Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We're on the Road to Nowhere...

I think that was a Talking Heads song, if memory serves correctly.

Well, the wheels have come off, the engine is cooked, and it looks like this jalopy is heading straight to the junkyard. Our beloved baseball team - plagued by injuries and underperformance all year long - has gone 8-19 in the month of August, including being swept by the pathetic Royals and Mariners. As we wrote eight days ago, it's over -- the rest of the hangers-on have finally admitted as much.

Let's rewind for a moment. We were in a hazy state of denial on the eve of the big Yankees series. We knew we had warts (instead of blisters) and we knew we had some older guys who would more than likely slow down in the second half. We knew deep down that our chief rivals got the better CF in the off-season (do you really believe Johnny Damon won't be productive in the 4th year of his contract? Honestly? I'm predicting he hits 15 HR, knocks in 80 runs, scores 90-100, and steals 15-20 bags.) And we knew that our pitching rotation was a mess. Let's just say Kyle Snyder, Jason Johnson, David Pauley, and Kason Gabbard have all had multiple starts. Oh yeah - we also knew that our cog, Jason Varitek - and the underappreciated Tim Wakefield - would be very hard to replace.

At the same time, we also allowed ourselves to wonder what if? Despite the injuries and the numerous Josh Beckett meltdowns, we were still breathing down the Bombers' necks. Hey, if we got 'Tek back and he settled the pitching staff down, and Wake came back and pitched in between Schilling and Beckett, we might...

To me, that illusion was stopped dead in its tracks two Sundays ago. The Schilling-Mussina matchup Sunday night was the one I thought we had. Schilling's been our money man all year long, but of course the bullpen frittered it away and we lost 8-5.

At that point, though, there was still enough talent taking the field to continue the battle. Maybe the Wild Card. Now, though, the injuries and ailments have simply overwhelmed this team and obliterated any chance of playing when the leaves turn. Manny's hammy. Youk had the flu. Dougie rolled his ankle. Loretta's banged up. Wily Mo's wrist said hello to a high inside fastball. Alex Gonzalez hurt his oblique, whatever that is, the same problem as Trot Nixon. And for the cherry on top, Big Papi had to go to Mass General last weekend to have an irregular heartbeat checked out. He's supposedly fine, but is out of the lineup tonight.

All of which has led to the jury-rigged lineup we see on the field tonight in Oakland. Feast your eyes on this: Crisp CF; Cora SS; Loretta DH; Youkilis LF; Hinske RF; Lowell 3B; (Carlos) Pena 1B; Lopez C; Pedroia 2B -- and Kason Gabbard on the hill. On the radio telecast tonight, Jerry "The Clown" Trupiano informs us that Gabbard's name spelled backward is 'drab bag.' Funny Troop, your name spelled forward is 'douche bag.' Wonder if you two are related.

At this moment, the Sox are losing 5-0 in Oakland in the 4th inning and Drab Bag has been relieved by Nayrb Yeroc, who also goes by Bryan Corey. This is about as pleasant as a paper cut. Oh well - the key going forward is to be good fans and care, but dial back the emotional investment. Don't watch every minute of the soap opera with bated breath, but keep it on in the background and check in every now and then. Kind of like (sadly) our winter sports teams for the last 10 years. Instead, turn your attention fully to the fall/winter sports team, the dynastic New England Patriots. In Belichick we trust.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Okay, we got some catching up to do. After extending their losing streak to six games Tuesday night in the opener against Anaheim, the Sox won nailbiters against the Angels on Wednesday and Thursday, with the latter victory coming against Jered Weaver (left), who's gonna be a good one. It was nice to see a glimpse of the team that - in the immortal words of Dan Duquette - has spent more days in first place than the Yankees, even if that glimpse was a short one. Last night, they suffered the ignominy of getting shut out by the train-wreck Seattle Mariners, who beat the Sox 6-0 behind rookie starter Jake Woods.

So, as of this writing, the Sox remain 5 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the division, and are now 4 1/2 games behind the new AL Wild Card leader, those pesky Minnesota Twins.

Some miscellaneous notes from the last couple of days:

* Manny has been in and out of the lineup, which obviously hasn't helped the offense. Since they lost to the Yanks 8-5 last Sunday night, the Red Sox have scored 11 runs in five games. Manny played LF Thursday against the Angels, but had to come out after he was slow getting to a single (insert wisecrack). Hopefully, he's back in there tonight. The Globe today speculates that when/if he does return, he may have to DH. That would move Big Papi to first, which would not be good for our infield D. (Of course, we're not paying attention to this squad since we officially ruled them out of the race earlier this week, so none of this matters.)

* The oft-maligned Josh Beckett rose to the occasion on Thursday night against Weaver, matching the rookie phenom pitch for pitch. Late in the game, though, he had to come out due to a cut on one of his pitching hand fingers. Not a blister, mind you, but a small cut. Jury is out on whether he'll make his next start. (But we don't care because Beckett sucks, right?)

* At one point during the Angels series, NESN flashed a graphic showing that "Corey" and "Gabbard" were warming up for Boston. It's almost September, we're still trying to make the playoffs, and guys named Corey and Gabbard are the first men up in the pen. Ouch.

* Dustin Pedroia is straight from dirt dog central casting. He's a hardnosed kid, seems pretty steady with the glove, and though the results aren't there, is proving to be a fairly tough out. He's hit a few balls on the screws but right at guys.

* The Sox arrived in Starbucks land wondering if/when the overrated Mike Hargrove would get the ax. You think we've had it bad? The Mariners were 6-16 in August entering last night's game, including an impressive 11-game losing streak.

* As for an injury update, we're hearing that Jason Varitek should be ready to play in a week, and that both Alex Gonzalez and Tim Wakefield are on the upswing. Getting all three back would be huge. It ain't a 5 1/2 game lead with a healthy Varitek and Wakefield, and that's indisputable.

Oh well - we're fired up in these parts for the Patriots/Redskins pre-season game tonight because the starters usually play more in the third game. Looking forward to getting a good look at the best QB in the NFL, Tom Brady, and his new receiving corps, as well as rookie RB Laurence Maroney, who has been excellent so far.

Sox and Mariners tangle again tonight at 10. David Wells tries to keep his groove going; Gil Meche goes for Seattle.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sox Bow to King Vlad and the Halos

Not that we stayed up to witness the bitter end, but ESPN.com tells us this morning that the Red Sox dropped their sixth straight game to the Angels last night in Anaheim, 4-3. Six straight is the worst skein (good word) for this sorry squad in five years.

On the bright side, we weren't mathematically eliminated last night - at least not according to Grigori Perelman, with whom I have absolutely nothing in common. The Yankees lost on an Adrian Beltre 9th inning walkoff HR, and the White Sox and Twins both lost. We remain 6 1/2 behind the Bombers and 4 out in the wild card chase.

Tonight at the Big A, Jon Lester will try to get through the third inning against Angeles starter Kelvim Escobar.

By the way, there's a little side drama going on with ManRam. He supposedly asked out of the Yanks game on Monday with a hamstring issue, but then pinch-hit late last night. He's being called onto the carpet lately for openly disagreeing with an official scoring call that gave him an error instead of a hit. Very Wade Boggs-like, Manny. Didn't know you even knew there was an official scorer. Ever the playa protector, Tito will say that this shows a whole new level of alertness for Manuel Labor.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I Am Not Making This Up

I wouldn't do that to you. The Red Sox apparently packed their bad karma for the trip to Anaheim. They had the bases loaded with nobody out in the top of the 2nd inning and didn't score one run. The Angels' leadoff hitter the next inning? Home run. It's laughable, I tell you.

Tito's lineup card tonight: Crisp (CF), Loretta (2B), Ortiz (The Hitter), Youk (1B), Pena (RF), Lowell (3B), Mirabelli (C), Kapler (LF), Pedroia (SS). Um, does anything jump out at you? Manny is out with a sore hammy, so Youk's batting cleanup and Gabe (1 for his last 30-plus) Kapler is playing left field. Also, Alex Gonzalez has been put on the DL with an oblique problem, necessitating the call-up of young Mr. Pedroia.

Monday, August 21, 2006

As the Late, Great Ned Martin Would Say: "Mercy!"

Well, the answer to whether the Sox could beat the Yankees JV team was a resounding no. David Wells pitched his ample rear end off today, and was probably pulled a bit early by embattled manager Terry Francona. A couple minutes later, a Keith Foulke wild pitch allowed the Yanks to take the 2-1 lead that they held onto. It's the first five-game series sweep at Fenway for the Yanks in more than 60 years.

It's going to be awfully hard to stay engaged the rest of the way, especially with football coming up. The Sox are flying west as we speak and will take on the Angels starting tomorrow night before moving on to Seattle. It will be interesting to see what happens to NESN's ratings this week. Can't see too many people being eager to stay up past 1 a.m. to watch this rudderless ship.

As for us, we're shutting down for 24 hours to take stock of our senses. It's been one big, ugly blur and I just know I'm going to have visions of Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon running the bases in my dreams for the next few nights.

Can the Sox Beat the Yanks' JV Squad?

The fifth and final game in this disappointing Yanks-Sox series starts in about five minutes and the big question is: can they win one? If Joe Torre has anything to say about it, the Sox will salvage at least one. Check out this starting lineup for the Bombers:

LF Melky Cabrera
DH Derek Jeter
RF Bobby Abreu
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Craig Wilson
CF Bernie Williams
C Sal Fasano
SS Nick Green
SP Cory Lidle

No Damon, no Giambi, no Posada. Imagine Tito's lineup if the Sox had won the first four in this one? Pesky at short, Haselman behind the plate, Nipper starting...

Come on guys. Let's take at least one friggin' game. We may have left you for dead but we're still following along because it's what we do around here. Absolute mental torture and we'd have nothing less. In fact, we pay huge gobs of money just to watch it whenever we can. This is our soap opera, damnit, and any good soap opera (not that I'd know) revolves around the ups and downs of human emotion. Or something like that.

Needless to say, we Sox fans are stuck on the down arrow right now, so in a tiny effort to be positive about this whole debacle - we can take some small solace in the fact that the Sox team that got waylaid by the Yankees in 1978 at least rallied to make it a battle till the bitter Bucky Dent end. Hey, I said 'small.'

The game right now is scoreless in the top of the 5th, as David Wells seems to be in one of his grooves. You go, Boomer. Unfortunately, Cory Lidle is matching him pitch for pitch. Manny has left the game for undisclosed reasons.

Goodnight Irene

Sorry for the trite reference, but the fat lady is officially singing. It is 1:28 A.M. Eastern time, Monday morning, August 21, 2006, and the Red Sox are officially dead. It is over. O-v-a-h.

The Yankees just beat the Sox for the fourth time in a row, 8-5, as the Sox bullpen again imploded in late innings. The lead is now 5 1/2 games, and the Red Sox are done before Labor Day. Why oh why do we do this to ourselves?

Look on the bright side: football season is right around the corner.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


It has certainly been a season full of peaks and valleys for the Red Sox, but who knew the depths could reach such a low level? Over the past two days, the retooled and humming-on-all-cylinders Yankee lineup has inflicted some serious damage at Fenway - to the tune of 39 runs and 71 hits. Even worse, Johnny Traitor has been on fire - he's 9 for 18 in the three games, with eight RBI, and he's been in the middle of everything.

The Sox this morning are 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees and 4 behind the White Sox for the wild card. The flag flying above Red Sox Nation is tattered and frayed today, and it's just too perfect that John Henry chose last night to do some celebrating with his young GM on his luxury yacht (that's not it, pictured above). The sinking ship analogies will be out in full force.

I'm irritated, disappointed, stunned, and angry and I'm not quite sure where exactly to direct those feelings. If talk radio is a measure, most of the venom is being directed toward Theo and management, who took the "don't just do something, stand there" approach to improving this squad. The injuries to Varitek and Wakefield have hurt, and Josh Beckett deserves a heaping slice of blame pie.

Let us count the problems:

The pitching, or serious lack thereof: the holes in the starting rotation and the bullpen (no lefty reliever!) have been seriously exposed by the Bombers. On the starter side, things are so bad that the guy who started the first game of this big AL East battle for the Sox was immediately designated for assignment after another sorry outing. In the interest of full disclosure, the same fate befell Sir Sidney Ponson after his own sorry outing in Game 2. (Wonder if they shared a cab out of town?)

Of course, the Sox' pitching problems extend well beyond Mr. Johnson's travails. We have a No. 2 guy, a 26-year old flamethrowing former World Series MVP who has remained healthy all season -- sucking the bit. Beckett has been positively dreadful over the last month, and if he doesn't turn it around quickly he will be a major reason why this team doesn't play a meaningful game in October. We then have a No. 3 guy in young lefty Jon Lester, who is essentially learning how to get major league hitters out in the middle of a pennant race. Lester has shown glimpses of his well-documented talent, but lately he's been very average and unable to get through the 5th inning. And for a tough lefty, it's disturbing that he's been so ineffective against lefty hitters. Of course, Lester has been pressed into service as a No. 3 because of the injury to Tim Wakefield, which in my humble opinion, has been just as important a loss as losing the captain. Wake eats up the innings. I suppose we should feel fortunate that the two starters who have done okay recently - Schilling and Wells - are going the next two days.

As for the bullpen, see the references to Mr. Lester above. The young "untouchables" (Delcarmen and Hansen) have struggled while learning on the job; the normally reliable Mike Timlin is cooked; and we went into this crucial series against the New York Friggin' Yankees with Rudy Seanez, Kyle Snyder, Jermaine Van Buren, and Julian Tavarez in the 'pen. I mean, seriously - if that doesn't say it all nothing does. The pen is in such disarray that the Sox decided to designate Seanez (what took you so long?!?) and called up lefty reliever Javier Lopez from Pawtucket to see if he can somehow get fucking Damon, Robinson Cano and Giambi out. Hey, we may not be good right now but we've got more Javier Lopez' on our team than you do.

It's August 20 and we don't know who our leadoff hitter is: For some inexplicable reason, Terry Francona decided to start Gabe Kapler over Coco Crisp yesterday, meaning Kevin Youkilis was your leadoff man yesterday. Kapler is in a 1 for 27 slump, and Coco has been starting to come around. I personally think Youk should hit leadoff every night, but it's now late August and it's telling that we don't know who we're gonna see from night to night.

Our outfield defense blows: Not the reason why we're 4 1/2 games back, but when you see other teams play outfield D, it amplifies just how bad our guys are. Did you see that pea that Melky Cabrera threw home yesterday? He didn't get the guy, but he made the play a lot closer than it should have been. We haven't had an arm like that since Dewey was patrolling right field. Right now, it's a nightly adventure in both corner spots - with Manny in left and Wily Mo in right - and we have a centerfielder in Crisp who may have (gasp!) a worse arm than Johnny Damon. Not exactly shades of Rice, Lynn and Evans.

The Yankees are simply better: YES, it's the best team money can buy but you can't deny the offensive force that this team is. Like the great Soviet Union hockey teams (an apt comparison, eh?), they keep coming at you in waves. The bottom line is that New York improved itself with Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle, and Craig Wilson, and the Red Sox did squat. Just telling it like it is.

We have to wait all day to see if the carnage continues, and perhaps worse, we have to listen to Joe Morgan "analyze" the game tonight. Curt Schilling goes against Mike Mussina on ESPN. Let's not subject a national TV audience to another rout. Something tells me Schill will have his game face on.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Calamity Continues...

Not that we're prone to exaggeration (nah), but this could be the crossroads of the season - right here. 5-5 game, Yanks have the bases loaded, 2 outs, 6th inning, 2 and 0 count to A-Fraud. Beckett has walked eight bleeping Yankees today, and he's now looking at a 3 and O count to A-Rod. And he walks in a run with his ninth walk. Nine walks. Nine bases on balls. Nine goddamned free passes to the best lineup in baseball. 6-5, Yanks, with Manny Delcarmen trotting in from the bullpen. Once again, Josh Beckett does not come through. Once again, we'll see him in the postgame interview, composed, just saying he didn't have it today and that's a great lineup over there and all that other bullcrap.

The nice FOX announcer informs us that Beckett's nine walks are a high this year in the majors. The camera shows Beckett on the top step of the dugout, cheering on Delcarmen. I don't know if I admire his ability to forget things, or if I want him to pitch a tantrum on national TV. (Maybe the latter. This team needs a jolt.) I do find it interesting that he's been plastered all over magazines lately even as he continues to suck. I'm cheering for the guy, but come on... when does enough become enough?)

It's now 7-5 Yankees as Delcarmen has continued Beckett's generosity. He's walked in one run, and is in danger of walking in another. Now Posada hits a bases-clearing double and just like that it's 10-5 Yankees. Double-digit runs in three consecutive games, and I'm sure we'll hear soon when was the last time that happened. The Yankees have now scored 36 runs in three games and it's going to get ugly at Fenway... the 2006 version of the Boston Massacre is officially underway.

In fact, I'm ashamed to admit that Tim McDonkey on FOX just compared this series to that famous 1978 Yankee shellacking. He also just described the hushed Fenway crowd as "funereal." Things are getting bad.

A Hub Hangover

Well, that didn't work out too well did it? Yesterday's painful doubleheader sweep by the Yankees yielded 41 runs and 61 hits, with several members of the Red Sox bullpen lying on the field like roadkill in the end. The Sox are now 3 1/2 games behind NY as Josh Beckett prepares to face the Big Ugly in Game 3 in about an hour.

Most logical fans conceded the first game going in, but we figured we'd get a win against Sir Sidney in the night game. Unfortunately, Jon Lester's early-game problems continued and the lefty who can't get lefties out put us in an early hole. To the offense's credit, they battled back from 5-1 and 7-5 deficits to take a 10-7 lead before the bullpen imploded. The Yanks put up seven in a hideous 7th inning, with Timlin and Hansen your primary grenade throwers. Making matters worse, Johnny Traitor was a true All-Star yesterday, both with the bat and the glove. All he did was go 6-for-12 with 2 homers, 7 RBI and 4 runs scored. Like I said, painful.

The one thing easing the pain yesterday was the annual WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund telethon, which raised close to $3 million.

The best we can hope for now is to win 2 of the remaining 3. Time for Mr. Beckett to step up.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Live Look-In: Sox-Yanks, Game 2

Well they didn't end up stealing the first game today - they got smoked 12-4 - and right now the Sox are trailing 5-1 to the Yankees and The Fat Pugnacious Aruban, Sidney Ponson. Oh the shame. We cannot lose to Sidney Ponson.

The new Yankees lineup keeps coming at you, and it's positively insane to think what they'll be like when/if Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield return. The best team money can buy, hands down. They're also much better with Robinson Cano off the DL. Kid's a good ballplayer.

Now the Sox have something going, baby. Youkilis and Loretta come up with big hits and it's 5-4 all of a sudden. Nine runs scored and we're not out of the second inning yet -- this puppy's going past midnight. I knew I should have taken the over. Big Papi K's for the third out. 5-4 heading to the top of the 3rd.

Johnson Holding His Own Against Wang

Well, at least he was a few seconds ago... (plus I had to write that headline)

Now Kyle Snyder is in the game and the Yankees have a 4-1 lead as we head to the bottom of the 5th at Fenway. Johnson gave up a home run to the traitor, and back to back hits to Jeter and Abreu before being pulled for Snyder. I guess overall we should be pleased that we're still in the game with the recycled combo of Johnson/Snyder against the mighty, brave Bombers.

Manny just hit a true Fenway home run, flicking one around the Pesky Pole in right. Sox are now down 4-2, and Youk just got robbed by A-Fraud to end the inning. What I don't like about A-Rod? Many things, of course, but I especially hate how he styles after he makes a play or even when he makes an out. The guy's played absolutely porous D all year long, he makes a play, and then he prances and struts off the field like he's mother f'in Brooks Robinson. A-Rod is the new Reggie Jackson - the guy we most love to hate. Even Yankee fans can't stand him, which isn't saying much.

Mike Lowell just led off the bottom of the 6th with a walk, and now we'll see if newcomer Eric Hinske can bring him around. Hinske's had a good day, with two doubles in his first two AB's, a run scored, and a nice catch in right. Count's in his favor at 2 and 1 and he rips another one to the right-center gap for his third double! What a debut. Sox have men on second and third with nobody out and Javy Lopez at the dish. Fly ball's all we're asking for brother. And where's the only place you can hit it and not get the runner home? A meek grounder to the pitcher for the first out. Jesus, Javy. Can't let this opportunity go by. Now it's Gonzo's turn, and he smacks one to left-center. The traitor makes a nice diving catch - he's having himself a hell of a day too - but the Sox get the run in. 4-3 Yanks. Coco flies out to end the 6th. Three more innings to see if the Sox can steal this one.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


This could be the greatest lookalike find of all time -- the great Royals submarine reliever Dan Quisenberry and that masquerading, self-promoting fraud, Dr. Phil. Just visually slap a KC hat on Dr. Phil. It's a carbon copy.


As predicted, after a day of gnashing our teeth we're officially back on the bandwagon - at least through the upcoming 5-game Armageddon this weekend against the Yankees at Fenway.

Last night's sweep-averting 6-4 victory over the Tigers was a surprise considering the pitching matchup of 43-year old David Wells against Detroit phenom Justin Verlander. In typical Wellsian fashion, the portly portsider went 6-plus innings, gave up 10 hits and a couple of home runs, and got the key outs when he needed them. By contrast, Verlander struggled with his command all game - he ended up walking 7 - and the Sox took the lead in the 5th on a Big Papi homer into the Sox' bullpen. The Tigers clawed back to take the lead, but Coco Crisp hit a clutch double in the 6th to give the Sox a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Craig Hansen was the bridge to Papelbon, who finally had a clean 1-2-3 inning to seal the deal.

Even better, the Bombers lost to the Orioles last night 3-2, so the lead is 2 as the big, big series gets underway this weekend. Today's an offday for the Red Sox, while the Yanks play the Orioles - and hopefully that one goes 26 innings.

The Sox reportedly have also made some personnel moves. The Herald is reporting that they've finally obtained some left-handed hitting in the form of Blue Jays corner infielder/outfielder Eric Hinske and Carlos Pena, the young slugging first-baseman from Haverhill who began his career with the Tigers, then fell off the radar. He's been in the Yankees' farm system, most recently at AAA Columbus. Not sure what the plan is for both guys, but Hinske may be able to add some lefty pop while Nixon and Varitek are on the DL.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Reality Check?

Another discouraging loss last night, and it's time to start wondering if this team just isn't made for a postseason run. I know we're knee-jerk reactors around here - a couple of wins and we'll be sucked right back in - but the trends are disturbing, and it isn't going to get any easier.

To start with, our two aces - Schilling and Beckett - have been anything but ace-like over the last couple of weeks. Schilling's been okay (he lost a tough one last night to Jeremy Bonderman and the Tigers), but Beckett has been an enigma. He's been able to stay completely healthy this year, but hitters have been teeing off on his flat fastball to disastrous results. The same old story with the bullpen has continued - try as he might, Terry Francona gets into situations where he has to use the twin gas cans - Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez - and quite honestly, neither should be on a major league roster. Though hard to quantify, the loss of Jason Varitek hurts big time. If Papi and Manny aren't hitting, we're in trouble. There's absolutely nobody who inspires confidence coming off the bench to pinch-hit. And over the last week or so, Francona has made some truly head-scratching moves, like letting Seanez pitch an extra inning Monday night against Detroit. If you get a clean 1-2-3 inning from Rudy, count your blessings and move on.

Can you tell we lost last night, and are now 3 games behind the Yankees? Even worse, the Yanks came from behind last night to beat the pathetic Orioles and Johnny Damon played a key role, hitting a big home run and a triple. It's getting ugly, and the Nation today is wondering: Will Theo do something - maybe as drastic as what Sports Illustrated suggests ths week (moving Papelbon into the rotation) - or will he continue to stubbornly refer back to his goddamn 'long term plan?' I'm all for development and scouting, but this town won't take kindly to being rubbed out of the race by the Yankees this coming weekend.

Tonight, the Sox try to salvage this series against Detroit - who very much looks for real, by the way - by hoping that David Wells can do what he did last time out. Then the Bombers come to town for the epic 5-game series that everyone's been talking about for the last month. Brace yourself, Red Sox fans. We're going to be seeing plenty of Jason Johnson, Kyle Snyder, Rudy Seanez, and Julian Tavarez against that potent Yankee offense, and honestly, I'm more nervous about Josh Beckett getting whiplash in his start from watching all the screaming line drives. I hate to say it, but unless several things turn around quickly, this team just doesn't have the horses to match up with the Yankees, Tigers and White Sox. Thank God for the Patriots. (Of course, a win tonight and I'll be back to my glass-is-half-full mentality).

Monday, August 14, 2006


So what the hell is up with our supposed young ace, Josh Beckett? Man, has he been downright disappointing since he signed the big $30 million contract last month. Tonight, the Tigers pounced on him early for five runs, and the Sox ended up losing 7-4. The 8th inning was the key frame as Rudy Seanez gave up a couple more runs in the top half, and then third base coach DeMarlo Hale suffered a brain fart in the bottom half waving Manny Ramirez home from second on a sharp single. Manny - not being very, ah, fleet-footed - was out by a country mile. (We'll give DeMarlo a pass, though; as Francona said after the game, 'pretty good when you guys (media) are asking him questions for the first time in mid-August...')

The play was a huge rally-killer, though. Had Manny pulled up at third, it would have been bases loaded, 1 out, 7-4 ballgame, and a hot Wily Mo coming up. All in all, a very frustrating night particularly with the Yankees and White Sox both winning. If this is the best Beckett can give us, we're in deep doo-doo.

Sox are now 2 games behind New York, and 3 games behind Chicago for the wild card. Curt Schilling vs. Jeremy Bonderman tomorrow in Game 2.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Live Look-In: Sox-Orioles

We're in the bottom of the 8th at Fenway on a sunny Sunday - Sox have an 11-7 lead, as Doug Mirabelli just hit a home run to straightaway center. That makes it three straight games with a homer for Mirabelli and I have to say, I love watching his home run trot. I can't even describe it. Youkilis just made the last out in the inning -- Manny's hitting streak is probably over at 27 as we head to the top of the 9th.

Hansen stays in for the 9th to try to seal the deal and the sweep. Yanks have already gone down to the Angels, 5-3, in the Bronx. The Angels have NY's number - for some reason, they're a matchup nightmare for Joe Torre's band of courageous, gutsy warriors. A fan just ran on the field, and though we can't watch on TV, was tackled pretty nicely by a Fenway security guard. Orioles have men on first and second with 1 out, and Francona just brought in Papelbon. Despite his recent troubles, Papelbon's ERA is a ridiculous 0.91.

Pap walks Corey Patterson, and now the Orioles have the bases loaded for... well, wouldn't you know... Kevin Millar. The Cowboy gets a chance to inflict some revenge on his former employers. He likes the fastball, and we know Papelbon likes throwing his. 1-1 count. Millar hits a grounder to short - a surefire double play ball just like old times - and it's booted by Cora. It's now 11-8 with the bases still juiced. Nick Markakis up, who's had a pretty good day. Tough break for the Sox. Full count on Markakis, and Papelbon whiffs him. Huge out! Now he's gotta deal with Brian Roberts. Pap's thrown 20 pitches in the 9th so far. 3-0 count now on Roberts, with Melvin Mora This, Mora That waiting on deck. And Papelbon walks in a run, making it 11-9. A struggle for the young closer right now, who can't seem to find the plate. He goes to another full count on Mora with his 28th pitch of the inning. The announcers just let us know that this is the most pitches Pap has thrown in back-to-back appearances all season long - not a good thing with the Tigers coming to town tomorrow night. Mora keeps fouling 'em off. The fans are standing - they want to go home happy. The sneer from Papelbon, the pitch, and it's a groundball to third - stopped nicely by Mike Lowell with a little pirouette, and he's out at first. Game over. Whew.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Home Sweet Home

What a difference 48 hours and sleeping in your own bed makes. The Sox came home in the wee hours of Friday morning with their tails between their legs, having lost five in a row on the road to the woeful Devil Rays and woeful-er Royals. I still have the sight of Royals fans - Royals fans, for crissakes - with brooms on Thursday night seared into my brain. How they know about this tradition I'm not quite sure.

Thinking about this current homestand, beginning with the Orioles - another AL weak sister - I thought the bats would come alive back in the cozy confines of Fenway, but our pitchers for the first two games worried me -- David Wells on Friday, followed by Jason Johnson today. Not exactly inspiring.

On Friday night, the Sox erupted for 7 runs in the third inning to give Boomer an 8-0 lead. That took some pressure off, and Wells proceeded to throw a typical Wells game -- 7 ip, "scattered" 9 hits, 1 run, 4 k's, 1 walk. If he's able to contribute down the stretch, all of a sudden he turns out to be your trading deadline "acquisition."

Today's game was satisfying because the Sox clawed their way back from a 5-1 deficit, tied it at 7 in the 6th inning, and then won it in the 10th on a walkoff single from somebody other than David Ortiz. This time, the big hit came from Manny, who also extended his hitting streak to 27 games at the same time. Jason Johnson was ineffective - giving up 7 runs over 5 1/3 innings - but the bullpen was fantastic, as Tavarez, Hansen, Timlin and Papelbon shut down the Orioles the rest of the way. Final score: 8-7.

Yankees won again, so Sox keep pace and remain two games out of first. They're two behind the White Sox in the wild card standings, along with the Twins who may fall with Liriano being out.

Jon Lester goes for the sweep tomorrow afternoon against Daniel Cabrera. Last time we saw Cabrera, the Sox had an easy "walk" in the park.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Okay, I'm back. I've been cowering in the corner of my living room since about 11:00 last night, all coiled up in a shivering, quivering ball of pissed-offness. The unthinkable happened in Kansas City for the second straight evening, as the Sox frittered away a 4-2 lead and lost to the Royals again, 5-4. That's right - the 30-games-below-.500 Royals swept our juggernaut (first time since 1991 in KC) and we're all left to ponder whether this team really was a juggernaut in the first place. Ortiz and Manny have kept them in the race, and everyone else looks just plain old and slow, kind of like pitching coach Dave Wallace when he makes a trip to the mound, or Papi when he makes an out and trudges back to the dugout. All the pundits agreed that the Sox had to go 5-1 on this trip, or at worst, 4-2. They went 1-5, and have now lost five straight. Embarrassing to say the least.

The one bright spot last night was that the Yankees also lost - finally - so the lead stands at 3 games. All the callers to the local sports radio station today will want to bury the Sox, and I'm close to feeling that way too. The other half of me says maybe this serves as the ultimate wake-up call for this floundering squad. They've lost five straight to Tampa and KC, and will take on the Orioles tonight at Fenway in the start of a weekend series. Hopefully, being in the home environment snaps them out of this ugly funk. We find out how this team responds in its darkest hour at 7:05 tonight. Our stopper? The rotund one, David Wells, goes against Adam Loewen. In the meantime, I'm going to nail several mattresses to the walls of my living room, and I'm thinking about installing a punching bag. Better safe than sorry - ya know what I mean?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wily Mo is a Man

Wily Mo Pena -- Little Papi -- is a freak of nature. He hit one of the farthest home runs ever at Royals Stadium on Tuesday night, and he just tagged a three-run blast to left-center to give the Sox a 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the 7th. A huge home run.

Must Game in August?

If there is such a thing, tonight's game against the Royals most definitely qualifies. This short road trip against the AL's have-nots - first the Devil Rays and now the Royals - has been an absolute nightmare. Our boys have lost four in a row, including a gut-punch loss last night when they blew a 4-0 lead and Papelbon gave it up in the 9th. As we sit here at 8:10 p.m. ET waiting to see if Curt Schilling can pick his team up yet again (he's 18-6 with a low 2 ERA in games following a Sox loss), the Red Sox are three games behind the Yankees and four in the loss column. Needless to say, things are ugly here in the Nation. The sound and the fury (as Theo calls it) is rapidly heating up.

Of course, they're not done with 50 games to go, even if they (gulp) get swept tonight by the lowly Royals. But this is as close as you can get to a must-win in early August as I've seen in my 30 years of following this soap opera. We need the ace to give us at least a solid 7. And we need the bats to pounce, and pounce early on Royals starter Runelvys Hernandez. They're calling for periods of rain in Kansas City tonight.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Off-Day Thoughts

* Something tells me we're about to see the first collision of the 'way Theo wants to run the team' and the way 'Larry wanted to run the team.' My best guess on the reasons behind TheoGate are that a) Theo's philosophy of having a long-term plan - and building a championship team with homegrown talent - was not high enough in the organization's overall philosophy; and b) he was sick of all the Hollywood, PR bullshit. Don't get me wrong - this new ownership team has done an awesome job of making the fans more comfortable, and preserving the greatest ballpahk ever - but they go way overboard on the schmaltzy, entertainment stuff. The opening night for "Fever Pitch" comes to mind, the makeovers that some of the players got from the "Queer Eye" TV show, the Red Sox Nation membership card.

Of course, a month or so after Theo left Fenway - in a gorilla suit no less - all the conversations between Henry, Lucchino and Theo that should have taken place actually did take place. Things were ironed out. Theo was able to voice his complaints directly to the owner of the team, and the owner of the team evidently gave Theo his backing on how the team should be run. That's all Theo wanted in the first place, but holy crap, the hurdles he had to jump through to get there. And is it a coincidence that Larry Lucchino -who before TheoGate was so visible that he had his own weekly morning slot on the local sports radio station - has completely gone underground?

The point I'm getting at is this: The recent trading period was the first time Theo has been fully behind the controls, and in the end, the team did nothing. Every trading partner wanted one or more of the young pitchers (Lester, Hansen, Delcarmen, Papelbon) and Theo dug in his heels and resisted making a move that might only yield short-term benefits. Many believe that Theo wouldn't have pulled the trigger on the Beckett/Lowell for Ramirez/Sanchez for the same reasons. Not making a move at the deadline looks bad right now because the Yankees have shot into the AL East lead and the guys they acquired at the deadline are contributing. The Sox are going to have to get lucky, healthy, and/or make some sort of deal to catch them but we've got a lot of baseball left to sort it all out. If the Sox crash and burn, it will be interesting to see if Theo comes into the crosshairs.

* Why did it take WEEI so long to say goodbye to crusty Ted Sarandis and hello to the wacky Mike Adams? Sarandis was such a dink -- cutting callers off, generally being rude and intolerant -- and Adams is on the other extreme. Goofy, fun, affable, can lead a good baseball discussion, and actually lets the callers dictate the program. The Sunday baseball show featuring Adams, Sean McAdam from the Providence Journal, and the Herald's Steve Buckley, is great radio.

* And while we're on the subject of 'EEI, what exactly is their fascination with Steve DeOssie and Larry Johnson? I don't want to hear a 'roided up football player opining on baseball. Just not a good match.

* Since the 2005 All-Star Game, a period comprising 161 games, David Ortiz has hit 60 homers and driven in 161 RBI. I don't want to hear any DH bias during MVP voting time. Papi is the MVP, with Jeter a respectable second.

* Switching sports for a minute - I can do that, I'm the proprietor - it was a nice sight today seeing hard-hitting safety Rodney Harrison on the Patriots practice field. Harrison tore multiple ligaments in his knee after an ugly collision in Pittsburgh last September.

* Just to vent for a moment, my fantasy team sucks. This was the first year we did auction style and I blew my wad early on Johan Santana ($40), David Ortiz ($36) and Miguel Cabrera ($28). All three have been solid, but I think I screwed myself for adding high-quality depth. Let's just say I've got Scott Hatteberg, Pedro Feliz, Casey Blake, Preston Wilson and Josh Barfield in my starting lineup. 'Nuf ced.

* Globe rookie Sox beat writer Amalie Benjamin is doing a nice job in place of Chris Snow, who left to work in some NHL team's front office. Snow was good but he went a little Charlie Pierce on us every now and then - using words that send you to the dictionary. Benjamin has a more casual, free-flowing style that makes for a nice read. Gordon Edes was great during the trading deadline too.

* The Sox have an absolutely brutal month of August ahead of them. After six coming up against KC and Baltimore, they play 11 straight against Detroit, the Yankees and the Angels. Where the rubber hits the road, as they say... and we're going to have to do it without Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield.

* Some impressive candidates on this year's Comeback Player list, including Jim Thome, Nomar Garciaparra, and Curt Schilling.

* Two things about the bullpen scare me, and maybe three. 1) Julian Tavarez; 2) the glaring lack of a lefty specialist; and 3) Mike Timlin. I'm willing to give Timlin some more time, but he's been downright dreadful lately - and oh yeah, he's also on my fantasy squad. Got the Midas touch, don't I?

* Two guys who if they pick up their games in the second half will help the Sox get to the postseason for the fourth straight year: Josh Beckett and Coco Crisp.

* I've been irritated with Yankee fans who think their "injury-depleted" team deserves the Purple Heart for keeping the race tight with the Red Sox. The folks at Fire Joe Morgan have eloquently put my thoughts into words:

"I am the 2006 New York Yankees! Here is my line-up:

CF Johnny Damon. $13 million.
SS Derek Jeter. $19 million.
1B Jason Giambi. $18 million.
DH Gary Sheffield. $13 million.
RF Bobby Abreu. $13 million.
3B Alex Rodriguez. $25 million.
LF Hideki Matsui. $13 million.
C Jorge Posada. $9 million
2B Robinson Cano. $381 thousand.

(Total for starting nine position players: $123 million. More than the Red Sox' 25 man-roster.)

How is this relevant? Well, when you have a lineup of players worth $123 million, and you lose $26 million worth of player, you still have a pretty (expletive) good lineup. The crazy patchwork lineups the Yankees have been trotting out there, full of (I'm not the good) M. Cabreras, A. Guiels, (the wrong) B. Crosbys, and A. Phillipses, are still anchored by the very expensive Misters Jeter, Rodriguez and Giambi, to say nothing of the fairly expensive Senors Damon and Posada. Spare me the what-a-goddamn-hero-Joe-Torre-is routine. The lineup at the beginning of the year was lethal -- a mockery of the game of baseball, in fact. No "winning culture" accounted for its ability to withstand the loss of two of its better hitters -- and not, I might add, its two best."

Couldn't have said it better meself.

Trop Flop

The Red Sox visited their own personal House of Horrors for three games this weekend, and ended up losing 2 of 3 to the no-name Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They even caught a break this time and didn't have to face Scott Kazmir, the Sox killer who's currently on the DL. Mood-wise, this is the lowest Red Sox Nation has been all year long. The Yanks fortified themselves with the Abreu/Lidle trade, and have played well since the All-Star break. The Sox, by contrast, have floundered over the past few weeks, and now find themselves down 2 games in the AL East and out of the wild card picture if the playoffs started today. This is what happens when you give up home runs to guys named Greg Norton, Ben Zobrist, Travis Lee, and Dioner Navarro, and you lose a 6-2 lead. Just plain ugly. This one was the proverbial kick in the gut.

On the bright side, what's the very best thing that could happen to a struggling Red Sox team? How about a three-game set against the Kansas City Royals? That was the prescription the last time we were depressed (after getting pummeled by the A's at Fenway) and hopefully it does the trick this time too. Sox are off today (what's an offday in Kansas City like?) and then face the Royals starting tomorrow night. A sweep is a must, especially with Lester, Beckett, and Schilling going. Yanks are off as well and start a series in Chicago tomorrow night against the White Sox. 'Bout time for Ozzie Guillen's team to start playing some $#%@! baseball. 'Bout time the other Sox did too, or we could be on the outside looking in come October.

One note on the weekend series against Tampa - Big Papi became the first Red Sox hitter to ever hit 40 HRs in three straight seasons. Manny should join him at some point this season.

Friday, August 04, 2006

See-Saw Season for Beckett

Is Josh Beckett having one of the strangest seasons you've ever seen or what? Downright dominant one outing, putrid the next. And the hallmark of all those putrid outings has been his propensity to give up home runs, many of them hit very hard and very far. Not that I know what I'm talking about, but it seems like he's at his best when he's got the curveball working and he can get hitters off balance. Then his 98 mph fastball becomes that much harder to hit. When the curve's not working, hitters just sit on the heat.

The curve wasn't working too well last night and the Indians - who have shown in the past that they like hitting off Mr. Beckett -- pounced on him for six runs in the 6th inning and held on for a 7-6 win. Beckett gave up homers to Aaron Bleeping Boone, Hafner and to "Choo, Cho, whatever his name is" - as he said in his press conference - and he has now given up a total of 31 on the season. In the last month, he's given up three homers in a game three times. He's challenging the single-season mark of 50, set by the greatest pitcher ever from Holland, Bert Blyleven, in 1986. Bert followed that up with 46 more in 1987. Yikes. Live ball era?

Meanwhile, the Yankees are hot, and their new acquistions - Abreu, Lidle, and Craig Wilson - have already made key contributions. The Yanks now lead the division by a game. They're in Baltimore tonight, while the Sox are in Tampa to tangle with the Devil Rays. They've got three in Tampa, then three in Kansas City and they need to win 4 of them.

News item: Sox have agreed in principle with the Orioles on a deal for Javy Lopez. Still not clear who the Sox are giving up, but word has it that Lopez is in Tampa right now, and could be in the lineup tonight. Javy's not the player he was, but not a bad addition under the circumstances.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Comeback Loretta

Poor Fausto Carmona. The guy who sounds like a character from a Bill Shakespeare play was once again the victim of some Sox dramatics last night. Let's set the scene: bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, nobody on. Carmona began by whiffing Wily Mo and Coco, and then the proverbial wheels came off. He plunked Mirabelli and Gonzalez, and then walked Youkilis. Bases loaded (without a hit) for Mark Loretta. Loretta had been watching Carmona's meltdown from the on-deck circle, and knew he was going to get a couple of heaters near the plate - especially with Big Papi looming. Loretta got one he liked and slapped it off the Monster, giving the Sox an incredulous 6-5 comeback win over the Indians.

The fans at the game deserve a little bit of credit here too. There weren't many empty seats when there were 2 outs in the 9th, and the decibel level clearly rattled Mr. Carmona to the point where he couldn't find the plate. Fenway has become one of the greatest home-field advantages in baseball, and it's awfully damn nice to see.

Finale against Cleveland tonight at 7:05 has Josh Beckett going against Jake Westbrook. If the Sox take 3 of the 4 games, Eric Wedge is going to have nightmares. He may be using a new closer this evening.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Not a fun day. Jason Varitek - the most indispensable player other than maybe Ortiz and Manny - needs knee surgery for a torn meniscus and is out for 4-6 weeks. It's something he has supposedly been battling since spring training, but he aggravated it running around second base Monday night. This one is truly a tough blow - now we've got 30 games of Dougie Mirabelli coming up. But hey, maybe they'll rally and rise up to the challenge of having to play without Varitek. 'Tek is to us what Jeter is to them.

Oh yeah, there was a game tonight at muggy, humid Fenway. Jason Johnson and the Sox fell behind early, and ended up on the losing end, 6-3, to the Indians and C.C. Sabathia. Funny note from watching the game -- there's an advertisement on the wall behind home plate for Giant Glass. Whenever C.C. moved a certain way, it read GIANT ASS.

Yankees at last check were beating Toronto - if it holds, we're all tied up. Like we expected anything else...


Is this guy a freak of nature or what? Big Papi again delivered in the clutch last night, smashing a three-run homer in the bottom of the 9th to beat the Indians 9-6. Absolutely incredible. He also hit another home run early in the game, and now has a major league-leading 37 to go along with 105 RBI's.

Papi's blast rescued David Wells, who for all intents and purposes made his rehab start last night against major league hitters. Wells has always been reluctant to do his rehab work in the minors, and last night's lucky winner was Indians OF Casey Blake, who hit two homers off Wells. Boomer's final line: 4 2/3, 8 hits, 8 runs. Manny and Wily Mo also went deep, and Kyle Snyder pitched quite effectively in middle relief. Allow me to give myself a little pat on the back, as I wrote these words a couple days ago: "Snyder has started out well in each of his starts, and then he usually blows up in the 4th or 5th inning. Put 'em in there for a few innings if a starter has a short outing." I know, I'm just plain brilliant.

The dramatic win came with a cost, however, and today we'll know how high that cost is. Jason Varitek pulled up lame after rounding second base, and left the game with what was called a knee sprain. He'll undergo a battery of tests today to see what's wrong. Fingers crossed for the Captain.

The other big news yesterday was the Sox ultimately not making a big move at the trading deadline. Today's Globe reports that they were very close to acquiring a Houston fireballer (no, not that one.)

Tonight's game has C.C. Sabathia going for the Tribe against (gulp) Jason Johnson, who was called up to pitch in place of Snyder. The Yanks and Jays start their series in the Bronx. A.J. Burnett vs. Jaret Wright. The lead is 1. (Boston.com photo)

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