Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mickey Mouse Operation

Our discombobulated baseball commissioner has hired the chairman of Walt Disney to investigate the greatest cheat in baseball history, and to pull back the covers on what Fay Vincent calls the biggest baseball scandal since the 1919 tanking Black Sox. Only in America.

George Mitchell - former senator from the great state of Maine, and Senate Majority Leader - is officially on board as the lead investigator, a move prompted in part by the explosive SI cover story a couple weeks back that broke new ground on Bonds' steroid abuse. Mitchell, a part-owner of the Red Sox believe it or not, is a human Swiss army knife when it comes to dealing with crisis. This guy could negotiate peace with bin Laden.

Meanwhile, Barry's world is slowly but surely unraveling and it's going to get ugly. My only hope is that he's forced to retire from the game, either in 'cuffs or on crutches, before he has a chance to break the record. That would be sweet.

By the way, how long until Reverend Jesse gets involved in this? (I'm just sayin'...)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Goodbye Florida, Hello Philly

Believe it or not, the Sox play their last game in the Sunshine State on Thursday, and then it's on to the City of Brotherly Love for two warm-ups before the real games start on Monday afternoon in the Lone Star State. (I'll stop now...)

Opening Day starting lineup is looking like 1) Crisp-CF; 2) Loretta-2B; 3) Ortiz-DH; 4) Manny-LF; 5) Varitek-C; 6) Nixon-RF; 7) Lowell-3B; 8) Youkilis-1B; 9) Gonzalez-SS; SP) Schilling. Pretty solid. Biggest concern heading into the season is something thought to be a strength about a month ago: the 'pen, specifically middle to late relief. Lots of guys doing their Blaine Neal imitations.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

One for the Little Guys

Another reason why the NCAA Tournament is pure genius - George Mason, an 11-seed, plays UConn today for the chance to advance to the Final Four. Again, George Mason - not the guy who played the head of CTU in the TV show '24' - George Mason University, proudly known as the Patriots, can go to the Final Four with one more victory. Today's a pretty damn cool day if you happen to be a student or alum of George Mason U.

Friday, March 24, 2006


I have to admit, I haven't always been a faithful college hoops fan, but I'm entranced by this year's tournament, probably due to the fact that BC has such a good, fun-to-watch team. Last night's Sweet 16 action brought two of my least favorite players to tears, so it was a good night all around. Duke got beat by an impressive LSU team, and JJ Redick - who went 3-18 from the floor - came out of the game and immediately turned on the faucets. Waaaah. And then the guy JJ shared the cover of SI with just a few weeks back - the man with the most hideous moustache ever - was transformed into a writhing, crying, pathetic piece of flesh rolling around at midcourt after his way overrated team choked and blew a late lead to UCLA. What a drama queen. Not that I had much in the first place, but I lost major respect for Adam Morrison last night. What a pathetic display - and the best part is, he was crying and gesturing while there was still a decent chunk of time left on the clock. Downright lame, I tell ya. (Looking forward to the big BC-Villanova matchup tonight. One of my co-workers is an ardent BC supporter - comes into my office yesterday and tells me he's gotta leave today around 4:30 to pick up his uncle at the airport. Come on, man - you can't kid a kidder.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shades of John Damon

Well, it took a few hours for the so-called mainstream media to corroborate WEEI's breaking news on Tuesday that Pats legend Adam Vinatieri had signed a deal with the Indianapolis Colts. But eventually the unthinkable was true - the money kicker left for the money, and you certainly can't blame him for that. Good for him. But the Colts, Adam? With that goofball quarterback? This wasn't like Johnny gleefully joining the enemy, but it still stung. It turns out that Adam was very into the idea of kicking more often in a dome, which Indy had. And his price tag was $11 million ($7.5 million over 3 years/$3.5 million bonus), which Indy had. One similarity to the Damon departure is that the team obviously had set a (devalued) price valuation on the player, and were unwilling to budge from those numbers. In the case of Damon, the Sox offered $40 million over 4 years, and then never got involved again. As fans, we were wondering what the hell Ben and Jed were doing - but in hindsight, the Sox had set an internal value and there was very little wiggle room. They just didn't say this through the press, so the fans were kept in the dark. Same thing with Vinatieri, though I also think there was some displeasure on Adam's part toward Belichick. The 'In Bill We Trust' motto feels a little less stable lately. (AP photos)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sox vs. Yankees

Caught a few innings of the Sox-Yankees game tonight in Tampa - pretty interesting - most of the regulars played for the first four or five innings. Papelbon worked hard but looked good. Riske looked like this year's version of Blaine Neal. Wily Mo absolutely starched a few balls, including a low liner over the left-field wall. They may be in trouble with catching depth. For the bad guys, Mariano Rivera looked unhittable, with that little bastard cutter working its magic. And there was even a 'beanball' war, if you want to call it that, featuring of course that punk from Worcester, Tanyon Sturtze. Former Sox pitcher Mike Myers, now a stinkin' Yank, started it by innocently plunking J.T. Snow. Then Riske hit Jeter with what was clearly a breaking ball gone awry, and then Tanyon the Caveman came out seeking revenge, and decided to drill Mike Lowell in the hip. The guy's just a fool - and he's always in the middle of things. He was the one who got double-teamed by Gabe Kapler and Trot Nixon during the infamous Pedro-Zimmer game and ended up with blood all over his face. If memory serves correctly, he's also the guy Trot intentionally threw his bat at after striking out during one of those great dust-ups with the Devil Rays, or maybe it was Ryan Rupe. I get below-average Devil Rays starting pitchers mixed up all the time. (Remember those classic Sox vs. D-Rays games? Roberto Hernandez trying to hit Dauber... Pedro and Gerald Williams...)

I am clearly rambling, and well past my bedtime. Good night, and good luck.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Memories are Flying Out of Town

We've seen the gradual gutting of the 2004 idiots who won it all, and we're starting to see some of the core players from the Patriots' championship run pick up stakes and move elsewhere. First, Willie McGinest signed with the Browns and Romeo Crennel last week, and now word comes out that Adam Vinatieri - arguably the greatest clutch kicker in NFL history - has just signed a contract with the (gasp) Indianapolis Colts. Holy sheeeeeeee... the Colts?!? That's a Damon-esque move. No dollars mentioned. This hurts inside. Source comes through 'EEI host Michael Holley; no media outlets are reporting the story. Hmmmm...

Blind Loyalty

Only in Boston can the trade of a fifth/sixth starter, an inconsistent one at that, make the news cycle go for a full 24 hours or more. As Sox fans, we do sometimes care and know too much for our own good. Hell, we take pride in knowing the names of the team doctors. It's an environment that Bronson Arroyo fell madly in love with, and one that David Wells can't wait to shake.

Today's the day Bronson says his goodbyes to his pals in Fort Myers, and there is a tinge of sadness. Arroyo was inconsistent, but still was an innings-eater capable of winning mid-teen games. And seemingly a valuable chit to have in the bullpen. His biggest mistake was blind faith. He signed the discount deal in January, bought a place in Boston, and was excited to be a Red Sox for the next three years. Things changed, though. Wells announced his willingness to remain in Boston. Matt Clement has had a solid spring and is harder to trade with his bulky contract. So in a way, we shouldn't be surprised - we knew it was only a matter of time until a pitcher was traded, and all signs pointed to Bronson, who will of course be fondly remembered as the guy who A-Rod foolishly bitch-slapped on his way to first base in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS.

As for Wily Mo Pena, from reading the papers this morning we've either got the next coming of Willie Mays or the Dominican version of Dave Kingman with no glove. I still don't see him being an everday OF, but he's good insurance for Trot in two ways: Trot's bound to get hurt at some point, and Wily Mo can step in - and this is a contract year for Nixon, meaning they could be short on OF's if he decides to walk. Either way, I'm still on board with the trade, and the people who are saying that Bronson was misled by the Sox are wrong. Arroyo and his agent have both been on the radio in the last 12 hours, and despite the urgings of some talk-show hosts to ignite a controversy - both have absolved the Sox of any moral wrongdoing.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Busy Day

The Red Sox today cashed in on some of their pitching depth by trading Bronson Arroyo to the Reds for young OF Wily Mo Pena, distant cousin of the great Wil E. Coyote. Been listening to all the back and forth on this throughout the day, and my first instinct when I heard about the deal still holds -- I like it better than I dislike it, even though the Reds probably gain in the near-term. This trade highlights the gap between the 'have' and 'have not' teams. For the Reds, Arroyo - who was pitching himself out of the Red Sox rotation this spring - jumps over to the Reds and becomes their second-best starter. Insta-improvement. For the Red Sox, Wily Mo is a tantalizing project worth undertaking, and a welcome addition to the cool (Coco) name club. He may contribute this year by spelling Trot, facing tough lefties, and hitting the occasional home run -- but he is very much a work in progress, as his league-high strikeouts per at-bat ratio attests. Still, the upside is there. He's a big, athletic guy - 6'4", 240 lbs. - and he just finished playing for the Dominican WBC team. As Peter Gammons noted, he'll also be under Papi's wing...

(WEEI has Bronson on the radio right now -- let's listen in live...)

Host: Bronson, you wanted to stay. How disappointed are you?

BA: As disappointed as I've ever been in my life. I loved Boston - the fans, the city, the excitement every night. Wherever I might be traded, it wouldn't be the same as Boston. I knew we had deep pitching, six-deep, and I told them that I'd be willing to pitch out of the bullpen. How many guys that led their team in quality starts volunteer to do that? (Like how he just throws that casually in there - no doubt from recent agent research)

Host: Do you feel misled? (Bronson, against his agent's advice, signed a deal before spring training for below market-value due to his desire to stay a Red Sox)

BA: No, not really. There was never a guarantee involved. I knew that. They just move us around like chess pieces. It's all a big business. Me and Theo were friendly - he called me early to say I'd been traded before I found out from the media...

Host: You have an opportunity to be at the top of the Reds' rotation. Is that the bright side here for you, Bronson?

BA: There's a few bright spots. Number one (number one??) I don't have to move too far -- the Reds' camp is in Sarasota, which is close. And I also go in hoping I'm going to get 30-35 starts. Knowing my role will be a plus. I'm sure I'll feel better when I get there, but right now it's still tough.

Host: What are the best things that come to mind when you think about your time in Boston?

BA: Everything from the day I got there -- it was the best time, the best place I've ever played in - the city, the excitement, the passion of the fans - just to be in that uniform with so many old-timers coming around, my teammates - Pedro, Lowe, Leskanic, Millar -it was special. I'm sad to leave, but the game has become musical chairs.

Host: Do you regret signing the deal?

BA: No. I'd do it again. I was going to be traded either way -- they've got a surplus in pitching - it's easier to trade me than Matt Clement. My agent thought I should test the market, but I didn't want to - I was happy to play here; I took a discount to play here. I told Jed and Ben I would not have signed this deal in any other market.

Cool, a little live radio cut-in. Bronson definitely sounded like he was about to jump off a bridge. He's a good dude, but he is what he is performance-wise. We've seen his best, I think. He also forgot one other plus - he's that much closer to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Anyway, back to the trade. I still like it, provided that Sox management maybe knows a little something about their pitching staff that we don't. Like Wells isn't going anywhere, and maybe - just maybe - Roger Clemens is a slight possibility. Of the two, it's obviously more likely that Wells sticks around, wins his 15 and keeps calling his manager an idiot. But lately, talk has heated up around the Rocket.

Mere hours after Clemens and Team USA were eliminated by Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, Roger's four suitors - the Astros, Rangers, Yankees and Red Sox - renewed their respective sales pitches to Roger, and the Globe reported that Theo had met with one of the Hendricks' brothers last week in Fort Myers. The prevailing wisdom has it that Roger will come back and play in May or June, preferably for the team that has the best chance to win it all. That would seem to rule out at least the Rangers, though Tom Hicks has been known to throw gobs of silly dough around. Boston may be a pipedream, but one person friendly with Roger says that "he truly hasn't made up his mind yet, and that Boston is definitely high on the list." Take it for what it's worth - the source is a lawyer friend of mine who stays in touch with Roger and his family - but I do believe Boston has a good shot. For one, Roger is driven by baseball history and numbers, and you can make damn sure that the Red Sox video pointed out that he's tied for all-time team wins (192) with... Cy Young. How fitting. The source also said wife Debbie will have a huge say, and that she loved living in Framingham.

Clemens, Schilling, Beckett, Wakefield, Wells, Clement, Papelbon, Lester... yes, please. (Hey, a guy can dream)

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patty's Day

Ah, time to break out the kelly green jerseys and green beer - a perfect excuse to begin drinking before noontime. Where's Troy O'Leary when you need him? Not a lot of news coming out of the Fort this week, but a couple of things worth mentioning:

- Terry Francona finally got a well-deserved contract extension. I'm not his biggest fan (will we every truly love a Sox manager? Nope.) but I do respect his ability to relate with his players, which I think is a huge aspect to managing in today's game.

- Team USA bowed out of the inaugural World Baseball Classic with its 2-1 loss to Mexico. Once again, Roger Clemens suffered from a lack of offensive support. I'm just glad that Varitek can get back to camp and work with the pitchers. Timlin, too.

- David "The Jerk" Wells is spouting off again, saying he'll be pissed if Tito leaves him out of the rotation at the start of the year. Unbelievable. Guy wants to be traded, decides to stay, and now wants to dictate the terms. He embodies the worst characteristics of today's egocentric ballplayer. Dale Arnold asked Tito an interesting question this morning: Does Wells care about the success of this team? Of course, Tito can't answer that one diplomatically so I will: Abso-lutely not. Not even close. The reason Boomer wants to be in the rotation at the start of the year has nothing to do with the health of his knee -- it's all about the incentive comp he receives for games started. I do have to give him some props, though - he knows how to completely manipulate the hungry-for-morsels Boston media.

- Josh Beckett displayed an ornery edge in dealing with the media yesterday. After an impressive outing, Beckett entered the press room and asked the huge throng, 'Is this really necessary?' Will be interesting to watch how this relationship evolves throughout the year. Hard-headed Texans typically haven't fared well in Boston, but I say it's time to put the media on the losing end of that equation - and Beckett, depending on his performance, may be just the guy to make that happen.

- Corner infield alert! The Red Sox have never quite gotten their corner infield situation right (at least since Mo's heyday), and there's plenty of reason to fret this year. You need to have some power in those spots, and I'm afraid it's missing in the form of the Lowell, Snow, Youkilis trio.

Happy St. Pat's Day. More later today...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

High and Tight

Much has been made in the last couple of days about Curt Schilling's renewed commitment to pitching inside. Schill believes that was an element sorely missing from his repertoire last year. How's the experiment going? So far, the guinea pigs/opposing batters are taking it on the chin - literally. Schilling has beaned guys in the head in each of his last two outings. Somewhere, a diva named Pedro is smiling.

Odds & Ends

*Barrygate is not going away, nor should it. Bud Selig could win some fans by actually doing something about this mess. Fay Vincent suggested that MLB take the Pete Rose route, and hire a private investigator to delve into the details. Something needs to be done. With seven homers, Bonds will pass Babe Ruth on the HR list this year, and some are speculating that he'll call it quits before he passes Hank Aaron (755). If enough pressure is exerted on him, maybe that will happen. I still say we need to put out an APB for Tonya Harding, and if we can't get her I guess Congressional action is okay. One last thing on Bonds: it's amazing to read the San Francisco papers and hear some of the comments from the Bonds apologists. They're in complete denial. Wonder how it would feel if it was one of our own.

* This past week showed why the NFL is head and shoulders above the other pro leagues.

* Q: What do Grateful Dead keyboardists have in common with Tim Wakefield's catchers?

A: They're dropping like flies. First, Mirabelli is shipped out to San Diego. Kelly Shoppach is sent to Cleveland in the Coco Crisp deal. John Flaherty retires. And now it's up to Josh Bard to chase the butterflies around. Come to think of it, Bard might be the only catcher in camp with the captain currently playing for Team USA.

* I still say the Sox are a solid No. 5 hitter away from being a special team. Love Crisp, Loretta, Ortiz, Manny at 1 through 4, but not sold on Lowell, Varitek, or Trot hitting fifth. This is where Aubrey Huff would have been a sweet fit. Maybe one of the three emerges - Lowell has plenty of incentive to prove last year wasn't a fluke and Trot's in a contract year and looks slimmed down.

* Also will be interesting to see how the drastically improved defensive infield translates to W's. Late in games, you're going to see Snow at 1B, with Loretta, Gonzalez and Lowell. Not too shabby.

* This year's Fenway Park concert is going to feature the Dave Matthews Band with Sheryl Crow. I'd still rather see Pearl Jam, with Theo playing rhythm guitar.

* When the Sox let Damon go, I was pissed. Say what you want about his arm, his IQ, his looks, whatever, he was and is a solid, solid player. I actually e-mailed the team to express my angst - at that time, we had no SS and no CF -- and they e-mailed back saying that management was working on some things, and that we'd all be pleasantly surprised with the team that takes the field in April. A month later, the Crisp deal was finalized. They must have been working on that one for quite a while.

* Don Orsillo keeps winning announcer of the year awards, but I can't figure out why. He's got the pipes and all, but listen closely when he does a game. He tells you absolutely nothing you don't already know, and his blandness is offset by Remy's constantly good insights. Orsillo's all show; Remy's all substance.

* David Wells is a jerk, but his staying could be the difference in the AL East this year. Schilling, Beckett, Wakefield, Wells, Papelbon, Clement, Arroyo vs. Randy, Mussina, Pavano, Chacon, Wright, Small, and Wang. Just wanted to put 'small' and 'wang' next to each other. Edge: Sox.

* There's actually a movie out based on Game 6 in 1986? Ouch. Wondering if it's playing in theaters in Idaho?

* Why can't it be 30 degrees and raining today? Too much good college hoops action going on...

*We're all about diversification and inclusion, so why not a basketball note? Every time I start to get a little bit interested in the Celtics, they go on a losing streak. I haven't been following them that closely, but it seems like they've had a nice run over the past few weeks, and then I look in the paper and see that they're still 10 games below .500. So they really, really sucked early on. Still, maybe Danny Ainge finally has the right mix of superstars, serviceable veterans, and young talent. Paul Pierce needs to be signed to a long-term deal immediately and Ryan Gomes looks like the real deal. This team could be something in two years, but it seems like we've been saying that for a long time.

* 23 days till opening day... not that we're counting or anything.

Friday, March 10, 2006

And a Football Game Broke Out

As the late, great Ned Martin would say, 'Mercy.' The US Traveling All-Stars pasted South Africa today, 17-0, to advance to the second round of the Selig Classic. Hitting star was Junior Griffey, who hit two homers and drove in seven. Rocket Roger pitched 4-plus, benefiting from a very comfy early lead. Hard to believe this game wasn't on live TV somewhere -- unless I'm mistaken, the only way to see it is on tape delay at 3 a.m. on ESPN2. For all the hullabaloo about this possibly being Roger's last game (don't believe it for a second), one would think this game would have warranted live coverage. US now plays the Japan Ichiros in the first game of the second round.

Idle note: When Varitek hit his grand slam the other day, I was thinking to myself, 'what a thrill for him' - it would be cool if a good fan caught the ball and got it back to 'Tek. And sure enough, the fan who caught it returned the ball to Varitek in exchange for an autographed ball and bat. Good thing it wasn't the lunatic who caught Doug Flutie's dropkick last January. You remember - the guy who had his lawyer send a letter to Foxborough demanding $100,000 in cash, eight season tickets for 25 years, a Tom Brady jersey autographed by the whole team, the deed to the Krafts' estate in Brookline, and ownership of 10 Dunkin' Donuts shops in locations of his choosing. The Pats wisely told the guy to screw, and evidently he's found a buyer on eBay named Mr. Stogy. What a world.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Slow news day today. Everyone's still assessing the fallout from Barrygate, the WBC is plodding along, Roger Clemens says he'll probably retire after the Classic - which in Rogerspeak, means he'll be back, David Wells is waiting to be fined for lobbing several verbal hand grenades in Bud Selig's general direction, the incestual Red Sox-Dodger matchup today was just simply too weird to see in pictures, and Bronson Arroyo got knocked around again. As a tribute to Dodgers manager Grady Little, Sox skipper Terry Francona let Bronson stay in several batters too long. "That was awfully nice of Tito," Grady drawled after the game. "I would have waited a little longer, but that was still a classy gesture."
Arroyo and Clement are battling it out for an end-of-the-rotation spot, and Clement has the early edge. He told the Globe that he's throwing his slider a little differently than last year, and getting that sick late movement that he showed flashes of in the first half of 2005. Both guys have been mentioned in numerous trade rumors, so it will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

25 days till Opening Day. Can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Canada, The Can, and Charlize

The mighty Americans lost to Team Canada earlier tonight, and we're not talking about pond hockey, dammit - we're talking about our national pastime. Not only did the U.S. lose, it was downright embarrassing for a while as Marlins lefty Dontrelle Willis got shellacked right out of the box. At one point, Canada led 8-zip. Even more shocking was the fact that Red Sox benchwarmer Adam Stern was the offensive and defensive star for Canada, going 3 for 3 with a single, triple and, gulp, an inside-the park homer, eh. The Americans rallied and made a game of it, thanks to Sox captain Jason Varitek's grand salami to straightaway center - right-handed, by the way. But then Sternie (his hockey nickname) robbed Chase Utley of a potential game-tying homer in the 8th inning and that was it. Utley even gave it the Manny salute, flipping his bat and raising both arms in a premature celebration. The winning pitcher was someone named Adam Loewen.

I've certainly got nothing against Canada, I just think we should at least beat 'em in friggin' baseball. One of my all-time favorite baseball trips was in 1990 when I made the trek to Montreal with a bunch of college buddies to see former Sox wingnut Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd pitch for the Expos. (Editors note: We didn't drive all the way from Boston to Montreal just to see the Can; we were already at a pal's place on Lake Champlain when someone noticed in the paper that Boyd was pitching that night -- alongside another article that said the Sox had traded a kid named Jeff Bagwell to the Astros for Larry Andersen). Anyway, we not only got to see the Can pitch, we also saw him hit (he grounded out twice). We had great fun shouting obscenities at Dodgers CF Kirk Gibson. And, even though Olympic Stadium was an absolute dump, its one redeeming quality was that it sold large 6.5% Molsons in the bleachers for 'un but', or one dollar. Yee-hah.

But I digress - back to the WBC. You can read all about Canada's startling win here. Roger Clemens will be on the hill next for the U.S., which now faces a must-win situation against South Africa, birthland of the lovely Charlize Theron.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dominican Dandies

They're both playing baseball in the state of Florida, but David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are in decidedly different situations. Big Papi is playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, which beat up on Venezuela today behind two big circuit clouts from the big feller. Manny, trying to catch up to the rest of his teammates, went 2-for-2 today with three RBIs against the Cowboy Up Baltimore Orioles. Talk about not missing a beat. Manny's first hit of the spring, in his first official at-bat, was a scorching line drive that left many of his admiring teammates laughing. Or maybe they were admiring his George Clintonesque locks. And Papi comes up big with two smashes. Warms the heart, I tell ya.

Wait... Barry Used Steroids??

The news of the day concerns this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, which features an excerpt from a damning book on Barry Bonds' steroid use. Barry's on the cover with a headline proclaiming "The Truth." The evidence outlined within is supposedly watertight.

Not a surprise, of course - just look at the pictures. The guy's head changed, and he went from being a stick figure to the Michelin Man. What really makes my stomach turn is the impact he could still have on baseball's cherished records. Something has to be done, somehow, some way, to prevent this greedy bastard from surpassing George Herman and the classy, dignified Hank Aaron. Someone take a bat to his knee (where's Tonya Harding when you need her?) and please, do it quickly.

World Baseball Circus?

Bud Selig's brainchild really gets going today, and thus far the main story line has been one of confusion and controversy. Fans in different regions think players should participate out of pride, and many are. Chipper Jones is genuinely excited to play for the USA, and Big Papi may as well be draped in the Dominican flag. Other players, though, have either viewed the whole thing as a nuisance - and opted to stay with their clubs in spring training - or they've shown their true, petty ways, declining to take part because they can't play their natural position. Baltimore's Melvin Mora (Venezuela) is an example of the latter. As Peter Gammons wrote in his ESPN insider column yesterday, "Mora took so much battering from the Venezuelan media (tough as Boston's?) for pulling out of the World Baseball Classic that Magglio Ordonez was afraid to play." (Why am I getting visions of Colombian soccer players being murdered for allowing a soft goal in the World Cup? Keep your eyes open when you sleep, Magglio.) Even players with injuries are being called out. A Dominican reporter, referring to Pedro Martinez, asked: "How could someone from Managuayabo forget his country because of a toe?" Say what you want about Petey, but from all accounts he certainly hasn't forgotten about his country. Let's hope the silliness gives way to some decent baseball, starting this afternoon.

Regarding Team USA, I do have one question. Are Varitek and A-Fraud lockering up next to each other?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jack Bauer Power (2) Hour

Couple of quick notes before I pop the tape in and watch what's being called a spectacular 2-hour episode of "24" - aka the best show on TV. Best way to watch the show is to tape it and skip through the commercials - especially when it's a two-hour extravaganza.

* Kirby Puckett died today in Arizona after suffering a stroke yesterday. Say what you want about the guy - he certainly wasn't perfect - but he was fun to watch. Nobody should die at the age of 45.

* Here's the US lineup for its first WBC game against Mexico tomorrow night:

LF John Damon
SS Derek Jeter
CF Ken Griffey
3B A-Fraud
DH Mark Teixeira
1B Derrek Lee
C Brian Schneider
RF Randy Winn
2B Chase Utley
P Jake Peavy

- Griffey batting in the three-hole? Where's 'Tek? And Chipper Jones? I'm already second-guessing you, Buck Martinez...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

"Breaking" News

Sad state of affairs when a guy who's under contract and has demanded to be traded, suddenly announces that he's staying and it's breaking news. David Wells has officially told Theo Epstein that he'll stay, but he'd like a higher base salary. I'm going to try this tactic with my boss tomorrow morning. Wish me luck.


Apparently, some Yankees' fans in Tampa are so up in arms about the fact that they've packed their gold chains, tight shorts, and v-neck undershirts and headed down for spring training - only to not see Jeets, A-Fraud, John Damon and Bernie Williams, who are playing in the WBC - that they've let the Boss know about it. The Yanks, in turn, responded by posting a sign that reads:

"Thank you for expressing your concerns. We are sorry that certain players will not be present for portions of Spring Training. These players have elected to participate in the World Baseball Classic. The World Baseball Classic is an event sanctioned by The Commissioner of Major League Baseball and The Major League Baseball Players Association. The New York Yankess did not vote to support this event. Any comments you have regarding the World Baseball Classic should be directed to The Commissioner of Major League Baseball or The Major League Baseball Players Assoc."

The Yanks - no World Championships in the '00's, and they can't spell. And where's their patriotism?


Baseball fans' thoughts and prayers are with Kirby Puckett, who suffered a major stroke this morning.

An Educational Sunday Morning

Count me among those who feel the Globe's sports coverage has slipped in recent years. It's certainly nothing like it was in the heyday of the mid-to-late 1970's, when for a measly quarter, you could read the best offerings of Peter Gammons, Bob Ryan, Will McDonough, Ray Fitzgerald, and Leigh Montville. The Globe's bench writers back then were people who would go on to have successful writing careers with Sports Illustrated, like Ian Thomsen. Back then, you learned something in the paper every day - whether from Gammons' baseball notebook, or Will the Shill's football column. Nowadays, the writers generally seem lazy, and unwilling to put in the time and energy to track down good, interesting stories. Then again, every now and then, a squirrel finds an acorn.

Today's Globe has a few interesting nuggets:

- Johnny Traitor actually tried to sell his Chestnut Hill home to Manny Ramirez for $5.1 million, feeling that it would get Manny out into the solitude of the Boston suburbs. Manny, sensing he was going to be traded, didn't bite. Still - imagine Manny and the missus at the closing with the Damons? (Actually, rich people don't do their own closings, do they - they send surrogates.)

- We all know about the Yanks' professionalism (lotta good it's done this decade) and George's disdain for facial hair. Now we read that Joe Torre has taken to calling Johnny "John Damon." The paper quotes Torre as saying, "What I told John is, you don't have to prove yourself to anybody, because you've already established who you are (insert wise-ass joke here)." John? This is pushing the borders of lunacy. Torre's telling the guy not to change, and here he is changing the name he's gone by since he started playing baseball. Check out this great article from Chris Snow.

- From Shank Shaughnessy's column -- we read that Jon Papelbon's college coach at Mississippi State disregarded the youngster's pleas to pitch and instead used him at first base. "The coaches are still catching hell for that one," Pap says.

- Shaughnessy also delves into a new Mets book, and points out a passage that reveals that Pedro is not looking forward to when the Mets have to come to Fenway this summer during interleague play. If any ex-ballplayer is going to receive a thunderous standing O, it's Pedro. We may not like the terms he left on, but we recognize greatness when it's in our presence. Nobody on this planet did what this guy did for a four-year stretch.

- Again from Shaughnessy -- best T-shirt sighting in Fort Myers, re: John Damon -- "Looks like Jesus, acts like Judas, throws like Mary." Out-standing.

- Newcomer Josh Beckett's is the hardest autograph to get

- We also read that new Sox SS Alex Gonzalez (already being touted as the greatest defensive SS in Red Sox history) backed out of playing for the Venezuelan team in the World Baseball Classic because Luis Sojo wanted to carry another pitcher. Sojo says playing time for Gonzo would have been tough with Omar Vizquel and Carlos Guillen also in the mix at SS. All sides agree this is probably for the best -- Gonzo gets to play more with his new teammates this spring.

- Last note -- not a big fan of the World Baseball Classic -- I'd like to see baseball back in the Olympics, maybe every four years, with pros playing for their countries. But the matchups are intriguing, assuming this isn't a glorified All-Star game. The teams everyone feels are the best bets: Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Japan, and the US. I'm liking Venezuela versus the US for all the marbles. Starts to get interesting Tuesday night, with the Dominican playing Venezuela, and the US playing a Nomar-less Mexican squad.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Those Cutting Edge Yankees

Anyone else surprised the revenue-minded Sox haven't thought of this?

Welcome Back Boys

Always nice to see these two guys every March. The Sox are playing the Pirates today in Grapefruit League action, and it's the first game that's been carried on TV, thanks to the fine folks at NESN. Bronson Arroyo - subject of mucho trade rumors (latest has him being sent to Washington in a package deal for Alfonso Soriano) had a rocking-chair 1-2-3 first inning. Several regulars in the lineup who I'm interested to see -- including Trot, Mark Loretta and Mike Lowell. White Sox cast-off Willie Harris is batting leadoff, and just beat out an infield hit. Guy's got speed to burn - could fill the Dave Roberts role.

The O.C. (Old Curt) Beats BC

I have to start this post by admitting my hatred for all things associated with Boston College sports. The school would be nothing without the heroics of a certain midget QB more than 20 years ago. Doug Flutie is responsible for more preppy rich kids going to BC than anything or anyone else - the man singlehandedly increased enrollment and tuition prices, and should be on the payroll for life (if he isn't already).

So it was especially pleasing on two fronts to see how well Curt Schilling pitched on Friday. Yes, it was against a crappy college baseball team; yes, it's early March; and yes, he only threw 35 pitches. But he looked terrific and he used his precious pitch allotment wisely, going 4 innings, striking out three and giving up one hit. It was worlds away from the guy who labored every time he took the ball in 2005 - a fact he acknowledged in his post-game comments, telling reporters that he's in a whole 'new stratosphere' compared to last year.

The 2006 Red Sox, like every other team in spring training, are littered with if's - and Schilling's health is at or near the top of the list. Yesterday's performance isn't cause to call Josten's just yet, but it's an encouraging step in the right direction.

And whatever the sport, it always warms my heart to see BC get thumped.

(Schilling photo courtesy of Boston Globe)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Coco Perfect; Damon's Not

The Coco Crisp Era is officially underway. Boston's new and improved centerfielder hit in the leadoff spot tonight in the Sox' first spring tilt and went 3-for-3 against the Twins, finishing a HR shy of going for the cycle. In other news, Johnny Traitor went 2-for-3 for the Yanks before heading off to play for Team USA. Coco's batting 1.000; Damon's at .667. Sox lost to the Twins, 6-3. Bit of a scare when young stud Jonathan Papelbon was hit just below the ankle with a rocket off the bat of Shannon Stewart. All reports indicate Pap is okay. "If it hit me right on the ankle bone, I'd probably be out three or four months," he told reporters after the game. Red Sox Nation breathes a collective sigh of relief.

The boys play Boston College tomorrow, in the annual John Harrington Classic.

Thanks, World Baseball Classic

Tonight's starting lineup for the Sox, courtesy of the Globe's Nick Cafardo:

CF Coco Crisp
2B Tony Graffanino
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF Dustan Mohr
C John Flaherty
DH Ron Calloway
SS Alejandro Machado
LF David Murphy
3B Enrique Wilson
P Jonathan Papelbon

Okay, only one guy we've never heard of -- Mr. Calloway. And John Flaherty will never bat 5 again for the rest of his breathing years. Youkilis, by the way, is Curt Schilling's pick to be the surprise contributor in 2006 -- Youk got himself into amazing shape in the offseason. More later.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Present Tense Manny

It's not every day you can combine a great Pearl Jam song with Manny Ramirez' mood, and today's that lucky day.

Manny, true to his word, arrived in Fort Myers today decked out in a black Tim Brown Raiders jersey. He let his hair grow out in braids, and had some funky new growth on his chin - perhaps paying homage to Johnny Traitor. He's pictured here being greeted by Sox camp invitee Enrique Wilson. As you may recall, the last time a meeting between these two created such a stir came back in 2003, when Manny called in sick while the Sox played the Yankees a few blocks down the street. Supposedly, Manny was seen later that night at the Ritz-Carlton bar with Wilson, who was then a utility infielder for the Yanks. I'm convinced the Sox signed both Wilson and crazyman Julian Tavarez just to befriend Manny this year. But I digress...

Manny shares some of his first-day thoughts in this interview. He's not talking about his stated desire to be traded; he's not playing in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican team; he's just here to earn his massive paycheck and help Boston win. He's living in the present, not the past. Fine by me. Saw him on TV tonight, and let's just say he looks like he's in phenomenal shape.

Yes, Manny pisses me off when he jogs down to first on a double-play groundball - or when he stands at home plate, admiring a long fly that's caught on the warning track. He can be downright maddening, and you don't want your Little Leaguer modeling his game after him. But you know something? He's got the mentality to not only play in this hardened town, but to thrive in it -- he operates in his own little bubble. And we need his bat. Imagine this lineup without Manny in it? Ortiz would be walked every single time. So I'm glad he's back - warts and all. 'Course, let's revisit this monthly, and most definitely in July at the trading deadline. Welcome back (for now), Manuel.

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