Thursday, July 28, 2005

Game 101: Steppin' Up

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1

Well, Wakefield came through again, when the bullpen (and heck, the offense) needed him most. With Trot Nixon
(now on the 15 day DL) and Manny Ramirez both out yesterday, Kevin Millar in left, John Olerud at first and Adam Stern in right, Wakefield pitched seven and 1/3 innings of six hit, one unearned run ball with three walks and four strikeouts, picking up his 123rd win with the Red Sox, tying Mel Parnell on the club list. Of course, Wake is 12 and 1 against Tampa Bay, so perhaps the success wasn't a huge surprise, but with the Sox once again seemingly on the verge of collapse the day before an off-day, a strong outing was just what Boston needed. Alex Cora hit his first home run as a Red Sox, a solo shot in the fifth that put the Sox up on the Rays for good. Edgar Renteria scored the third run of the afternoon with a bit of small ball: after a walk to lead off the sixth, Renteria advanced to second by tagging on a David Ortiz pop up to third (yes, a pop up), went to third on a pass ball and scored on a John Olerud sacrifice fly.

Kevin Millar attributes his recent resurgance (.385 with
5 doubles, 5 RBIs, and 14 walks since the All-Star Break) to time he spent working with Mark Bellhorn over the break at home in Texas. He seems to have these little realizations every year - I remember him talking last year about how opening up his stance contributed to his hot streak last year. Now if only he'd have these realizations a bit earlier in the season, he might be a lot more consistent.

Schilling closed the game out last night after neither Chad Bradford nor Mike Myers could finish the job. Yesterday was the first game Schilling has entered a game mid-inning. He walked Eduardo Perez to load the bases, then got Carl Crawford to ground weakly to first on six pitches to end the game. Another step in the evolution of closer: Schilling said he realized after Tuesday's game that as a closer he'd have to pitch inside to hitters to get them out, something he's been discouraged from doing as a starter ever he was young. Crawford's at bat represented his first opportunity to try his new strategy.

Matt Clement is not only out of the hospital, but is guardedly optimistic about making his next start, which continues to be beyond awesome.

The fact that the Boston Sports Media (literally The Globe and The Herald; the Providence Journal and Hartford Courant have no editorials up on the issue) is in full-on attack mode against Manny while bloggers like 12eight, Joy of Sox and Soxaholics are well, voices of reason certainly makes me likely to side against the rabid press. Andrew at 12eight makes an especially good point: basically, we're putting Manny up on way too high of a pedestal. Not that I've ever been anything even close to a celebrity, but from my understanding, the biggest change from normal life is that you've got the spotlight on you at all times because, as Andrew points out, we want our celebrities to be larger than life. The problem is that no one is ever brought up or trained to be famous (except possibly the children of celebrities) and very few people have the personality to handle that much attention in a mature manner. Manny, I'm sure all would agree, is not the most mature of people anyway - I'm sure that even if he had lived the rest of his life in Washington Heights, he would have been known as a guy who liked to goof off - and the celebrity of being such a great hitter has, I'm sure, not helped matters. In a way, the Manny situation is a bit like Charles Barkley telling people that he shouldn't be viewed as a role model. Manny's talent may make him the idol of anyone who wants to be a hitting god, but that doesn't mean he's got the personality to be a public figure, nor should we expect him to. The Sox have confirmed that they are examining trade possibilities for Manny, but obviously, there aren't many teams out there interested in taking on a $20 million contract or offering up anything of interest to Theo.

Tomorrow night marks the beginning of a six game homestand: three games versus Minnesota to finish out the month, then three games versus Kansas City to begin August. Wade Miller hopes for his second win in a row versus Carlos Silva at 7:05. GO SOX!!!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Game 100 Redux: Game Of The Year.

Today's title went through several permutations from the time I left Yankee Stadium last night, with the score tied 6 - 6 and Clement injured (especially after a fan behind me expressed the wish that Clement would die - what's up with that?) to seeing the ending of the game after I got home to reading about the whole thing afterwards. I settled on a take off of Pink Floyd's The Wall in the end. A few observations as I'm watching what's still the game of the year, even when I knew the outcome:
  • It's a sign of how much Francona is worried about his bullpen wearing out that Chad Bradford was out there facing Aubrey Huff, a lefty and that Mike Myers faced a few righties before he left the game. Of course, Huff is batting .395 with an OPS of over 1.000 against Boston this year in 38 at bats, so maybe Tito figured he was damned no matter what. Or maybe he didn't think to warm Myers up early enough to face Huff if Bradford got into trouble. In any case, it's possible we could have avoided much of the tension at the end of this game with some better pitching decisions.
  • I like the Tampa Bay video announcers. They're not obnoxious, they're not chatty and they make some good observations about the course of the game.
  • Was Tito giving Ortiz the night off, or did he decide to DH Mirabelli because Mirabelli has had so much success (.530+ AVG) against Hendrickson? Didn't he realize that the Sox were likely to repeat their success against Hendrickson and that Piniella would pull his starter early? Of course, I'm sure Tito didn't assume a Rays comeback either, even though the Sox were supposedly "not looking past Rays." On a related note, the Rays recently designated Lance Carter, the pitcher who threw at Big Papi's head, for assignment.
  • The pacing on this game is rediculous. It feels like I'm watching a highlight reel, not the actual game.
  • The Sox designated John Halama for assignment and brought up 23-year-old Hyde Park, MA native Manny Delcarmen in his stead. Theo seems to be in full Billy Beane mode, remaking his team to solve problems, ditching experiments, etc.
  • I wonder if we would have seen Manny Delcarmen in the eighth if the Sox were not losing by two runs. I suppose if the Rays had not come back the way they did, Delcarmen might have come out anyway - Tito was reportedly averse to making use of Mike Timlin if at all possible. Delcarmen looked really good on his first time out - a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout.
  • The ninth inning rally was a beautiful, beautiful thing. Big Varitek homer, Adam Stern fulfilling his Dave Roberts role by pinch-running for Kevin Millar, Olerud getting the clutch single, the Bill Mueller double...too bad the Moron screwed up once again and sent Olerud, the old guy man with no feet, to try and score from first. Again, one of those situations where the coaching staff got too anxious because of the lack of bullpen pitchers and ended up making a foolish mistake.
  • I love Johnny Damon with all my heart and various parts of my soul. Anyone who makes a leaping grab to take away an opposing walk off home run and then homers on the next pitch is solid gold in my eyes.
  • Curt Schilling gives me the creeping horrors as a closer, because there's no way of knowing when he makes a mistake pitch. He's too methodical to close out games - he makes experiments with his pitches to try and learn things, not to mention the fact that he's still rehabing. It's a great trait for a starter, who has to figure out ways to get the same guy out three or four times a game, but it doesn't work well when you're trying to close. Thank God he did it though and the Sox won what may be this year's defining game for the team.
  • No extra-inning games for 98 games and then two drama-ridden extra-inning games in a row?
Even though Carl Crawford hit a ball off his ear last night, Matt Clement, who left the game on a stretcher in neck brace, left the hospital this morning with a cut on his ear and a negative MRI. According to the AP, Clement will not only avoid the DL, but likely not miss a start with the day off on Thursday. We are SO saved.

At first I thought it was just muckracking, but a Tom Verducci article in Sports Illustrated to be published at the beginning of August will reveal that Manny asked the Front Office to be traded. This article in the Herald, though, it may very well be that Manny and the Sox Front Office operate in weird sort of behind-the-scenes war, where Manny will play out the end of his contract because he can't afford not to and then retire from baseball. Or be like Ricky Williams and only retire temporarily. Who knows. I agree with Boston Dirt Dogs; this is the best quote from the article:
for the third time in three years. I thought it was Manny being Manny, especially after his apparent change of heart last year. After reading
"As for the Red Sox, they won with Ramirez before and they can win with him now. Ramirez has been a distraction since the day he arrived in Boston, but the beauty of the current Sox is they are anarchists. They thrive on chaos. Francona, general manager Theo Epstein and owner John Henry seemingly cannot log on to the Internet without reading a stupid, controversial or tactless remark made by one of their players, who seem to thrive on lawlessness, answer to no one and insist on policing themselves."

A part of this war: Manny chose to take a day off today, even though the team needs his bat, because Manny and Tito had scheduled the day off last week. DO is making comparisons between Manny this year and Nomar this time last year right now, although we can never be sure if Manny's behaving this way on purpose or because he doesn't think about anything outside his immediate situation.

It wouldn't be a proper season without a Trot Nixon injury: the right fielder strained an oblique swinging at a pitch in the third and will be out for some time, depending on the severity of the strain. The Sox right field is starting to remind me of the Patriot's secondary last year - anyone who can play there will. I suppose it's a good thing Nixon hurt himself now instead of in August, because he should be back for the stretch drive in September. To fill the holes in the bullpen and take Nixon's roster spot, Lenny DiNardo makes another return from Pawtucket.

Wakefield versus Seth McClung this afternoon (4:15) for the series finale and the series victory. GO SOX!!!

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Game 100: Game Of The Year?

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 10, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9

Note: the following is Robin liveblogging last night's game. I was at Yankee Stadium, watching Johnson versus Radke:

So while you were watching the Yankees hired gun pitch 8 shutout innings with 11 K's and only 2 hits, I was hoping that the Sox hired gun wasn't drinking out of a tube for the rest of his life.

After KILLING TB starter Hendrickson to the tune of 5 runs (and a Manny 2 run Jack)...Clement seemed to be cruising...and except for Trot throwing his back out was un-eventful. That IS untill Carl Carford hit a line drive off the skull of Clement, sending the game (and me) into a downward spiral of problems. TB tied it with a GRAND FREAKING SLAM off "Hanging" Chad Bradford... 5-5.

OH KAY... except NOW they forgot how to hit we get it back in the 7th (6-6) and then those pesky Rays get 2 more (6-8) off the ALWAYS scary Gonzolez. Looks like the end of another bad game when TEK goes YARD in the ninth...Millar singles (3 for 4 he must have heard me threaten to kill him) Stern runs for him and then Older-guy gets a on the corners...and BIG BILLY THE PRO hits a corner ball double...Millar scores...OLD MAN to third? NOPE!!! FREAKING NEVER FAIL DALE SENDS HIM!!! HE'S 10,000 years old!!!

BAMN thrown out at the plate...Bill left on third and stays there when Tony G strikes out...FINE WHATEVER!!! Tie Game 8-8.

Schill comes out and is all balls...good!! One bloop hit but the rest go down. I (and the Sox announcers) bearly have time to catch our breath when THE POWER OF CHRIST compels a 1st pitch fastball from Danys "Don't Call me Joan" Baez to get out of the Park...then Rent singles...Ortiz pops up...Bad THROW and Manny gets on...and then THE CAPITAN does it again!! Doubles and scores Rent! Manny left on third and 2 more quick outs...10-8 good guys.

Shill comes back...One quick out..then Hollins hits a line drive to Manny...I am a little nervous at this point...I think someone popped out and Hollins went to 2nd...and then Travis (tee) Lee hits a freaking NO WAY double to the on second STILL!!!! And now Schill cant find the plate...WALKS Alex Gonzolez on 4 pitches...winning runs are on for Joey Gathright. He pops one foul that RENT AND THEN MANNY JUST MISS!! Then WAY inside...gulp...GROUND BALL!!! JOEY'S FAST...screw it!! throw to Rent!! Out at second !!! GAME!!! Oh pants are full. Well the Cat Scan is clean... no feeding tube for Clement, but I might need one.

Robin OUT!

Yeah, I missed all that. Fortunately, has free archives so I'll be watching yesterday's game myself and be back later with my own comments and other Sox-related news.

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Game 99: Mind The Basepaths

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 3, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4

I would say the problem is that we don't have a proper closer; we have a starter who can't go enough innings to start. That wouldn't be the problem, though, if our base runners could navigate the basepaths smoothly and without incident, or if Kevin Millar could do things besides strike out in clutch situations, or if Mike Timlin could somehow prevent inherited runners from scoring. How is it that a man ends up on third after a walk and a single, only to have his replacement, Adam Stern, a guy the Sox have on their team to run the bases quickly, get thrown out in a pickle because he jumped too soon on an infield hit? That run, had it scored (and it would have scored) would have won the game. But no, not to be.

Nor was it to be the next inning when Trot Nixon singled, stole second base as Jason Varitek struck out, then managed to get hit by a John Olerud single in the foot. IN THE FOOT. I suppose we're lucky that he didn't hurt himself in the process, but Nixon has committed way too many baserunning gaffes this season. Remember back in the early 90's, when Bill Clinton's campaign slogan was "It's the economy, stupid"? It's the base running, stupid.

Sarcasm aside, this team needs a kick start as much as they did this time last year. Base runners who can't seem to figure when to stay and when to go, a relief staff whose major components are so idiosyncratic that no lead is safe, an offense that can't seem to get on a coordinated hot's tough to win with a situation that feels so disjointed. Yes, it was awesome to see Johnny Damon hit home run number seven off the foul pole to give the Sox a 3 - 2 lead, but I shouldn't come back 30 minutes later and see that the score is tied up because an inherited runner could not be held, especially against Tampa Bay.

Theory, discussed with Micah: Curt Schilling wants to come back to the starting rotation now because he's realized what a thankless job it is to be a closer and he's tired of coming into situations where he can't give up runs. Even if that's the case and (as some might suggest) he's worried about the effect of failing as a closer will have on his legacy, he certainly shouldn't come back before the Sox have a solution for the bullpen hole and nor should he try and start games because he has more leeway with runs.

Tomorrow, thank God, Clement is facing the pitcher Boston destroyed before he even got an official out. GO SOX!!!

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Games 96 - 98: Splitsville

Final Scores:

Game 96: Boston Red Sox 4, Chicago White Sox 8
Game 97: Boston Red Sox 3, Chicago White Sox 0
Game 98: Boston Red Sox 4, Chicago White Sox 6

So apparently all those rumors about Chicago playing small ball are patently false: they hit home runs instead. The ChiSox hit seven home runs off three different starters this weekend, making the difference in the two games Chicago won. Scott Podsednik did steal two bases and score a run on each day he stole a base, but he was also caught twice. As 12eight points out, one of those times Varitek threw him out was Saturday's game with Wade Miller on the mound - and with Wade having his usual start-of-game problems, either Podsednik or Iguchi, who was picked off first trying to steal, might have scored and changed the face of the game.

As it was, though, not too bad of a series and getting a split with Chicago at home, especially with all those long balls and the killer heat yesterday. A rundown of the good and bad:

The Good:
  • Wade Miller picked up his first win since May 30th, in a quality effort that featured what Miller described as "horrendous a 1-2-3 inning as I've ever had" - the inning that featured the Podsednik caught stealing and the Iguchi pick off mentioned above. Miller, who gave up five hits and four walks over seven innings, is still struggling in the first, so he's not out of the woods yet. Hopefully he can build on this win and figure out how to get into a groove earlier in the game. Manny and Varitek both helped Miller out with the long ball - Manny hit a two run bomb in the first to put the BoSox on the board and V-Tek hit a solo shot in the ninth to add an insurance run for Curt Schilling's second save. Manny also helped in the field - in the ninth, Schilling gave up two singles to get runners on first and second before getting a double play ball hit right back to him to get two out. With a runner on third, Timo Perez hit what looked like a home run to deep left...until Manny snagged it and staggered into the wall for the final out. It surprised me, it surprised the crowd, it surprised Schilling, it surprised Don Orsillo, who thought that the ball would be a hit at least...the only one it didn't seem to phase was Manny. Because, you know, he's so Manny.
  • The Red Sox signed closer-extraordinaire Craig Hansen over the weekend, ending speculation about whether or not the Sox and agent Scott Boras would be able to reach a deal. Hansen is in Florida right now, awaiting assignment - he'll either end up in Single A Wilmington or AA Portland. To make room on the 40 man roster, Boston moved Matt Mantei from the 15 day to the 60 day disabled list, which means, as Robin put it, that Mantei has likely pitched his last days in a Boston uniform. Speaking of AA, Alan saw the Sea Dogs play this weekend and said that Hanley Ramirez looks pretty spectacular, although clearly pretty raw. He played shortstop - I think the idea of him coming up as a centerfielder next year is becoming less and less likely and that if the Sox make any major trades this season, they won't do it for high priced players and will use the salary to resign Johnny Damon or pick up a major league alternative. My guess is that the fate of second base will wait until the end of the season to see where Ramirez is in his development - if the Sox feel they can bring him up next year, we may finally get a taste of him playing second base instead of short.
  • With the Angels taking three out of four games from New York and the Devil Rays sweeping Baltimore, the BoSox hold on to first place with a 1.5 game lead, going into a series with Tampa Bay. Baltimore is try to trade Sidney Ponson to San Diego for first baseman Phil Nevin, who needs to ok the deal and make it difficult for me to make fun of Ponson anymore. Ponson was supposed to be a part of the A.J. Burnett deal - or, conversely, something hindering the Burnett deal because his large salary would prevent Baltimore from being to hold on to Mike Lowell, so it's possible that Burnett may be going to the Orioles after all, instead of Boston or Chicago.
  • Curt Schilling feels he's ready to go back to the starting rotation, given a few 100-pitch outings to start. Tito put the kibosh on the idea pretty quickly, which makes sense - the Sox need him back in complete form later as opposed to partial form now and Keith Foulke is still out of commission. Schilling is key to any post-season hopes the Red Sox want to entertain and fortunately, the front office is very aware of that situation. Gordon Edes points out that the presence of the highly touted A.J. Burnett on the team would give the Red Sox a Pedro-like 2nd punch to back up Schilling in a way Boston's lacked this year, assuming, of course, a healthy Schilling and Foulke. As someone at a party I went to this weekend pointed out, you need three pitchers to make it through the playoffs - does that make Matt Clement this year's Derek Lowe? David Wells, I've been told, will cool off when the weather does - hopefully the majority of the playoffs will be somewhere warm this year.
The Bad:
  • Kevin Millar may have single-handedly cost yesterday's game with a base-running mistake at first. After hitting the ball down the third base line into left field, Millar rounded first base, paused and then headed to second, where a good throw by Podsednik gunner him down. Of course, the next batter, Varitek, hit a home run that would have pulled the BoSox within one of Chicago. The two out rally died when Damon ended the inning with two men on base, but Mueller, who batted second yesterday, was 1 for 2 at the time and might have scored the runners. Millar claims he was thinking two bases when the ball left the bat, but it looked pretty bad on TV.
  • White Sox announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, who played shortstop with the Red Sox in 1967, is an absolute moron. Because did their usual station switching garbage yesterday, I had the "pleasure" of watching him call a game. The man uses more hick colloquisms (he actually used the phrase "ducks on a pond" at one point to describe the count) and has the most rediculous home run call known to man. At first I thought that there was something wrong with Midwesterners - Hawk has been a broadcaster in Chicago for 30 years now, so it seems they like him - but I see that there are intrepid-minded fans trying to get rid of him. And people wonder why the White Sox are drawing so few fans even with the leading record in the majors.
  • Bronson Arroyo's placement was awful yesterday. Terrible. It may have been the 100 degree, 95% humidity weather, it could have been nerves about the trade rumors, it could have been circumstance, but Arroyo's curveball was not there yesterday.
Boston goes down to St. Pete tonight for a three game set against the Devil Rays, leading into Boston's first game off in 14 days and the start of a home stand against Minnesota. David Wells takes the mound against Doug Waechter on Heckler Day at 7:05. May Joy of Sox' dream come true. GO SOX!!!

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Game 95: Two Hands

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Chicago White Sox 5

"Two Hands, Joe."
- Text message from Alan after Manny's ninth inning home run

I was expecting a bit more of a pitchers duel, but I was right about the close score. Go me. Still, because of the uncertainty and the back-and-forth nature of the contest, this game was a lot of fun to watch. A few observations:
  • I had a feeling Mark Buerhle would not be at his sharpest when Edgar (3 for 4 with two runs, an RBI and a walk) got his first hit in the first. No one was able to advance him and Boston immediately ran into trouble in the bottom of the inning when Carl Everett hit his two run home run, but it was a start. It reminded me of a comment that someone (either one of the players or one of the commentators) on ESPN made at the start of the Home Run Derby: getting the first one is the hardest part. I think by proving that Buerhle was hittable last night, Renteria made it a lot easier for the rest of the offense to start getting hits and scoring runs.
  • Jerry and DO announced in the first inning that Joe Crede had a streak of 50 games without an error. With the Red Sox needing every advantage they could get, I thought, "well, let's see if we can change that tonight." Of course, having that error come with Manny at bat, giving him a second chance to crank the ball and prevent the game from going into extra innings makes it all that much sweeter.
  • On the subject of streaks, last night was the first time in 26 starts that Buehrle did not last seven innings. An incredible streak in itself, but breaking that streak makes the victory that much more impressive - Boston forced Ozzie Guillen to go into his bullpen earlier and forced him into a position of uncertainty by figuring out his starting pitcher and coming back from a 4 - 1 hole to take the lead so that he couldn't use his very effective closer to finish out the game and snatch away the victory. Having a start like this one is a great way to get momentum going for another tough pitcher tonight.
  • Curt Schilling seems to be as susceptible to pressure as anyone else: this is the second time he's come out of the bullpen in a high intensity situation and given up an important run. Fortunately, he's come a long way since his outing against the Yankees on the 15th and was not only able to get out of the inning without any further damage, but came out in the ninth to get a 1-2-3 inning with two strike outs.
  • Matt Clement's mounting home run total is worrisome. Six home runs all year up until July 5th and now seven home runs in his last three starts. That said, he did have another cluster of home runs in early June: one on 6/2, two on 6/7 and one on 6/13, so maybe this pattern will break after this start. He did have a lot of high fastballs last night (a problem he shared with Buehrle) so maybe it's a mechanical problem he needs to work out before his next start.
Tim Wakefield and Jon Garland tonight at 8:05...pray for favorable winds and a dancing knuckleball. GO SOX!!!

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Game 94: Beat Down

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 9, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4

With starter Mark Hendrickson leaving the game in the first after facing six batters and retiring no one, the Golden Buddha having another easy outing, the Sox offense setting the tone with a five run first inning and Tampa Bay third baseman Alex Gonzalez committing three errors, yesterday's game was basically a speed bump on the way to the four game series in Chicago this weekend. The Devil Rays did manage to get nine hits on the afternoon and reliever Dewon Brazelton put up a quality relief appearance, going five and 2/3rds innings with three runs (two earned) on six hits, but it was pretty much for naught. In fact, the biggest news of the game might have been
Christie Brinkley spotted enjoying the game from near the Red Sox dugout...full recap here.

I don't think I realized just how much this upcoming series in Chicago scared me until yesterday, when the White Sox probable pitchers were mentioned by Joe and Jerry on WEEI: Mark Buerhle, Jon Garland, Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras. The AL starter for the All-Star Game, the guy with the most wins in the AL and two guys who did pretty well against the Sox at the end of last year. The White Sox are the best team in the majors and that dominance is built mainly off their pitching. I'm a mite nervous. The Boston Herald has a good comparison of the match up, but the outcome will depend on two things: the Red Sox getting to the White Sox pitchers early and the Red Sox pitchers shutting down the White Sox offense. Fortunately for Boston, Chicago is light on hitting, so the second thing should be a bit easier to do than the first and I think we'll end up with a bunch of close games over the weekend. The presence of a starter in the closer role may make the difference.

Tonight's game features Mark Buerhle, the last of the string of lefty starters faced by Boston over the past six games. The last time the Red Sox faced six southpaws in a row was June 12 - 17, 1914.

The Mets are interested in Alan Embree, according to the New York Daily News baseball notebook. There's no mention of whether or not they'd try and make a deal with Boston, or just wait until Embree is released.

The newest Bronson Arroyo rumor has him going to Texas for Alfonso Soriano. A deal like that would mean three things:
  1. Mark Bellhorn would be done as the second baseman - no way he gets playing time over Soriano.
  2. Since the Sox lose a starter in the process, Curt Schilling must be pretty close to coming back to his starting role.
  3. The Sox will need another reliever to take Schilling's place in the 'pen until Keith Foulke comes back. That could be someone from Pawtucket, or the J.C. Romero deal for Bill Mueller may be going through after all and Kevin Youkilis will become the Sox permanent third baseman a bit early. In either case, Mike Timlin would seem the logical choice to take the closer role.
Gordon Edes has the full breakdown of the A. J. Burnett trade rumors. It sounds like Burnett may be going nowhere unless the Marlins drop Mike Lowell from the deal.

Tony Graffanino, who went 1 for 3 with a double in his first outing with the Red Sox, may not be the Bellhorn replacement he's being set up to be by the media (Boston Herald, Boston Dirt Dogs), or myself, for that matter. It seems like Graffanino, who's the epitome of the super-utility player, will be platooning with Alex "Don't Call Me Joey" Cora until Mark Bellhorn comes back from the DL. After that, he can be used anywhere - with Youkilis back in Pawtucket to clear up the roster overage and rumors continuing to swirl about Bill Mueller going to Minnesota, it's possible Tony could end up at third. He's also expressed interest in playing in the outfield, although with Adam Hyzdu Pawtucket-bound as soon as Gabe Kapler returns from the DL, I'm not sure how much time Graffanino would get. Maybe they'd use him in platoon with Kapler in right field when the Sox face lefties, reducing the chances of Trot Nixon hurting himself.

Red and White get ready to beat each other blue tonight at 8:05: Honest Abe versus Mark Buerhle. GO SOX!!!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Game 93: A Good, Clean Kill

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2

Robin: Wow...goodbye Embree...
Mike: Yeah, designated for assignment
Mike: Middle relief is so so so hard to predict
Robin: Hello again Adam Hyzdu
Mike: That guy is like a rash you just cant get rid of
Mike: In fact I think Ill call him Adam "the STD" Hyzdu from now on
Robin: AND THE NEW Tony Graffanino...which SOUNDS like a rash: "You got to get some cream on the nasty Graffanino you got there"
Mike: Haha
Robin: I hate it when I get Graffanino all over my Hyzdu

A damn satisfying win. Arroyo, who's been the subject of trade rumors involving AJ Burnett, did an excellent job: two runs, five hits, one walk and three strikeouts over seven innings. Manny, who may the goofiest active player in the major leagues, had one of those days: he was late to come out of the club house, tripped on his way out to the field, missed the first fly ball he ran after, kicked the ball across shallow center, then walked twice, scored two runs and hit a high speed rainbow in the Monster Seats for home run number 25. The offense jumped on Casey Fossum after the starter's leg cramped up in the fifth, getting the third run of the day and grabbed two more off of Lance Carter (a.k.a. the jerk who threw at Big Papi's head) in the eighth with a fielder's choice, a ground out by Olerud and a clutch single to right by Mueller that had Varitek scoring from second.

In the field, Alex Cora proved his value as a defensive replacement with several clutch grabs at second. Carl Crawford hit a double off Mike Timlin to lead off the eighth. After striking out Lugo, Timlin and Cora pulled off a perfect pick-off at second to nail Crawford flat-footed. The pickoff turned out to be particularly clutch, as the Sox were unable to turn the next two infield hits into outs. With trouble looming, Timlin struck out Travis Lee to end the eighth.

"Alex has done that to other teams that I've played against, so you have to be ready for it in any situation. Frankly, Crawford wasn't ready for it. Crawford didn't move, so I just spun. It played out to be a pretty good-sized play."
- Mike Timlin
In the ninth, Curt Schilling came on for his second save opportunity since his activation from the disabled list, converting with a flawless inning (one strike out and two fly outs) for the first time since 1992. He looked very impressive on the mound, hitting 94 with his fastball; Jerry Remy and DO commented on how it looks like he's getting a better push-off from his leg. The signs seem to be pointing towards a complete recovery and a return to the starting role. The question now becomes when.

In the fifth inning, the Sox announced that they had traded minor leaguers Chip Ambres and Juan Cedeno to the Royals for Tony Graffanino. Graffanino, who's got experience at all four infield positions, is projected to play second base - but for how long is a good question. The Globe feels that Graffanino will have the job as long as Mark Bellhorn is out, but if Graffanino's slumping bat (.100 AVG in the past seven days) picks up, Bellhorn may find himself out of a job.

The Graffanino pickup suggests that Theo is going to stay with 11 pitchers, but there's another rumor: the Twins are supposedly shopping left-handed reliever J. C. Romero and the Sox have expressed interest. The purported deal involved Bill Mueller, but last night in the seventh Kevin Millar came out of right field for Adam Stern as a defensive replacement, even though Millar was due up that inning. Andrew at 12eight thinks that Millar's removal might be a sign that Millar is going to the Twins instead, although as he points out, Stern quickly came out for Nixon, who came out for Hyzdu, so it might just be managerial wackiness from Tito. With a lefthander on the mound today, Nixon is on the bench, Hyzdu is in right field and Millar is at first. Hyzdu, the eternal AAAA player, will be Pawtucket-bound after Gabe Kapler works his way back up through the minors in the next two weeks or so.

Golden Buddha on the mound against Mark Hendrickson today at 1:05 to try and pull off the series win and get some momentum before Boston goes off to Chicago. GO SOX!!!

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

And So It Begins...Again

The Red Sox designated Alan Embree for assignment today before the start of tonight's second game against Tampa Bay. Although Embree has shown improvement since the start of July (one run and two hits in six appearances/4 innings since July 3rd, when he gave up two runs on one hit in an inning and 2/3rds), Tito and Theo felt that Embree hadn't been able to get into a groove this season.
"It's been a tough road for him this year. He made some mistakes and he paid dearly over the middle of the plate, the first stretch. I thought he went through a stretch where he was actually making pitches and it didn't matter. So it's some inconsistent pitching, coupled with some bad luck. It's coming up to that time of the year where things happen."
-Terry Francona

Don't Worry Buddy...We'll Remember You For Moments Like This

I also wonder if maybe the Sox waited until now because Embree had been showing improvement, making him more attractive trade bait. I'm curious if they'll use him to get another arm, improve the bench depth or perhaps get a more permanent second base solution, specifically the Royals' Tony Graffanino. Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo, when discussing the news of Embree's departure at the start of tonight's game, said that we would see more of Mike Timlin and Mike Myers. At the moment, the Sox are back to carrying 11 pitchers, with only two lefties in the bullpen.

The Sox also traded Scott Cassidy to the Padres to reacquire Adam Hyzdu, who was traded earlier in the season to San Diego for Blaine Neal. Hyzdu, who's had 20 at-bats this season and sports a .150 AVG, will fill the utility outfielder hole left by the departure of Jay Payton, as well as the 40th roster slot.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Game 92: The Hitting Streak Is Over, Now Let's Start Hitting

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 1, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3

Poor Wade Miller. At some point he's going to get another win, but not tonight. He seems to be effected the Pedro factor: after a certain number of pitches, he's pretty much useless. In Miller's case, it seems to be over 106 pitches: his opposing AVG and OPS each jump about 400 points after that point. The sample size is only 16 ABs, but it seems pretty telling. Tonight, Miller was at 106 pitches when he left the game and surprise, surprise, that's around when his game fell apart: a walk, a single and a walk loaded the bases for a two run single by Joey Gathright to make the game 3 - 1.

After Miller left, the bullpen was flawless: Embree, Bradford, Myers, Timlin and Schilling combined for no runs, two hits and three strike outs. There was a catch: a controversial put-out at first in the top of the ninth involving Curt Schilling and Julio Lugo. Lugo grounded to Olerud, who tossed to Schilling, who got to first literally half a second before Lugo did. It's impossible to tell if Schilling actually touched first - you'd need a camera in first base to tell - but initially the umpire called Lugo safe and a run scored. Schilling protested, Francona protested and the umpires agreed to consult, making the surprising decision to overturn the call and call Lugo out. Piniella exploded, as we all wanted him to do at least once this series and the top of the ninth ended. Not that it mattered in the end, but it did give me a false sense of hope going into the bottom of the ninth.

Poor Johnny Damon: the closest thing he got to a hit this evening was an error by Jorge Cantu in the first. The Sox pulled out three hits all evening (two, surprisingly enough, from Alex Cora), all off Scott Kazimir and failed to take advantage of eight walks. The only run came when the Sox loaded the bases in the first and Manny Ramirez grounded into a double play, scoring Damon. Damon's streak ends at 29 games. The Sox offense needs to snap out of this funk where they can't get clutch hits or they're going to go to Chicago in middle of a big slide. Meanwhile, the Orioles and Yankees are both involved in close contests, so the fate of first place in the AL East is still uncertain.

For reasons unknown, Manny Ramirez wandered into the left field scoreboard for a conversation with the scoreboard attendant during a mound visit to Miller and barely made it back before the next pitch. I wonder if these things pop into Manny's head and he does them because he doesn't think anyone will notice or because he doesn't care if anyone notices or because he knows most of us will find them amusing, especially if he hits a home run afterwards. Whatever the reason, it amused the heck out of me.

Mark Bellhorn is on the 15 day DL with a sprained left thumb after hurting himself fielding a grounder on Sunday. Kevin Youkilis returned from Pawtucket in the interim; Terry Francona, recanting on his statement yesterday, said that the Sox will start Cora at second base and will use Bill Mueller as a stop-gap at second if necessary. Francona also said that Youkilis had taken some ground balls at second and "played one or two innings," so he might be an option as well. Tito said the reason for his outburst about Cora last night was because he wants to give Cora the chance to prove himself again as a hitter. The Sox did not call up Dustin Pedroia because of concerns about a jammed wrist and even went so far as to move Hanley Ramirez from shortstop to second base in the lineup in AA Portland to give the athletic prospect exposure to the position. Bellhorn's absence might mean the end of his tenure with Boston - Cora, perhaps taking Francona's praise to heart, went 2 for 4 tonight and if Pedroia heals up soon, he may be able to take over the job at second base. The Sox have filled out their 40 man roster, so a player would have to be designated for assignment...perhaps Bellhorn would be dropped entirely? The front office's understandable unwillingness to trade prospect(s) for a second baseman suggests that some of those same prospects will be coming up before the season is over to try and fix holes in the offense.

Tomorrow night, Guns and Corn (with no late night rock show the night before to mess up his start) against Casey "The Blade" Fossum. Time to snap out of this losing streak before it gets really serious. GO SOX!!!

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Games 89 - 91: Wake Up, Dead Man

Final Scores:

Game 89: Boston Red Sox 13, New York Yankees 1
Game 90: Boston Red Sox 4, New York Yankees 7
Game 91: Boston Red Sox 3, New York Yankees 5

Friday's game was a no-brainer. None of the string of Yankee pitchers that came up against Boston in the 13 - 1 rout had a chance of shutting the Sox down, nor should they have. Big Papi hit a grand slam, Trot Nixon had a three run inside-the-park home run (spelling the end for center fielder Melky Cabrera, who did not field Nixon's drive properly) and the Golden Buddha was golden, going seven innings with five hits and one earned run.

Saturday's game wasn't a forgone conclusion, but Boston's cause was not helped by Matt Clement's poor outing. Clement looked lost on the mound, finally losing it completely in the third when, with two outs, an errant pitch went behind Gary Sheffield's back. Sheffield turned the next pitch around into a double and Alex Rodriguez made it 2 - 0 with a home run the next at bat. After walking Matsui and Giambi, Williams drove in another run with an RBI single, Tino Martinez walked and John Flaherty hit a two run double, making the score 6 - 0.

I must admit, I had a weird premonition that there would be a big Yankee rally with two outs, right before Sheffield came up. I'm not sure if I should stop thinking during baseball games, or if I need to start saying these things out loud so they won't come true, but these things need to stop.

You may notice that the Moron Counter has gone up by one. By the fifth inning, the Sox had knocked the deficit down to 6 - 4, with solo homers by Bellhorn and Ramirez in the third and fourth and an RBI double by Ramirez and an RBI single by Millar in the fifth. With Millar on second and Mirabelli on first, Bill Mueller singled to center. Mirabelli, who seems to have a better idea of the strength (or lack thereof) of Bernie Williams' arm, went around second base with head down and kept going for third...where Sveum was holding Millar. By the time Mirabelli reversed directions, he was gone, 8-5-6. With two outs and runner on the corners instead of one out with runners on the corners or the bases loaded, Mark Bellhorn struck out (of course) and ended the inning and the Sox chances of knocking Randy Johnson out of the game. Mirabelli, Francona, Millar and Sveum all blame Mirabelli for the mistake. Personally, I think Mirabelli and Sveum deserve equal blame: Doug should have his head up when he's running and Dale should know the abilities of outfielders better than he does.

Of course, the base running mistake was just a part of the Sox bad luck on Saturday: in the sixth, David Ortiz hit a bomb that would have been out anywhere else in the world...but he dropped it into the triangle where Williams was able to haul it in for a long out. Johnson pitched into the seventh and the tag team of Gordon and Rivera had no problems closing out the game. On the plus side: Jeremi Gonzalez picked up Clement's slack by pitching three and a 1/3rd innings of one run, five hit baseball, keeping the load off the bullpen. Embree, Timlin and Schilling each pitched a scoreless inning; Schilling picked up a strike out in the process.

Yesterday the Yankees pitched Al Leiter, acquired the day before from the Marlins. Leiter pitched like his three and seven record and 6.64 didn't exist, going sixth and a third innings and giving up three hits and one run. The Sox mounted a rally in the ninth which, of course, included a controversial double play call at first involving Alex Cora. After the game, reporters questioned why Cora, who came on as a substitution for Mark Bellhorn (jammed thumb in the fourth, came out in the eighth) was batting in such an important situation anyway. Cora had never faced Rivera before; Francona could have opted to substitute in Olerud, who is three for thirteen against Rivera, but did not because he refuses to put Bill Mueller in at second base. Johnny Damon, who extended his hit streak to 29 games the at bat before, ended the game by grounding to second base.

With Wakefield pitching a complete game and the lack of an effective bench to deal with close game offensive substitutions, I have to wonder why the Sox are carrying twelve pitchers right now. Presumably, the Schilling experiment is part of the reason, along with the woes of the bullpen before the All-Star Break. If the offense were hitting the way they should, having twelve pitchers would make sense, but Friday aside, the hitting hasn't been terribly consistent. The Sox need this next series to get back in step and get more of lead than the half game they currently have over New York in first place; if the offense comes back online, then a large bullpen could make more sense.

Wade Miller versus Scott Kazimir for tonight's 7:05 start. GO SOX!!!

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Game 88: No Reason To Panic

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, New York Yankees 8

I came to a realization this morning on the way to work: although last night's loss was certainly disappointing, I'm pretty optimistic about the rest of the series and by extension, the Sox chances in capturing the division. Here's why: the Yankees brought their best game last night. Seven of their nine starters got at least one hit, the top four batters (Jeter, Cano, Sheffield and Rodriguez) went 2 for 5 or better and scored at least one run a piece. Mussina and his 4.15 ERA aren't any better than the five runs and eight hits he gave up over six innings. Sturtze, Gordon and Rivera, helped by a few questionable calls by the home plate umpire, did what they needed to do and only gave up one run in the process.

Meanwhile, the Sox brought a pretty terrible game to the park. Six men left on base (including four in scoring position), a double play, a run-scoring error, a pass ball and ten strike outs all did their part to prevent runs from scoring. The pitching was weak: Arroyo's speeds were so off that the Yankees were hitting things into the deep rightfield corner, including the two home runs in the second. Embree did fine closing out the seventh, but gave up a double to Posada to start the eighth and Timlin, who can't hold inherited runners (now three for twelve this season), allowed Posada to come around and score before finishing the eighth. Schilling, who came on in the ninth to the roar of a standing ovation, couldn't live up to the hype or stop Sheffield and A-Rod and gave up the double and the home run that made the difference in the score. Even with all these problems, the Sox blew three leads over the course of the game and still kept the final score pretty close. In other words, the Yankees best wasn't a whole lot better than the Red Sox worst...and I take a lot of comfort in that.

Schilling, as usual, blamed himself for the bad outing, saying his splitter failed him in the ninth. On the bright side, he retired the three batters after A-Rod without problem (one strike out and two fly outs). Last night was an experiment and while more data probably needs to be gathered, I have a few thoughts:
  • Not that Embree should have come out to pitch in the eighth at all (Posada's strong side and Embree's weak side both happen to be the same) and not that I like the idea of bringing in Schilling in the middle of an inning with runners on base, but Timlin can't seem to hold inherited runners at all. At this point, it seems better to bring Timlin in at the start of an inning, where his 1.65 ERA can prevent problems from occuring at all.
  • Bringing in Schilling for the first time against Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez seems to me to be a bit of a blunder, too. If Schilling had come in after Embree, he would have faced Bernie Williams, Ruben Sierra and Derek Jeter - not a whole lot better, but probably the lesser of two evils. Of course, he could have given up the runs to any of those hitters too and I'd be second guessing the decision to bring him on in the eighth.
The LOOGY/ROOGY combo was in full effect last night, with Chad Bradford making his Red Sox debut right after Mike Myers came on in the seventh. The two did pretty well: two-thirds of an inning, no hits, one walk. Bradford got some questionable ball calls (did I mention I didn't like this umpire), but had a good start, especially for a guy coming off of back surgery. Boston Dirt Dogs has an interesting little piece on how Bradford isn't actually a submariner - he's just a limbo artist.

Johnny Damon extended his hit streak to 26 games last night in the first, stealing a base and coming around to score on a David Ortiz single, prompting a guy in the bar I was in to comment loudly that "the Red Sox are playing small ball." Damon also struck out looking to end a rally later in the game; another one of those questionable calls by an umpire who couldn't decide all night where to call the line between a strike and a ball. Speaking of strike outs, Mark Bellhorn continued to demonstrate his uselessness by going 0 for 3 with two strike outs. At what point do we ditch him entirely? He's become a big hole in a line up that doesn't need explotation points.

Kevin Millar did go 2 for 2 with two walks, but didn't score or bat in any runs, so his terrible run-scoring error at first, made even worse because Bill Mueller made a good throw after an excellent stop at third, wasn't paid back at the plate. Mueller looked like he was about to snap at Millar after the play and I can't blame him - trading Millar for anyone, especially Chad Qualls, is looking better and better. Ditch Bellhorn and Millar, bring Youkilis back to platoon with Olerud at first and either trade for a second baseman or bring up someone like Petagine or Pedroia. Gordon Edes feels that Pedroia needs a little more seasoning in Pawtucket, but that we may be seeing him later this season and a bit more of Alex Cora now. Cora may not be much of a hitter, but at least he's a defensive upgrade, which is better than nothing.

I had an interesting conversation last night with a guy who went the Red Sox Fantasy Camp this past winter and I have decided I must go once before I die. This guy was one of the few Red Sox fans in the bar; by the end of the night we were huddled in one corner, muttering into our plastic beer cups, a little enclave of Boston in what was apparently a secret Yankee bar.* Robin, who was warned by one of the bartenders to calm down after making a rather loud insinuation that Gary Sheffield would be happy to get home so he could jack up on steroids suggested that we make another trip to the Hairy Monk, but I think I'm done watching the Red Sox in sports bars outside of New England. It's more difficult to enjoy the game when most of the people around you are actively routing for the other team and cursing out yours in the process. My favorite were two guys in front of us who kept flipping off the TV.

To the guy who caught Jason Giambi's home run, blocking Trot Nixon from making an incredible play in the process: you're a dick. Nixon may have forgiven you, but I certainly haven't, especially since like a moron you then started yakking about the whole thing on your cell phone.

Game two tonight, as David Wells faces off against Tim Redding, recently acquired by New York from San Diego and sporting an 0 and 5 record and a 9.10 ERA. With Chein-Ming Wang now on the 15 day DL as of yesterday with an inflamed shoulder, joining Kevin Brown, Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano, the Sox dodged a bullet and have the opportunity to start a hot streak against a weakened starting rotation. GO SOX!!!

* - Secret because there was no memorabilia on the walls, but all of the bartenders were wearing Yankees shirts and rang a bell every time New York scored.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Start of the Half Musings

With half an hour to kill before I head uptown to watch Sox/Yankees and eat tasty wings, I'm adding my own take on the State of The Nation going into tonight's game:
  • Curt Schilling is officially off the DL and in the bullpen. He is joined, as expected, by Chad Bradford, ROOGY (like a LOOGY but against righties) extraordinaire picked up from Oakland in exchange for Jay Payton. To make room, the Sox sent Youkilis and Scott Cassidy back to Pawtucket. The changes put the Sox back up to twelve pitchers, although I like Sully's idea that Bradford and Myers should only count as one roster slot together because of their limited effectiveness. I'm frankly a little nervous about the Schilling return, especially in a series against New York, but in a way it's appropriate: the Sox are at home and Schilling loves a big game. If he's brought it, the pressure may actually help. On a related note to the trade, Oakland used the Payton deal to send Eric Byrnes and Omar Quintanilla to Colorado in exchange for Joe Kennedy and versitile reliever Jay Witasick, a righty with an incredible (for Coors Field) 2.52 ERA and 2.09 opposing batting average and 40 strikeouts over 35+ innings. That's going to be trouble for other teams in the AL later.
  • New York Newsday printed a very brief rumor that Kevin Millar could be heading to Houston in exchange for reliever Chad Qualls. Robin had me on the phone last night talking about Qualls and he doesn't sound half bad - certainly not a bad exchange for a guy's who not having a great season.
  • I spotted this piece the day it was printed, but lost the link until The Joy of Sox reprinted it: According to Gary Sheffield, the Yankees will be backing up Alex Rodriguez if the Sox start any trouble during the upcoming series. From the gist of the article, it seems like A-Rod is somehow more deserving of support this year, or something like that. It makes me wonder if the fight last year was some sort of weird form of hazing for Alex, to see if he was really tough enough to be a Yankee. Apparently he passed, because Sheff's now calling the third baseman the Yankees' "jewel." All told, probably one of the weirder pieces I've seen in a while.
Guns and Corn versus Moose and his 2005 ERA: 5.09 on the road, 7.07 (with two losses) against Boston. GO SOX!!!

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Monday, July 11, 2005

Games 86 and 87: Stupid Club

Final Scores:

Game 86: Boston Red Sox 1, Baltimore Orioles 9

Game 87: Boston Red Sox 1, Baltimore Orioles 4

Is Bruce Chen a member of the Rodrigo Lopez Club yet? Is his application in process, a sure shoe-in while the existing members prepare the traditional welcome feast of roast duck with a side of total offensive shut down? Even the presence of the Stopper couldn't stop the horror, as the Orioles served up a second course of the Club's namesake. Do other teams have nemeses like these? Do their fans take the time to put them in little clubs? I know Tim Wakefield always does pretty well against the Yankees, but is going through some sort of major meltdown right now and I can't get to his player page, so I don't know if he's in the same league.

Actually, I'm probably going a bit overboard welcoming Mr. Chen to the club - he had a LOT of defensive help: web gems from Luis Matos and Brian Roberts that killed rallies and two good snags by Melvin Mora and again, Luis Matos to ensure that Kevin Millar went hitless. The first catch by Matos was the real killer, though, as the centerfielder reached over the centerfield fence to rob Big Papi of a three run homerun which would have made the score 4 - 1. Whatever the cause though, a disappointing end to the first half of the season. Still, the Sox are still in first place for the first time since 1995, the last time they won the division. Johnny Damon managed to extend his hit streak to 25 games with two singles on Saturday and a popped-up bunt in the ninth inning yesterday and continues to make his push for this year's batting title. The Sox are at or near the top in most offensive categories. Matt Clement will now be Boston's fifth All-Star, after Roy Halliday unfortunately fractured his leg in a game on Friday. There are all those games against Tampa Bay coming up in the second half. Good things, good things.

I've finally figured out why I hate Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, the FOX baseball broadcasters, so much: they don't focus on the game. FOX had the game on Saturday and because my girlfriend is a goddess among women, she surrendered the TV of her volition, so I had the chance to study the phenomenon in its full effect. Rafael Palmeiro, who's closing on the 3,000 hit mark, soon to join the elite club of players with 500+ homeruns and 3,000+ hits, had just hit a homerun, one of three he hit this past weekend. Joe and Tim not only bring up the 3000 hit milestone, they spend a good ten minutes talking about Palmeiro: his career, his abilities, the fact that he's never been an All-Star and that someone on this year's roster (I've forgotten who, but there was a possibility he would have to bow out and I don't think it was Kenny Rogers) should give up their spot so he can be an All-Star once in his career. Except he's hitting .269 this year and there are already four first basemen (Teixeira, Hillenbrand, Konerko and Sweeney) on the squad who are much deserving of the honor. Riiiiiight.

Having picked up on the All-Star Game theme, the two announcers then spend 15 minutes talking about the All-Star Game and who should start the game for the National League: Roger Clemens or Chris Carpenter. I checked; neither one of those pitchers nor the teams they play for were in Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Saturday. Meanwhile, the two teams who were playing get a small comment every minute or two. Guys, if I wanted to listen to talk radio, I would have turned that on instead. If you're too boring or too ignorant to be able to offer detailed commentary on the game your channel is broadcasting, do baseball fans everywhere a favor and resign now.

The real story behind the firing of former Red Sox team doctor Bill Morgan
...or at least as much of the real story as we're going to get. I think a lot of people ignored the firing after it happened for two reasons: first, they couldn't believe the Sox would arbitrarily can someone who helped the dream come true and second, the move smacked of so much evil that we couldn't believe those lovable Boston boys would be capable of doing it. This story is definately part of the dark site of the organization we know and love.

Doom and gloom about Johnny Damon's shoulder in the Providence Journal. If Krasner is right and Damon is one bad landing from season-ending surgery, we're all in trouble - he's pretty irreplaceable this season. In fact, he's been so irreplaceable this year that I wonder what Theo's plan is for the upcoming contract negotiations with everyone's favorite agent, Scott Boras. Good leadoff men are in short supply and Damon knows he's one of the best. That said, if he hurts himself physically, he hurts his contract chances as well. All-Star appearance or no, that hurt shoulder will need as much of the three days as possible, for the good of both Johnny and the Red Sox.

I may break my normal moratorium on All-Star-Game-watching, since there's so much Red Sox representation and more importantly, a win once again garners the all-important home field advantage in the World Series. Homerun derby tonight with its international theme and golden ball, All-Star Game tomorrow night, with Mark Buerhle (AL) and Chris Carpenter (NL) getting the starts. GO AMERICAN LEAGUE!!!

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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Game 85: How a Game is Won

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Baltimore Orioles 2

Before the broadcast last night, the MASN broadcasters were gloating about Baltmore's abbreviated win in Game 83, saying that "with a win tonight, Baltimore would be two games behind first place Boston." Of course, they didn't take Arroyo and the usual crushers into account: Damon: four for five with a walk, extended his hit streak to 23 games; Ortiz: two for two with three walks; Manny: two for five with a walk; Arroyo: seven and two thirds innings, six hits, two runs, two walks, three strikeouts. Jeremi "Gonzo" Gonzalez pitched a near perfect inning (one hit, one run) and Embree got the last out without trouble in the ninth. The MASN people also glossed over Sidney Ponson and his .300+ opposing batting average - and the fact that Big Papi hits over .400 against him. Ortiz then went on to knock in two of the seven runs, hitting an RBI single and a sacrifice fly and scored a run himself. Suffice it to say that when the Orioles saw a real team for nine innings, they didn't do as well. Also, even if the Sox lose the rest of the series, they'll still be in first for the All Star Break.

Thanks to The Joy of Sox, who's been The Man for news updates the past few days, for these tasty tidbits:
  • The flareup over Schilling's closer role from the past few days has not only settled down, but was blown out of proportion in the first place, says both Terry Francona and Trot Nixon. Tim McCarver and Joe Buck also spoke to Tito during today's broadcast and the Sox skipper reiterated what he told reporters: the media made a bigger deal of Johnny Damon's reaction to Schilling as the new closer than Johnny did and Kevin Millar never actually said he wanted to be traded. My guess is that with all of the tension surrounding the departures of Ramon Vasquez and Jay Payton, players got jumpy and reporters got even jumpier.
  • Keith Foulke now regrets not having surgery after the club recommended he do so at the start of Spring Training. Foulke says he felt fine at the time and therefore elected not to go under the knife. In a way, the entire incident makes him sounds a lot like Pedro: someone else has to think for him about when to take the ball away and when to make him sit down and get help with his injuries, because he's too competitive to do it himself. Jerry Manuel, Foulke's coach in Chicago, talks in the article about how Keith always needs to feel like he's throwing the perfect pitches and gets frustrated and makes mistakes when he's not. Clearly, being such a control freak works well when Foulke's on, but can be twice as problematic when he's off.
  • As expected, Gabe Kapler, designated for assignment by the Yomiuri Giants, will be returning from Japan after he clears waivers on the fifteenth. Once he returns to the States, The Great Jewish Hope will be able to negotiate with all 30 major league teams, but clearly he's expected to come back to the Red Sox. His return would put the Sox back up to the full complement of utility players from last year.
The Sox lost today, but I'll be back to summarize that bit of fun later. GO SOX!!!

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Nixongate Update

Because the fascists at are broadcasting MASN instead of NESN this evening (why DO they do that?) I was treated to glee-filled multiple angles of the pickoff at second base from last night...and every one of them showed Nixon as being safe, or in enough doubt to suggest a tie. Also, the homeplate umpire (who is not the same guy who was at second last night; I just checked) just called Nixon looking on a 3-2 pitch that was 1/2 a foot out of the strikezone. Ugh.

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Game 84: B List

Final Score

Boston Red Sox 1, Baltimore Orioles 3

A combination of a very late night (flight problems in Atlanta) and rain ruined Sox hopes yesterday, as the game was called in the seventh inning due to inclement weather with the Orioles on top. The late night (the plane didn't land in Baltimore until 5 AM yesterday morning) led Tito to rest Damon, Renteria, Varitek and Manny and the early ending of the game meant that none of those four hitters had time to come off the bench and make a difference in the final score. Especially frustrating, since Cabrera was nowhere near efficient - 106 pitches by end of the fifth, with five walks to go with his eight strikeouts. A friend of mine was at the game and said it was pretty obvious the game was going to end after the sixth, which makes me wonder why Francona didn't send his sluggers out for the top of the inning against Cabrera's relief, Tim Byrdak. Instead, Byrdak faced what my friend refered to as "David Ortiz and the PawSox" and saved the game.

Even more frustrating was the ending to the rally in the fifth, when, with two outs and the bases loaded, Nixon took a bit too much of a lead off second base and was picked off by the catcher, Sal Fasano, ending the inning. Nixon, being who he is, took all the blame for the screw-up and I'm not going to bash the guy; it seems to be another piece of last night's bad luck. Joy of Sox seems to feel that Nixon,
compared to Manny, doesn't get enough attention from the media for these screwups, but I think there are two reasons why that doesn't happen: first, with Manny it's almost expected and his reactions are so amusing that people want to focus on it. Nixon just gets pissed and looks like he wants to break something, which scares attention away. Second, Nixon is the walking highlight reel and he's been so for a few seasons now. His incredible plays very quickly make up for his mistakes, as I'm sure they would have last night if the game had continued.

Continuing the three ring roster circus:
  • The Sox designated Jay Payton for assignment yesterday and sent him on a plane back to Boston after he had a confrontation with Tito in Texas about his playing time. There's a rumor going around that he'll be traded to Oakland for extreme submariner Chad Bradford, who is currently at the end of a DL stint for back surgery. Theo has confirmed he'll be traded, but said details will be announced after the All Star Break.
  • Boston traded Ramon Vasquez to the Indians for Alex Cora. Since Cora is supposed to be something of a Pokey Reese-lite and Vasquez wasn't helping the Sox on either end, the move makes decent sense - pull something useful out of a pretty useless player. Cora will most likely be used as a defensive replacement for Bellhorn, but started last night at shortstop, where he went 0 - 3 with two strikeouts. There's a rumor that he wasn't happy as a utility player in Cleveland.
  • To replace Jay Payton on the roster, the Sox called up rule five pick Adam Stern and started him last night in center, where he went 0 - 2 but was hit by a pitch and stole second base. Stern's activation means that he will not be returned to the Braves. He's reputed to be speedy (the way Payton wasn't) and a have a good glove anywhere in the outfield.
  • The Sox sent Lenny DiNardo back to Pawtucket, probably just for good measure. It's starting to feel Theo's trying to pull some sort of ninja smoke screen here with his roster moves.
  • Keith Foulke's surgery went well and he's expected to come back in six weeks.
Guns and Corn against Sidney "Pontoon" Ponson tonight in a cage match battle for the ages. Also it's been raining straight down, diagonally and sideways here in New York, the rain has stopped in Baltimore, the starters are well rested and the beatings of the birds can begin. GO SOX!!!

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Game 83: All Star

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 7, Texas Rangers 4

Kenny Rogers? Kenny Rogers can eat it. We all know who the All Star pitcher was in Arlington last night. With eight and two-thirds innings, nine hits, four runs, nine strikeouts and no walks, Matt Clement gave the Sox their second clutch start in a row, saving the bullpen from another night of heavy lifting: Alan Embree made a three pitch effort to get the final out and the save in the ninth.

On the offensive side, Big Papi hit his 21st homerun and a two run single, Millar hit an RBI single, Varitek hit an infield RBI single and Johnny Damon extended his hitting streak to a majors-leading 22 games. The Sox managed to break Chan Ho Park, who held them scoreless through five innings, leave Texas with the series win and pick up half a game on Baltimore, who did not play last night.

Keith Foulke is officially on the 15 day DL as of yesterday and will be out four to six weeks for arthroscopic surgery on his knees. In his absence, the Sox have called up 29 year old Scott Cassidy, who has a 1.15 ERA in sixteen relief appearances. Overall, Cassidy, who is more effective against right handers, had a six and three record and a 3.81 ERA in Pawtucket. With Schilling being set up to close, first in Pawtucket (tonight) and then in Boston, it sounds like Cassidy is up to replace Matt Mantei. There is no official word yet on what correctional option Mantei will take on his ankle, but it's possible the reliever could be out for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, the Boston sports media and the Red Sox blogosphere are abuzz with the idea of Schilling closing out games. Terry Francona has specifically come out and said that the solution is not a permanent one, so it doesn't sound, at the moment at least, like Schilling will be the next Dennis Eckersley, making the permanent switch from starter to closer. The Sox are certainly in the market for at least a temporary replacement - "Every day" Eddie Guardado was a possible option, but according to the Globe:

Multiple news outlets reported Thursday morning that Guardado has a limited no-trade clause (apparently, the Red Sox are one of 10 teams on his trade veto list) and would have to sign off on any deal. And considering many of Guardado's contract incentives are tied to closer-type statistics, it can be assumed he would likely veto any deal to Boston. "It's strictly a business decision," Guardado's agent, Kevin Kohler, told the Boston Herald yesterday. "It's nothing against the Boston franchise or their fans."

A statement like that not only makes it sound like Guardado will not be the fix for the Sox closer problems, but also suggests that Boston is still relying on Keith Foulke to come back and be his old self. Although there is a suggestion that the psychological pressure of performing in Boston may have finally gotten to Foulke, I still think the problem is more physical - otherwise, why continue to pitch through the knee pain, or continue to ask for the ball?

In other news, players don't like finding things out about their team from the media. Both Johnny Damon and Tim Wakefield expressed disappointment with the idea of Schilling as closer. Damon was especially vocal, citing Schilling's age and concequent inability to warm up quickly as reasons why he should not close out ballgames. Damon prefers Timlin or Arroyo as options for closer; Wakefield is more worried that losing a starter to the bullpen could spell trouble for the Sox rotation later on.

In the meantime, the closer by committee approach continues, as there is no timetable for Schilling's return from AAA. Hopefully the Sox starters are entering another hot stretch when the bullpen won't have to be used as often and the Sox can pull through to the All Star Break reasonably intact.

The Golden Buddha takes the ball tonight against Daniel Cabrera in the first of a four game set in Baltimore, the last four games before the All Star Break. With the Orioles in the midst of a three game slide and a record of three and twelve in their last fifteen games, this series could help push Boston on top of the AL East by a considerable margin. The Yankees, who are lurking just below second place, are playing Cleveland in four games, while Toronto, in fourth at 5.5 games back, is finishing up tonight versus Oakland before playing Texas for three games. GO SOX!!!

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