Thursday, July 31, 2008

Out of Left Field

I always say that our Boston Red Sox are the greatest soap opera going. Today's episode goes down as one of the best cliffhangers ever.

First, the big news: Manny Ramirez has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Pirates OF Jason Bay is coming to Boston. The Sox also sent Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss to Pittsburgh, and the Dodgers sent two prospects to the Pirates. Sounds clean and simple, but if you've been following the bouncing ball today (like thousands in Boston have - crashed at around 4), it was anything but.

All day long, it seemed like Manny's destination was going to be South Florida. The Marlins, by all accounts, were in the lead to get him, but in the back of my mind their pursuit never made sense. They don't go out and get big names like this. They groom their talent, they're very good at it, and why would they take Ramirez on when they know he can walk after this year? (As part of waiving his no-trade, Manny and Bore-ass made it clear the acquiring team would not have the twin $20M options). It just didn't add up.

After untold updates throughout the day, it seemed like nothing was going to happen right at the 4:00 deadline, and my thoughts turned to 'how is the Sox clubhouse going to take this?' A sulking Manny for the stretch run we've seen before, but this was a different feel - this year alone, he's slapped a teammate, pushed a 65-year old man to the ground, and perhaps the most inflammatory of all, had used his personal mouthpiece - a Spanish ESPN reporter - to toss hand grenades at Red Sox ownership. How was Tito's much-discussed team meeting for tomorrow night going to go down with Manny still there? Just as I - and I'm sure countless others - were fretting about that, word came down from the Globe's Gordon Edes that Manny was heading to LA. There were some excruciating minutes after the news alert where we didn't know who we got in return. Was it Matt Kemp (please, no) or Jason Bay (please, yes) and it turned out to be Bay.

Did the Sox give up a lot? Yes. They give up Manny, Hansen, Moss and $7 million for the rest of this year and they get one player back in Bay. I would have liked to have seen a reliever in the mix somehow. The Dodgers give up two stiffs. But in the end, Theo had to get rid of Manny for all of the reasons documented above. Count me as satisfied.

If you think about it, LA made sense all along. It's been like our little Ellis Island for Red Sox cast-offs. They welcomed Grady Little, Bill Mueller, Nomar Garciaparra, and Derek Lowe with open arms, and now they're getting the clown prince of left fielders. Do you think Manny realizes there's no DH in the NL? We're going to see some tape-measure homers, but we're also going to see some comedic fielding highlights. In other words, more of the same.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Isn't the trading deadline grand? I'd love to see some web traffic numbers in the city of Boston today, as Theo continues his effort to unload Manny Malcontent. The latest rumor du jour - and to be fair, it's become more than a rumor in the last 12 hours - has Manny going to the Florida Marlins, Jeremy Hermida and some other bodies going from the Marlins to the Pirates, and the Sox getting Jason Bay and reliever John Grabow from Pittsburgh. SI's Jon Heyman has been all over the deal, which has taken on different permutations. Some people this morning are saying that the Pirates are still haggling over who they'd receive, and the Sox may also be eyeing Pirates' SS Jack Wilson.

I'm officially in the camp of 'let's get this done now.' As I said yesterday, this team needs an injection of something. They looked horrendous last night in getting swept away by the Angels at Fenway, and it clearly appears to the casual viewer that the Manny circus is taking its toll. We shall see. Either way, it's going to be a very interesting day, and quite possibly an unproductive one - unless your job involves web surfing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Time for Something Bold

There's a little more than 30 hours left till the trading deadline tomorrow at 4 p.m., and I'm officially of the mind that Theo and his front office minions need to pull a Nomar-like move out of their hat and get rid of Manny Ramirez.

This situation has come to a head, and if it's possible, was exacerbated last night as Angels pitcher John Lackey was working on a no-hitter at Fenway. Manny hit a grounder that he could have beaten out for a single - that is, of course, if he had been running at more than a jogging speed. To their credit, the fans actually booed him. Appropriately, the true dirt dogs on this team - Pedroia and Youkilis - proceeded to put a halt to both the no-no and the shutout in the ninth, but the Sox still fell to the hottest team in the majors, 6-2. By the way, that hottest team also made news yesterday by picking up slugging 1B Mark Texiera for Casey Kotchman and a minor-league pitcher. With that one move, the Angels made a statement to the rest of the league that they're going for it.

The Sox now need to do the same. Their two AL postseason rivals - the Yankees and Angels - have both made moves in the past week while the Sox have been mum. While there are some obvious parallels to trading Nomar in July 2004 and trading Manny now, I'm not saying that Theo will get so lucky this time around. I think we all said a giant 'WTF?' when it was announced that we had traded our golden-boy shortstop for Dave Roberts and Doug Mientkiewicz, but we quickly forgot about that as that team went on a tear and ultimately ended 86 years of misery. This time around, Theo has to get more than that. Young prospects aren't going to do it alone. As of this morning, word is that the main players for Manny are rumored to be the Phillies (Pat Burrell), Dodgers and Mets (Carlos Beltran?). Pedro Martinez supposedly stumped for acquiring Manny by declaring him "a great human being."

Whatever happens in the next day or so, one thing is for certain: this Red Sox team needs to have some fresh air pumped into it. Manny is a lame duck every day now, and it's abundantly clear that his teammates are sick of the spectacle. Let him take his act to the National League, and let's give this team the chance it deserves to try to repeat.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Halo Effect

Damn, it sure looks like the Angels are the team to beat this year. Have they finally got the pieces to put themselves over the hump? The addition of Torii Hunter has paid huge dividends for a team that's always been good defensively, but now has more offense. The Angels once again took the Sox and Dice-K to the woodshed last night, winning 7-5 in a game that Dice-K seemingly had in control until he unraveled in the sixth. These teams have now played each other seven times this year and the Sox have won one.

The good news for the Nation last night was that both the Rays and Yankees lost, so no ground gained by anyone. Another tough matchup tonight at Fenway with Clay Buchholz going against John Lackey.

As far as a Manny update, the talk continues to swirl but no news yet. As you probably know by now, Manny has come and said that he would agree to a trade 'if it helped the Red Sox.' How magnanimous of him. WEEI reported last night that the Dodgers, Mets and Diamondbacks have all dialed Theo's Blackberry to inquire. The concept of trading Manny seems to have sunk in around here - at the very least, people don't think the Sox will pick up his option for 2009 - but when you see him scald the ball like he did last night, it makes it that much more bittersweet. Ideally, you'd like to see the freak finish out his career here. But for circumstances that we'll probably never know for sure, it most likely isn't going to happen. I'd still love to see Teixeira in a Red Sox uniform so we could right a wrong.

By the way, Peter Gammons checked in with a damning entry on his blog yesterday (available only to those with an ESPN Insider subscription). The story was filled with negative "clubhouse quotes" on Manny, and pointed out the disturbing penchant the dreadlocked one has for conveniently skipping games against the game's best righties (Chamberlain twice, Felix Hernandez twice, Edinson Volquez and Justin Verlander). Makes you wonder a bit more about the non at-bat vs. Mariano Rivera, eh?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Yanks Seize Momentum - On and Off the Field

After today's 10-3 shellacking, the Yanks have now won 8 straight games, and they pulled off a thievery of a trade last night/this morning when they sent four stiffs to Pittsburgh for OF Xavier Nady and RP Damaso Marte, both of whom have been in the crosshairs of several contending teams leading up to next Thursday's trading deadline.

Yup, the Bombers are beating up on our Sox both on the field and off, and they must be having a ball of a time watching the circus develop around the Manny situation. While I generally agree with the long-term, stable approach Theo Epstein espouses, I do believe he'll be working the phones like crazy over the next 48 hours to try to counter the Yanks' momentum. The two things he should be looking for, in my humble opinion, are a shutdown reliever - lefty or righty - and someone who can make us all forget Coco Crisp. In fact, I'd probably put the Crisp replacement at the top of the shopping list. I can no longer watch when the Sox have a rally, and their 7-8-9 hitters are strolling to the plate. Lowrie will be fine, and Varitek's not going anywhere. Which leaves Coco. The man makes some incredible plays in center field, and he knows how to duck a punch, no doubt. But can you think of one single offensive memory from this guy? Neither can I. My two biggest memories of Coco are the amazing catch he made off David Wright last year and the fight against James Shields and the Rays. If the Sox want to stay in this race, they need to make their lineup as strong 1 through 9 as they possibly can, because Lord knows the Yankees have the lineup - and they're starting to get the pitching.

Hopefully, Jon Lester continues his dominance tomorrow night and the Red Sox avoid an ugly Fenway sweep at their hands of their blood rivals. And hopefully, Theo's working the Blackberry non-stop. It could be something big (goodbye Manny) or it could be something medium. Either way, it's time for Theo to summon his creative juices and help his team have a chance to repeat.

Last Straw?

Leave it to our air-head leftfielder to overshadow an otherwise entertaining ballgame against the Spanks last night. Everything was great at around 4 p.m. Friday. The sun was shining, the post-work crowd was filling up on beer and heading into Fenway, Big Papi was returning, Beckett vs. Chamberlain... you know the drill.

And then Manny pulls a fast one, telling Brad Mills to let Terry Francona know that he wasn't going to be able to play due to a sore right knee. All of a sudden, a lineup that would have had Pedroia leading off, Papi and Manny reunited, and Ellsbury pushed down to No. 9, had to be erased and done over.

While it was certainly no surprise, the minute I heard it on the radio I was pissed, and I think a lot of diehard Sox fans - and Manny fans - were as well. This has happened before, yet this time it's very different. Things change when you're in a contract year, and things have most definitely changed with Manny. Maybe it's the Scott Boras factor, but Manny's no longer just happy-go-lucky. He seems to be trying to force his way out of town. I'm not going to say the at-bat against Rivera a few weeks ago, where he let three strikes sail past him without taking the bat off his shoulder, was an intentional swipe at Sox management. I'm not willing to go that far. But the deal with the traveling secretary, his unwillingness to play at certain times, his little verbal joust in the Herald with owner John Henry, and these goddamn mystery injuries (he went for an MRI last night on both knees and it came back clean) are getting very tiresome. Dan Shaughnessy, at his best in times of turmoil, pens a pretty good column today on the whole situation, speculating that the Sox may look to trade Manny before the year's up. There's certainly plenty here to indicate that Francona and the owners are pissed off big-time. Nice timing, Manny. Biggest game of the season and this is the message you send to your teammates, the fans, and the owners who sign your enormous checks.

Enough spouting on this man-child. If the Sox can get Mark Teixeira somehow from the Braves, move Youk to left and put Tex - another Gold Glover who can rip the cover off the ball at first - let's do it.

While all of this was going on, we got to see a pretty good pitcher's duel last night between two fireballers. Joba was more unhittable than Beckett, but the only run Beckett allowed came on a feeble grounder that was hit to the right spot when the Sox had the Giambi Shift on. We also had some fireworks, with Chamberlain again buzzing Youkilis near his dome, and then Mike Lowell vehemently arguing a called strike in the 9th inning. Two thoughts: Jerry Remy on NESN said there was no way ?Joba was trying to hit Youkilis in a 1-0 game and a 2-0 count. "There's no way that was intentional," said Remy, "unless Chamberlain is that stupid." Well, Jerry, he just may be that stupid. He had pinpoint control all night except for that at-bat. Draw your own conclusions. The Sox now have a little payback business to attend to with both the Rays and the Yankees. Regarding Lowell, can someone tell me why Mariano Rivera's strike zone is the size of Rosie O'Donnell's ass? (Sorry for the visual). This guy is well-respected and has done a lot in the game, but come on. Call 'em fair, umps. That was B.S. and Lowell was justified in letting him know it.

In the end, the Sox lose 1-0. Game 2 is at 4:00 today on Fox, with Tim Wakefield going against Andy Pettitte. By the way, can you come up with any players who have been with the same team as long as Wake has? He came to Beantown in 1995 - remember that crazy winning streak he had that summer - and he's now in his 14th season as a Sox. (Just looked up Derek Jeter - he, too, joined the Yanks in 1995). Any others?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hit the Bull, Pap.. Just Hit the $%#@ Bull

Wow, are the Seattle Mariners atrocious or what? Talk about doing a complete 180 from the Anaheim series last weekend. What's that? Your bullpen's in disarray? Head straight to the Pacific Northwest for a cure. Huh? Your 7-8-9 hitters look like they're holding strands of spaghetti at the plate? Starbucks Country is your answer. What sayeth you? Your All-Star left-fielder is acting goofy? Sorry, we can't help you there.

The Red Sox had to work overtime yesterday in Seattle, but they managed to make the cross-country flight home with a .500 record after their abysmal series against the Angels. They're now a half-game behind the Rays, and only 3 games up on the Yankees, but we'll take it. We've got Big Papi slated to come back tomorrow night in a certifiable EVENT game at Fenway (more on that in a minute), and if yesterday's performance is any indication, Justin Masterson may be just what the bullpen doctor ordered.

I guess the best way to go at the past few days is to throw out some random observations:

- For starters (pun intended), who'da thunk Jon Lester would be shaping into our ace as we head into August? The tall, soft-spoken lefty has been dominant in his past few starts, and he completely shut down the Mariners yesterday to ensure a road split. Here's hoping he gives a little push to Josh Beckett, who needs to turn it up a notch starting tomorrow night against the Yankees. I'm not expecting Beckett to duplicate his postseason form, but he has to be better for the rest of the season.

- Sticking with the starters for a moment, we must salute Dice-K. Yes, he can be maddening to watch. The man pitches like he's picking out a perfect piece of fruit, but he's been damn good results-wise all year long thanks to his Houdini-like ability to escape from jams. Teams are 0 for 11 against him in bases loaded situations so far this year. Now, he seems like he's finding a better groove.

- The injury to Julio Lugo may actually work in the Sox' favor. Jed Lowrie's going to get the chance to play every day at short, and so far so good with both the bat and the glove. Tito Francona likens him a little bit to one of my alltime favorite Sox - Bill Mueller - and I think it's a spot-on comparison. We'll see how he does against the big boys down the stretch, but I like his approach at the plate.

- Yes, Jacoby Ellsbury is slumping but he will - and should - continue to play every day. He made a spectacular running catch yesterday, running full tilt from left to center when Coco got a late break on the ball, and his glove is very much needed. His bat is, too, obviously, and I kind of wish he'd go back to laying a few bunts down every now and then. He was doing that pretty effectively earlier this year but has abandoned it for the most part. It's a true weapon with this kid's legs.

- We need to appreciate Mike Lowell more. Yesterday's game was a microcosm of what the man brings to the table. He started a HUGE double play in extra innings when Papelbon got into a little trouble, and then he strokes the clutch game-winning hit.

- Back to the 'pen for a moment. If Masterson can give us 2 innings of solid relief when he's in there, I think you'll see a far more effective Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen. Yes, I'm leaving Craig Hansen off that list. He just ain't getting it done.

- I know Theo gets lots of kudos for the player development machine he's built, but it's still incredible to me to look at the core players: Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Lester, Papelbon. Now Lowrie and Masterson are getting their shots. Very impressive.

- Why do people still insist on running against the best arm in the game (Ichiro)?

- Speaking of Papelbon, I'm convinced that he's the real-life version of Nuke LaLoosh from Bull Durham. And hell, Varitek is his Crash Davis.

- Okay, I was hoping to avoid it, but we must expend a few words on one Manuel Aristides Ramirez. Once again, it was an eventful few days on Planet Manny. First he gets a "stern lecture" from a Seattle policeman on the dangers of jaywalking (by the way, the fact that felt compelled to make this a front-page news item is a sad commentary on both readers and the media today), and then he shows up at the park yesterday and begs out of the lineup with a sore right knee that was a surprise to all. Hmmm. Felix Hernandez on the hill, off-day today... I'm just sayin'. I think there's some credence to the theory being floated around that Manny and his new agent - who just so happens to be Scott Boras - are playing games to see if Manny can get a long-term contract somewhere else. They probably don't want the the Sox to pick up the next two one-year options at $20 million per. Manny's probably looking to land that final, four-year or so deal before he hangs up his dreds. As for whether I think the Sox should keep him, I'm incredibly torn. I'm sick of his clown act, but his production will be difficult to replace.

- Now, onto the game tomorrow night. If there was one game you could attend this year at Fenway, this one is it. Friday nights are always electric, but throw in the Yankees, a pennant race, the return of David Ortiz to the lineup, and - try this on for size - Beckett vs. Joba Chamberlain, and it's downright nirvana.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Road Kill

As you know by now, the Red Sox road woes continued this weekend as they dropped three straight to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Orange County (why couldn't they just keep 'California' Angels?). While I readily admit that Mike Scioscia (the Kevin Youkilis of managers in terms of whining) has a very good ballclub, these were winnable games and once again, the bullpen let us down. I'm talking to you Lopez and Delcarmen. Thankfully, Theo was sitting behind the plate during the series, no doubt taking stock of what he's got on the field so he can contemplate some potential trading-deadline moves.

The home/road splits for the Sox are incredible. They're 36-11 in the friendly confines, and 21-32 when staying in another town. Counting this lost weekend, they've now been swept six times this year on the road (Toronto, Tampa (twice), Baltimore (2-game series), Oakland and Anaheim). Conversely, they enjoyed a 13-game winning streak at Fenway from May 2 through June 5. It's downright maddening - reminiscent, in fact, of the Celtics' problems on the road during this past year's NBA postseason.

Bullpen aside, could a healthy David Ortiz have made a difference in some of these ugly road losses? Absolutely. Despite the temptation to activate Papi after he hit homers in three consecutive games down in Pawtucket, the organization is sticking to its original plan. Papi will be looking to hit a couple more bombs off Double-A pitching in Portland, Maine, this week. But the bullpen needs serious overhauling. Delcarmen has a nice fastball, but you have to wonder where his head is sometimes. The heater's his best pitch, and he throws some type of off-speed junk to Casey Kotchman yesterday, whose eyes light up as he ropes it for a game-winning 2-run double? This comes after a visit to the mound by pitching coach John Farrell?

On the flight to Seattle, Theo had to be doing a quick inventory of available relievers on the market as the deadline nears. Unfortunately, the price will be high, and the sting of trading David Murphy, Kason Gabbard, and a minor leaguer - Engel Beltre, who is tearing it up in AA ball - for tomato can Eric Gagne is still fresh. One hope is that Justin Masterson can be effective pitching in relief. The Sox recalled Masterson yesterday and he'll be called upon very soon to try to reverse this disturbing trend.

As they prepare to take on the Mariners tonight, the Sox find themselves a game and a half behind Tampa, and only three games up on the suddenly surging Yankees. Washington homeboy Jon Lester goes against Jarrod Washburn.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sight for Sore Eyes

I think it's fair to say that I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say how awesome it was to open today's Globe sports page and see a large color picture of David Ortiz in full extension, watching his fourth-inning home run leave the park in his first rehab game at Triple-A Pawtucket. Ortiz will be playing a few games there, and then will head north up Route 95 to play for Double-A Portland because Pawtucket goes on the road. The plan calls for Papi to be in the starting lineup on Friday, July 25, when the Sox play the Yankees at Fenway. Friday night games are always the best, but throw in the Yankees and Big Papi's return and you've got yourself a certified EVENT. Can't wait.

Was out with a few buddies last night and everyone to a man agreed that as the Sox start the second half of the season, things are looking good. When you think about all the adversity this team has been through - starting with the loss of Curt Schilling and obviously Big Papi, and the bullpen implosions - the fact that we're up a 1/2 game on the Rays is a bit of a miracle. With Papi on the cusp of returning, it changes the entire dynamic of the lineup. And hopefully, the Sox can patch up the 'pen organically, like they're doing by having Justin Masterson back in Triple-A to work on becoming a reliever. If all goes according to plan, Masterson could be using his nasty sinker to quell some potential big innings late in the season.

To be sure, there are other things to think about before we even ponder this team's chances for a repeat trip to the Fall Classic. Will Jason Varitek start hitting, at least a little bit? Will Jed Lowrie/Alex Cora rise to the occasion and fill in ably for Julio Lugo (can't imagine a downgrade)? Will Jonathan Papelbon go back to his lights-out 1-2-3 inning self? Will Josh Beckett regain his 2007 form just in time? How will Clay Buchholz do? And last but not least, will Manny Ramirez be distracted by his contract status or will he just play ball and leave 65-year old traveling secretaries alone?

Lots of questions, and we'll start getting some answers tonight when the Sox play the Angels in Anaheim. Buchholz vs. John Lackey at 10.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Midnight Run

I'm glad I went to bed when I did last night. It took 15 innings for a winner to be declared in last night's Midsummer Classic, as Rangers SS Michael Young hit a sacrifice fly that scored Justin Morneau. As for all those Yankee fans that took delight in booing the boys from Boston, well, we get the last laugh. Can you say J.D. Drew/MVP?

Something tells me Papelbon will have a little extra snarl in him the rest of the way against the Yankees, which is a good thing. Kudos to him for not flipping the bird to the crowd last night as he was booed off the mound. And some news from Yankee camp: Hideki Matsui's knee injury is worse than originally feared, and he could be out for the rest of the year. The guy they're talking about as a replacement? One Barry Bonds. Please, God, let this happen.

No ball until Friday night when the Sox take on the Angels in Anaheim. Enjoy the break.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stay Classy, New York

I don't really feel like organizing my thoughts tonight, so I'm just gonna go with what's on my mind.

- I'm a 40-year old man and I'm still excited to see my guys play in the All-Star Game. (By the way, I just called J.D. Drew's home run in the bottom of the 7th for the American League - my dog Lucy and a stuffed monkey as my witnesses). We're heading to the top of the 8th all knotted up at 2. Will we see Papelbon for the 8th? Why, yes we will. And the Yanks' fans are booing lustily. More on this in a moment.

- For all of us Yankee haters out there, one of the more underrated results from winning the World Series last year is that our guys pretty much get to go into the Yanks' clubhouse during the All-Star Game and, you know, take the place over. I mean, think about how cool it is that Terry Francona is sitting in the same office where Billy Martin and Joe Torre sat, and Big Papi, Drew, Kevin Youkilis, Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, and Manny Ramirez are occupying lockers. All during the celebrated swan song of Yankee Stadium. Me likey. %$#@ the Yankees.

- The NYC media can certainly whip up a good shit storm, can't it? For two weeks, we've heard 'start Mariano' or 'Mariano better close.' Up yours, you entitled pieces of dung. First of all, it's a slap to Francona to think that he won't get Rivera - one of the very few Yankees I respect - into the last All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. Francona's a classy guy, as evidenced already by his mid-inning removals of A-Rod and Derek Jeter so they could get ovations. If Rivera doesn't pitch in this game - ahead, behind, tied, whatever - I'll wear a Yankees hat for a day.

- Still, that doesn't stop the media B.S., which brings us back to our favorite party boy, Mr. Papelbon. During interviews yesterday, Papelbon said that yes, his competitive nature makes him want to close out the game tonight if he has the chance. But alack and alas, in his very next sentence - which the New York Daily News conveniently omitted - he called Rivera the "Godfather" and said he thinks Rivera should get the ball. So naturally the headline in the News this morning screamed 'Papelbum', and during the player parade down the streets of Manhattan, Papelbon took a ton of crap from the Yankee-loving cretins in the crowd. With a pregnant wife alongside him, he was understandably pissed off.

- The NL unfortunately went ahead 3-2 off Papelbon, but the AL still has a very good chance to win because Billy Wagner's coming into the game. (And on cue, Wagner almost takes his catcher's arm off with a near wild pitch, and Grady Sizemore just singled to right. Two outs, bottom of the 8th, and Evan Longoria is up. Sizemore just stole second and Longoria singled him in. Tied up at 3. Told ya about Billy Wags.

- Try as they might, the Yanks tried to replicate the beautiful pre-game ceremony at Fenway back in 1999 (one of the top-5 sporting events I've attended), when all of the players spontaneously gathered around The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived, Ted Williams (above). This time, they dragged ol' George Steinbrener out in a golf cart and the poor guy looked like a fossilized mummy. Of course, the only guys who went up to him were ex-Yankee legends. I will say this, though. When George is gone, the rivalry will lose a hugely important ingredient.

- Looks like I won't be wearing a Yankee hat anytime soon. That brain-dead Francona just went out to the mound to relieve K-Rod in favor of Mariano. Fox dropped the ball big time, though. Just as Rivera's sprinting through the outfield to the sound of Metallica's "Enter Sandman", they cut away to commercial. Pretty piss poor.

- Oh yeah, the game. It's 3-3.

- Poor Ryan Ludwick has to face the Godfather in a howling Yankee Stadium. In my opinion, it's the only stadium in the U.S. that sounds like those hooligan soccer matches. Loud, louder, loudest. Ludwick K's and Cristian Guzman gets thrown out at second trying to steal.

- Could this possibly be another ugly tie, like we had back in 2002 when both managers ran out of pitchers? Francona has used all of his bench guys as we head to the bottom of the 9th.

- And I'm hitting the rack.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Reeling Rays

Maybe all the attention is finally getting to them. Or, more likely, maybe the lack of a consistent power bat in their lineup is catching up. Whatever it is, the Rays - after last night's whitewashing at the hands of Cliff Lee and the Indians - have lost five games in a row and find themselves clinging to a 1-1/2 game lead over the Sox entering today's action.

We all know that this is a 162-game soap opera. That's why we love it - the ups and downs, and all that goes into riding the daily waves (that's us in the raft). When the Red Sox limped out of Tampa a couple weeks back, it was the low point of the season. The hitters couldn't hit, and the bullpen was tossing grenades at every turn and losing leads in the ugliest of fashions. Fans and geek bloggers were airing their grievances on the radio airwaves and the ol' interweb. And I'll admit that I was a bit depressed.

So what's happened in the past week or so? The Rays have hit a road bump - appropriately, on the road - and the Sox swept a good Twins team. From a mental confidence standpoint, the news that David Ortiz's wrist is in far better shape than anyone expected has also been a huge boost.

Things were going so well during the past week that the Sox went bowling and picked up a full game on the Rays. Josh Beckett held his annual "Beckett Bowl" for local-area charities Thursday night at the same time the Rays were getting pummeled 13-2 in Cleveland.

The Sox are hosting the feisty Orioles this weekend in the final series before the All-Star break, while the Rays finish out a four-game set versus the Tribe. Last night, it was Clay Buchholz making a return appearance after spending some time in Pawtucket working on a few things. Justin Masterson was sent down to work on becoming a reliever. Buchholz was admittedly nervous last night, but showed some glimpses of why the Sox' brass is so fond of him. In the end, Baltimore won 7-3 as all-around pest Brian Roberts was once again a thorn in our side. Tonight's game has Tim Wakefield going against someone named Radhames Liz. Something tells me the Sox break out the lumber tonight.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cool Picture of the Day

Came across this great shot of Pittsburgh Pirates fans watching the 1960 World Series (wonder if this was the famous Bill Mazeroski HR game?) from a nearby rooftop.

Couple of quick notes: Sox won a nice ballgame behind the solid and shockingly efficient pitching of Dice-K last night, 1-0. And even more shocking, the game-winning hit came off the bat of Manny.

The talk of Barry Bonds coming to Boston is just that - talk. Ain't happening in this lifetime.

Big Papi took some cuts in batting practice yesterday, and several onlookers reported that he looked pretty damn good. He supposedly swatted six bombs out of the yard during his session. Let's hope he's back in the lineup soon after the All-Star break.

Jon Lester vs. Nick Blackburn tonight at the Fens. Rays are playing the Yanks in New York, and for the life of me I can't figure out who to root for. Injuries, I guess.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Joba, Seeing Stars, and Throwing Like Girlie Men

You know, I was coming around to like Joba Chamberlain. Heartwarming story. No Mom. Raised by a baseball-loving Dad with polio or some such disease who's in a wheelchair. I remember when they showed the Dad watching the son pitch in the big leagues for the first time. If the tears of pride running down the old man's face didn't thaw the hatred for all things Yankee nothing will. I was even okay with Joba's late-inning histrionics, whenever he punched out a batter in a crucial situation. I've always liked that stuff. We can't look the other way when Jonathan Papelbon does it, then give Chamberlain grief for the same thing.

But tonight - in the last game of the Sox' series in the Bronx (Sox are up 3-1 heading into the bottom of the 5th) - he's irritating me. Since the first inning, he's done nothing but bitch, moan and make all sorts of gestures toward home plate umpire Laz Diaz if he doesn't care for the ump's calls. One or two? Fine. But he's been at it all game, almost as though there's some sense of entitlement because he's the Great Joba and he's pitching in Yankee Stadium and dammit, those balls that are clearly inside or outside or low or high are strikes. Pipe down and pitch, rookie.

That's my lecture for the night. A busy day in baseball - here's a few noteworthy notes:

- Looks like the Brewers are going to grab free-agent-to-be C.C. Sabathia, the 2007 Cy Young Award winner. This puts the Brewers in great position to make the postseason, and it's a smart move by C.C. because he's always been a pretty good hitter and he can now take a few more swings in the NL.

- A-Rod + Madonna + Lenny Kravitz = New York tabloid nirvana

- The All-Star game is a week from this Tuesday and the starters from both squads were unveiled today. Both the Sox and the Cubs placed 7 players each on the AL and NL teams. The rosters, as voted in by a blend of fans, players and the team managers:

C: Joe Mauer; 1B: Kevin Youkilis; 2B: Dustin Pedroia; SS: Derek Jeter; 3B: Alex Rodriguez; LF: Manny Ramirez; CF: Ichiro Suzuki; RF: Josh Hamilton

C: Jason Varitek, Dioner Navarro; 1B: Justin Morneau, Carlos Guillen; 2B: Ian Kinsler; SS: Michael Young; 3B: Joe Crede; OF: Carlos Quentin, J.D. Drew, Grady Sizemore, Milton Bradley

Starters: Cliff Lee, Justin Duscherer, Roy Halladay, Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana; Relievers: Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, George Sherrill, Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria

C: Geovany Soto; 1B: Lance Berkman; 2B: Chase Utley; SS: Hanley Ramirez; 3B: Chipper Jones; LF: Ryan Braun; CF: Alfonso Soriano; RF: Kosuke Fukudome

C: Russell Martin, Brian McCann; 1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols; 2B: Dan Uggla; SS: Miguel Tejada, Cristian Guzman; 3B: Aramis Ramirez; OF: Matt Holliday, Nate McLouth, Ryan Ludwick

Starters: Carlos Zambrano, Dan Haren, Edinson Volquez, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Dempster, Brandon Webb, Ben Sheets; Relievers: Brad Lidge, Brian Wilson, Kerry Wood, Billy Wagner

Finally, five players from each league are vying for the final spot on each squad. In the AL, fans can vote in Jason Giambi, Evan Longoria (my vote), Brian Roberts, Jose Guillen or Jermaine Dye. In the NL, it's David Wright, Pat Burrell, Corey Hart (my vote), Carlos Lee, and Aaron Rowand.

Couple of quick observations: Kinsler should be starting at 2B for the AL... I respect everything Jason Varitek means to my favorite ballclub, but no way in hell he's an all-star if Victor Martinez is healthy... interesting how the AL loaded up on relievers and the NL loaded up on starters. Guess it makes sense when you see how ridiculously stacked the AL is with stud closers... Interesting dilemmas for both Francona and Clint Hurdle on who gets the rock to start the game. My choices would be Halladay and Lincecum, but I wouldn't be disappointed with Lee/Volquez... Word came out today that the plan is to have Mariano Rivera pitch the last inning of the last-ever All-Star game at Yankee Stadium. Wonder if that was an MLB directive or a Tito thing... probably MLB. What are your thoughts on the All-Star selections?

Sox-Yanks update: Joe Girardi was ejected from the game for arguing balls and strikes. Game is tied at 4 in the bottom of the 7th inning. The Yanks tied it on a triple to the right-center gap by Robinson Cano, a play on which Coco Crisp made one of the most pathetic throws you'll ever see. How about a throw-off between Johnny Damon, Coco, and my grandmother?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Wacky Fourth in the Bronx

The nightmare at the Trop a distant memory, the Sox won their second straight over the Bombers yesterday in New York in a game that featured one of the most incredible plays I've ever seen in 35 years of baseball-watching.

Let me set the stage: Top of the third inning, Yanks are up 3-1, Sox have two men on base with Kevin Youkilis at the plate. Youk smashes a Darrell Rasner offering to deep left, where Johnny Damon makes a leaping attempt to prevent a home run. The ball snow-cones in his glove, and as he crashes into the soft, padded wall like a hockey player getting checked, the ball pops out and Damon falls to the ground. Amazingly, the ball actually comes to a rest on top of the fence, which has a flat surface, before dropping to the playing field. As the dazed Damon (his natural state?) looks around wondering what happened, the fans behind the fence are pointing furiously at the ground. Meanwhile, Youk steams into third base with the strangest game-tying triple you'll ever see. Damon had to leave the game with what was later diagnosed as a sprained shoulder.

Mike Lowell - who along with J.D. Drew have covered nicely in Big Papi's absence - hit a no-doubt three-run homer later in the game to give the Sox a 6-3 cushion and then the rains came. After a one-hour plus delay, the teams got back to it and the Sox escaped with a 6-4 win, despite what appeared to be a blown call on a Coco Crisp diving catch. Jacoby Ellsbury had himself a fine game, as he's been more willing to throw the bunt down to get on base with his speed. Josh Beckett, meanwhile, grinded his way through six innings and was rewarded with his 8th win of the season.

So after Joe Girardi's tongue-lashing on Thursday, the Yanks come out and lose again. Now what? The Yankee hitters were much more patient with Beckett than they were the prior day with Lester, but their problem in this game was that their starting pitcher - Rasner - should be in Triple-A.

The Rays beat Kansas City, 11-2, yesterday to remain 3 games in front of the Sox. Today's game is a Fox national broadcast, with Justin Masterson going against Mike Mussina.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Girardi Supplies the Fireworks

First things first -- happy Fourth of July to you and yours, and I know you all join me in wishing George Steinbrenner a very miserable 78th birthday. He certainly had to endure a miserable birthday eve last night.

After Jon Lester and the Sox blanked the Boss' overpaid band of underachievers last night, 7-0, manager Joe Girardi spent more than a half-hour ripping his team a new one behind closed doors. The NESN postgame report showed Girardi's press conference live after the verbal beatdown, and the guy was still steaming. A couple of wiseass NY baseball writers kept asking him to share details from the meeting but Joe wasn't buying and you could just see his body temperature rising by the second. Very entertaining TV.

First off, though, we're not going to talk about how listless and lazy the Yankees were last night. Nope, we're going to talk first and foremost about Jon Lester: Stopper. I know he threw a no-hitter against the Royals earlier this year, but in my book last night's performance (9 ip, 0 er, 5 hits, 2 bb, 8 k) - against that lineup - was the best I've ever seen him. He was dominant at a time when we needed him most.

Okay, now for the Yankees. They were flat as a pancake last night, no doubt about it, but they just may be - as Dennis Green famously said - what we thought they were. Their lineup, when humming, is scary. Their pitching is not. They're still relying on old-timers Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte - who was terrible last night - and their young kids have not been impressive. Alex Rodriguez is a sideshow unto himself off the field. Derek Jeter has not been Jeter-like through the first half of the year. Jorge Posada's banged up. There's been a litany of issues that have led to the Yanks entering today's action at 45-41, good for 8 games behind the Rays and 5 behind the Sox.

Josh Beckett vs. Darrell Rasner today in Game 2, and maybe Girardi's words have had some effect. The Sox left 'em loaded in their half of the first, and the Yanks just plated three runs to take a quick lead. Something tells me there's going to be a few runs scored in this one.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Reaching New Depths

Sometimes when you're pissed off and angry, it's better to wait and calm down a bit before saying something you'll regret later. This ain't one of those times.

The Red Sox were broomed away by the surging Rays last night in ugly fashion, as Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen completely reversed a rare 4-1 lead in a matter of minutes. Allow me to set the stage.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was his maddening self again last night, nibbling instead of pounding (what a contrast to the Rays' pitchers in this series), but he ultimately pitched well. The problem is he only went 5 innings and we had to go to the bullpen. Hideki Okajima pitched a problem-free sixth inning, but it was the seventh when it unraveled. Delcarmen came in first and threw grenades, and Hansen followed and wasn't much better. In a span of 30 pitches, the combined line for the two: 0 outs, 4 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks. Lead gone.

Now to be fair, Dice-K needs to give us more than five. There's no question about that. But he has been pitching better lately, and logic dictates that he should continue to get better as his recent DL stay fades further in the rear view mirror. The Sox mounted a comeback in the 9th, but Francona curiously called a hit and run with one of his slowest runners on first (Lowell) and his worst batter (Varitek) at the plate. Swing and a miss, Lowell out by a mile.

The Sox are now 3.5 games behind the Rays as they enter Yankee Stadium tonight, and the pressure is on Jon Lester to come through with a clutch performance. As for the bullpen? Theo needs to do something, and he may have to make a move before the trading deadline with some internal pieces. I'm thinking Justin Masterson goes to the pen, and Clay Buchholz comes up from Pawtucket to face the Yankees on Sunday. Beyond that, maybe we see more of Chris Smith, who's pitched well but hasn't seen much time on the bump lately.

In the midst of my pissed-off-edness last night, I think I heard the guys on NESN say that the Sox haven't been 3.5 games out of first-place since late 2006. They're clearly hurting without David Ortiz in the lineup, Manny is scuffling, Youkilis is hitting the ball hard but right at everybody, and Varitek is doing his best imitation of Dave Kingman. He's 3 for his last 48, and man is he starting to look like an old catcher.

I know we've been extremely fortunate around here when it comes to sports success. I haven't felt the way I did last night at around 11 p.m. in a long, long time. But when the Tampa Bay Rays are walking all over you, the defending world champs, something's not right. I like and respect the Rays, but 1 through 25, the Red Sox are the better club. Time to start showing it.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?