Monday, August 31, 2009

Tedy Bruschi announced his retirement today. Bruschi played 13 years with the Patriots and appeared in five Super Bowls with the team, including the three wins.

Bruschi was the ultimate team player. He never seemed to think of his own defensive statistics or his own profile as a football star, just what was good for the team. If there was a selfish bone in Bruschi's body, it wasn't evident to anyone who watched him play the game. Bruschi also inspired millions with his return from a stroke several years ago.

Thanks for everything, Tedy. Sunday afternoons won't seem quite the same without you.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

As we head into the last day of August, the Yankees lead the AL East by 6 games, Detroit the Central by 4.5 games and the Angels in the West by 5. Although the race isn't over, the Red Sox have opened up a 3.5 game lead over the Texas Rangers in the Wild Card race with 32 games to play.

Assuming no Mets-like collapses and things remain the same in September, the Yankees would face Detroit in the ALDS, while the Red Sox take on the Angels (again). The Yankees are, on paper, a much superior team to the Tigers. And we know how Red Sox-Angels series turn out.

It looks like things are being set up for a Yankees-Red Sox rematch in the ALCS. It's been five years since the Red Sox epic win in 2004. I think it's time for these arch-rivals to get back together with a trip to the World Series on the line.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A few thoughts on after a not-so-great weekend against the Yankees:

  • Who would have thought that rookie Junichi Tazawa would pitch the best game of the weekend when there were guys named Pettitte, Burnett, Sabathia and Beckett (combined 2009 salaries: $48,452,380) pitching? (Yes, I know Brad Penny pitched, too, but, well, Brad Penny.) Tazawa has been an interesting story, having pitched in a Japanese minor league last year, progressing through Portland and Pawtucket, and making a couple of pretty respectable starts in Boston. A couple of more times around the league may enable big league hitters to catch up to him, but if he can make adjustments he could be a pretty valuable player for the Sox for a long time.
  • Can anything be more emblematic of the Mets 2009 season than the game against the Phillies ending on Eric Bruntlett's unassisted triple play yesterday? The triple play was one of those bang-bang things that was over before you realized what was happening, and Bruntlett now gets a bit of immortality along with Detroit Tiger Johnny Neun, who accomplished the same trick back in 1927. For the Mets, though, it almost seems like piling on. They went into the season as favorites to win the NL East, having picked up Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz to shore up a bullpen that was their Achilles heel in their September collapses the last two years. But it hasn't helped. Their four best position players, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes and David Wright, have all missed significant time with injuries. The Wilpon family, the owners of the team, lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the Bernie Madoff scam. And the opening of Citi Field has pretty much been overshadowed by the opulence of the new Yankee Stadium. They're in 4th place, 15.5 games behind the Phillies and 13 games out of the wild card. What else can go wrong for this team?
  • I don't think there has ever been a Red Sox player I have been less interested in than J.D. Drew. Maybe it's his apparent lack of passion for the game, but the guy just leaves me cold. I really think he's going to finish out his five years, collect his $70 million, and it will be almost like he was never here. Other than the grand slam against Cleveland in the 2007 ALCS, and when he carried the team last June, he hasn't left much of an impression. Much less talented players have left a much greater mark on the team (Kevin Millar comes to mind immediately).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Three things for a Friday:
  • Went to the Pawsox on Tuesday night with J., Mom and Dad (R. wasn't feeling well - she's fine now). It was a great night to be at the ballpark. Even though the day was hot, it cooled off once the sun went down and was very comfortable. A cup of Del's Frozen Lemonade helped to beat the heat as well. The game didn't start off well. Kris Johnson started for Pawtucket and immediately showed the Rochester Red Wings why he's 3-13 this season. He had trouble getting his breaking stuff over the plate, and then was forced to come in with a 90-92 MPH fastball. The Pawsox were down 5-0 at one point, made it 6-4 by the time we left in the 7th, tied it in the 8th and eventually lost 7-6 in the 10th. It was a fun night.
  • I have been going back and forth on getting an iPhone. I love the iPhone itself, but AT&T? Not so much. We had Cingular (AT&T's predecessor) a few years back and had a pretty horrible experience, so I was already reluctant. We did some checking around and got lots of reports of dropped calls from AT&T subscribers we know, especially in the area where we live. Since A. uses her phone more than I use mine, and she uses it mostly around our town, connection reliability is important. We have actually had a generally good experience with Verizon, so we're going to stick with them. Tough decision, but practicality won out over cool hardware. Besides, I still have my iPod Touch.
  • The kids start school a week from Tuesday. Where the heck did the summer go?

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Red Sox are starting their biggest series so far this year tonight. With the Yankees now essentially out of reach (6.5 games ahead with 48 to play), it's time to concentrate on the wild card. Texas enters the weekend half a game behind the Sox, and tied in the AILC (all-important loss column). Although the Sox are only 11-15 since the All-Star break, I'm feeling a little better about things today. Here's why.

  • Alex Gonzalez is back! Gonzalez had perhaps the best defensive season ever for a Red Sox shortstop, and the Sox re-acquired him from the Cincinnati Reds today. With Jed Lowrie injured again, Gonzalez will give the Sox a big defensive upgrade over Nick Green. And while A-Gon isn't going to hit a lot, neither has Green (.128 since the All-Star break).
    You can almost hear the sighs of relief from the Red Sox pitching staff.
  • The re-emergence of Clay Buchholz: Lost in the Sox recent offensive woes is the fact that the Clay Buchholz we were all hoping we would see seems to have resurfaced. He has only given up 3 runs in 13 innings in his last two starts, and if the Red Sox had actually scored a few runs for him, he might have a couple of wins instead of the two losses he ended up with against the Yankees and Detroit. If Buchholz can keep up this kind of pitching, the wins will come and he'll help to stabilize the back end of the rotation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hollywood met reality on my way to work this morning. I was walking by the Seaport Hotel on my way from South Station in Boston to my office in Southie and I saw hundreds of people lining the sidewalk. I stopped and asked a young woman what everyone was doing there. She told me, "We're auditioning for American Idol."

Long-time readers will know that American Idol is my #1 guilty pleasure every January to May. It was kind of fun to see all these people lined up waiting for their big chance. As I walked along, I tried to pick out the people with actual talent from the ones that were there for the judges to make fun of. There were a few candidates for the goofy contestant category that I could see. I also saw a couple of guys with cameras in American Idol T-shirts filming people in the line. Sadly, I had no sightings of Simon, Randy, Kara or Ryan.

It was a fun way to start the day. And, who knows? That girl I talked to might be the next American Idol!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

What the hell happened?

I said on Twitter a few days ago "Next 6 games are huge for the Sox - 2 at the Trop, then 4 in the Bronx. I'll be happy with 3-3, thrilled with anything better." Now I'll be pleased if we can just salvage one out of four in New Yankee Stadium.

This is really starting to resemble the 2006 collapse, except without Manny's "bad knee". The pitching, for the most part, hasn't been bad. The two extra-inning games were winnable with some timely hitting, and Saturday's game could have been won as well if they could have scored a few runs (although C.C. Sabathia might have had something to do with that.) Here's what's really gone wrong:
  • Injuries: Jason Bay, Rocco Baldelli, Tim Wakefield, Jed Lowrie, Daisuke Matsuzaka. Mike Lowell is playing, but certainly doesn't have the mobility he used to. Losing these guys certainly isn't helping. It also makes you end up with situations like Kevin Youkilis playing left field, which is far from his best spot.
  • John Smoltz: It was sad to see the great Smoltz walk off the mound after having absorbed another beating at the hands of the Yankees. He just doesn't have it any more. I don't think Theo had any choice but to designate him for assignment, but you hate to see a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer go out like that.
  • No clutch hitting (or hitting of any kind): A big hit in the two extra inning games, and we're looking at 2-3 on the trip and not 0-5. It's now 26 innings and counting since the Red Sox scored a run, as I write this.
  • Starting pitching depth: Remember when we were all wondering what the Sox were going to do with all that pitching? Other than Beckett and Lester, the rest of them are either injured (Wake, Daisuke) or inconsistent (Buchholz, Penny). The Sox are starting Junichi Tazawa on Tuesday night, the guy who gave up the game winner to A-Rod on Friday. Tazawa has exceeded expectations in Pawtucket and Portland, but this is a 23-year-old who pitched in the Japanese Industrial League last year.
  • The Papi Distraction: The whole thing with David Ortiz appearing on The List couldn't have come at a worse time. If nothing else, it's certainly had an impact on Papi, as he has been in a terrible slump.
  • The bullpen: This really isn't their fault, as the 'pen has come up big several times on this trip, but these guys have got to be beat up. The long, extra-inning games and the early exits by some starters have led to the Sox having to use the likes of Tazawa, Billy Traber and Enrique Gonzalez in the late innings.
We're now at 28 straight innings without a run. Let's hope this ends soon.

Friday, August 07, 2009

My friend Darth Mojo just posted a rant I wrote about William Shatner's no-show at the Rhode Island Film Festival last night. You can read it here.

If you are a new visitor who clicked through from Mojo's site, welcome! And if you don't like baseball, sorry, but that's pretty much what we do here...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I'm in the process of correcting a major oversight.

I have read most of the great baseball books: Ball Four, Veeck as in Wreck, Moneyball, The Boys of Summer, Eight Men Out, Summer of '49 and so many others. Yet, somehow, I had never managed to read Lawrence S. Ritter's The Glory of their Times. I'm taking care of that now.

For those of you not familiar with the book, Mr. Ritter spent five years and 75,000 miles chasing down ballplayers who played in the early part of the century. He did this in the early 1960's, when most of these men were in their 70's and 80's. The stories from ballplayers like Harry Hooper, Smoky Joe Wood, Rube Marquard, Fred Snodgrass, Bill Wambsganss and others are fascinating. These guys played with and against the giants of baseball's early days: Cobb, Hornsby, Ruth, Gehrig, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Connie Mack and many others.

If you haven't read this book yet, I highly recommend it.

One thing struck me though. Many of the old ballplayers talked about how pitchers in their day would pitch the whole game, unlike then current pitchers. Keep in mind, this was the 1960's. Today we look back at the '60's and guys like Koufax, Gibson and Drysdale and wonder why pitchers can't throw complete games like those guys any more.

Did things change that much from the first 20 years of the century to the '60s or not? To verify this, I took complete game statistics from three seasons: 1920, which was roughly the middle of the period in which most of the players in The Glory of Their Times played; 1966, the year the book was published, and 2008, just for comparisons sake. Here's what I came up with. As always, thanks to the amazing Baseball for the data.

Total games: 2,468
Complete games: 1,395
Percent complete: 56.5%
Best team: White Sox, 109 complete games (That's out of 154!)
Best player: Grover Cleveland Alexander - 33

Total games: 3,230
Complete games: 736
Percent complete: 22.8%
Best team: Twins and Giants, tied with 52
Best player: Sandy Koufax - 27

Obviously, the old-timers were right. Pitchers finished what they started less than half as often in 1966 as compared to 1920. Now, let's see how that compares to today.

Total games: 4,856
Complete games: 136
Percent complete: 2.8%
Best team: Blue Jays - 15
Best player: C.C. Sabathia - 10

No big surprise. Today's multi-million dollar arms almost never pitch a complete game. I wonder what those ballplayers from 100 years ago would have to say about that?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Just got back from a wonderful 4-day weekend in Vermont with A. A lot has happened since Thursday, so here are a few thoughts.

Manny and Papi: We were in the car driving up to Vermont, listening to the Red Sox pre-game show on Thursday afternoon when I heard about the New York Times story saying that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were on the 2003 list of players that tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.

Was I surprised? Not even a little bit. No player surprises me when he tests positive for a PED. We already knew about Manny, of course. The fact that Papi showed up on the list was disappointing, certainly, but hardly a shock. Ortiz went from 20 HR, 75 RBI, and an .839 OPS in 2002 to 31, 101 and .961 in 2003, his first year with Boston. Can anyone be surprised that Ortiz had a little help in accomplishing those improved numbers?

The thing that surprises me is how vehement Ortiz was during spring training in talking about punishments for PED users. Why would he speak up like he did, advocating 1 year suspensions for positive tests? Why not just keep his mouth shut if he knew he had been a user? Why paint an even bigger target on his back? That's the part of this that baffles me.

The Championships: It seems that every article about the Ortiz revelation is accompanied by a reporter questioning whether the Red Sox 2004 and 2007 World Series championships are "tainted". I say no, and here's my reasoning: you can't tell me that there weren't several PED users on every single team. The playing field was essentially level. Some players on the Red Sox were cheating, but there were players on every other team that were cheating as well. If you could somehow show that Manny and Ortiz were the only players in baseball using PEDs then, yes, I would say those championships are tainted. However, we all know that's not the case. If the Red Sox two World Series championships are tainted, you may as well ask if every World Series title in the last 15 years or so was tainted as well.

The Trade: Theo's annual July 31 extravaganza netted the Red Sox the big bat they really needed in Cleveland C/1B/DH Victor Martinez. Martinez is an excellent hitter and gives the Sox some backup in case Varitek or Lowell should go down for an extended period. Martinez is 30 and is signed through 2010, so this isn't really just a rental (or maybe it's a long-term rental).

I really like this trade, although the Sox had to part with some pretty valuable players. We all know what Justin Masterson can do in the bullpen, plus his value as a spot starter. Baseball America had Nick Hagadone listed as the Red Sox #3 prospect (behind Lars Anderson and Michael Bowden, and ahead of Daniel Bard.) Bryan Price started the year well at Greenville, although he had a bit of trouble when he got promoted to Salem in the Carolina League.

My initial thought? This could wind up being a good deal for both teams.

eXTReMe Tracker