Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Comings & Goings

I was all excited last night when I heard on the local sports radio station that the Kevin Garnett deal was pretty much done, and that the Red Sox had a decent to good chance of landing Jermaine Dye and Eric Gagne. Of course, these things change like the New England weather. This morning, it appears that the Garnett trade is, indeed, a done deal with just a few formalities to iron out. Theo's pursuit of Dye still seems to be intact, and in the White Sox' court. And the latest news from Texas is that the Rangers are going to try to keep Gagne.

First, allow me to pontificate on the Celtics. As a kid coming of age and following sports in the 1980s, the Celtics - and the Big Three of Bird, Parish, and McHale - were IT. Much like the Patriots and Sox today, they were appointment TV. You didn't want to miss a game because you might see something truly special. That, sadly, has completely vanished through the 1990s and into today, as the Dave Gavitts, M.L. Carrs, and Rick Pitinos of the world - along with some truly shitty luck - drove our cherished franchise into the ground. Today's Celtics team could be playing a pickup game in my driveway and I could care less. With this move, I care again - and there has to be thousands just like me. I may not pony up the dough for season tickets, but I'm gonna be watching and I'll find my way to the Garden a few times. The naysayers worried about giving up Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, et al, just don't get it. This team has been in rebuilding mode for 10 friggin' years. Except for one totally fluke appearance in the Eastern Conference finals against New Jersey, this team has been irrelevant. The East is wide open, and having Pierce, Ray Allen, and Garnett on the same floor - all of whom are chomping at the bit for a championship - should be something to behold. Danny and Doc just saved their jobs. And a former member of that vaunted Big Three - the man from Hibbing, Minnesota with the crazy inside post moves - gets a big assist. One NBA opinion I respect - the Globe's Jackie MacMullan - agrees.

Okay, got that off my chest. Now onto Dye. It's hard to argue with this move, which the most recent reports indicate would involve us shipping Wily Mo and maybe Delcarmen to the White Sox for Dye, who cranked 44 homers last year and drove in 120. The big question is where's he going to play? Has the team lost faith in J.D. Drew, meaning we may see less of him? Do they know something more about Big Papi's injury that could mean Manny or Dye DH's a lot down the stretch? You have to figure Theo's got a plan, and personally I'm all for downsizing J.D.'s playing time. It's been a long enough sample size. Gagne would have been a very nice add (imagine him and Okie Dokie setting up Papelbon?), but it sounds like it may not happen.

Finally, some current events worth noting. The next couple of days could produce some historic milestones around baseball. We all know about Big Head, but Billerica's own Tommy Glavine is sitting on 299 career wins, and A-Rod is one HR away from 500. And last, it should be one hell of a pitchers' duel tonight at Fenway, as the first-place Red Sox get back into action against the Orioles. Josh Beckett vs. lefty Erik Bedard, who's been on fire lately.

Monday, July 30, 2007

And another trade nugget for your Monday

According to this report from the Globe's Gordon Edes, the Sox are close to acquiring White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye for Wily Mo Pena and a minor league arm (not Bucholz or Lester). Again, yes please.

The only catch? I read somewhere that Dye is concerned about playing time and that the Sox have agreed to play him at least 5 days a week. How that's gonna happen, me not so sure. Pine time for J.D.?

KG? Yes, please...

We interrupt this baseball blog for a moment to tell you that the Celtics could be on the verge of being relevant again. Please, Lord, allow this deal to happen. We have suffered long enough.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

They Don't Make 'Em Like This Anymore

Today in Cooperstown, N.Y., the site of the baseball hall of fame, two men will be inducted who are part of a dying breed. Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn played for the Orioles and Padres, respectively, for their entire careers, almost completely unheard of in today's day and age (Craig Biggio excepted).

Besides their loyalty to their franchises, the nice thing about both Ripken and Gwynn is the universal respect they've been accorded by their peers. From all accounts, they were not only great players but good human beings. It would be a travesty if the anti-Ripken/Gwynn - aka Barry Bonds - trumped the HOF celebrations today, so here's hoping the baseball gods exercise some good judgment. (One thing we do know - if Barry does tie Aaron's record today, Bud Selig won't be there. He's got his priorities straight - at least for a day). Here's a good piece on Ripken and Gwynn from SI's Tom Verducci that's worth a read.

As for our local nine, it wasn't easy last night but they eventually dispatched a pesky Devil Rays team in extra innings, 12-6. Closer supreme Jonathan Papelbon gave up a Jonny Gomes homer in the bottom of the 9th to blow the save, but the Sox came through in the top of the 12th with a bases loaded walk and a big double from Kevin Youkilis, whose bat is showing more life lately. The Yankees lost again to the Orioles, meaning the AL East lead has expanded to a much more comfy 9 games.

If you're going to the game at the Trop this afternoon, the letter of the day is "K". Dice-K goes against Scott Kazmir, which means there's gonna be a lot of K's.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Red Sox South

We've always marveled at the "home field" advantage the Red Sox enjoy in cities like Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Those venues have always been popular destinations for members of Red Sox Nation. It has to be great for the Sox, and absolutely deflating for the real home team.

Last night - after taking a very impressive 3 of 4 from a solid Indians club - the Sox opened up a weekend series in Tampa against the Devil Rays, winning 7-1 behind the suddenly resurgent Tim Wakefield and a big homer from Kevin Youkilis, who had been struggling. The chants of "Yooooooook" throughout Tropicana Field came through loud and clear on the telly. Late in the game, when a D-Ray runner was called safe at first on a double-play ball, the crowd booed. The Yankees, meanwhile, split two with the Orioles so the AL East lead stands at 8.

Put simply, the Devil Rays are Wakefield's bitches. The man is an incredible 17-2 against them in his career, and he's been lights out in the dome. When the team bus sees the exit signs above, Wake is smiling. Last night's game also gave a a glimpse into how the Yankees mopped the floor with Tampa last week - their bullpen is positively HORRENDOUS.

The teams go at it again tonight at 7, with Jon Lester making his second comeback start against James Shields.

A few random thoughts and links for your Saturday:

- Can someone tell me why Coco Crisp is pulling a Manny -- a/k/a not talking at all to the media? Is it because we lumped in with Lugo and Drew when he was struggggling? He's had a nice year, but he's not good enough to pull this crap. Would have been nice to hear from Coco on why he paused before crossing the plate in Cleveland the other night, costing the Sox the potential tying run in a tight ballgame.

- I don't have the energy or time to research the last time the Sox played in back to back 1-0 games, but what happened in Cleveland has to be pretty rare. The Sox won the first one and lost the second. Interesting how 1-0 games in soccer suck, but they can be pretty cool in baseball.

- You'd never guess this was Alfonso Soriano's ride. What a clown.

- Couple of new links over to the right worth checking out. Sports by Brooks is a great daily read. The guy knows his sports and he likes putting pictures of hot chicks up. With Leather is another good one.

- Latest on the trade rumor front - looks like the price is too steep for Mark Teixeira, but the Sox are keeping an eye on Ty Wigginton - a classic member of the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars and a moonlighting obstetrician. From his Wikipedia page: "On December 20, 2006, Wigginton was forced to handle the delivery of his son Cannon at home when his wife Angela went into labor unexpectedly. Following the instructions of an operator on 9-1-1, he delivered the baby in a bedroom closet of their North Carolina home and tied off the umbilical cord with one of his shoelaces." I'm not sure what's more mind-numbing. The fact that he thought so clearly during a hectic time, or that he actually named his son Cannon Wigginton. Either way, something tells me he won't be in Boston anytime soon. It's a big-time seller's market right now, with GM's of teams that are out of it asking for a bit too much. May or may not change leading up to the July 31 deadline, but for now it looks like the team on the field is it. Based on the last week, that's feeling okay... for now.

- How'd you like to be commissioner of a major sports league right now? Bud Selig has to deal with the fact that his sport's most cherished record is about to be broken by a habitual cheater. Roger Goodell has to handle the indictment of one of the NFL's marquee stars, the details of which are horrific. And believe it or not, David Stern - the ambassador of calm and steady - may have the worst situation with the whole Tim Donaghy mess. I'm not condoning what Vick's allegedly done, believe me, but Donaghy's crime is far more damaging to the NBA as a sport.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Triumphant Return

Last night was one of those occasions when the toy department known as the sports world collided with what really matters in life. After almost a year of uncertainty and hard work, Jon Lester - who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma last August - returned to the mound for the Red Sox in storybook fashion. The young lefty threw six solid innings at a good Cleveland Indians team and took home the win, 6-2. It was great to see the Lester family in the stands in Cleveland, cheering and fist-pumping at key moments.

Getting back to the toy department for a minute, the Sox have now reeled off four straight wins against the White Sox and Indians, and have their two aces - Dice-K and Beckett - lined up the next two nights. While the Yankees have been mopping the floor with the pathetic Devil Rays and (last night) the Royals, they haven't been able to penetrate Boston's lead. For us (fingers crossed), things are only going to get better. Curt Schilling was dominant in his first rehab start for Pawtucket and will go at it again Thursday night before team decides when he should return. With Lester up, Julian Tavarez has been moved to the 'pen, which should make the relief corps stronger. They're winning without Big Papi, who hurt his shoulder belly-sliding into second base on the weekend, and he's due to return tonight or tomorrow. And everyone's still wondering what Theo will do at the trading deadline. It seems like we've got a pretty nice surplus of pitching to deal for a quality bat or two.

Good matchup in Cleveland tonight, with Matsuzaka going against C.C. Sabathia.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Three Musketeers

Crisp and Lugo and Drew, oh my...

The much-maligned threesome came through in a big way last night against the White Sox to help stop a three-game losing skid. Collectively, the trio went 6 for 13 with 4 runs and 8 RBI, including a huge triple by Crisp and (gulp) a grand salami from Lugo that blew it wide open. And it should have been even more because Drew got robbed of a 3-run homer in the first inning on a bad call by the umps. Behind this newfound offense, and continued solid pitching from Josh Beckett, the Red Sox cruised, winning 10-3. With the Yanks losing to Tampa, 14-4, the lead before Saturday's games is 8.

We get a late afternoon FOX game today with Kason Gabbard going against John Danks. Let's see what Gabby does following his complete-game gem last time out.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Long before Lance Armstrong's yellow "Livestrong" bracelets, a popular inspirational bracelet among those of strong faith said simply WWJD - or 'what would Jesus do?' In the congregation known as Red Sox Nation (can't you picture Jackie Chiles saying that?) right now, the bracelet should say WWTD - for what will Theo do?

The Red Sox lost another game at home last night to a crappy team, and lo and behold, now have the New York Yankees breathing down their necks. While the Dollar Store Royals came into town and helped themselves to two of three from the Sox at Fenway, the Yankees have been silently cleaning up - winning 8 of their last 10. This morning, the lead stands at 7, six in the loss column.

Yes, the members of the Nation are worried but I was giving this whole situation some serious thought this morning and here's my take: this "scare" will help this ballclub, Theo will make a shades-of-2004 trading deadline move that improves the team, and - crazy as it sounds - we'll all be able to relax a little more. See, we can't co-exist with a double-digit lead in the AL East. Even though it felt comfortable at times - like maybe when we were 13 or 14 ahead of the Bombers - didn't you always think in the back of your cranium that this wasn't over? I never said to myself this division was ours because NOTHING comes easy to this team. Okay, you can argue that the World Series triumph over the deflated Cardinals was pretty easy, but only in hindsight. It was still typical Red Sox gut-churning baseball. Plus, the Yankees' lineup is just too damn good, and as I've mentioned before now they've got Clemens, Wang, Pettite, Mussina, and Hughes coming back. We knew this was going to turn into a race, and all's I'm saying is that's really the only way we know how to follow this team. The large lead never felt safe to me.

Anyway, we know that this team as currently constituted has some major flaws. Their record is horrible since late May, and the lineup just hasn't clicked on all cylinders all year long. And J.D. Drew is absolutely killing me with the topspin grounders to second and first. Love to see a stat from the Maniacal One on that. As I see it right now, the problems Theo and Co. need to address for the stretch run, in order, are 1) Drew, 2) Tavarez, 3) Wakefield.

Not sure what can be done about ol' J.D. but he has to be ranked as one of the biggest busts in MLB this year. The only thing nice I can say about the guy is that he plays an above-average right field. This team desperately needs a #5 bopper in the lineup, preferably an outfielder. The other flaws - Tavarez and Wakefield - could be resolved internally with Gabbard and Lester, but I don't think we can count on that. As always, it will be very interesting to see what Theo will do. Standing pat definitely will not do.

Battles of the Soxes tonight, as Chicago comes into town for four.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Gabbard Makes a Case to Stay

Certainly can't quibble with the pitching performances the last two days. Josh Beckett lost a tough one yesterday, 2-1, in the weekend series finale against Toronto, and Kason Gabbard is making it look easy tonight against the perenially-bad-but-scrappy Kansas City Royals. We're currently in the 8th inning, Sox are up 4-0 behind homers from Pedroia, Manny, and Papi, and we're wondering if Tito will send Gabbard out to finish it off in the ninth. I predict no.

We're reporting to you, by the way, live from the Cape of Cod - specifically the charming sea captain's town of Brewster (right above the elbow in that aerial shot to the left). On a little vacation with the wife and kids, and managing to get some baseball viewing in between trips for ice cream, fried clams and the beach. I must say - I'm very disappointed so far in summer. It's either been 95 degrees or low 70's, which is too cool to stay in the water for too long. But hell, it's vacation. Work is the furthest thing from my mind. And that's always a good thing.

Manny's up now with 2 down in the home half of the 8th, and he grounds out to third. Lo and behold, Gabbard is coming out for the ninth. One hit or walk and he's likely gone. The Sox' lead by the way, has slipped into single-digits as the Yankees are now 9 games back. Still feels okay, but if it gets down to 5 that's a different story.

Two down now in the Royals' 9th -- Gabbard has the last batter 0-2 and is looking for a rare complete game. The fans are going craaaaaazy. And he gets Mark Teahen swinging. A very tidy ballgame. Could Julian Tavarez be headed for the 'pen in favor of Gabbard?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tomorrow's National Anthem...

... will have a little extra meaning.

Welcome Back

After the ugly sweep in Detroit, and being subjected to the three-day Barryfest over the break, it was nice to have a game to look forward to last night. It was even nicer to see the Sox swing the bats in beating the Blue Jays, 7-4, at Fenway. And in particular, it was nice to see a certain heavy-hitting duo get involved.

Much attention around here during the All-Star break was paid to the fact that both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz are wayyyy behind their first-half numbers from 2006. No one's sure why Manny's production has tailed off, and Papi is playing on a trick knee and isn't seeing many juicy fastballs. So last night, it was most comforting to see them go a combined 5 for 9, with 5 RBI's and 3 runs against Jays' ace Roy Halladay.

For us, Tim Wakefield pitched well until the 6th, when his knuckler started to get flat and some pretty good hitters - Matt Stairs and Alex Rios - went back to back with two bombs. As has been the case all year, Okie Dokie and Papelbon came in and snuffed out any potential fires.

The Jays' loss means that the Yankees (7-3 victors over Tampa Bay) have sole possession of second place, 10 games back. Toronto is now 11 back.

One other note - lots of talk the last couple of days about Big Papi's knee. As some of you guys know, I consider myself one of the world's foremost experts on knees. In fact, I think I could probably become an orthopedic surgeon with very little training. The good news for Papi, for the time being, is that he can play with the injury in its current state (sounds medical-ly, doesn't it?). The man banged out three hits last night, had to run the bases a few times, and - to add salt to the wound (there's my doctor-speak creeping in again), fouled a ball off his knee. We may not see the tape-measure home runs, but he's going to be in the middle of things. So don't worry about him. And that's Dr. Kampy's assessment.

Finally we get back to a full slate of games across MLB today. Sox and Jays get going at 7:00. Julian Tavarez vs. Shaun Marcum.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Is the Good Ship Lollipop Starting to Take on Water?

Well, after about five or six cocktails last night, I finally found a TV. Five minutes of watching gave me all I really needed to see - the Sox had runners on base in every inning and just couldn't get it done. In the end, they lost their second straight game to Detroit, 3-2, in 13 innings.

This whole series has had a 'mailing it in' feeling to me. Guys are banged up. The all-star break is coming. To be fair, looking at the pitching matchups, I felt one out of three this weekend would be acceptable. Tavarez and Gabbard started the first two games, and while Tavarez stunk Gabbard gave a performance that is going to help him stick around for a while. Today was the one I thought they'd get, with Matsuzaka going against Nate Robertson. Now we hear that our erstwhile slugger with no pop, Manuel Ramirez, is going to sit this one out today due to what Terry Francona called 'internal turmoil.' Interesting phrase, but we think he means that Manny's got an upset stomach. This news came out three hours before gametime, which is plenty of time to send a clubhouse kid to CVS to get some Pepto-Bismol. The only thing I can take from this - with the facts currently on the table - is that Manny is pulling some of his typical horseshit here. Let's hope not. It will be very interesting to see if Manny finds his way to San Francisco for the all-star game on Tuesday.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

From the Outhouse to the Penthouse

Less than 24 hours after a complete dismantling of the horrible Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Red Sox traveled to Mitt Romney's "home" state last night to play one of the best teams in baseball. The Tigers have it all - great pitching, studs in the lineup, a good bullpen, and Jim Leyland as manager. Not too shabby. This could be a preview of the ALCS. The Tigers probably feel they have some unfinished business after losing to an inferior St. Louis Cardinals team in last year's World Series.

Last night's opener, unfortunately, didn't go our way. It's almost like the Sox conceded this one before it began. At 4:00, when I heard that Ortiz and Youkilis were out of the lineup and that Jeff Bailey (??) had been called up to spot-start at first, I knew it wasn't going to be a fun night. Tavarez got boxed around pretty good (8 runs) and the Sox couldn't solve young lefty Andrew Miller, who looked pretty impressive. Final score was 9-2, with Marcus Thames' grand slam putting the nail in the coffin. In the final analysis, Tito may have left Tavarez in a little too long. He was getting hit very hard in the 2nd inning, and it was pretty clear to me (3 Coronas in) that he just didn't have it.

The call-up of Bailey - and demotion of Jacoby Ellsbury - also was curious. If the Tigers had had a righty going last night, would the lefty-hitting Ellsbury have stuck around? The kid provided a jolt and got on base. The only thing I can think of is that the organization doesn't want him to get too comfortable and content. Francona really played the 'let's not put him in the Hall of Fame' card in describing why the team made the move. Others have surmised that Ellsbury's backing off a fly ball he was chasing with J.D. Drew showed that he has some things to work on.

The lead is now 11 over both Toronto and the Yankees. Tough one tonight - Kason Gabbard goes against Jeremy Bonderman, who might be feeling a little slighted after not being named to the AL all-star team. Never a good thing.

I'll be at a freaking "Lucky 7" wedding tonight, so the first order of business will be to scope out where the TV is.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Just Like Old Times

Alright, I'm excited so I had to jump on and do a little live blogging. Remember how I wondered if the Sox and Devil Rays might rekindle their dislike for each other this week? The history between the two teams is filled with beanball moments. Brian Daubach. Roberto Hernandez. Gerald Williams rushing Pedro in what I believe ended up being a one-hitter. Trot letting the bat slip in the general direction of Ryan Rupe. See, I don't forget.

And while the players and coaching staffs may change over time, neither do they. The Sox right now are throttling the poor D-Rays, 13-2, and we're only in the 4th inning. Josh Beckett just threw a 95-mph fastball that hit Jonny Gomes flush in the elbow and Gomes was not pleased. Can you blame him? That's gotta hurt like hell and he has to run by the guy who just did it and politely take his base? Easy for us to say. Anyway, Gomes had a few words with Beckett on his way down to first so we'll see if this develops into anything (why do I feel like an ambulance chaser?). When NESN cut to commercial, former D-Ray Julio Lugo was talking with Gomes.

Woop... we're in the bottom of the 5th now and Shawn Camp just came in high and tight on Mike Lowell... I'm bad. I'm rooting for a brawl. We're only playing these guys 16 more frickin' times so something's bound to happen at some point.

What the hell is the Devil Ray mascot doing at Fenway? Him (her?) and Wally are raising havoc on top of the third-base dugout...

More later, unless this game puts me to sleep which is very possible.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Go Fourth

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Halfway Mark

The Red Sox took home a 7-3 win last night over the Rangers in their 81st game of the season, giving them a healthy 50-31 record. With exactly 81 more to go, the Nation is officially in unchartered territory. A 10-1/2 game lead before July 4th? The Yankees under .500? Manny and Papi still looking for their power groove? Life is indeed good, but how come it feels so shaky?

I'll tell you why - because us Red Sox fans are wired differently. Our DNA contains strands of Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, Christ even Harry Frazee, the hare-brained owner who only sold off the greatest baseball player that ever lived. Oh, and he sold him to the Yankees. And of course, the epic collapse in 1978 - sealed by Bucky F'ing Dent's pop-up into the left-field screen - reminds us to not be too overconfident. Anything can happen, as evidenced by the scars we bear.

That's been proven during the first half of this weird, wacky season. Ironically, the Sox have the same exact record (50-31) that they had a year ago at the midway point. Back then, that was only good for a 4-1/2 game lead on the Yankees. Today, in the pathetically lame AL East, that same record is good for a comfortable 10-1/2 game lead on Toronto and an 11-game lead on the Yanks. Why the big spread? Number one, again the rapid deterioration of the once-tough AL East. But also pitching, pitching, pitching. The starting five (with a few blemishes, mostly from Wakefield) and the bullpen (Okajima and Papelbon) have been magnificent, and they've served as masking agents for the underperformance of Boston's big boppers, Manny and David Ortiz:

Mid-year 2006: Ortiz 26 HRs, 76 RBI; Manny 23/63
Mid-year 2007: Ortiz 13/49; Manny 11/44

The offensive heroes through the first half have been few, but while Manny and Ortiz try to find their power strokes, both Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis have been pretty steady.

Hopefully Manny, Papi, Drew and Lugo can all contribute more offense in the second half. The easy schedule the rest of the way plays in the Sox' favor. Fifty-eight of the Sox' remaining 81 games are against teams with sub-.500 records, including a whopping 19 meetings against the perpetually woeful Tampa Bay Devil Dogs, and 13 more against the skidding Orioles. Take care of business, beat the teams you're supposed to beat, and we should have our first division... nope, not going to say it. Not yet anyway.

I'm planning to post a fairly comprehensive mid-year report card at some point in the next couple of days, so stay tuned.

As far as last night, it was the rookies who stole the show. Dustin Pedroia got the Sox off on the right foot with an early two-run double, and Jacoby Ellsbury electrified Fenway when he scored from second on a passed ball. This kid can pick 'em up and put 'em down. One of the many luxuries of having a big lead is being able to play the kids every now and then. Eric Hinske also had a huge hit, a bases-loaded triple to the triangle that just eluded Kenny Lofton. Oh, and while the embattled Julio Lugo didn't have a hit, he also didn't commit any stupid baserunning mistakes. Lugo laid down a nice sacrifice bunt, and walked a couple of times. About as good a night as you can have without getting a knock.

Tonight, believe it or not, we face the Devil Rays for the first time all season. Get ready for a steady drumbeat of D-Rays over the next couple months. We're gonna get to know them really well. Maybe there'll even be some Daubachian/Nixonian fireworks between these two "blood" rivals.

Good one on tap for tonight, with K cards at the ready: Dice-K vs. Scott Kazmir.

Monday, July 02, 2007


That's New York police code for a fatality, which stands for "Definitely Done Dancing." According to today's New York Post, the Yanks are officially D.D.D.

Oh, and Scott Proctor lit his gear on fire the other day.

Other than that, all is well in the Bronx Zoo.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Another Soccer Score

The lumber is slumbering for sure. The Sox lost another 2-1 game to the immortal Kameron Loe and the Rangers today, but as has been the trend lately, the Blue Jays and Yankees also lost so no pain inflicted. Amazing how weak the AL East really is, which makes some of the concerns we have about the Sox a little more amplified - but that's a story for another day.

It's been a weekend so far of lost opportunities and very little scoring. Both teams have left tons of men on base, Kenny Lofton looks like he's running pretty well, and Michael Young - one of the most potent hitters in MLB when he's on - is starting to get his stroke back after a slow start. But as usual - the Rangers will go absolutely nowhere because they don't understand how to build a winning pitching staff. Never have, never will. The Sox will try to split the 4-game series in tomorrow night's finale.

In other important news across MLB, the AL and NL All-Star teams have been chosen. Here are your 2007 members:

C: Pudge Rodriguez
1B: David Ortiz
2B: Placido Polanco
SS: Derek Jeter
3B: Alex Rodriguez
OF: Ichiro Suzuki
OF: Magglio Ordonez
OF: Vladimir Guerrero

Pitchers: Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander, C.C. Sabathia, John Lackey, Dan Haren, Johan Santana, Gil Meche, Jonathan Papelbon, J.J. Putz, Francisco Rodriguez
Position players: Justin Morneau, Carlos Guillen, Mike Lowell, Manny Ramirez, Michael Young, Carl Crawford, Alex Rios, Victor Martinez, Jorge Posada, Brian Roberts, Torii Hunter, Grady Sizemore
Fan vote (one will be chosen): Jeremy Bonderman, Hideki Okajima, Kelvim Escobar, Roy Halladay, Pat Neshek

C: Russell Martin
1B: Prince Fielder
2B: Chase Utley
SS: Jose Reyes
3B: David Wright
OF: Barry Bonds
OF: Carlos Beltran
OF: Ken Griffey, Jr.

Pitchers: Brad Penny, Ben Sheets, John Smoltz, Cole Hamels, Jake Peavy, Billy Wagner, Francisco Cordero, Jose Valverde, Takashi Saito, Trevor Hoffman, Brian Fuentes
Position players: J.J. Hardy, Alfonso Soriano, Orlando Hudson, Aaron Rowand, Brian McCann, Albert Pujols, Dmitri Young, Derrek Lee, Freddy Sanchez, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Lee, Matt Holliday
Fan vote (one will be chosen): Chris Young (SD), Brandon Webb, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Zambrano, Tom Gorzellany

Some quick observations:

- The big news, of course, is that Barry Bonds pulled out a starting position on the NL team thanks to late fan balloting. Should be one big love-in at Pac Bell Park. Can't wait.

- New York City has the market cornered on left sides of the infield, huh? Wright and Reyes in Queens, A-Rod and Jeter in the Bronx.

- Interesting that the NL chose to go with six closers while the AL will carry three. Does that mean the best pitchers in the National League are in the bullpen?

- On the fan voting for the final spots, I went with Okajima and Chris Young. Okajima has been incredible this year.

- America loves nicknames. Pudge Rodriguez shouldn't be starting over either Posada or Victor Martinez. And think about this - Joe Mauer stays home.

- Guys that shoulda, woulda, coulda made it -- Orlando Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, Edgar Renteria (oh how it hurts to type those three names in a row), Kevin Youkilis, Curtis Granderson, Daisuke Matsuzaka

- Will Barry participate in the HR Derby?

- Placido Polanco at second base? Not a very deep position, obviously.

- The one rep from each team rule is stupid

- And last but not least, the excellent broadcaster Dave O'Brien - who's doing Sox games this year - mentioned this little tidbit: that Tony La Russa has made overtures to Mark McGwire to see if Big Mac would consider coming back - ala Sammy Sosa - to do a little image re-buffing.

Lugo Has a Brain Fart

Julio Lugo's hitting woes (0 for his last 31) are well-documented, but now he's in a baserunning slump too? Trailing the Rangers 5-4 last night in the 8th inning, Lugo was brought in to pinch run for Dustin Pedroia, who had just smoked a 2-out double. Kevin Youkilis, who had homered earlier in the game, was at the plate. A single ties it up - and Lugo inexplicably decides to try and steal third. The catcher double pumped, and they still got Lugo, who may have been safe if he had chosen to, um, slide. Bad, bad decision. (Note professional illustration of brain fart, above).

Of course, that's not why the Red Sox lost this one. Cruising along with a 4-0 lead, the wheels came off for Josh Beckett, who all of a sudden lost his command and started getting boxed around. The lack of offense from the big Sox power hitters continues to be a source of concern. One would think that coming home after a long West Coast trip, the cozy confines of Fenway would cure what ails the offense - but it hasn't happened yet. Maybe today with Kameron Loe on the mound for Texas?

One cool side note from this one: the much-heralded Jacoby Ellsbury made his major league debut last night - filling in for the injured Coco - and got his first big-league hit, beating out a slow roller to short. Appropriate.

2:00 game time today.

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