Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My top five sports stories of 2008:
  1. Celtics win the NBA Championship and raise banner 18.
  2. Red Sox win game 5 of the ALCS, coming back from a 7-0 deficit against the Rays to stave off elimination (until game 7).
  3. Jon Lester pitches a no-hitter against the Royals.
  4. Michael Phelps and all those gold medals.
  5. Matt Cassell emerges to lead the Patriots to within a hairs breadth of a playoff berth.
And the worst sports moment: the Patriots lose the Super Bowl with 35 seconds left. There were some other bad ones (Brady's injury, the Sox elimination, the whole Manny saga in July), but really, does anything else come close?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We just got back from our annual holiday trip to Florida. The weather was fantastic - high 70's or low 80's and sunny every day we were there. Of course, we got back just in time for another snow storm tomorrow! I'll put up some detailed reports later in the week, but a few highlights:
  • We got to spend a lot of time with the family, including our annual dinner at Chef Mickey's. It's really great that J. and R. get along so well with my neice and nephew, especially considering that they only see each other a couple of times a year. It's too bad the distance keeps us from getting together more often.
  • We went to see Fantasmic at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It's an amazing show as Mickey Mouse battles an array of Disney villains. Out of Disney's three evening shows, Fantasmic stands above both Epcot's Illuminations and the Magic Kingdom's Wishes.
  • We visited Kennedy Space Center for the first time in many years (and first time ever for the kids). Lots of cool stuff, but the highlights included the Astronaut Memorial and the incredible sight of a Saturn V rocket suspended over your head in the Apollo program section of the tour.
  • Did I mention the weather?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is anyone really surprised?

In case you missed it, the Yankees swept in and topped the Red Sox, the Nationals and everyone else, giving Mark Teixeira an 8 year, $180 million contract. The Red Sox last reported offer was 8 years/$170 million.

Perhaps that's what John Henry meant when he said that the Red Sox would not be a factor in signing Teixeira. Maybe Boras told him that the Yankees planned to top any conceivable offer. With $80 million coming off the payroll from last season and the opening of the new Yankee Stadium next year, the Yankees have money to burn. And burn it they have, committing over $400 million to Teixeira, A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia. They have the four highest paid players in baseball (A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia and Teixeira).

These signings obviously change the balance of power in the A.L. East. The Yankees are back in it after falling out of the playoffs last year. Let's not count out the Sox, though. They still have a very good starting rotation (assuming Beckett is healthy), a deep bullpen and a pretty good offense assuming Papi and Lowell return to form. And, oh yeah, there are the Rays, last years A.L. champs. Remember them?

By the way, wondering where that $80 million came from? The bulk of it is from Jason Giambi ($23.4 million), Bobby Abreu ($16 million), Andy Pettite ($16 million), Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina ($11 million each). The Yankees will probably resign Pettite in the $10 million range.

One final thought: if the Yankees don't at least reach the ALCS next year, Brian Cashman shouldn't even be allowed to run a fantasy team.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It was not a great day on the Framingham/Worcester commuter rail line.

The morning commute started out poorly. I waited 20 minutes in the bitter cold for the 6:50 (P504) train to arrive. It was apparently late due to "switch problems" back in Worcester ("Switch problems" and "signal problems" are commuter rail code for "someone screwed something up" as far as I can tell.) The train that finally did arrive was a six car, single decker train. Since this train would now be carrying passengers from both the P504 and the P506 trains, it was immediately obvious that things would be getting pretty crowded.

Sure enough, the train was pretty much full by the time we got through Wellseley. I even did the right thing and offered my seat to an older woman standing nearby, but she turned me down. It was a very slow ride into Boston and we finally got there at about 8:30, 45 minutes late.

Not to be outdone, the evening train was late as well. We left South Station on time at 6:15, but moved very slowly though Newton (more "signal problems"). Then, as we got to West Natick, the conductor announced that a car was stuck on the track in Framingham and we were being stopped by the police until they moved the car out of the way. So we got about half way to Framingham station and sat there. For more than 20 minutes. Now, no one actually explained exactly what happened, but unless there was an accident (no evidence of that when we passed the intersection), there's no imaginable reason why it should take that long to push a car off the tracks.

So we got into Framingham about 7:30, around 40 minutes late. I spent nearly 1.5 hours on the train or waiting for the train more than I would in a normal day. Thank goodness I had my iPod, a book and my phone.

I'm hoping I used up my quota of travel delays for the week. I want to be hitting the wild blue yonder right on time on Wednesday afternoon!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Enough already!

It's pretty much been snowing here west of Boston since early afternoon on Friday (it's Sunday night as I write this). I don't know what the official total is, but I would guess we have at least 18 inches of snow. Other than R.'s Tae Kwon Do test yesterday (she did a great job and got her recommended green belt!) and an escape to a nearby rib joint last night, we have been in the house pretty much all weekend.

Oh, except for shoveling snow. We have done plenty of that. I have been out moving substantial amounts of the white stuff at least four times. Winter hasn't even officially started yet and I'm already sick of it.

The good news is that it's supposed to warm up later in the week and shouldn't be any weather issues to delay our trip to Florida on Wednesday. I can't get there fast enough!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is he coming or isn't he?

The Mark Teixeira derby got a little crazy today. Theo Epstein, John Henry and Larry Lucchino flew to Texas yesterday to meet with Teixeira and Scott Boras to finalize a deal, or so they thought. We don't know the details, but whatever negotiating tactics Boras threw out there caused Henry to send an email to various members of the media saying that the Red Sox would no longer be a factor in signing Teixeira.

So here's what I think happened. The Sox thought they were extremely close to a deal, or Henry, Lucchino and Theo aren't going to Texas. Boras said that they had other offers because, y'know, the rumored 8 year, $180 million contract isn't enough. This ticked Henry off enough to call Boras' bluff so he sent the email.

I'll note that the Yankees Brian Cashman says that the Yanks had not outbid the Red Sox for Teixeira.

All reports indicate that the Red Sox are still in the bidding. He's obviously the best position player on the market, and he's a great fit in the Red Sox lineup. It's certainly been an interesting process so far. We should know what uniform Teixeira will be wearing for the next 8 years or so in a few days.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Majel Barrett Roddenberry passed away today. Majel was the wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and was known as the "First Lady of Star Trek." Of course, Majel had several roles on the various series including Number One in the first Star Trek pilot, Nurse Christine Chapel on the original Star Trek series, Lwaxana Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation and the voice of numerous Federation computers in various Trek series and movies, including the upcoming Star Trek movie.

I saw Majel at several conventions over the years, but only had one real "close encounter" with her. I worked on a convention in 1986 called the "Platinum Anniversary Convention", in honor of Star Trek's 20th anniversary. Gene and Majel were among the guests that year. After the convention was over, I drove Majel and George (Sulu) Takei to Logan Airport for their flight back to L.A. (Gene was in the middle of working on TNG at the time and had left Sunday night).

George and Majel were chatting in the back seat. I was driving extremely carefully, not wanting to get into an accident with two science fiction legends in the back seat. As we're driving along, George starts talking about Majel's son, Rod, in a very complimentary way, talking about what a good kid he was. Majel eventually piped up with this classic: "Oh, he can be a little shit sometimes!" Very funny, and a really fun memory for me of a person who I had only known through watching on TV to that point.

We'll miss you, Majel. Star Trek won't be the same without you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

There's been a lot going on in baseball since a slow start to the Winter Meetings in Vegas. Here are a few thoughts on the bigger bits of news.
  • The biggest story was the Yankees spending nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on the front two for their starting rotation. They lavished $161 million of that new Yankee Stadium money on C.C. Sabathia and another $82.5 million on A.J. Burnett. The Sabathia signing is risky, but that would be true of signing any pitcher to a seven year contract for huge money. I actually think the Burnett signing is more risky - he's been fragile. His best two years have been his contract years. He undeniably has great stuff, but if he's not out on the mound to use it, it's not going to do the Yankees much good. I think the Yankees were desperate to do something after missing the playoffs last season, and I think it was obvious in the way they overspent on both of these pitchers.
  • The Mets bolstered the area that was probably responsible for keeping them out of the playoffs last season by signing Francisco Rodriguez to close for them for the next three years. They also entered into a blockbuster 12-player, three way trade with the Indians and Mariners and ended up with J.J. Putz to pitch the 8th inning in front of K-Rod. Putz could close for most teams, and of course K-Rod is coming off a record breaking season. After two straight September collapses, the Mets needed to do something and they certainly upgraded the bullpen.
  • Things are heating up in the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes. There seem to be five teams in the bidding: Angels, Orioles, Red Sox, Nationals and Yankees. Although Teixeira is from the Baltimore area, it seems pretty unlikely that the Orioles and Nats have a serious chance of signing him given both teams lack of recent success. Teixeira is pretty much Theo Epstein's dream player: high OPS, hits for power, plus defense, so you have to think the Sox are putting the full court press on signing him. It seems that the bidding is starting in the 8-year, $160 million range and is going up from there. Of course, if there is a guy in the market worth the big bucks, Teixeira is the one.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thursday I went to the DaVinci Restaurant on Columbus Ave. to attend WEEI's luncheon with Curt Schilling. The event was to raise money for Curt's Pitch for ALS, a worthy cause under any circumstances.

I took half a day off work and got to the restaurant just before noon. I was seated at a table with a gentleman who, as it turned out, used to consult for the company I work for, so we had a lot to talk about.

Lunch was served first, an Italian buffet. The food and the service were excellent - I can certainly see A. and I going back to DaVinci for a date night sometime. As my tablemate and I ate and talked, Curt came in with his wife Shonda. He sat and had lunch with the hosts, John Dennis and Gerry Callahan, along with some other WEEI folks. After everyone ate, Schill, Dennis and Callahan got up in the front of the room and Curt held court on a number of topics. As always, Schill didn't pull any punches - there wasn't much doubt about how he felt on a number of topics.
  • His comeback: Curt said that he was just at the point where he had to decide whether to start working out to make a comeback. As he admitted himself, he "hadn't done much". If I had to choose, I would have to say that he was done. It just seems like he isn't chomping at the bit to get back on the mound. He also mentioned several times that he wanted to spend more time with his family, especially with his oldest son just starting his teen years. I wouldn't be shocked to see him back out there, but I'd say it's more likely that the 2007 World Series was the last we have seen of Curt Schilling on a pitchers mound.
  • Manny: There's not much doubt about it; Schill doesn't have much use for Manny Ramirez. Curt admitted to four "physical confrontations" with Manny during their time as teammates in Boston. He specifically talked about one his first year with the team, when Manny dogged it on a fly ball in Toronto. Curt was about to go after Manny in the dugout after the inning and was intercepted by some of his teammates, who told him that Manny was hitting that inning and the dropped fly was just "Manny being Manny." He also said that Manny really lost his teammates last season when he pushed travelling secretary Jack McCormick. Curt described McCormick as the players "second wife" on the road, taking care of every conceivable thing so the players could focus on playing ball. It was incomprehensible to him that a player could even be disrespectful to McCormick, much less go after him physically.
  • Roger Clemens and steroids: Schill expressed a lot of disappointment in Roger over the steroid issue. Curt said that when players talked in the clubhouse about who might be juicing, he always came to Roger's defense, saying that he knew Roger's work ethic. Someone also asked how he felt about facing guys like Bonds, McGwire, etc. who were cheating and he said that it didn't really bother him.
  • The bloody sock: Of course, Curt was asked about the bloody sock game. He didn't say much new, although he did talk about Shonda's reaction when he came out to pitch game 2 of the World Series, after saying that he wouldn't pitch when he left the house that morning. She didn't find out until he walked out to the bullpen that he was pitching. When asked how she felt about that she just said, "Mad!"
  • Trip to Iraq: Curt just returned from a USO tour of Iraq, which he described as a life changing experience. He talked a lot about meeting the troops, the Iraqi civilians and others. He also described how strange it was to be the only one not carrying a weapon. It sounds like he had an amazing trip and congratulations to Curt for supporting our troops in that way.
Those were the major topics of conversation. Afterward he left pretty quickly; he only signed a few autographs. It was unfortunate, but they never promised autographs so I wasn't really disapointed. It was a fun experience, and I was glad to donate a few bucks to such a worthy cause.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Your cash is apparently no good at the Natick Collection.

When did good ol' American dollar bills become an unacceptable medium of exchange, exactly?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Three quick thoughts:
  • If I owned a Major League Baseball team, my GM would have to really convince me why I would want to invest $60-75 million in an injury prone guy like A.J. Burnett. The guy is a very talented pitcher when healthy, but he turns 32 in January and his started 30 games exactly twice. I'm not sure I would be gambling my money on him.
  • Just when you think politics couldn't get any more sleazy, along comes Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who is being accused of offering to sell off his appointment to fill President-elect Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. How can you trust any of these people to do the best thing for their constituents?
  • It was about 10 degrees outside when I left for work yesterday morning, and it's going to get up close to 60 tomorrow. Gotta love that New England weather!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A few quick things to wrap up the weekend...
  • We saw The Grinch who Stole Christmas at the Wang Center this afternoon. I got some free tickets from work (good seats, too), so the whole family went into town. This was a fun musical theater adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic - much better than the Jim Carrey movie a few years back.
  • Huge win for the Pats with a last minute drive against Seattle. Playoff hopes remain alive, but I have a hard time seeing this team getting out of the second round.
  • Baseball Winter Meetings get going this week. I'm not predicting a ton of action, but I think the stage will be set for a lot of moves later in the winter.

Friday, December 05, 2008

It appears that the greatest (unenhanced) pitcher of the last 25 years is going to announce his retirement. ran a story that Greg Maddux will formally retire at a press conference on Monday.

The numbers are amazing: 355 wins (8th all time), 4 Cy Young Awards, 18 Gold Gloves. More than the numbers, though, was the way Maddux worked at his craft. You always got the feeling, when watching him on the mound, that every pitch had a purpose. That purpose might not become evident until a later at bat, or even a later game against the same opponent, but it was always there.

Even at his peak, Maddux didn't have the overpowering stuff of a Clemens or a Randy Johnson, but he was consistently great. Maddux won at least 15 games a year from 1988 to 2004. Was there anyone else in the game you could rely on more to play the game at such a high level?

Plus, he made one of the greatest commercials of all time with teammate Tom Glavine.

My favorite part is when he says, "Hey! We got Cy Young winners over here!" The glasses that make him look more like a college professor than an All-Star pitcher just complete the effect.

I'll miss the opportunities to watch Maddux pitch, but I will look forward to the day he is inducted in Cooperstown.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It's a great day in Red Sox Nation.

2008 AL MVP Dustin Pedroia (I love typing that) signed a six year contract extension for $40.5 million today. The Sox hold a team option for a 7th year in 2015. Essentially, the Sox bought out Pedroia's first three years of free agency and did it at a very reasonable price.

Did Pedroia underprice himself? Maybe. However, he now has a lifetime of financial security, which can't be a bad thing. Regardless of how his career goes from here on, he never has to worry about money again.

Big kudos to Theo Epstein for making this committment and locking up Pedroia long term. He gets cost certainty for the next seven years for one of the centerpieces of the franchise and the Sox get one of the premiere second basemen in the game for a long time to come.

To me, this is a deal that works for everyone. Y'know, except the Yankees, Rays and pretty much every team other than the Red Sox.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Five things I'm thinking about today:
  • I need to go to more Pawsox games next season. I only made it to McCoy once last year and that's not enough.
  • The National Bureau of Economic Researched announced yesterday that we have officially been in a recession since December, 2007. What tipped you off guys? Was it the fact that the stock market is down over 40% or was it all the jobless people? And why did this "news" make the Dow drop almost 700 points yesterday? Did this come as a surprise to anyone?
  • C.C. Sabathia doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry to take the Yankees $140 million.
  • Two things I'm buying if I ever hit the lottery: (1) a new house in Vermont and (2) a minor league baseball team.
  • I'm currently reading the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card. The only thing I can't figure out is why I haven't read it before now.

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