Friday, September 30, 2005

Truer Words

"David Wells was hired to win this game." I think Mike Lupica owns this one, but it might be John Dennis. Whoever, whenever, they were right.

Wells, the mercurial lefty (redundancy) came through beating The Team That Must Never Be Named in the ballpark that he'd like to blow up.

Mike Timlin celenrated winning the 10th Player car with a vital save, while the 'LayDown Dogs White Sox' are tied with the Tribe 1-1 in extra innings.

Gerry Moses is on the post-game show with Bob Lobel, and Gerry is a nice man. I met him a few years back and asked about Yazoo, MS. He said, "how do you know I'm from Yazoo?" I replied, "Red Sox fans know these things."

Sweating the small things won tonight's game, from stolen bases by Johnny Damon, to pretty good defense, strategic relief by the bad-mouthed (by me as much as anyone) bullpen, but mostly Mr. Wells winning number 15 and ringing the cash register. Wells is now tied for 7th in the league in wins, one behind Randy Johnson. All this, even after a horrendous first inning with two walks and a hit batter.

Now, if the Sox can just start hitting...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Four Game Season

It largely boils down to a four game season, with anything less than three wins (barring total collapse by Cleveland) guaranteeing an early exit. Arroyo-yo was at the bottom of his game last night as the Jays dropped another bomb on the Sox.

As for the overall morale of the team, who can know? Not since the Clemens-Greenwell fiascos of the past has the end-of-season complaining reached these crescendos. Someone argues that Schilling gets a free pass (bloody sock victories over your mortal enemy does that) while Damon deserves his own special commentary.

A patient came to my office talking about the games. He had recently been laid off, but mostly has worked two blue collar jobs to make ends meet, in tough physical environments. He said that working a full day isn't hard enough, but often he would then work landscaping or plowing snow (in season) and have to go back to work the next day. That's tough, and that's just to pay the bills.

Joe Theismann wrote about Joe Gibbs saying that it takes three qualities to make great football players, character, intelligence, and ability. Damon has great physical skills and plays injured (note: a single to center is guaranteed first-to-third), but one wonders with his recent pronouncements whether his book was appropriately named.

The Hairy One seems destined for The Team That Must Never Be Named as it's apparent that his number one priority is top dollar. I'd suggest that he look into promoting MLB expansion to China, where not only will he get paid, but paid in a more stable currency.

For those who wait on every word from the Federal Reserve about price stability, the Federal Reserve was created in 1913. 92 years later, a dollar in 1913 is worth five cents now.

It all gets back to fans wanting maximal effort and minimal blowback from players complaining about playing conditions, teammates, The Hub, and especially money. Money doesn't guarantee happiness or championships, and the fans who admire and support this team to the max, the real heroes supporting their families, deserve better?

Isn't Vernon Wells a free agent?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Short Season and Short Commentary

Tony LaRussa ruined baseball. Although statistics-based performance became the rage, the lefty-righty situational strategy became a drag on the game. Everyone's a specialist. Be like Mike, Myers that is. The Jesse Oroscos, Lee Guettermans, Buddy Grooms, and others will have a job as long as they can't collect from Social Security.

With eight games to go in the regular season, the Sox and The Team That Must Never Be Named move into a dead heat. Five game winner Jaret Wright remains stuck on five as the Jays handle the competition.

I don't have a problem with Hansen coming in. You can't ask for the strong-armed kids and then curse them when they can't deliver every time. Plenty of 'finesse' vets haven't gotten it done this season either.

'Home' crowds on the road create a surreal atmosphere, as though the Red Sox got a new home ballpark. Were two-thirds of the fans there pulling for the Sox? Do the Orioles hate that other team in the division enough to root for the Sox?

Are the Sox kryptonite to B.J. Ryan?

Why is it that Edgar plays so much better on the road?

Kudos to Christopher Nixon for hanging in there against the LHPs today.

Can the Sox win with Johnny Damon dragging his arm around like a three-legged dog?

Pinch me, I thought I saw Kevin Millar playing solid defense at first base with diving snags and scoops.

Friday, September 23, 2005

It's A Wonderful Life

The Red Sox won the World Season last year, thanks to the biggest collapse in the history of professional sports, orchestrated by the New York Yankees.

With just more than a week to go in the season, can the Yankees repeat last year's el foldo and maybe even miss the playoffs entirely? After all, there are small children in New York who have never witnessed a Yankee Championship.

Brian Cashman has his closet well-stocked with Arid, Secret, Right Guard, but hopefully not cyanide as his neck is on the line in the near future with the 'World Series or Bust' posters surely adorning much of the Bronx.

Cashman's main catches, Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, and Jaret Wright collectively led the league in missed starts, and the National Leaguers found that American League lineups had nine hitters, including the particularly potent DHs nowhere to be found in the Senior Circuit.

Gary Sheffield limps down the stretch, must still be off the juice, while Jason G. bulks up again. Must be some serious time in the weight room, or somebody's 'waiting room'.

Sure, we've got a few problems, like a hitting slump, weakness up the middle at short and center defensively, and a bullpen long on inexperienced kids with great arms and experienced veterans without. We've got karma, right?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Religious Experience

To me, true success in life would be to develop both physically and spiritually to our fullest and to endure to the end!" - Harmon Killebrew

Watching the Red Sox often becomes a religious experience - awe and penance. As we rapidly approach the last week of the baseball season, the Red Sox pitching failed them, as a solid performance by Tim Wakefield morphed into a nightmare of 'wild in the strike zone' by Mike Timlin, who couldn't hit his spots. Timlin escaped a couple of hanging pitches to Jonny Gomes, who eventually capitalized with a gap triple.

The Sox have a day off to lick their wounds and (maybe) probably drink heavily to forget. Baseball players have to have a short memory to deal with the inevitable failure attendant in baseball. Great pitchers win 60 percent of their games; great hitters succeed over three times in ten.

So Sox fans will sleep fitfully. Some will drink, smoke, or eat too much, dogs will wonder why their masters curse, and too many will sullenly wait for Friday's gauntlet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

White Flag or Pennant?

The Red Sox haven't played scintillating ball lately. Whether it's fatigue, collective slumping, or just the vicissitudes of baseball, who can say?

I don't think that lack of effort or intensity generally becomes a cogent explanation for pennant contenders in September. You'll never tell me that Ortiz, Varitek, Nixon, or Mueller are dogging it. Dog-tired, maybe.

"Drive for show and put for dough." Maybe it's hit for show and pitch for dough in September. The Sox 'ace' slot lists Tim Wakefield, with the number two, three, and four spots are open, and Matt Clement has become (although a very standup guy) Mr. Inconsistent.

The Sprowlism of 1978 has never reared its ugly head, and at times, Papelbon, DelCarmen, and now Hansen have looked like major league pitchers. The same hasn't exactly been true for DiNardo thus far in his return.

So, with the finger squarely on the panic button, we watch the Sox respond with a Ray-burning 10 runs so far in four innings. I'd like to think that at least this one is over, but as I've watched the pre-1967 Sox, I know that anything can happen.

I'm still on the bandwagon, but the hay is musty, the wheels are rickety, and the driver might be using. Don't chill the bubbly, yet.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Foulke Tale

Only one word describes my feelings about Keith Foulke - ambivalence. Foulke had a proven track record before signing on as a mercenary (coming for the top dollar), and last year he deserved to be the World Series MVP. He threw strikes, controlling the zone with both his fastball and his 'Bugs Bunny' changeup. He pitched intelligently, made few mistakes, and stayed away from his weakness, breaking stuff.

This season has just been a nightmare for him, between personal issues (one's home life does make a difference), professional ones, and injuries. I'd feel sorry for him whether he were making the minimum or winning the lottery annually if his life were totally miserable. Yesterday, he exposed that misery to the public on his weekly radio gig. To paraphrase Deion Sanders, "he's a baseball player, not a baseball fan."

So it comes down to a choice for Red Sox fans, do we have some compassion for the player, or just beat on him, because that 's what northeast corridor baseball cities (Boston, New York, Philadelphia) do? Somehow, kicking him while he's down doesn't score any points.

Sure, we'd love to have him turn it around and be able to contribute for the stretch drive and into the ephemeral postseason. Could that happen? Sure, stranger things have happened, just ask Betty and Barney Hill (abducted by aliens).

We can be sure that if Foulke could have it his way, he wouldn't be struggling from dawn 'til shuteye, and he'd probably even give back the truck not to have to bare his soul to the masses he shrinks from. Well, maybe not the truck.

Nothing Like a Sure Bet

Mid-September in Boston, no longer Loserville but the City of Champions. Whatever the sentiment on "Idiot Radio", the Fan on the Street isn't feeling 100% confident with both the Team That Must Never Be Named and the resurgent Tribe breathing down our collective necks.

All of which calls for a departure from sturm and drang (a trip here should be an educational experience) to tongue-in-cheek. How do the organizations of the World Champion Red Sox and the thrice World Champion New England Patriots stack up?

We're all familiar with John Henry, lead owner of the Sox, billionaire trader (nerves of steel, wallet of platinum) who knows not only how many RBI David Ortiz has, but the value of a franc, be it French, Swiss, or Belgian. Somehow I'm betting that his safety deposit box is stuffed with gold doubloons, not Hank Aaron baseball cards. In contrast, nouveau riche Bob Kraft, has gone from 'The Paper Guy' to a candidate for the lead role in the remake of 'Trading Places'. The Patriots franchise, once worth Henry loose change, now rings the register at over a billion dollars. Is the rumor true that Krafty Bob asks for separate checks? Edge: Red Sox.

The Sox have a management team headed by Theo Epstein, supplemented by the Baseball Boys, mostly but not exclusively Whiz Kids with the philosophy of WYSIWIG on their laptops, churning out strikeout-to-walk ratios and OPS trends. The Patriots have Scott Pioli and his national scouting team, whose philosophy is on-field production, not just numbers. Football has to be important to prospective Patriots. Can you see the football equivalent of Manny in the NFL? Fuggedaboutit. Or maybe that's Randy Moss. Edge: Patriots

On field, Terry Francona leads the Sox. Admittedly, Francona arrived with the Sisyphusian task of leading the Sox to a World Title. What have you done for me lately, brother? Despite getting almost nothing from last year's pitching heroes, Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke, the Sox are still in first place. Give the devil his due. On the other hand, the Patriots have Mr. 'We Haven't Done Anything Yet, Last Year Has Nothing to Do with This Year' in Bill Belichick. Belichick has given his soul and his family life to become the Coach of the Century (hey, it's 2005...). Edge: Patriots

You can't talk about leadership without talking about the players on the field. Salary issues aside, 'Money Can't Play'. The Patriots have a raft of leaders, proven performers on the field, from Tom Brady, to Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, and more. The Sox leadership comes from David (MVP) Ortiz, Jason Varitek, and others who lead more intangibly like Trot Nixon, Bill Mueller, and Gabe Kapler. Edge: Patriots

From an offensive perspective, the Sox have been leading the major leagues in run production for three years. Baseball is about scoring runs and preventing runs. As much as the traditionalists want to ridicule the Bill Jamesian approach, it's worked. The Patriots seem content to do enough offensively to win, although nobody can forget the final minutes against the Rams or the second half against the Panthers. Edge: Sox.

Defensively, the Patriots are the bend but don't break guys combining Stretch Armstrong with the Predator. They'll give you something, but have a mean streak that produces winning streaks. The Sox are the Jekyll and Hyde staff, with talented, inconsistent pitching. Tim Wakefield's knuckleball embraces that mercurial reality, not so much producing streaks but streakiness. Edge: Patriots

Finally, we have to look at intangibles. Gillette Stadium versus Fenway Park, Adam Vinatieri versus Adam Stern, Foxboro versus The Hub, Paul Tagliabue versus Bud Selig, the Patriot Cheerleaders versus Wally the Green Monster, The Snow Bowl versus Chris Snow, and Carlinesque 'Paydirt' versus 'Run Home'. Edge: Patriots.

But you knew that, and we have Pennant Fever anyway.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


I don't have a lot to add to the MVP discussions but that never stopped me before. Winning counts more than whining, and I don't know of anything that prohibits any position player or pitcher from winning the award. Obviously, a designated hitter doesn't get additional points for his defensive contribution, but should he be penalized for something he doesn't do?

I don't have a problem with supremely dominant pitchers winning the award either, starter or reliever, if they 'deserve' it.

I'm on board with the concept of the Player of the Year Award, which can go to the best player, even if his team underachieves. A-Rod would be the odds-on favorite every year, and his teams have coincidentally underachieved since his Seattle days.

It's hard to be the league Most Valuable Player on a losing team, because they could have finished last without you. Isn't value ultimately about winning, not about statistics alone?

I'm a believer in statistics, because I believe that the most productive players and the best teams will usually have the best stats. Yes, I frequently raise the 'Mark Belanger Exception', although there aren't a lot of similar players in his category who were fabulous defensive players and leaders, didn't hit much, and enjoyed a lot of team success.

All of which brings us to the case of David Ortiz and his reported 18 game winning RBI. Whether it's the walkoff variety off electric lefty B.J. Ryan, or the more mundane game winner courtesy of Josh Towers last night, 'Big Papi' has dominated opposition pitching during crunch time this season. If he doesn't win the award, you have to ask the same question of the 8 writers who didn't write in Willie Mays on his first ballot to the Hall of Fame, "what did he have to do to make it?"

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Giambi Grows a Gopher Ball

The Sox lost despite a heroic effort (sports-wise) by Tim Wakefield. My, my hasn't Jason Giambi bulked up recently, must be some good old fashioned noshing. "Life without chemicals would be impossible."

The Sox have put together a few decent starts, less the Wells effort Friday, and generally, the staff doesn't look so desperate.

What last year's championship run did was destroy the panic and sense of inevitability of defeat amongst the fans. The Sox lose, we are much more likely to say "get 'em tomorrow."

Randy Johnson looked pretty good for a guy too old to be playing professional sports, although there was a lot of grousing on sports radio about the lineup. Feeling stupid? Listen to a few minutes of sports radio and you'll definitely emerge as though you're Einstein having slept at a Holiday Inn.

This week's atrocity was Mike Adams, generally likeable, wondering how people could be so stupid as to remain in their apartments with a hurricane coming. Unfortunately, not everyone had a car, gas, or money in their pocket to buy a ride out of the Big Easy. And if they did, they may not have had anyplace to go. Enough for that soapbox.

So, with three weeks to go, the Sox have to get on a little momentum...which as we know, 'lasts as long as tomorrow's starting pitcher.'

Go Ravens!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Yankee Duel Dandy

Stop the madness. Curt Schilling did it today, looking like the ace of this year's staff, if not like the Schilling of old, shutting down the Yankees over eight innings allowing just two runs.

The rotation is shaping up to be Schilling, Clement, Wells, Wakefield, and Arroyo, with likely Arroyo slated for bullpen duty should the Sox reach the post-season.

The bullpen has generally looked more consistent, although visions of sugar plums or Craig Hansen in our heads are just that, hallucinations. Keith Foulke has been getting people out, rotten grapefruit or not, and Timlin, Papelbon, Myers, and possibly Harville look serviceable.

The defense is what it is. Manny being Manny in left (for better or worse days), Johnny Damon looking tired in center at times, and Trot Nixon playing hard in right. The defense tends to look better with Cora and Olerud in there, and Renteria and Mueller have generally been solid lately.

Is this a 'Championship Team'? Compared with some of the better teams in the past, probably not. Compared with the current level of mediocrity and parity, the team can inspire our dreams if not our confidence. What they do enjoy is the fortitude to reach down and get more when it counts. That does matter.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Home Stretch

The Sox 'celebrate' a Labor Day holiday with a makeup against the AL's number one seed, the Chicago White Sox. Chicago has some pretty decent starting pitching with Buehrle, Garland, and Garcia with a balanced offense. The principal weakness the White Sox have (if it counts) is that they haven't played an games under pressure for months.

Sure, one could always have a 1964 Phillies collapse for the White Sox(,1,3746.story?coll=cs-home-headlines) but that seems less likely than coasting into the ALDS.

The Sox meanwhile have enjoyed a couple of good days from their starters, which gives Mike Timlin some needed rest and more time for the rest of the bullpen to lick their collective wounds.

Over at the Usenet Sox board, fans are bemoaning the A's inability to handle the Yankees, but the Sox compete against both for playoff position so either way a contender gets a loss.

The Sox clearly control their own destiny, and have the month to get the rotation in order and the bullpen squared away. If they can do neither, then there's little to be gained (aside from playoff dinero) from the post-season.

Meanwhile, the infield has shown increased potency lately, thanks to better hitting from Olerud and Millar, and Renteria has been a .300 hitter since his abysmal start.

Away from the game itself, while over 250,000 Americans are displaced from their homes, the Sox are selling Red Sox Nation cards and Fenway turf maintained in Rhode Island since the post-season. Let's hope that a substantial portion of this booty goes to some relief efforts of the most important kind. We kid about the 'suffering' of Red Sox Nation relieved by the 2005 World Series, but our brothers and sisters are truly enduring indelible suffering that our thoughts and contributions can ease.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Tennyson Knows Best

"That which we are, we are, and if we are to be any better, now is the time to begin." Alfred Lord Tennyson

As we cruise into September, we face the reality of a team without good pitching or defense (mediocre), but with astonishing offensive potency. Or, as they say, it is better to be important than impotent.

Signing Jason Varitek for all that dinero looks to be a good investment, at least in year one of the deal. Although Damon has been outstanding, Varitek is the guy they would miss the most.

Edgar Renteria got off to a slow start, both offensively and defensively, but he continues to advance, with his batting average at .288 (as I type), and 84 runs scored on the year.

Terry Francona seems to take a lot of abuse for a manager who's enjoyed an awful lot of success.

The Sox keep manufacturing runs via hitting behind the runner (Damon tonight, Cora last night), taking the extra base (Kapler, Renteria tonight), and sacrifice flies...

Maybe Manny wouldn't get so many errors if he weren't always trying for the quick release.

Does anybody in addition to me worry about Clement having a forme fruste of 'Steve Blass Disease'?

Sox fans always said that Nomar was better than Tejada. Tejada is two years younger, a better hitter (outside of the Oakland Mausoleum), better defensively, and plays with youthful joy almost every day. He is a pleasure to walk. Now let's get him out. (Done)

Did anyone else notice that Jonathan (don't call me Jon) Papelbon fixed a mechanical/deception problem with his delivery? That's what the staff is for, and I'm glad they worked on it...

Jon Lester worked another six inning, two-hits worth of shutout ball last night for Portland. I don't think that he's on the 40-man roster, though, so he's probably not Boston bound.

Last time I checked Randy Johnson (29) led the AL in most homeruns allowed. Now he's tied with Tim Wakefield and Brad Radke.

Bartolo Colon leads the AL in wins with 17, and probably in pounds, too (280?). Tim Wakefield leads the Sox in wins with 14.Has a knuckleballer ever led the Sox in wins?

Wilbur Wood didn't win a game in four years with the Red Sox. Unbelieveable. He won 20 games four times with the White Sox and even had a twenty game winning AND losing season (1973). He had 22 complete games in 1974 and finished seventh in the league! In 1972 he threw 376 2/3 innings, the equivalent of 42 complete games.

So, Smokey Joe Wood leads the Sox in most wins in a season (34) and Wilbur must have pitched the most years (4) and games (36) without a win (maybe not the games). You gotta love baseball and Tennyson.