Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bronson Arroyo will eat your Babies and Swallow your Soul

So it’s the 7th inning, Cincinnati is winning 1 – 0 in the final Florida game of Spring Training and Bronson Arroyo has nine strikeouts.  I think he might be channeling his rage about the trade into his performance against Boston.  Maybe.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Your 2006 Boston Red Sox

Opening close...

Although the final due date isn’t until Monday, Tito and Theo have made the decisions, exercised the options, made the cuts, operated the waiver-wire, named those who are Pawtucket-bound and created the 25 man roster for Opening Day. The last man standing for 2006? New acquisition and member of the Korean National Team Hee-Seop Choi, who has a single minor option left and will be in Pawtucket assuming he clears another set of waivers. Since a whole bunch of teams just passed him up a few days ago, it’s safe to say that Theo’s insurance pick for first base – to be activated if Lowell doesn’t work out and Youkilis needs to move to third or if J.T. Snow suddenly realizes that even though he looks like he’s 12, he’s actually 38 and decides it’s time to retire – will still be in Boston’s possession at the start of next week.

Today’s announcement also includes the likely starting lineups, broken out by type of pitcher. The choices in personnel aren’t too surprising – Peña substituted for Nixon against lefties, Snow platooned with Youkilis against righties only – but what I did find interesting is that Tito didn’t opt to go for the power core of Ortiz, Manny and Peña against lefties. Instead, Francona slotted Peña into the seventh slot, after Varitek and Lowell. I imagine the idea is to give Lowell some protection (much like Manny protects Ortiz now) by making the idea of pitching around Lowell to get to Peña less palatable. Of course, Lowell actually needs to hit to make that strategy worthwhile. It could also be that Peña is supposed to fill the role that Bill Mueller had in the lineup the past few year – the dangerous bottom of the order hitter who could make things difficult for a tired pitcher and start something up for the top of the lineup.

Meanwhile, down in FLA, Foulke looks back to form – on his first time out, at least. And even then, the victims of his thirteen pitch, three strikeout inning were minor leaguers, members of the Ottawa Lynx. Still, Foulke closed the door on each batter with a different pitch and even more encouraging, there’s a 12 MPH difference between his changeup and his fastball – and the closer promises to grow that gap even more as the season opens. With appearances today against the Jays and over the weekend before the season opener in Texas, Foulke’s got some more opportunities to prove that he’s really back to 2004 form before it starts to count. I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic on this one and try to forget that Foulke is another one of those elements of this team that needs to work out if the Sox want to have a shot at the playoffs.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

WMF Redux

The season is starting soon (next week! wooo!) so we will be doing weekly updates of the WMF stat column Eric and I added to the site. Check out the Weird Mitigating Factors post to get info on how that all works.

Poor Trot. Any other year he would have a real high WMF, but with all the pickups the front office has made, I bet he sees a younger guy waiting to take his spot every time he turns around.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mama Said Knock You Out


Spring training is beginning to look like a fight from the old Batman series with Adam West.

POW! BIFF! On Sunday, Beckett goes nuts after the Phillies Ryan Howard admires a LONG out that the wind blown in. Howard says that would have been a home run on a normal day, Beckett tells him to do something that is nearly anatomically impossible and only legal in Alabama. Benches clear. Hilarity ensues.

BAM! CRACK! Today, the bullpens resident nut job Julian Tavarez throws a right cross into the face of Joey Gathright as he slides into home. Did Gathright really spike him? Who knows! But the benches clear and tempers flared. No one feuds with Tampa like the Sox.

Your 2006 Boston Red Sox!
We might lose the game… but we ALWAYS win the fight!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Juan Really Gone (Strange) Free Graf (Huh?) and Choi (Ok)

Ok some strangeness (like that’s new). Another unique Theo pick up. The cheap and versatile Hee Sop Choi is added to the roster for about $750,000 and a plate of kimchi. Nice pick and it adds another option if Snow, Youlk and Lowell don’t pan out. Can’t complain about this one unless you remember that we lack bullpen depth. Choi don’t pitch.

On the other side of weirdness… apparently Juan Gonzalez backed out of his minor league deal with the Sox due to the acquisition of Wily Mo. He can put 1 and 1 together I guess. Here’s where it gets odd. Juan said he had a deal with Oakland lined up and that’s where he would go. But according to them, that’s not remotely true (6th paragraph down). He made it up? Nice and crazy! Now he is trying out for the Rockies. If that doesn’t work I think Narnia is trying to field a team.

Oh and BYE Graffanino. Waivers huh? I would have liked SOMETHING in return for you... but I guess it was not to be. Hope you find a home, maybe you can shack up with Juan Gone.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Wily Mo and Much Mo

It was a classic Sox/Yanks show down (only it was spring training and nobody really cares that much, right?) and it was the first chance to see slugger Wily Mo Pena (WMP) as a Red Sox. I must admit… I almost forgot that this one didn’t count.

In the end, the Yankees pitching (and Riske struggles) elevated them to a 5-4 win, but the real story was the Sox young sluggers. WMP hit a line drive homerun that probably wouldn’t have made it out of Fenway, but it was more than enough for the stadium in Tampa. I really am taking a shine to this guy. He looks like a fun loving, hard hitting, and bad fielding (but had a good catch at the wall last night) Dominican power hitter… and YES, I know we already have 2 of those.

The other guy that has been the talk of the town is our favorite Canadian (sorry Geddy Lee) Adam Stern! Ever since he destroyed team USA in the WBC this guy has been switched on. He had 3 hits last night with a HR in the 9th to make it close. So now we have 2 more outfielders and nowhere to put them.

I think this spells the end for Trot Nixon. He may be a hard nosed, tobacco spittin' dirt dog... but after this season he will go the way of Millar, O-Cabs, Arroyo, Pedro, Minky, Myers, Embree, Bellhorn, Mueller, Lowe, Damon, Belli, and Pokey. Another one of the 25 champs from 2004 that will leave to find his own dreams and destiny. Or go to a strip club. I don’t really know where these guys go.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos

Coming to your local ballpark...

…and just as suddenly, Juan Gone gets second billing to bigger news: the last of the rockers has left Boston. In a surprise move, the Sox sent Bronson Arroyo and cash to the Reds for young gun Wily Mo Pena. Millar, Mueller, Arroyo…Theo will have to play his Pearl Jam covers by himself. A surprise move, you say? Well, let me count the ways:

  1. Even with the glut of starting pitchers that Boston enjoyed, Arroyo was supposedly under a sacred sign: with his recent contract deal, he played the game and bet that the Sox wouldn’t risk the public relations problem of trading a pitcher who just undersigned to stay with a particular team. Conventional wisdom had Arroyo staying in Boston in the bullpen and Clement riding off into the sunset, but clearly the front office had other things in mind. Especially…

  2. …since Arroyo isn’t such hot potatoes and Wily Mo Pena…well…he’s pretty frickin’ awesome. I mean, I know Theo mentioned that the Reds needed pitching and the Sox needed outfielders, but I think it’s safe to say Boston got the huge upside on this deal. Now Coco, Manny and Pena just need to start a Public Enemy cover group, take up the torch that Arroyo drops in Boston and bring the noise.

So, new outfielder. Robin thinks this trade and the Juan Gone acquisition are signs of the coming departure of Trot Nixon, but I think it’s a little early to write off Ol’ Trotsky. Gonzalez needs to battle his way up through the minor leagues. Pena is a lefty killer; his power and hitting numbers over the past few years make him perfect platoon-mate with Nixon, whose specialty, to put it mildly, is righties. He’s 24, Papi says he hits the ball harder than anyone he knows and he’s got the potential to grow into a fearsome right field presence as Trot’s future replacement. So departs the Cornroyo, the Guns and Corn, another member of the 2004 team…and not a bad catch in his place. Good luck, Bronson.

Juan Gone But Not Hard to Find

Playing the role of aged slugger who will get $1 Million dollars but probably less than 20 AB is none other than Juan Gonzalez. Theo saw him languishing on the side of the road and lured him into his SUV with candy treats and a one year minor league contract. I guess the bottom of the barrel was shallower this year. Frank Thomas is an Athletic, Sammy Sosa really did retire and I don’t think Rafael Palmeiro is a good fit in Boston. That leaves Juan Gone. Welcome!

I think I went over the fact that baseball players are not wineage isn’t a positive factor. Unfortunately, age is the one thing Gonzalez has in spades (actually he is only 36. So maybe it’s not the age but the mileage). Then again it is a low money contract and he will be battling Adam Stern for the backup outfield position when (that’s WHEN not IF) Trot spends a few weeks on the DL. If Juan can bounce back from an injury plagued season then Theo will look like a genius. If not, no biggie!

Hmmm… seems like the Red Sox have a TON of players hoping to bounce back to former glory. I hope that a time machine becomes standard equipment in the trainers room.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Love That Pitching...

Because Heaven forbid that I should be able to watch Spring Training games (especially on days without the WBC love), I plugged in to Twins radio yesterday and listened to the sweet sound of Josh Beckett’s fastball making hitters look foolish. One run on five hits over five innings, you say? Torii Hunter looking like Beckett’s fastball stole his wallet while striking him out, you say? I love it. Not to mention that today, young Jonathan Papelbon gave up no hits through five innings to hold the peg the Sox to a five to nothing lead against the Marlins. Things go this well consistently during the season and at the very least the Sox seem assured of a post-season berth.

To continue the pitching love, Tim Wakefield is awesome. Yes, he’s a consistent pitcher who doesn’t get hurt very often, makes the sacrifices necessary to make sure that the team gets ahead, etc. and we all know and love these things about him. Indeed, anyone who ever held the Aaron Boone homerun against Wakefield should have turned in his or her Red Sox Nation membership card (the real one, not that money-grubbing crap the club put out) by now. And yet his awesomeness grows: doing crosswords in the dugout during spring training, preparing to hold down the number two rotation spot this year to throw a curveball (or a knuckleball) into the preparations of opposing hitters…and he’s been with the Sox so long (12 years this season) that according to this year’s media guide, he’s played with twenty percent of the players who’ve ever worn a Red Sox uniform. Wake doesn’t know how long he’ll be around before he hangs up his spikes, but I’ll be glad to see him as long as he’s around.

The Rocket, who’s got to be baseball’s equivalent of Adriana Lima, says he is hanging up the spikes after Team USA’s tournament-eliminating loss to Mexico last night…but he might be back later in the season. Presumably to whichever team waves the most money, the possibility of another ring and maybe a full wait staff at him. Baseball’s multi-million dollar team fell to another competitor with more heart (and more offense) than the Americans and while the result was a bit shocking, I continue to think that it’s for the best for the tournament that Team USA didn’t win the first ever World Baseball Classic. Also, with a little more personal venom, might I add that I’m especially pleased that the game ended with Jorge Cantu tagging out Johnny Damon during a double play.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Acta and Tito

From San Juan to San Diego, it's all good

The WBC continues to impress: Venezuela and the Dominican Republic battling to avoid elimination and secure a spot in the semi-finals at the same time. Oddly enough, even though critics simultaneously tout the DR for their magnificent run potential and claim that their pitching is not up to par, it was pitching that stepped up tonight when Venezuela’s Freddy Garcia shut down the DR bats. Dominican Daniel Cabrera (best known for his death stare game face) did Garcia one better, shutting down Venezuela with his nasty sinking strikeout pitch, striking out a WBC tied-record of seven – and being fortunate enough to not have a player who’s in transition from left-field to third-base (Miguel Cabrera) at the hot corner.

Run number one came with the bases loaded in the first after Cabrera dropped a rolling grounder. The Venezuelans tied it up with a walk, a double and a groundball off of otherwise stellar young Minnesota starter Francisco Liriano in the sixth and with the way the pitching duel progressed, extra innings seemed likely…until the Dominicans managed to load the bases for the second time in the seventh inning and squeeze in a run when catcher Ramon Hernandez allowed a Kelvin Escobar pitch to hit off his glove and escape to the backstop. Even then, the game wasn’t over – DR reliever Duaner Sanchez managed to get two outs in the ninth, then loaded the bases in a tension-fraught finish where Sanchez seemed to have lost the outside edge of the plate. Finally, a pop fly to right field and the game ended.

Once again, the appeal of these games is how every contest is like a playoff game or the World Series. Every game matters and with national pride at stake, the players, especially the ones from underdog countries, play like these are the most important games of their lives. The internationalization of baseball is a very cool thing.

Meanwhile, on Yawkey Way they extended Tito’s contract until 2008. Makes sense, as far as I can tell – the upper management is still in place, the goal is still to win in new and innovative ways, so why remove a fairly popular and compliant manager? We’ll continue to question some of his decisions, debate his player management tactics and with any luck, wonder how he gets so lucky at the end of the season.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Root Root Root for the Villans

Lots of action this weekend. Red Sox pitchers continue their poor performances with Schilling pitching way too far inside vs the Pirates and Paps getting knocked around by the Twins (goodbye Mayors Cup). In international news (always wanted to say that) the WBC is still captivating and moving into round 2. Cuba beat up on Venezuela 7-2, Korea shocked Mexico 2-1 and Puerto Rico destroyed the DR 7-1 (and it wasn’t even that close).

The real story was the Japan/USA game. The heavily favored USA had come from behind to tie the score at 3 in the bottom of the 6th. In the 7th, Japan loaded the bases with one out. The Japanese 3rd baseman Akinori Iwamura (THE Akinori Iwamura!) hits an apparent sac fly to put Japan on top 4-3. But NO! Conspiracy! Controversy! Scandal! USA skipper Buck Martinez said the runner from 3rd left early and that there are now 3 outs and the run doesn’t count. He bitched and moaned and appealed to the other umpires… and got it over turned!

The runner CLEARLY didn’t leave early. Japans manager Sadaharu Oh (long lost father of Grey’s Anatomy star Sandra Oh?) was pissed. The finishing touch was A-Rod hitting a bleeder up the middle in the ninth to win it 4-3. Ugly. International incident ugly. I know Eric defended team USA (we were unfairly labeling them Team Yankee) but now I believe they deserve some ire. They are the Dick Dastardly and Muttley of this Wacky Race. Who knows what dirty tricks and underhanded schemes are left in the playbook for the USA.

Team Mexico kidnapped and forced to work in Texas Wal-Marts for less than minimum wage?

Puerto Rico declared a state and forced to fold into team USA?

All Cuban players arrested for ties to Communist dictator Bud Selig?

Look at it from an international perspective. Isn’t the United States the Yankees when compared to the rest of the world? They both pay through the nose to have the best stuff, they were big winners back in the day but are underachieving now and both of their managers are rich and nuts! Didn’t I hear that Cashman just shot a buddy in the head while hunting for rats in the Bronx? It’s like looking in a mirror!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

WBC 4 Eva!

El Commandante enjoys baseball
and not losing members of his national team to defection

I have a fun new ritual for the next few weeks: from 1:00 PM until quitting time it’s World Baseball Classic time. This afternoon featured a four and a half hour battle between Panama and Cuba at the stadium in San Juan, with Cuba trying to win their first WBC game and Panama trying to avoid elimination after losing last night to Puerto Rico. Even though analysts (and by analysts, I mean everyone – ESPN rightly referred to Cuba as the Yankees of the Rest of the World) expected Cuba to walk all over Panama, the game turned into an eleven inning duel. Fantastic pitching that fell apart just when the game seemed in hand, incredible diving plays in the field, goofy running mistakes, seven hit batsmen, home runs that quickly turned the tide…it was a hard-fought contest and although Panama ended up losing eight to six, it was one of the best games I’ve ever watched. My appreciation for this tournament increases daily.

Meanwhile, over in Arizona, Team USA (who I’ve come, somewhat unfairly, to think of as Team Yankee) just suffered an embarrassing loss to Our Neighbors to the North. I’m a bit ambivalent about this situation; my nationalist sympathies aren’t as high as they might be and truth be told, it would probably be better for the tournament and for baseball across the world if the United States didn’t win this time around. Besides, the US faces South Africa tomorrow and I don’t think anyone’s betting against the Americans. Plus, it prolongs the drama, which is a Good Thing.

Things are going very well for those WBC players from the Red Sox: The Cap’n hit his second-ever grand slam to greet a new pitcher as a part of a six run fifth inning and Adam Stern…wow. Over the past two days, Stern is five for seven, with a walk, a double, six runs and two RBI. He’s also got two incredible catches: a sliding snow cone that saved an extra-base hit and, even more psychologically damaging, a full speed, slamming-into-the-padding-on-the-centerfield-wall catch on a ball hit by Chase Utley that seemed destined to leave the park. If this guy is the guy who comes in when they need a late-game replacement for Trot Nixon’s legs, I’m very ok with it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

He's SO Papi


I watched my first World Baseball Classic game today: Venezuela versus the Dominican Republic in the first game of the D Pool match ups. I admit to skepticism about the whole idea before today, especially in the past few months, where the rumors coming from the press were that no one was organized, rosters hadn’t been set, etc. And then when players started dropping out of the tournament for various reasons…well, the WBC started to sound like a bit of a joke, staffed by second-tier players. Still, when Major League Baseball refuses to broadcast Red Sox Spring Training games and after seeing the (remaining) star power on the lineups, I decided to take my chances. Besides, I loves me some Papi.

As it turns out, the game was time well spent: the big man hit two massive jacks; one on his first at-bat to lead off the second inning and one in the ninth to help break the game open for the DR. On the first homer, there was an element of surprise; Ortiz got frustrated with the diet of off-speed pitches from Johan Santana and suddenly crushed a sinker that didn’t sink about as far as you could go to deep center. On the second homerun, David made the whole thing look easy, almost as if he read the rookie pitcher’s mind before the poor fool tried to blow a high fastball by him. It was pretty damn awesome to watch.

Whittle 'em Down

…And then there were two. Two days after a harrowing experience catching Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball in a game against Minnesota, John Flaherty announced his retirement from baseball. Flaherty didn’t give a specific reason for retiring after a 14-year career, but I think it’s safe to assume that the idea of learning how to catch a knuckleball while competing with two other, younger catchers for a roster spot wasn’t as appealing as it might have been earlier in his career. Journeyman Ken Huckaby and youngerster Josh Bard are still in contention for Mirabelli's old spot; Robin and I both assume Bard will get the job because he's a lot younger and the Sox picked up him in a trade, while the 35-year-old Huckaby is in Ft. Myers as a non-roster invitee.

Goodbye Puck

Kirby Puckett, dead at age 45.

"I know if there were a line of players standing on a block and I had the
first pick, I would pick Kirby Puckett."
-Kent Hrbek

"There was no player I enjoyed playing against more than Kirby. He brought
such joy to the game. He elevated the play of everyone around him."
-Carlton Fisk

"He had some faults, we knew that, but when all was said and done he
would treat you as well as he would anyone else. No matter who you were."

-Twins GM Terry Ryan

Rest in peace Puck.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


He's back for Round 2
“For as much as Wells loves to hop on his surf board on blissful San Diego mornings with his kids, he also loves to win.”

You’re damned right. Guess what, San Diego: you can keep your beautiful weather, your sun-kissed beaches, your world-famous zoo, because your baseball team won the best of the worst competition in the NL West last year and David Wells wants no part of it. The man wants to end his career with a bang and by God, no one better mess with his cake. Since he’s not leaving Boston, the Sox now have seven starters on the roster, an embarrassment of riches even compared to last year’s haul of starters – and all of them are healthy, too. Will Papelbon be riding the Lou Merloni Special down to Pawtucket? Will Arroyo make an exit-left to the bullpen? Will Clement make an exit-right to some other team in exchange for…? Prospects, I guess; there aren’t too many holes in the lineup right now. Time will tell, I guess, but I’m glad we’ve got Wells around for another year and that he’s here to win.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Baseball! Or a Close Facsimile Thereof

"You see that Korean team?"

Two major events happened yesterday, and with MLB TV I was able to watch them both from wet and snowy Brooklyn. The Red Sox spring training games have started and the World Baseball Classic kicked off. Woo Hoo! After months of making up garbage to fill space, a tangible event occurred! Let me hit them one at a time:

Spring Training Game 1: Boston Red Sox 3, Minnesota Twins 6

It is ALWAYS great to see the Sox play a game. That being said… who were these guys? Luke Allen, Trent Durrington, Ron Calloway, and Craig Breslow? It was like the whos-who of “WHO?!?!” I know, I know… SPRING TRAINING, but I at least want to have HEARD your name one time before you face Johan Santana.

Papelbon got the start for Boston and it was a scary start. Shannon Stewart led off the game by pegging Paps off the foot. Looked bad, but wasn’t. Paps stayed in for 2 innings, giving up 2 runs in process. His fastball was awesome, location… not so much. Coco Crisp had a fantastic debut (fan favorite already) by going 3-3 and just a HR from the cycle. The man is about contact and speed. Hot rookie pitchers Delcarmen and Hansen each pitched a scoreless inning and had a strikeout. 2 solo homeruns say Rudy Seanez still sucks.

Down 0-1 in the Mayor's Cup. We’ll get ‘em.

WBC Round 1: Korea 2, China Taipei 0

Wow. This was a ton of fun. No really! I enjoyed it to the point where it didn’t bother me that the video feed off MLB TV had no announcers. No Korean, no Chinese, no English… nothing. Still, this game had everything.

Big Stars: I didn’t recognize any of the China Taipei players (maybe I’m ignorant) but Korea had some big guns. Hee-Seop Choi, Chan Ho Park and the immortal Byung Hyun Kim (didn’t cry). A real star studded evening.

Great Fans: The huge Tokyo Dome had about 3000 people in it. Not kidding. However, from the sound of things you might have thought it was full. That’s because every fan had a thunderstick, cowbell, horn or disco whistle. These people went nuts over every fly ball, called strike or ground out. It really took away from the good plays (there were a few) when they actually happened.

The Tokyo Dome: A weird place that looks like the cross between a football stadium and an aquarium. Most of the ads that covered the walls were in Japanese, except for a few including the vague Super “Dry” (their quotation marks, not mine). Any clue what that is? Anyone? The between inning music was also rather odd. Some random techno, U2, John Fogerty, Van Helan, The Clash and more often than not, awkward silence. How many more games are played here?

Funny Names: Warning… this may get childish (but they are all real). Some of my favorites: Dong Joo Kim, Chang Ming Chang, Jin Man Park, Jong Kook Kim, Sung Heon Hong, Po Keng. The obvious favorite is Po Keng… but Jin Man Park is great too! Isn’t the “Man Park” where people leave their car in Provincetown?

The Game Play: Not bad actually. Lots of small ball, not much power, some great fielding and pitching that was measured in kilometers per hour (took some getting used to). The strangest play of the night was when Korean 3B Dong Joo Kim slid HEAD FIRST into first base to beat out a throw. Fans loved it and gave him a standing ovation when he was removed for a pinch runner (looked like he separated his shoulder). Let's not put that on the highlight reel.

All in all it was lots of fun and I will continue watching these games. The pitch count got bothersome (lots of early pulls) and the threat of a looming tie sucked, but it looked, felt and sounded like baseball. What else do you need? I can’t wait till the next round.

Japan vs China at 4:30 am? Ok, maybe I can wait.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Visitor from Planet Man-Ram

Manny Returns to Ft. Myers

He asks for a trade almost every off-season. It is rumored he hates playing for the Red Sox and can’t stand the lack of privacy in Boston. He doesn’t appreciate that his contract is one of the biggest in baseball history.

But we love Manny.

He shows up late to spring training. He takes “personal” days off during the season. He takes sick days and then is found partying with Enrique Wilson. He has been called a slacker, a lay-about, a goof off and worse.

We still love Manny.

His play in the field is one step beyond bad. He looks like he doesn’t know where he is half the time. He has been caught with headphones and a water bottle out in the field and he pisses in the Green Monster between batters.

Why do we love Manny so much?

40 HR and 130 RBI. That’s what he brings to the table almost every season. That’s Hall of Fame numbers. That’s astounding, amazing and eye popping when paired with Ortiz, another giant of offense, there is no better duo in the majors.

So, spit in our face. Tell us we suck. Tell us you don’t want to play here. We will love you for it. We can’t NOT love you. Your antics are always forgiven and laughed off because of what you do at the plate. Besides, your goofiness makes the game “fun” even when it’s not supposed to be.

Manny is Back.