Monday, January 31, 2005

Who knew we were a bunch of communists?


"Q: Bill, my nemisis. Remember Vietnam? You know, tiny country, only known for one quasi-victory, then for the most part faded back in to oblivion? Remember they were dominated by the French (as homoerotic as that sounds), then eeked out a win over the US after spending hundreds of years in the way back seat to Europe and the U.S.? See the analogy I am trying to make here, Bill? You see, the Yankees are the United States ... they have the most money, they have the biggest weapons, and they, for the most part, never lose. People love to hate the U.S., just as they love to hate the Yankees, mostly because people wish they were born in the U.S., and people wish they were born to fathers who knew enough to root for a winning team, and not for a bunch of choke artists that have not won a series in their lifetime. Every once in a while, a nobody team like the Red Sox, like Vietnam to the U.S., will come along and remind the U.S. that while certainly dominant, they are not unbeatable. And then what happens? Vietnam, like the BoSox parties for a while, gets drunk, loses the face of their team to the Mets, and, in the words of the great Tyson, fades back in to Bolivia. Meanwhile, people will keep hating the Yanks, will keep hating on the U.S., but its all good, cause now all Vietnam does is make shoes for NIKE. Love you.
--Chief Macho, NY, NY

See, that's everything I ever wanted in a reader e-mail -- insane, delusional, funny and improbably coherent, and all from a guy who calls himself "Chief Macho." The bar has been raised."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

And your 2005 Red Sox are...

Well, the Carlos Delgado sweepstakes are finally over - Carlos signed with Florida on the 26th for 4 years and $52 million, with an option for a fifth year and an additional $14 million. As expected, since Minaya failed to attract Delgado to Queens, he was happy to resolve Theo's "I've got two full time first basemen" problem and Doug Mientkiewiecz was dealt to the Mets for first base prospect Ian Bladergroen. Bladergroen has shown abilities with the glove and has some power and the Sox front office sees him as a good way of rounding out the farm team in an area that was lacking in coverage.

Kevin Millar, of course, is thrilled he isn't being traded - and who could blame him? - and plans to reward Epstein's faith by making himself a better defensive player this coming season. Of course, to be a little cynical, it's a contract year for Millar this year, which is probably encouraging the 33 year old to work that much harder in '05. But apparently he's been captured by Boston's spell - somehow I trust a guy like Millar when he says there's no other team he'd rather play with and that he'd like to end his career with the Sox. I also trust Epstein to not chase Kevin away (ala Dan Duquette) if he continues to perform.

My take on the situation was mixed. On one hand, Millar is more of a power hitter than Mientkiewiecz - Millar's up 86 points on slugging and their on base numbers are within two points of each other. Even if Mientkiewiecz had a better hitting year this year, Millar would, presumably be driving in more runners, especially from the number six spot. Besides, this the AL - power means more here. Also, Millar's role as a cheerleader on the team the past two years cannot be overlooked, no matter what the stats people say. I wanted him on the team for that alone.

On the other hand, we all know Doug is the better defensive first baseman by far, especially when it comes to zone rating - Mientkiewicz just has the better range. Obviously, it was a lot of fun to have the dream infield last year and remembering the Sox defensive woes before the Nomar trade, I was not a fan of losing a gold glove at first. I think in the end though, I'll take the trade - we have another excellent shortstop this year in Renteria, we don't have Derek Lowe and his unnatural reliance on defense to win games and in the scheme of things, have a strong glove at first is not as important as strong gloves up the middle. Renteria obviously fits the bill there, Damon is fast enough to catch most of the balls hit to Bellhorn just has to cut those 11 errors at second in half and I'd say we're set.

So, assuming there aren't any injuries during spring training, we're looking at:

Positional players:
  • catcher - Jason Varitek
  • first base - Kevin Millar
  • second base - Mark Bellhorn
  • short stop - Edgar Renteria
  • third base - Bill Mueller
  • right field - Trot Nixon
  • center field - Johnny Damon
  • left field - Manny Ramirez
  • designated hitter - David Ortiz
  • backup - Kevin Youkilis, Hanley Ramirez, Ramon Vasquez, Doug Mirabelli, Kelly Shoppach, Jay Payton, Adam Hyzdu and Adam Stern
  • Starters: Curt Schilling, Wade Miller, David Wells, Matt Clement, Bronson Arroyo and Tim Wakefield
  • Bullpen: Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, Matt Mantei, Abe Alvarez, Tim Bausher, Juan Cedeno, Manny Delcarmen, Lenny DiNardo, John Halama, Byung-Hyun Kim, Mark Malaska, Anastacio Martinez, Luis Mendoza, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Smith
  • Closer: Keith Foulke
What can I say? I'm psyched for baseball to start again and see what this team can do.

Other things of note: the ball "controversy", such as it was (and I hope this is not how the Boston sportswriters choose to spend their time in the post-championship world) is now over: Mientkiewiecz is loaning the ball that ended the drought to the Red Sox for a year, where it will presumably tour with the World Series trophy. After that, Doug will most likely get the ball back. He says the Hall of Fame has not contacted him about it and he will worry about putting it in a museum when/if it ever comes up.

Along with Faithful (which will be the next review, I promise), I also just finished Jerry Remy's book, Watching Baseball: Discovering the Game within the Game, which will get a review of its own very shortly. All this baseball reading has me wanting it to be April again and I had a dream the other night the Sox and Yankees were facing off in a three game series in the middle of January. No one seemed bothered by the cold though, so the games went pretty well. At the very least, maybe it's a sign that winter will be particularly short this year? GO SOX!!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A new beginning

After a year of hosting this blog over at LiveJournal, I got so frustrated with the LiveJournal idiosyncracies (no WYSIWYG editor in Firefox, weird formatting issues when writing in Internet Explorer) and its lack of listing on Google that I decided to move the blog to another service. After a few months of proscrastinating, I chose Blogger and I'm already much happier with the look and feel...and I hope you all are too. All of the archives have been copied over (including the comments), so you can peruse the content from last season if you so desire. GO SOX!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Book Review of The Little Red (Sox) Book by Bill Lee and Jim Prime

My rating: A good, quick read.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee is best known as being the lefty pitcher with the left-wing ideas, something he brings to this book about the Red Sox, written after the 2003 season. Modeling his text after the revisionist history of Chairman Mao Tse Tung in his Little Red Book, the self-styled Chairman Lee uses The Little Red (Sox) Book as a vehicle to set out his own philosophies on baseball (and life related to baseball), take a few swings at people who bothered him in the past, defend a few old friends and remind us yet again why Don Zimmer looks like a gerbil. Oh and that whole revising the history of the Red Sox thing...that's kinda important too.

Really, I jest. Yes, Lee does use his book as a way to settle some scores, giving the whole book a slightly loony cast (not that I mind - it was just very present), but on the whole it's a fun read about what might have been if:

  • Joe Kennedy had decided to make a second attempt at buying the Red Sox after Harry Frazee's initial self-off of players after the 1918 season, keeping the Babe in Boston and adding to the team, setting off a string of pennant and championship wins that lasted until the Babe's retirement in the 1930s.
  • Ted Williams and catcher Moe Berg had successfully pulled off a plot, hatched by the US Government, to assassinate Adolf Hitler during a state visit to Fenway in the late 1930s, thus preventing World War II and allowing Ted to spend his missing war years in Boston, where he helped the Sox win several World Series titles.
  • Tom Yawkey had been progressive enough to grab Jackie Robinson in the 1940s when he had the chance, preempting Branch Rickey and building the foundation of a team that, with Robinson, Ted Williams and later Willie Mays went on to form a multiple decade rivalry with the Boston Braves, making Boston the center of the baseball universe and forestalling a move by the Braves to Milwaukee.
  • Bucky Dent had taken up piano instead of baseball.
  • Bill Buckner had taken himself out of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

and a few more. Strung throughout are numerous cutting remarks about New York and the Yankees (after the Babe stays in Boston, for example, Lee has New York become relegated to the status of a provincial town in the face of Boston's championship-backed confidence) which probably reflect the time of the publishing - one wonders what would happen if The Little Red (Sox) Book had been published this year instead of last year. Then again, the authors do state in their introductions that neither was a history major.

The other thing of note about this book is the message to all Red Sox faithful: read this book at least once, the authors implore, if not a few times during the coming (2004) season and the Red Sox might finally achieve the 86-year dream. To be sure, a lot of people were saying similar things and had said things before, but at the same time, I'd like to add this book to the list of unique Red-Sox-related things that happened last year, the year the Red Sox won the World Series. This list also includes: this blog, Robin and my game watching/commenting relationship of this past year and Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season, which I review above. As the 2005 season approaches (pitchers and catchers report at the beginning of February!) and the rallying cry changes from "Why Not Us?" to "Let's Do It Again," it's comforting to think that these little things and hundreds of others like them changed the whims of the baseball gods towards the Sox...and might well do so again this year. GO SOX!!!