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Showing posts from September, 2007

Best is not always best

The California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Angeles CaliAniheim scare me.

The BoSox officially have the best record in baseball and home field advantage throughout. That's fantastic, and amazing given how we all felt a few weeks ago.

However, it means they have to play the Angels in the first round, starting on Wednesday (oddly, by their choice). They would play the wild card team, but that team is the Yankees and you can't play a team from your division in the first round - even the Yankees' mediocrity pisses me off. Anyway, the Sox have to play the Halos which is not a good thing. But, all the teams in the AL are good so, regardless, they will have to fight hard to win anything, as they should.

Pent-up Sox talk

Here are some random thoughts:
I salute Julian Tavarez. He might not make the playoff roster even, but he started 22 games this year, usually gave us a chance to win, was entertaining and slightly insane/scary, petted Manny, and seemed to be blessed with a rubber arm. The man has thrown 131 innings so far this year and won 7 games, those numbers would put him second in both categories if he were still a teammate of Wily Mo Pena's (on the Gnats).Talk amongst yourselves; I'll give you a topic: I hate Royce Clayton.
I'm still trying to figure out how the Sox might use Ellsbury in the playoffs. He's nastly and I can't wait for him to be the every day guy. But do you bench Coco for him? Do you put him in for Drew and have two speedsters out there? Do you really think he could steal the base today that Dave Roberts stole in game 4? No is the answer to the last one, in case you were wondering.
Why does major league baseball hate Johnny Pesky? Does Theo Epstein hate B…

Tito > Ralph Hauk

Just so I'm on the record on the topic: I like Francona a lot. I was surprised to learn that he's the first Sox manager to take them to the postseason 3 times. Sign him. Honestly, I hope we have him around for a long long time.

A few thoughts on the playoff outlook

The Sox are in pretty solid shape going into the playoffs. Manny is back and the good side of Manny being Manny is that Manny is Manny which means many Manny hits. Manny. He's 5 for 12 since he's returned, with no extra base hits. I'm not worried about that though. He could be o-fer and still be a feared presence in the lineup. Pitchers are afraid of him which changes how they pitch to everyone else. Any day his is a threat to win you a game as much single-handedly as any hitter can.

Most importantly, Dice-K pitched well yesterday. I'm a bit at a loss as to why he through 119 pitches and 8 innings in his last start before the playoffs when he's seemed tired, but, on the other hand, he was throwing around 95 in the 8th with serious zip that you could see, something that h as really been missing. If he can pitch like he's capable of, we have a very strong rotation for the playoffs.

Today's start by Wake is important in that the reason why the Sox are c…

So happy...

They finally knocked the Yankees off from their AL East pedestal. I really really wanted this to happen. And, it happened in such a great way: Dice-K showed up at last, Mo Rivera again showed he's fallible these days, the Yanks lost in a demoralizing way...

The Sox have to feel good about where they stand right now. I really hope they can take the best record in the division so they can at least have home field advantage if they play the Angels, who really scare me.

God speed. (Oh, by the way, I'm back)

Vermont Author; Sox theme; 'nough said.

Since no one really wants to talk about the real Sox today, let's venture into fiction. I recently read a book by Vermont novelist Howard Frank Mosher called "Waiting for Teddy Williams." Since this is Vermont, Sox-related, and perhaps a distraction from the freefall, I thought I'd mention it. It's a well written novel about a child, Ethan Allen, in a Northeast Kingdom town called Kingdom Common. He might be more obsessed with baseball than even I was as a child. He dreams of being a player on the Sox, and surviving as a "wrong side of the tracks" kid in a forgotten, rural village. The characters are wonderful; the story is entertaining; the baseball is captivating. I have yet to decide why the author uses such stock names in his fictitious world, but, while that is mildly distracting, it does not hurt the book overall. If you want a nice, late-summer read, you should check it out.

The impetus for this little "review" was an interview t…

The Why

There are two primary reason the Sox are free falling. First, they have an offense barely good enough when healthy to win. Then, you take out Manny. You are left with a poor offense not able to score enough runs to win games. On top of that, Youk is out, Coco is out (meaning Kielty or Moss has to play in edition to Jacoby), Tek can't hit anything, and Lugo and Drew continue to be half the offensive presences we thought we were getting.

Second, our greatest strength - our bullpen - has imploded. This is not a case of them showing their true colors. These are legitimate, big-time relievers. You know you have a good bullpen when you're two worst pitchers, your Dennis Lamp 5th inning specialists (Snyder and Lopez), have ERAs under 4.00.

Gagne and Oki have had tons of problems handing Pap a lead of late. Mini-Manny is just not reliable yet. Timlin and Papelbon joined their colleague's struggles last night. If this is going to continue, there's not much that can be …

Status check

Even as the Sox gasp for air, I have not given up hope for regular and post-season success this year. The reason is that we are playing our B-squad right now and we're doing the things necessary to have a chance of putting that best-record-in-baseball team back on the field in the playoffs.

They are taking their time with Manny. I said to a friend yesterday that I was starting to get suspicious of Manny's injury, that I was starting to pick up the stink of the dark side of MbM (Manny being Manny). However, Gordon Edes did a great job today not just regurgitating the Sox party line about the injury, but looking outside the RSN to what this injury has done to other players in MLB. He wrote:
Orioles lefthander Erik Bedard, considered by many a Cy Young candidate, shut down for the season with a strained oblique. Yankees outfielder Bobby Abreu missed three weeks in spring training, while Tampa Bay third baseman Akinori Iwamura missed over a month. When he was first injured, said …

The Northeast's DMZ

Growing up in the quiet corner of Connecticut (aka "the New England part of Connecticut"), my view of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry and the resulting fissure in the northeast was exemplified by two of my best friends: Kurt & Rich. These identical twin brothers disagreed about almost everything, yet few things sparked argument like the Sox versus the Yanks. Rich defended Mike Greenwell against the onslaught of Kurt's Don Mattingly love. I'm not sure if the debate was ever resolved. Though I maintain to this day that the Gator had a far more creative nickname than Donnie Baseball. (Any thoughts as to how a kid from Kentucky gets the "Gator" nickname? Do I remember he wrestled them?)

I bring this up now because... well because it's my blog. My friend passed along this map and it got me to thinking about the geography of the heart of Red Sox Nation. First, let me restate something: the RSN I refer to has NOTHING to do with the stupid entity run by …

Lighten up

With the Red Sox in apparent free-fall, they resorted to what all great athletes do when they're slumping: dressed in drag. As we've seen, there are distinct cultural differences between the players of different nationalities. This was clearly on display when Dice-K put on his green tella tubby outfit. However the best might be Jacoby Ellsbury dressed as Little Red Riding Hood.

Bring it on

I hope Buchholz had a good night sleep last night. He's likely to get the call early on today given the way Dice-K has "pitched" lately. Tavarez would also be an option, but he pitched 3 innings on Wednesday and Tito would have a tough time not pulling the trigger on bringing in the star of the hour on the biggest stage. He has at least sipped the kool aid with the rest of us. Maybe we can get some more dominate, "structured" innings from Clay.

As Gordon Edes points out this morning, the Sox have played .600 ball since the break (53-34) but have still dropped from a 9 1/2 game lead to 5 1/2. The Yankees have simply been that good in the second half. The Sox have some serious long-term worries in the health- and/or fatigue-caused struggles of Dice-K and Wake. They have more short term worries as well, like how many games this weekend will Manny play and how is he swinging. Yet, they remain in a strong position. The Yankees hold a "comfortable" …

The W-L record of closers

Good closers should have very few decisions. That is, obviously you don't want your closer to have a 1-7 record; that would mean he lost a ton of games for you. But, you also do NOT want him to have a 7-1 record. If he wins a game, that generally means he first blew a lead, then you're team scored in the next half inning to win it.

Wednesday's victory by Papelbon is the exception to this rule. It was the rare case - especially for the Sox with their coddled stopper - when he comes in with the team not leading, then they came back on his watch, giving him credit for the victory.

Beta testing a Sox relocation to Jericho, VT

Jericho, VT - I don't know a whole lot about this guy, but I love him. He built a miniature Fenway Park (and now a mini-Wrigley Field) in his yard in Jericho. Jericho is a beautiful little town just north of Burlington. By Vermont standards, it's big. By earth standards, it's a park. I love it. You know Jericho: just next to Underhill? By Westford? Home of the VT Speaker of the House and... it's Jericho ok?!?! It's now the Hub of local Soxiness.

I am admittedly a late-comer to this beautiful local story of Sox fandom. I was driving through Jericho on the way to a hike this summer, and there was a hand-written sign directing me to "Little Wrigley." Against my better judgment, I passed on by. I figured it might be a kid's birthday party or something. The next day there was an article in the Burlington Free Press about it (though I can't find it anywhere). Now I really want to participate in a game there, bringing out the nasty curve and …

Are those crickets?

Anybody else wondering what happened to all those people at the beginning of the season who thought the Sox should bench Pedroia and play Cora? I don't hear anyone saying they were wrong. Everyone loves Pedroia now and always has. Obviously.

Just a thought...

Cash money

I still maintain that Kevin Cash hits like Josh Bard caught. But, he has been extremely valuable this season. Imagine how yesterday would have gone if Cash had been letting balls by him, the few ones that made it past the Tampa Bay bats.

If he could hit at all, I'd say that he might be the answer to finding a replacement for Mirebelli, who really seems on his last legs. I'm still haunted by the Mirabelli-Wake interview in spring training in which Wake said he might retired if he had to throw to anyone but Dougy again (a la the Bard Experiment). I do love Dougy, but to pin the longevity of Wake's career to that of an old backup catcher is bad news. Dougy might have another year after this one, but Wake could pitch 5 or 6 more if he wants. It scares me that Wake might retire prematurely because it become impractical to keep a backup catcher who needs a walker to get to the plate.

Hey Rook!

Watching yesterday's painful game, one of the interesting subplots was that the two top American League Rookie of the Year candidates were playing: Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Rays' rightfielder Delmon Young. Of course, I think this is a no-brainer. Pedroia is batting .325 at the top of the order of the best team in baseball. D.P. has also become a master at the D.P. and every other aspect of the defensive game. He might not have Rey Sanchez range, but he has just 5 errors and a .991 fielding percentage - amazingly, that only ties him for fourth in the league. He does rank pretty high on the subjective "zone rating" statistic which is supposed to gauge how many balls a player gets to that he should get; he's 4th in the league which isn't bad since that's supposed to be his weakness.

Anyway, that's not why I'm writing. I was just caught up in the fun of those sortable fielding stats. What does that say about me? Never mind...


The Wall (not the good, green one)

Dice-K definitely HAS hit a wall. The only solution is rest. He's not going to fight through it.

Last year, the dominant rookie pitcher in baseball was Justin Verlander. As the Tigers progressed towards the playoffs, his manager skipped his start just prior to the playoffs. He had been struggling and was admittedly tired by that point. He'd pitched way more innings then he ever had previously in his life. He proceeded to struggle in each of his playoff starts. He is a great pitcher, but he was tired and the Tigers advanced in October in spite of him. The Red Sox cannot afford to count on the same luck.

The Red Sox should skip Dice-K's next start completely. Not push it back. Not limit his innings. Rest him for an extra cycle through the rotation. Then, bring him back and let him pitch on a small pitch count (80 perhaps?). If we're still in good shape for winning the AL East by that point, keep him on a very limited pitch count and hope he'll regain his …

A lost treasure

In looking at post that I have started but not finished or published, I noticed one from more than two years ago. I don't know the exact context, but I'm going to publish it anyway, because I think it's funny and sort of blast-from-the-past interesting. This was written on Aug. 22, 2005, a day after a kid named Papelbon started, part of the Roberto Petigine era in Red Sox history. It has not been edited at all. You are welcome...
The fans have pushed these moves since... probably week two of this season. The Boston sports media proded the organization as they "spoke for" the worried fans all season. Now, let's see if this all works. John Olerud is the starting first baseman, replacing the remarkably punchless Kevin Millar. Tony Graffinino seems to have solidified his status as wicked great at not being Mark Bellhorn. Now if Jim Rice can get in the Hall... and Dan Duquette teams with Bill Buckner to fight a pissed off bear... and Fenway tickets were only $1…

But can he play in October?

It looks like the answer to that question is yes for at least 2 players (as in, Ellsbury and Buchholz). That is, my understanding of other people's understanding is that the Sox could add any two players who were anywhere in the organization at midnight on 8/31 to the playoff roster. I say two players because Brenden Donnelly and Matt Clement are on the DL. If someone else is added to the DL (the 15-Day or 60-Day) as we enter the post-season, that would be another spot that can be filled by anyone in the organization.

Apparently there used to be a position-for-position rule that is not gone. That is, prior to this year, if you put and outfielder on the DL, you could only replace him with an outfielder, but you could replace him with any outfielder in the organization. The other interesting change is that if someone is injured mid-playoff series, he can be replaced mid-series. He would then be done for the remainder of that and all of the next series. But, that's a great…

The 60-Day DL crew

I actually tried to write this question to Gordon Edes but I guess it wasn't "mailbag" worthy.

With Matt Clement throwing a simulated game yesterday, I was thinking about the rehab process for people like Clement and Brenden Donnelly, who both had Tommy John surgery. It usually takes about one and a half years to fully recover from that. Some people come back earlier, but usually they come back without their full arsenal.

Clement has been working out all year in Florida in hopes of coming back. He's under contract with the Sox so they have an obligation to handle his rehab and pay for it. On the other hand, Donnelly signed a one year deal prior to this year with the Sox. He just had the surgery. He's 35 years old, but given that he didn't enter the majors until he was 30, fought so hard to get to the majors, and has been very productive in his 6 years in the majors, it seems that he'd want to pitch again. To do that, he'll have to do extensive r…

Another report from the margins

Why did the Sox send former Craig Breslow (a lefty reliever) back to Pawtucket for the PawSox finale and call up Devern Hansack (righty starter) instead? It seems to make more sense to have an extra lefty and a guy used to relieving.

My guess is that this was a move done to delay or avoid another 40-man roster move, and that their end-goal is to have both on the active roster. They already moved Donnelly to the 60-day DL to make room, so they are limited in terms of movable pieces. They had to move Breslow off the 40-man to make room for Hansack. Also, Hansack wasn't going to start that finale and Breslow did end up pitching (and losing) so it was... or could have been helpful for the PawSox. We'll see if Breslow comes back or not. If not, he's officially on vacation given the PawSox 4th place finish. Or, maybe he and a couple other possible emergency reserves will go to Florida or somewhere to stay ready.

On another note: every wonder what happened to legendary rock …

Table-setters of the (near) future

It's the 4th inning of the game against the Jays and the Sox are up 10-1 with Dice-K on the mound. That in itself makes me smile. What also draws my interest is the top of the order.

Jacoby Ellsbury is 2 for 2 with a walk, 3 runs scored batting leadoff. Pedroia is 3 for 3 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBIs batting second. That is the future top of the order for the Sox. And it is very likely that that future will be in full effect leaving spring training next year.

While I actually really like having Youk bat second because of the way he works pitchers, I don't see how you could do much better then Pedroia. He gets on base a ton, handles the bat well, never strikes out (second hardest in the league) and seems like a very smart baserunner. The only drawback I can see is that he can't seem to bunt. That won't be a big deal on any Sox team (or any AL team not coached my Mike Scioscia) I can envision. While I don't get how someone as fundamentally sound and, frankly,…

What's in store for Clay here on out?

As the Sox think about what role Clay Buchholz should have the remainder of this season, there are many factors at play. One of those should NOT be our collective emotion following the no-hitter. For some reason, the Sox brass doesn't want to reveal their innings cut-off for young pitchers. I'm not sure what competitive advantage they'd be yielding by publicly saying that they don't want prospects pitching more than 150 innings in a season. Regardless, Buchholz is at 140 right now and I think that around 150 is where they'd like to stop him. That means they can maybe let him start next time around and give the big guys an extra day off. Then they could use him sparingly in the bullpen for the following few weeks and give him the last start of the season, assuming that it doesn't matter. With about 5 or 6 times around the rotation remaining, Clay won't be asked to start all those games and risk pitching 30 more innings this season.

Another issue here i…

Cosmic Rule of the Game

EVERY no-hitter includes at least one great defensive play. Buchholz owes Pedrioa dinner. If you're watching a no-hitter develop, and you haven't seen a great defensive play yet, there either will be one or you will not see a no hitter that day.

Clay, you're a beautiful baby (and why do I have to even write about Royce Clayton?)

Wow, what a weekend for the Sox youth movement. The player development team has to be grinning from ear to ear. I still can't quite believe what Buchholz did. I also can't believe that I didn't see the game - or that my dad did watch most of it, but didn't realize what was going on! With Buchholz yesterday, Lester today, Pedroia all year, and some glipses at what Ellsbury brings to the table, it's been a fun few days. Now if Brandon Moss would start hitting a bit it'd be perfect.

I don't claim in the least to be smart enough to have seen this coming, but I do like that the day I posted the 5th starter post was the first of three straight days where we were able to see the 3 main candidates. And I think Marty is schedule for tomorrow right?

I am not (yet) eating my words about Lester after today's game. Lester walked 4 and struckout only 1 in six innings. That is not a good sign for a reputed "power pitcher." I am not writing him off, bu…