Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Someone needs to explain this to me.

The Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee failed to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame. The results were announced today. Now I can live with that on the players side. You can certainly argue that guys like Ron Santo, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva and Luis Tiant should be in the Hall, especially given that some comparable players are in there. However, most of the players have already been through as many as 15 elections by the baseball writers. If they weren't elected then, it doesn't seem that the Veterans Committee should be overriding that decision without a very good reason.

However, they didn't elect anyone from the "composite ballot" either. This ballot is made up of umpires, executives, managers and others. The most glaring oversight, to me, is the fact that Marvin Miller was not elected. He got 51 votes, 10 short of the number needed for election.

Is there any question that Miller, as head of the MLB Players Association, has had as great an impact on Major League Baseball as anyone in the past 50 years? Miller took the MLBPA from basically a house union mostly concerned with protecting the players pension fund to a group that had an average player salary of more than $2.6 million as of 2005. By comparison, the average player salary was less than $30,000 in 1970.

Miller had a great role in ending the reserve clause and in the establisment of the current free agency and arbitration systems. The current economic success of the players can be traced to his leadership.

What really amazes me is that 61 of the 84 members of the Veterans Committee are the living Hall of Famers except for Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken. The majority of them (certainly any players elected in the last 20 years or so) benefitted greatly from Miller's leadership of the Players Association.

Unfortunately, the next Veterans Committee election for non-players isn't for four years. Hopefully, that group is more aware of the revolutionary role Marvin Miller played in the development of the game as we know it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Only in Boston would you get an email alert from the local paper to let you know that the team's star outfielder has actually arrived at Spring Training about a week after everyone else.

Yes, that's right, Manny showed up in Fort Meyers today, a few days ahead of his original March 1 reporting date. I'm glad he's there, and it sounds like he's in shape and ready to go. It would just be nice if he could do it without the circus happening beforehand.

A few more Spring Training thoughts:

- From a pure business perspective, Theo did the right thing in not giving Curt Schilling a contract extension. Schill will be 41 in 2008, has had ankle problems and is a bit of a risk. On the other hand, with guys like Gil Meche and Ted Lilly pulling down big contracts, $13 million for Schilling doesn't seem like an outrageous amount of money.

- A-Rod and Jeter went public with the fact that they don't like each other much. You have to wonder how this is going to affect the Yankees clubhouse and whether the Curse of A-Rod will continue this year.

- I also wonder if the fact that the Yankees decided not to sign Mariano Rivera to an extension before the season will have any impact on his performance. Not signing Schilling, who has only been with the Sox for three years, is one thing, but Rivera has been in the Bronx forever. Personally, I think the guy is too much of a pro to let it affect him.

-Diasuke Matsuzaka threw a 103 pitch bullpen session the other day. This guy is an animal. I can't wait to see him pitch in a real game.

- If how much money a team spends has anything to do with it, the Cubbies should make a run for the division title this year. Keep in mind that, in spite of the fact the Cardinals won the World Series, they only won 83 regular season games last year.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Shockingly, ex-Celtics guard Dennis Johnson collapsed at a practice of the NBA Developmental League team that he coaches and died yesterday at the age of 52.

DJ was the point guard of the 1984 and 1986 champion Celtics and was one of the great defensive players of the time. Magic Johnson said that DJ was the toughest defensive player he ever played against.

DJ was only 52, way too young. Our condolences to his family.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

So pretty much everyone has shown up at the Red Sox Spring Training camp in Fort Meyers, except the highest paid guy on the team.

Yup, Manny is being Manny again.

The reports are that his mother just had surgery. It's understandable that he would want to be with her, but Julian Tavarez was quoted as saying that it didn't have anything to do with his mother. Manny just didn't feel like showing up until the mandatory reporting date, which is March 1.

I'm not surprised by this - nothing Manny does surprises me any more. It's just strange how Red Sox Nation lets Manny off the hook for this stuff. Pedro shows up a few days late or Clemens runs with his headphones on in the outfield, and the fans kill them for it. It just seems that Manny can do no wrong.

40 homers and 120 RBI make up for a lot of things, but in year 7 of the Manny era, his act is starting to get a little old for me.

Monday, February 19, 2007

It was nice to have a long weekend. The highlight was going to see the Providence Bruins take on the Hartford Wolf Pack yesterday. I got an unbeatable deal from the Bruins Web site - four tickets, four hot dogs and four sodas for $44. After buying snacks, we could barely go to the movies for $44.

I hadn't been to the Dunkin Donuts Center in a number of years. As a kid, I used to go there all the time to see the Rhode Island Reds, the New York Rangers affiliate in the American Hockey League. I also went to numerous Providence College Friars basketball games, Harlem Globetrotter games, the circus, concerts and other events. I even saw the Celtics there a couple of time during the Cowens/Havlicek era in the '70s.

Even though we were only a couple of rows from the top of the arena, the seats were great. Unfortunately, the P-Bruins didn't play so well, giving up three goals in the first period. They never caught up, losing the game 4-1 in front of a crowd generously estimated at 9,196. It was very entertaining, though, and the kids loved their first pro hockey game.

We did have a couple of bad dining experiences this weekend. The first was at the new Metro 9 Steak House in Framingham. This was a belated Valentine's Day dinner for me and A. The steakhouse was supposed to be a local alternative to the big Boston steakhouses, so we decided to try it out.

The food wasn't so much bad as disappointing. Everything was very plain and lacked flavor. I have had better steaks at the Outback for half the price.

Our second disappointing meal was after the Bruins game last night. I found out that a famous Providence BBQ joint, StickyFingers, had reopened. It had been closed for a while and I discovered that it had reopened. StickyFingers was a favorite of A's and mine, so we decided to go.

Again, we had a disappointing meal. I had the pulled pork sandwich, and it was runny and tasteless. A. had a BBQ chicken sandwich and it was so overcooked she could barely cut it. She sent it back and a second one was much improved. The service was slow even though there were only a few customers that evening. It was sad to see a place that used to be really great fall so far.

So, there are two places for you to avoid. There are much better choices for your money.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Two things for today:

- Keith Foulke retired the other day. While only one of his three years with the Red Sox was actually good, he made it count. Foulke was amazing in the 2004 postseason - if there was an award for overall MVP, instead of an award for each series, Foulke probably wins it hands down. There's no way we win in 2004 without him.

Foulke had signed a guaranteed contract with the Indians for over $5 million to pitch this season, and did the honorable thing and walked away from it when he had elbow pain and realize he wouldn't be able to pitch as effectively as he would like this season.

Foulke said some regrettable things while he was here, and his WEEI radio show in 2005 (which he did in exchange for a new truck) was appointment listening in a car wreck kind of way, but I'll always be grateful for 2004, especially the postseason run. Good luck, Foulkie.

- I have mentioned the remastered classic Star Trek episodes here before, but I watched an episode today that really blew me away. The episode was one of my favorites, The Doomsday Machine. For those of you who don't know, the short synopsis of the episode is that the Enterprise has encountered a giant machine that eats planets. It has already nearly destroyed one starship, the USS Constellation and sets it's sights on the Enterprise.

I remember watching this episode when I was 11 and not being able to sit on the couch because of the tension level. The episode had darn good special effects for the '60's, and the remastering takes them up another level. Shots that couldn't have even been attempted in 1967 are pulled off nicely here. The planet killer is based on the original design, but looks even more menacing, it's neutronium hull pitted with the weapons fire of previous, unsuccessful attackers. One shot that took my breath away was the Enterprise skimming along the planet killers surface, firing phasers ineffectually onto it's hull.

The Constellation in the original episode was, beleive it or not, a modified AMT model kit that you could have bought in any hobby store. The Constellation gets a digital makeover as well. There is a gaping hole in the hull and you can see the decks below. The warp nacelles are trashed and you can see inside to the warp coils.

I had complained earlier in the remastered episodes run that the effects team wasn't going far enough for me. They were basically reshooting the original shots with modern tools. No more complaints from me after this episode.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Boston.com ran a fun Red Sox fan survey in conjunction with Valentine's Day. The survey was to pick the most beloved Red Sox players since 1967, by position, plus the most beloved player overall. Here are the fans picks, plus my own choices.

Fans pick: Jason Varitek
My pick: Carlton Fisk

I can't argue with the fans picking 'Tek, but Pudge played as hard as Varitek in his heyday, and was an even better player. Fisk probably would have played his whole career with the Red Sox if then-General Manager Heywood Sullivan hadn't sent out his contract late, making him a free agent who was eventually signed by the White Sox. Of course, he gets kudos from me for his immortal 12th inning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

First Base:
Fans pick: Mo Vaughn
My pick: Mo Vaughn

Mo got more than half the fans vote, over players such as George Scott and Kevin Millar. I was always a big fan of Mo's. He was such a dynamic personality when he was here - kind of the Big Papi of the '90s, without as many clutch hits. It was a shame how his career went downhill, mostly due to injury, after he left the Sox as a free agent. 4.9% of the nearly 29,000 voters were in a charitable mood and voted for Bill Buckner.

Second Base:
Fans pick: Jerry Remy
My pick: Jerry Remy

I think the RemDawg won more on the strength of his role as beloved color man on NESN than for his playing days, but no matter. The only other real contender was Marty Barrett, and he was never all that lovable.

Fans pick: Nomar Garciaparra
My pick: Nomah

I was happy to see that Nomar got some love from the fans. Until he started to break down with injuries, he was the best shortstop, and one of the best righthanded hitters, I have seen in my years of watching the Sox. Orlando Cabrera made quite an impression, getting 12.8% of the vote despite only playing here for half of the magical 2004 season. He finished just behind Rico Petrocelli in third place.

Third Base:
Fans pick: Bill Mueller
My pick: Bill Mueller

Despite the presence of Hall of Famer and multiple time batting champion Wade Boggs in the poll, the rock steady professionalism of Mueller won the day. All the crap that went on with Boggs and Margo Adams no doubt hurt his standing with the fans.

Designated Hitter other than Big Papi:
Fans pick: Don Baylor
My pick: Who Cares?

Boston.com decided that David Ortiz would win in such a landslide, they declared him the winner and had a poll for second place. Baylor, the DH on the 1986 AL champions won, but I can't say I have warm fuzzy feelings about any of the candidates (Cecil Cooper, Reggie Jefferson, Mike Easler and Jose Canseco were the others).

Left field:
Fans pick: Carl Yastrzemski
My pick: Yaz, of course

Yaz had nearly 63% of the vote in a very strong field that included Manny Ramirez, Jim Rice and Mike Greenwell. Inexplicably, 1.3% of the voters picked Troy O'Leary instead of one of these guys. Yaz was my favorite player growing up (and still is!), so it's cool to see him win in a landslide.

Center field:
Fans pick: Fred Lynn
My pick: Fred Lynn

I was a bit surprised Johnny Damon didn't get more support, but signing a contract with the Yankees will do that to you.

Right field:
Fans pick: Dwight Evans
My pick: Dwight Evans

Evans may have had the best arm I ever saw in the outfield - he made some phenomenal throws from right field. He also made an unforgettable catch in the top of the 12th inning in Game 6 in 1975 off Joe Morgan to set up Fisk's heroics in the bottom of the inning.

Relief pitcher:
Fans pick: A virtual tie between Derek Lowe and Rich "El Guapo" Garces
My pick: Bob Stanley

I was tempted to pick El Guapo, but I was always a fan of the Steamer. Stanley pitched a lot of games for a long time for the Sox.

Unsung hero:
Fans pick: Dave Roberts, The Steal
My pick: Bernie Carbo, 1975 game 6 home run

This may have been my toughest choice. It was obvious the overwhelming pick would be Roberts, but I thought Carbo fit the definition of "unsung" better. Everyone remembers Fisk, but his home run wouldn't have happened without the three run homer Carbo hit to tie the game.

Fans pick: Terry Francona
My pick: Joe Morgan

The first Red Sox manager to win a World Series in 86 years certainly deserves the love, but Joe Morgan will always be my favorite Red Sox manager. I met him on several occassions as a kid when he managed the Pawsox, and I was thrilled when he got the Red Sox job after John McNamara was fired in 1988. The fact that he led the Sox to the historic run known as "Morgan Magic" and the team won the AL East that season was just icing on the cake. Surprisingly, Grady Little got 4.4% of the vote.

Starting pitcher:
Fans pick: Pedro Martinez
My pick: Pedro Martinez

Who else would you pick? For the seven years he spent here, there has never been a greater pitcher wearing a Red Sox uniform than Pedro, not even Roger Clemens. Boston.com picked the top four, which included Roger, Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield. As much as I like Wake, Luis Tiant would have replaced him in my starting rotation.

Most beloved overall:
Fans pick: David Ortiz
My pick: Carl Yastrzemski

As much as I love Yaz, I can't argue with Big Papi.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It took until Valentine's Day, but we finally got some significant snow here in the Boston area today. We got about 6 inches of dense, heavy snow today. We're pretty much shoveled out, and I have to admit that it does make it seem more like winter around here. I haven't really missed having to deal with the snow, but it's been kind of a strange season without it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Truck Day!

Yes, today is Truck Day, the day the Red Sox equipment truck leaves for Fort Meyers and a national holiday for Red Sox Nation. Much like the groundhog, it's the first tangible sign that spring is coming and that it's about six weeks until Opening Day.

Spring Training itself should be fairly routine, barring any major transactions. The starting lineup and starting rotation are pretty well set, unless Jonathan Papelbon gets moved back into the bullpen. The big question is the closer and the exact composition of the bullpen, something that may not get solved until very close to April. And don't be surprised to see one or more of the kids, Craig Hansen, Jon Lester and Manny Delcarmen, start the year in Pawtucket.

Here's my guess as to the Opening Day 25 man roster, assuming the Sox elect to carry 12 pitchers at the beginning of the year, Todd Helton or someone else doesn't come aboard before then and there are no major injuries:

Catchers: Jason Varitek, Doug Mirabelli
Infielders: Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Julio Lugo, Mike Lowell, Alex Cora, David Ortiz (DH)
Outfielders: Manny Ramirez, Coco Crisp, J.D. Drew, Wily Mo Pena, Eric Hinske
Starting pitchers: Curt Schilling, Diasuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, Tim Wakefield
Relief pitchers: Mike Timlin, Brendan Donnelly, Hideki Okajima, Joel Pinero, Julian Tavarez, J.C. Romero, Manny Delcarmen.

That's it. I think that Hansen and Jon Lester start the year in Pawtucket, but need to be ready to come up when the inevitable injuries hit. Unless Okajima just stinks up the place in the Spring, he's on the team to give Daisuke someone to hang out with.

A few pitchers have already shown up and the rest and the catchers will be coming in the next few days. It's showtime!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

- Back in the '80s and '90s when I was active on the science fiction convention circuit, one of my favorite celebrity guests was George Takei, Star Trek's Mr. Sulu. George seemed to really delight in being with the fans, and appreciated that Star Trek and it's fans gave him a platform to speak about things that were important to him.

I had the great good fortune to get to know George a little bit in those days as part of the Boston Star Trek Association and USS Chirsta McAuliffe. George was one of our guests at the Star Trek 20th anniversary Platinum Anniversary Convention and was instrumental in giving my friend Towaway his nickname (a story that will not be repeated here, although PAC deserves an entry of it's own someday.) I also had dinner with George several times, and was part of a memorable day when George came to Rhode Island to participate in a fund raising carnival for Special Olympics that was held at the arena formerly known as the Providence Civic Center.

So, I'm thrilled for George to see how his career has been taking off lately. It was culminated with his appearance last week on one of TV's hottest shows, Heroes. He played Hiro's father, and came to the U.S. to order Hiro back to his job in Japan at the corporation George's character runs. The funny thing is that Hiro is a Trekkie, and there were a number of Star Trek references in his dialog in the early episodes. It was also very cool that the dialog in all the scenes with Hiro's family was in Japanese, with subtitles.

Of course, the best part was that the license plate number on George's character's car was NCC-1701.

Congratulations, George, and I hope we see more of Hiro's dad soon!

- Can someone explain to me the morbid fascination with the death of Anna Nicole Smith? I was eating lunch in the cafeteria at my office building, where there is a big screen TV on the wall, typically tuned to CNN. For the half-hour I was down there, it was non-stop coverage of her death, autopsy and whatever else. I don't think President Ford's death got nearly as much coverage.

Really, what has this woman ever done other than pose with her clothes off and marry a really rich guy? I certainly didn't wish her any harm, but enough is enough already.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The number 16 used to have a bit of a different meaning for the Celtics.

The Celtics lost their franchise record 16th in a row to the Miami Heat last night. Boston has gone from just being a bad team to being epically bad since Paul Pierce went down, first with a foot injury and now with an infection in his elbow. We see flashes of brilliance from the kids like Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes and Delonte West, but they can't sustain it for any stretch of time.

The whole thing, in kind of a perverse way, is fascinating. It's kind of like watching a road accident; you want to turn away, but you can't. The only upside to all this is that it gives the Celtics a reasonable chance of picking up either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant in the draft. Either of these guys could be a franchise-savior, but we all know how it worked out when the Celtics had a chance to draft Tim Duncan about a decade or so ago. Imagine how different the last 10 years might have been with him on the team?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

I'm sitting here watching the Super Bowl and thinking about how much more exciting this would be if the Patriots had mamaged to get another first down two weeks ago.

The third quarter is almost over and the Colts are up by five. It's been pouring rain at Dolphins Stadium for pretty much the whole game, so it's been pretty sloppy. The Bears offense has been able to do practically nothing the whole game. The biggest excitement has been a touchdown on the opening kick by Devin Hester and the fact that Vinateri missed a field goal. There haven't even been any commercials that have really reached out and grabbed me, although the "Rock Paper Scissiors" Bud Light commercial was pretty funny.

I don't have a huge stake in who wins, although I'm rooting for the Bears on general anti-Manning principles.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.
- Dr. Sidney Freedman, M*A*S*H

I have been watching M*A*S*H quite a bit since it showed up on TV Land. I haven't watched it much the last few years, and seeing it recently reminds me of just how great the show is. It doesn't seem dated at all and the themes seem just as relevant today as they did when it was in first run. Maybe moreso, given what is going on in the world today.

Friday, February 02, 2007

If this doesn't get you in the mood for Spring Training, I don't know what will. Matsuzaka pulling on his new Red Sox uni, throwing a pitch and sucking down a big glass of beer in a Japanese commercial.

Pitchers and catchers in just a couple of weeks,folks.

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