Thursday, June 28, 2007

As promised after yesterday's detour, here are my 2007 NL All-Star selections.

1B: Prince Fielder, Brewers: There were a few good choices here including Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols, but I love watching Fielder play, he's leading the league in home runs and I'm rooting for the Brewers in the NL this summer.

2B: Chase Utley, Phillies
3B: Miguel Cabrera, Marlins
SS: J.J. Hardy, Brewers: All three of these guys filled the same profile for me. They all had very good stats for their position and are young players I would like to see get a chance in the All-Star game.

C: Russell Martin, Dodgers: I was going back and forth between Martin and Bengie Molina and finally settled on Martin, who has better offensive numbers.

OF: Matt Holliday, Rockies; Ken Griffey, Reds; Carlos Lee, Houston Lee and Holliday had very good offensive numbers. Junior is having a good year and gets a bit of a lifetime achievement boost on my ballot.

That's it! Balloting closes tonight. I'm sure we'll hear the final results in the next few days.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'll get back to my N.L. All-Star ballot tomorrow, but I had something else I wanted to get off my chest today.

I don't often complain here about the MBTA, the Boston public transit agency. In general, the service I get is OK and there are plenty of blogs out there that go off on the T on a regular basis (check out Universal Hub on any given day for a sampling).

However, something happened today that just struck me as so emblematic of the T's mindset that I thought it was worth noting. I had to go from my office in South Boston to another company location in the Back Bay. This requires a three line trip (Silver to Red to Orange). I made it in about 30 minutes each way, so I can't complain about the speed of the trip.

However, when I was switching from the Red Line to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing, something odd happened. Standing right in the doorway of the Orange Line train, taking up probably 60% of the space in the opening, was a woman sporting a T Customer Service blazer. People exiting or entering the train (those would be the customers...) had to squeeze by her to get into or get off the car. She showed absolutely no inclination to move out of the doorway, or even to move to the side to make it easier for passengers.

Given the stories I read online on a regular basis this shouldn't surprise me. However, for someone who presumably has been charged to work with the T's customers to be completely oblivious to the fact that she was making people's travel a bit more difficult goes right to the heart of the T's problems. Too many T employees don't care, and can't be bothered to make a customer's ride as pleasant an experience as possible.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I'm finally getting around to voting for the All-Star team. I have a kind of mixed philosphy of voting for All-Stars. It's a mix of stats, personal feelings and who I want to see in the game. I'll also vote for a guy because it seems like a good idea at the time.

So here's my ballot. I'll give a brief explanation where necessary:

American League:

1B: David Ortiz, Red Sox: Yes, he's not having the greatest year for power, and he doesn't play first much except in interleague, but he's Big Papi, dammit.

2B: B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay: No one candidate jumps out at me at 2nd. Pedroia and Brian Roberts also got some fairly serious consideration. Plus, I don't think I have ever voted for a D-Ray before.

SS: Carlos Guillen, Detroit: I can't bring myself to vote for Jeter, and Guillen is having a pretty impressive year.

3B: Alex Rodriguez, New York: My dislike of the Yankees is really offset here by the fact that there isn't anyone else really close, is there?

C: Victor Martinez, Cleveland: I have been very impressed with this guy ever since he came up, and he leads the catchers on the ballot in both home runs and RBI.

OF: Magglio Ordonez, Tigers, Vladimir Guerrero, Angels, Torii Hunter, Twins: All three guys have great numbers and I love watching Hunter in the outfield.

National League votes tomorrow night, folks.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Here's a quote I saw on MSNBC:

“This is the most anticipated phone since Alexander Graham Bell did his,” said Michael Gartenberg, an industry analyst at JupiterResearch.

I think iPhone hype has officially gone over the top...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Nice weekend for the Sox, taking 2 out of 3 in San Diego. Today's matchup of Josh Beckett vs. Jake Peavy didn't quite live up to expectations, with the Sox grabbing three runs off the Padres ace in the 3rd inning. Peavy was gone after 5 for a pinch hitter. Beckett, on the other hand, held up his end of the bargain by going 8 innings and giving up two runs. Papelbon came in for a 1-2-3 inning for the save.

Petco Park is a beautiful place. From the first time I saw the architectural drawings I loved the look of it. One of the coolest features is an old factory building, the Western Metal Supply Co. The ballpark was built around the factory, and it's now being used for luxury suites. I also loved The Beach. This is a bleacher area in right-center field that has a large sandy area in front. Kids play in the sand while the game is going on, presumably while their parents have one eye on them and one eye on the game. It's a very Southern California kind of touch.

Other than the ballpark, you might have thought you were in Boston this weekend. Red Sox Nation was out in full force at Petco. It was pretty amazing to hear the volume level of the fans for the visitors. Presumably, it was a combination of transplanted New Englanders and locals on vacationing on the West Coast. It seems like the Sox have good support at almost every visiting ballpark these days.

Add this weekend's success to the fact that the Yankees lost 2 of 3 to the Giants (who were on an 8 game losing streak coming into Saturday) and the lead is back up to 11.5 games with only 6 days left in June.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I'm very proud of R. today. She passed the test for her yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do. She did a really nice job in all the tasks she had to complete, including breaking a board.

Taking up Tae Kwon Do has been great for both her balance and her self-esteem. And I still can't get over the sight of my sweet little girl breaking a piece of wood with her hand!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

You have to think the Colorado Rockies are feeling pretty good about themselves right now. They completed a sweep of the Yankees at Coors Field, a week after taking 2 of 3 from the Red Sox at Fenway. Taking 5 of 6 from two teams with a total payroll of more than $340 million is damnned impressive.

The Rockies, by contrast, have a payroll of $54.4 million, and $16.6 million of that is taken up by Todd Helton.

The lead is back up to 10.5 games. Go Sox!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

After Curt Schilling's last ineffective start, in which his fastball mostly stayed in the high 80's, the Red Sox sent him back to Boston to be examined. Fortunately, an MRI showed no structural damage. Schill said today on WEEI that he thought it might be a bit of tendinitis. He's going to be on the 15-day DL, but hopefully a bit of rest will enable him to be more Schill-like on a consistent basis.

Now, I'm not happy at all that Curt is hurt, but his injury sets up one of the great pitching matchups of the season on Sunday. Josh Beckett will move into Schilling's spot and will pitch against Padres ace Jake Peavy Sunday at Petco Park. Make sure you are in front of a TV somewhere at 4:05.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

- Josh Beckett has bounced back from his poor performance last time out, pitching 6 scoreless innings against the Braves. The Sox are up 4-0 in the 7th. Rain is delaying the game as I write this.

- Coco Crisp made another highlight reel worthy catch tonight, diving to snare a Tim Hudson line drive. The last Red Sox center fielder I can remember that made great plays on a regular basis like Coco does is Fred Lynn.

- Want to hear exactly how bad the NL Central is? According to what I just heard on tonight's Brewers game, Milwaukee only lost 1 and 1/2 games off their lead during their 10-20 slump. The Brew Crew has been playing better of late and has a 7 game lead in the division.

- One more reason I like the Brewers: their local telecast has a "Tavern of the Day" promotion. How can you not love that?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

- We spent part of Father's Day today watching the Worcester Tornadoes play the North Shore Spirit at Fitton Field today. Believe it or not, despite the fact that Worcester is only about 35 minutes from our house and the Tornadoes are in their third season, we had yet to make it to a game there.

The ballpark itself is very bare bones, but they make the most of what they have. It's on the campus of Holy Cross, right by I-290. There is a grandstand that seats about 3,000 and concessions at the top. That's pretty much it. The seats were very comfortable with tons of legroom and great sightlines of the field. We had box seats behind the visitors dugout and we were right on top of home plate.

I also have to compliment the Tornadoes on their fine beer selection. On top of the usual standbys, they had a couple of microbrews and good foreign beers at very reasonable ballpark prices. I had an excellent Knuckleball Bock brewed in Maine - I don't remember the name of the brewery unfortunately, but it was good stuff.

There was only one problem. It started to rain and was coming down pretty hard by the third inning, so we decided to leave. We hadn't brought any rain gear, since it was sunny when we left the house. However, we saw some good baseball, including back-to-back home runs by the Spirit.

We had such a good time, we're going back for baseball and fireworks on July 3. I highly recommend checking out the Tornadoes if you have a chance.

- J.'s Little League team moves on to the next round of the playoffs tomorrow night. They managed to win on Saturday, despite the fact that neither team had enough kids to field a full team. However, 8 kids showed up for J.'s team on only 7 for the other team. The league commissioner stopped by and decided that J's team would advance to the next round, since they had more kids.

This is the first time I have ever heard of a team advancing in the playoffs based on attendance.

- I'm feeling a bit less worried about the Sox as they swept the Giants this weekend. The classic game was yesterday's, as Daisuke outdueled San Francisco's Matt Cain in a 1-0 decision. So the Sox picked up a game on the Yankees, who won 2 out of 3 from the Mets. The Sox head to Atlanta next, while the Yanks head west to Coors Field to take on the Rockies. Let's hope the Rockies do as well against the Yankees as the 2 out of 3 they took from the Sox last week.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I'm officially worried.

The Yankees have cut what was once a 14 1/2 game lead nearly in half. The lead is down to 7 1/2 as of this morning. The Sox are only 5-8 in June, while the Empire has won 9 in a row. The Yankees are playing, well, pretty much like a $200 million team ought to play.

Most disturbing is the lack of offense. They only scored 5 runs in the three game series against the Rockies, and only managed to win one of those because of Wake's great performance in the first game. The poor offensive performances by by J.D. Drew (.230), Julio Lugo (.212) and Coco Crisp (.223) have really been dragging down the whole team.

Here's to hoping they can get well against the Giants and the Mets can do some damage in the latest installment of the Subway Series.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

We'll take a brief break from the usual baseball talk and other assorted nonsense to get serious, since today was a historic day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The state legislature voted today not to send a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage to the people. The amendment needed the support of 50 out of the 200 legislators to be sent to the voters. It only garnered 45 votes.

It's not often that the politicians in this state get it right, but they did today. The state constitution should not enshrine bigotry among it's provisions. All people should have the same rights, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or whatever.

And at the end of the day, who does this hurt? The argument that making gay marriage legal somehow "undermines traditional marriage" seems ludicrous to me. I'm married. How does the fact that my homosexual friends, or the gay couple down the street are married have any affect on my marriage. How does it change the fact that married people who are not gay have lost nothing - they still have exactly the same rights they had before.

The other argument you hear is that "the people should vote on this". I don't think that's true in this case, or in any case involving civil rights. We elect our leaders and, hopefully, they have a bit greater vision on the big picture than the average citizen. We hope they show a bit more wisdom about what is right and wrong than the masses. It doesn't often work that way, but it is the ideal.

Think of it this way: if people in the South had been asked 50 years ago to vote on Jim Crow laws, how do you think that vote would have gone? Today, it seems ludicrous that African-Americans had separate (and frequently not equal) public facilities like bathrooms, drinking fountains and waiting rooms. In the 1950's, Jim Crow was the norm in a large part of this country. It was finally ended, but if it was put to a vote of the people in those states, it certainly would have taken a lot longer and those laws might still be with us today.

So, congratulations to the 151 members of the Massachusetts Legislature that stood up against bigotry today. I hope that 50 years from now, my children and grandchildren will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I was reading this blog entry by the Globe's Eric Wilbur about the Devil Rays Elijah Dukes. To say Mr. Dukes has some issues is putting it nicely.

I just wanted to comment on his mother's reaction. Here it is from Wilbur's story:

So, what does Dukes’s mother think of the controversy surrounding her son?

"Every time one of those (whores) lays down with my baby, they end up pregnant," she told the St. Petersburg Times. "That's right. And I'm tired of them."

Wow, talk about having the blinders on. When you have five kids with four women, I hardly think Dukes isn't at fault. I mean, he had to have something to do with all those women getting pregnant, right?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Well, the finale of the Diamondbacks series was a bit disappointing, as Randy Johnson outdueled Daisuke Matsuzaka yesterday in the air-conditioned comfort of Chase Field.

As an aside, according to the Diamondback's Web site, Chase Field has enough air-conditioning capacity for 2,500 typical Arizona homes. I'm glad I don't have to pay that electric bill!

Dice-K seems to be suffering from a case of Tim Wakefield Disease, as the Sox have scored only 1 run for him in his last two starts. Matsuzaka, for his part, has given up only 2 runs in each of those outings, one for 7 innings against Oakland and 6 innings yesterday.

At least the Sox were shut down by a future Hall of Famer yesterday, instead of the embarrassing debacle against Lenny DiNardo in Oakland, where they managed to hit into 5 double plays.

The game was still close headed into the last of the 8th, until Mike Timlin, in his first appearance off the DL, threw a bunt into right field for a 2-run error. The Dbacks eventually scored another run for the 5-1 final score.

So, the trip out west was disappointing, as the Sox go 3-4 and the Yankees managed to get the division lead under double-digits. Of course, the Yankees are done playing the reeling White Sox and the AAAA Pirates and have to take on the Dbacks (in a virtual tie with the Padres for first place in the West) and the East leading Mets at the Stadium. The Sox, on the other hand, come home to Fenway to play the Rockies and the Giants, the teams holding down the bottom two spots in the NL West.

I'm calling for 5 out of 6 by Sunday, and the lead back into double digits. Who's with me?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

True to my hopes in my last blog entry, the Sox offense busted out of it's slump big time last night, beating Arizona 10-3 and bringing Josh Beckett's record to 9-0.

The most encouraging thing that happened last night was that J.D. Drew looked like a guy you would pay $14 million for. Drew hit two Earl Weaver Specials (three-run homers), providing a significant portion of the Sox offense. It was great to see. If Drew can get going in the number five spot, the Sox are going to be even tougher than they have been.

I have been watching Indians-Reds while waiting for the Sox to start tonight. Pretty entertaining game, as the Reds lead 6-4 in the last of the 7th. Ken Griffey Jr. just crushed a home run into the right field seats.

Junior has been one of my favorite non-Sox players over the last 20 years. When he was younger, it was worth the price of admission just to watch him play center field. He was so smooth and flawless out there; many plays that would have been tough for an ordinary center fielder were made to look easy by Junior. Add his amazing swing to the package and you had one of the top players in the game.

Griffey isn't quite as smooth in the outfield these days, and he has moved to right, but he sure can still hit. A no-question first ballot Hall of Famer and no taint of steroid scandal around him, he's still fun to watch.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I had a totally different blog entry planned for tonight before the events of this afternoon at the McAfee Coliseum. In case you missed it, Curt Schilling no-hit the Oakland A's for 8 and 2/3 innings until Shannon Stewart hit a clean single to break up the no-hit bid. Schilling went on to get the final out for the complete game, 1-0 shutout. The only run the in the game came on a Big Papi home run.

I think a no-hitter is one of the most exciting events in all sports. You never know when one is going to happen or who is going to pitch one. For example, guys who are hardly immortals like Jim Colborn and Mike Warren have no-hitters, while Roger Clemens doesn't. It's such a combination of skill, luck and timing that it's a huge surprise when one happens.

I'm sure that Curt will be giving all the details on his blog soon enough, but I did want to share one thing. I was listening to the game on the radio on the way home, and Curt told Red Sox announcer Glen Geffner that he shook off Varitek on the pitch that Stewart hit for a single. Schill said that he would spend the rest of his life wondering what would have happened if he had thrown the pitch that 'Tek had asked for.

So, the 4-game losing streak is over and the Sox are off to Arizona for some interleague play. Let's hope the bats can wake up in the desert.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Lenny DiNardo?

When you have Daisuke Matsuzaka going up against Lenny DiNardo, and Dice-K gives up 2 runs in 7 innings, you should pretty much expect to win, right?

Well, not last night. Sox castoff DiNardo, who the A's claimed on waivers when the Sox had to make room for J.D. (.224) Drew on the 40 man roster, shut out the Sox for six innings, despite being in and out of trouble and walking 6. He was helped by the Red Sox hitting into five double plays. Lenny was followed by a succession of relievers, including old friend Alan Embree, who got the save.

The Sox have now lost 5 of their last 6, including 3 in a row for the first time all season. You knew they were going to go through a bad stretch, but what is frustrating is that the last three games have been very winnable. I'm sure the Sox will pull out of this slump soon enough. Hopefully, Wake can regain his early-season form tonight and stop this little losing streak.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A few thoughts for the evening...

- Jon Lester pitched an outstanding seven innings for the Pawsox, completing the first game of a doubleheader against the Norfolk Tides. He threw only 87 pitches and gave up only one run. Remember that Lester was having a lot of difficulty getting out of the 5th with less than 100 pitches when he was up with the Red Sox last summer? Lester is a lefty who can throw 95 and he's 23 years old. As long as he stays healthy, how many other major league teams would like a guy like that on their pitching staff. Probably 29?

- Lester's impending return to Boston is no slight on the job Julian Tavarez has done. You really couldn't ask more from your number five starter. Last night in Oakland, for example, matched up against the A's ace and AL ERA leader Danny Haren, he kept the Sox in the game. They eventually lost in 11 innings, but the score was just 3-1 A's when Tavarez left in the 6th.

Tavarez has also drawn the other team's ace a number of times. Aside from Haren last night, Tavarez has faced Johan Sanata and Roy Halladay twice.

Moving Lester into the rotation strengthens the Sox bullpen and provides the team with a reliable spot starter in case someone goes down with an injury or the team runs into a spate of doubleheaders. It's not a bad situation to be in.

- You have to feel kind of bad for the Cubs. They spent $300 million in the off-season to bring in guys like Alfoso Soriano and they are 7 games under .500 at this point. Manager Lou Pinella went off the deep end this weekend and had a dirt-kicking, umpire-bumping tirade that cost him a four game suspension. With the Cubs coming up on the 100th anniversary of their last World Series win next season (and over 60 years since they even appeared in a World Series), it still looks like it could be a while before a flag is raised over Chicago's North Side.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I'm sure all of you who visit here regularly are shocked that I haven't been blogging about this weekend's Red Sox-Yankees series at Fenway. That's because I didn't see a second of the first two games. We were in the Berkshires at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center for the Jewish Multiracial Network's annual retreat.

What's this all about, you ask? The JMN is a support group of Jews who are not the typical white, eastern European types. As many of you know, my kids are adopted from Korea. A while back, A. was searching for organizations that might gather Jewish parents with non-white children. We know plenty of adoptive families, but very few other Jewish families. So, A. discovered this organization and we attended a meeting of a local group a couple of months ago in Providence.

We had a great time. The kids hit it off really well with the other kids and we really enjoyed meeting the parents. They told us we should go out to the annual retreat, and we decided to give it a shot.

If anything, the retreat exceeded our expectations. There were 180 people there: not just adoptive families like ours, but also multi-racial couples and other people of color who have converted to Judaism.

There was programming for the kids throughout the weekend and they had a great time and really made some connections with a lot of the other kids. Along with reconnecting with the people we met in Providence, we met many wonderful people from around the northeast.

The setting was beautiful, too. Set among the Berkshire hills, the Freedman Center is on 450 acres of land, including two lakes. The four of us slept in a comfortable room in a cabin on the grounds. The setting was very relaxing. Although we were only gone for about 48 hours, I really feel like I got away. No TV, no Internet, although they did have wireless access and computers set up; I did have to keep up with the Sox after all! I spent less than 10 minutes online, however. I came back feeling very refreshed.

So back to reality tomorrow, but it was a great weekend. Back to your regularly scheduled baseball talk this week.

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