Thursday, May 31, 2007

Watch what you think, they can read your mind...

It's been a rough week for this replacement-level blogger. Condensed games on MLB.TV. Missed pre-game shows. But restitution has been made, and I am ready to again be a (semi-)useful member of the blogosphere. I am still plagued by the symptoms of missed pre-game shows (impaired motor functions, Sox Knowledge Deficiency), but my trusted medical professional has assured me that SKD can be overcome. A healthy dose of NESN should do the trick.

The past week has been anything but rough for the Sox. A three-game road sweep of the Rangers, followed by two of three over Cleveland at home, extended the Sox' AL East lead to 10.5 games over 2nd place Baltimore, and 13.5 games over the Last Place Yankees. I keep expecting the Sox to stop overachieving, and regress to the mean a little bit. But they just seem to win game after game. If they continue playing over .650 ball (.692 so far this season), they'll be setting up their postseason rotation by July.

Some Soxian highlights:

Youk- He hit .402 in May. He's batting .354, with a .987 OPS, for the season. He is a speed merchant (well, faster than Pedroia, at least) on the bases, has a sweet beard, and a 1.000 fielding pct. He had one game in May where he didn't have a base hit. He's not on the All-Star ballot, but he's certainly deserving of a spot on the team. I wrote him in as an OF on my ballots, as he played 17 games there last year, and I wanted to vote for Lowell at 3B. Youk hasn't actually played the OF this season, but Papi hasn't played any 1B either.

Pedroia- Going into May, he was batting .182. Then he hit .415, with 1.072 (!) OPS in May. Are you kidding me? I was ready to demote him to Pawtucket, to the Shire, have him unceremoniusly dumped into Mt. Doom, whatever necessary to get rid of him. Now I'm mad at Francona whenever Pedroia isn't in the lineup.

Batshit Crazy- Nice move by Julian Tavarez, rolling the ball to 1B for the out on a comebacker. These are the textbook fundamentals he teaches at his baseball academy in Natick. His pitching performances have been less-than-mediocre (5.40 ERA) this season, but he is becoming one of my favorites. Perhaps he's not the only one who is Batshit.

Beckett- 8-0, 2.65 ERA. Incredible.

Papelbon- He's given up some hits, walks, even some runs (2 in his last 5 IP), lately. His WHIP has even increased to (gasp) 1.09! He needs to have another 0.00 ERA month, like he did in April. He's still the best closer in the history of the sport, but RSN holds him to a much higher standard than that.

Frede- The fact that Eric Frede is a backup for the pre-game show speaks volumes about the depth of the organization. Boston Bruins fans know what I'm talking about. He'd be a starter on just about any other squad.

Caron- Quietly approaching 3,000 hits in a long, consistent career. First ballot HOFer, with likely a long managerial career to follow.

Benjamin- Had a little trouble the second time through the lineup in her 1st two April starts, but has been almost invincible since. Between-start side sessions with pitching coach John Farrell have paid off, as Amalie was unbeaten in her four May decisions (2.16 ERA). Her writing has challenged Curt Schilling's for best on the starting staff, and her enthusiasm has endeared her to Red Sox players and fans, alike. (Though not so much to the Detroit Tigers. Her antics on the mound, after striking out the side during a May 14th start, touched off a bench-clearing brawl. If Jason Varitek hadn't intercepted a bat-wielding Gary Sheffield, as Sheffield approached Benjamin to counsel her on her behavior, this would be a very different post.) Benjamin currently trails Hazel Mae by only 1438 blogosphere post mentions. She had better get cracking on bridging that gap, as she is widely considered the frontrunner for the vacant Columbus Blue Jackets GM position. She will likely assume that role by mid-July.

The Sox play the reeling Yankees in a three-game set this weekend at Fenway. The Yankees are in such disarray right now, that a sweep for the torrid Sox is a very possible outcome. A sweep would leave New York 16.5 games behind Boston.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ultimate Fan

It was a hot and humid 90 degree day here in the Boston area today. But I spent most of the day indoors. Not that I'm complaining. I wrapped up shooting for a regional commercial that I'll be appearing in. It was actually the second in a series of commercials- the first was so well-received, it was decided there would be a second. (At least. There may be more ahead! Who knows?)

While I have had some minimal experience in the television arena, these have been the first commercials that I've been a part of. You'd think that a thirty second commercial wouldn't take too long to shoot, but it actually takes quite a while. I think I did pretty well, but I guess it should have been easy for me, as I was basically playing myself. I even wore my own clothes. No wardrobe necessary. It was also filmed partially in my home, and partially in my neighborhood, so there was definitely a bit of a comfort factor. You can see the first commercial here.

This post was going to be a review of the Sox accomplishments to date. I already had the musical theme picked out. My transitions were prepped and I had a lot of good material. But I got scooped by (Pos-Men #159) Amalie Benjamin. It wasn't the first time and won't be the last. Your time would be better served listening here, than reading anything I would write. She should have been a little more glowingly positive about the Phillies' chances at the playoffs (though she did predict them as the NL wild card team in the preseason), but aside from that it was a good performance. (This clip was also on NESN, prior to tonight's Rangers-Sox rain delay.) Most of the blogosphere is raving about Hazel Mae and Tina Cervasio, but have you ever seen either of them speak about "correlations" or "Fausto Carmona?" Didn't think so...

Thursday, May 24, 2007


The Red Sox were just all of out sorts Wednesday night. Gordon Edes short-changing them when he referred to the "three-consecutive" HR barrage, NESN going to commercial with two outs in the inning, the "Wonder of it all" commercial only being played fifty-eight times, as opposed to the eighty-seven showings that is required by Commonwealth of Massachusetts law. Things just were just not going smoothly.

The actual game itself, an 8-3 loss to the Yankees, didn't go so well either. Curt Schilling was ineffective, allowing three runs in the 1st inning, and six in the first four. In his six innings, he surrendered twelve (!) hits and five earned runs. The Yankees bombed Sox pitching for sixteen hits. The Sox had twelve hits of their own, including Coco Crisp's 1st HR of the season, but they left eight men on base. Yankee SP Andy Pettitte permitted only one run in his seven innings win, despite giving up nine hits.

Some positives:

  • CHB had a segment before the game, so I was able to get some much-needed vacuuming done at that point.
  • Amalie Benjamin (blogosphere Pos-Men #154) had a long (15 minute?) segment with Eric Frede. In the early innings, she was having difficulty finding the correct arm slot, but she got stronger as the segment progressed. Despite the excessive gyration of her appendages, she communicated her knowledge well, and her enthusiasm for the topic was obvious. (Final line: 7 IP 5 H 1 ER 2 BB 9 K) She'll need to work with John Farrell on her mechanics a bit, but you just can't teach that kind of raw talent.
  • Dennis Eckersley had another dominating performance. With results like these, it's curious that Ken Macha was given so many save opportunities in the last few weeks. Eck is just downright Papelbonian.
  • Kevin Youkilis (2-4, .347) continued his hot hitting. Where would the Sox be if they had traded the (not actually Greek) God of Walks for GM Billy Beane? OK, probably in 1st place by 8.5 games. But Youk has still been the best 1B in the AL this season, and is quite deserving of a spot on the All-star team. (Alongside Beckett, Okajima, Papelbon, Benjamin, Matsuzaka, Lowell, and Eckersley. Note: This is a partial list.)
  • Okajima and Papelbon were not used on Wednesday, giving them two days off before the Texas series.

The Sox take their 9.5 game AL East lead into Texas to face the 18-29 Rangers. Texas has won only three of their last ten, and their .383 "winning" percentage is the worst in the AL. With the Yankees playing the 1st place Angels this weekend, this should be a good time for the Sox to further extend their already lengthy lead.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sick, But Just in the Head...

Those of you who have followed Julian Tavarez' careers in the baseball and adult film industries have a good idea of his makeup. Sure, he is a bit erratic, and prone to control problems. But he is always willing to take the ball, whenever he gets the opportunity. His manhood is not to be questioned. Tonight, on his 34th birthday, he was suffering from flu-like systems that would have scratched a lesser man from his start. But Tavarez, seen dressed heavily before the game, indicated that "his head was sick, but his arm was fine." These conditions were less than atypical for the veteran pitcher, so he was good to go.

Mike Mussina got the start for the Yankees. He was not good to go. In the top of the 1st inning, the Sox sent eight batters to the plate, and jumped to a quick 3-0 lead. Mussina got to two strikes on five of those batters, but just couldn't seem to put them away. (The leisurely pace of his 85 MPH fastball may have been a factor in his inability to close out at bats.) The big blow was a three-run HR by Manny Ramirez, his 7th of the season. The Sox looked poised to knock Mussina out of the game early, and then the bats would feast on a banquet of overused Yankee relievers. Even J.D. Drew (.179 in May) was salivating at that prospect.

Mussina, though he allowed a solo HR to Mike Lowell (9) in the 4th, managed to hang in the game. The Stanford Economics Major even threw a very economical 8 pitches in the 6th, and was sent out to start the 7th. Whereupon the Sox finally finished him off with three more runs. I was very surprised Yankees MGR Joe Torre left Mussina out there so long (99 pitches), but the weak Yankee bullpen was probably a factor in Torre's decision-making. Mussina's final line was 6.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, and his ERA jumped to 6.52.

Batshit Crazy Tavarez also had some control problems (four walks), but only allowed three hits in his 5 2/3 innings. He held the Yanks to two runs, and left the game with a 4-2 lead. Tavarez threw 106 pitches (only 58 for strikes), but gutted out his third win in seven innings. He performed very well, especially considering his illness.

With the Sox leading 7-2 into the bottom of the 8th, I was rather shocked that Terry Francona sent Hideki Okajima out for his 22nd appearance of the season. (Perhaps Francona was exhibiting symptoms of Tavarez' illness?) Surely, the Sox could hold the Yanks to four runs or less, without having to use Okajima or Papelbon. The pitchers I would have used in the 8th inning, instead of Okajima, include: Snyder, Romero, Pineiro, Eckersley, and McCarty. That is just a partial list. Okajima had almost nothing, but Francona left him out there for the 29 pitches it took the Japanese southpaw to get through the inning. He allowed one hit, two walks, and one run. Only 15 of his 29 offerings were for strikes.

Then, with a 7-3 lead in the 9th, Closer Jonathan Papelbon was called into the game. He also labored a bit, walking two, before he used a 95 MPH heater to close out the Yanks. He threw 25 pitches, only 14 for strikes. Usually, I am very excited to get to see Papelbon pitch, but this was not the type of game in which I want to see him involved. We need to have improved Papelbon Conservation. Hopefully, using the two bullpen aces tonight, for almost 30 pitches each, won't make the pair unavailable later in the week, when they are needed in a close game.

I was very excited to see Dennis Eckersley back on the pre-game show. He was missed. Gordon Edes threw out some serious stats in his appearance, which was strong. CHB stopped hyping his book (in the top 5700 in Books on!) for a live segment, but I didn't see it because my TV is programmed to block objectionable content. So I don't mistakenly see obscene things like CHB interviews, or Dancing With The Stars. But I'm sure all of his points were salient, and his references contemporary. (I'm kidding, CHB. Please stop e-mailing my boss!) Amalie Benjamin was absent, as she was receiving a well-deserved Doctorate in Sportswriting from Columbia. (No, it wasn't an "honorary" doctorate. If you read the Globe regularly, you wouldn't even consider such things.) It has recently come to my attention that Amalie trails Hazel Mae in Blogosphere Pos-Mens 1361 to 150, so I'm determined to do my level best to help bridge that gap. Because any post without any Benjamin or Papelbon Mentions just isn't worth reading. Unless it's a post about the Phillies, in which case it's simply lacking.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Marquee Event

Monday night featured the two hour Season Finale of 24 as the marquee event. It wasn't bad, but not as good as the past seasons. I feel kind of like I did after the Philadelphia Flyers won their 30th consecutive Stanley Cup. It was awesome they won the Cup again, but they won with the weakest of their thirty Stanley Cup winning teams.

Of more interest were the 29th Century Alien Nazis on the Sci-Fi Channel. They had this sweet laser cannon set up on the roof of a building in 1944. It was actually very similar to the one they have at Citizens Bank Park. It just didn't have the Greg Luzinski-sized chair attached to it. But I'm not saying that Pat Gillick is an alien. (Though it might explain some of his transactions.)

What else is going on? Well, new albums from Symphony X, The Old Dead Tree, Circus Maximus, Mind's Eye, Dream Theater, Raintime, Tomorrow's Eve, Sieges Even, and Spheric Universe Experience are all coming down the pike. I need to win my fantasy baseball league to be able to afford all these. Fortunately, my time-tested strategy is working well so far. Hang close in 8th place all season, then pass everyone in September, when their focus is on fantasy football.

Anything else? Still didn't get my Chase Utley bobblehead in the mail yet. I've got a Position of Prominence ready for Chase, right next to the Papelbon bobble. The Phillies are playing well right now (7-3 in last 10), I expect them to play even better once the Utley bobble is in place. Sunday's win was another one to be praised during the World Series DVD. Adam Eaton didn't seem to be pitching well- but he didn't actually give up any runs. Pat Burrell has morphed back into a slugger, and Brett Myers is a Papelbonesque closer. The Phillies just did what they had to do to win. They play a series against Florida next, with Cole Hamels starting tonight. I think it is time for a Phillies sweep.

What else is going on in baseball? Lincecum and Oswalt face off tonight in a stellar pitching matchup. Giants-Astros. MLB.TV at 10:15pm . Tune in.

What of the Red Sox, you ask? Fine. The Red Sox. Well, they are only playing .600 ball when I miss the pre-game show, so I have to share some of the blame for last night's loss to the Yankees. Tim Wakefield didn't pitch that well, and his ERA is 3.14 now. It's seems like only yesterday that his ERA was 1.79. (It was actually two starts ago.) The Sox had their chances (12 LOB), but just couldn't get it done against Wang. But, so bleeping what? They still have a 9.5 game lead over the Yankees. They still have a .682 winning percentage, tops in MLB. They still have the greatest closer in the History of Mankind. Tonight's Sox starter, Batshit Crazy Tavarez, has a 3.50 ERA in May starts, and has not allowed an earned run while pitching in his Papi Shoes. Yankee starter Mike Mussina has a 5.64 ERA this season, a 7.20 ERA at home, and had a 4.76 ERA against Boston last season. All of these ERA's are higher than 3.50, therefore, by the quasitransitive property, the Red Sox will win tonight. But you should still tune in, if only to watch Batshit direct his fielders.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

An Effective Fifth Starter's Start

The unthinkable happened Sunday. Jonathan Robert Papelbon allowed three "hits" and an earned run. It was the second time this season in which a Papelbon appearance included scoring by the opposition. Twice. In the same season.

DO NOT BE ALARMED! First off, it was a non-save situation. The Sox didn't lose, or anything crazy like that. (Now, THAT would be unthinkable.) Secondly, the "hits" were crap. Edgar Renteria dunked a weak bloop into short RF, that somehow fell between Pedroia, Crisp, and Drew for a wussy little single. Renteria then took off for second, as an indifferent Varitek allowed him the base. There was a second crappy single, in which the bat was, literally, split into pieces by the immense firepower of the Red Sox' 2nd best foosball player. Later, there was another single, this one was struck well, on a Pap slider. Everyone else- WHIFF CITY. Papelbon struck out the side with a ferocious mid-90's heater. Despite being touched for a meaningless run, which increased his ERA to a still-Papelbonian 1.76, Closer Boy was his usual dominant self. You can rest assured that he will be ready for the impending series against the fading Yankees. It doesn't seem likely that New York will be within three (or ten) runs in the 9th inning of any of the games. But Jonathan will probably come in for a scoreless inning in a non-save situation to get some work in/get his ERA under 1.70.

Kason Gabbard, called up from Pawtucket to make a spot start, pitched five-plus strong innings. He was charged with only two earned runs, both scoring after Brendan Donnelly was called into the game in the 6th. Donnelly seemed to be wearing Detroit Tiger SP Nate Robertson's spectacles, which may have adversely affected his effectiveness. Donnelly's sub-par outing (4 batters faced, 2 hits/1 walk allowed, 1 K) raised Gabbard's ERA from 0.00 to 3.60. Still, it was quite a satisfactory "5th starter's performance" by the 25 year old lefty. (Note: A certain Extra Bases blogger recently referred to a start by Julian Tavarez, in which he allowed ten hits and four earned runs in five innings, as a good "5th starter's performance." But, considering Batshit Crazy's ERA for that appearance was 7.20, it doesn't seem there was anything "good" about it.)

After watching Gabbard silence the Braves' bats today, I wondered what the Sox' record would be had he been in the rotation all season. So I ran a statistical simulation from the start of the season, with Gabbard taking all of Tavarez' starts, and Tavarez working out of the bullpen. The resulting predicted record for the Sox: 43-0. Even though Tavarez was projected to receive a ten game suspension for an incident involving poisoned darts, the simulation predicted that Sox would be undefeated with Gabbard as the 5th starter. Of course, the Manny-Batshit Love in the Dugout incident would never have occurred in this scenario. So there are pros and cons. (Note: I ran the same simulation with Papelbon in the rotation, and the result was a 58-0 record for the Sox. In 43 games.)

The game was delayed two and a half hours from the start. As a result, I only missed the first inning. However, the Sox scored four of their six runs in that inning. All four runs scored almost immediately after I crossed over from the highway into Somerville, a sudden outburst by the Sox that sometimes occurs as a direct result of my driving patterns. Jason Varitek (.280) had the big blow, a two-out triple, which cleared the loaded bases. The Sox have won seven of their last ten, building up some momentum as they enter their series in New York. Not that they need any momentum against the 19-23 Yankees, winners of three of their last ten.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

All the Yen in the World...

Fifty-eight Gajillion American Dollars. When I saw Julian Tavarez wearing shoes with Big Papi's visage on the front, the future was immediately obvious. The Papelbonian Signature Line. Papelbon Signature Hunting Jackets. Papelbon Signature Safari Hats. Papelbon Signature Nunchakas. Papelbon EVERYTHING. I would pay fifty-eight gajillion dollars for any of these incredible items. This needs to happen. A year from now I expect to be watching Paps play badminton on NESN, with commercials for these items between matches. There is too much potential for profit here to be ignored.

The Papi shoes are good for now, though. Julian Tavarez is certainly the correct choice to model them. Unless this was all a dream. Tina Cervasio and Amalie Benjamin describing a bizarre Sox item worn by Julian Tavarez certainly seems like the type of dream I would have. But in my dream, Amalie would be a bit more fluid in her comedic delivery. As anyone who's seen her perform in the comedy clubs would agree, Amalie excels in the comedic arts. (If you don't know anyone who has seen her perform in that arena, you'll just have to take my word for it.) But she did perform very well today in the Extra Bases Blog, at least until the later innings when she seemed to tire, and her pitches were up in the zone. However, Gordon Edes should have been brought in to relieve her well before that point. Her pitch count was very high, and you could see the signs of fatigue behind the hipster glasses.

You won't see signs of fatigue in Daisuke Matsuzaka's eyes any time soon. He's worth every penny of the 58 gajillion dollars (70280978000000000 yen) the Sox paid for him. (Yes. The Sox' big offseason acquisition is of comparable value to a Papelbon Safari Hat. If you don't think that seems plausible, you obviously are not imagining the Safari Hat properly.) He threw 103 pitches in eight innings, and indicated in interviews after the game that he was good for about 150 pitches a game. Matsuzaka scattered nine hits and did not allow a walk. All three runs he conceded came in the top of the 7th, at which point the Sox had a 12-0 lead. He is 3-0 with a 1.87 ERA in his last three starts, and is making my 7th round fantasy league selection seem quite prescient. (And not "a reach", as has been derisively suggested in some circles.)

I missed about half of the first game, however, due to the responsibilities of my position as a consultant for the Philadelphia Phillies organization. I was on the highway when Mike Lowell pounded a grand slam in the 5th, giving the Sox a 7-0 lead. I pumped my fist several times, and honked my horn, in celebration of the blast over the Green Monster. None of the other cars seemed to share my exuberance, and the car immediately in front of me made a sudden, and somewhat daring, change to a different lane. Apparently, they did not interpret my behavior in the proper Soxian context. But they were driving kind of slow (only 10 MPH above the speed limit), and their removal from my path helped me get home in time to see Wily Mo Pena's prodigious shot. Reports indicate that the ball landed somewhere in Billerica. Wily Mo celebrated the HR by returning to the dugout and treating himself to a pudding cup. After he finished with the pudding, he played the air drums on his sizeable thighs, until Boston's 13-3 victory was complete. There is definitely a place for Wily Mo in my Papelbonian Vision of Future NESN.

The second game of the doubleheader- not so good. I was hoping for a rainout before the game was official, but despite the torrent of raindrops, the torrent of Braves offense continued unabated. I was also watching the Phillies-Blue Jays game, and, at one point, both of my teams faced eleven runs deficits. Not the best night.

The Sox game seemed almost surreal by the end. The stands had large pockets of empty desolation, some kind of alarm was going off at the stadium, the fans were getting a wee bit rowdy, Cora was playing 1B. Weird, crazy stuff. But I hope they were taping Sox Appeal during the soggy tumult. These would be the ideal circumstances to separate the wheat from the chaff. (The blue hats from the pink?) Besides that, there wasn't too much possible utility to be derived from Saturday night's 14-0 loss. Unless you value watching Cora play exciting, new positions. In which case, you might be the only viewer of tonight's Sox In 2. Buenos noches, amigos!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sox WHOMP Tigers. Twice.

First off, 12:35pm?! What kind of start time is that for a WEEKDAY game? Seriously, some of us are gainfully employed in high profile jobs. But I was lucky to get out a little early, listening to the middle innings on radio, and watching the last three on NESN. But totally missed the pre-game show. Scoff, if you will, but I like to watch the pre-game show. It gets me in the proper Soxian frame of mind. Plus, I like the shenanigans.

Those radio guys are pretty good but there was a bit of Batshit Love going on. Not the "Manny Being Manny" type of Batshit Love.
More like McCarver's "Jeter Love." There was quite a bit of talk of Tavarez being a great teammate, great family man, and getting a bad rap. Apparently, Tavarez and his Batshit Ways are growing on all us in Red Sox Nation. Thursday, he was directing traffic in the infield with the finger points, as usual, a habit he indicates he "doesn't even realize he's doing." (As quoted by Sox radio announcers.) But even more than the random quirkiness, I enjoyed Tavarez' seven innings of one-run ball. Okajima and Papelbon held the Tigers scoreless the rest of the way, and the Sox had another victory, 2-1.

From 4pm to 6pm (a whole, dark, desolate two hours!), NESN had no live Sox content. A prime opportunity missed. They could have televised the between-games Sox foosball tournament, won by Dustin Pedroia. Or Manny and Julian spending time together. Or Jonathan Papelbon listening to, and critiquing, Amalie Benjamin, as she prepared for her Thursday PM lecture at M.I.T. (Subject matter: Quantum Mechanics) Some NESN bigwigs dropped the foosball here.

But they made up for it with a strong pre-game effort for the second game. It included Dave McCarty speaking about the time he dressed as Wally, the Green Monster. (I like McCarty, they should keep him around.) But the highlight, undoubtedly, was RemDawg playing the air guitar before a live spot, falling off the table he was "performing" on, and then being unable to control his laughter afterwards. I suspect we'll be seeing that clip a few times in the future. (A clip is currently available on Expect RemDawg to be associated with Guitar Hero III, in some manner. He has too much obvious talent not to be.

Curt Schilling was a bit sloppy in his start in the second game, allowing eight hits in six innings of work. All eight of the hits were for extra bases (seven doubles, solo HR), and he threw 118 pitches. But he somehow kept getting out of trouble, stranding eleven Detroit runners, and only allowing two runs. A gutsy display of veteranosity from Boston's Premier Blogger.

But I must confess I missed some of Curt's performance, as I was also watching the season finale of The Office. Which was, in fact, brilliant. In might be the Garelick Chocolate Milk talking, or the vertigo-inducing high of Sox Superiority, but that might have been the greatest hour of (non-sports) programming ever. (Which would place it in 467,543,768th place overall.)
In baseball terms, it was a good as a matchup between Papelbon and Hamels, both as starters, where they each struck out the side on nine pitches. In each of the first 47 innings. While playing chess against each other from laptops in their respective dugouts. Then, after agreeing to draws in both baseball and chess, they go out together, onto the streets of Boston to fight crime. (Because Chase Utley has already rid Philadelphia of crime.) The Office was that good tonight. (That's what she said.)

Back at Fenway, reserve outfielder Eric Hinske took matters into his own hands, as pretty much everyone was expecting him to do. First, he made an outstanding, diving catch in RF, in which he embedded his face into the dirt near the foul line. (Tiger RF Magglio Ordonez was quoted after the game as saying he could "still see Hinske's face (carved) in(to) the dirt" and it was "creeping him (Ordonez) out.") Hinske's catch was ESPN's "Top Play of the Day", which would be a greater distinction if ESPN acknowledged the sport known as "hockey." To get an idea of how the catch must have felt, you'd have to have a buddy fill a shovel with dirt and then WHOMP you in the face with it. (For best results, choose Wily Mo Pena as your buddy. And make sure you stand still- don't change speeds, or curve, or anything like that when waiting for the WHOMP.)

Next, in an effort to separate himself in the competition for playing time with oft-injured J.D. Drew, Hinske demonstrated his tremendous pain tolerance by staying in the game. In fact, not only did Hinske stay in the game, he hit the eventual game-winning HR. If was Hinske's 1st of the year, one fewer than Drew has, in 80 more ABs. Okajima closed out the win in the 9th inning, as Papelbon was unavailable due to an injury sustained in the Foosball Tournament Finals against Pedroia.

I was WICKED PSYCHED to see the Sox renew their eons-old rivalry with the arch-nemesis Atlanta Braves tonight, but they have been rained out. Devern Hansack will need to wait at least another day for his next no-hitter, in Saturday's split doubleheader. The weather is quite dreary and gloomy right now. Not unlike the hearts of Tigers fans.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Let Down

Red Sox Nation was expecting a Wakefield-Verlander pitcher's duel Tuesday PM. Verlander was very effective, allowing only two runs, over 7.2 innings. Wakefield, not so much. He allowed five runs over seven innings. The Sox just couldn't seem to get untracked, being held to eight hits. It was kind of a dreary performance for the Sox, but a lot of credit has to go to Verlander for quieting their bats. The Sox have still won 7 of 9, and still have the best record in MLB.

Highlights of last night's game included a Youkilis HR, a strong relief performance (1.1 IP, 1 BB, 3 K) by Kyle Snyder, and an outstanding catch by C Doug Mirabelli. Mirabelli dodged various obstacles, including bats, umpires, and dragons, to make a grab on a foul ball. The ball popped from his glove, but he grabbed it with his right hand. Sweet. But that was about it. I tried to help the Sox' chances by watching on mute (with closed-captioning) for a while, but it didn't help. The Sox trailed by five runs into the 9th, just as they did on Sunday, but there was no miracle this time.

Lowlights included Wakefield's performance, which increased his ERA to 2.41. J. D. Drew almost impaled himself on the short wall in front of the Sox bullpen. If the Sox hadn't begun the practice of retracting the outfield wall spikes when the Sox were in the field, the problem of finding enough AB's for Wily Mo Pena would have been solved. (Drew is day-to-day.) Amalie Benjamin was out of the lineup for Tuesday's game as the band she fronts was opening for Tool at the Tweeter Center. (Reports indicate that one of the show's highlights was when Amalie performed "Schism" with Tool in the encore. But that clip is not available on YouTube yet.) Neil Cafardo and Gordon Edes performed ably in her absence. Hopefully, Amalie and J. D. will return to the lineup soon.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Collision Course

It didn't look that great for the Phillies in the 8th inning. Trailing 6-2, they hadn't been able to get their offense untracked. Their opponents, the Milwaukee Brewers, have been battling the AL Juggernaut from Boston for MLB Winning Percentage Supremacy. Milwaukee was 21-0 when leading after seven innings this season, thanks to an extremely effective bullpen staffed with gaudy stats, but somewhat devoid of household names.

Now the Brewers are 21-1, when leading after seven innings this season. The first two batters reached for the Phils against ex-Sox P Brian Shouse, and the Brewers called in Derrick Turnbow to snuff out the rally. Turnbow entered the game sporting a 1.76 ERA and a WHIP under 1. (Why can't the Phillies get guys like this? Correction: Why can't the Phillies protect guys like this after drafting them, and not lose them in the Rule 5 Draft?) NINE Phillie batters later (Yes, still in the 8th inning, folks), the score was 8-6 Phillies, and Turnbow's ERA had ballooned to 3.94. Brett Myers came on in the 9th and pitched a clean inning for his fourth save in as many opportunities. The Phillies have now won 4 of 5, and are only 2 games under .500. With 124 regular season games left to play, the Phillies, by my calculations, are on pace for a 119 win season.

The Red Sox faced off against Detroit, owners of a 23-13 record. Daisuke Matsuzaka had a 4.80 ERA as he took the mound, but was coming off a strong outing in Toronto. This outing was even stronger- a complete game effort with only one run (Curtis Granderson HR) and five hits (0 walks!) allowed. He threw 86 of his 124 pitches for strikes, and improved his record to 5-2, with a 4.17 ERA. The Sox made Tigers starter Nate Robertson work, getting 11 hits and 3 runs off the goggled southpaw in the first five innings. Robertson threw an astounding 115 pitches in his five inning outing. Boston tacked on another four runs in the 8th inning (My teams scored a total of TEN 8th inning runs tonight!), for a final score of 7-1. The Red sox now have a 3 game winning streak, and a snazzy 26-11 record.

The is usually the paragraph where I speak of RemDawg shenanigans, and Gary Matthews Sr's tendency to make me want to remove my ears with the closest available object. But I've got nuthin'. I had the Phillies on my computer, located right next to the Sox in NESN HD, as per usual. But I also was watching 24 at the same time (only 2 hrs. left- next Monday!), and Enterprise (Damn Xindi!), so I missed some of the hilarious and/or idiotic dialogue in the two broadcasts. Sorry, folk(s).

I did watch some of the Sox pre-game though, in hopes of seeing Amalie Benjamin, and not seeing Ken Macha. There was no Ken (Dave McCarty tonight), but no Amalie reports either. (I think she performs in a comedy club somewhere in Newton on Mondays.) Nick Cafardo did a very strong job handling the Extra Bases blog in Amalie's absence. Frequent updates (even not counting his double and triple posts), a concluding post, and a Tim VanEgmond reference- well done Nick! The Red Sox writers were as good tonight as the Red Sox players. I'm sure Amalie had a lights-out performance on stage, but she needs to follow Nick's example when it comes to the blogging.

The Phillies and Red Sox both continue rolling towards a 1915 World Series rematch Tuesday night. The Sox send Tim Wakefield (4-3, 1.79 ERA) up against Tigers ace Justin Verlander (3-1, 2.83 ERA). Quite an intriguing pitching matchup. The Phillies have Adam Eaton and his 7.43 ERA (for a low, low price of only $8 million/year!) slated to face Brewers RHP Claudio Vargas. Not quite as intriguing.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Sometimes you can just feel that you are about to witness Greatness. That history is unfolding before your eyes. Perhaps Josh Beckett retires the first gajillion batters. Or David Ortiz hits two homers in the first two innings. Maybe Jerry Remy reduces Don Orsillo to a laughing, crying mass of play-by-play before the first pitch is even thrown. Clear indications that you are about to observe something truly memorable. When it was announced that Jonathan Papelbon would be mic'd up during batting practice, prior to Friday night's game against the Orioles, the denizens of Red Sox Nation had an inkling that something Great awaited us. But none of us could have predicted the extent of the Greatness that would soon come to pass.

Jonathan Papelbon started the pre-game show on it's ascent into immortality. The mic'd closer, holding court in the outfield, needled Josh Beckett over his decision to use the word "emphatic", in an interview. The inimitable reliever's assertion was that, since Beckett couldn't spell, or define the word, he shouldn't be using it. He presented his case to Manager Terry Francona, just as a child would ask a parent to mediate a dispute between siblings. Francona, handling Papelbon's concern with the same consideration he'd likely give to a pitching change, ruled in the reliever's favor. In the second segment, Papelbon asked Hideki Okajima and Daisuke Matsuzaka why Japan was known as the "Land of the Rising Sun", and then determined that Japan was located in the "Far West" because you could get there by going far to the west. (Mike Timlin was amused by this logic.) The third Papelbonian segment was marred by audio difficulties, but seemed to feature Papelbon and Timlin analyzing the terms of payment for a wager among the relief corps. Three top notch perfomances from Papelbon. These perfomances alone would have been worthy of pre-game show HOF consideration. The other segments of the pre-game show launched it into immortality.

Only one individual could have made this pre-game experience more sublime. That individual, of course, is Amalie Benjamin. Amalie made a glorious return from Scranton, the Land of Dunder-Mifflin, where she was scouting the PawSox. She made three appearances on the show. Yes, THREE. First, she was speaking on Tim Wakefield's brilliance. Later, she was addressing Devern Hansack's demotion to Pawtucket with Tina Cervasio. Then she was, AT THE NESN DESK on Yawkey Way, with Tom Caron and Ken Macha, commenting on the development of Jacoby Ellsbury. Hazel Mae and Tina Cervasio get all of the press, but you don't see them analyzing Ellsbury, and then qualifying their statement by mentioning that a small sample size was being considered. Comparing Hazel and Amalie is like comparing Huston Street to Jonathan Papelbon. Comparing above average to stellar. Apples to bricks of gold. SOLID GOLD, if that wasn't clear.

Hopefully, tonight's brilliance will serve as a precursor to the future of television. A pre-game show that is wall-to-wall Papelbon/Benjamin is just the beginning. I dream of a day where I can turn on the TV at any time, and watch Papelbon hunting ducks in Mississippi, from a duck boat he liberated from Boston. With Amalie commenting, to hilarious results. And I know there are others who share my dream.

Paco is a Sneaky Pepper

The Red Sox had a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st Thursday night in Toronto. But the Blue Jays had loaded the bases, with one out, and slugger Frank Thomas at the plate. Tim Wakefield had a 2.11 ERA coming into the game, but was off to a bit of an inauspicious start. Wakefield fell behind 2 balls/0 strikes, before coming back to strike out Thomas for the second out. Then, in an instant, the inning was over. Catcher Doug Mirabelli fired a pickoff throw to 1st, where 1B Kevin Youkilis tagged out baserunner Troy Glaus, to complete an inning-ending double play.

That was pretty much it for the Blue Jays right there. Wakefield faced the minimum 18 batters over the next six innings, allowing only one measly single to Vernon Wells, who was retired when Wakefield induced Glaus to hit into a double play. Wakefield used his fastball much more than usual, at least 25 of his 93 offerings were his 78 MPH heater. His ERA is now 1.78. The Jays couldn't hit any of the Sox pitching last night, finishing with only five hits in the 8-0 loss.

The Sox bats had no problem with Jays ace Roy Halladay, who had one of the worst outings of his career. Halladay threw five innings, allowing eight runs (seven earned) on eleven hits. The Sox jumped to a 8-0 lead after 4 innings, with a three-run HR from Mike Lowell being the key blow. Kevin Youkilis (3 hits), J. D. Drew (2), Manny Ramirez (2), and Alex Cora (2) all had multiple hit games.

All that was left at that point was to see what kind of wackiness Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo came up with. Remy had Wakefield-like stuff, commenting on the official scorer ("Does he think he's at the Kentucky Derby with that hat?"), and the sneaky methods that Paco employs in the Pepper mascot races in Toronto. Jerry and Don also found an interview with a fan who saw Ted Williams play, in person, "many times" hilarious, as the fan's hair almost blew away. Don said, "It was windy", between chuckles. Jerry did that wheezing laugh for a few pitches, before suddenly fully composing himself mid-sentence. Very impressive recovery.

Also very impressive is the pre-game show for Friday's game, which I am watching right now. Actually, this may very well be the best pre-game show ever. Yes, that's right folk(s). EVER. It definitely merits a separate post.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sox kick back and win again

It was a leisurely and relaxing night at the ballpark on Wednesday. It was good night for reminiscing about Manny Antics of the Past. (The acrobatic catch of a Johnny Damon relay throw was definitely my favorite.) A good night for hawking Matsuzaka headbands, which are good for "wedding and banquets." (I'm OK with RemDawg hawking his wares because, well, he's RemDawg. If Amalie Benjamin wanted to hawk her clothing line on the air, that would also be fine. I'm sure Amalie's line is much classier than that of the wife of that guy on the Yankees.) A good night to ponder just how many Red Sox should make the All-Star team. (Definitely, at least 11.)

The action on the field was pretty good too. For Sox fans. Boston demolished the Blue Jays, 9-3, in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score would seem to indicate. It was the 8th straight loss for Toronto. Daisuke Matsuzaka was superb, allowing only one measly run in seven innings, whiffing eight. He avoided the one really bad inning that seemed to haunt him each start this season, and lowered his ERA from 5.45 to 4.80. The Sox belted four more HRs, courtesy of Messrs. Lugo, Lowell, Ortiz, and Ramirez. David Ortiz went 4 for 5 (.311 BA) and Dustin Pedroia (2-4) raised his BA to .267(!). It seems like just last week Lil' Dustin's BA was .172. (May 3rd) But he has gone on a 10 for 17 tear, giving him a .500 BA in May, coupled with a blistering 1.345 OPS this month. (Good thing they didn't send him down to Pawtucket, as this foresight-lacking blogger clamored for the Sox to do.) With the exception of J. D. Drew (4 for his last 41!), it was a good night for building up those All-star stats.

The 22-10 Sox go for the sweep at 7:07 tonight, with Tim Wakefield (3-3, 2.11) facing Jays ace Roy Halladay (4-1, 3.59). It seems like the Sox have spent half of their season facing Halladay and the Jays. Halladay has a 2.94 ERA against the Sox this season, in 2 starts. (So, I guess only 9% of the Sox' games have been against Halladay.) Hopefully, the Sox can continue their streak and get Wakefield some run support.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

We'd Make Great Pets

It was $2 Ticket Tuesday in Toronto, as the Blue Jays hosted the Red Sox last night. Even considering the exchange rate, the Toronto fans did not exactly get their money's worth. The Red Sox rode HRs from Pedroia, Varitek, Lowell, and Youkilis, and a strong pitching performance by Josh Beckett (7-0) to an easy 9-2 victory. Beckett lowered his season ERA to 2.51 with seven innings of one-run ball. The only run he allowed came on the 1st pitch he threw, a home run ball to Jays OF Alex Rios. Pedroia (2-4) and Varitek (4-4) continued their strong hitting, raising their batting averages to .254 and .284, respectively.

The Red Sox announcing team of Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo also brought their A game to Canada. I rather enjoyed when they spoke of getting a Pet Tavarez. But the best part was when, in the later innings, the Blue Jay faithful started throwing paper airplanes onto the field. Don Orsillo attempted to counter, presumably in defense of Red Sox Nation, but his poorly constructed airplane crashed and burned, not unlike Jays SP Victor Zambrano (2.2 IP, 8 ER). I think Jerry Remy spent pretty much the rest of the game trying to stop laughing after that. Hilarious. This is why you have to watch the WHOLE game, people. You never know what's going to happen with the Sox, or their announcers.

The Sox face the Jays again tonight, in a matchup of Japanese starters. Daisuke Matsuzaka will try not to have that one, single, horrific ERA-pummeling inning, and make a positive contribution to my fantasy team. He will be opposed by Tomo Ohka, who needs to stay in the AL, away from the Phillies (2.30 ERA against Philly in 74 IP). Ohka is, of course, best known for that Simpson episode for Bart pretended to be Ohka batting against Millhouse/Esteban Yan. So brilliantly random. Looking forward to another Sox win tonight, and more brilliantly random behavior from Remdawg and Orsillo. The only thing that could be better is a miked-up Jonathan Papelbon...

Monday, May 7, 2007


When watching the Phillies-Giants broadcast on ESPN, the national audience was treated to various poll results on the Barry Bonds situation. With Bonds approaching the all-time MLB HR record (though he didn't play Sunday night because he, obviously, fears Cole Hamels), I began to consider the question, "What is the Greatest Travesty in Sports?"
The correct answer is blatantly obvious. I'm sure you are thinking the same thing I am right now.

How can NESN have a commercial for The Boston Globe Pre-Game Show without a clip of Amalie Benjamin? That's like a commercial for 24 without that Jack Bauer guy. Charlie Manuel does things that make more sense than this. (Well, occasionally.) NESN needs to fix this, and then get rolling with NESN II:PapelTV.

Phils win!

Cole Hamels and the Phillies showed an ESPN audience their potential, beating the Giants Sunday night, 8-5. The Phillies showed strong pitching, hitting, baserunning, and fielding in their dominating victory in San Francisco. (OK, maybe not the fielding part, as they made three errors, leading to two unearned runs.) But, definitely, all of those other things.

Hamels, the 2007-2034 NL Cy Young Award winner, had his biting changeup in top form, as he struck out nine batters in his seven innings of work. He allowed five runs on the night, but only three of them were earned. Hamels is now 4-1 for the season, with a 3.59 ERA. He has a Papelbon-esque 52 K's in 47.2 innings, to go along with his NL-leading 4235 slaughtered ducks in the offseason. He even supported his own cause with a double. Geoff Geary followed with a scoreless 8th inning, and Closer Brett Myers finished up for the save.

Pat Burrell lead the offensive attack, walking in all four plate appearances. He raised his OBP to an otherworldly .449. Also contributing were: Shane Victorino (2-5, 1st HR of the season), Jimmy Rollins (2-5, with another triple, his MLB-leading 5th), and Ryan Howard (5th HR, good for 29th place in MLB). Michael Bourn stole two bases, after coming into the game as a pinch runner for Burrell. (Fortunately, the Phillies held the lead, so that particular Manuel Maneuver didn't come back to bite the Phillies for the 16th time this season.)

There was some cause for concern, as Monday night's scheduled starting pitcher Freddy Garcia was injured before the game. Garcia was shagging fly balls when he ran into a stationary cart on the field, causing a bruise on his left shin. It is not yet clear who will get the start in Monday night's game in Arizona, if Garcia is unable. Perhaps Michael Mimbs will get the nod. I'm hoping for LHP Bruce Ruffin. The Phillies will start their Monday night victory over the D-Backs approximately 40 minutes into 24.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Sox Win Rubber Game, Hamels on National TV

The Sox lost a tough one Saturday night, 2-1 in Minnesota. The Sox had plenty of chances to score (12 LOB), but just couldn't get it done. Twins ace Johan Santana pitched just well enough to win-5 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. The Twins vaunted bullpen shut out the Sox over the last 4 innings, not allowing a hit. It just wasn't the Sox' night. These kinds of losses will happen, occasionally, over a long season. (Unless you are the Phillies. In that case substitute "usually", for "occasionally.")

Batshit Crazy Julian Tavarez turned in an excellent performance, but still picked up his third loss in four decisions. He threw six innings, allowing only two earned runs, on four hits, and three walks. He struck out seven. Of the eighteen batters he retired, eleven were via the ground, and the other seven were strikeouts. He did not record a single out via the air. A bit unusual.

In additional disappointing news, Tavarez did not really demonstrate any of his patented Batshit behavior. (At least not that I observed.) There was some finger-pointing, as he directed his fielders to follow the correct sequence in recording outs on a double play. There was an interesting pickoff attempt at 2B, while intentionally walking a batter. But nothing that really stood out. At one point, I thought he had the hidden ball trick going on with Dustin Pedroia, but that was a false alarm. I'd like to see Tavarez try the hidden ball trick, without utilizing any teammates. I'm sure if anyone could pull it off, he could.

In Sunday's game, the Sox and Curt Schilling took a 4-0 lead into the 7th, and the bullpen of Okajima and Papelbon held on for a 4-3 win. I missed the game in its' entirety, so I don't really have anything useful to add. I intended to ignore the game, and then watch it after the Sunday night ESPN game, but the siren call of Gameday, and Amalie's Extra Bases Blog, was too strong. For a superb account of Papelbon's performance, look here. After reading that, I almost feel like I did see the Papelbonian brilliance that ended the game. Good stuff. The Sox only scored seven runs in the series, but still took 2 of 3. THAT'S what winning teams do, my reader(s).

In the ESPN Sunday night game, the Phillies and their ace, Cole Hamels, face the Giants, and rookie wunderkind Tim Lincecum. Lincecum, who looks extremely youthful in his Gameday picture, is in for a rude welcome to MLB. Perhaps even Chase Wright-rude.

This national TV performance could very well be the night that future HOF'er Cole Hamels becomes a household name. I expect him to finish with a complete game, 2 hit, 17 K, shutout. As well as solve that tricky global warming problem between innings. Go Phils!

Saturday, May 5, 2007


The Red Sox won Friday night, 2-0 in Minnesota. Their 1st place lead was increased to 6.5 games. Tim Wakefield, despite feeling almost as sickly as Dustin Pedroia's slugging pct. (.230), pitched seven scoreless innings. David Ortiz hit a HR that would have probably landed in Milwaukee, had the stadium been less dome-y. Coco Crisp made a nice running catch in the kitchen goods aisle.

But the highlight of this game, as well as every other game, and in all likelihood, life itself, was Jonathan Papelbon. He has recovered quite nicely from the unfortunate events of the other night. You could tell before the game that he was in form. As Tina Cervasio did her pre-game interview with Amalie Benjamin (Amalie was rocking the hipster glasses again. Well-played, Amalie!), Jonathan was shenaniganzing in the background. He was jaunting in from the outfield with several
teammates, jawing excitedly, and waving his arms in a most animated and Papelbonian manner. If only we could have known what he was yammering about. (Reason #585858 that we need a Papelbon Channel, hosted by Amalie Benjamin.) I can only speculate that he was speaking about the early morning duck hunt, IN the Metrodome, he had to cheer up Mike Timlin. Closer Boy made quick work of the Twins in the 9th, picking up his 9th save. The Sox improved their MLB-best record to 19-9.

The Sox next face the Twins on Saturday night, with Batshit Crazy Julian Tavarez on the mound, opposed by Twins ace Johan Santana. A tough matchup, but Julian Tavarez has a decent chance for success tonight. Provided he is allowed to use his crossbow.


Dear FOX Broadcasting Company,

I suppose I can understand that you decided to air the Yankees-Mariners game in this region, rather than the Giants-Phillies matchup. You've cancelled Firefly, you've cancelled Drive, and you air an episode of House approximately every 16 minutes. Your decisions don't necessarily intersect with that little thing called "sense." I considered showing you the results of my survey of baseball fans, which was both representative, and of sufficient sample size. (When asked if the Phillies game should be aired over the Yankees game in this region, nine of of ten respondents either replied, "Sure, Mike." or "(expletive deleted) the Yankees.") But if you believed in statistically valid research, I suspect FOX News Channel would be a very different place. (Actually, that was probably the kind of study you do. So scratch that last part.)

But, fine. You can make your decisions as you see fit. But it is really necessary to black out the other games on MLB.TV? For goodness sakes, you forced me to listen to the game ON THE RADIO. You cannot mute Gary Matthews, Sr. on the radio broadcast. When he informed us of inside baseball info, such as, "the tie goes to the runner", I had no choice but to hear it. That is just a taste of the pain that HE inflicted on me. Additionally, Harry Kalas when he gave his patented HR call, you could hear the excitement through my dinky little computer speaker. The excitement as Barry (string of expletives deleted) Bonds inched closer to Hank Aaron. I would not have had to endure that blasphemous call if I was watching the television broadcast. When Manager Charlie Manuel pinch-hit Ryan Howard for Pat Burrell, even though the entire universe (known and unknown) knew this would result in a counter-move by the Giants of bringing in a southpaw, I had nowhere to hide. When Manuel brought in Yoel Hernandez to make his major league debut in a one run game in the 8th inning, I had to listen as all was lost on a HR by Pedro Feliz. I couldn't watch the horror unfold. So, yes FOX, you managed to make being a Phillies fan more painful today. Much obliged.

In closing, I would be more than glad to buy your sponsors' products. But, by blacking out the broadcast, I do not actually know who they are. So, you just cost yourselves $42. Or, quite possibly, more. If you multiply that by the gajillion fans who would have preferred the Phillies game, you get a real big number. Ginormous, actually. Possibly even higher than Adam Eaton's ERA. But you're probably not listening. Too busy plotting to cancel 24 on me.

Kindest regards,

Friday, May 4, 2007

Winning isn't Everything...

The Red Sox and Phillies both came out on the victorious ends of slugfests Thursday night.But the wins seemed a little "hollow" somehow. Not Wes Helms' batting average (BA: .316, SLG: .344) hollow. But quite possibly as hollow as J. C. Romero's 4.32 ERA, which doesn't seem THAT bad, until you observe that he pairs it with a woefully unimpressive 1.80 WHIP.

The Red Sox had an 8-7 come-from-behind victory over Seattle. Manny Ramirez was the offensive hero with a pair of HRs, including the 8th inning game-winner. Wily Mo Pena chipped in with a 4 for 4 performance, raising his BA from .172 to .273. The Sox bullpen was unscored upon in 4 innings of 1 hit, 3 walk work. But there were some concerns:

  • Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed 7 earned runs on 5 hits and 5 walks, in 5 innings. His ERA is approaching his salary. I'd like to be able to say that he has an aberrant BABIP, and that everything's going to be better soon. But it doesn't take a trip over to Baseball to determine that walking the bases loaded could be problematic. He seems to usually have one really bad inning, and then pitch pretty well the rest of the game. He needs to quit it with the erraticness. The Sox need him to pitch to an ERA well under 5.45.
  • Julio Lugo is only batting .243, and slugging .330. Even if his fielding was Gonzalez-esque, these offensive stats would be a little low. But last night, his throws were all over the place, he randomly dove to his left for a ball hit right at him, and he dropped an easily-catchable popup. (I will, however, absolve him from blame for that play when he was screened on a grounder by baserunner Jose Guillen. Guillen was obviously in the crease, and that infield hit should have been waved off.) If Lugo is going to continue to be this deficient in the field, he better start doing some serious hitting. At least .800 OPS serious.
  • Manny Ramirez has been starting to heat up with the bat. But the running and the fielding- not a heckuva lot of heat there. He just doesn't seem too interested in such trivial matters. The Sox need to think outside the box, and come up with some creative solutions here. Manny doesn't necessarily like running after he hits the ball. Fine, let's get an automatic runner at the ready. When Manny puts the ball in play, if Manny wants to run bases, he can run bases. If he wants to simply admire the ball, fine. Put a telescope in the on-deck circle for him, and the automatic runner can run bases. Problem solved.
  • On defense, Manny likes to juggle his glove, examine the contents of his nose, pretty much just chill until it is time to go back to the dugout. While he might catch the ball better when juggling his glove, if the glove is flying in the air, the putout won't count. Them's the rules. Additionally, while foreign (Dominican, in this case) matter on the ball can't make Manuel Aristides' "throws" any worse, the internal fluid could adversely affect the throws of his teammates. The Sox need to divest him of his defensive responsibilities. Possibly, they could have him bat instead of Pedroia, still keep the Lil' Ruffian in the field, and have the Automatic Runner play LF. Or the 3rd base Ball Dude/Dudette could just have increased defensive responsibilities. They've already shown that they have superior range. The Sox should be talking to Selig about this ASAP.

I am NOT concerned about the fact that J. C. Romero and his .343 opponents' batting average came in for the save last night, while Closer Boy observed from the bullpen. Obviously, that was not the REAL Papelbon in the bullpen, but merely a clone. The REAL Papelbon was most certainly on a Jedi mission. Or representing MLB in an international cow-milking competition. Either way, I'm sure he took care of business, and will be closing out tonight's win.

The Phillies took a 9-2 lead last night in San Francisco, and held on for a 9-7 win over the Giants. Initially, I was in favor of their 10:15pm start time. It enabled me to watch the Sox game, and follow that up with the Phillies game. Quite convenient.
However, when they were still playing at 2am, I was no longer such a staunch advocate of the start time. I was so dazed I could have sworn that the Phillies Ace #1 Opening Day Starter was in for the save, facing the Giants' 5-6-7 hitters in a fierce typhoon. And that the Phillies Invincible Veteran Closer was outside my window, with Freddy Mercury, battling Ming the Merciless. Fortunately, The Evil Ming and the Evil Bonds were both defeated. (This was almost as weird as that dream where all of the Phillies were wearing #42. THAT was disconcerting!)

But some problems:

  • Phillies SP Adam Eaton was staked to a 9-2 lead. After the 6th inning the lead was down to 9-7. It would have been worse if Adam had been allowed to face more than 4 batters in the 6th, none of whom he managed to retire. His ERA increased from 7.71 to an even uglier 8.18. Even if he cuts that in half, it's still a bit on the high side.
  • Wes Helms was supposed to hit enough to overcome lackluster defense. That's just not happening. (The lackluster defense part is happening. The slugging part isn't.) Six XBH in 90 AB? All of the two-base variety? Not good. But not bad enough to lose time to No-Hit Nunez. Yet.
  • MVP Ryan Howard has a .774 OPS. He's batting .091 (1 for 11) in 3 May games. When will he start hitting?

The Phillies face the Giants in San Fran tonight, with Jamie Moyer (2.65 ERA) facing Matt Morris (3.34 ERA). There probably won't be 16 runs scored in this one.

The Sox are in Minnesota to face the Twins. Tim Wakefield (2.59 ERA) is oppoosed by former-Phillie Carlos Silva (3.10 ERA, but a 1.52 WHIP). The Sox are going to light Silva up.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Performance Enhancement

Marty Miller was ill-at-ease. He had been the Yankees' Performance Enhancement Coach for only three months, and already there had been a string of injuries. Six of the top seven Yankee starting pitchers had missed time in the still-young season, not exactly a ringing endorsement for Miller's ability to enhance the team's performance.

As he sat alone, waiting for his meeting with The Boss, he tried to console himself with the fact that he had followed The Boss' directives. While he had never met The Boss, Miller had a somewhat checkered past, and this wouldn't be the first time he was called on the carpet for uneven results. He had some experience dealing with cloudy figures who pulled the strings from behind the scenes. But he had never before been responsible for the health of a $200 million organization, and he had heard many chilling stories of how The Boss had dealt with those who had failed him in the past. Tales of brutality that had never reached the public consciousness. Tales that he had only become aware of through the unusual channels. But he hoped that, by following orders, he had ensured his job security. As Miller pondered his fate, the receptionist interrupted his thoughts, instructing him to enter the conference room.

The conference room is somewhat spartan, with only four chairs and a long table. The walls are devoid of color, and there are no windows. At the head of the table sits The Boss, wearing a cloak that obscures his face. The only object on the table is a small telephone. Miller sits in a chair at the opposite side of the table. No one else is in the room.

TB: Tell me of Wang.
MM: He pulled a hamstring doing those start and stop sprints after a practice, as you instructed me to have him do.
TB: What of Pettitte?
MM: His injury occurred because he wasn't wearing the lifting belt, as per your request.
TB: And young Hughes?
MM: I thought we should have him stretch before the start, but you recommended that he didn't. To be honest, I didn't really think skipping the stretching was a good idea.
TB: You will find that it is you who are mistaken. About a great many things.
MM: Well, what about Rodriguez? He's been doing pretty well so far.
TB: Yes. Player of the Month.
MM: I got your instructions for his training regimen, but I didn't think it would work. So I used some of my own ideas. I'd say he was our greatest success.
TB: You will pay the price for your lack of vision.

The door opens. Ugueth Urbina enters, brandishing a large machete. He is accompanied by Carl Everett. Everett appears to be armed only with a nasty disposition. Miller glares at The Boss, his expression a mixture of recognition and abject terror.

TB: Fool. Only now, at the end, do you understand.

Miller is forcibly removed from the room. The Boss speaks into the phone.

TB (into phone): Get me Radomski.

The Boss removes the hood from his head.

THEO EPSTEIN (to self): Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Jonathan Papelbon just blew a save. He gave up hits. HITS! There was a cheap 2-run HR. Even a walk. I can't believe what I just saw. It totally wasn't Jonathan's fault, however. Sure, when he entered in the 9th to get the final three outs, the Sox led 4-2. When the top of the 9th was over, the game was tied 4-4. Yes, he pitched the whole inning and gave up both runs. But there were extenuating circumstances. He had equipment problems with his athletic supporter, which adversely affected his velocity and control. There was a guy in the stands, between home plate and 3rd base, sporting a hideously bright orangey neon hat. That questionable attire choice was affecting Jonathan's ability to see the signs, and the plate. Only a pitcher of his caliber could overcome these obstacles to even get out of that inning with a tied game.

As Jonathan sat in the dugout, with his emotions running the gamut from despondence to intense rage, we both struggled on the steps to acceptance. I empathized with him as he slammed a water bottle and, later, his glove, against the ground. He raged in the dugout, frustrated at himself for being only 99.99999% perfect. I raged at the fans, as many of them smiled and chatted in the stands. "THIS IS NOT A JOVIAL TIME! THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS!",I shouted at my TV. Brendan Donnelly came on in the 10th, and blew the tie. He can see the future with his glasses, but that knowledge did not help him avoid his destiny.

As the Sox batted in the bottom of the 10th, some of the fans were still enjoying their time at the ballpark, yapping on their damn cell phones. But others, like me, were intensely focused on the game, still hopeful of a Sox victory. The Sox failed to score, however, with the game ending on a long fly off the bat of Kevin Youkilis that died just short of The Monster. A little duck tail-sized piece of Jonathan Robert Papelbon may have died tonight also. As well as the dream of a 0.00 season ERA.

I'd like to drive down to the ballpark right now to cheer up poor Paps. I'd let him vent for awhile, then we'd play a game or two of Yahtzee. That always makes him feel better after a blown save. Or it did that one other time he had a blown save. But I am still banned from the Sox clubhouse. Even though nothing was ever proven. So, I'll just have to hope he is OK.

(Note: The following paragraph is where an ignorant blogger prattles on, clearly demonstrating his stupidity. You can go ahead and skip it, if you wish. Thanks for the heads up, Beth.)

Curt Schilling pitched well tonight, allowing only two runs over seven innings. His ERA is now a spiffy 3.15. But there is a concern that needs to be addressed. CURTIS MONTAGUE. Was it really necessary to write a comment on your shoe, referencing last week's "Sock-gate?" Let it go, Curt. Everyone knows it was blood. You got the last word on your blog. (Probably the last 1500 words, actually.) Just move along. You're a tremendous pitcher, and a prolific blogger, but this kind of crap just detracts from your rep and your Wikipedia page. Quit it.

Don Orsillo made a fashion faux pas of a serious nature with his clothing selections, and Jerry Remy let him have it. The Remdawg inquired as to whether Don had been shopping off the clearance rack, let Don know that he was "ready for Ft. Lauderdale", and asked him when his "shuffleboard time" was. Good stuff. Tina Cervasio should have gotten Neon Hat Guy to weigh in with his views on that topic. Alas, she did not. Just another reason Amalie Benjamin should be handling that role.

Finally, a Sox Ball Dude played a ball that was in fair territory, gifting the Athletics with a ground-rule double. Later, a foul ball went down the LF line, where a new Sox Ball Dudette opted not to play the ball. She even refrained from retrieving the ball, forcing the 3B umpire to go down and get it. (Manny was on nap time at that point, apparently.) She seemed fearful of being involved with the ball in any manner. Perhaps she didn't want to share the same fate as the Ball Dude who preceded her. But what was his fate? Was he released into the Fens to fare for himself? Is he hanging in effigy from the Green Monster right now, alongside Neon Hat Guy? We may never know. (Well, unless good ol' Amalie blogs about it.)

Just a Dream...

"Once there was a boy back in time of the heathens.

Day after day, he just kept dreaming things that would make him weaker.

His father could not make him see, that there is more than dreams.

But he wouldn't listen to the words of his father, 'cause he's a little dreamer."
-"Little Dreamer", ENSIFERUM

I had an Iain-esque game watching streak going for awhile. In the 1st month of the season, I only missed three or four Phillies or Red Sox games. But Sunday, both teams had games at 1pm, and I was unable to watch them. It was too nice of a day for yachting to pass up. I cruised the seas on the Papelbon for most of the day.

I returned to the 'Ville that night, securing my boat in majestic Somerville Harbor, conveniently located near the DPW. I put the archived Phillies game on MLB.TV, intending to watch from the beginning. I would then watch the Sox game on NESN, at midnight. It seemed a foolproof plan. Until I fell asleep during the top of the 1st inning of the Phillies game.

I dreamt of a 44 yr. old SP named Jamie throwing no-hit inning after no-hit inning. Of a former ace starter putting out a fire as a reliever. My dreams turned Papelbonian, as I dreamt of young Jonathan, slaughterer of ducks, milker of cows. I dreamt of yet another scoreless inning, for a save against the MFYankees. My dreams then turned pigskin, as I envisioned the Philly Eagles drafting a QB with their 1st pick. (This was a bit on the unbelievable side, as the Iggles have too many holes at other positions. Right?) I dreamed of the New England Patriots acquiring Randy Moss. I awoke with a start.

But now that I think about it, the Moss move could totally work for the Patriots. It has the potential to be every bit as effective as the Terrell Owens acquisition has been for the Philly Eagles. The past few seasons with T.O. on the Eagles roster have been nothing short of magical.
Three 1500 yd., 18+ TD seasons. The three Super Bowl MVPs. The leadership T.O. has displayed, perhaps best exemplified by when he refused to accept the Super Bowl MVP award, unless he was named co-MVP with QB Donovan McNabb. The famous T.O. Wedding, with McNabb and Hugh Douglas as co-Best Men. The PSAs against drug abuse. His yearly gig as host of the Wing Bowl. The work with Chase Utley on fixing that Global Warming problem.
T.O. had a bit of a bad rap before he came to Philly. Randy Moss could be the same way with the Patriots.

The Red Sox had on off-day Monday. The Phillies played the Braves, and got only 4 hits against Tim Hudson, in a 5-2 loss. Jon Lieber gave up only 2 runs (1 ER) over seven innings, but allowed 7 hits and 6 (!) walks. Donut-Eater was ineffectively effective, But the Braves' Andruw Jones hit a 3 run walk-off HR in the 9th off the Phils' Antonio Alfonseca. I wish I had slept through that.

Both the Sox and Phillies are back in action Tuesday. I have a training seminar in an exotic locale (Beverly, Massachusetts!) on Tuesday, but I won't be missing either of the two teams' Tuesday night wins.