Monday, October 31, 2005
Well, that’s what happened in Boston from 2002 till today. Theo Epstein was under 30 years old and running the Red Sox. Here was this local kid from Brookline, making trades and deciding contracts just like you do on your fantasy team. Sure he has Yale education, a law degree and experience on the Orioles and Padres. But he was also an infielder at Brookline High. Is he really that much different then you or me or any of your buddies you talk about the Red Sox with at the corner bar? How many times have you said “I can run a team better than these clowns”? Well Theo said that, and proved it. He brought a World Series to Boston after an 86 year drought. Ok, so he’s got us beat there.
I was explaining to Eric earlier today that I thought Theo was the managerial version of Tony Conigliaro. He was the hometown hero kid and started off with a tragedy. The 2003 playoffs wasn’t exactly a line drive to the head, but it was pretty bad. Losing A-Rod to the Yankees was even worse. Even with all that has passed now, I still remember where I was when I heard the Sox couldn’t make that deal with Texas and Steinbrenner scooped up his new “Third Baseman”. Not good times. Yet Theo bounced back, got us Schilling, traded Nomar, won the World Series and got the chance to bang any girl from Portland to Pawtucket in the process. What a story! I think I know how this one ends. He gets a big fat contract extension ($1.5 mill a year for 3 years) and the Red Sox take shots at the title from now until 2008. At least that’s the Boston Globes version of this story.
In reality? Well, think about your dream job for a second. What if it’s not all it’s cracked up to be? What if you have an overbearing boss and mentor that isn’t that well liked locally? What if everything you did was put under a microscope? What if you didn’t get the money you wanted without a fight? What if you already achieved your highest goal? Would any of that be enough for you to give up your dream job?
It was for Theo. New contract or not, he won’t be the GM of the Boston Red Sox next year. This week everyone will be asking the questions I just did and I really wonder what the answers will be. I guess I’m going to have to wait and see what (if anything) Theo has for a response. In the end… knowing what I do about Boston, the Red Sox and the upper management, I am not even sure I can blame him for leaving.
Anyway, Theo Epstein, I forgive you for 2005, I try to forget 2003 and I can never thank you enough for 2004. I wish you the best where ever you end up (Dodgers?) and hope you remember that in the end… you’re a Red Sox fan.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller have filed for free agency, a move that should surprise precisely no one. I doubt that the organization hasn’t been returning phone calls to agents or anything that insidious, but it was pretty clear that a.) Kevin Youkilis is getting towards past due (and he’s a cheaper alternative to Mueller) and b.) Kevin Millar lost his hitting credibility (the only thing that made him valuable, besides his cheerleading abilities) with his terrible 2005 season. I’m sorry to see Mueller go, because he’s been a great part of the teams of the last 3 years and I wish that Millar could be hired as a bench coach or team cheerleader or something, but the time has come to say goodbye. In true Keep Your Sox On fashion, we’ve got our own little send off for the man known for his blond highlights, love of KFC and team-promoting ways. Here goes:
“Say Goodbye 2 Kevin”
With apologies to Temple of the Dog and Boston Dirt Dogs, who we beat to the punch.
Please, Millar mercy
Take you from Fenway
And the long winded curses
I keep hearing in my head
Theo never listens
And Francona never learns
Now I’m wary of your hitting
But your fielding is even worse
You came from Texas
And you ate some KFC
You hit so bad like a soul breaking
And never did nothing for me
Say Goodbye 2 Kevin…Kevin…Kevin
Say Goodbye 2 Kevin…Kevin…Kevin…Yeah…
Thursday, October 27, 2005
For one quick second, it was as if someone channeled the spirits of 2004, as the ball from the bat of Orlando Palmeiro skipped back to the mound and all of the sudden I could see Keith Foulke, in Bobby Jenks’s place, grabbing the ball and tossing it to the waiting first baseman, Paul Konerko or Doug Mientkiewicz as he may be, to end the ballgame and the World Series. Then the ball bounced over Jenks’s head, reality snapped back into place and quick action by Juan Uribe at shortstop did the job, nailing Palmeiro at first by a half step and ending the second longest championship drought in baseball.
Before the final batter came to the plate, I stared up at my wall, where I’ve assembled a framed collection of memorabilia from last season. A collage of articles from USA Today, my 2004 playoff bracket, a print of David Ortiz launching a bomb from the Boston Globe, all taped to poster board. A photograph of Jason Varitek leaping into Keith Foulke’s arms, framed with a ticket V-tek signed for my sister back in 1999. I remembered how good it felt to see the end of that last game against the Cardinals, how good it still feels. Every White Sox fan across the world can now feel the euphoria and joy and overwhelming satisfaction that comes with finally, finally, finally getting the ultimate baseball prize, the pride of saying your team is the championship team. I’d say enjoy it, but I know you’ll all treasure it for years to come. Congratulations, Chicago – you’re on top for 2005.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Lots of Country:
Kenny Chesney, “Back Where I Come From”
-picked by Chris Burke, Adam Everett, and Jason Lane
Willie Nelson, “Mama Don’t Let Your Sons Grow Up to Be Cowboys”
-picked by Phil Garner
Brooks & Dunn, “Neon Moon”
-picked by Jim Hickey
Toby Keith, “As Good As I Once Was”
-picked by Russ Springer and Jeff Bagwell (Get it? They’re OLD!)
Lots of Latin Music:
Tito Rojas, “Senora de Madrugada”
-picked by Freddy Garcia
Descemer Bueno, “Habana”
-picked by Jose Contreras
Shakira, “La Tortura”
-picked by Willy Tavaras (who says it “makes him think of his wife”) and Raul Chavez (who says it “makes him hot”). I wonder if it also makes him think of Tavaras's wife.
Los Titans, “El Cantante”
-picked by El Capitan Ozzie Guillen
And Lots of Rock:
Pearl Jam, “Even Flow”
-picked by Chris Widger
Rage Against the Machine, “Bulls on Parade”
-picked by Brad Lidge
Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the USA”
-picked by Scott Podsednik and Jose Contreras (just kidding)
U2 “Beautiful Day”
-picked by Craig Biggio
Pink Floyd, “Comfortably Numb”
-picked by Aaron Rowand and Roger Clemens's hamstring.
3 Doors Down, “Kryptonite”
-picked by Orlando Palmeiro
Guns N’ Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle”
-picked by Tadahito Iguchi (NOT kidding. I’m still laughing at this pick)
Then there were some WEIRD picks:
Casting Crowns, "Who I Am"
-picked by Andy Pettitte (Mellow Christian Rock? No wonder the ‘stros lost Game 2)
Motley Crue, “Girls, Girls, Girls”
-picked by Bobby Jenks (This one makes sense. I think Jenks was an extra in “Porky’s”)
Bob Marley, "One Love"
-picked by John Garland (Wha? Don't they test for drug use in the MLB?)
Britney Spears, “Oops I Did it Again”
-picked by Demaso Marte (Does he even speak English? This HAS to be a prank)
Barney the Purple Dinosaur, “I Love You, You Love Me”
-picked by Carl Everett (I wish. He picked Luthor Vandross, “Take You Out”. Still kinda funny.)
I didn't put the full listing here so if you have it, check out iTunes if you want a cheap laugh.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
I’m pulling for Chicago to win this one, because I’m all for eliminating World Series droughts and the historical significance of seeing the White Sox break through the Black Sox curse would be a sight to see, but I’ll be happy with an Astros victory, too. Let it go to seven games, let it be dramatic, let it be the best of what baseball has to offer.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Yes, you read the correctly. The third base coach with the apparent depth perception issues will trouble Red Sox Nation no more.
He wasn't fired (at least according to Tito) - he's heading back to Milwaukee to join the Brewers for "family reasons" - but I'll take the victories as they come. The Sox are talking to Texas first base coach DeMarlo Hale as a possible replacement, but have announced no firm plans. Sveum has acknowledged to the media the fan's ire with him over the past two years for various mishaps on the basepaths and while he said at one point he'd rather take the boos over the players, it's possible that Sveum, like a few other members of the Red Sox, is tired of being in the Boston spotlight.
Thus, with a profound sigh of relief, we're retiring the Moron Counter from its position on the right navigation bar to a deep, dark corner of the Red Sox Nation psyche, next to the effigy of Byung Hung Kim and the voodoo doll of Jose Offerman. Let's hope we won't have to pull it out again for a long, long time. Now, back to that corn liquor...
Monday, October 17, 2005
Well, the OTHER Sox won the pennant. So maybe they didn’t cheat. Maybe it wasn’t a fluke. Maybe Ozzie Guillen ISN’T holding the umps families hostage (but he did get another call reversed tonight… he must have photos of Bud Selig in drag). Maybe… just maybe... they’re for real.
The ALCS MVP Paul Konerko has a red hot bat, Carl Everett has also been a T-Rex at the plate, and Aaron Rowand patrols centerfield like a homing missile. But it’s the freakishly amazing pitching that is the real story. Contreras, Garcia and Garland? Remember when these guys were mediocre pitchers? Well now they pitch 9 innings and look like Lefty Grove doing it. The Angels had only 27(!?!?) hits and 11 runs in the 5 games combined. You can find that under the heading: being totally shut down. It makes that Pepsi commercial with Vlad and A-Rod look REALLY funny right now. They should remake it with the can of soda striking them both out.
In NL news, the Cardinals are one game away from elimination and are using random fans to fill roster spots for the walking wounded on their team. Not to lessen the fantastic job the Astros have been doing kicking the crap out of guys like John Mabry, Hector Luna and John Rodriguez (J-Rod?) but I think if the Red Birds were 100% they would have won this series already. Of course, I remember that they were favored in the World Series last year and that didn’t go as planned either.
Speaking of last year, today marks the 1 year anniversary of the devastating 19-8 Red Sox loss in game 3 of ALCS. I was in a Holiday Inn Express with a bunch of college freshmen and a bottle of Mezcal. Don’t ask. If I knew then what I know now…I might not have woken up the next morning looking like Abe Vigoda.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Q: $205,938,439 - $121,311,945 = ?
Red Sox vs Yankees... coming to a golf course near you.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Looking back, I see 2005 as the Theo Epstein Experiment. In 2003 he assembled the pieces and in 2004 added the finishing touches to the master team, the one that would and did win it all. This year, Theo had the psychic slack to play around with the configuration of his team that no Boston GM has had in a long time. Expensive (Pedro Martinez) and sometimes ineffective (Derek Lowe) components were dropped, specialists (Dave Roberts) were allowed to go to find their own way and replaced with multitude of cheaper options, some of whom were risks in their own right. Unfortunately for Theo and Boston fans, not everyone who remained was as reliable as they were in 2004 and replacements from the free agent market were not as readily available as in the past. Hampered by circumstance, the Theo Epstein Experiment failed.
Now, for Boston, comes the post-season. Who, amongst the free agent players who were a big part of this team and the teams of the past few years will be back? We’ve the seen the start of the next generation of potential stars coming up through the minors; who will be on the starting roster for next year? The contracts of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein expire at the end of October; will they be back for 2006? Rest assured, that though Robin and I close Volume II of Keep Your Sox On today, we’ll be back to tell the tale as it unfolds. For now, as Chicago advances to the ALCS on Tuesday, the possibility for history in the making continues and I sincerely hope that the end of this month will see another long championship drought finally quenched. GO SOX.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Boston Red Sox 3, Chicago White Sox 5
Here lie the Red Sox.
We planted them raw.
They were quick on the trigger,
But slow on the draw.
The Red Sox were the World Champions. Later this month some other team will hold that title. That’s going to be hard to watch. It will be almost as hard as it was to watch this game. Timely hits? Gone. The Fenway crowd? Silenced. Ability to hold base runners? Vanished. All the luck, guts and mojo from 2004? Departed into the dark abyss or wherever teams that are eliminated in the first round go. There are a lot of Braves teams down here.
Wakefield started strong, but he heard the knocking at the door and tapered out giving up 4 runs in the process. Ortiz sensed the urgency and the pressure and responded accordingly, but it was not enough. In the 5th, his attempt at a second homerun was a 400 ft out to dead center. Manny was, as always unfazed by his surroundings. After the game I bet he told Millar: “Don’t worry we’ll get ‘em tomorrow”. But even a couple of his round trippers were not enough to hold off the inevitable. Finally, after Wake appeared to be completely done (Konerko is still waiting for that homer to come down) the young Jonathan Papelbon replaced the ineffective righty/lefty submarine twins (Bradford/Myers) and came in guns-a-blazing. He is the future, but not enough to save the present. Finally, Renteria capped his perfectly horrible season by grounding out weakly to 2nd base and denying Ortiz a last at bat. Here I should say something about "irony coming full circle” but really all I want to do is kick Rent in the junk.
This was like a dark mirror image of 2004. Instead of finding holes in defense, they found extra outfielders. Instead of using the right pitch at the right time, the right pitch usually hit the right field wall. The sweepers were swept. The light extinguished. The 2004 playoffs saw the swansong for Pedro, Lowe, Cabrera and Dave Roberts. Even Embree and Bellhorn gave their best for the cause. Now? This wreck of a series might be the last for Damon, Graffanino, Mueller, Millar, Olerud, Nixon and maybe even Manny. Not knowing who will be back is almost as painful as the loss itself… well except for Millar. It’s WAY past your time buddy. Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?
2003 taught us we can’t always get what we want. 2004 taught us that hope and faith make anything possible. I think 2005 teaches us that hope and faith are great, but are even better when backed by sold pitching, defense and clutch hitting. Still, I bet Hope would have had a lower post season ERA than Clement and Faith would be able to score a run with the bases loaded and no outs.
Well, Fight Club told us that: "On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero." So go the 2005 Red Sox. The road has ended. Our journey complete before we have reached the destination. We tasted the fruit of victory before and salivated for it once again, but it was not to be. However, our steps were not wasted. It was a voyage of love and loyalty. A voyage we at Keep Your Sox On will continue into 2006 and I hope you will join us. We will have updates, reviews and rants about trades as often as they come. And I bet Eric will have his closing statement about this season up shortly.
This is not the final chapter. As one season ends, another begins. The King is dead, long live the King.
Go Sox in 2006
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Boston Red Sox 4, Chicago White Sox 5
Edit: lest anyone get the impression otherwise, I'm not suggesting that Tony G. lost the game, any more than Billy Buckner lost the game in '86. The error and the home run together caused problems and the Red Sox never came back. That's what a "compounding of errors" means.
So, back to Boston we go, down 0 and 2, our last, best hope once again in the form of the Stopper, his magic knuckleball and the power of the Fenway crowd to try and carry the Red Sox through. Summon up the comeback power of 1999 and 2003 and 2004, take the travel day to gather yourselves, never say die, don’t fear the sweep and GO RED SOX!!!
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Boston Red Sox 2, Chicago White Sox 14
Yeah, it was this bad
On July 26th in Tampa Bay, Matt Clement was hit in the head with a line drive and had to be hospitalized. The Sox came back to win that game in extra frames and it turned out to be one of the most galvanizing moments the team has had this year. It brought them together and made them play at a higher level. Well, THE REST OF THE TEAM DID. Clement hasn’t been right since he took one off that bearded melon of his. After the braining, he has gone 3-3 with an ERA above 5.00. And yet, here he is starting the first game of the playoffs. Who would have thought it would have turned out so badly?
Not anyone in the Red Sox organization I guess. After giving up 5 runs in the first, I was a little emotional. After giving up 3 more before he was driven screaming from the mound, I was down right upset. After seeing the Red Sox hitters flail like kids on a telethon and the bullpen barely hold the boat upright, I was as mad as I’ve ever been. Again.
Clement should have NEVER come out for the 4th inning but by that time it was already 6-2 and Francona was selecting pitchers by using coin flips and dice rolls. The bats were silenced by a rejuvenated Jose Contreras who decided to not suck against the Red Sox as per the norm. I guess he took Guillen’s threat to ship him back to Cuba seriously. And the pen? Well, at 8-2 you have to be feeling pretty bad, but 6 more runs? Guys, THIS IS THE PLAYOFFS! They should be calling Chicago the Brown Sox because they put their foot so far up the Red Sox collective ass.
Let's forget this ever happened. Wednesday, 7:00, Wells vs Buehrle. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
GO (Red) SOX!!
Monday, October 03, 2005
Boston Red Sox 10, New York Yankees 1
Thank God for ESPN and ESPN2 – their presence on the standard cable package allowed Robin and me to gorge ourselves on baseball coverage, switching between the Sox/Yankees on ESPN and Indians/White Sox, Astros/Cubs and Phillies/Nationals on ESPN2 on a literally pitch-by-pitch basis. When you’re stuck between wondering whether or not to watch Big Papi bat or Luis Vizcaino work out of a jam with a Cleveland runner in scoring position and a big bat with the tying run at the plate, you know you’re geeking out.
Schilling made a good effort, helped at first by excellent defense and some luck, until he warmed to the game and started getting hard-hit outs. 6 innings, 8 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 3 strike outs later he was done, the win firmly in hand thanks to a three run Manny blast in the fourth. After that, the game was essentially irrelevant – the Indians lost for third straight time to Chicago, giving Boston the Wild Card and Torre took out his regulars and started playing scrubs, relinquishing the possibility of the Yankees starting their ALCS against the Angels at home.
Last year, the difference in the season was made in a trade. This year, the difference seems to be having not made a trade and holding on to Manny Ramirez – although David Ortiz had the bigger season, Manny’s contributions, especially since the All-Star Break, certainly helped Big Papi carry the team to the playoffs – .327 batting average, 17 home runs and 52 runs in total over those 56 games. Together, he and Ortiz hit almost a home run a game over the last 22 games and, incredibly enough, increased their offensive output over last year’s totals. Let’s see if they and everyone else can keep it up into the postseason.
Tomorrow afternoon the festivities, a club record three times in three years, begin with Clement versus Contreras in Chicago. GO SOX!!!
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Boston Red Sox 4, New York Yankees 8
"And if you say to me tomorrow,
Oh what fun it will be.
Then what's to stop us, pretty baby,
But what is and what should never be."
Please allow me to preempt any “I thought we have a one game playoff against the Yankees if we win tomorrow” comments by saying: NO, you’re wrong. Even with a win on Sunday, the Red Sox would be 9-10 vs the Yankees this year. The worse head-to-head record combined with the loss by Cleveland, means that the Yankees are the AL East champs and the Red Sox have 2 shots at the Wild Card. Any combination of Red Sox win and Cleveland loss means the Sox are the Wild Card winner. HOWEVER, if the Sox lose AND the Indians win, there is a one game playoff in Fenway on Monday. Meanwhile, the Yankees are covered in champagne. I hope they catch pneumonia. Bastards.
Now that that’s out of the way… today totally sucked. Wakefield (on short rest) got roughed up early and often. 7 earned over 5 innings is not the “Stopper” I am used to. He didn’t do a good job mixing his 78mph fastballs in with his knucklers and I think Sheffield and A-Rod busted some windshields because of it. The bullpen (Stanton, Gonzo, DiNards, Hansen) was fine and only allowed one run in an already sinking game. Excuse me if I don’t do any back flips.
On the other side, RJ wasn’t amazing, but he was good enough to win today. Besides Manny and Graff taking him deep, the Unit pitched well and yet he STILL managed to moan and groan about every call that didn’t go his way. Every time he was behind in the count he would GLARE back at the umpire until Flaherty got him to clam down. What is he? A 7 foot baby? “Don’t cry RJ. You’ll get him next time.”
This game was broadcast on FOX and as everyone knows, that ALWAYS adds to the (dis)pleasure. I was hoping to catch it alone and in peace, but unfortunately I was joined by Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. The buffalo chicken sandwich I was eating is much smarter than these two goobers. You might remember them from the ALCS and World Series last year. They were the guys openly rooting for the Yankees. It didn’t change much today. As an added twist, FOX decided to cut away from the game to show picture-in-picture “tense” situations in the White Sox/Cleveland game. Both times this happened the Red Sox were batting and need runs badly. Was I treated to that drama? NOPE! FOX knew I wanted to squint at Tony Graffanino stealing second and have a real clear view of Co-Co Crisp striking out. I can’t wait to put up with this crap all throughout the playoffs. YIPPIE!
So it all comes down to Schilling vs Wright. Just win tomorrow and be done with it. I don’t want to beg for a Cleveland loss and a backdoor into the playoffs anymore than I want a one game scare-fest in Fenway on Monday. Do it here and now. Cowboy up, Believe, Keep the Faith, Why Not Us Again, Keep Your Sox On, Whatever. Just win it.
Boston Red Sox 5, New York Yankees 3
In the end, there was one thing that impressed me about tonight’s game more than anything else – more than David Wells picking up win number 15 with 7 innings of strong 3 run, 3 hit, 2 walk, 5 strike out “screw my hurting knee and don’t mess with my damn cake” big game pitching, more than Big Papi RBI number 47 to tie things up for the Sox after Wells ran out of a tough first inning jam, more than the Cap’n going for long ball number 22 to put the Sox permanently on top, more than the hometown team finally jumping on Chien-Ming Wang in the sixth after several goofy base running miscues to score three runs on a walk, a throwing error and a sacrifice fly – one thing, above all others, showed me that after last’s night triumphant victory and the start of the most important series of the regular season, that the Sox are in this thing for the long haul: Terry Francona started using his bullpen like he meant business. All of the sudden, it was the 2004 post-season all over again and pitchers – both starters and relievers – were on a leash tighter than Boomer’s waistband after a good gorging.
With Wells at 101 pitches after 7 innings, Francona went to Chad Bradford to start the eighth…and I start to twitch, fully expecting Bradford to be out the whole inning, regardless of who he’s facing. I can feel the lead start to slip away to the power of Yankee bats before Sheffield even steps to the plate…and then one pitch later Sheffield is out a ground ball. Out pops Francona, a man fully in control of his situation, miraculously going to Mike Myers to face the lefty (Matsui) like I’ve been praying for him to do since the All-Star Break. ‘This is it,’ I think. ‘This is the sign that the Sox are going to make it to the post-season, or tear the Earth asunder trying.’ And then, just to underscore the truth of it all, Francona pulls Myers to go to Timlin against the switch-hitting Posada after Myers gets Matsui on 11 pitches. It was simply masterful. Timlin gets his four outs, picks up save lucky number 13 and all of the sudden it’s 1 down, 2 to go, Boston’s back in a first place tie and (as an added bonus), Cleveland falls to the Other Sox 2 to 3 and I’m on cloud nine and going up.
Tomorrow afternoon it’s the rematch of the Wakefield/Johnson battle royale with Timmy pitching on short rest in front of the adoring thousands. This one is the big one boys, so go get ‘em. GO SOX!!!