Monday, May 29, 2006

Before I get into the weekends events, I have to sound off on Matt Clement. He got smacked around again against the Blue Jays tonight. I didn't have any real expectation of Clement beating Roy Halladay tonight, but Clement was just horrible. 6 runs in 3 and 1/3 innings. I don't know if he's still feeling the effects of the line drive off the leg in his last start or he just sucks, but they have to do something about this guy. Of course, with a nearly $10 million price tag this year, I'm not sure what that would be.

That's the bad news. The good news is that Jermaine Van Buren and Manny Delcarmen pitched 3 and 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and the Red Sox have managed to climb back into the game with home runs by Coco, Manny and the big clutch 3 run home by Varitek to tie the game at 6 in the 8th. A great comeback from a 6 run deficit - we'll see if they can get all the way back and win this one.

We had a great Memorial Day weekend. Other than a Pawsox game, we had nothing scheduled and that made it feel like a real long weekend. Most weekends are filled with Tae Kwon Do, Girl Scouts, swimming, baseball and other assorted events for the kids, but with the holiday pretty much all of that was cancelled. So Saturday we went to see the movie Over the Hedge. It's an animated flick with a bunch of forest animals discovering that the forest they live in has mostly been turned into an upscale subdivision. The animals find out they can get junk food from their new human neighbors and various hijinks ensue. The voice work is great, including William Shatner as a possum. It's a fun movie - nothing groundbreaking but a good way to spend a couple of hours with the kids.

Sunday brought us to our first visit of the season to McCoy Stadium, to see the Pawtucket Red Sox take on the Norfolk Tides. We had the good fortune to see hot Red Sox prospect Jon Lester start for the Pawsox. Lester is pretty impressive - a lefthander who throws a 96 MPH fastball. He wasn't at his sharpest - he had three walks to go along with his three strikeouts, but only gave up one run in 5 and 1/3 innings, doing a nice job of working out of a bases loaded jam in the 4th.

Unfortunately, Lester's replacement, Marc Deschenes wasn't nearly so good. He gave up six runs in his three innings and the Pawsox ended up losing the game 7-5. The offensive star for the Pawsox was DH Jeff Bailey, who was 3 for 4, including a three run homer and a double. He was also robbed of a second home run on a great catch by Tides center fielder Lastings Milledge (what kind of a name is "Lastings", anyways?)

The game was followed by an excellent fireworks display. It's always a pleasure to go to McCoy, even if the results aren't quite what we would like, but we had a good time.

Today consisted of sleeping late and heading up to Salem, MA for the afternoon. After we grabbed some lunch, we checked out the New England Pirate Museum, which turned out to be very cool and very interesting. We also went to the Salem Wax Museum which was, to be honest, pretty lame. Finally, we went over to the Salem Maritime National Historic Site and saw a short film on Salem's history as one of America's trading centers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Afterwards we walked along the docks and saw a recreation of a merchant ship - unfortunately we couldn't go on board, since the last tour of the day had already happened, but it looks like something we'll check out on a return trip. Here's a picture:

Oh yeah, the Sox ended up losing 7-6, as David Riske gave up a run in the 8th.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I have been flipping between the Sox game and the Mets-Marlins game, since Pedro has been pitching for the Mets. Petey pitched well, giving up two runs and striking out 10 in seven innings, but the unheralded Josh Johnson has outpitched him, giving up only one run through his seven innings.

The one thing I couldn't get used to was the relentless shilling to sell tickets during the Marlins broadcast. Such things are, of course, unnecessary here in Boston. Naturally, the Marlins are last in average attendance at 11,453 (thanks to for the stats).

A couple of more interesting attendance stats: the Marlins and Devil Rays combined average home attendance is less than that of 14 other teams. Three teams (Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals) are already over 1 million in attendance three days before Memorial Day. The Red Sox are playing to 100.2% of capacity. Next is the Cubs at 95.4%.

David Wells pitched very well until he got whacked on the knee by a line drive. The initial report is that the imaging showed there was no evidence of serious damage. It's really too bad - Boomer looked pretty good in his first start since coming off the DL. We'll have to wait and see what happens.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The series against the Yankees didn't end as well as it started. Wakefield had a so-so start on Tuesday night, while Jaret Wright (who the Sox usually beat the crap out of) pitched very well. Last night, Randy Johnson pitched poorly yet again, giving up 5 runs in 5 innings. Unfortunately, Matt Clement was even worse, giving up 8 runs in 4 and 1/3. He really lost it after he was hit on the leg by a shot back through the box by Bernie Williams. Y'know, it's nice that Clement tried to stay in, but if you are really hurting and unable to perform, you aren't helping the team by trying to gut it out.

One surprising thing about the game last night was the fact that David Ortiz struck out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th last night. This isn't a criticism of Big Papi - quite the contrary. We have become so used to Ortiz delivering in the clutch that it's a bit of a shock when he doesn't do it. I'm sure Papi will be back with a big hit soon enough.

I'm really starting to feel sorry for the Kansas City Royals. It looked like they were going to break their 12 game losing streak today, taking an 8-5 lead into the 8th against the Detroit Tigers. KC proceeded to give up 3 runs in the 8th and 5 in the 9th to lose 13-8. The Royals are currently 25 games below .500 and 22 games out of first in the AL Central. Keep in mind, we're still almost a week from the end of May.

I have admitted my unfortunate addiction to American Idol here in the past. I was happy to see Taylor Hicks win the contest over California babe Katherine McPhee yesterday. Hicks is a hero to all us prematurely grey men out here. He could do for grey hair what Patrick Stewart did for no hair.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The good, the bad and the ugly of last night's Sox-Yankees matchup:

The Good: The Return of the Ace last night was the best news, as Curt Schilling turned in a vintage performance against the depleted Yankee lineup. Schilling gave up 1 run over eight innings, didn't walk anyone and only threw 99 pitches. Hopefully, this is a return to his form before the 133 pitch outing against Cleveland a few weeks back.

The Bad: Jason Giambi whined to reporters after the game that he needs a night off. Giambi's batting average has declined 60 points since May 10, and he has had no homers and only one RBI. What's the matter? Getting tired without the 'roids to pump you up?

The Ugly: Keith Foulke's outing. He came in for mop-up duty in the 9th and proceeded to give up 4 runs on 5 hits, including home runs to A-Rod and Posada and doubles to Cano and Bernie Williams. There weren't any little bloop hits that just happened to fall in, either. These were ropes hit all over the field. I don't know if there was anything wrong or if Foulke just had an off night, but it was not fun to watch.

One of the reasons I love baseball is that there are always stories that would be considered unbelievable if someone wrote them into a script.. Last night's A's-White Sox game at the poorly named U.S. Cellular Field was a great example. Frank Thomas returned to Chicago for the first time since joining Oakland over the winter and in his first at-bat hits a home run. He then follows that up with a second home run. I love it when stuff like that happens.

Last, but not least, J. felt compelled to join the family medical ward as he managed to break his pinky finger falling off a swing in our backyard yesterday. He's got his pinky and ring fingers immobilized for two weeks, at which point he'll be reevaluated by the orthopedist. I was really hoping we had gotten past all the medical crap we have had to put up with the last 15 months, but it wasn't to be. The only good news is that it is a relatively minor injury, and he won't have any lasting effects. I'm hoping this is really it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Very busy day today. R. had swimming and Girl Scouts and J. had Tae Kwon Do this morning. R. is doing really well in swimming. Instead of the group lessons she had been doing she has been taking a private lesson and she is really improving. Her teacher has been great and has been working on some of the things she needs to do better.

I took J. to Tae Kwon Do and watched as he broke two boards with a kick, breaking them on the first try like they were styrofoam instead of wood. It's pretty amazing to watch.

After that we went to get the minivan washed and vacuum it out. I cleaned out a mountain of pretzel crumbs, goldfish crackers and other assorted snacks. We'll probably get better mileage with all that junk out of the car.

After a stop at home for lunch, we all went to a magic show at the kids school. The magician was called Bonaparte. He was very funny and put on a very entertaining show for both the kids and the adults. I even got a portion of my 15 minutes of fame as I was called up on stage and had to wear a funny hat. A good time was had by all.

Then I had to mow the lawn. It was even more of a chore than usual, since the grass was probably about eight inches high after all the rain we have had the last couple of weeks. I had to empty the grass catcher on the back of my lawnmower seven times - twice is normal.

J. had a baseball game this evening. He played both catcher and pitcher. He caught for an inning and did pretty well, then he came in to pitch when one of the other kids took a bad hop off the nose (he was OK, just shaken up). To end the day, we went to dinner at Kelly's Roast Beef, a branch of the Revere Beach institution.

On the baseball front, Barry Bonds finally hit #714. He hit it off the A's Brad "Admiral" Halsey, who now gets to be the eternal answer to a trivia question. Today's trivia question: Who did Hank Aaron hit #714 off of? (Answer below - no fair Googling it!)

The Mets, and more specifically Billy Wagner, blew a win against the Yankees today. Pedro Martinez had shut out the Empire for seven innings and Wagner was given a 4-0 lead in the 9th. Wagner was very wild and the Yankees managed to tie the game, finally winning it in the 11th. Wagner hasn't been very impressive since joining the Mets, as this was his fourth blown lead of the year.

It's doubly unfortunate that the Yankees came back to win, since the Sox took an 8-4 win out of Philadelphia tonight and could have picked up a game in the standings. The power came from some unlikely sources - Josh Beckett hit the first home run by a Red Sox pitcher since Marty Pattin hit one in September of 1972, the year before the designated hitter came into being. Alex Gonzalez hit a two run bomb to dead center field in the 8th, too.

Trivia answer: Jack Billingham of the Cincinnati Reds.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A few thoughts from around the horn:

- The Sox are 8-0 against the Orioles and 3-1 against the Yankees. That makes them 12-13 against everyone else. Does that vaguely worry anyone?

- Curt Schilling is a bit of a worry as well. He gave up three more home runs against the O's last night and only escaped with a win because the offense and the bullpen picked him up. He claims that his 133 pitch outing against Cleveland a few weeks back has nothing to do with his ineffectiveness, but you have to wonder. Schilling claims that pitch location on 2-strike counts is what is hurting him - he gave up 7 hits with two strikes last night. Let's hope he can turn it around against the Empire in his next start.

- Speaking of the Yankees, they won one of the wildest games in memory over the Texas Rangers last night. The Yankees were down 9-0 early and actually came back to take an 11-10 lead, led by Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. It was tied at 12 going into the 9th. The Rangers got a run against Mariano Rivera to take the lead in the top of the inning, then Posada hit a walk-off, 2 run homer in the bottom of the 9th to win it. I tuned in for the last couple of innings at the Sox game ended and it was a damned exciting game, even though I hated to see the Yankees win.

- The last time the Yankees overcame a 9 run deficit was in 1987 against the Red Sox. The starting pitcher for the Sox that day? None other than Roger Clemens.

- I finally got around to watching Arizona's 6-0 Brandon Webb pitch against the Padres on Tuesday night. Although he wasn't particularly sharp, he is a pretty good looking pitcher. In a weak division like the NL West, having an ace starter like Webb or the Padres Jake Peavy can make a huge difference.

- Bonds is still stuck on 713, and isn't scheduled to play tonight. Perhaps the Tiki are displeased with his pursuit of Aaron and the Babe?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

It was an oddly Red Sox-free May weekend, as rain washed out today's game as well as Saturday's. Friday's game was a rain shortened 6-0 loss against the Texas Rangers. It really poured from about the third inning on - both teams are really lucky that no one was injured in the slippery conditions.

In lieu of my daily dose of Orsillo and the RemDawg, I saw two movies this weekend. Last night A. and I joined our friends Taz and Elliriel to see the Robin Williams comedy RV. It turned out to be really funny - a lot better than I was expecting. We grabbed some dinner after the movie. It was a really nice evening. We hadn't been out with them without kids since before the kids were born. We decided that we'll have to try to do this more often.

Today, of course, was Mothers Day. We had intended to go out for breakfast, but A. decided she would rather sleep late instead. We did Mothers Day gifts in the morning, including some really cute stuff the kids made at school. After Sunday school, we all went to see Ice Age 2, which was also really funny. After that we drove out to Millbury to have dinner at my new favorite burger joint Red Robin. It was a nice family day and we all really enjoyed it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bronson Arroyo gave the Reds the following line tonight against the Nationals: 8 innings, 6 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk and 8 Ks. The Reds bullpen blew the win for him, but his ERA is down to 2.03.

I know that Wily Mo is playing much better now that he's in there regularly, but I still feel like we got the short end of this deal so far.

It's been an interesting series against the Yankees so far. The first game was a 14-3 blowout for the Sox. The Yankees took some revenge last night, as Schilling wasn't sharp. In the rubber match tonight, the Sox just took a 4-3 lead in the 7th, as Bernie Williams and Jeter made errors that led to the runs. It's really raining there now, so if the Sox can get the Empire out in the 7th, we might get a rain shortened win out of this.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Barry Bonds really got savaged over the weekend in Philadelphia, even as he hit home run #713 on Sunday, moving him to within one of Babe Ruth and only 42 away from Hank Aaron. Here are two of my favorite signs:

"Ruth did it on hot dogs and beer. Aaron did it with class. How did YOU do it?"

and from a clever fan in left field:

"Hey Barry. Move your head. We can't see."

Bonds pursuit of Ruth and Aaron leaves me feeling sad more than anything. A serious challenge to the home run record is literally a once in a generation event. It was nearly 40 years between Ruth's retirement in 1935 and Aaron hitting homer 715 in 1974. Now it has been 30 years since Hammerin' Hank retired. It has been that long since anyone seriously challenged the home run record.

The problem is that Bonds pursuit is so tainted by the steroids allegations that I find myself rooting against him. I hope he won't pass Ruth (although that seems futile) and I really don't want him to pass Aaron. I feel cheated that I can't feel some of the excitement I felt when I was watched Aaron hit his record breaking home run on TV when I was 10 years old. Bonds cheating has rendered what should be an exciting and joyful chase into something depressing. If Bonds had done this fairly, the first thing I would be wondering in the morning was whether he had hit a home run the night before. Instead, I find myself not really caring.

What I really want to experience is what I felt in 1998, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris. Of course, now I know they were just as steroid powered as Bonds, but I didn't know it at the time.

One of the big questions that has been raised is whether race is a part of all this. It would be naive to think that there is no one actively rooting against Bonds because he is an African-American. However, I believe that the vast majority of baseball fans don't like Bonds because (a) he is a cheater and (b) he is just not a nice guy. I think that I would be reacting the same way if McGwire or any other steroid enhanced white slugger was going after homer #755.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sox-Yankees, Round 2 tomorrow night. There will be a total of six World Series MVPs participating in the three game series in the Bronx:

Mariano Rivera (1999)
Derek Jeter (2000)
Curt Schilling (2001)
Randy Johnson (2001)
Josh Beckett (2003)
Manny Ramirez (2004)

How come Texas looks really good against everyone except the Yankees? The Yanks swept them over the weekend, but I have been watching them play the Twins and they are beating them 6-3. They have great young offensive players and have finally developed some pitching. They have a chance to compete in the West, although I still think the Angels and A's are better teams.

Lots of baseball for us over the weekend. J. had practice on Saturday morning (I caught batting practice) and a game in the evening. He played first base one inning and got all three putouts, then played catcher for the first time. It was pretty cool seeing him out there in the "tools of ignorance". He seemed to like it, and I'm sure he'll get another chance this season. Sunday we went to a local batting cage while R. was at a birthday party. We both hit pretty well, although my arms were feeling it after three rounds in the cage.

A big milestone for R. today as she got a new brace for her foot. The surgery last year has been so successful that she needs a much smaller brace. The old one went almost up to the knee. This one just goes around her ankle and is barely visible when she is wearing a shoe. It's great that all we went through last winter is starting to pay off.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I'm not sure which I'm more pleased about; the fact that Big Papi hit a bases loaded, bases clearing double giving the Red Sox a 6-3 lead after 6, or the fact that Alex Gonzalez hit an RBI double driving in Mike Lowell (on 2nd with his 3rd double of the night and 16th of the year) to tie the game.

Gonzalez has spent most of the season under the Mendoza line (currently .192). If he can even start to hit a little bit, it will be a big boost for the bottom part of the Sox order.

It's been a weird week. We had Mirabelli's mad dash from Logan to Fenway (12 minutes!), changing clothes in the back of a State Police SUV and going out to catch Wakefield with Dustan Mohr's spikes and no cup until the 2nd inning (talk about living dangerously). Johnny Damon got booed and the Sox swept a 1-game series from the Empire, as game 2 got rained out. Wednesday brought the Blue Jays and the first run scored off Papelbon this year. Clement pitched well as the Sox won last night.

Interestingly enough, I was invited to three games this week and won't see any. As noted previously, I was in the State St. Pavilion for Tuesday's rain out. I was invited to sit in another company's luxury suite on Thursday, but turned that down because I was already going Tuesday night. Today, my friend The Hey invited me to go to Saturday nights game, but J. has a game that evening. I'm sure there will be other opportunities, though.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Isn't this what got Napster in trouble in the first place?

Actually, it seems to be a startling act of desparation. Napster and the other online download services are unable to catch up to iTunes, so they have now resorted to giving away their product free. It'll be interesting to see if it does any good.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

My initial visit to the new State Street Pavillion at Fenway Park was somewhat abbreviated tonight, as Sox-Yankees Part II got rained out.

We did get to spend some time up there, though. It rained on and off pretty much all day in Boston, but the rain had stopped when my boss and I left the office to head over to the ballpark. I had been checking and all day, but at that point the game was still on.

We met the vendor and another person from our company over at the ballpark and walked up the ramp over by Gate D to the pavillion level. You walk into a large room where there is a bar and a number of tables, along with a buffet and a pizza stand. The tarp was still on the field when we arrived about 25 minutes before the scheduled first pitch, which ws a bad sign. Indeed, the rain started up again and the game was officially canceled around 8:00.

We did have a couple of beers and the buffet. The food was very good, including an excellent prime rib, salad, vegetables, mashed potatoes and such. The coolest thing, believe it or not, was the plates. They were white, with baseball stitching and a Red Sox logo around the edge. I wanted to take a few home, but resisted the temptation.

The view from the seats was outstanding, although all we got to see was the tarp. The home plate section of the State St. Pavillion is five sections, which has five rows of seats in each. The top row has barstool type seats with a table, much like the Monster Seats. The rest of the seats are padded and comfortable. Hopefully, I'll get to go to the makeup game in August, although our host couldn't guarantee it. I would love to see a game from up there.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Red Sox Nation welcomes one of it's favorite sons back to Fenway Park tonight. No, not Johnny Damon. Far more important, Doug Mirabelli is back!

The brief experiment with Josh Bard is over, as the passed ball king is being shipped to San Diego along with minor league reliever Cla Meredith for Mirabelli. Bard will no doubt fare much better in sunny Southern California, where there is not a knuckleballer to be found.

The happiest man in New England today has got to be Tim Wakefield. I don't have them right here, but the difference in Wake's stats between when he was pitching to Mirabelli and when he was pitching to Varitek last year were startling. He was a different pitcher with Mirabelli behind the plate. Wake has pitched pretty well this year, even given Bard's problems, but lackluster offense has left him with a 1-4 record after the first month of the season.

Wakefield, ever the consummate professional, defended Bard to the end. He even told the media to back off of their criticism after Bard had four passed balls in Wake's last start. Coming to the defense of a teammate like that is one of the reasons we love Wake so much, but you have got to think that he's relieved.

On the subject of our erstwhile center fielder, here's my opinion on how he should be treated, based on something I heard Jerry Remy say. Damon should get a standing ovation during his first at bat for his contributions to the 2004 team and the way he played hard during his four years with the Sox. After that, he should be treated like any other Yankee. The Fenway crowd has been a bit more harsh and has pretty much booed him every time up, although it was more of a mixed reaction on his first at-bat.

Finally, the best news of the day (even better than Mirabelli!). I got invited by a vendor at work to sit in the new State St. Pavilion for game 2 of the Yankees series. I'm very excited to check out the replacement for the unlamented .406 Club and I'll post a full review on Wednesday.

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