Friday, August 31, 2007

Fuel for the Fire

Everyone's going to have an opinion on whether Joba Chamberlain was aiming for Kevin Youkilis' scalp yesterday, so here's mine. Yup. One pitch at 99 that far off the plate - fine. Two pitches? Not fine. The overrated Peter Gammons has been adamant that Joba is innocent but I have to disagree. Watch the replays, Pete. You're just flat wrong.

While the Sox were dead as a doornail in this series, it was still filled with some entertaining side stories. Chamberlain's fist pump in Game 1 and little glare into the Sox dugout. An MLB official checking on Terry Francona's attire in the middle of an inning. The play yesterday where A-Rod tried to tag Youk out instead of going for the easy 5-4-3 double play. Youk sidestepped him, veered into the grass, and the ump at third initially called him safe. Then the crybaby Yankees started beefing with the umps, and sure enough they reversed the call. Tito was rightly enraged and got ejected for his troubles.

A couple of takeaways from this three-gamer. 1) The Yankees' much-maligned pitching isn't all that bad is it? I know our offense takes frequent siestas but you have to give Pettite, Clemens and Wang their due. They were very good. 2) There's a buzz now, which I think this listing Red Sox team desperately needs. Tito said it best in the post-game interviews yesterday, when he was talking about the Chamberlain head-hunting episode: "If that young man was trying to get our attention, he did a very good job." This team needs a fire lit under it - Jacoby Ellsbury, anybody? - and Joba may have inadvertently provided the fuel. And just for the record, so you don't think I'm being a hypocrite - I absolutely cringed every time Pedro threw at a Yankees' head, with the most notable example being Karim Garcia. Pedro was getting knocked around, and he decided to take it out on Karim's head (thankfully, he missed). Clemens does the same thing - a couple weeks ago a Tiger rookie took Fat Boy deep and then took one off the wrist the next time up. It's cowardly bullshit is what it is. And 3) if you look at these teams' best pitchers, Pettite/Wang and Dice-K/Beckett are a wash. The key figures down the stretch could be Roger and Curt Schilling, and it was very encouraging to see Schilling pitch well yesterday (Robby Cano, be damned).

Anyway, Joba's got me all fired up - I can't wait for the next Sox-Yanks series at Fenway.

One side note: was buying a TV last night at my local Best Buy and who's right next to me picking out a sweet Sony? Former Orioles ace/Hall of Famer/3-time Cy Young winner Jim Palmer, who's now a broadcaster for the O's (who are in town this weekend to play the Sox). I left him alone, but later asked the sales kid if he knew who he had just sold a TV to. "No clue," he said. Kids today.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lumber Slumber

This team is positively maddening, I tellya. Less than a week removed from a thorough shellacking of the White Sox, our boys have gone two days in a row into the 5th inning in NYC without a bleeping hit. They're currently down 1-0 against Wang, with a Cano homer being the difference. Yanks are going for the sweep.

Encouraging thing is how Schilling has pitched thus far. I honestly thought he might get knocked around pretty good today.

And a late-breaking update: Cano has just gone deep for the second time this afternoon. 2-0 Yanks. Boston is burning.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Appointment TV Tonight, Folks

Have things gotten so bad in Gotham that Johnny Damon takes a curtain call after a cheap flyball home run helped his team get to within 7 games of the front-running Red Sox? Evidently so. Granted, it was a big hit and we've certainly been on the happy end of some very big Damon hits, but it seemed a bit out of place to me. Another observation from last night's 5-3 defeat: Joba Chamberlain has electric stuff. First time I've been able to watch him live and he's got an unbelievable fastball and slider. I do think he needs to calm down a tad, though - after his punchout of J.D. Drew (and really, who doesn't punch out J.D. these days?) he gave it almost a D-Lowe fist salute and took a nice, long look at the Red Sox bench. That's bush league shit, and here's hoping the man who was Joba before there was a Joba - Jonathan Papelbon, or JoPa - can return the favor at some point over the next couple days.

Dice-K? He was his usual mysterious self, and you could argue in hindsight that Tito left him in a little long. Why not put Okie or Timlin in there for the 7th? He seems to nibble too much, and when the calls don't go his way, he seems to get a little flustered. He gets into counts where he has to throw his fastball and his heater just isn't overwhelming enough. Also, a couple of injury concerns - both Manny and Bobby Kielty had to leave last night's game with back pain meaning Eric Hinske is most likely our left-fielder tonight, barring a call-up. For some reason, I can see Hinske doing something good tonight.

Speaking of tonight's game, it's a pitching matchup for the ages. Josh Beckett going against his boyhood idol Roger Clemens. Two big, stubborn lugs from the state of Texas, and you know they're both gonna be amped up for this one. Can't wait. Maybe Rog will confuse a broken bat for the ball again. That would be fun.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Let's Put Our Cleats on Their Stinkin' Necks

So everything is now going our way as we enter the long-awaited three-game set in the Bronx starting tomorrow night. The Sox have an 8-game lead - courtesy of the 16-0 drubbing the Tigers laid on the Jankees tonight - and we've got our three guns nicely lined up this week. Dice-K vs. Andy Pettite on Tuesday, a doozy on Wednesday with Josh Beckett against Roger Clemens, and then Schilling vs. Wang on Thursday. While it's nice to have an 8-game lead, I say don't let our foot off the accelerator. I want these guys dead. Dead, I say.

Anyway, a little game we used to play around here that I'm resurrecting today. Lookalikes. Today's "twins" are outgoing White House press secretary Tony Snow and outgoing Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. Okay, maybe minus some pounds.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Breathing Room

Well, the bats have certainly come alive at the right time. The Sox are administering a beatdown in Chicago this weekend, with 45 hits and 35 runs scored in the first three games. It's hard to believe the ChiSox won the World Series in 2005 - they've looked positively pathetic, the bullpen has been horrendous, and Ozzie Guillen constantly looks like a man who's eaten some bad seafood. The Red Sox go for a rare 4-game sweep today with Julian Tavarez opposing Javier Vazquez.

It's the right time for some offense because we need to put a little breathing room between us and the Yanks before we start that three-game series in the Bronx on Tuesday. If the lead was 4, or even down to 3, it would be pins and needles time. The worst it can be now is 5 1/2, and with any luck, it could be up to 7 1/2 which would be very nice. The Yanks have their own issues to worry about. They've slowed down some after that torrid stretch, and if the playoffs started today they'd be making tee times. New York is currently 2 behind Seattle for the AL Wild Card.

So here's hoping the bats continue to wreak some havoc today, we have at least a 6 1/2 game lead going into NYC - with Dice-K, Beckett and Schilling lined up - and we can all sit back and actually enjoy our Labor Day Weekend. Has this summah flown by or what?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cruise Control

The Sox - the red kind - are leading the other Sox today in Game 1 of a doubleheader in Chicago. Last night's game was postponed due to torrential downpours. I haven't been able to catch much of this game, but it's currently 11-3 in the bottom of the 9th, and Josh Beckett's in line to get his MLB-leading 16th victory. Game 2 is tonight with Curt Schilling taking the ball.

I also just had to share this great cartoon on the whole Michael Vick situation. Classic.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

No Dice

When people talk about rookie of the year candidates in the American League, the Red Sox troika of Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, and Dustin Pedroia is constantly mentioned. I'm here to tell you it would be a runaway vote for Dice-K if only his teammates could, like, score a few runs for the man every now and then.

Last night's finale in Tampa was another frustrating, wasted effort from our prized import. Matsuzaka struck out 8 and gave up 2 runs, but you guessed it, the Sox lost 2-1. And if you're thinking this happens all the time to Dice-K, you'd be absolutely right. This was the 12th time in his last 16 starts that the team scored two runs or fewer. Amazing. Goes to show you that wins are overrated.

Anyway, Dice-K can be faulted for issuing a few too many walks. He also gave up a bomb to the D-Rays promising young outfielder B.J. Upton. Upton was the star of the game, knocking in the winning runs and gunning down David Ortiz at home plate to prevent a tie (and how many times have we seen baserunning gaffes this year?) I don't know what's gotten into Big Papi - the other night he had a triple and he beat out an infield hit, and last night he thinks he's Vince Coleman rounding third. I'm telling you - the lack of fundamentals on this team is going to prove fatal.

My buddy Mike was in the stands last night, so I'm hoping he weighs in with some first-person commentary, maybe even some pictures from the Trop.

The Yankees won last night in Anaheim, so the lead stands at 5. The Sox begin a four-game series tonight in Chicago, and it would be awfully nice to have, say, a 6 or 7 game lead before we play NY next week.

Some news that must be mentioned:

Unlike Dice-K, former Sox Kason Gabbard got a little run support last night from his Ranger teammates. Texas scored a ridiculous 30 runs last night in the first game of a doubleheader against an embarrassed Orioles team. I repeat, 30 runs. No mercy rule in MLB?

Also, I pay tribute today to a true American original, one Mr. Bill Murray. Carl Spackler was evidently in Sweden over the past few days, got liquored up, and decided to take a golf cart for a ride down the main thoroughfare. Oh, to have seen the Swedish police pulling him over... you go, Bill.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wake's Bitches

Every time Tim Wakefield takes the mound against the Devil Rays, logic says Murphy's Law is bound to kick in and he'll eventually have a bad outing. Last night seemed like a possibility, with Wake going against Sox nemesis, fireballing lefty Scott Kazmir. Shame on us for allowing the thought to enter our minds.

The Sox pounced early - Dustin Pedroia set the tone with a hard lead-off single to left off Kazmir - and Wake continued his incredible mastery over the D-Rays, especially in the climate-controlled confines of Tropicana Field. The Sox cruised to a rocking-chair easy 6-0 win, and combined with a most pleasurable Yankee extra-innings loss last night in Anaheim, the lead this morning stands at 5.

Best of all, they won with Bobby Kielty and Kevin Cash in the lineup, and David Ortiz on the bench. Kielty has shown some good stuff in his first few games - he hits well against lefties and he can run. Cash to his credit, also has filled in admirably. He's light with the stick but runners beware - he threw out 46% of runners attempting to steal on him in the minors. The one disappointment continues to be the enigma that is J.D. Drew. It's pretty bad when you can remember all of Drew's six home runs - four have come on the road, including a 2-homer game in Arizona, and of course, he was a part of the 4-straight homer game against the Yankees. He has been an unmitigated disaster.

But we won't end this on a sour note. The Sox need to sweep Tampa and hope that Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey can handle the Yanks' lineup. Tonight, the boys try to exact a little revenge against Andy Sonnanstine, who beat them soundly at Fenway last week. Jon Lester goes for the good guys, and hopefully can pick up where left off.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

We Love Volleyball

I'd be remiss if I didn't let you know that the pro beach volleyball tour is in Boston this week, with both the men and women competing. I'm thinking the women's tournament might just be, um, worth checking out.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Buzz Kill

See that man to your immediate left? He's giving us all nightmares. I'm sorry - I know Eric Gagne is a human being, and he's saying all the right things as he tries to figure out just why the hell he can't get anybody out. But this is officially ridiculous.

The Red Sox fought back from a 4-1 deficit last night to take a 5-4 lead on clutch 8th inning hits by David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez - off Angels' closer extraordinaire Francisco Rodriguez no less - and because Papelbon had pitched in the first game, Tito brought in Gagne to try and finish this one off. And he immediately proceeded to blow another save.

The whole park's buzzing, there's a good chance for a rare doubleheader sweep, millions of dollars have been raised in the annual Jimmy Fund telethon - and Christ, I'm jumping around my house like a little kid because, well, Papi and Manny have been AWOL in the clutch this year and I'm starting to like this come-from-behind shit. And then Gagne takes a big, steaming dump on all of it.

Again, I know he's trying. I know he'll face the media after the game and throw in a few f-bombs. We WANT him to do well. But it's painfully clear that he's NOT doing well - and he's a major liability in the middle of a pennant race.

Checking In...

Couple of quick in-game notes on a slow Friday afternoon...

- J.D. Drew misplayed a first inning flyball into a run, but made up for it in the home half with a triple. Sox have given young Clay a comfortable cushion with a 6-1 lead in the bottom of the 2nd. Papi went deep in the first.

- Wily Mo is officially No Mo. He was traded today to the Washington Nationals for cash and a player to be named. Whenever I think of Wily, I'll remember the moonshot home runs, the dramatic hit against the Orioles in the first game that Gagne blew, and the adventures with the glove.

- The Sox' shortage at catcher could become more visible than they ever hoped it would be. Doug Mirabelli started today's first game, and hurt himself running the bases. They probably won't play Varitek in both games, so may need to call someone up to take Dougie's place. Depending on the severity, this could be interesting. Only in Boston do we get all out of whack over a .220 hitting catcher who plays one day a week. Hey, it's what we do.

Clay's Day

We love baseball around here, in case you hadn't noticed, and one of the very coolest things about being a fan is watching a much-touted pitching phenom make his debut. These are the parts of the game that will remain untainted for eternity, and we must revel in them.

Today at Fenway Park, this very situation will unfold as prized pitcher Clay Buchholz is scheduled to make his first major league start against a very tough Angels team. After all the hype, and the repeated refusals to include him in trades, we finally get to see why. Do yourself a favor and find a TV at 1:05 p.m. The second game of the twinbill has Josh Beckett going for win No. 16 against Ervin Santana. All in all, a damn good day of ball.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Youth Movement

Well things have calmed down since we last talked... sort of.

The Red Sox took 2 of 3 from the lowly Devil Rays this week, but they easily could have lost 2 of 3. After Wake performed his usual surgery on the D-Rays Monday, the Sox had to face nemesis Scott Kazmir on Tuesday. It looked like they were going to lose 1-0 until Joe Maddon pulled a Sam Perlozzo and yanked Kazmir after he had thrown 95 pitches. The eager Sox proceeded to pounce on the likes of Gary Glover and Al Reyes and they ended up with a pulsating 2-1 walk-off win. There haven't been many pulsating wins this year - this was the second time they had come back and won after trailing in the 8th inning. In a rare day game yesterday, Dice-K halted the momentum with an uncharacteristically bad performance. The D-Rays jumped out to a quick 6-zip lead, and to their credit, the Red Sox rallied back to make it 6-5. Manny struck out to end the ballgame with Julio Lugo stranded on second.

This series was in many ways a microcosm of the whole year. Just uneven performances all around -- against a team they should thump every time. Yesterday, the bats were silent for most of the game against Andy Sonnanstine, who toted a sporty 1-8 record into the game. Yes, the Yankees' excruciating loss to the Orioles made it easier to take, but we should be up by 6 games today instead of 5.

The boys are off today before they reacquaint themselves with those pesky Angels this weekend. Tomorrow's a doubleheader day due to a rainout earlier in the season, and is reporting that Clay Buchholz will be called up to start the first game, and then Jacoby Ellsbury will be back at Fenway for the second game. Good moves, methinks. We need a little Joba Chamberlain-like jolt, and Ellsbury has been on fire at Pawtucket.

Speaking of the minor league hinterlands, I can't let this post pass without a thought on Jose Offerman. I'm sure you've heard or seen the video by now of Offerman charging the mound (above) in a minor league game with a bat after he was hit in the leg by a pitch. He tried to take a swing at the pitcher, and ended up breaking one of his fingers, and then his backswing caught the unhelmeted catcher on the head. The images on ESPN last night of Jose cuffed and being escorted to a cruiser were surreal. Why, it seems like just yesterday that he was Dan Duquette's OBP dream. Oh, and a fun sidenote - Carl Everett plays for the same team as Offerman. You can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Deja Boo

You know, we've tried really, really hard around here to be glass-is-half-full, especially since the delectable events of October 27, 2004. But that mindset is getting harder and harder to keep as the Red Sox keep blowing close games in the late innings. Less than 48 hours after their most horrific loss of the season on Friday night in Baltimore, Terry Francona again brought new toy Eric Gagne into a close game today with the Sox leading, and again the goateed French-Canadian proceeded to provide another le bleun save. Let's get the basics out of the way first, and then we can dig into the ugly particulars. Sox lose 6-3 on a walk-off Kevin Millar homer (just throw some salt in that raw wound), Yanks sweep an absolutely pathetic Indians team. The lead is now 4. Mikey, can I start talking about the pinstripes again?


I don't even know where to start with this weekend series against the Orioles. They're leading 3-1 late today, Curt Schilling has pitched well, we're looking at Okajima and Papelbon and we'll take 2 of 3 from these guys and then we can feast on the Devil Rays. What does Francona do? He brings in Timlin, and he does fine, and then he goes to Okie, who lets 2 guys get on base. Tito pulls him in favor of Gagne and Miguel Tejeda parks one in the leftfield bleachers to tie it up at 3. It wasn't no cheapie either - this thing was scalded. As most hits have been off Gagne in his short - but very memorable - stint in Boston. Bottom line: we end up wasting two good starts from Dice-K and Schilling, and while Beckett salvages some of the lost weekend, it certainly leaves an empty feeling.

To be sure, the mistakes haven't all had Gagne's name attached to them. There have been continued baserunning gaffes, tons of men left on base in key situations, a glaring lack of power, bad fundamenals (Lugo unable to drop a sac bunt down today), and brain-dead managerial decisions (Tito bringing in Gagne again; not walking Millar with 2nd and 3rd and one out). There have been reports that much of the team is suffering from the flu, and I for one am really hoping that's the case because they were in a fog all weekend long.

Now let's get to Gagne. First, as a human being, I feel bad for the cat. He made a tough decision to come to Boston and be a set-up guy, and he was psyched to be here. Unlike some other wusses in this clubhouse, he stood in front of the throng of reporters after today's game and answered every question. He'll be better and he will contribute. But right now he ain't getting it done, and there's no way in hell he should have been brought into a close game today. Bring him in when it's 7-1 and let him find it. But nooooo... the other thing that's driving me insane is I think Theo went out and got this guy and gave his manager absolutely no inkling how he should use him. All year long, it's been a steady, successful drumbeat of Okajima and Papelbon. Now you've got Timlin coming around, and Manny Delcarmen's throwing gas. They tinkered with a good thing and it's coming back to haunt right now. I, like many, was happy to get Gagne, and I viewed him more as a luxury than a necessity. Many speculated it was a move to keep Gagne away from the Yankees, but really he's been their best trading deadline acquisition - and they don't even have to pay him! They've got to figure out how they're going to use the man, and Gagne must stop grooving fastballs.

Getting back to the glass is half full part for a minute, I guess there are some positives. J.D. Drew seemed to find his stroke in this series, and it will be interesting to see if he can keep it going at Fenway this week. The other big plus is that we play three against the Triple-A Devil Rays starting tomorrow night, even though one of those three is against Scott Kazmir, who may as well be a body double for Erik Bedard. Tough lefty who the Sox can't hit.

But the negatives are hard to turn away from. Big Papi's lack of power. Manny's lack of power. Jon Lester's ineffectiveness. The ups and downs of Tim Wakefield. This team needs a jolt of the future. Bring up Jacoby again and let him play. Also read a little snippet on that Clay Bucholz would be called up for the doubleheader against the Angels.

They need to do something because the natives are going to be big-time restless tomorrow (the sound and fury, as Theo calls it.) Channel 4's Bob Lobel will flash the panic button tomorrow at 6. The newspapers will compare this collapse to 1978. We are in a full-fledged race, and our opponent - our blood rival who we thought was dead and buried a month ago - is white hot. We also may have to accept the fact that the Red Sox - despite their MLB-best record - aren't the best team in MLB. In fact, they've been barely average since June 1. From June 1 to now, the Sox are 33-32 versus the Yanks' 44-23. Yikes.

Oh well - game on. I was never quite comfortable with that 14.5 game lead, and in true typical Red Sox fashion, they can never put those bastards away. I don't care what anyone says about wild card - I want our first division flag since 1995. Gut check time.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Okay, maybe another rant will help here. Last night's 6-5 loss to the Orioles in the Red Sox' cradle away from home has to be the most frustrating game of the season. And the lead bombthrower was our big trading deadline acquisition.

Allow me to set the ugly scene. Through 7 innings, we had an old-fashioned pitchers duel, with Dice-K pitching well, and Erik Bedard pitching even better. In the top of the 8th, the Sox finally broke through to tie the game at 1 after Wily Mo Pena capitalized on a horrible non-strike call by the home plate ump. The Sox then erupted for four more runs on hits by Julio Lugo, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez to take a (seemingly) comfortable 5-1 lead into the bottom of the 8th.

That's when Eric Gagne was summoned from the pen, and that's when Gagne did what we've all seen since we got him: absolutely nothing. The Orioles sat on his fastball and pretty much did whatever they liked. A big J.D. Drew error also contributed to the meltdown, as the giddy Sox fans at Camden grew increasingly silent. Even our binky, Hideki Okajima, got touched up for a couple of hits. The Orioles tied it up at 5 and then Nick Markakis drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 9th with a sac fly to Coco Crisp in short center. With speedy Brian Roberts on third, the weak-armed Coco had no shot. Game over, in a punch to the gut kind of way.

What is up with Gagne? After the Sox traded Kason Gabbard and two minor leaguers for him, we heard rumblings from some experts in the game that Gagne's stuff wasn't so hot this year, that his numbers weren't a true reflection of how he was pitching. Since he got to Boston, Gagne has faced 19 batters and given up a whopping 9 hits, and he's sporting a spiffy 16.20 ERA. That's Theo on the phone calling the Rangers GM and asking for a mulligan. Meanwhile, Jermaine Dye continues to hit home runs - but we've still got Manny Delcarmen.

I know, hindsight is easy. Maybe Gagne needs a little more time to settle into his new role. And considering the way they've pitched all year long, the bullpen certainly deserves a pass every now and then. But last night just plain sucked. You gotta hold a 4-run lead after you've scratched and clawed your way to get it.

The Yankees continued their torrid pace in Cleveland, knocking around Fausto Carmona, so the lead is down to 5 again.

Josh Beckett vs. Garrett Olson today in Baltimore on the Fox national game of the week. Game time: 4 p.m.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

As I Was Saying...

Don't know if I believe in karmic forces, but after I ranted and raved last night, wouldn't you know the boys (they're the boys when they're going good) came back and beat the Angels last night with some inspired play?

Final score from Anaheim was 9-6. It was an entertaining, back-and-forth affair that kept me watching until the final out. The big hit was a Dustin Pedroia home run that just glanced off Garret Anderson's glove in left to put the Sox up for good at 7-6. Gary Matthews probably would have had it. Good relief performances from Timlin, Okajima - who looked especially fresh and nasty - and Papelbon, who got his 26th save.

I must say, these three games - even though we lost two - were fun as hell to watch. The Angels play the game like they have ADHD - throwing down bunts, sending runners on any and all counts, etc. The whole idea seems to be to put as much pressure as possible on the opposition and Mike Scioscia has gotten the results. This series felt like playoff baseball.

The Sox get to enjoy a day off today, and then they hit Camden Yards for a weekend series. Great pitching matchup on deck tomorrow night, with Dice-K going against Erik Bedard.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Singing the Blues

I come before you to rant. It's currently 10:50 on the east coast, it's hot and muggy, and as I'm wont to do, I'm lounging on my new leather couch (free by the way, if the Red Sox win the World Series this year) taking in the series finale between the Sox and the Angels out in Anaheim. And I'm bleeping pissed.

Entering today's games, the Yankees had whittled the Sox lead from a high of 14.5 games down to a meager 5. Granted, it's still the biggest divisional lead in all of baseball, but leave it to us pessimistic Bostonians to make 5 feel like 0.5.

Anyway, here's my main bitch. All year long, all I've read about is the pitching, the pitching, the pitching. Well, in case anyone hasn't noticed we've basically got 2 goddamn pitchers right now that we can count on. Dice-K and Josh Beckett. Hopefully Schilling makes that three. The jury's out on him after his performance the other night, and he needs another game to show that he can be effective down the stretch. Tim Wakefield - God love him - and Jon Lester are not getting the job done. We all know about the Wake roller coaster. Like Manny, we take the good with the bad, and we watch helplessly as opposing base runners have their way on Wake and Doug Mirabelli. When/if the Sox are fortunate enough to get into the postseason, Wake becomes an instant liability. Lester, on the other hand, has come back admirably from his illness but the kid's just not doing the job. I personally have never seen the glimpses of his talent that everyone has raved about. Every time I've seen him pitch, he's been strangely average - with one or two good outings. If someone would have taken Lester and Wily Mo for a good bat, shame on Theo. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I'm just going on what I've seen.

The other thing that's pissing me off is this team is playing flat, uninspired baseball. Compared to the hyper Angels, they look like zombies. The baserunning mistakes have been frequent and they've been costly. They had another one tonight in the friggin' first inning when Julio Lugo had a brain fart and got picked off first. There just doesn't seem to be any fire, there's been no clutch, come-from-behind wins, Papi and Manny are going through the motions, J.D. Drew shows no signs that he's a living, breathing human being. Contrast that with the Yankees, who, while they lost big to Toronto tonight, have come together as a team and gone 20-7 since the All-Star break. They got into a beanball war with the Blue Jays last night, and Big Fat Rog got ejected for hitting Alex Rios square in the back. Of course, A-Fraud as in the middle of it all. Maybe this vintage photo of Tek giving A-Fraud a mouthful of Rawlings will get this ship turned around.

As I type these words, the Angels just took a 3-0 lead on Lester and the Sox offense shows no signs of getting to Dustin Moseley, whoever he may be. Papi is sitting this one out, as is Coco Crisp. And as I will be very soon. I ain't staying up to watch this crap.

Hey, I always said it was the best day-to-day soap opera ever...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sox Flying High Into Anaheim

Very gratifying to see the boys take 2 of 3 from a good Mariners team in their sandbox. After Friday night's loss, the Sox had suffered 9 consecutive defeats at Safeco Field. Thanks to the right arms of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett, that's now a 2-game winning streak.

Some assorted thoughts from this weekend's series:

- One of the great things I've noticed this year about Dice-K is his composure. He can be cruising along, pitching a 3-hit shutout, and then give up a home run on a mistake. But he gets right back into his mode as if nothing happened. Can't teach that. Funny how no one's talking about the ransom we paid to get him anymore.

- Coco Crisp almost got waylaid by the Mariners' idiotic mascot yesterday. The Moose was scooting around on an ATV in between innings, and passed by the Sox' dugout just as some of the players were trotting out to their positions. The ATV nipped Coco, who had to do some fancy calisthenics to get out of the way. Very, very fortunate that he didn't get hurt. Terry Francona was quoted in the Globe today, saying: "I've got all sorts of (expletive) things to worry about. Right-handers, left-handers. The last (expletive) thing I need to worry about is a (expletive) mascot." Couldn't have (expletive) said it any better myself.

- Man, when Josh Beckett is on he's on. When he's mixing pitches well, his heater is overwhelming. This series also showed why Varitek is so valuable beyond what he brings stat-wise. There were several times where he almost stood up behind home plate, knowing that the batter would swing (and most likely miss) an eyeball-level fastball. That's advance scouting and good preparation.

- When Jerry Remy is analyzing and not shilling on the airwaves, it can be a treat. On Saturday night, he brought up the fact that Big Papi has changed his batting stance considerably, standing up taller instead of crouching. On Sunday, they showed before and after images, and the difference was clear. The adjustment seems to be working, as Papi is starting to generate more power.

- Nice to see an engaged Manny as we enter the dog days of August. He seems energized on the basepaths and in left field, and hell, even in the dugout. His bullfighter skit with Wily Mo and Lugo yesterday was priceless. And oh yeah, he's also starting to hit the ball with authority.

- And last but by no means least, tonight's game in Anaheim is significant for the man who will toe the rubber for us. Curt Schilling returns to action for the first time in over a month, and the Nation is looking forward to seeing the rejuvenated blogger on the mound. What would you take for an outing? I'll take a solid 6, no more than 2 runs, low pitch count, and maybe a half-dozen K's. Talk about high-impact trading deadline acquisitions.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A Crying Sham

This stinks. This really, really, really stinks.

One of the most cherished records in all of sports is about to fall, and the soon-to-be recordholder is being treated, justifiably, as a pariah. The cameras flash and the TV cameras roll because they kind of have to. The commissioner is in attendance because, you know, it's his sport and he kind of has to be there. The fans? Except for the safe house in San Francisco, the tide has been overwhelmingly negative. And finally - and really, most importantly - the previous recordholder, a man who went through an entirely different hell to reach new heights, will be nowhere to be found when #756 clears the fence.

It's gotten sad to the point where the true drama of the moment, whenever it comes, is waiting to see what Bud Selig's reaction will be. Last night, when Barry Bonds smacked an opposite-field home run to tie Hank Aaron's record at 755, the cameras showed a very confused commish. His hands remained jammed into the pockets of his sport coat, and he was expressionless, just surveying the whole scene. Since Bud is a very close friend of Aaron's I wondered if this tepid reaction was sort of an extension of how the Hammer truly feels about this whole disaster. Was Bud a visual proxy for the feelings of his friend?

In a way, the depth of appreciation for what Aaron both went through and did may never be stronger than it is right now - just as his 30-year record is about to be broken. Aaron, as we all know, was a young black man playing his sport is hostile territory -- the segregated South. To read about the death threats, and the terrible abuse his family endured, is heart-breaking. A few weeks ago, SI's excellent baseball writer, Tom Verducci, eloquently captured the turmoil Aaron went through, comparing his moment of celebration over 715 with another more recent "milestone":

"In September 1998, Aaron watched wistfully as Mark McGwire crossed home plate following his record-breaking 62nd home run and hugged his son, Matthew, dressed in a Cardinals uniform as a team batboy. When Aaron hit 715, his daughter, Gaile, a student at Fisk University in Tennessee, had to watch on television while under the protection of FBI agents because of a kidnapping plot against her..."

As we prepare to watch Barry Bonds swat 756, we hate it on a number of levels. We hate it because he's been such an absolute selfish, malcontented dink (even today, when he's battling with the Hall of Fame over what items he will give them)... we hate it because he grew up as the privileged son of a pretty talented major leaguer... we hate it most of all because the mountain of evidence suggests without a doubt that he cheated. Aaron, meanwhile, has never been described as warm and fuzzy, but he has been described by many as classy, dignified, graceful, respectful, and humble. He grew up poor, had to deal with the intense race issues of the day, and he thought he might die as he attempted to break Babe Ruth's record. Aaron is our grandparents - quiet, working hard, steady as she goes, sitting in a rocking chair on the porch and drinking a cool glass of lemonade. Bonds, much as I hate to say it, is in many ways a symbol of our society today. Instant gratification, and do whatever it takes to get there. And do it while you're sitting in your own private leather recliner in the clubhouse, away from your teammates.

So while this national nightmare winds its way to an end, here's something to ponder. As fans, we can simply flip the mental switch and value another statistic over home runs. Think about it -- the home run is like the 350-yard drive in golf. It's impressive, but it doesn't tell you about the guy's whole game. I hereby nominate total bases.

Makes a little sense, doesn't it? And here's the best part. Bonds is #4 on the all-time list for total bases with 5929. Aaron is first with an incredible 6856.

Long live the Hammer.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Bronx Is Burning

Alright, so let me see if I've got the events of the last few days straight.

The Celtics traded Al Jefferson and a bunch of flostam and jetsam for Kevin Garnett, making them instantly relevant. The Red Sox traded a junk-balling lefty and two career prospects for former closer extraordinaire Eric Gagne, and then took 2 of 3 from the Orioles. The Yankees - desperate for bullpen help, as evidenced by Mariano Rivera's rare public plea - instead traded a reliever and got a utility infielder. And perhaps best of all, Roger Clemens, who turns 45 tomorrow, was booed off the Yankee Stadium mound yesterday after giving up 9 hits to his first 12 batters in an eventual 13-9 loss to the White Sox. Oh, to have heard birdbrain Yankee radio announcers Michael Kay and the orgasmic Suzyn Waldman describe the events.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that life is good in Boston sports-land - bordering on 1986-like good. (That, in case you don't know, was the year the Sox went to the World Series ('nuff said on that), the Patriots played in the Super Bowl ('nuff said on that), the Celtics beat Houston for yet another NBA title (talk all you want), and the Bruins were one series away from getting to the Stanley Cup finals. A pretty impressive feat despite some of the gruesome outcomes.)

Sure, I wish the Sox had gotten Jermaine Dye - and his 2-homer performance yesterday against the Yanks made that non-move smart even more. If the reports are true that Kenny Williams wanted Manny Delcarmen or else, I would have included him without batting an eye. I still think this team needs another bat.

That's one area where the Yankees - currently 8 games back - aren't suffering. They've wreaked havoc on AL pitching staffs the last couple weeks, at one point hitting 13 homers in 2 games (interestingly, none from A-Fraud, who's looking for #500). The guy who's been on absolute fire is Hideki Matsui. I know my Sarasota buddy thinks I'm obsessed with the Bombers, but they're only 3 games out in the wild card race. Imagine if they take the wild card? Guess who their first-round opponent will most likely be...

Anyway, that's getting ahead of ourselves. It goes without saying that the next two weeks will be very telling. The Yankees start a series against the woeful Royals tonight, while the Sox have to (once again) jet out to the Left Coast to take on a hot Seattle team and then tangle with the OrangeCountyDisneylandLosAngeles Angels. This is where the rubber meets the road.

Tonight's probables: Jon Lester, who returns to his home state, for the good guys. Horacio Ramirez for the Mariners.

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