Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The ducks are probably the biggest winners here. The Red Sox winning the World Series is a Significant Triumph. Those Sox fans prescient enough to take advantage of The Monster Deal are enjoying their free furniture. (No free furniture here. Though there is a previously owned mattress up for grabs next to the dumpster out back.) But, after 4402 of their brethren met their doom at the killing hand of a young closer last winter, the ducks can breathe a little easier this time around. While they still have to be wary of the Peregrine Falcon and the Timlin, Jonathan Robert Papelbon will be a bit too busy for duck hunting this offseason.

Papelbon followed up a postseason of scoreless pitching by dancing through the streets of Boston. 'Twas a beautiful thing. The Winter of Papelbon has just begun, however. Next, he'll be jigging his way through the late night TV circuit. There will be the Guitar Hero endorsements. Papelbon at The White House. The Dancing with the Stars appearance with his ultra-talented dance partner, Amalie Benjamin. The series of children's books. (Think Berenstain Bears meets Harry Potter.) No more shilling Barber Chicken for the inimitable Sox closer. He's hit the big time now!

The rest of the 2007 World Champion Red Sox should be be back, and even better, next season. Curt Schilling will probably be my 2nd favorite Phillies blogger (#1), but both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are more than serviceable rotation options. Eric Gagne will be "pitching" in the National League, and Royce Clayton will be a Management Trainee at the Taco Bell on Comm. Ave., but they were forgotten Red Sox long before today. Josh Beckett will be pursuing his second consecutive Cy Young Award, with a fully-acclimated Daisuke Matsuzaka as his main competition. There's no way Mike Lowell and Tim Wakefield play for another team next season. Papi and Manny will be back, Manny armed with a prototype batting helmet that can be remotely ejected by Batshit Tavarez. Pedroia. Edes. Youkilis. Benjamin. Ellsbury. The 2007 season has just ended, but I can't wait to see this team next season. Though they will have a lot more difficulty in the 2008 World Series with the Phillies, than they did with the Rockies.

As a Rule 5 blogger, I anticipate spending the first few months of next season posting for the Pawtucket Red Sox. But a midseason callup is not out of the question. When the Red Sox need a northpaw reliever in the playoffs, I'll be ready to put down my drumsticks and set up for Papelbon. When an HBP is needed to win free tacos for all, I'm your guy. I just hope that the internet connectivity issues that have plagued me this past week don't resurface during next season's Red Sox-Phillies Fall Classic. That matchup will require some prolific blogging in these parts. Plus, without internet, I can't instantaneously determine whether the actor in the movie I'm watching was also the roadie in "Rock Star." Who wants to live like that?

The Sox won't play another game for more than four months, but there are many significant personnel decisions to be made in that time. Papelbon will be omnipresent during the offseason, and the Ellsbury Taco Bell commercials will be as ubiquitous as those damn W.B. Mason ads. If you thought Ellsbury was a great ballplayer, wait until you see him in those Taco Bell ads, co-starring with the Official Scorer who didn't rule "defensive indifference." It will be no time at all before the Sox equipment crew is loading up The Truck, and Julian Tavarez is letting the press know when Manny Ramirez will be reporting to Spring Training.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

SOXtober Dream Almost Realized

"Hold on. I've got somethin' for ya, kid." Jonathan Papelbon had just pitched two scoreless innings to save Game 7, and was wrapping up yet another memorable interview. The Cleveland Indians had been defeated in Game 7, and exiled to their City of Midges and Discarded Rally Towels. (Apparently, Tribe Time is Not Now.)

Jonathan Robert was just getting started. He brought the same determination with which he closed out the game back to the field- for the Game 7 postgame celebration/dance-a-thon! With two playoff series wins under his belt, his Irish jig skills are becoming highly developed. Transformers. A Series win could give the inimitable closer the exposure necessary to take his already considerable dancing abilities to the next level.

Down three games to one in a seven game series, the pundits didn't seem to think much of the Red Sox' chances. Baseball Factory was analyzing the potential late-innings matchup between Indians reliever Rafael Betancourt and Rockies pinch-hitter Seth Smith. Hardball Prospectus was advocating using Ryan Garko in right field, so that Pronk could play first base in the Fall Classic games played in Colorado. Baseball Guru Tim McCarver believed that the only way Boston could win the series against Cleveland would be for the Red Sox to win four games before the Indians did. Transformers. Red Sox fans weren't concerned, however. We know how the story of the 2007 Red Sox will end. With a Papelbon-Beckett Dance-Off, Duck Boats, and free couches for all!

The Sox Heroes were many. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis blasted homers, triggering appearances by The Blond Cameraperson. (Almost as good as Bernie Brewer in Milwaukee. Almost.) J.D. Drew had a HUGE grand slam, which will, hopefully, enhance his offseason trade value. Julio Lugo worked Cleveland pitching for more than two pitches/at bat, helping sap their strength. Curt Schilling and Daisuke Matsuzaka, after lackluster first starts, pitched well in the elimination games. Transformers. Kyle Snyder was an imposing deterrent when the benches cleared. Eric Serge Gagne managed to only blow a single game. Josh Beckett was Koufaxian, as he joined the former Dodgers southpaw in the Hall of Playoff Greatness. (Conveniently located in Coopertown.) While Koufax's postseason ERA of 0.95 is (currently) lower than Beckett's, no one can match Beckett's interview performances. He is an immensely talented wordsmith, with an incomparable dexterity with metaphors. A post-baseball career as a diplomat seems to be in the cards for Beckett. Unless he throws us a curve and goes into politics.

Terry Francona also did a terrific job. While he probably should have replaced Coco Crisp with Jacoby Ellsbury a little sooner (In May, perhaps?), his decision to pitch Beckett on full rest in Game 5, rather than on short rest in Game 4, was key to the Red Sox' success. The decision looks even better now, with Beckett ready to start Game 1 of the World Series. I thought Beckett should have gone on short rest in Game 4, so he could return for a Game 7. I'm glad Francona disagreed with me, and ignored all those e-mails. I hope we can still be pals, Terry. Also, please stop blocking my e-mails- I need to tell you about my Mike Lowell at SS idea.

Unfortunately, the FOX television crew did not do a terrific job. Which was about as surprising as Kevin Cash being left off the ALCS roster. Buck and McCarver- can't believe we have another four games left with them. Yikes. The attempts at subliminal advertising could also have been bothersome- if I wasn't immune to such tactics, as a result of my superior intellect. The late start times are the worst, however. After the game, and all available postgame shows/interviews have run their course, I only have a few hours to sleep before my 5am wakeup call. (Did anyone else sign up for those daily wakeup calls from Julian Tavarez? I can't believe how cheap they were!) This leaves no time for postgame blogging. By the time I escape my employment responsibilities the next night, it's time for another pre-game show/game. (Well, sometimes I become ensnared by NHL Center Ice. I guess it's not all FOX's fault.)

Beckett goes against Francis in Game 1 Wednesday night at Fenway. The Rockies shouldn't be a problem for The Wordsmith. Transformers. Jacoby Ellsbury will be starting in center, and Kyle Snyder is available if the Rockies try to send a physical message by sending enforcer Ryan Spilborghs into the game. The Rockies may have won 21 of 22, but they are due for a few losses. (Binomial Theorem, people!) In less than a week, the Red Sox will be Champions. All I ask of you is Believe. And get those duck boats ready.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Keep your head on a swivel...

Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast. On Friday night, the Red Sox were ahead of the Indians one game to none, and were about to win another epic playoff battle. Then Eric Serge Gagne entered the game, got pulled after giving up two baserunners, and his replacements combined to allow seven runs. If Gagne had been permitted to finish the inning, he probably would have only surrendered five or six runs. Bad move, Terry.

After losing Game 3 to Jake Westbrook, thanks, in part, to another desultory performance by Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield was given the start in Game 4. It seemed like Josh Beckett should have been given the ball instead, on three days rest, so he would have two more starts in the series (including Game 7). Especially considering that he is the only reliable starting pitcher that the Sox have right now. But Francona chose to go with Wakefield, who hadn't pitched for seventeen days. Perhaps Wakefield "deserved" the start. Perhaps Beckett is drained from his 215 IP this season, and needed the extra days off. I spent most of the day arguing the merits of Beckett on three days rest to anyone who would listen, and explaining Francona's "sit on my hands" reference to Wakefield's volatility. I just had a bad feeling about Wakefield tonight.

After four innings, I was thrilled to have been totally wrong about Wakefield. Four shutout innings, one hit allowed? Wakefield was ON. At least until the fifth inning. That was a painful mess, in which Wakefield and the Sox bullpen bled out seven runs. Conventional wisdom would imply that permitting seven runs in one inning is less damaging than permitting one run in each of two different innings. But this season that hasn't been the case. Teams scoring seven runs or more in an inning have beaten teams scoring less than seven runs in a game on a regular basis this season. Very surprising, indeed.

The Red Sox countered with three consecutive home runs, the first two off Cleveland starter Paul Byrd, who had another "scintillating" five inning, 3.60 ERA outing. Manny Ramirez hit the third of the blasts, off Cleveland reliever Jensen Lewis, and stood at the plate admiring the ball's flight for quite awhile. (Um, Manny? You're losing 7-3. Get back in the dugout.) The Indians bullpen shut out the Sox the rest of the way, and Boston now must win the next three games, or start their offseason.

Conventional wisdom would state that whenever Tim McCarver prefaces a statement with the words "conventional wisdom", you are about to hear some idiotic nonsense that may cause internal bleeding. The best play that you, as a viewer, can make is to hit the mute button in a timely manner. Unfortunately, I was caught out of position tonight, when McCarver uttered the magic words. He mentioned (again) that a leadoff walk is preferable to a leadoff home run, as the walk has a better chance of triggering a multiple-run inning. (Yes, a baserunner is better than an actual run.) It got even better when he indicated that "this season" the opposite was true. Scoring a run has been better than getting a baserunner this season, for the first time in the history of baseball. Crazy, that. No wonder the Red Sox are losing to the Indians, the games are being played in Bizarro World. (That would also explain "Justin" Pedroia's sudden inability to get hits.)

While trailing 3-1 in games is certainly distressing, this series is not over yet. Beckett could easily outduel Sabathia. Schilling will oppose Carmona and, despite not being on eleven days rest, he could come up with a good outing. Unfortunately, in the winner-take-all Game 7, Matsuzaka (or Lester?) would get the start for the Sox. That would not be good. Of course, if the Sox don't get some production from the invisible 55.6% of their lineup, and some outings by their starting pitcher in excess of four and two/thirds innings, the season will be a memory before we see a seventh game.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sox Walk Off to 2-0 ALDS Lead

Julio Lugo lead off the 9th inning with a base hit off Angels reliever Justin Speier. With the score tied at 3, Lugo moved to second on a fielder's choice. This left first base open, and Angels Manager Mike Scioscia with the choice of having his ace closer, Francisco Rodriguez, face either David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez with the game on the line. He chose to walk Ortiz, and pitch to Ramirez. As a Sox fan, I think he made the right decision.

Ramirez DEMOLISHED a Rodriguez offering, sending the ball to Commonwealth Avenue, where it put a dent in a B Line train. Manny stood at the plate a moment to admire his work, raising his arms in jubilation, then proceeded around the bases. The Sox players stormed the field to celebrate. Again. It seems they get to do quite a bit of celebrating these days. Manny didn't have much time for celebration, however, as he had to put on a suit as comfortable as his baggy uniform, and report for media availability. His first walkoff homer as a Red Sox was, apparently, reason enough for the slugger to break his media silence.

The Sox would have lost the game in the middle innings, if their bullpen hadn't risen to the occasion. Starter Daisuke Matsuzaka was mediocre, allowing three runs in his four and two-thirds innings of work. He permitted seven hits and three walks. The bullpen SHUT OUT the Angels the rest of the way, on ZERO (0!) hits. Delcarmen, Okajima, Gagne, and Papelbon were BRILLIANT. (OK, Gagne didn't actually pitch. But he would have been unhittable if he had.)
Papelbon got the last four outs, and the victory. The Angels are at the brink of elimination.

Curt Schilling gets the start for the Sox on Sunday afternoon. He is opposed by Jered Weaver, and whomever else the Angels throw out there to try stave off elimination. But, by 6:30pm Eastern time tomorrow, the Sox will have sent Los Angeles into the offseason. Schilling does not lose postseason games. Except when he has to face the Phillies.

Tribe Time (for) Now!

Jabba covered in bugs. Jeter confounded by the Canadian soldiers, trying to whomp them with his glove from his defensive position. Rodriguez not whomping any opposing pitching. Abreu's bat spontaneously combusting at home plate. Torre performing intermittent maintenance on his ear canal. An extra-inning walk-off victory by Pronk and the Cleveland Indians over the New York Yankees. Exactly what you'd like to see in a Yankees'playoff game. (Except maybe the Torre part.)

But, as a Red Sox fan, it might actually be time to root for the Yankees. At least for a couple of games. If New York can extend the series to five games, the Indians will need to use Sabathia again. They may even use Carmona again. I'm sure the Red Sox would much rather see Paul Byrd on the mound in Game 1 of the ALCS, than one of the Indians' Cy Young candidates. If the Yankees can drain some of those Indians relievers a bit, in some more long, extra-innings battles, that would be even better.

Shit. What was I thinking there? I can't root for the Yankees. Not even for a single game. The Red Sox can decimate either of those two teams, anyways. Forget Sabathia and Carmona, the Indians could start an in-his-prime Feller, and still not beat the Sox. It's Tribe Time Now! (But only until the ALCS against the Red Sox starts.)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Red Sox Elevate for Postseason

Did you even think it was possible that Red Sox ace Josh Beckett might give up a run on Wednesday night? No, me neither. Beckett is The Master of the Postseason. The two consecutive playoff shutouts is just the beginning.

Beckett wasn't the only one to raise his game on Wednesday. There were home runs from Ortiz and Youkilis providing the scoring. My cable company came up big, adding TBS HD in time for the MLB playoffs, as well as NHL Center Ice and Versus HD. Well played, RCN! Every bit as impressive as Beckett's performance was that of Boston Globe writer Amalie Benjamin, who excelled in the pregame and postgame shows, and had a perfect blogger rating of 187.6 in the Extra Bases Blog. She became the first blogger in postseason history to pass the 180 barrier.

However, in the presence of such greatness, mediocrity becomes so much more glaring. TBS has a ways to go before they can even claim mediocrity. We're only six games into the playoffs, and TBS is already driving me crazy. In fact, a bulleted list is necessary to review TBS' crimes against baseball fans, and humanity.
  • FrankTV. It is really necessary to have a FrankTV commercial between every half-inning? That guy is driving me crazy. The probability that I will watch his show is indirectly proportional to the number of promos I must endure. I think I would prefer to watch an Everybody Loves Raymond marathon (in HD!) at this point. I try to escape Frank by changing channels during commercials, but it is to no avail. When I toggle back, he is there. Always. There.
  • Commercials. I appreciate the fact that TBS wants to jam as many commercials as possible in between innings, but they really need to get back to the action when pitches start getting thrown. There will be time for more FrankTV and Mellencamp commercials later.
  • Crowd noise. What the shithell's going on here? The crowds at Fenway and CBP are crazy, loud, batshit insane. Yet it doesn't seem that way on the TBS broadcast. Not even close.

The Red Sox and Benjamin will continue to elevate their games on Friday night. Matsuzaka v. Escobar. Matsuzaka has never lost an MLB playoff game. He won't lose one tonight, either. The Red Sox won't face a team playing at their level, until they face Philly in the Series. By that time, we'll be done with TBS, and watching the games on FOX. I never thought I'd be looking forward to FOX baseball broadcasts. Anything that allows baseball fans to escape the clutches of FrankTV is a positive.