Saturday, December 30, 2006

We have been back from Florida for a couple of days and I'm sitting here watching some light snow fall out my window. We did quite a bit for a short trip, so I'll stretch the trip report out over several parts. We'll start with:

Sunday: New England Patriots at Jacksonville Jaguars

We arrived at the Orlando airport about an hour late on Saturday afternoon. Our JetBlue flight was delayed by foggy, rainy weather at Logan. We recovered our luggage, got our rental car and drove out to Mom and Dad's house. During dinner, Dad asked if I wanted to watch the Patriots game against the Jaguars on Sunday. I said sure and he said, "Well, that's good, because we have tickets for the game." Needless to say, I was pretty surprised!

We left for Jacksonville, about 3 hours away, at 7:45 on Sunday morning since we had to stop at my brother's house and pick him up. (Waking up early would become a theme on this trip). Just as we were pulling onto the main road near my Dad's house we saw an SUV with Patriots flags flying out the windows and magnetic Pats helmets stuck to the doors. A. and the kids would arrive at my brother's house later with Mom and hang out with my sister-in-law and their cousins for the day. We got my brother, stopped at Starbucks to get some caffeine and headed north to Jacksonville.

It was a warm day (for December), but it rained on and off so our first stop was a Family Dollar store to pick up some ponchos. After that, we headed over to Alltel Stadium, home of the Jaguars. This is the first time I have ever been to a pro football game anywhere other than the old Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium - I haven't even been to Gillette! Alltel seemed pretty typical of the football stadium breed. We had decent seats in the second tier, near the end zone.

The game itself was pretty entertaining. The Pats ended up winning 24-21, clinching the AFC East title. We did sit near a group of pretty rowdy young Jags fans behind us. They did a lot of screaming at Brady during the game, calling him Ben Affleck and hosing on this GQ appearance. Jealous, I guess. There were also lots of Pats fans in the stands. This nearly led to an altercation with the annoying group behind us, but one of Jacksonville's finest came by and calmed things down.

There was one thing that I had some trouble with while watching a game live at the stadium instead of in HD on my TV. I have gotten very used to having the blue line of scrimmage and the yellow first down lines, so I had a lot of trouble figuring out exactly how far the ball had moved, especially on running plays. I got a bit better at it by the second half, but I have gotten way to dependent on my electronic crutches!

We headed back home after the game after getting out of the post-game traffic. On the way home, we stopped at Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits for a thoroughly unhealthy (but tasty) meal.

So it was a great day and a lot of fun seeing my team in a hostile environment. Believe it or not, despite the fact that I have been to around 40 major league baseball games away from Fenway, I have never seen the Red Sox play away from home.

So, thanks to Dad for picking up the tickets. It was a great time.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Greetings from Florida!

We have been having a great time down here, although the weather hasn't been very Florida-like. It's been rainy and pretty cool outside today.

Quick update today, and I'll have a complete report when we return home. My father and brother surprised me by procuring some tickets to the Patriots-Jaguars game in Jacksonville on Sunday, so we spent the day at Alltel Stadium watching the Pats clinch the AFC East title (anyone else remember when winning the division was a big deal?)

After a day spent with the family on Christmas Day and A. and I heading out to dinner at Jiko last night, we spent today at Disney's Animal Kingdom park. We had a tremendous time, and I loved Animal Kingdom in what was my first real visit there, other than a visit with J. when he was 2 - that's a story that deserves it's own post! It has such a different vibe than the other Disney parks, that it was really a unique experience.

Much more to come this weekend when we get home!

Friday, December 22, 2006

We're leaving for our annual trip to visit the family in Florida tomorrow. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, and we have a trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom. I only had one brief visit there with J. when he was 2 years old. The kids and I are really looking forward to riding the new Expedition Everest roller coaster. A full report on the trip will be posted, of course, when we get back.

We couldn't get out of town without one minor disaster, though. Our Sony digital camera decided to stop working - taking a picture would only result in some wavy multi-colored lines on the screen. To be fair, we have had the camera for a while, but this was a pretty inopportune time for it to die.

So, after some lightning fast research on the Web, I dashed out to Best Buy three days before Christmas and bought a new Canon Powershot A540 6 megapixel camera with a 4x optical zoom. It got generally good reviews online and, most importantly, met the under $200 test I was shooting for. I also picked up a 1GB SD memory card, since the included 16MB card would only hold about 5 pictures. What is it about camera companies including ridiculously small memory cards with cameras anyways? I only paid $25 for the 1GB card; would it have killed them to put in a 256 or 512MB card that would hold a reasonable number of shots?

So, we're pretty much all set to go. I may get in a brief report from down south. Everyone enjoy your holiday (or your long weekend if you're not observing Christmas).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Anyone who had doubts that porn drives traffic on the Web need doubt no longer. I track the traffic that comes to my blog. Most of you are friends or family members and I average about five hits a day. A good day might be 9 or 10 visitors.

Well, imagine my surprise after posting this story that I had 71 unique visitors to my blog on Tuesday! A Web site called Universal Hub, which aggregates stories from Boston-based bloggers. Well, they referenced my story and all of a sudden we had lots of new visitors.

So, if you're here as a result of the Unversal Hub link, welcome! And if you are one of the regulars, we'll return to our usual babbling on about the Red Sox shortly...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I have spoken here before about the Ultimate Road Trip I hope to take someday, visiting all 30 major league baseball teams in one summer. I was playing around with the upgraded Yahoo Maps and used the new multi-point trip functionality to see how long my dream trip would take me.

There were a few limitations. I didn't input the actual addresses for the individual ballparks. I just put in the city names, which meant Chicago went in once, although I was able to differentiate between the Bronx and Flushing for the Yankees and Mets. Also, I didn't use a schedule, so I just made a big circle around the country. After hitting all 30 ballparks, I ended the trip with a stop at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

After plugging in all the destinations, I discovered that this trip would take me 11,928 miles to complete, which would amount to 178 hours, 9 minutes of driving. I'd better rest up.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Now here's a heck of a way start your Monday morning...

I'm walking to my office from South Station this morning. The section of town I walk through is called Fort Point, and there are a lot of old warehouses that have been converted into office space and artists lofts. Many of the offices are on the first floor and you can see in through the windows, not that I make a habit of peeking in.

So, as I'm walking down the street, I notice this guy sitting at a desk with his back to the window. He's looking at a laptop, which happens to be open to a porn site!

Now there are two things wrong with this scenario:

1. Looking at porn at work is probably not a good idea.
2. If you are going to look at porn, don't do it someplace where anybody walking by can see.

Friday, December 15, 2006

- Got my bracelet from The Lester Project today. If you haven't ordered yours, they are $6 plus shipping and handling and the proceeds go the the Jimmy Fund. You can order them from the link, if you are so inclined.

- Now that Dice-K is in the fold, Theo turned his attention to the bullpen. The Sox got veteran reliever Brendan Donnelly from the Angels for rookie Phil Seibel and signed free agent J.C. Romero. Both good moves, as Donnelly should be able to combine with Timlin to bridge from the starters to the (still nonexistent) closer and Romero is a good lefty specialist.

- The Celtics looked damn good in beating the Denver Nuggets tonight at the Gahden. Denver was making a charge when I turned on the game in the 4th quarter and the Celts managed to pull out a win. They're still a long way from being championship contenders, but games like tonight make me think that maybe they will be relevant again someday.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Daisuke Matsuzaka watch finally went over the line today, as was actually tracking the progress of John Henry's jet as it made it's way from L.A. to Boston with Matsuzaka, Scott Boras, Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino on board.

Anyways, it looks like the deal is done. Various Web sites are reporting that Dice-K is going to get at six year contract for $52 million. So, it's finally over> Matsuzaka is in the fold, and it only cost a little over $100 million. Now we get to see if he can live up to the hype.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Post number 500 tonight! Thanks for reading.

- I picked up the entire three season run of the original Star Trek series on DVD from Barnes & for a mere $80. They were selling the set for $123 and with my membership and an online coupon I had I got the price down to what I paid. The episodes look great and they are uncut, unlike what you usually get when they air on TV currently. Each episode ran about 50 minutes, as compared to around 42 minutes today. The difference is made up in additional commercials.

Many of the visual effects sequences are pretty grainy, even at DVD resolution, a limitation of the technology available in the 1960's. I can see why Paramount wanted to remaster the effects for an HD release, but I can't see any point in buying another set of these episodes. Star Trek has always been about character and story and new CGI effects, while nice, don't make enough of a difference for me.

- Red Sox tickets appear to be as popular as ever. The Sox sold out of 4-game Sox Paks and the individual game tickets they put on sale over the weekend. I spent 2 and 1/2 hours with both my Macs in the "Virtual Waiting Room" on Saturday before giving up. In any case, the Sox Pak I wanted was sold out by then.

The third place finish last season and the collective lack of excitement of Red Sox Nation with the signings of J.D. Drew and Julio Jugo has done nothing to slow down the demand for tickets. To be honest, the constant battle to get Sox tickets is getting pretty tiresome to me. Paying around $200 to take my family to a ball game and having to wedge myself into those chiropractors nightmares they call seats just isn't doing it for me any more. There are too many minor league teams around where I can see baseball for less money and hassle. I'm sure I'll get my hands on tickets to a few games next season, but I'm not going to go crazy trying.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Quite the Winter Meetings, wasn't it?

You know the baseball world has truly gone mad when Gil Meche, with a grand total of 11 wins for Seattle last season, signs a 5-year, $55 million contract with the Royals. Makes Josh Beckett's 3-year, $30 million extension seem downright cheap, doesn't it?

There were five big pieces of news for the Sox the last few days. Here's my take on each of them:

The signing of J.D. Drew: I'm not over-the-top excited about this, but I'm not as negative about it as many of the talk radio types are either. It's obvious that Drew is a talented, 5-tool player when he's healthy. He put up some pretty good numbers and played 146 games for the Dodgers last year. If he can hit 20-25 homers, drive in 100 runs, play good defense in either right or center field and play 140 games, I would be pretty happy with that.

The question is whether he's capable of it. Drew has only played 140 games twice in his 8 full seasons, although the good news is that those two came in the last three seasons. He would certainly be a better number 5 hitter than anyone Terry Francona has trotted (pun intended) out there the last couple of years, but he's got to play for this to be worth the $70 million investment.

The signing of Julio Lugo: Theo and the Red Sox brass (doesn't that sound like a good name for a band?) love this guy, and he's certainly a pretty good offensive player at shortstop. His defense is an order of magnitude worse than the departed Alex Gonzalez, and I think both Red Sox Nation and the Red Sox pitching staff are going to miss seeing him out there. This is certainly a classic Moneyball play here. The Billy Beane school of thought puts very little value on defense and great value on OBP and OPS, two stats in which Lugo excelled prior to his trade to the Dodgers last season.

It'll be interesting to see how both Drew and Lugo react to the scrutiny of the Boston fans and media. Lugo spent most of his career and Tampa, and Drew has spent the last few years in basically apathetic spots like Atlanta and L.A. I hope they know what they are getting themselves in for.

No trade for Manny: Theo is apparently intent on getting roughly "equal value" for Manny, and no one seems willing to give up the bundle of prospects he's looking for. No one really seems to be sure how badly Manny wants to leave, and even Manny may be changing his mind from day to day.

Personally, I would prefer that Manny stay around. Even though he basically quit on the team after the Yankees sweep last August, he's such a great hitter and so much fun to watch that I would hate to see him go. That said, if someone should come up with the right deal, I'm sure Theo will trade him.

Dice-K: The rumors are that Scott Boras and the Sox are far apart; Boras wants Matsuzaka to be paid like an elite pitcher (in the Roy Oswalt category), while the Sox say they paid for exclusive negotiating rights, plus the guy has never pitched a game in the big leagues.

My guess is this gets done before the deadline on Thursday at midnight. There are just too many good reasons for this to happen, both from the Red Sox and Matsuzaka's perspective. Of course, the current market for starting pitchers may make the Red Sox pay more than they wanted to.

Closers: The market for closers is getting totally out of control. Word is that Eric Gagne turned down an offer from the Dodgers for a $4 million base plus $6 million in incentives. Pretty good money for a guy who has only pitched about 15 innings the last two years. Octavio Dotel, who had Tommy John surgery, got $4 million plus incentives from the Royals. Supply and demand is really working here - the limited supply of closers is driving up the price, even of guys who are damaged goods.

I'm not sure where the Sox will go here. I know they are exploring trades, and there is always the possibility of Hansen winning the job in Spring Training, but closer is the biggest question mark on the team right now.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Happy 50th birthday to the greatest Celtic player of my generation, Larry Bird. I was too young to remember watching Russell play (I was only 5 when he retired), but basketball didn't get much better than Larry Legend and the Celtics of the '80s. Thanks for all the great memories, Larry.

I'm sure you are all anxiously awaiting my thoughts on the transactions and non-transactions at the winter meetings (or not). It's kind of late right now, but I'll put up a full post tomorrow night on the Drew and Lugo signings, the potential signing of Matsuzaka and Gagne and the fact that Manny seems to be hanging around, at least for the moment. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 04, 2006

A few items from around the galaxy...

- We went to the MIT/Wellsley College Korean Students Association event at MIT last night. The kids were invited to play with their Korean drumming group. They did a fabulous job and we stayed to watch the rest of the event. It included a skit based on a Korean folk take (but updated for a 21st century college audience), various forms of dancing (break-, fan- and modern) and a Tae Kwon Do exhibition by the MIT team. The kids picked up some of the broken wooden boards from the exhibition and got the members of the team to autograph them. It was all pretty cute.

- I hadn't been to MIT in a very long time. I had a friend who went there back when I was in college and I would take the walk up Mass Ave. and across the Harvard Bridge to visit him. In fact, the best time I ever had watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture was at MIT. The large crowd of engineers took virtually every line the wrong way (Kirk saying "I need you." to Bones in the Transporter Room got a particularly big laugh) and there was a lot of MST3K type talking to the screen which was really funny.

- I think Red Sox Nation is 90% against signing J.D. Drew and 90% against trading Manny. The Winter Meetings start at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin today. I'm picturing Theo and Scott Boras sharing a Kitchen Sink at Beaches & Cream.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I was at the Great Fenway Park Writers Series dinner last night. It was the first evening event in the Series, and was a bit more formal than the lunch time gatherings I have attended in the past. Instead of the usual buffet, dinner was served to us by the wait staff in the Crown Royal Club.

Christine Brennan of USA Today was the featured writer for the evening. She spoke about her new book, Best Seat in the House, which is a memoir of her relationship with her father through sports. It's very reminiscent of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Wait Til Next Year.

In fact, the evening hour led to there being a few celebrities in the audience, including the aforementioned Ms. Goodwin and Congressman Marty Meehan. Sox CEO Larry Lucchino was there as well, spoke to the crowd and answered a few questions. He talked about his current relationship with Theo ("a harmonious working relationship" "Better than last year at this time") and his trip to Japan and the Matsuzaka signing (he said the Sox were sincerely attempting to get a deal done, but it "takes two to tango"). One of my tablemates asked him about letting Alex Gonzalez go and if they were really serious about signing Julio Lugo. He gave the party line about not falling in love with your veterans regarding A-Gon, and didn't say anything about Lugo.

All in all, it was a fun evening. I really enjoy the Writers Series and I'm looking forward to attending more events.

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