Saturday, April 28, 2007

Had a bad day...

I was very optimistic about both the Phillies and the Red Sox today.
They have both been playing extremely well, and their respective opponents seemed ripe for the picking.

Well, so much for the optimism. Both teams had their chances to win, but just couldn't get it done. Two games, two losses.

The Sox played at 3:55pm, with Tim Wakefield facing the Yanks' Jeff Karstens (14.05 ERA). The Sox' top of the 1st lasted approximately 86 years, and they knocked Karstens out of the game.When Karstens left the game, his ERA was still 14.05. Sounds promising, right?

Well, as Borat would say, it was NOT promising. Karstens got smashed with a Julio Lugo line drive on his 1st pitch, fracturing his right fibula. He stayed in the game, and five pitches later, he allowed a single to Kevin Youkilis. That was the last batter he faced. The Yankees brought in Kei Igawa (7.84 ERA, ticket to AAA Scranton (Go Greyhound!) likely waiting for him in his locker), and it looked like it was about to be another huge inning, and quite possibly, another huge win. But the Japanese southpaw, acquired via the posting system for a pittance ($26 million), got out of the inning without allowing a run. Then he managed to get out of the next five innings without allowing a run. All while randomly wearing sunglasses. The Yankees had attempted to skip him in the rotation, but he wound up pitching six scoreless innings, and picking his second win of the season. I'm guessing he won't be skipped next time. I wonder if he wears his sunglasses at night? (Sorry. Couldn't help myself...)

Tim Wakefield wasn't very effective, pitching 5.1 innings, and allowing 3 ER on 5 hits and 6 (!) walks. His ERA rose from 2.08 to 2.59, and the loss dropped his record to 2-3. It seemed certain that the Sox would come back to win, against Igawa, or the over-worked Yankees bullpen, or the venerable closer with the ERA of 12.15. But they were held to one measly run, with the venerable closer (Mariano Rivera) picking up his 1st save of the season, and lowering his ERA to 10.57. (Which is, incidentally, still 10.57 higher than the Sox not-venerable closer.) The Sox were held to 7 hits, with Ortiz-Ramirez-Drew combining to go 0 for 9. The game was on FOX, so there was no Remdawg. Or Don. Or Tina. Or Kathryn. Or Amalie. I missed them all. So, it was pretty much a day with no sun for the Sox. Actually, I think only Igawa noticed the sun today. (Note to self: Stop beating sunglasses metaphor to a red painty death.)

The Phillies 7:05pm game was, quite possibly, worse. The lineup included Rod Barajas AND Abe Nunez, which didn't seem to bode well from the start. (Of course, the two went 4 for 7 with a Barajas HR, so I obviously know nothing.) However, SP Adam Eaton earned about 24.5 cents of his $24.5 million contract, allowing 7 ER on 10 hits in 4.1 extremely ineffective innings. Reliever Victor Rosario allowed 3 ER in 1.2 innings, digging too deep of a hole for the Phillies bats to escape. Leadoff hitter (!) Aaron Rowand extended his hitting streak to 16 games, and 3-hole (!) hitter Jimmy Rollins had a pair of hits. They seemed one swing away from a huge inning most of the night, but they didn't manage to get that swing. The Phillies broadcasters bored and irritated me, and once again, there was no Amalie. The games pretty much sucked today. But they'll get'em tomorrow.

The Phillies will try to win the rubber game of the series, with Jamie Moyer facing the Marlins' Wes Obermueller. I think that matchup definitely favors the Phillies, especially with the Phillies playing at home. And with Adam Eaton and Freddy Garcia both unavailable to "pitch."
The Sox send Batshit Crazy Julian Tavarez to the mound against Yankees ace, Chien-Ming Wang, who is coming off an injury, and has only one regular season start so far. But Wang is still kind of "ace-y." This could be a tough one for the Sox. But at least we'll have Remdawg, Don, Kathryn, and Amalie back. That should be enough to make the difference.

Had a good day...

Two more good things from Friday:

Jon Lester pitched brilliantly in a rehab start for Pawtucket, pitching five scoreless innings. Lester only allowed three hits, and only two runners made it to second base against him. Lester struck out six, walked no one, and threw 56 of 84 pitches for strikes. He has another rehab start on Wednesday, and doesn't look very far away from taking Batshit's spot in the Red Sox rotation. That would upgrade the rotation and increase the probability of Batshit Crazy episodes.

In exciting news of a personal nature, I got my annual bonus check on Friday. After a year of putting up Papelbon-esque stats, highlighted by an otherworldly VORM (Value Over Replacement Manager), my team was rewarded. I bled enough red paint to fill a pair of sanitary socks over the past year, so I think I earned it. I believe I will purchase a second yacht, so I am not stuck using the same yacht all the time. Who wants that? My first yacht is named the Papelbon, this one will be named the Hamels. The balance of the bonus will be put into mutual funds and CDs.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

The Red Sox won their 3rd straight game tonight, 11-4 over the slumping Yankees. The Yankees have now lost seven straight, and sport an 8-13 record. They are the highest paid last place team in history right now, and they are not exactly showing a lot of life.

Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed 4 runs (all in the 4th inning), throwing 117 pitches over 6 innings. He seems to have problems in the 4th inning each game, but is very effective in the other innings. As soon as I devise a way of combatting this concern, without losing the DH for the remainder of the game, I will let Francona know. But I have nothing, as of yet. Timlin, Okajima, and Pineiro each pitched a scoreless inning of relief. Youkilis and Lugo each homered, as the Sox overcame an early 4-2 deficit, taking a 7-4 lead into the top of the 9th.

By the 9th inning, the game seemed pretty much over. With Papelbon warming up, there was no way the Yankees were coming back. But the Sox didn't need Papelbon, after scoring four runs in the 9th off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. The All-Star closer was only able to record one out, as his ERA rose to 12.15. Rivera does not look too good these days, especially against the Sox. It might be the beginning of the end for a sensational career.

The best line of the night (non-Amalie Division) goes to Jerry Remy, who was frustrated by the inability of Yanks C Jorge Posada and RP Jose Vizcaino to figure out what pitch to throw, even though Vizcaino throws only two different pitches. I forget the exact line (should have been taking notes!), but Remy and Orsillo were cracking me up repeatedly tonight, as usual. (Update: Papel-blog remembered the quote: "So now we get to see Vizcaino not be on the same page as Posada maybe three or four more times." Tip of the Sox cap to Papel-blog!)
Amalie was awesome in her pre-game segment, but, inexplicably, still doesn't have her own NESN show.

The attendance was 55,000, but by the 9th inning there were seas of empty seats. I feel a little bad for the Yanks fans who stayed until the end, but for the 50,000 "fans" who left before the game was over, not so much. The Yanks still have an outstanding lineup, but unless they get some serious pitching help somehow, they're going to spend to rest of the season on their deathbed.

In Saturday's Fox matinee game, the Sox' Tim Wakefield (2.08 ERA) will oppose the Yankees' Jeff Karstens (14.54 ERA). It was originally the Yankees' Kei Igawa's day to start, but he has been pulled from the New York rotation, due to ineffectiveness. (I guess that's what happens who you go for the cheap Japanese free agent pitcher.) Saturday will be a prime opportunity for the Sox to drive another nail into the Yankees' coffin, in front of a national audience. Go Sox!

Do not go gentle into that good night

After five innings, the Phillies trailed 4-3 to the Florida Marlins, despite another HR (5) by Aaron Rowand (4 for 5). Starting Pitcher Freddy Garcia had not been effective, allowing 4 ER over 4.2 innings, throwing 106 pitches. Yet, I was unconcerned. I was certain the Phillies would come back for the win. Well, just as soon as they stopped leaving runners on base (15 H, 14 LOB tonight).

When the game went to the bottom of the 8th, with the Phils still trailing 4-3, I got a little concerned. But Jimmy Rollins (9!) and Chase Utley (5) hit solo homers, staking the Phils to a 5-4 lead. Unfortunately, Tom Gordon (5.40 ERA) came on for the blown save in the 9th, and was lucky to escape the inning with the score tied at 5. Gordon is currently behind Myers, Madson, Alfonseca, Geary, Wally Ritchie, and Todd Frohwirth (not necessarily in that order) on the list of relievers that I would prefer to see close out a Phillies win. With three blown saves already this season, Gordon seems destined to lose his spot at closer. I just hope he's removed from the role before he costs the Phillies any more wins.

But tonight, he didn't cost the Phils a win. Despite the fact that Michael Bourn led off the bottom of the 9th (because Manuel continues replace Burrell with Bourn, for the purpose of pissing me off), the Phillies rallied for the victory. They loaded the bases on a Bourn walk, a Rowand single, and an error on a Helms sacrifice bunt attempt. Against the drawn-in Marlins infield, Carlos Ruiz hit a hard grounder that SS Hanley Ramirez did well to stop, but had no chance at a play at the plate. Bourn scored the winning run, and the Phillies improved their record to 10-12.

The Phillies will look to pull within one game of the .500 mark Saturday night, with Adam Eaton facing the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis. Aaron Rowand will look to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. The Phillies will look to score enough runs that Tom Gordon will not be needed.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

He Runs on Grass, He Walks on Dirt. And Water.

The Red Sox swept their two game series against Baltimore with a come-from-behind victory in Camden Yards tonight. The Sox had a 5-2 lead, going into the bottom of the 9th, and Closer Boy ran/walked in from the bullpen to pitch a scoreless inning for the save. Jonathan never gives up runs in April- I don't know why they even bothered to play the bottom of the 9th. It's probably some kind of arcane MLB rule. (Like the "don't give champagne to the Kansas City Royals rule.")

But Papelbon wasn't the big story tonight. (I was just trying to kind of link to my post title, which I am a bit proud of. It may even be "Benjamin-esque." Also, "arcane" is totally a word that Amalie would use. OK. AB Fanboy mode off.)
Josh Beckett was brilliant tonight, pitching eight sterling innings, in which he allowed two runs on eight hits and ZERO walks. He threw 73 of his 100 pitches for strikes. (That trade with the Marlins doesn't look quite so bad right now.) Beckett became only the 4th Sox P to start the season 5-0, joining Babe Ruth, Pedro Martinez, and Matt Young.

The hero on offense was another questionable trade acquisition, Wily Mo Pena. (Note: I was in favor of both the Pena and Beckett trades, and, yes, I have been taunted in an unkind manner in the past as a result.) The bulky CF lugged his sub-.180 batting average to the plate with one out and the bases loaded in the 8th inning against Orioles closer Chris Ray. The Sox trailed at the time, 2-1.

This blogger was yearning for a right-handed pinch-hitter. (Yes, I know WMP IS RH. Bear with me here.) A single would have given the Sox the lead, a sacrifice fly would have tied the game. The worst results would have probably been a strike out or a DP, two of WMP's specialties. But the best RH option off the bench was Doug Mirabelli, who needed to be reserved, in case Varitek was injured, or Wakefield was brought on to pitch the 26th inning. So Francona allowed Pena to bat, and Pena hit a 900 ft. grand slam to give the Sox a 5-2 lead. (And if you believe the HR was 900 ft., you probably also believed that Matt Young stat a paragraph ago. But it was a 420 ft. blast.)

Ray was having trouble getting his off-speed stuff over the plate, tried to throw a fastball past Pena, and Wily Mo made him pay for his insolence. Now, if only Pena could do that to non-fastballs. Then, the Sox would have themselves a player. After that, we could start teaching him to play guitar like Bronson. I would very much like to see WMP perform "C is for Cookie" one day. But the batting and the fielding are the priorities right now.

The Sox play the Yankees in New York this weekend, hoping to replicate their excellence of last weekend against the Yanks. Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-2, 4.00 ERA) will start Friday night, facing Hideki Matsui for the first time in regular season action. As Jerry Remy said, "there should be some media there for that." Matsuzaka will be opposed by Game 1 losing pitcher Andy Pettitte (1-0, 1.78 ERA), who will also be available out of the bullpen in this Sunday's loss to the Sox. The first place Sox currently have a five and a half game lead over the cellar-dwelling Yankees.

Red Sox and Red Paint

The Red Sox returned to action Wednesday night after their sweep of the Yankees with a 6-1 win over the Orioles at Camden Yards. (I saw some strange reports on about something going on between the Sox and Blue Jays the last couple of days- something about Lowell hitting HRs and making errors, Ramirez throwing like the Mayor of Cincinnati, Wily Mo not being so good at the fielding- but Doug Mirabelli assures me it was all a hoax.)

Schilling raised his record to 3-1, with 7 innings of 1 run ball. Alex Cora raised his average to .368, going 2-4 with his 1st HR of the year. (Lil' Dustin, grab some pine!) Wily Mo Pena went 0-4, with 3 Ks. It seems like he would be well-served with some time in Pawtucket, working on his "fielding" and hitting the off-speed pitch. (Sometimes I can't believe I was actually in favor of trading Bronson for this guy. I miss Bronson. I'm guessing the Sox do, as well.) First baseman Kevin Youkilis and Author David Ortix each had multiple hit games in the win.

Sox announcer Jerry Remy had some interesting comments about the $41 million the Orioles spent to stock their bullpen in the offseason. I agree that it is very questionable to make such a sizeable investment in relievers, as their year-to-year performances can fluctuate wildly. (See Cormier, Rheal.) But Chad Bradford (1.04 ERA) and Jamie Walker (2.00 ERA) have been extremely consistent the past five years, and represent pretty good investments, especially considering the high price of free agent pitching these days. It was better for Baltimore to spend the $ upgrading their bullpen, than to hold on to it and tell their fanbase that there was no good pitching to be had. Of course, the Orioles seem pretty much destined for a 4th place finish, no matter how their pitching performs.

The most sensational comment by an announcer last night, however, was the assertion by Orioles knowledge broker Gary Thorne that Schilling's sock in 2004 was not bloody, but actually painted red. He attributed this information to Doug Mirabelli. (Yikes. What's next? 9/11 was a conspiracy? The heroic rescue of Jessica Lynch was a hoax? The Sox didn't have the last 2 nights off?)
Poor Dougie. He was not too pleased with being credited with this "story." But what I want to know is what does Amalie Benjamin think about all this? More importantly, why doesn't she have her own show? Or better, her own channel? With all the talk of conspiracies and hoaxes, I would like to hear, at length, her views on these things. NESN, are you listening? Amalie and Jonathan both need their own shows. At least 2 hours in length each. Daily. Please get on that.

The Sox go for their 2nd consecutive win tonight, sending Josh Beckett to the mound in Baltimore. I think if Julio Lugo gets screwed by the umps again, some red paint may be drawn. Tavarez and his crossbow are ready. Buenos noches, amigos!


There are not too many TV shows (non-sports division) that I watch on a regular basis. The Office is probably my favorite. There is also 30 Rock. And, of course, 24. That's pretty much my whole list.
Recently, I discovered a new show on Fox, Mondays at 8pm, right before 24. "Drive" is a show about an illegal cross-country race for a prize of $32 million. It has a delightful blend of story-telling, sarcasm, and violence. I was looking forward to seeing the story play out, and the tale had already taken a number of unpredictable turns. Good stuff.

Naturally, Fox cancelled it after 3 episodes. Yes, three fucking episodes. That would have been like the Red Sox cancelling Jonathan Papelbon after he was the losing pitcher on August 27, 2005. Or the Phillies cancelling their 2007 World Championship season before the 18 game winning streak that started with a team meeting on a Saturday in April. Just inexplicable asshattery of the first order. What's next? Charlie Manuel makes Brett Myers a gajillion $ setup man?
This whole situation sounds vaguely familiar...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bow Down (or, The Anatomy of a Sweep)

"I'd rather die than give you control.
Bow down before the one you serve,
You're going to get what you deserve."
-"Head Like a Hole", NIN.

When I saw the pitching matchups for the Red Sox' three game weekend series against the Yankees, I thought Boston had a good shot at two wins, or perhaps even a sweep. With Schilling, Beckett, and Matsuzaka slated to pitch against NY, there was plenty of cause for optimism. If you had told me the three aces would pitch to an ERA over 6.00 in the series, I would have figured Beckett got bombed, and the Sox won the other two games. (Yep. Still with the optimism.) I never would have figured the Sox would sweep under those circumstances. But sweep they did, in a fairly convincing fashion. Allow me to expound.

Game 1
The Sox set a ferocious tone early with the National Anthem performed by Tiger Okoshi, courtesy of Berklee. The anthem was jazzy, Japanese-y, and quite a bit on the frenzied side. Unfortunately, when the actual game started, the Sox fell behind early. Alex Rodriguez slammed two HR's, the 2nd of which sent Sox CF Coco Crisp tumbling over the wall into the bullpen. (I blame the scouting reports for that. Coco should have been positioned in the bullpen to begin with.) Schilling allowed 5 ER in 7 IP. The Sox trailed 6-2, entering the bottom of the 8th. But the Sox put up five runs in the 8th, two of which were charged to the Yanks venerable closer, Mariano Rivera. (Rivera was coming off four days of rest, after allowing a walkoff HR to Oakland's Marco Scutaro. Yes. THE Marco Scutaro.)
Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon had pitched the last two days, so was not available* to close the game. Concerned? How do you say, "No worries, mate!" in Japanese? Hideki Okajima pitched the 9th, saving the win. (*Note: Papelbon is a damn Jedi. Obviously, if the Sox had needed him for a batter or two, he would have come in and shut down the Yanks.)
Also worthy of note was the interaction between Daisuke Matsuzaka and Julian Tavarez in the Sox dugout, while Okajima picked up the save. There has been much speculation in the blogosphere on their topic of conversation. The crack linguistics team I have on retainer analyzed the tape, and came to the following conclusion. Matsuzaka was inviting Tavarez for Popeye's chicken after the game, and Tavarez was calling dibs for the crossbow, in the event of a brawl. Hope that cleared things up.

Game 2
The second game featured Josh Beckett starting against the Yanks' Jeff Karstens. The Yanks jumped ahead 2-0 in the top of the 1st inning, but the Sox countered with two of their own in the bottom of the inning. In the 2nd, the Yanks picked up two more, but the Sox immediately tied the game at 4 in the bottom of the frame. A pitcher's duel it was not.
But Beckett settled down after the first two innings, only allowing one additional run (unearned), in 6.2 innings. Karstens, on the other hand, got bombed for three more runs in the 4th, as the Sox opened up a 7-4 lead. Karstens finished the day with a season ERA of 14.54.
DH/Author David Ortiz did the bulk of the damage in the 4th, with a two-run HR.
The Sox took a 7-5 lead into the 9th, and Papelbon closed the door with yet another scoreless inning of relief. It was Papelbon's 5th save in as many chances. The Yanks stood about as good of a chance as the ducks and moose do against the indomitable stopper.

Game 3
Daisuke Matsuzaka started the 3rd game, opposed by the Yanks' Chase Wright, a starter in AA ball two weeks ago. The Yanks, again, jumped ahead early. They took a 3-0 lead after their half of the 3rd inning against the Gazillion Yen Man. It didn't seem likely that the Sox could come from behind again.
I was driving home, listening to the game on the radio, as the Sox batted in the bottom of the 3rd. With 2 outs, and Ramirez batting, I entered scenic Somerville, MA. Ramirez quickly slammed his second HR of the season. As I proceeded down Broadway, J. D. Drew followed with another HR. Obviously, my driving around Somerville was having a beneficial effect on the Sox' bats. Fortunately for the Sox, my return home was slowed by a steady procession of Red (Sox?) lights. Mike Lowell hit the 3rd consecutive HR. I could feel the roaring fans all the way from Fenway Park. (Note to self: Take car in for Maintenance. Soon.)
As Varitek batted, it was obvious that I needed to continue driving around Somerville until the Sox ceased hitting home runs. THEN VARITEK HOMERED!! The streets PULSED, opening up large chasms in the concrete. The planet's rotation was changed. I swerved to avoid plunging through a hole to the center of the Earth.
That fourth HR clinched it for me- I had a full tank of hideously expensive gas, and I'd be driving within the friendly confines of Somerville until the Sox HR streak stopped. IF it stopped. (My Honda Accord gets EXCELLENT mileage- I was in this for the long haul!)
Wily Mo Pena, however, failed to hit a HR. The historic streak ended at four, with the Sox taking a 4-3 lead. I elected to watch the remainder of the game at home, despite the Sox' 3.200 slugging percentage while I drove around.
After that, there was just no way that the Sox were going to lose. The Yanks scored the next two runs, taking a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the 7th. But Mike Lowell hit his 2nd HR of the game, a 3 run shot that game Boston a 7-5 lead. The Yanks closed to within 7-6 in the 8th. Matsuzaka's line was 7 IP, 6 ER. But Matsuzaka got his 2nd win of the season when Papelbon closed out the Yanks, and the series, with another scoreless 9th inning. The sweep was complete.

The next morning, as I parked my vehicle at work, I noticed the car of one of my esteemed colleagues. His car usually stands out, as a result of the large Yankee flag typically hung in the back seat.
However, the Yankee flag was conspicuously absent this morning. In its place was a sizeable Red Sox one. Symbolic of his foolishness to wager against the brilliance of the 2007 Boston Red Sox.
All is right in Red Sox Nation.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Masters of the Universe

"In a world with the darkest powers,
And here we are, we're the princes of the universe
Here we belong, fighting for survival
We've come to be the rulers of you all."
-"Princes of the Universe", QUEEN

The Philadelphia Kixx played the Detroit Ignition Saturday for the 2007 MISL Championship. Of course it was pretty obvious who was going to win this game before it started. Seriously, Philadelphia: City of Champions versus Detroit: City of (Crime?). The team with a coach on the bench, dressed quite dapperly, or the team with the coach leading ON THE FIELD? The team that didn't exist when the 2006 MISL Championship was contested, or the team that has been UNBEATABLE since I bought one of their hats? (The answers are A, B, B, if you are scoring at home.)

The Kixx scored first, on a goal by player-coach Don D'Ambra, and roared to an eight point lead. Stocky "bull in a china shop" forward Shawn Boney scored a skillful goal with a nifty back heel from right in front of goal. Defender of the Year Genoni Martinez, who looks exactly like the drummer for Dream Theater, scored on a penalty kick. When Detroit pulled to within 2 points, D'Ambra scored a 3 pointer from near midfield. All-Universe GK Peter Pappas did the rest with a number of stunning saves.

The game was delayed for a bit, when the ball hit a net full of balloons suspended over the field. I thought I was watching a Red Sox game in Tampa Bay for awhile, especially when one of the announcers indicated that the officials were going to handle the balloon situation with a bunch of darts. (I am certain that Don Orsillo would have said that.) Inexplicably, the balloon problem did not make the game story. It was certainly a highlight for this blogger.

The Kixx hung on for a 13-8 victory, securing the 2nd MISL title in their 11 year history. My next Kixx hat will be a "2007 Champions" one.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

1st place Sox win again!

It didn't look like a promising matchup for the Sox in the rubber game of their 3 game series in Toronto. Red Sox SP Julian Tavarez, more known for his batshit behavior than his pitching proficiency, had not pitched for 12 days. He was opposed by Jays ace Roy Halladay, perennial Cy Young award winner, who was coming off a brilliant 10 inning complete game victory against Detroit. I didn't expect a Sox win under these circumstances, I merely hoped for some crazy antics from Tavarez, and perhaps an Amalie Benjamin appearance or two.

Julian displayed his usual bizarre mannerisms, but no particularly noteworthy crazy batshit stuff. There were no Amalie sightings, but I may have been distracted by the Phillies concurrent win over the Nats, and missed her. (Curses!) I will need to be more diligent in the future.

On the plus side, however, the Sox won! Batshit pitched only adequately (5.1 IP, 3 ER), but the Sox bullpenners (Pineiro, Romero, Timlin, PAPELBON!!) shut out the Jays for the final 3.2 innnings. Timlin allowed a hit and a walk in his shutout inning, but got out of the jam, showing the same ferocious determination he likely displays on the Killing Swamps of the South, in his excursions with his young sidekick, Closer Boy. Jonathan Papelbon came in to save the win in the 9th, walking 1 and whiffing 2 in another shutout inning by the ace closer. Papelbon has just been incredible this season. Papelbon's pitching line is 5.1 IP 1 H 0 ER 2 BB 11 K (!!!) so far this season. These numbers are as insane as his offseason hunting statistics. He has a .56 WHIP and a 18.56 K/9. When he enters the game, the opposing team can pretty much abandon all hope.

The Sox, despite their strong bullpen performance, still trailed Roy Halladay and the Jays by a 3-1 score, entering the 8th. Coco Crisp, who went 2-4 to raise his average to .167, started the inning with his 2nd bunt single of the game. Halladay retired Kevin Youkilis for the 1st out, but Jays Manager John Gibbons opted to remove his ace starter, bringing in southpaw reliever Scott Downs to face David Ortiz. Downs retired the Sox slugger on strikes for the 2nd out. Gibbons then opted to bring in reliever Shawn Marcum to face a slumping Manny Ramirez. That move backfired quite badly, as Manny tied the game with his 1st HR (finally!) of the season. Gibbons probably should have kept Halladay, who had thrown only 95 pitches, in the game. Alex Cora, starting at SS for Julio Lugo, saved Timlin in the bottom of the 8th, by turning two despite the attempt by burly Jays 1B (6' 2", 235 lbs) Lyle Overbay to break up the DP. Cora then tripled in the 9th off Jays closer Jason Frasor, keying the 2 run rally that help clinch the 5-3 win.

Now would be an opportune time for Manny Ramirez to heat up, with the Sox playing a 3 game series at home against the archrival Yankees this weekend. The pitching matchups (Schilling v. Pettitte, Beckett v. Karstens, Matsuzaka v. Chase Wright) seem to favor the 1st place Sox- I think 2 wins this weekend is quite possible. Go Sox!

Bulletholes where my compassion used to be...

It has been a strange couple of days in Phillies Nation. By "strange", I pretty much mean "horrifyingly bad." On Tuesday night, there was a lifeless 8-1 loss to the Mets. The game almost had the feeling of a spring training game, at least in terms of (lack of) effort. Or maybe a simulated rehab start for SP Freddy Garcia, in that he seemed to be pitching towards a pre-determined pitch count, and would remain in the game regardless of the results. Well, the results were pretty ugly.

Even more ugly was what transpired after the game. Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel took offense to the questions offered by radio personality Howard Eskin, and challenged Eskin to a fight. Perhaps Manuel dislikes being referred to as "Elmer Befuddled." A heated confrontation between the two in Manuel's office followed, with the two needing to be separated by media members and players. I guess it was good to see some life from the Phillies organization, but that was not exactly what the Phans were looking for.

Wednesday brought the announcement of the moving of Brett Myers to the bullpen. You may remember him from way back in the day (2 weeks ago) when he was the Phillies #1 starter and pitched effectively in the Phillies opener. After 2 consecutive seasons of 200 IP, double digit wins, and a sub 4.00 ERA, Myers seemed primed for a breakout season. Now after 3 starts (1 good, 2 bad), he will be pitching in the later innings as a setup man. Inexplicable. Hopefully, this will be an extremely short term move. Because it really, really sucks. For serious.

The Wednesday night matchup against the woeful Washington Nationals featured the Phillies mediocre SP Adam Eaton against Nats neophyte SP Jason Bergmann. The loser would have sole possession of last place in the NL. The game progressed typically for a Phillies Eaton start. After 6 innings, the Phillies trailed 4-1, and were making Bergmann look good.

As I was sick of the Nationals announcing team, and the Phillies' losing ways, I tried to mix things up a little bit to help the Phillies comeback chances. I put the new Nine Inch Nails release "Year Zero" on, streaming it out of the same speaker as the MLB.TV Phillies broadcast. The dissonance of NIN pretty much blocked out the soporific Nats announcers. It also seemed to rouse the somnambulant Phillies. They rallied for 2 runs in the 7th, and Geoff Geary and Brett Myers (Serenity now!) shut down the Nats for the next 2 frames. The Phillies batted in the 9th against Nats closer Chad Cordero (2.33 WHIP entering the game), trailing 4-3.

They managed to tie the game, but they should have taken a lead. Pat Burrell lead of with a single, and OF Michael Bourn replaced him as a pinch runner. (Serenity now!) After a Rowand single put runners on 1st and 2nd, with no out, Manuel opted to play for the tie, and sacrificed. I am against the sacrifice in most cases, as it significantly reduces your scoring expectancy. In this case, in the 9th inning of a tie game on the road, I found the decision extremely unappetizing. Well, Charlie got the one run he wanted, but Pat Burrell (the Phils best bat) was (AGAIN!) out of the game, and the Nats had a chance to win in the bottom of the inning.

The game wound up going into the 13th inning, with Bourn going 0 for 2 in Burrell's spot in the lineup, #1 SP Cole Hamels walking as a pinch hitter, the Phillies going 1-11 with RISP in the game, and getting effective relief from Ryan Madson and Antonio Alfonseca. But another egregious error made by Manuel earlier in the game came back to haunt the Phillies.
Nats bench player Michael Restovich was in the on deck circle when Manuel made a pitching change earlier in the game. However, Manuel did NOT wait until Restovich was announced as a pinch hitter before making the change. The Nats pulled Restovich back, and inserted a different PH. Innings later, when the Nats announcers revealed this folly (during the chorus of "Meet your Master" - "This is your disaster, Countdown to the End", disturbingly foreboding lyrics), I knew that Manuel Mistake could very well come back to haunt the Phillies. Sure enough, Restovich had a big hit in the 13th, when the Phillies blew the game, losing 5-4. The Phillies are now 3-10, the worst record in MLB.

After Wednesday's debacles, I am officially ready for Charlie Manuel to be fired. I am sick of the downward spiral. I am sick of the Phillies losing games with Pat Burrell conceding late-inning ABs to minor leaguer Michael Bourn (.125 avg.). I am sick of idiotic bunting and baserunning and losing games because of stupid and/or inexplicable managing. Every day is exactly the same. It's time for a new regime. It's time for Year Zero with a new Manager. I am tired of this zero-sum game, where the Phillies are always the zero.

Sox in 1st place!

The Red Sox moved ahead of Toronto (by .5 game), New York, and Baltimore (by 1 game) into sole possession of 1st place by defeating the Blue Jays tonight, 4-1. Tim Wakefield picked up his second (should be his third, though, damn Tejeda!) win, allowing only 1 run in 7 strong innings. He lowered his ERA to a sub-Beckett (1.50) 1.35. The Sox pitching is looking mighty good these days. David Ortiz hit his 5th homer, Doug Mirabelli (!) his 2nd (!!), and Mike Lowell his 1st, in an astounding show of offensive support for the ancient knuckleballer. However, Manny Ramirez (.191 batting avg., 0 HR), Coco Crisp (.136), and Dustin Pedroia (a Pawtucket-worthy .188) combined to go 0 for 10. Once Manny starts to hit, and Coco and Dustin grab some pine, the Red Sox will be totally unbeatable, as opposed to their current state of virtually unbeatable.

A somewhat surreal moment occurred late in the game tonight. I'm not talking about Doug Mirabelli providing offense. Or about any fans hurling ballpark fare at each other. (Note: "He is the Pepsi Fan of the Game, at least until he gets thrown out" has to be the Quote of the Year (non-Papel-blog Division)). Geddy Lee was probably at the game, but that's not surreal either.

The Great Jonathan Papelbon came on in the 9th to finish up for a conventional save. Unusual, perhaps, but not the surreal moment to which I will refer. After whiffing the 1st batter (Lyle Overbay) to face him, Jonathan Papelbon ALLOWED A HIT. A single by Jays 2B Aaron Hill. I was pretty surprised that the game wasn't stopped so that the ball could be saved for Cooperstown. PH/C Gregg Zaun followed with a walk, and the Jays had 2 runners. AGAINST PAPELBON. AT THE SAME TIME! Inconceivable. Following a sermon on the mount by pitching coach John Farrell, during with Jonathan did NOT cover his mouth with his glove (because he doesn't care if the opponents know what he is thinking- in this case, it was revealing to Farrell that "Papelbon" is worth 14 points in Scrabble) the indomitable closer struck out the next 2 Jays to end the game. Jonathan's OBA had been elevated to a non-Papelbonian .148, but I'm sure he'll get that back under .100 shortly.

In related Papelbon news, I have learned the following this week, which may be of assistance to my reader(s):

  • Making Papelbon references in a written evaluation is not necessarily "managerial" or "appropriate." (So, keep your Papelbon references in the workplace veiled.)

  • If your boss asks what you are up to, the reply "writing a Papelbon haiku" may not be the best response. (Instead, use "giving subordinates direction via written communication.")

  • Not all subordinates value the creativity of receiving direction via haiku. (Try a tanka.)

Finally, when speaking about a 3rd party in positively glowing terms, refrain from utilizing the phrase "innings-eater." Because, even though you may realize the term has positive connotations (unless prefaced with "league average"), others don't necessarily come to the same realization. They could become a bit disconcerted when the report, inevitably, makes its way back to them. Especially if they are on the rotund side.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Philadelphia: City of Champions

Some random sports tidbits of major importance:

The Philadelphia Kixx, continuing the City of Brotherly Love's history of brilliance in the World of Sports, will play for the MISL Title against the Detroit Ignition on Saturday at 4pm. The game will be televised live on Versus. Ever since I made a Philadelphia Kixx cap my primary headwear choice, the team has been on fire. Coincidence? Unlikely. While my support may not be the primary factor for the Kixx' success (that might be All-Universe GK Peter Pappas), it is most certainly one of the reasons for their success. The Kixx hope to follow in the footsteps of Philadelphia's other Major Sports Champions, the Philadelphia Phantoms and the Philadelphia Wings. Tune in!

The Philadelphia Eagles signed left-footed PK E.J. Cochrane Monday as a training camp leg to split reps with left-footed starting PK David Akers. While the Eagles, appropriately, chose a left-footed kicker, to simplify the holding and snapping process in the preseason, I am concerned they chose the wrong lefty kicker. Obviously, my booming left leg should be taking the aforementioned preseason reps. While Cochrane had some success at Montana State, and has a pretty cool name, I have had success kicking balls effortlessly between trees in the backyard, and over soccer goals. If I was allowed to challenge Cochrane in Uno for the kicking job, I would totally win. It's disappointing that I won't get that chance. But if Akers gets injured battling ninjas on the eve of the 2008 Super Bowl, I'll be ready for the call.

It was announced Wednesday that women's professional soccer will return to the U.S. in April 2008 (about 3 months after the Eagle's Super Bowl victory) with 8 teams. Boston was announced as one of the initial 7 teams named, with Philadelphia, hopefully, going to be the unnamed squad. As a former Philadelphia Charge fan, I'm looking forward to watching the games. But, mostly, I think I am looking forward to the glorious return of U.S. National Team Defender Heather Mitts. If Philadelphia doesn't get a team, Heather would be a good fit for the Boston team. If hasn't been announced yet where the Boston team will play it's home games (the WUSA Boston Breakers played at BU's Nickerson Field), so there's a chance the games will be played at the field near my home. While the parking situation would be a bit dicey, and the capacity is only about 417, it would be quite convenient for me, which is of greater importance. There is currently a "No Soccer" sign up at the field, but I'm sure they would take it down for Heather.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rain, rain, go away...

Welcome to the rain delay version of the Philly Fanatic in Red Sox Nation blog. Here in scenic Somerville, Massachusetts the rain is coming down faster than Coco Crisp's batting average. The timing of this Monster storm is as inopportune as an Abe Nunez pinch-ground out appearance. Families are trying to journey to exotic locales for school vacation week. Lunatics will be running 26.2 miles. But, most importantly, the weather is impacting MLB. Specifically, Julian Tavarez, our most favoritest lunatic of all, who has seen his next start bumped to Thursday, as a result of Sunday's postponement.

"Yo-Yo" Tavarez was scheduled to be the starting pitcher in Monday's 10:05am start, which would have been the pilot episode of "Breakfast with Julian" on NESN. Who knows what insanity would have occurred with Batshit Crazy pitching at 10am in a rainstorm? Obviously, he would have been wearing a raincoat of some kind, probably with an "unorthodox" color scheme. There probably would have been an umbrella out there on the mound with him. He likely would have been running with the umbrella in his hand when he attempted to catch fly balls in right field or when he tried to pick off runners, unassisted. I'm sure that pitching with an umbrella in his glove hand during a rainstorm would have made it difficult for the batter to see the ball coming out of Tavarez' hand. That probably would have resulted in some unkind verbal and/or physical exchanges with the batters.
I am extremely disappointed that none of this will come to pass. (Well, unless Josh Beckett wakes up tomorrow all blister-y. Or forgets about the 10am start time.) If tomorrow's game had gone according to plan, it would have served as the springboard for Julian's show, as well as separate spinoffs involving Manny, Papi, Timlin, and PAPELBON (!). We would have been another step closer to the PAPELBON CHANNEL, which will be the greatest invention, well, ever. (Actually, I think I'm going to start praying for the Beckett blisters right now...)

The Phillies split their 2 weekend games against the Astros, despite getting poor starting pitching from both #1 Brett Myers and #2 Cole Hamels. Cole got plenty of offensive support, however, and picked up his 1st win of the young season.
If you had told me 3 weeks ago that a Phillie would be leading the NL in HRs at this point, I wouldn't have been too surprised. Until you informed me that Phillie would be SS/leadoff man Jimmy Rollins, with 6 HR already. (At which point I would have told you to lay off the Grey Goose.)
As disconcerting as the poor pitching performances this weekend (Phillies have the 2nd worst ERA in all of MLB, only better than Tampa Bay), were some poor managerial decisions. Pat Burrell has been the Phillies best and most consistent offensive threat this season. Unfortunately, Manager Charlie Manuel continues to replace Pat with Michael Bourn, who wouldn't be a consistent offensive threat in t-ball, for running and/or defensive purposes. On Saturday night, Bourn was brought in to pinch-run for Burrell in the 6TH INNING! Naturally, Bourn wound up batting in the the 8th inning with the bases loaded, and struck out. How many times does this type of maneuver have to hurt the Phillies before Manuel stops employing it? The over/under on that is probably 48, but I hope that Manuel will be fired long before he approaches the over.
On Friday night, the Phillies had Shane Victorino thrown out at the plate trying to score from 2nd base on a single WITH NO OUTS, and the Phils trailing 8-6. The bases would have been loaded with no outs if Victorino had not been sent home. (And maybe the Phillies would have scored some runs on BBs and HBPs in that situation.) I don't think I had even heard of 3rd base coach Steve Smith (NOT the former Edmonton Oilers defenseman, I checked), until that play, which is the way it should be. The Phillies are just making too many different mistakes, which is why they are 3-8, and only half a game in front of the woeful Nationals.

The Sox won both of their games, with Tim Wakefield and Curt Schilling turning in tremendous pitching performances. I think I am ready for Schilling to be extended through the 2008 season now. Sure he's only had 2 strong starts in a row, but that's enough for this blogger. Get it done Theo! Send the contract offer to Schill's blog. Send it to the Barrens. Whatever it takes, just get it to him, ASAP!

Jonathan Papelbon entered the Friday night game in the 8th inning with one out, retiring Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson in order, and protecting a 4-1 lead, in what turned out to be a 10-1 win. I think I am going to start calling it a "Papel" when the closer enters the game in the 8th and squelches a threat, but doesn't finish the game and get credited with a save. Expect the "Papel" to be an official stat in the future. Or at least of official as "VORP" is. Or "slaughtered ducks, off-season" will be.

In Schadenfreude News, Blue Jays closer B. J. Ryan was placed on the DL. In even better news, Yankee SPs Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano also were placed on the DL, joining Matsui, Karstens, and Wang on the injured list. Looking at the Yankees depth chart these days makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Speaking of the warm and fuzzies, I have read some tremendous bloggings over the past few days. Specifically, here. And here. Here. Here. And also here. There are some damn good Red Sox and Phillies writing talents inhabiting the blogosphere these days. I'm glad I get to read them on a regular basis. (But I need to start reading them all faster because all of this daily quality blog consumption is making me frequently late for work...)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sox and Phils take the day off

The Red Sox' scheduled game against the Seattle Mariners was rained out today and rescheduled for May 3rd. The weather is a horrible "wintry mix" in these parts, with a big storm possible for (Boston) Marathon Monday. The Sox have a 10:05 am (Yep. 10:05 AM- that's 7:05AM PDT for the visiting LA Angels.) game scheduled that day, with Batshit Crazy Julian Tavarez the probable starter. It won't be good weather for running 26.2 miles, but the inclement weather could result in some of Tavarez's patented lunacy. Personally, I would like to see him load the bases, try to pick off the runner on 3rd by throwing Lowell a snowball, and then run all the way to 1st or 2nd base (eschewing the fielder awaiting the throw), in attempt at an unnassisted pickoff. He has tried it before (well, without the snowball), I think it might just work against a less savvy baserunner than Brian Roberts.

The Phillies lost to the Mets, 5-3, dropping their record to 2-7. Jimmy Rollins hit a solo HR and a 2R HR off Mets SP Tom Glavine, but that was pretty much it for the Phillies offense. The rest of the team went 4 for 25. Phillies SP Jamie Moyer pitched well enough to win, with 6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER allowed. He walked 2, with 6 K's. He also hit 3 batters, but probably didn't even bruise any of them with the 70 MPH slop he throws up there. Some Phillies' batting averages at game end: RF Victorino .214, 2B Utley .231, 1B Howard .212. They need more production out of their 2,3,4 hitters. Much more. On the plus side, SS Jimmy Rollins now has 5 HR (.278 avg., on pace for 90 HR this season!) and LF Pat Burrell (.323), CF Aaron Rowand (.300), and C Carlos Ruiz (.280 after an 0 for 3 night) are all hitting well, though Rowand and Ruiz have been a bit lacking in the area of plate discipline.
The Phillies and the Mets announcers were seriously frustrating me tonight, only tremendous episodes of The Office and 30 Rock on NBC, prevented damage to the walls of my luxurious condominium.

The Phillies host the Houston Astros on Friday PM, with Astros ace Roy Oswalt (1-0, 1.08 ERA), facing Phillies ace Brett Myers (0-1, 6.75 ERA). Should be a good matchup, as the Astros have also started slow (3-5), and have 5 of their 9 starters batting .229 or lower.
The Sox host the Angels, with Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (0-1, 1.50 ERA) facing Angels SP John Lackey (2-0, 0.75 ERA). The Angels are 6-4, riding strong pitching and Vladimir Guerrero's bat (.405 batting avg., 3 HR, 11 RBI, 1.168 OPS in 10 games).
Should be a good weekend for baseball. Well, except for the crappy Boston weather.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

No Dice

Thirty-six thousand fans and 350 credentialed media were in attendance. Millions were watching in 2 countries. All of them were expecting to see a dominating pitching performance.

Well, they did. Only it was 21 yr. old Seattle Mariner phenom Felix Hernandez, and not Red Sox rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka, who stymied the opposing batters. King Felix pitched a complete game shutout against Boston, allowing only 2 walks and an 8th inning single by Sox RF J.D.Drew. He combined a 96 MPH fastball and a 91 MPH slider to record six strikeouts, and faced only 29 batters (2 above the minimum.) Hernandez is now 2-0 for the season, with 17 scoreless innings, 18 K's, and only 4 H and 4 BB allowed. He has a remarkable GO-AO ratio of 29-4, after 2 starts. I am wicked glad I have Barry Zito and his 8.18 ERA on my fantasy baseball team, instead of King Felix.

Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched effectively (7 IP, 3 ER), and recorded 3 K's of Ichiro Suzuki in 3 ABs. (Approximate 10 gajillion pictures of their confrontations were taken.) Matsuzaka did seem to have some trouble with the command of his off-speed pitches- he hung a few that a more powerful lineup (ex. NYY) would have likely capitalized on. While his results for this performance were good, he needs to improve his control a bit, if he hopes to repeat (or better) those results against a tougher team.

The Phillies won their 2nd game of the season, riding a strong pitching performance by Adam Eaton (7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) to a 5-2 win in NY over the rival Mets. Opposing starter Oliver Perez was extremely wild (2.2 IP, 1 H, 3 ER, 7 BB), and the Phillies displayed an ability to walk and get hit by pitches with RISP. They still can't seem to hit with RISP (14 LOB), but at least they did score some runs with this method. An orange cat ran on the field in front of the Phillies bullpen in the later innings, which may have aided the embattled relief corps, who posted 2 shutout innings (Alfonseca 1 IP, Gordon 1 IP,SV) to close out the Mets. LF Pat Burrell reached base in 2 of his 4 ABs, and CF Aaron Rowand went 2 for 3 with 2 RBI. The rest of the offense was absent (3 H in 29 AB, not including Rowand), but the Phils did enough to win.

Two things that ticked me off in the game: In the 2nd inning, Aaron Rowand swung at the 1st pitch against Oliver Perez, who had already walked 5 batters, including 3 in a row. He did wind up walking in that AB, but he still needs to work on his game awareness.
Also, thanks to MLB.TV, I had to listen to the torturous Mets announcers. They reached their peak in the 5th and 6 innings, when they interviewed Howard Johnson and Jerry Koosman, while virtually ignoring the play on the field. They also asked Jerry Koosman if they knew Nolan Ryan was going to be that good when they traded him for journeyman SS Jim Fregosi.
Koos' answer should have been "Yes, we realized Nolan was going to be a 300 game winner with 7 no-hitters, 5714 Ks, and a HOF plaque. But we really needed a 30 yr. old .230 hitting infielder for the next season and a half." I hate the Mets and their announcers and their stadium. I may have mentioned that once or twice.

The Phils and Sox both try to win the rubber games of their respective 3 game series'.
98 yr. old Jamie Moyer goes to the mound for the Phillies against 87 yr. old Met hurler Tom Glavine, while Tim Wakefield goes for the Sox against Jarrod Washburn and the Mariners in another Fenway matinee.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Leader

I do consulting work for the Phillies, periodically helping research and develop ideas in various opportunity areas. On Tuesday's off day, I was called in for a morning meeting in Philly with some members of upper management. I was picked up at the airport in one of the red Phillies limos by Clay Condrey, who scooted me over to the ballpark in about the time it takes him to pitch another scoreless inning of relief.

The meeting at CBP included SVP/GM Pat Gillick, Assistant GM Ruben Amaro, Jr., and Field MGR Charlie Manuel. Charlie Manuel, who I had not met before, arrived late, with the Phillie Phanatic accompanying him. I thought it unusual that the team mascot would be in the meeting, but I was getting paid the same no matter who was in the meeting, so I wasn't too concerned.

Manuel: Sorry, I'm late. My computer broke, and I had to get Abe to fix it again.
Gillick: Charlie, Mike will be meeting with us today. He has a blog and has worked with us in the past.
Manuel: I had a blog once- I was in the hospital for a week!
Gillick: OK. The Leader is concerned that poor performance on the field could affect revenues.
Manuel: The Leader can go...
Gillick (interrupting Manuel): We need to improve our on-field record. What can we do towards achieving that goal?
Mike: I've run some projections based on different lineups, and believe that run scoring can be increased by making some adjustments in the starting lineup and the batting order.
(The Phillie Phanatic scratches his head.)
Manuel: I know how to make a goddamn lineup.
Mike: Perhaps some adjustments in the area of in-game manangement can be considered. Have you heard of the "double-switch?"
Manuel: I worked at Dairy Queen for 4 years, of course I know what a double switch is!
Mike: Maybe changing the player mix through a trade could help?
(The Phillie Phanatic sticks out his tongue.)
Gillick: I've been thinking about that this whole meeting. (turns to face Ruben Amaro, Jr.) Jr., get the Red Sox on the phone. Try to trade for that French mustard guy. The one with all the ducks. Tell them that Nunez is available. Boston has a lot of computers, so try to emphasize his computer aptitude.
Amaro, Jr.: French mustard guy?
Mike: Papelbon? (Gillick nods.) You might need to offer a little more to acquire Papelbon.
Amaro, Jr.:(on cell phone) Theo, it's Ruben Am...(Theo hangs up on other end.)
Amaro, Jr.: He must be busy, I'll try him again later.
Manuel: We already have Gordon, we don't need that duck guy. And I am goddamn tired of everyone acting like I'm a country bumpkin'. I have a computer, and an ESPN team, so I know exactly what's going to happen this season. The Leader and the rest of you might think I'm a fool, but I ain't.
Mike: I'm not sure I follow.
Manuel: So who's the bumpkin now? I have an ESPN team with all of the Phillies on it, and I just watch that to see what's going to happen. I'm one game ahead of everyone! Take that, Leader!
Mike: I don't think that's quite how fantasy baseball works.
Manuel: I'm in 1st place on my computer, so I guess I know how it works, buster! Well, I was in 1st place until yesterday, when the whole league started over again. I don't know why that happened. Maybe that damn Leader is behind it.
Mike: ESPN had to restart the season because of technical problems.
Gillick: That's the first good idea you had. (to Amaro, Jr.) Jr., I want you to go check on this ESPN idea. Give them a call and see if they can restart our league. (to Manuel) I'll see you in 3 hours for that thing we have to do. (to Mike) Most of your ideas are a bit radical. But, thanks for coming down. I'll have Clay drive you back to the airport. (to All) Good meeting, guys!

(The Phillie Phanatic throws confetti. Everyone else leaves the room. The Phillie Phanatic removes his head to reveal Chris Wheeler.)

Wheeler: (whispers to himself) All according to plan...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Shenanigans and a Victory

Opening Day at Fenway Park went pretty much according to plan. A classy opening ceremony featuring the 1967 Sox. Rico and Yaz! Robert Goulet! (My 2nd favorite Goulet of all-time, after Michel.) The Sox player introductions. Daisuke! PAPELBON!!! Harry Connick, Jr. with the singing of "America the Beautiful." (OK, I might have gone in a different direction there, but that's alright.) A tearful Johnny Pesky exclaiming, "Play Ball!"
The whole ballplaying part also went pretty darn well, with the Sox triumphing 14-3, in a game that wasn't as close as the football score would seem to indicate. The Seattle Mariners hadn't played in about a week (they had spent that time watching snow fall in Cleveland), so they were a bit on the rusty side. Considering that, at their best, the Mariners are a below-average squad, they didn't have much of a chance at defeating the Sox in any competition today that didn't involve making snow angels. Eight of the nine Seattle starters were batting .231 or less by game's end, with 3 starters at .083 or less. Only Ichiro was batting over .300 (.308) at game's end, after Beckett struck him out in all three of the 2nd best Japanese player's ABs. Beckett picked up his 2nd win and lowered his ERA to 1.50, with a 7 inning/8 K effort, in which he allowed only 2 hits, ZERO walks, and 1 earned run. Joshua Patrick Beckett is starting to make me forget about the 5.01 ERA and the 36 HRs he allowed last season.

The Sox battered Mariners starter Jeff Weaver for 7 ER in the 1st 2 innings, gifting Weaver with a bloated 31.50 ERA, and probably leaving him wishing that he hadn't left St. Louis. J. D. Drew had a HR and 3 RBI in the blowout, with Jason Varitek also getting 3 RBI (3 for 4, now batting .250), and Kevin Youkilis going 3 for 5 (.286). The Sox had 14 hits in a dominating effort.

Even though Francona and the Sox were warned prior to the game that there were to be "no shenanigans", shenanigans did in fact erupt in the top of the 8th inning. Sox P Brendan Donnelly struck out old buddy Jose Guillen. There were some unpleasantries exchanged between the two, and Guillen took a few steps towards the mound, bat still in hand. Donnelly prepared for battle by removing his glove and his glasses, because that's how he rolls. The benches and bullpens cleared, but no punches were thrown. I'm pretty sure I saw Julian Tavarez in the middle of the fray, nunchukas poised to damage all who foolishly challenged him. It was convenient that he was positioned in the dugout, as opposed to in the bullpen, as his close proximity to the area of concern allowed him to assert his presence in a very timely manner.

The game lacked a game-ending performance by Jonathan Papelbon, but, besides that, it was finely scripted. With Daisuke Matsuzaka making his Fenway Park debut in a potentially great pitching matchup against phenom Felix Hernandez, and a certainly great matchup against Ichiro Suzuki, Red Sox Nation has another great day to look forward to on Wednesday.

Monday, April 9, 2007

I Walk the Thin Line Between Love and Hate

I hate the Mets. I've hated them for as long as I can remember. I hated them when they sucked and their "stars" were the likes of Craig Swan and Joel Youngblood. I hated them because there was a Mets fan in my neighborhood growing up, and after I routinely kicked his ass in whiffleball and kickball, he routinely kicked my ass in fisticuffs and wrestling. (At least until I took a page from the Flyers playbook, and rostered a goon.) I hated seeing those disgusting looking orange-y Mets uniforms when going to see them host the Phillies in that disgusting piece of shit ballpark. I hated the time they gave me a stupid shaving kit when I entered their shit ballpark. ( I'm wearing a Phillies hat. A 1950 Whiz Kid Phillies t-shirt. And I'm 9 years old. I do not want your fucking shaving kit!) I hated that whole 1986 thing. My hate of all things Met has increased exponentially since then. Needless to say, I was kind of hoping for a Phillies win against the Mets today.

Well, that didn't happen. There were some good things to take from today's game. LHP Cole Hamels was effective, allowing 2 ER in 6 IP, with 7 K. His ERA is now 1.38, but he has 2 no decisions to show for it. (The NDs are both courtesy of the motley collection of borderline "major-leaguers" the Phillies trot out there as "relievers.") Ryan Howard and Chase Utley each hit his 1st HR of the season, staking the Phillies to a 5-3 lead after 6 innings. That's pretty much it for the good.

There was quite a bit of bad. Abe Nunez started at 3B. WTF? Not the best time to give starting 3B Wes Helms a day off, Charlie! With a 1-5 record, playing against the Mets, who already have a 3 game lead in the standings? Yikes. Nine more LOB. Double Yikes. Howard made his 3rd error of the year and Jimmy Rollins made his first, as a result, 4 of the runs allowed were unearned.

Relievers Matt Smith (2 outs recorded, 1 ER allowed), Geoff Geary (2 outs, 5 R/2 ER), and Jon Lieber (2 outs, 2 ER) were "not very effective." Like Charlie Manuel is "not very smart." Charlie brought RP Geoff Geary in with 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th, but, with the pitcher's spot leading off the top of the 8th, Charlie did not do a double switch. Then, with a 1 run lead in the top of the 8th inning, he let Geary bat for himself. Un.Fucking.Believable. Then everything went totally to shit in the bottom of the 8th, when a 5-4 lead turned into an 11-5 deficit. One of the worst Phillies innings I can remember. Game over. Phillies' record falls to 1-6. Aaaaaaaaaargh!!!

I need an immediate injection of Borat. Borat and Jack Bauer will take me to my happy place...

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Origins of Ruin

Excellent win by the Sox tonight, 3-2 in Texas. Curt Schilling pitched 7 extremely effective innings, allowing only 1 run on 4 hits.His command was excellent, but he probably should have shaved some of that scruff, considering that this was a nationally televised matchup. Hopefully, he will analyze his decision-making process on that in his next blog post. David Ortiz finally hit his 1st HR, then hit his 2nd HR in his next AB.
In a progressive move by Terry Francona, Closer/Jedi Jonathan Papelbon was called on with one out in the 8th, the tying run in on base, and the middle of the Rangers order due up. Closer Boy was lights out, getting the final 5 outs (3 K) without difficulty. I like the Jamesian thinking by Francona, bringing JP into the game in the 8th, in a higher leverage situation, instead of going "by the book" and waiting until the 9th to utilize Papelbon. With an off day tomorrow, and a light workload over the past week, this was probably as good a time to use JP for a 5 out save as you will see. I just hope Francona doesn't, as a result of the shortcomings of JP's bullpen mates, use Papelbon for more than an inning too often. JP's fantasy baseball owners might not like seeing him work out of a jam in the 8th, only to see Romero, or somebody, pick up the save by facing the bottom of the order in the 9th, but if that's the best way for the Sox to win, I'm all for it. (Plus, I also have Putz and Nathan for saves on my Papelbonian fantasy team.) Jonathan won't mind if he loses a few saves to secure wins for the Sox, as he is the consummate team player. (And also because his contractural incentives are tied to Duck Kills, not Saves.)

The Sox lost a crappy game on Saturday night, with Batshit Crazy Tavarez pitching ineffectively, and not doing anything notably insane to make up for his poor pitching. The Phillies dropped to 1-4 on the young season, combining poor starting pitching, minimal clutch hitting, and miscellaneous acts of crappyness to drop games in Florida on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

The Sox and Phils have had some positives in the early going, but I have seen some troubling concerns that could be the "Origins of Ruin" for these projected contenders.
The Sox have a front 3 (Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka) in their rotation that could be extremely strong. I wouldn't be surprised to see the trio combine for more than 45 wins this season. But Tim Wakefield would be better cast as a #5- his value is mostly derived from his ability to eat innings. Most of Julian Tavarez' value is derived from his ability to engage in the shenanigans,he's not going to eat too many innings. It wouldn't be surprising to have Tavarez and Snyder split the 1st 7 innings in each of Tavarez' starts. The Sox might be better served with Tavarez in the pen, and Hansack serving as the 5th starter, at least until it is Lester Time.

The black hole that is the bottom 3rd of the Sox lineup also has to be a cause for concern. That kind of thing might fly with an NL small market team hoping to possibly contend in 2012, but for the Red Sox, not so much. Jason Varitek, even considering his strong glove and leadership abilities, needs to do much better than a .125 average. (There is a small sample size here, obviously, but his .238 average in 365 ABs in 2006 wasn't so hot, either.) Coco Crisp is up to a .150 average, with a 1 for 3 night tonight. I'd like to see Wily Mo Pena start getting more ABs, despite his defensive shortcomings. While 2B/Hobbit Dustin Pedrois is currently batting .313, I don't think the wee lil' guy is going to be hitting that well for very long. I hope that he is replaced by a more capable vet by midseason, even if the acquistion cost is Manny Delcarmen. Relying so heavily on the top of the order to produce the offense, could prove to be problematic over a long season, especially if there are any injury issues to the top of the order.

The biggest Phillies concern right now has to be the fact they they don't actually seem to have a bullpen. Flash Gordon seems to be on borrowed time, and he is the best the Phillies have, at least until the inevitable Flash breakdown. In which case Madson would probably close games? Yikes.

While the Phils offense has been pretty good, in terms of getting on base, the scoring after getting on base hasn't worked out too well. They are missing too many opportunites by not hitting well with runners on base (with the exception of Patrick Brian Burrell, who is an offensive juggernaut in all situations)- the LOB/game is quite bad. They have consistently missed opportunities to score in the early innings, fallen behind, and fallen just short in their attempts to come back.

The Phillies have also been hurt by the random acts of stupidity. Bad baserunning, poor situational hitting, and fielding lapses have really hurt them. Helms, Rowand, Howard, and Werth seem like they are swimming out there in the field. Not graceful and fluid Baywatch-type swimming. The haphazard, unathletic SexyDrownWatch kind. A contending team doesn't give up so many extra outs on defense, and takes advantage of the extra outs gifted them by the opposition.

The Phillies are in New York Monday afternoon, with Cole Hamels facing the Mets. The Sox have an off day, before sending Josh Beckett to the mound in the Tuesday Home Opener against Seattle.

In quite possibly the most exciting release last week (even more exciting than the release of Dustin Hermanson by the Reds), progressive metal stalwarts Redemption debuted their 3rd album, "The Origins of Ruin." A superb Papelbon-esque effort, well worth checking out.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Phils Win, Red Sox don't...

The Phillies finally got their 1st win of the season, winning in Florida against the Marlins, 8-2. 74 yr.old SP Jamie Moyer stymied the Marlin bats with his 74 MPH fastball, allowing only 2 ER in 6 2/3 innings. RF Shane Victorino (.308 batting avg.) and C Carlos Ruiz (.417) each went 2 for 4, and the Phillies took advantage of 2 Marlin errors to score 4 unearned runs.

But the Star of the Game was definitely LF Pat Burrell. He went 2 for 4 with 4 RBI, 3 of which came on a HR that pretty much put the game away. Even better, that 3 run blast came immediately after 1B Ryan Howard was intentionally walked. Patrick Brian also made a superb defensive play. He is now hitting .400, with an OPS over 1.2. Is it time to stop booing him yet, people?

The Red Sox didn't do as well, being shut down by the Texas Rangers and Robinson Tejeda, 2-0. Former Phillies Pal Tejeda, threw 77 pitches (45 for strikes), and had his name mispronounced by Sox announcers 77 times. (The Colorado Rockies announcers also mispronounced it a couple times- perhaps I am the one mispronouncing it?- but I'm pretty sure it isn't prounounced the same way as Orioles SS Miguel.) Tejeda has a history of wildness, but it didn't seem that the Sox took enough pitches to take advantage of that. They only had 3 hits in the game, only one of which, a Coco Crisp double, went for extra bases. Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield's fine effort (6 IP, 3H, 2R, 1 ER) was wasted. 2B/Hobbit Dustin Pedroia was 0 for 3, dropping his avg. to .385, and made a costly error that resulted in an unearned run. Sammy Sosa knocked in the eventual game-winning run with a 1st inning single, on an ugly checked-swing blooper. It was an ugly game for Sox and their fans.

On Saturday, the Phillies and ace Brett Myers face the Marlins and their ace, Dontrelle Willis.
The Sox will send Batshit Tavarez to the mound against the Rangers' #1, Kevin Millwood (another former Phillie). I expect that Brett and Batshit will each get their 1st W of the season .

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Daisuke Dominant, Adam not so much...

With 2007 AL Cy Young Award Winner Daisuke Matsuzaka scheduled to win his debut, and the Phillies scheduled for their 1st win early this afternoon, the whole 8-5 thing wasn't a good fit for me today. So I got all my work done faster than Papelbon dispatches a camp full of Tusken Raiders (for the Phillies-inclined, faster than Lieber dispatches a 12 course snack), and left the rest of the work day to the bullpen.
As I hurtled down the highway at the speed of Darren Daulton's spaceship, I tuned into WEEI to soak up some of the Matsu-Mania. A Japanese sports reporter type (with a voice eerily reminiscent to that of my least favorite Statistics professor of all-time ) was speaking of the "3 peaks" of Matsuzaka's debut. The "3 peaks" were: the 1st MLB start, the 1st home start against Seattle and Ichiro Suzuki, and the 1st start against the Yankees and Hideki Matsui.

Consider the 1st peak scaled. Matsuzaka dominated the Royals, holding them to 1 ER over 7 innings, in a 4-1 Sox victory. He allowed 6 hits (including a solo HR) and 1 BB, while striking out 10. He seemed to be toying with the Royals, retiring them with a variety of different pitches, and ambling around the mound with an extremely focused expression after he did so. It was extremely impressive to watch. If Matsuzaka performs that well the rest of the season, the Red Sox (and my Sporting News fantasy baseball team!) will each have a good shot at 1st place. It's possible that the optimism may need to be tempered a little bit, when considering that the Royals are not exactly an offensive juggernaut. But Matsuzaka seems to have the stuff and the demeanor to succeed, if not excel, in MLB.

As for the rest of the Sox, Jonathan Papelbon made his 2007 debut, easily retiring the Royals in order (with 2 K's) in the 9th for the 1st of his 87 saves this season. Mike Lowell and Dustin Pedroia each went 2 for 4, with the 2B Hobbit raising his batting avg. to .500. Jason Varitek went 0 for 4 (.091 avg.) and Coco Crisp went 1 for 4 (.100). The Sox need to get more production from those two. In Julio Lugo news, he tried to steal 3rd with Papi at bat, and nobody out. He was safe at 3rd, and scored as the errant throw from C John Buck went into LF. But a good throw would have had him, and it didn't seem that such a good situation for him to be stealing. However, J.D. Drew (1.1 OPS!) might be starting to win me over.MIGHT BE. (As a Phillies fan, I can't believe I just typed that.)

For the Royals, SP Zack Greinke was very effective, allowing only 2 runs (1 ER) over 7 innings.
Greinke missed almost the entire 2006 season, as he dealt with the effects of depression and social anxiety disorder (S.A.D). His effective performance today was another positive step in his battle against his illnesses. I'll be rooting for him. (Just not against the Sox!)

The Phillies continued the battle against their own illnesses (L.O.B, R.I.S.P., "crappy-ass relievers") today, once again losing to their personal demons, and the Braves, 8-4. $24.5 million starting pitcher Adam Eaton was ineffective, allowing all 8 runs (7 ER), over 4 2/3 putrid innings "pitched." The Phillies tried to peck away at an 8-1 deficit after 5 innings, but fell short as they had too many missed opportunities (14 LOB.) Pat Burrell went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles, raising his batting average to .364, but still continues to be booed mercilessly by a clueless subgroup of Phillies fans. (If they wish to know who they should be booing, I would be glad to furnish them with a list.) Perhaps Project P5 needs to be started. "Forget the Contract. Remember the Game."

I still think the Phillies have an excellent team, and are playoff bound, but it would be nice for them to get into the win column. Soon. Like in their next game. With the Phillies playing 3 games against CF Alejandro De Aza (.885 OPS!) and the Florida Marlins, and the Sox with a weekend set against the 0-3 Texas Rangers, it will be a good time for my teams to pick up some W's. I predict we'll see some Howard Blasts and Papelbonian Brilliance this weekend.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Sox win, Phils lose...

I was all set for both the Phillies and Sox to move back to the .500 mark tonight. I had reconfigured my fabulous home so that I could watch the Phils on MLB.TV and the Sox on NESN HD, simultaneously. With my living space now a delightful combination of functionality and clusterfuck, I sat down to watch the games.

With LHP Cole Hamels starting, I had no fear that the Phils would win. Fear itself is afraid of Cole Hamels. Jack Bauer calls Cole for advice. Cole walks on water and swims on land. After 90 minutes, and 7 innings, the Phillies only had 1 hit. But it was a solo HR by C Carlos Ruiz. Cole pitched 7 shutout innings, allowing only 4 hits and whiffing 8. But with Cole having thrown 114 pitches, it was time for the bullpen to close out the victory.

However, things started slipping away in the 8th. Abe Nunez came in to play 3B as a defensive replacement for Wes Helms, and Michael Bourn took over in left for Pat Burrell. I had seen this scenario play out plenty of times in 2006. The bullpen blows the lead, and we have offensive non-entities batting in extra innings, instead of defensively-challenged sluggers with the ability to hit the walk-off HR. Only the 2007 version of this scenario features Bourn, instead of 2006's Chris Roberson.

The Phillies extended their lead to 2-0 in the 8th, but it should have been more. Shane Victorino, already in scoring position at 2B, with Ryan Howard at the plate, was inexplicably caught trying to steal third. Howard followed with a walk, but was thrown out at the plate when Utley doubled to right. A slow runner would likely have scored, but Howard doesn't have that kind of speed. Flash Gordon blew the 2 run lead in the 9th, and Ryan Madson gave up the game-winning HR in the 11th. Another disappointing loss for the Phils. Another reason Utley should be batting ahead of Howard.

I tuned out the announcing stylings of Gary Matthews, Sr., after he made the brilliant observation that a low curveball that almost hit the dirt, before hitting Phillie Shane Victorino in the foot, was "not a purpose pitch." Perhaps the Phillies would have more luck if they swapped Manager Charlie Manuel with Announcer Gary Matthews, Sr.

The Red Sox did manage to move to the .500 mark, with a 7-1 win behind the pitching of Josh Beckett and the non-Papelbonian components of the bullpen. Beckett allowed only 1 earned run, on 2 hits, in 5 innings. He threw 94 pitches on a cold 42 degree night, and did not come out to pitch the 6th, with the Sox already leading 4-1.

The Sox got to Royals SP Odalis Perez for 3 runs in the 1st, and that was enough to win. Kevin Youkilis powered a 2 run HR through the wind, giving the Sox a 6-1 lead in the 7th, pretty much putting the game away. Dustin Pedroia, the Sox 2B/Hobbit, went 1 for 3, dropping his average to .333. Jason Varitek also went 1 for 3, his 1st hit of the season a seeing-eye single that somehow got through the left side of the Royals infield. Usually slick-fielding Sox 3B Mike Lowell (6 E last season in 153 games), made 2 fielding errors, and a throwing error, but none of the miscues lead to any Royals runs. Manny Ramirez did some aimless wandering in LF throughout the game, but none of it caused any real damage. Maybe he was looking for a grill out there or something. Despite the random acts of fielding ineptitude, 'twas a nice win for the Sox.

On Thursday, the Phillies try to avoid the 3 game sweep, sending $24.5 million SP Adam Eaton to the hill. I am not optimistic. The Sox, in the debut of Daisuke Matsuzaka, will beat the Royals to move to 2-1 for the season. No doubt about that.
Both games are scheduled in the afternoon- the Sox at 2pm, and the Phillies at 3pm. I think I may be feeling a bit under the weather tomorrow, possibly as a result of walking around in the random April snowstorm in MA today...

161 regular season games left...

The Phillies and the Sox both turned in slightly disconcerting performances on Opening Day. Not as disconcerting as it was to discover that Ron Jeremy has a Master's Degree. Not nearly as disconcerting as watching this performance by "MC Rove." But pretty gosh darn disconcerting. Luckily, 99.38% of the season remains to be played. (Coincidentally, 99.38% is also the probability that the Phillies will face the Red Sox in this year's Fall Classic.)

We'll begin with the Phillies. Things got off to a strange start, with Manager Charlie Manuel flip-flopping Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the starting lineup. Ryan was moved to the 3rd spot, Chase to cleanup. Now, we're all aware of the statistical studies that indicate that lineup protection isn't all that it's cracked up to be. (See Lineup Protection, Fallacy of.) But, much more importantly, Chase batting 4th, after Ryan, seems backwards. At least to this replacement-level blogger. It needs to be fixed. Get on that, Charlie.

Brett Myers pitched very well, but gave up a late game-tying HR to old Sox Pal, Edgar Renteria, and left with a no decision. Edgar Renteria won the game in the 10th with another HR, this one off Ryan Madson. This was a game that the Phillies should have won. It's possible that the 16 runners left on base may have been a factor in their demise. Or the 11 K's by Phillies batters. Possibly, it was Pat Burrell changing his AB music from Dio to Don Henley. Or perhaps the uniform-patch-honored Ghosts of Braves Past (HOF's Lew Burdette and Johnny Sain) contributed more to the Braves' effort than the than the Ghost of Vuk did to the Phillies'. But I'm going to go ahead and pin the blame for the loss on Phillies "broadcaster" Gary Matthews, Sr. Because, when it comes to the broadcast booth, he is the suck. I suspect he'll be getting a lot of blame from me this season.

Once I saw REO Speedwagon on the field for the National Anthem in KC, I knew the Sox were in trouble. Curt Schilling sported the command of a replacement-level pitcher, and put up the stats (4 IP 8 H 5 ER) you'd expect from any blogger taken off the street. Hideki Okajima gave up a HR on his 1st major league pitch, and KC SP Gil Meche shut down the Sox bats (Ramirez and Varitek went a combined 0 for 8.).

There weren't too many positives for the Sox in the 7-1 loss. Except for perhaps the performance of their 1.334 OPSing 2B/Hobbit, Dustin Pedroia. While Wee Dustin's unfamiliarity with running the bases after a hit proved to be a bit on the problematic side, it was exciting to actually see him make with the hits. Hopefully, he will continue to contribute offensively. And not get stomped by a towering 5 foot tall opponent breaking up a double play.

The Phils and the Sox both look to even their records tonight, with Cole Hamels facing the Braves, and Josh Beckett starting against the Royals. I'm pretty confident that the Phils and Sox will be at the .500 mark after tonight's action. If not, they can at least take solace in the fact that they don't have this guy as one of their bullpens options. (Don't get any reclamation project ideas, Pat!) In the Mayor's defense, C Eric Davis could have done a better job framing that pitch.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Sox Start Season

The Red Sox start their season today in Kansas City against the Royals. Curt Schilling, with a $13 million/yr. contract and a spectacular blog, faces a blog-less $11 million/year Gil Meche. (If I was Gil Meche, I would have a blog in which I reference my contract status every other sentence. But, alas I make a wee bit less than that, so I must content myself with a blog referencing Jonathan Papelbon every other sentence.) The Sox need to take advantage of their early season schedule, and pick up some wins and a lead on the Yankees.
I think the Sox are going to have a great season. I am being totally, 100% objective here. Look at this stacked World Series-quality squad:

C- Tek. Superb defensively. Team leader. And that whole problem with the batting was fixed on Saturday.

1B- Youk. Greek God of OBP.

2B- Dustin Pedroia. God of...the Farm Gnomes? Ok. I got nuthin'. DP should be down on the farm in Pawtucket. Having a glaring hole like this on a team with a collective salary of over a gajillion dollars is bad. The Minions should be scouring the ballfields of the Dominican Republic and/or Liechtenstein, looking to upgrade here. Or at least scouring eBay and

I think a midseason trade will likely fix this position. It could be worse, though. The Sox could be filling an easier position on the defensive spectrum that should be occupied by a defensively-challenged slugger (for example, 1B) with a offensively-challenged journeyman (for example, Doug Mientkiewicz). Now that would be really bad.

3B- Mike Lowell. As long as he doesn't chew gum while he bats, he'll be very productive.

LF- Manny Ramirez. The Go-To-Guy for RBIs and eBay.

DH- Papi. 60 HR, 130 RBI.

I skipped a few positions because I am not a fan of the RF, CF, and SS. But I could waffle if they produce.

SP: Curt Schilling- 17 wins. Josh Beckett-Blister and WHIP issues are behind him now. Daisuke- Japanese for "Batters can't hit him worth shit." Wake- Knuckleballing Eater of Innings. Julian- English for "Batshit."

Closer: PAPELBON!!!
Jedi. Seller of vehicles. Duck-slaughterer. Fist-pumping batter-slaughterer. Entrepreneur. Did I mention Jedi?
Red Sox Nation's Raison d'Etre. C'est vrai!
Expect 87 saves, sub-.30 ERA, one gajillion brilliant post-game quotes, 3 gajillion post-game "you know's."

The Red Sox project to 99 wins and a spot in the World Series.
Like Baseball Prospectus, my Math is trustworthy.
Go Sox!

Modell Sporting Goods Opening Day

It's Modell's Sporting Goods Opening Day in Phillies Nation, a day rivaled only by Peanut Chews College Opening Night in terms of magnitude. The Phillies begin their March to the 2007 World Series with a matchup against the rival Atlanta Braves. Each team sends their ace to the mound, with Brett Myers facing John Smoltz.

It might be just the Aquafina talking, but I really like the Phillies' chances this year. The Braves aren't the "Braves" any more, the Mets' impressive offense might not be able to overcome their weak starting pitching, and the Marlins have some non-roster invitee named Alejandro De Aza as their starting CF. I have no clue who that is, therefore the Marlins are not a factor. Obviously. As for the Nationals, well, I expect the Phillies to fatten up on them like Lieber fattens up on a Dunkin's breakfast. A Division Title is well within reach fot the Fightins'.

It's not just the weaknesses of the divisional opponents that make me optimistic. The Phillies have a strong lineup.

C: Rod Barajas, Carlos Ruiz - Ruiz has plenty of upside, and Barajas has some pop to counteract his sub-.300 OBP. No Sal Fasanos to be found here.

1B: Ryan Howard- 70 HR this season. MVP. 900 K salary. Bazillions in endorsements. My only question about him is how his future riches will affect the allowance given to him by Mama Howard.

2B: Chase Utley- The best 2B since Rogers Hornsby. With a marginally cooler 1st name.

SS: Jimmy Rollins- Top 5 SS becoming a Team Leader.

3B: Wes Helms- One of the 65786483 3B better than Abe Nunez.

LF: Pat Burrell- Patrick Brian will be more focused this year: 30 HR, 100 RBI.

CF: Aaron Rowand- If he gets off to a good start, and White Sox CF/punter Darin Erstad gets off to a bad start, the Phils might be able to trade Rowand. Hopefully, BEFORE Rowand displays his "grit" by damaging himself (which would diminish his already minimal trade value) by running into a wall, or worse damaging a useful Phillie in a collision.

RF: Shane Victorino- Fast. Hawaiian. Two good CF traits. Did I mention that Rowand needs to go...

SP: Brett Myers, Cole Hamels,... Brett made a mistake last year. He's better now. Expect at least 17 wins. Cole should have been ROY after his tremendous 2nd half. They have other starting pitchers (and also some "relievers"), but thinking about them will temper my optimism.

Bench: Jason Werth (serviceable player), Michael Bourn (like Victorino, only less Hawaiian), Abe Nunez (I would trade him for half of a glass of Hawaiian Punch.)

25th player: The Phillies have room for one more player. I think it might be Albert Pujols, who would probably supplant Helms at 3B. It could also be Johan Santana, who would be a serviceable #3, behind Brett and Cole. It will NOT be Rudy Seanez, who is on the Dodgers' roster right now.

Prediction: 95 wins. Division Title. World Series Champs in 7 games over Red Sox.

Go Phils!