Sunday, August 31, 2008

Got a ton of stuff to write about: Vermont, our trip up to the State Street Pavilion at Fenway last night, Baseball as America at the Museum of Science today, but I haven't had tons of time to write, I'll hopefully get caught up next week.

One of the reasons I didn't do anything tonight was because I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight at Jordan's Furniture IMAX tonight. Yeah, it pretty much lived up to all the hype.

More to come!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A few facts:
  • If Jason Giambi had taken the afternoon off, the Sox could have swept the Yankees at the Stadium. Giambi had all three RBI in the Bombers 3-2 win today. Still, I'm pretty happy with two out of three.
  • The Sox, who were a disaster on the road earlier this season, were 6-3 on this trip through Baltimore, Toronto and New York. Not bad!
  • The Rockies are only six games out in the NL West, as compared to 6.5 out on this date last year. Can they make another run and take a bad division?
  • The Diamondbacks lead the NL West at only three games over .500. If they were in the AL West, they would be 12.5 games behind the Angels.
  • The Sox play 20 of their last 29 at Fenway.
  • The Sox are 16-8 since the Manny trade. The Dodgers are 11-15, including losing their last seven in a row.
  • If Josh Beckett doesn't get good news on his arm from Dr. Andrews, the Sox are not going to repeat as World Series champions (OK, that's my opinion, but I think it's pretty darn close to being a fact.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Five questions running through my head as I watch game one of the Sox last visit to Yankee Stadium:
  1. Why does John McCain constantly run these negative ads against Barak Obama? They just make me think he's a cranky old guy. I'm worried that if he gets elected he'll be yelling, "Get these damn kids off my lawn!" at the annual Easter egg roll.
  2. Do Hollywood executives really think like this? This article quotes the head of the Warner Brothers movie studio on the reboot of the Superman franchise, saying that the movie will be dark, like The Dark Knight. Does this guy know anything about Superman? Just because dark is appropriate for Batman doesn't mean it works for all superheroes. If he looks back at his ancient history (like three months ago), there was a pretty successful superhero movie that wasn't particularly dark. I think it was called Iron Man.
  3. Has there ever been a Red Sox starter that was missed less due to an injury than Julio Lugo?
  4. Should I take Friday off and make it a four day weekend? I'm leaning that way.
  5. Who came up with synchronized diving? And what were they drinking at the time?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A few thoughts as I prepare to go back to work after 10 days off (and I'm really not looking forward to it):

  • Saw The Clone Wars today with J. and one of his friends. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I would rate it ahead of at least two of the prequels (probably not Revenge of the Sith). The story moved ahead nicely and there were way fewer cringe inducing moments than in Phantom Menace. Amazingly, the animated characters and voice actors in some cases were far better than their real life counterparts in the prequels (were you paying attention, Hayden Christensen?). Also very cool was the fact that Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) did the voice work for their characters - not sure if that will continue in the Clone Wars TV series.
  • Both 10 year olds gave it a thumbs up, but didn't like it as much as a slightly younger kid we saw exiting the theater. He looked ready to grab his lightsaber and take on those evil Separatists all by himself. I'm not sure if this was the effect of the movie, or too much Coke and candy at the theater.
  • Watching Dodgers-Phillies on ESPN. The Dodgers have Nomar and Manny, two of the three iconic Red Sox players of the last decade (Big Papi being the other, of course).
  • It's entirely possible that only three of the 10 MLB teams with payrolls over $100 million will make the playoffs. The Angels and Cubs are pretty much in, barring an epic Mets-like collapse. The Tigers, Braves and Mariners are out of the post-season running. The Yankees still have a shot at the wild card, but may not make the playoffs for the first time since the mid-90's. The Mets and Dodgers are in contention in their divisions, but could easily fall short and both teams are significantly behind the Brewers for the NL wild card. It's pretty likely that at least one of the Red Sox and White Sox will either take a division title or the wild card in the AL. So that means that the Angels, Cubs and one of the Sox are probable playoff participants. The other seven teams could easily be out.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

We just got back from a wonderful week in Vermont. More on that, with pictures, later.

While I was in Vermont, I watched the Impossible to Forget DVD about the 1967 Red Sox. 1967 is often referred to as the birth of Red Sox Nation as we know it today. Before the season, Tom Yawkey wanted to replace Fenway Park, preferably with a domed stadium. The Sox drew 8,324 for Opening Day against the White Sox (thanks, Retrosheet). It was hardly the regionwide holiday it is today.

This made me think of another "Impossible Dream" team unfolding right in front of our eyes. Yes, I'm talking about the first place Tampa Bay Rays. After a decade of utter futility, the Rays hold a 5.5 game lead over the Red Sox and they will have at least a 10.5 game bulge over the Yankees by the end of play tonight.

Is this the turning point for baseball in Florida? Despite the Marlins two World Series championships, their propensity for dismantling their championship teams has been a problem with developing a long term fan base. However, it appears that this Rays team is built for longer term success. They have a core of young players and a few veterans adding stability. They are fighting through what some would consider devastating injuries to Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Troy Percival. They won a stirring comeback victory over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Park today, a team fighting for a Central division title and a wild card berth themselves.

I wish they weren't doing it in the Red Sox division, but this is as exciting a team as I have seen in a while. It will be fun to watch and see if they can hold on for the last month of the season.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A few Sox thoughts:
  • Maybe the wildest game I have ever seen last night. The Sox went up 10-0 on Texas after the first, then lost the lead and came back on a three run bomb by Youk to win 19-17. It's good that they won the game, because blowing a 10 run lead and losing would have been downright embarrassing.
  • If the Rangers had any pitching at all they would be a very good team.
  • I like the Paul Byrd trade a lot. With Wakefield down, Buchholz inconsistent (and that's being kind) and Bartolo Colon a return to the DL waiting to happen, they need a solid veteran at the back end of the rotation. And he pitched quite well against the Sox and Yankees in the playoffs last year.
  • Jon Lester came up big, going 7.1 innings after last night's bullpen buster. I'm feeling pretty good going into the playoffs with Beckett, Lester and Daisuke as our front three.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

If you could only pick one, what would you say is the most improbable thing to happen in baseball this season?

  • Tampa Bay in first place on August 12. They have already broken the franchise record for most wins in a season
  • The Yankees nine games behind them.
  • The Twins, after losing Johan Santana and Torii Hunter, in first place in the AL Central.
  • The Detroit Tigers, after adding Miguel Cabrerra and Edgar Renteria are under .500, 8 games back of the Twins.
  • That the Padres and Mariners are as bad as they are (a combined 54 games under .500)
  • Josh Hamilton has 112 RBI
  • The Cardinals and the Marlins are still in the hunt.
  • Junior is on the south side of Chicago
  • Manny is a Dodger
Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Last Sunday J. and I went to Yankee Stadium. J. had asked if we could go see the ballpark during it's last season. Needless to say, I didn't need to have my arm twisted too hard! A few months ago I hopped on StubHub and got some pretty decent seats in the upper deck for only $5 over face. Even better, I got tickets for a Sunday game against one of the top teams in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels. Here's the view from our seats.

Our adventure started the night before. Much like our trip to New York City back in May, we drove to New Haven and took the MetroNorth commuter rail. I decided that getting up at 5:30 in the morning and doing the trip all in one day would be a little too much, so we stayed at the Clarion Inn in Hamden, CT the night before. It was a nice enough place. It was clean and had a small pool which we took a dip in on Saturday evening. Best of all, we were able to get up at a much more civilized 7:30 and still make our train.

J. and I watched movies and played games to pass the time (him on his PSP, me on my iPod touch) and soon enough we got to 125th St. station in Harlem. We followed the mass of Yankee fans off the train and got onto the number 4 train that would take us three stops to 161st St - Yankee Stadium.

One funny thing happened on the subway. There was a little boy (about 4) wearing a Red Sox hat. A man on the train was teasing him (nicely) about wearing a Red Sox hat to Yankee Stadium - his father even said that he tried to talk him out of it. I had decided to go without any Red Sox gear to avoid the abuse, especially with my 10 year old in tow. I whispered to Jeremy, "that little kid is braver than me!"

As we got off the subway, we could see the gleaming new Yankee Stadium under construction across the street. It reminded me of going to old Comiskey Park in the early '90s with the new one going up on the other side of the street.

We entered the Stadium minutes after the gate opened with the intention of heading directly to Monument Park. Unfortunately, there were already huge crowds in the narrow Yankee Stadium councourse and two of New York's finest told us that Monument Park was too crowded and already closed. That was a bit disappointing, but J. was OK with it. I told him that the monuments would no doubt the moved across the street to the new Yankee Stadium, and maybe they would plan it out without this ridiculous limitation that the park closes 45 minutes before the game.

Yankee Stadium may have been renovated in the '70s, but it's still very much 1923 under the stands. The concourses are very narrow and insufficient for the 55,000 people entering the ballpark. The Red Sox have done a lot of work the last few years to expand the area for fans in the concourses at Fenway (closing Yawkey Way on game days, the Big Concourse, the new concourse in left field). Obviously, with a new stadium coming, the Yankees have felt no such need to do that kind of work. The corridors are made even more narrow by numerous concession carts set up.

My impression of Yankee Stadium hasn't changed much since my first visit. The amazing weight of history is here - the 26 World Series championships, the great players from Ruth and Gehrig to DiMaggio and Mantle to Reggie to Jeter. However, the ballpark itself isn't great, although the sightlines are very good. What makes Yankee Stadium the place it is are the players and events that made it legendary. By almost any measure, places like Camden Yards and PNC Park are better ballparks.

The game itself was fantastic. The Angels went up 5-0 after four innings as Yankees starter Darrell Rasner was gone after four innings. Meanwhile, the Angels John Lackey, who nearly no-hit the Red Sox in his last start, looked strong.

Then the Yankees offense started to come back. Pudge Rodriguez hit a solo himer in the 5th for the first run. Then the Yankees scored 3 in the 6th and 4 in the 7th to take an 8-5 lead. In the top of the 8th the newly acquired Mark Teixeira hit a grand slam to give the Angels a 9-8 lead. I whispered to Jeremy at that point, "I can hardly contain my joy!"

The joy was to be short-lived. The normally reliable Scott Shields was knocked around by the Yankees and they scored six runs in the bottom of the 8th. The Angels went down quietly in the 9th and the Yankees took the 14-9 win. Amazingly, the Angels made four errors in the game (and there was another play that could have been called an error). You simply cannot give the Yankees offense that many extra outs and expect to win the game.

The ride home was pretty uneventful. We went to Grand Central Station to get the train back to New Haven, since I figured 125th St. would be mobbed and we would have a better chance of getting a seat if we got on at the beginning of the line. The only difficulty we had getting home was when the Connecticut highway department decided to close down two lanes of both I-91 north of New Haven and I-84 east of Hartford for construction. Fortunately, I had my TomTom GPS hooked up and told it to steer a course around the backup. It took us off the highway in a couple of roundabout courses (including a dirt road!), but we got back to the highway past the construction slowdown. I figure we saved at least 25 minutes by going around the backups.

So it was a great day and J. will be able to tell his grandchildren someday that he went to the original Yankee Stadium. And that was sort of the point, wasn't it?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

This is very cool - it's called "Where the Hell is Matt". You can also see a higher quality version at the YouTube page.

After all, if people all over the world can do the same silly dance, maybe greater things are possible.

Thanks to Dr. Horrible for the link.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

One of the greatest things about baseball is that there is always a possibility that you are going to see something you have never seen before.

That happened tonight. Jason Bay hit a long drive to left-center field. The Royals center fielder, Mitch Maier, leaps in front of the wall and the ball bounces off this glove. It then rolls a good two or three feet down the wall. Thinking quickly, left fielder Ross Gload knocks the ball off the wall back onto the field of play, holding Bay to a two-run double.

I have never seen a ball do that in all the thousands of baseball games I have seen live or on TV. It was a remarkable combination of luck, timing and physics that will no doubt be played a zillion times on Sportcenter the next few days.

Yankee Stadium trip report coming later this week!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Manny who?

The newest member of Red Sox Nation, Jason Bay, just set up the winning run with a Wall scraping triple in the bottom of the 12th. Bay scored on Jed Lowrie's infield hit and the Sox get the first win of the Manny being Manny Somewhere Else Era, 2-1.

It was a great (and badly needed) win, and a good way to wash the taste of the events of the last week out of our collective mouths. Maybe this is the start of something exciting here.

Best thing about Bay: despite the fact that he grew up in British Columbia, his dad is a huge Red Sox fan. To this day, there are posters of Yaz and Jim Rice in the Bay basement. Sounds like a guy who was born to be here!

J. and I are going to be at Yankee Stadium on Sunday to see the Angels take on the Bronx Bombers. This will be my second visit and J.'s first (and only). I thought I would post the trip report from my first visit to the House that Ruth Built in 1999. Enjoy!

The trip started out with a drive to the 128 train station. I caught the 6:35 Amtrak to Penn Station. I have to say that I'm convinced that the trainis the only way to go to NYC, especially once the new high-speed rail starts later in the year. The seats were very comfortable and I got in good naps on both ends of the trip :-) The time seemed to pass pretty quickly, too.

I arrived in Midtown Manhattan about 5 minutes late, just before 11:00 AM. The first thing that greeted me upon stepping onto the streets of New York was a big MSG Network poster that said "Roger's ring size is 13 1/2". If there's one thing I hate more than the Yankees it's arrogant Yankee fans!

I walked from Penn Station over to Grand Central to catch the #4 subway to Yankee Stadium. The ride was uneventful, and the train was loaded with Yankee fans (a small improvement over it being loaded with muggers). When the train emerges at the Stadium, it comes out within feet of the back wall in center field (think driving by the FleetCenter from the Central
Artery to Storrow Drive). It was a pretty dramatic sight, actually!

I got off the train and made my way into the ballpark. The neighborhood near the Stadium wasn't as bad as I was expecting, although I suspect that being there alone at night would be pretty unhealthy.

I entered the ballpark and got my first case of sticker shock of the day - the programs were $5! This would continue to be a theme throughout the afternoon; the concessions were very expensive, even by Fenway standards: $3.50 for a hot dog, $4 for a little baseball helmet of ice cream, $5 for a souvenir cup of soda. I also quickly discovered that virtually every
summer camp in the Tri-State area had decended on the weekday afternoon game.

I headed over to Monument Park first. This was, without a doubt, the highlight of Yankee Stadium. There are big, free-standing monuments of 5 Yankee greats (Babe Ruth, Miller Huggins, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Joe Dimaggio), along with plaques for a number of lesser stars. There were all of the Yankees retired numbers posted, too. I think I counted 15,
including 8 twice (for Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey), and not including Jackie

Other than Monument Park, I found Yankee Stadium very unimpressive. When they did the reconstruction in the mid-70's, I get the impression that they used the stadium architecture then in vougue. It has the very sterile, uniform look of many of the "cookie cutter" ballparks of that era, although the sightlines are pretty good since it's baseball only. I had seats near
home plate, but in the second deck. They were pretty good, but I was WAY up in the air. If I had to compare Yankee Stadium to another ballpark I've been to, it would be the new Comiskey Park in Chicago.

The game itself was one of those long, tedious affairs you seem to get too many of these days. I didn't want to make my Red Sox fan status obvious, so I didn't root openly for the Tigers. This was made doubly difficult by the fact that Brian Moehler was pitching for Detroit; he's on my fantasy league team. Neither Moehler nor his opponent, Andy Pettitte, pitched particularly
well. There seemed to be a lot of deep counts and a lot of walks (10 between the two teams). There were also 25 men left on base (15 by the Yankees), so the game took nearly 4 hours. The length of the game would later prove to be my undoing. The best part about the whole affair was that the Yankees lost, 8-2.

After the game I took the subway back to Manhattan. My original plan was to grab dinner at the All-Star Cafe in Times Square, but the length of the game didn't give me enough time for that. So, I decided to grab a quick bite at a little Chinese place on 7th Ave. that I had gone to a few times back in my single days when I would go to NY on a semi regular basis. Unfortunately,
something I ate seriously disagreed with me, and by the time I got back to Rte 128, I was feeling pretty ill! I've decided that the Baseball Gods were getting back at me for entering enemy teritory, and combined the Curse of the Bambino with Montezuma's Revenge :-)

So, it wasn't a great trip, but I'm glad I had an opportunity to see The House that Ruth Built. Just stay away from the Chinese at 7th Ave. and 34th St.!

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