Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The big doings of late in Red Sox Nation have concerned the Coco Crisp trade. Over the weekend the Sox traded third base prospect Andy Marte (who came from the Braves in the Edgar Renteria trade), reliever Guillermo Mota (who came over in the Beckett trade), catcher Kelly Shoppach, some cash and a player to be named to the Indians for outfielder Coco Crisp, reliever David Riske and catcher Josh Bard.

This is a good trade for the Sox, largely because the acquisition of Crisp fills the huge hole left in center field by the departure of Johnny Damon. While Marte is considered a top prospect, the Sox don't have a current need at third base (of course, if Mike Lowell doesn't regain his form we may be singing a different tune by July). Crisp is already a proven Major League outfielder and based on reports should be able to handle the scrutiny of playing in Boston. Mota and Riske are pretty much a wash, as is Shoppach and Bard. As long as the player to be named is a secondary prospect, that shouldn't be an issue. Given that the Sox have already sold more than 2.1 million tickets (about 75% of Fenway's capacity) more than two months before Opening Day, cash shouldn't be much of an issue either.

Ah, yes, tickets. We tried to get some tickets for the season over the weekend, as tickets for the bulk of the games went on sale. Other than the fact that The Hey managed to get a couple of seats for Opening Day (Thanks, Hey!!!!!), we weren't able to get anything decent. It has really become next to impossible to get good seats to a Red Sox game unless you know someone or are willing to pay well above face value to a ticket agent/scalper.

So, I'm not going to sweat it for this year. If we get in through the lottery for some Yankees tickets, or some Green Monster or Right Field seats I'll take those. I'm sure I'll pick up a game or two through work. But if I don't get any other tickets for Fenway this year, I'll just enjoy more games in Pawtucket or Brockton or Lowell or other minor league venues. The tickets and concessions are vastly cheaper, and it's a heck of a lot less hassle getting in and out.

At least that's what I'm saying now. Maybe if I keep repeating it I'll eventually believe it.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

It was twenty years ago today...

...that the space shuttle Challenger was destroyed.

The Challenger accident was the JFK assasination of my generation, in that everyone who is old enough to remember it knows exactly where they were when they heard about it.

I was a junior at Northeastern University at the time. I had just come back from a late morning class and, as I usually did after a class that ended at 11:30, I returned to my apartment to make some lunch and watch the last few minutes of The Price is Right before the Noon news came on.

I turned on the TV, and saw that they were covering the shuttle launch. The first thing that went through my head was that the networks must have been covering it live because Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, was on board. I watched the shuttle sail majestically into the heavens for a few seconds, then suddenly it exploded into a cloud of white vapor.

I stood, thunderstruck, not being able to grasp what I had just seen. I skipped class the rest of the day, and learned that Challenger had been destroyed with all hands; Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ron McNair, Greg Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe.

I could go on for pages about the legacy of the Challenger astronauts, the effect the disaster had on the country and the lessons NASA did (or didn't) learn. For today, however, I honor and remember the courage of these seven astronauts and thank them for their service to our country.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sometimes technology can be a bit annoying.

Our cordless phone died a few days ago. I'm not complaining by any stretch, since we had it for about eight years. Since A. is still laid up for another two weeks and there is no phone jack near the couch where she is spending most of the day, a cordless phone was a necessity. I stopped by Target Tuesday night on my way home from work to pick up a new one.

I hooked it up that evening, and A. starts using it the next afternoon. Then, late Thursday morning she calls me and says that the Airport network is out. I tell her to make sure that the base station is plugged in to the power and the cable modem, but if it wasn't anything obvious I would have to look at it when I got home.

A couple of hours later she calls me back. I ask if the network is behaving itself and she says it's been fine since she talked to me. Then she says that it went out again, as soon as she called me on the phone.

A bell went off in my head at that point. I dimly remembered reading something about certain cordless phones interfering with Wi-Fi networks. A quick check of the Apple support site confirmed it; 2.4 GHz cordless phones can interfere with the network.

I'll have to go back to Target, return the phone, and replace it with a 5.8 GHz model. Not a huge problem, but annoying nonetheless. Shouldn't they put a warning label on those things?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Meet the new GM, same as the old GM.

The Sox announced that Theo is back in his old job yesterday. The Sox put out a very long press release explaining that they overcame the philisophical differences that caused Theo to leave in the first place, without explaining exactly what the differences were or what changed since Theo walked off the job in his gorilla suit on Halloween.

So here's my guess. The Red Sox have shown a tendency over the last few years to favor trading young talent for established veterans and signing free agents over giving kids from the farm system a chance. My feeling is that Theo wanted to change that philosophy, while Larry Lucchino wanted to continue the veteran route. I think Larry sees keeping the Sox competitive and the ballpark full key to the Red Sox other business plans for the Fenway area.

I think Theo eventually wants to turn the Red Sox into a team like the Braves or A's that constantly restocks through the farm system. He knows he can't do that if he has to keep trading away the cream of the farm system in order to fill short term needs.

Think about the last two Red Sox pennant winners before 2004. The 1975 team was loaded with guys who came up through the farm system: Carlton Fisk, Yaz, Rick Burleson, Rico Petrocelli, Cecil Cooper, Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans. They filled in on the pitching staff with players acquired from other teams (Luis Tiant, Rick Wise, Jim Willoughby and others) and a few veterans like Bernie Carbo and Denny Doyle, but the core of the lineup were Red Sox farm system products.

Likewise, the 1986 team was loaded with guys brought up through the system. Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst, Oil Can Boyd and Bob Stanley anchored the pitching staff. The lineup included guys like Rich Gedman, Marty Barrett, Wade Boggs, Evans and Rice.

By contrast, there were very few significant players on the 2004 Sox that were Red Sox products. Once Nomar was traded, the only guy who came through the system in the Sox lineup was Trot Nixon.

I think Theo wants to get back to the internal development philosophy, especially now that he thinks he's got the players in the farm system to support it. I think a large part of the discussions over the last couple of months were to get a consistent philosophy in place for how the organization is going to utilize these resources in the future.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I decided recently that it is entirely possible that I know too much baseball trivia.

A few nights ago I was at our local pizza place. The guy working the counter had on a Red Sox Green Monster T-shirt, that showed a picture of the Wall. Under the picture the shirt said "Since 1912".

I immediately thought, "That shirt is wrong."

I knew, of course, that although Fenway Park was built in 1912, the Green Monster as we know it today wasn't built until Tom Yawkey renovated the park in 1934. Prior to that, a tall wooden left field fence backed up Duffy's Cliff, an incline that inspired the hill in Minute Maid Park's center field. And the Monster wasn't even painted green until 1947, when the advertisements were removed.

All this went through my head in a few seconds. Then I thought, "Maybe I need to get a life."


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Is it possible to be surprised and not surprised at the same time?

That was pretty much my feeling when I heard on the radio tonight that Theo Epstein was returning to the Red Sox. I was surprised because I wasn't expecting the timing of the announcement, but not surprised because I thought the announcement itself was inevitable.

It wasn't even really much of an announcement. The Sox simply said that Theo will return to the Red Sox in a full-time baseball operations capacity, details of which will be announced next week.

So is he coming back as the GM? Do Ben and Jed get demoted? Does he come back in some way that puts him between Cherington and Hoyer and Larry Lucchino? Does he report to Lucchino at all, or directly to John Henry?

All questions that I suppose will be answered next week. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Quick update... A. had her last set of X-rays today and everything looked good. Surgery is not going to be necessary and the cast comes off three weeks from tomorrow! Needless to say we're all relieved, and the end of this doesn't look quite so far away.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A couple of quick notes on the end of the Patriots season in Denver.

The obvious point of the game is that the Pats did it to themselves. You can't turn the ball over five times to a team like Denver and expect to win. The Pats pretty much outplayed Denver in every other facet of the game, but the turnovers killed them.

On the bright side, maybe the play of the year was Benjamin Watson's tackle of Champ Bailey on the 1-yard-line. Bailey had intercepted a Tom Brady pass in the Pats' end zone and ran it back 100 yards. He looked like he was home free until Watson came out of nowhere and just leveled him. It was an amazing play - just the fact that Watson didn't quit and got Bailey before he got into the end zone was an example of a never say die attitude that a lot of New England fans will never forget.

Here's my rant of the day. As you probably know, the Indianapolis Colts were eliminated from the playoffs yesterday by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Colts had a chance to tie the game with 21 seconds left, but kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed a 46 yard field goal and the Steelers went on to the AFC Championship game.

That's not what got me going, though. Read the following quote, from today's Boston Globe

Vanderjagt slammed his helmet to the turf. ''It's extreme disbelief," he said. ''From the Polamalu interception reversal to Jerome's fumble, everything seemed to be lined up in our favor. I guess the Lord forgot about the football team."

Now I have written about this before, but this quote just got me going again. Guess what, Mike? I find it very unlikely that the Lord had much of a rooting interest in the game. I find it highly offensive when athletes give God credit for a win or, in this case, blame Him for a loss. What reason would He have for picking one team over another? Why not be a man and say that you screwed up and missed the kick instead of trying to blame it on some higher power?

I didn't like the fact that Peyton Manning threw his offensive line under the bus either. You would never see Tom Brady do that, even if the line deserved the criticism.

I suppose these kind of attitudes are why Brady and Adam Vinatieri have three Super Bowl rings at home, and Manning and Vanderjagt have only seen the game on TV.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I thought I'd give a little medical update. It's been exactly two weeks since A. injured herself. Everything seems to be going well. We have another appointment with the orthopedist on Wednesday, and if the X-rays show no change we'll be out of the woods as far as surgery is concerned.

And I'm worn out. It's the busiest time of year at work, and I have been working late every night, plus the last two Saturdays. Then I come home to take care of the kids and A. The only good news is that I should be done with the Saturday work for now, and I may be able to get back to working until 6 instead of 7. Nothing else to do but suck it up and get through it, though.

I'm writing this as I'm watching the Pats-Broncos playoff game. It's been quite a defensive struggle, with New England up 3-0 with less than three minutes left.

I took the kids to see The Chronicles of Narnia today. I enjoyed it quite a bit and J. was absolutely glued. I can always tell when he's really enjoying a movie if he's not bouncing around like a pinball at the theater. I never read the Narnia books, so I don't know how the movies compare, but I thought it was 2 and 1/2 hours well spent.

I know I still need to post a trip report for Florida but, needless to say, things have been a little busy lately. Hopefully I'll get it done next week, before I start forgetting the details.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

One more note on the Hall of Fame voting. I was looking at the results and I noticed that one person voted for Walt Weiss, the shortstop who played for the Marlins, Rockies and Braves but was best known for his years with the great Oakland teams of the late '80s and early '90s.

Now Weiss was a nice player, but does his mother have a Hall of Fame vote? Because she's the only one who could have voted for him.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I was disappointed to hear that Jim Rice was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today. Rice was named on nearly 65% of the ballots, but fell 53 votes short of the 75% he needed to get in. Bruce Sutter was the only player to be elected to the Hall.

Rice was the greatest Red Sox player of my formative years growing up watching the team. In fact, one of my first vivid baseball memories is seeing Rice hit a home run at McCoy Stadium in 1974 when he was with the Pawsox.

Sentimental reasons aside, Jim Ed meets my criteria for being a Hall of Famer. He was a dominant player at his position for a long period of time. I define a dominant player as one who is at or near the top of the league in key statistical categories for an extended period; makes multiple All-Star Teams and is regularly considered for major post-season awards.

Rice meets all these criteria. He led the league in home runs three times and RBI twice. He made the All-Star team eight times. He was in the top 5 in MVP balloting six times, winning in 1978.

Tony Perez, by contrast, never won an MVP award and only finished in the top 5 once. He never led the league in any major statistical category. He did, however, play much longer (23 years to Rice's 16), and longevity seems to count for quite a bit in the Hall of Fame voting. Perez (who was a very good player, don't get me wrong) is in the Hall while Rice isn't.

Rice has three more shots to get in, but it's going to be tough for him to get another 50 or so votes. In any event, the Red Sox should do the right thing and retire Rice's number.

On another topic, Apple announced the first Intel powered Macs today, with a new iMac and the MacBook, which will eventually replace the Powerbook line. Naturally, Apple had a clever tagline to go along with the release: "What's an Intel chip doing in a Mac? A whole lot more than it's ever done in a PC."

Friday, January 06, 2006

I almost got terminated at work today.

OK, that's a little dramatic. It's actually a pretty funny story.

This morning I had to talk to a woman in the facilities department about a problem one of my group was having with his building access card. So I got the issue straightened out and went on with my day.

About an hour later the facilities woman called back. She said that she had received a termination notice for me! She knew it couldn't be right, since the notice had been dated yesterday, and she had just talked to me that morning. I asked her what I needed to do, and she said that my boss would have to call the Help Desk and get it straightened out.

So I went into my bosses office and said, "Is there anything you're not telling me?" I explained the situation and he called to find out what was going on.

What happened was that a we had sent in a termination form for a contractor that had left us, and the person who input the form got my name (which was on the form as the manager) mixed up with the contractors. So instead of terminating her, they terminated me. It was actually lucky I talked to facilities, or I probably wouldn't have found out until my building pass was deactivated or they came to take my phone and computer or something.

So I'm still gainfully employed, and I got a lot of mileage out of the story today.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Quick update: A. saw the orthopedist on Tuesday and they put her in a cast and said she has to stay off her feet for six weeks. We have one of the babysitters we use come in a couple of days a week to make dinner for the kids and do some stuff around the house, which is a huge help. Friends and family are chipping in with getting the kids to some of their activities and some people are going to bring us some meals, for which we are very grateful.

Work is crazy too with year end, which isn't helping matters. There's nothing else to do other than to suck it up and get through the next five+ weeks.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Well, I guess 2005 had one last shot to take at us.

We were on our way to a New Year's party at a friend's house last night and we were getting into the car. A. was carrying a tray of food and stepped onto the grass, where there was still some ice and snow left from the snowstorms earlier in the month. She went down and we ended up spending the evening at the Metrowest Medical Center emergency room.

It turns out she has a fractured fibula. We go Tuesday to see an orthopedist, get a cast and see how long she is going to have to stay off it. She can get around a bit on crutches, but it's not easy.

Add to that the fact that January is by far the busiest month of the year at work and it's shaping up to be a really interesting few weeks for yours truly. I'm sure we'll get though it, but it's not going to be easy.

On another, totally unrelated note, I was watching the last regular season Patriots game of the year, which the Pats lost to the Dolphins 28-26. The Patriots starters were pretty much out of the game by the end of the first quarter (if they even played at all), while the Dolphins played their first string the rest of the way. During the game the announcers kept talking about how the Dolphins wanted to win the game to send a "message" to the Patriots.

What message was that? That the Dolphins starters can barely beat the Pats benchwarmers? That Matt Cassell, who wasn't even the starter at USC, beat them for two touchdowns? If I were the Dolphins, the only message I would have taken out of that game is that they still have a long way to go before they can play with the Patriots.

A Florida trip report is coming, but I'll leave you with a picture that, if nothing else, raises my spirits a bit.

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