and more dollars than they were comfortable with. Sure, Ellsbury has been dynamite for the Yankees for far this season, but not signing him was never about this season.

The Red Sox didn't sign Jacoby Ellsbury because there's no telling what kind of player he will be by the end of his contract. Would you be willing to pay Jacoby Ellsbury $21 million dollars for his age 37 season? Especially considering his lack of durability in his twenties, I'm perfectly content to say goodbye.

I know Red Sox fans are suffering through a pretty bad start, and it's easy to say that keeping Ellsbury would have prevented that. That might even be true, but it's short-sighted - the Red Sox had Ellsbury for most of his prime years, at a reasonable price, and it would not be prudent to pay a premium for the better part of the next decade. (Personally, I'm in the camp that wishes we'd kept Jarrod Saltalamacchia instead of embarking on the A.J. Pierzynski Experiment.)

I haven't been at Fenway yet this season, so I missed Ellsbury's (figuratively) pinstriped Fenway debut. I understand the mixed reaction fans had to him, particularly given his spectacular performance in the absolute thrashing the Red Sox took at the hands of the Yankees.

But what did Red Sox fans want Ellsbury to do? Retire? The Red Sox didn't even offer him a contract (and no, a one-year qualifying offer doesn't count). Sure, it hurts that he went to the Yankees as opposed to literally any other team. But he took the money and security the Yankees offered, and almost anyone out there would do the same.

The truth is, Ellsbury looks like he belongs in a Yankees uniform. The Red Sox were always looser and sillier than would have suited Ellsbury - the Yankees straight-laced style fits his businesslike demeanor much better. 

Obviously, I would prefer he have no more games like last night while playing against the Red Sox, but I won't waste any more time booing him or wringing my hands because he left us. Ellsbury was never a traitor. He's a practical man who made a pragmatic decision, and I won't hold it against him.

Monday, April 21, 2014


When the Red Sox won the World Series last year, it felt like a catharsis for a city (and region) after the horrible events that marred the 2013 Boston Marathon. When we look back on the 2013 World Champions, with their rallying cry of "Boston Strong," they will be inexorably tied to the tragic events of April 15th.

Any Red Sox fan would gladly trade that victory back to have Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, and Sean Collier back with us... but as that wasn't an option, having an entire team, city, and country rallying together was incredibly moving to behold.

With this year's race underway, the city of Boston is once again showing its strength and resilience. We've seen thousands of tributes to the city over the last week, but none of them can come close to meaning what the simple running of this race means.

The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world, and the most prestigious. People from all over the globe come to measure themselves against history, Heartbreak Hill, and one another. They run for many different motivations, but this year is different - for runners, spectators, and displaced Bostonians the world over.

As Boston Globe writer Chad Finn put it last April, "Boston isn't a city, it's a family." Today, that family will run, cheer, and finally cry tears of joy rather than loss.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Enough about the pine tar

I don't want to hear anything else about the pine tar that was (almost definitely) on Michael Pineda's hand last night. John Farrell wasn't concerned enough to alert the umpires, the umpires didn't see anything worth investigating, and that's good enough for me.

Pine tar didn't give up four runs to the Yankees last night. Pine tar didn't stop the Red Sox from hitting once Pineda had left the game. Could the pine tar have helped Pineda's grip, and thus his location? Probably. Is using a foreign substance against the rules? Yes. But let's not pretend Pineda is the only guy who does it.

Our very own Clay Buchholz withstood a media firestorm of his own last year when he dominated with some alleged help from Bullfrog sunscreen. Most managers are loathe to alert the umpires when an opposing pitcher is using some sort of topical assistance, because they know it's likely their guys are doing something similar - and as a former pitching coach, John Farrell has to know the hands of his staff are probably sticky, too.

Pineda's use of pine tar seemed to be particularly blatant - NESN analyst and former Red Sox pitcher Dennis Eckersley called it "outrageous." But everyone seems to agree that the substance on Pineda's throwing hand was gone after the fourth inning - and he didn't start falling apart until the seventh, when he was coming up on 100 pitches.

So maybe the pine tar (or whatever it was) helped Pineda when it was on his hand - but it wasn't the reason the Red Sox lost the game.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Jackie Bradley Jr. Making His Case

In a stunning reversal of last year's dynamics, Jackie Bradley Jr. is having an excellent start to the season after a somewhat disappointing spring training. Ironically, Bradley wasn't even supposed to be on the Opening Day roster, but Shane Victorino tweaked his hamstring and got the flu, so here we are.

In seven games, Bradley has eight hits (including two doubles), with five RBIs - and he's come up with some key defensive plays in that time, too.

No word yet on Victorino's expected return, but if Bradley keeps up the good work, there will be some tough decisions ahead. It's pretty clear that Bradley's making his case to stay, and with Grady Sizemore embarking on a redemption tour of his own, the outfield could be pretty crowded with the return of the Flyin' Hawaiian.

It's a nice problem to have - I'd certainly rather worry where to put all the productive outfielders, rather than panicking over where to find some offensive power.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Confessions of a Lackey fan

I never expected to look forward to John Lackey's starts. I was just as exasperated with Lackey's surliness as any other fan following the great Beer and Chicken Debacle of 2011. Annoyed with Lackey's refusals to own up to his part in the collapse, I was happy to forget he even existed during the horrendous 2012 campaign as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.

And then there was last year. Lackey suffered from a severe lack of run support in 2013, but he still managed to win ten games, lower his ERA by almost three full runs from 2011, and pitch 189.1 innings (though of course if Lackey had his way, he would have pitched the full nine innings every time he took the mound).

It was the Great John Lackey Redemption Tour, and if it hadn't already been successful enough, it ended when Lackey won the clinching game of the 2013 World Series in the friendly confines of Fenway Park. Sure, there were some notable holdouts, but after 2013, most Red Sox fans were ready to get behind John Lackey.

With a strong 2-0 start to 2014 (including a dominating seven inning win last night), Lackey is looking to extend the redemption tour. He's always had a chip on his shoulder, and it certainly seems to be helping every time he takes the mound... I can't wait to see how he tops 2013.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Early season struggles

©Kayla Chadwick 2013
It took the Red Sox getting swept by the Brewers, but I'm officially ready to put the glory of last season behind me. As fun as it's been to bask in the afterglow of 2013 (the ring ceremony was very moving - though the production team in charge of the livestream left something to be desired), it's time to "turn the page," as the Sox are fond of saying.

Red Sox fans my age and younger never suffered through periods of sustained mediocrity; it would be easy for us to be satisfied with three World Series wins in the last decade. But luckily we have the older generation to remind us how to panic when the Sox get swept in the second series of the season.

Though I don't think it's time for hysterics, it's also no time to shrug off the early season doldrums. This team has already matched the longest losing streak of 2013. Obviously, it's exceptionally rare for a team to never lose four straight games - and it's not that I expect that kind of incredible achievement from this year's squad.

But even without that kind of expectation, I am certainly hopeful that the Red Sox will make a serious run at repeating - and they can't do that if they can't score runs when it counts.