Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Red Sox were desperate to get rid of Manny Ramirez.

It's the only explanation. Think about it. This is what the Sox gave up to get Jason Bay from the Pirates and send Manny to the Dodgers:

- Manny Ramirez
- Craig Hansen
- Brandon Moss
- 2 draft picks (which they would have received in compensation if they had declined Manny's option and he became a free agent. The Dodgers will get those picks instead if they don't sign Manny.)
- $7 million to pay Manny's salary for the rest of the season.

That's a high price, but I think Theo and the Sox ownership felt they had to pay it. Manny's antics had simply become too much and were doubtless having a negative effect on the rest of the team. This may be a case of addition by subtraction, much like the Nomar trade in 2004.

Jason Bay is no Manny Ramirez, but he's not a stiff, either (.282, 22 HR, 64 RBI). He's certainly a defensive upgrade over Manny (who isn't?), and his offensive numbers this year are comparable to Manny's.

I'm hoping that the elimination of Manny's distraction will re-energize this team. As discussed here a couple of days ago, the Angels upgraded their offense with the Mark Teixeira trade. The Yankees filled some weak spots by adding Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte and Pudge Rodriguez. Chicago, leading the AL Central, brought Junior Griffey over from Cincinnati. The Red Sox, at best, stayed even by exchanging Bay for Manny. Making the playoffs is not going to be a cakewalk, and the Sox will be facing some very good teams if they get there.

All that said, I'm going to miss Manny. Until the last week or so, his antics were generally amusing and harmless. He's a sublime hitter, who made you stop in your tracks for every at bat. And I want to be on hand for his speech when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame.

So, thanks Manny, for the two World Series championship and all the thrills and laughs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Well, that was pretty exciting.

John Lackey no-hit the Red Sox for 8.1 innings tonight. Dustin Pedroia finally broke up Lackey's bid with a clean single to left. Youk, the next batter, ended the shutout with a home run over the Monster. Lackey ended up with a 6-2 complete game win.

Was it just me, or did the Fenway crowd seem strangely quiet in the 9th? I would like to think the Red Sox fans haven't become such homers that we can't celebrate a great achievement like this by an opposing player. It's hard to tell over the TV, though so I can't be sure.

Congratulations for a great performance to John Lackey. We'll worry about the Red Sox problems (4-7 since the All-Star break) another night.

A few thoughts from the last few days...

- Why I don't gamble: My pre-weekend prognostications on the Sox-Yankees series didn't exactly hit on the mark. The Sox lost two of three instead of winning two of three. If you consider the 1-0 Beckett-Joba classic, I wasn't really that far off though. Boston and New York exchanged beatings on Saturday (10-3 Bombers) and Sunday (9-2 Sox), so a clutch hit against Joba at the right time could have turned that around.

- Manny being irritating: This whole Manny thing is out of control. Making phone calls from the Green Monster and jaywalking in Seattle is funny and harmless, but his act the last week isn't good. Sitting out games because of a "knee injury" is totally unacceptable, especially the Friday night game against the Yankees. Could Manny have been the difference in a 1-0 game? It's a bit of a rhetorical question, isn't it?

Manny's strategy is depressingly obvious: he doesn't want the Sox to pick up his $20 million option so that he can become a free agent and make one last big score in the $80-100 million guaranteed range. In that, I think he's succeeded. I can't see Theo picking up that option, regardless of Manny's production. I think he'll take the extra money in his budget and the two draft picks and be happy about it.

- Angels in the outfield: Anyone else think the Angels have a very good chance of winning the World Series this year? I sure do. Strong starting pitching, an excellent bullpen and very good defense is a recipie for post-season success. J. and I will have a chance to see the Halos first hand at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.

UPDATE: I wrote this today at lunch before I heard that the Angels had acquired first baseman Mark Teixeira from Atlanta for Casey Kochman and a minor league pitcher. Getting Teixeira, a power hitting switch hitter and Gold Glove caliber defender, has to make the Angels the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing. Kudos to Angels owner Arte Moreno and GM Tony Reagins for pulling the trigger on a big deal like this. It shows how far they are willing to go to win.

- Must see TV: Cubs-Brewers from Miller Park on ESPN tomorrow night. Two games separate the teams going into tonight.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My thoughts on the weekend Sox-Yanks pitching matchups:

Tonight, Joba Chamberlain vs. Josh Beckett: This is probably the most intriguing matchup of the series, with the Yankees young gun taking on Commander Kick-A$@ (as Surviving Grady likes to call him.) Beckett tends to come up big in big games and Joba seems to have difficulty keeping his pitch counts down against patient lineups like the Sox. Game one to Beckett and the Sox.

Saturday, Andy Pettitte vs. Tim Wakefield: Two great old warriors going at it, this should be a lot of fun to watch. It's really a toss-up as far as I'm concerned. It could come down to the bullpens, although since Wake has been on this roll of games where he has pitched at least into the 7th (nine in a row, I think) hopefully the Sox bullpen won't have to play much of a role.

Sunday, TBA vs. Jon Lester: Lester has been the Sox best starter this year and if he can keep from running his pitch count up he has a pretty good chance against the Bombers. It says a lot about the Yankees starting pitching that Girardi hasn't picked a starter yet. I bet he wishes he had Mussina to pitch game 3.

Sox take at least 2 out of 3 over the weekend, with a reasonable chance of a sweep. Come back Monday and see how I did!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quite a weekend on a number of fronts...

- Friday afternoon we saw the performance R. took part in after two weeks of summer theater camp. The play was called Mirror, Mirror and had nothing to do with alternate universes, agony booths or Spock with a beard. Instead, this was a version of the Snow White story and R. had the title role - that's right, she was the mirror. She did really well and was clearly relishing having a big role in the play.

- We spent most of Saturday in the Berkshires for J.'s camp visiting day. He's having an amazing time there. He has been on several "adventure trips" including rock climbing, hiking and white water rafting, so I really feel like he's gotten the most out of the experience. The camp is in a beautiful spot and has lots of great activities. I was thinking it would be great to arrange a transporter accident to "de-age" me so I could go to camp!

- On the way home from camp we stopped in Westfield, MA to catch the first round of the Vintage Base Ball Federation 2008 Northeast Regional Playoffs. We saw parts of a couple of good games - the Roxbury Nine took on the Boston Colonials and the Whately Pioneers played the Simsbury Taverneers (I love that name). Both games were fun to watch and well played, but the heat was just oppressive. This had the effect of keeping the crowd down and we took off part way through the second game.

- Rough weekend for the Sox, getting swept by the Angels. This is a very good team, and will be very tough in the post-season, especially if they make a move for another hitter. The starting pitching and the 'pen is certainly good enough for a deep playoff run. And K-Rod has 40 saves already.

- Finished watching Dr. Horrible over the weekend. The ending was completely not what I expected, but in a good way. You can't watch the streaming video anymore, but it is available on iTunes. If the words "supervillain musical" holds any appeal to you, go check it out.

- Eight guys I stop what I'm doing when they come up to bat:
  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Manny Ramirez
  3. David Ortiz
  4. Prince Fielder
  5. A-Rod (except in the playoffs; what would be the point)
  6. Vladimir Guerrero
  7. Ryan Howard
  8. Chipper Jones
There are more, but these are the first ones that came to mind.

Friday, July 18, 2008

If you haven't seen this yet, click on the graphic below and go do it. I'll wait.

Well, what are you waiting for? Do it. DO IT!

There, wasn't that great? I told you it would be worth it.

Of course, if you didn't watch it by July 20th, you can't do it any more. Go to iTunes and spend the 4 bucks to download the three parts. I promise you it will be worth it. Just skip that latte one morning this week.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hell of an All-Star Game last night, wasn't it?

I went to bed after the 8th. It was approaching 11:30 and I had to get up for work in the morning. I decided that if the AL took the lead in the bottom of the 8th I would stay up to see Mariano Rivera get the save. The game stayed tied, so I went to bed.

Needless to say, I was a bit surprised when I checked out this morning to discover that the game had gone 15 innings! Thanks to Michael Young and the AL All-Stars for clinching home field for the Sox in the World Series this year.

The whole thing was a little crazy, though. Both managers, Terry Francona and Clint Hurdle, had a tough time throwing together a pitching staff in the late innings. After the embarrassment in Milwaukee a few years back, Bud Selig was having nothing to do with another tie. If the game had gone into the 16th, Francona would have been in the position of having a position player pitch.

There are a few things that could be done to solve this problem. One option would be to let players reenter the game if it goes to extra innings. A pitcher who had only pitched an inning earlier in the game might be able to come back in and get a couple more outs. Another possiblity would be to simply put an innings limit on the game. Acknowledge that it's an exhibition and say that it's over after 10 or 11 innings if the game is still tied (this is often done in spring training). This would require finding another way to decided World Series home field advantage. I would recommend giving it to the league with the best interleague record that season.

One last thing on the All-Star game. Kudos to the Yankees for putting on a pre-game ceremony worthy of Yankee Stadium. The amazing number of Hall of Famers in attendance and the appearance by George Steinbrenner were very well done and reminiscent of the 1999 event at Fenway Park for Ted Williams. I hate to give the Empire credit for anything, but in this case it was well deserved.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A few things while watching the 2008 All-Star Game, starring Yankee Stadium:

- People complain about various aspects of it, but I love the All-Star Game. Always have. I like seeing the best of the best there on one field, the attention of the entire baseball world on that one place for that one night.

- My complaint is that interleague play has diluted some of the unique matchups that you would only get in the All-Star Game or the World Series. Some of the fun back in the day was seeing, say, Catfish Hunter pitching to Pete Rose. You could never see that during the regular season.

- There are three Jewish players in this year's All-Star Game: Kevin Youkilis, Ian Kinsler and Ryan Braun. That's gotta be some kind of record.

- And when was the last time the Brewers had two players in the starting lineup (Braun and Ben Sheets)?

- Finally, why do people call the All-Star break the "half-way point"? The Red Sox have played 97 games. That sounds like way more than half-way to me.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I love this picture.

However, it does present a few questions...
  1. Who the heck is he talking to? Enrique Wilson? Is Mrs. Ramirez asking him to pick up some milk and bread on the way home? Is he just calling a buddy and saying, "Guess where I'm calling you from!" (that's what I'd do.)
  2. Who's phone is he using? Does he keep his in his back pocket, or does it belong to one of the guys who works in the Wall?
  3. What kind of reception do you get inside the Green Monster? It's covered with metal, so I wouldn't think it's too good.
One other thing - Josh Hamilton of the Rangers has 95 RBI through today. 95! It's a day before the All-Star break. If this guy played in New York, he'd get his own parade on Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I was just going to write about the Sox offense and how much they miss Big Papi in the middle of the lineup when Manny blasts one into the Monster Seats to tie the Twins at 5. I'll have to try that more often...

The Cubbies pretty much matched the Brewers acquisition of C.C. Sabathia by picking up Rich Harden and reliever Chad Gaudin from the A's for Sean Gallgher, former Sox farmhand Matt Murton and two minor leaguers.

Harden's big question, of course, has always been his health. Harden has only had more than 30 starts once in his six seasons. If he can stay healthy, though, he's as good as they get.

The surprise for me is that the A's made this trade at this point in the season. They're only 3.5 games out of the wild card, and trading a good (if fragile) starter and a serviceable bullpen arm smacks of giving up. I know Billy Beane is always looking to reload his farm system, and maybe he thought he wouldn't be able to keep Harden long term, but it just doesn't seem like the right move at this time for the A's.

In any event, this should keep things interesting in the NL Central race. Think the Cardinals will do anything to counter these moves?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A few things wrapping up 4th of July weekend:

  • We got our first phone call from J. at camp today. He seems to be having a fabulous time. He's doing all the usual "camp stuff" - swimming, sports, horseback riding, etc. The camp also offers optional trips, so he went off and climbed Mt. Greylock the highest peak in Massachusetts. I'm so happy that he's having a great time and having new experiences. I think the only thing that might be a problem is that he's coming home halfway through the summer!
  • Word is that the Indians are going to be trading C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers. It's a great move for the Brewers, who are right in the thick of things in the N.L. Central. Can there be a more disappointing team than the Indians, though? Going from one game from the World Series last year to trading last year's Cy Young Award winner and essentially conceding the season? It seems that whatever mojo the Tribe had going last season picked itself up and moved 1,100 miles south to Tampa Bay.
  • R. and I had a bit of a bittersweet day at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence. We had a great time, spending about 4.5 hours checking out the animals, but we discovered that the park's cheetah had died. R. had done her independent study project for school on cheetahs a couple of years ago, and we managed to get a "behind the scenes" tour of the animal enclosure and got up close and personal with the cheetah. There was just a chain link fence separating him and us. R. got to interview the zookeeper and it was a great memory for her. Add her love of animals in general to this and she was a bit broken up. She got over it fairly quickly and understands that the cheetah had a good long life at the zoo and she had a unique experience in meeting him.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I have been negligent in posting my three most recent trips to the ballpark since the game at Rogers Centre, so here goes...

- A. asked me a while back what I wanted to do for Father's Day, and I'm sure those of you reading this will be shocked when I said that I wanted to go to a ball game. After searching around, we decided to go see the closest thing we have to a local team, the Worcester Tornadoes. The game itself was entertaining enough, with the Tornadoes beating the Ottawa Rapidz (no, that's spelled right) 6-4. Worcester scored five runs in the second and held on the rest of the way, surviving a four run 6th by Ottawa.

After the game, the kids got to run the bases, then the Tornadoes had a Father's Day catch on the outfield grass. The kids and I got out there and tossed the ball around a bit, ending a fun day at the ballpark.

- R. and I made our next trip to Fenway Park the following Saturday for an interleague game against the St. Louis Cardinals. The game was notable as Daisuke Matsuzaka's return from the disabled list. Unfortunately, Daisuke didn't look quite ready to come back, as the Cards beat the hell out of him. Daisuke only went 1 inning plus, giving up seven runs on six hits and three walks. Daisuke was relieved by Chris Smith after loading the bases in the top of the second. Smith, just up from Pawtucket, struck out Rick Ankiel to give us some hope of escaping the situation without too much damage, but then Troy Glaus put one over the Monster. The game was pretty much out of reach after that.

Other than Daisuke's meltdown, the most memorable thing about this game was the heat. Sitting in the bleachers with no cover on a hot, sunny June afternoon was pretty draining. R. and I headed downstairs after the 4th to get some ice cream and we enjoyed a misting fan the Sox had set up under the bleachers. We managed to have a fun time in spite of it all, but it would have better if the game had been more competitive and it hadn't been quite so hot.

Wondering where J. was? He got invited to a birthday party, and they were at the Sox game as well. He had much better seats than we did, sitting in the 4th row of the grandstand near home plate. How come I never get invited to those parties?

- Our last game was last night. We had planned to go back to Worcester on July 3 for their fireworks display, but about 6:30 the skies just opened up with a pretty intense thunderstorm. It was pretty apparent that the game wasn't going to start on time if it was played at all, so we went to our favorite Worcester restaurant, the Brew City Grill, for dinner. The rain had stopped by the time we finished, so we drove over to the ballpark to find out that the game had, indeed, been rained out.

R. was looking forward to fireworks, so we promised her that we would go see some on the 4th. We looked at a variety of options and finally settled on another ball game, this time the Brockton Rox. By chance, the Rox happened to be playing the Tornadoes, and we were treated to another fun game. Worcester scored a bunch early, taking a 5-0 lead and holding on for a 6-3 win. The Rox made it interesting in the 9th, scoring a run and bringing the tying run to the plate before finally going losing.

We settled in to wait for the fireworks to start. Since they were being done in conjunction with the nearby Brockton Fair, they weren't scheduled to start until 10:30 so we had about a 45 minute wait. The Rox "Fun Team" did a nice job keeping us entertained during the wait, but at about 10:20 we were told that the Brockton Fire Department had pushed things back to 11:00.

Normally, I would have been pretty ticked off about this, but the Rox did what all good businesses do when they don't meet your expectations: they made it up to us. The Rox announced that, to make up for the inconvenience, last night's tickets would be good to be exchanged for any other game the rest of the season. So we waited not quite another half hour (the show actually started around 10:55) and saw a very nice fireworks display. R. was happy, we were tired and we finally headed for home. All in all, a fun evening, despite the wait.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A few things as the Sox try to overcome the meltdown by Delcarmen and Hansen in game 3 of the Tampa series...
  • You know those "Most Interesting Man in the World" commercials? They're really about William Shatner.
  • I was browsing around iTunes last night (mostly to buy the brilliant Pixar short, Presto, they are showing in front of the equally brilliant Wall-E - for $2 I couldn't pass it up), and I came across some tracks from the band Boston. I had at least two of their three albums on vinyl back in the '70s, so I picked up six tracks and had an arena rock morning on the way to work. I may have to go back and complete the albums sometime soon.
  • Yahoo! Sports Steve Henson hands out midterm report cards to all 30 teams. He generally got it pretty right, from the A+ for the Rays to the F's for Seattle, Colorado and San Diego. It's kind of amazing that the F's went to last year's NL pennant pennant winner, the team that lost to them in a one-game playoff to determine the wild card, and a team with a $117 million payroll pretty much everyone expected to contend this year.
  • My additions to the disappointing list: Cleveland (10 games under .500), Mets, Braves and Tigers (although they finally got to .500).
  • Sox just got swept. They're 3.5 games back. I never thought I would be happy to get out of Tampa to go to Yankee Stadium.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I'm starting to get a bit frustrated.

The Sox offense has got to wake up. Other than the 10 runs in a losing effort in Houston on Saturday, the bats have been pretty sleepy. They got another great performance out of Wake tonight (7 innings, 2 runs) and could only manage to get one run across the plate. It doesn't get any easier tomorrow in the finale at Tampa with Scott Kazmir going for the Rays tomorrow.

Four losses in a row, and 2 and 1/2 games back. We really need to get a win tomorrow.

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