Friday, February 29, 2008

Think the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry has been getting a bit stale? Too many games each year making them seem a little less special? Well, thank God for Hank Steinbrenner.

Hank had this to saw about the phenomenon of Red Sox Nation in the New York Times:

“Red Sox Nation?” Hank says. “What a bunch of [expletive] that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country.

I guess all those people in the stands wearing Red Sox gear in Baltimore, Tampa, Anaheim and other cities around the American League were planted there by ESPN.

My favorite line of Hank's, however, is this:

"We’re going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order."

Compare that quote to one from Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith in The Empire Strikes Back:

"With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy."

Looks like Larry Lucchino was right about that whole Evil Empire thing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

  • Bartolo Colon, eh? Theo signed the 2005 Cy Young Award winner to a minor league contract. Unfortunately, Colon has suffered from arm problems the last two seasons and has only won seven games in 28 starts in 2006 and 2007. That said, this is a no-risk, high potential reward signing. If Colon can remotely approach his old performance, he could be a big help to the rotation, especially if Schilling can't make it back. If he can't pitch effectively, the contract isn't guaranteed and the Sox lose nothing.
  • I picked up an interesting book last weekend, 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before You Die. The title is pretty self-explanatory, and I'm discovering plenty of interesting places. I can definitely see incorporating the book into my vacation planning in future years.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Sox finally signed a three year contract extension with Terry Francona. It took a while, but no one seemed very bothered about it and it did eventually get done.

There is no question that this was the right thing to do. You can't argue with success; two World Series championships in four years. You may be able to question Francona's in-game maneuvers, but there is no question that he knows how to handle his players and the pressure that comes with being the manager of the Red Sox. He essentially has a job that virtually everyone in New England thinks they can do better.

While you may have individual quibbles with Francona in 2007, there is no denying the masterful job he did if you look at it over 162 games plus the post-season. His team won the division and won the playoffs. Sure, the fact that the Red Sox can outspend almost everyone has something to do with it, but plenty of teams spend lots of money and don't have anything like the success the Red Sox have experienced recently.

I'll be glad to see Tito in a Red Sox uniform (or sweatshirt) for the next few seasons.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Check this out. It's a rendering of the Tampa Bay Rays new downtown stadium in St Petersburg. Looks like a big upgrade over Tropicana Field, doesn't it? Although, as my brother points out, the Trop's air conditioning is pretty nice during a Florida August.

Spring Training is in full swing as the rest of the Sox roster reported, including Manny. Mr. Ramirez even spoke to the press today, saying that he would like to finish his career in Boston, but that he wouldn't pressure ownership to pick up the option years on his contract. It looks like Theo is going to wait until the end of the season before committing another $20 million to the slugging savant. I'm glad Manny isn't going to pull a Pedro here and let things take their course. Nice of him to show up on time, too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Today was the first day of a new schedule on the Worcester line. The T tweaked some of the departure times and added 6 to 12 minutes to the trip lengths (according to the Boston Globe). The schedules now better reflect reality.

Of course, it would have been nice if the T had thought about doing this when I first told them about it over two years ago. Here's an excerpt from an email I sent to the T's "Write to the Top" program on October 17, 2005.

Since taking this train on a regular basis, I have noted that it is consitently late.
I tracked the arrival times at South Station for the
last six days I took the train and this is what I came up with:

October 6: 7:27
October 7: 7:28
October 10: 7:31
October 11: 7:30
October 14: 7:32
October 17: 7:28

While these are not huge discrepancies, there is no reason why the train should be
6-11 minutes late every day. If it is impossible for the
train to arrive at the scheduled time, the MBTA should at least change the printed
schedules so that those of us who rely on the train can plan our
mornings with a reliable expectation that the schedule and reality are somewhat in synch.
The explanation I got back from Bob Stoetzel, Chief Transportation Officer of the T's Railroad Operations blamed CSX track work and something called "slippery rail". Now they change the schedule based on a time study, the first one done since commuter rail service was extended to Worcester years ago.

It might be nice if the T would take it's riders a little more seriously instead of making a lot of excuses. Those of us who have to live with the commuter rail every day might actually know what we're talking about.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I'm watching the Red Sox "Spring Break" program on NESN and Tom Caron is talking to Bruce Hurst, the Sox lefty from the '80s. Hurst is in camp working with the Sox pitchers. Hurst, of course, would have been the MVP of the 1986 World Series had that little thing in the 10th inning of Game 6 not happened. I remember Hurst all the way back to his Pawsox days (he's a Longest Game alumni) and it's great to see him back in the uniform.

Oh, and does anyone else thing that it's a little bizarre that the Sox had two hours of Spring Training live coverage on NESN this morning? Dan Shaughnessy sure thinks so. I'd agree that it's probably overkill.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I was able to hear a good portion of the wild show put on in Washington today as Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee testified in front of a congressional committee. Pretty much the only thing that is sure is that at least one of these guys is lying. Maybe both.

The thing that I keep coming back to is the fact that McNamee told the truth about injecting Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch with performance enhancers (both admitted to that in their depositions to Congress). Why would he tell the truth about them and lie about Roger, knowing that a lie could land him in jail? It just makes no sense. It seems that Roger has more incentive to lie than McNamee does.

Andy Pettitte really threw Roger under the bus. He said in an affidavit that Roger told him in 1999 or 2000 that he had used HGH. When pressed on this, Roger claimed that Pettitte misheard and misremembered (I'm pretty sure that's not a word) what he had said. Roger's denials seemed especially hollow here. I can't believe that Pettitte wouldn't remember Clemens telling him he had used performance enhancing drugs.

I thought both these guys came out looking bad. Even Clemens wife Debbie was dragged into the muck, as she apparently took HGH as well. At least it explains this:

A woman who has had four kids looks like that? Must have been something artificial going on.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

OK, so the truck is in Florida, the players are starting to show up (Daisuke apparently is sporting a mullet) and Spring Training is starting to gear up. Is it baseball season yet? I can't wait for winter to be over and for the games to start.

That's it. Nothing else today. I just need baseball!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Interesting stuff going on the last few days...
  • Curt Schilling is out at least until the All-Star break with an arm injury. It's a tough blow for the Sox, but not fatal since they do have five other legitimate starters (Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz). It would be nice to have a healthy Schill around to help in the transition to the young guns, but hopefully he'll be back in July.
  • Of course, whether he is or not depends on who you ask. There was something of a dispute between the Sox medical staff and the doctor who operated on Schill twice before, Dr. Craig Morgan. The Sox are prescribing a rest and rehab regimen. Morgan said on WEEI last week that, in his opinion, the chances of this working are "nearly zero" and that Schill needs surgery. If he's right, it may be the last time Curt ever pitches.
  • Two great Celtics games this weekend. Friday night they won on a last second Leon Powe shot and today they beat San Antonio, marking the first time Tim Duncan has lost a game a the Gahden. It's great to see guys continue to step up while Garnett is out, like Powe on Friday and Big Baby today.
  • Five movies I'm most looking forward to seeing in 2008:
    • The Dark Knight
    • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
    • Iron Man
    • Wall-E
    • Star Trek (duh)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

OK, getting past that whole football thing...

Saturday is Truck Day. For those of you who don't know, Truck Day is the day the truck leaves Fenway Park to take all the Red Sox equipment down to Ft.Meyers for spring training and is the first tangible sign of the 2008 season. The Sox have made a couple of interesting moves in the last few days, so let's take a quick look.

First the team signed Sean Casey to a contract. I think it's a very good signing, as it gives the Sox a good backup at first who can spell Youkilis. Youk seems to wear down during the second half of the season, so Casey could be invaluable in giving him some needed days off during the season. It also gives Francona a serious left-handed bat off the bench. Plus, he is widely regarded to be one of the great guys in the game and should be a good addition to the Red Sox clubhouse. Curt Schilling, for one, seems enthusiastically in favor of the signing.

Yesterday, the Sox re-signed Bobby Kielty. To me, this is a signal that Theo is going to try to move Coco Crisp. Having a fourth outfielder type like Kielty makes it look as though Coco is going to be an extra piece. I'll miss Coco's astounding defense in center field, but it's obvious that Jacoby Ellsbury is the future and I think the front office is going to remove all doubt on that before Opening Day.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A couple of last thoughts on the Super Bowl, now that I have the perspective of a couple of days since the big loss.

Is this the worst loss in New England sports history? There are four obvious candidates: the Bucky Dent loss to the Yankees in the 1978 AL East playoff; World Series Game 6 against the Mets in 1986; ALCS Game 7 against the Yankees in 2003 and Sunday's Patriots loss.

My opinion? The Super Bowl loss was the worst. While the three Red Sox losses relied on some flukey event like Dent's windblown pop-up homer, the grounder through Bill Buckner's legs or Grady Little's brain fart, the Pats loss was a serious breakdown in many phases of the game. Coaching, offense (especially the offensive line), defense (on the last drive) all didn't play up to what we expect from the Patriots. Add to that the fact that the Giants played the game of their lives and you end up with the end of the quest for the perfect season.

I spoke to a lot of people Monday and it was funny, almost every one I spoke to mentioned Belichick's hoodie. Where was the regular grey hoodie? He wore this red thing instead. I think people thought it screwed up the karma or something. Let's just say I don't think they'll be selling too many of those at the Pro Shop.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

So much for perfection.

The Giants defeated the Patriots 17-14 in one of the greatest upsets in NFL history. All credit to the Giants defense, which held the mighty Patriots offense to only two touchdowns and kept the pressure on Tom Brady all night.

Still, the Pats nearly won the game, as Brady drove them down the field and hit Randy Moss for a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead. However, Eli Manning out-Brady-ed Brady and threw a touchdown pass to Plexico Burress with 35 seconds left. This wasn't enough time for even Brady to pull off another miracle.

I'm incredibly disappointed. I really didn't think the New York had a serious chance of beating the Pats. The perfect season and another Super Bowl title is gone. The shoe that the Patriots wore in their first Super Bowl win against the Rams is truly on the other foot. The Giants used a ferocious defense and a young quarterback who avoided mistakes and did a good job directing his team to beat the heavily favored Patriots.

Well, Mercury Morris will sleep well tonight.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Prediction time!

It's been a pretty strange Super Bowl week. First, Senator Arlen Spector, in an unbelievable publicity grab, decided to weigh in on Spygate five months after the event! Apparently Spector decided that it was somehow improper that the NFL destroyed the tapes they confiscated from the Patriots. I'm not exactly sure why, since I don't believe that breaking NFL rules actually constitutes breaking the law. Plus, as I'm sure most of us remember, Bill Belichick and the Patriots were given one of the most severe penalties in league history for Spygate; $750,000 in total fines and the loss of a first round draft pick.

One would think that with a war on, the economy sliding toward a recession, the subprime mortgage crisis, millions of people without health insurance and all the other problems this country faces a United States Senator would have more important things to worry about than this. Even the steroid issue has some public health implications. Mr. Spector needs to get his priorities straight.

Then today, the Boston Herald quoted a "source" (who apparently has no name) that the Pats taped the St. Louis Rams final walkthrough before their win in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Looks like it's open season on the 18-0 Patriots. Fortunately, all this garbage stops tomorrow and we finally play some football.

I have been feeling for over a week that the Pats are going to win this one big. I think this is going to be a case of a good team (the Giants) going up against a great team (the Patriots) and the great team is going to win by a substantial margin. I don't think it's going to be Bears-Pats from Super Bowl XX, but I think the Pats are going to win 38-24.

Check back and see how I did! Go Pats!

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