Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Today was a huge day in Boston sports. The Red Sox acquired reliever Eric Gagne from the Rangers in exchange for Kason Gabbard and two minor league outfielders. In maybe their biggest deal since the Joe Barry Carroll for Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish trade, the Celtics traded five players (including Al Jefferson) to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett.

Let's talk about the Garnett deal first. This instantly puts Boston back in contention for an NBA title, at least for the next 2-3 years. With a core of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Garnett, the Celtics have got a very good chance of at least getting to the finals of the weak Eastern Conference, and potentially to the NBA Finals.

Did they give up some talent? Absolutely. Al Jefferson has the makings of a future All-Star and Gerald Green certainly has the physical skills to be a very good player. Of the other players they gave up, Ryan Gomes is basically a nice guy to have on your bench; Theo Ratliffe was injured most of last year and didn't add much. And owner Wyc Grousbeck had already committed to getting rid of Sebastian Telfair.

The Celtics just became relevant again. It'll make that period between the Super Bowl and Opening Day a lot less tedious.

The addition of Gagne gives the Red Sox the best bullpen in baseball. Timlin, Delcarmen, Gagne, Okajima and Papelbon are going to make it very difficult for any team that finds itself behind the Sox after 6 innings. Gabbard has been pretty good for the Sox the last month or so, but with Schilling coming back soon either he or Jon Lester were going to find themselves back in Pawtucket. I think Theo did a good job of balancing the need to help the team now with not giving up too much of the future.

All in all, a good day for our local teams!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Here's a mostly non-baseball post, although it's good to see the lead back up to 8 games after taking 5 of 7 on a trip through Cleveland and Tampa Bay.

- J.J. Abrams made the first casting announcements for the new Star Trek movie, announcing Heroes bad guy Zachary Quinto as Spock. It's a great casting choice. Based on what I saw in Heroes, I can easily see Quinto getting the whole Vulcan thing right. Leonard Nimoy will also be appearing as "Old Spock". Abrams wants Shatner to appear as well, but he's apparently having trouble getting around that thing in Star Trek: Generations where Kirk died.

- I missed out on the Vintage Base Ball Federation playoffs in Westfield this weekend because we took the kids on a long promised trip to the beach. We headed down to Narragansett, RI and went to Sand Hill Cove, where we had a wonderful time. For dinner last night, we crossed the Pell Bridge and headed to Flo's Clam Shack and pigged out on a thoroughly unhealthy but delicious combination of clam cakes, fried clam strips and clam chowder. We followed that up with a visit to Newport Creamery for ice cream. Considering that we had Del's frozen lemonade at the beach, if we had only managed to have some coffee milk, we would have had all the major Rhode Island food groups.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Doug Mirabelli just hit an RBI single to put the Sox up 7-1 in the 8th. I always thought that when Dougie starts smacking the ball around the yard, the Mercy Rule kicks in and the game is automatically over.

Seriously, the Devil Rays bullpen is truly terrible. After getting beaten senseless by the Yankees last week, it appears that Sox are picking up where the Empire left off tonight.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan had a great blog entry about two of my pet peeves in baseball: sliding headfirst and sliding into first base.

Ryan says it much better than I could here, so go read his article, but one of the first things I was taught in Little League was to run through first base, not slide. You get to the base faster by continuing to run than by hitting the dirt. The only time it makes sense to slide into first is if you are trying to avoid a tag.

Enough said. Go read Ryan's piece and see if you agree.

One other thing. What were the Padres thinking when they traded setup man Scott Linebrink to the Brewers for three minor leaguers? The Padres are in the thick of the NL West race, 1 game behind the Dodgers. Linebrink has struggled a bit this year, but he's still a pretty good bridge to Trevor Hoffman. Were they trying to get rid of him while he still had some value? Do they expect they can't reverse his decline? I don't know, but it seems very odd that a contender would trade a guy like Linebrink.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

- Last night's return of Jon Lester was a rousing success, as Lester beat Cleveland 5-2. I was a bit nervous about the Sox bringing Lester back against a very good hitting Indians team, but Lester proved more than up to the challenge. The only runs he gave up in his 6 inning stint were on a 2-run homer to Grady Sizemore. He later came back to strike out Sizemore to get out of a bases loaded jam. If Lester and Gabbard keep this up, Francona is going to have a tough decision on who is out of the rotation when Curt Schilling comes back.

- I only caught bits of Lester's performance on the video board at McCoy Stadium last night. The kids had gotten some free passes at school, so we joined my parents to see the Pawsox-Louisville Bats matchup in Pawtucket last night. We only stayed through the 6th inning, since the kids had to get up early to go to camp and McCoy is about an hour drive. What we did see was pretty entertaining, though, as David Pauley pitched quite well for the Pawsox and Joe McEwing hit a home run. Pawtucket was leading 2-1 when we left, but Louisville tied it up and sent the game to extra innings. The Pawsox ended up winning 3-2 in 10 innings on a Brandon Moss single.

- Two outstanding pitching matchups today and tomorrow in Cleveland. Daisuke pitched against CC Sabathia tonight and it certainly lived up to expectations as the Sox have a 1-0 lead in the top of the 9th as I write this. Tomorrow we see Josh Beckett take on Fausto Carmona. Hopefully that one's just as good (at least from the Red Sox perspective).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Jon Lester is back!

Yes, the Sox recalled Lester from Pawtucket to start tomorrow night against Cleveland. It's very exciting to see Lester come back to Boston, the last step in his recovery from cancer.

Even better, the Sox did the right thing for the team and designated Joel Pineiro for assignment. Pineiro was the weak spot in the bullpen. He was the logical one to go, despite the $4 million contract the Sox signed him to before the season.

Good luck Jon!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Since the current day Red Sox are too depressing to talk about at the moment, I'm going to indulge in a little nostalgia tonight.

I was reading an article about a Web site called Retrosheet. They have posted every box score from every Major League game since 1957 on their site, and they are working on going further back. So I decided to check out the first game I ever saw at Fenway Park.

I didn't remember a lot of details, but I knew it was a day game in April, 1975. I knew the Sox played the Baltimore Orioles and that Jim Rice and Lee May both hit at least one home run.

I was able to track down the game pretty quickly. It happened April 18, 1975. The O's defeated the Sox 9-7. Rice and May did indeed hit homers. In fact, they hit two each. Fred Lynn also hit one. The pitching matchup was Reggie Cleveland vs. Ross Grimsley. Grimsley only lasted three innings, as the Sox took an early 6-2 lead. He was replaced by Doyle Alexander, who pitched the remainder of the game and got the win. Cleveland went 6 and 1/3 and took the loss.

Two Hall of Famers played in the game: Yaz for the Sox and Brooks Robinson for Baltimore. And, amazingly in this age of constant sellouts at Fenway, the only 8,219 people were in the crowd.

Retrosheet is pretty cool. Go check it out if you are so inclined.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

First things first: the Vintage Base Ball Federation Northeast Playoffs start tomorrow at Bullens Field in Westfield, MA and continue through this weekend and next. More information is available here.

How can the Red Sox possibly lose 2 of 3 to the Royals at Fenway?

Last night was as disappointing a game as I can remember seeing. The Sox took a 4-2 lead and then Julian Tavarez gave it right back with a 4 run 5th. And it seemed like Francona took forever to get Tavarez out of there. I was starting to talk to the TV. Certainly not the Grady-Little-in-ALCS-Game-7 level of agitation, but pretty annoyed.

Now maybe this stretch is similar to the 2004 run when the Sox basically played three months of .500 ball. This team isn't as bad as they have been since late May (20-22 since May 31) and they're not as good as they were the first two months of the season. I have to think they're going to break out of it.

Of course, we can start to hear the Yankees footsteps in the distance. They've cut the Sox lead down to 7 games and those "1978"'s echoing in the back of my head are starting to get louder.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I was talking to someone from work yesterday about a project I'm working on. She was calling me from New York, where she was at a conference. She mentioned that she was in Rockefeller Center, and asked if I would like anything from New York. I jokingly said that I knew the NBC Store was in Rockefeller Center, and that I would love a T-shirt from The Office.

So, this morning I get into work and hung over the back of my chair is the shirt pictured above! For those that don't watch, Dunder-Mifflin is the fictional paper company where the show takes place. It was very nice of her to do that (I was very obviously joking when I said it), and it'll be fun to wear on the weekends.

Did you hear about this one? Someone apparently got hold of the new Harry Potter book, photographed all of the 700+ pages, and posted the pages on the Web. Some people just have way too much time on their hands.

The Sox are losing 6-5 to the Royals in the 8th. I'll be very unhappy if they can't come back and win this.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Sox continue to frustrate recently. They split a four game series with the Blue Jays this weekend. It could have easily been a sweep for Boston, as both losses were by one run. On Friday night, the Sox had two men on with one out in the 9th and Ortiz and Ramirez coming up. Neither one could get a hit to tie or win the game (although Manny hit a drive to right that was caught on a nice play by Alex Rios).

Yesterday was even more frustrating as the Sox wasted another excellent pitching performance by Josh Beckett (8 innings, 2 runs). Despite getting 11 hits, they could only squeeze across 1 run (on a Papi double).

The Sox have lost six straight 1-run decisions in what seems to be a pattern lately - they lost winnable games in the sweeps by Seattle and Detroit before the All-Star break as well. Let's hope they can beat up on the Royals for the next few days. I don't think that a sweep at Fenway is setting the expectations bar too high here.

On a completely different note, the Phillies lost the 10,000th game in team history, becoming the first professional franchise in any sport to lose that many games.

This is what happens when a team is pretty much relentlessly mediocre (or worse) for decades. The Phillies came into existance in 1883 and have won only one World Series (1980) in their entire history. All the other teams who have won one or fewer World Series were expansion teams and have been around for a much shorter period of time than the Phillies. Teams that have never won a World Series include Houston, Milwaukee, Washington, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa, Texas and Colorado. The three that have matched the Phillies in winning one Series include Kansas City, Arizona and the LA Angels. All of these teams entered MLB in 1961 or later, which means the Phillies had at least a nearly 80 year head start on them.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

J. had a ballgame tonight with his Summer League team. It was the second game of the season and the first I was able to see.

There was one kid on his team who I had never seen before. He was tall and had long hair. The name "Kelly Leak" immediately went off in my head. I was surprised his uniform didn't say "Chico's Bail Bonds" on the back.

Oh, and the Sox took the first game post-break, 7-4. Manny and Papi combined for 5 RBI. If we see some more of that, it's going to be a fun second half.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

- Why on earth does the All-Star Game need to start at 8:50 PM? I had promised the kids they could stay up and watch a bit of the game, not realizing that we would be "treated" to nearly an hour of pre-game show, including a guy trying to win money from Taco Bell by hitting a ball off a tee.

- That said, the Willie Mays tribute was well worth the time spent. Very reminiscent of the Ted Williams tribute at Fenway during the '99 All-Star Game. I especially liked how Mays told Jose Reyes to "Move back!" for the first pitch and how he signed the ball for Reyes afterwards.

- I have been immersed in Harry Potter for the last 8 weeks or so, as I have been reading the first 6 books in anticipation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. J.K. Rowling packs so much detail into each book, and refers back to events in previous books so frequently, it helps me to have a Harry Potter "refresher" before reading a new book. The only problem was toting around the 870-page Order of the Phoenix book in my briefcase while I was reading it. That sucker's heavy!

- I'm a lot more excited about the new Harry Potter book than the new movie. I already know what happens in The Order of the Phoenix, although I am looking forward to seeing how they translate a nearly 900-page book into a 2-hour movie.

Monday, July 09, 2007

I love watching the Home Run Derby.

One thing that happens during the Derby is that it spotlights players that those of us who follow the game closely may know, but aren't big stars outside their home towns yet. Tonight, Alex Rios of the Blue Jays and Matt Holliday of the Rockies both put on quite an exhibition.

I have also been enjoying watching Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey hanging out on the field and seemingly having a grand old time watching the proceedings. I would have loved to see McCovey in a contest like this during his prime.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Manny Delcarmen just pitched an excellent inning and a third tonight in the Sox game against the Tigers (2-2 in the top of the 10th as I write this). It seems Manny has finally discovered the confidence in his outstanding stuff that has allowed him to start to be the other late inning go to guy they have been looking for. A combination of Delcarmen, if he can keep this up, and Okajima as the bridge from the starter to Papelbon in the 9th could be very powerful for the Sox as they head into the 2nd half of the season.

It's also really great to see products of the Red Sox farm system start to become a significant part of the team. Papelbon, Youk, Pedrioa and now Delcarmen all were drafted by the Sox. How many products of the Sox system have contributed to the team in the last decade, other than Nomar? I can't think of too many off the top of my head. And the Sox have guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buckholz and Jon Lester waiting in the wings, so there are more on the way. This could be the best period for the Sox farm system since the core of the 1986 team played(Boggs, Rice, Clemens, Hurst, Oil Can, Gedman).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Way to go Red Sox Nation! Okaji was voted to the final spot on the AL All-Star team.

As happy as I am about another Sox representative, you have to love the Twins Pat Neshek's enthusiasm. Check out his Web site, which appears to be personally written and looks pretty home grown to me. If Okajima wasn't in the running, I definitely would have voted for Neshek.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

We spent last night with the patriotic combination of baseball and fireworks, courtesy of the Worcester Tornadoes. The Tornadoes faced the Nashua Pride at Fitton Field. Worcester's offense provided some very impressive fireworks of their own, as they hit 4 home runs. Unfortunately, former Sox pitcher Rich "El Guapo" Garces did not appear for Nashua last night. Worcester won the game 7-2.

The game was followed pretty much immediately by a fireworks display that we all enjoyed. Catching fireworks at the ballpark was much easier than finding some town fireworks somewhere, dragging chairs and stuff along with us, and finding some way to pass the time until the show starts.

Interesting, yet useless, fact of the day. The two managers in last night's game, Butch Hobson for Nashua and Rich Gedman for Worcester, played in the two most important games in Pawtucket Red Sox history. Gedman played in the 33-inning Longest Game, and Hobson made the last out for Columbus in the legendary Mark Fidrych - Dave Righetti matchup, which drew over 9,000 fans to McCoy Stadium. The ballpark seated about 7,000 at the time.

As I said, interesting, but not particularly useful.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

You have to go to MLB.com and vote for Hideki Okajima for the last spot on the AL All-Star team. If you need a reason other than his outstanding bullpen work for the Sox this year, you should vote for Okaji because he has the best campaign slogan, coined by Jonathan Papelbon:

"Let's get my man to San Fran, it's closer to Japan."

If that doesn't get you to vote, I don't know what will. Voting ends Thursday, 7/5 at 6 PM.

Ten Thoughts:

- A glimpse of the future: Jacoby Ellsbury had 2 hits, 2 walks and scored from second on a wild pitch in last night's victory over Texas.

- Alex Rodriguez got $200,000 in All-Star bonuses from the Yankees: $100K for making the team and $100K for getting the most votes in the AL fan voting. Now maybe I'm confused, but if you are making $27 million already (A-Rod's 2007 base salary), shouldn't you be expected to make the All-Star team?

- Teams I thought would be better than they are so far this year: Cardinals, Rangers, White Sox, Yankees.

- No, I haven't bought an iPhone. Two reasons: (1) My current contract with Verizon still has 18 months to run and I don't want to pay the cancellation fee. (2) I'm willing to wait for iPhone 2.0, which will no doubt be cheaper and more capable. Let them work out the bugs on someone else.

- That said, if the next generation iPod has the touch screen interface, I'll buy one of those. I'll be the first one in line at the Apple Store if it includes the Wi-Fi Web browsing capability (basically, an iPhone without the phone).

- Ratatouille is a fantastic movie. We saw it Friday night and people in the full theater actually applauded when it was over. Just as good was the Pixar short that proceded it, Lifted. However, a kitchen full of rats, even animated ones, still freaks me out a bit.

- I'm growing less and less convinced that Danny Ainge knows what he's doing. Ray Allen is a good player, but he's on the downward side of his career. And isn't he pretty much the same player Paul Pierce is?

- 500 home runs isn't the automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame that it used to be. Is Jim Thome a Hall of Famer? I don't think so, even though he'll probably make it to 500 homers this year or next. I think you need to be a dominant player and recognized as one of the best at your position for an extended period of time. Did Thome meet either of those qualifications?

- Frank Thomas belongs in, though. He was a 2-time MVP and certainly qualified as one of the top first basemen in baseball for about a decade. His 500 (clean) home runs are worth more to me than Sammy Sosa's 600.

- Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Monday, July 02, 2007

create your own visited states map

I saw this on The Hey's Web site and thought it was kind of interesting. Turns out I have visited exactly half the states in the Union, plus the District of Columbia. I don't include places I have just stopped in the airport on my way somewhere else as states I have been to, but I'd be able to add a few more states (Arizona, Alaska, Georgia, Utah, probably a couple of others) if I did.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

- The kids and I made our first trip to McCoy Stadium for 2007 to see the Pawsox take on the Charlotte Knights. We went with a group of friends and had great seats, and of course it's always fun to return to my home ballpark. It was pretty much a perfect evening for baseball, weather-wise.

We saw an excellent game, as the Pawsox won 3-2. We had the good fortune to catch Jon Lester, who got the win. Lester gave up 2 runs in 5 innings to get the win. Craig Hansen, who is trying to regain his phenom status, pitched a scorless 7th and Travis Hughes pitched two innings for the save. All the offense for the Pawsox came in the 4th inning on RBI doubles by Brandon Moss and Michael Tucker.

- As I'm writing this, the legendary Tigers announcer, 89-year-old Ernie Harwell, has joined Jon Miller and Joe Morgan in the ESPN broadcast booth. All I can think was, "Is there any way we can get rid of Morgan and keep Harwell?"

- It was an incredibly frustrating weekend watching the Sox. They dropped the middle two games of a four-game set to a terrible Rangers team, losing both games by 1 run. The frustrating part was that the Sox had numerous opportunities to score in both games, but just couldn't seem to get the clutch hit.

- I don't know what the Sox are going to do about Julio Lugo. He's falling further into a black hole, and it just seems to be getting worse. On Wednesday he had a nutty in the dugout when Francona pinch hit for him with Alex Cora late in the game. No offense, but .190 hitters don't deserve to get mad when they get pinch-hit for.

Then last night, Lugo pinch-runs for Pedroia, who had doubled in the 8th with the Sox down by a run and Youk at the plate. Then, inexplicably, Lugo attempts to steal 3rd and is thrown out, ending the inning.

This may be a case of a guy trying to do too much, but he has to think before he takes off in those situations.

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