Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again

So, Timmy’s back for another year of fun. Not that I’m surprised at all: although I had heard rumors to the contrary, there’s no reason why the Sox wouldn’t want Wakefield for another year; having someone so routinely solid anchoring the middle of the rotation is too good to pass up. Like Timlin, Wakefield is feeling much better now than he did a few months ago, but as much as I love Wake, there are two problems:
  1. No one knows why Wakefield’s ribs separated in July and more importantly, we don’t have something like the World Baseball Classic to blame it on, either. Timlin gets a free pass for another shot because the circumstances will be different next year; Wakefield will be in the exact same role and unfortunately, that means the rib separation could happen again. Hopefully the medical staff and Wakefield know something we don’t and they’ll be able to nip any potential problems in the bud.

  2. Doug Mirabelli just filed for free agency after posting some of the worst offensive numbers among starting catchers. We all know what happened when the Sox tried to go without Mirabelli last year and for all his experiments, Theo isn’t dumb enough to try the same risk twice – but what to do? We can blame Varitek’s woes on the WBC, too, but as Gordon Edes points out, it wouldn’t hurt to have a backup catcher who can hit…and that may mean bringing ‘Tek back to catch Wakefield after a 6-year hiatus. I’m honestly not sure which is worse: the idea of going out to look for a knuckleball-able catcher when there are some many other areas that need to be filled or reliving Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS every fifth day. Maybe The Stud Who Hits Bombs will come back and go back to his old, bomb-hitting ways. And maybe I’m crazy.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

May a Team Win. Doesn't Have to be the Best One, Just a Team

So, um…congratulations, Cardinals. Not only did you make Robin and I look like fools, you managed to suck less than all of your division for the whole year and turn things on when it really counted. Tony Massarotti might be pissed about the mediocre caliber of the 2006 World Series Champions, but I think this season should serve as a wakeup call to the NL Central: stop half-assing things, guys. Any of you had the chance to take the Cardinals and their 83 and 78 record down a notch when it mattered…now you’ve got a little more motivation to do so. Clearly all any of you need to do is outlast your competition (dominating is so 20th century) and a playoff berth is yours.

Also: is Massarotti suggesting the Sox try to steal Jones away from the Tigers? Because that has “Rudy Seanez” written all over it. Is he saying that Boston should go after an older closer, or just that the front office should look for a closer with a lower walks per nine innings ratio? Because it’s not readily apparent from the end of that article where you were going, Tony.

I have to say, if it was the last option (walks per 9 innings) even if Jim Leyland feels better about losing to a double or a home run than he does to a walk (and yes, he really said that), I wouldn’t and I’m pretty sure most other people wouldn’t, either. There are better stats out there, like WHIP and K/9, to measure a potential closer and I’m willing to bet that the stat heads in the front office will be looking at more than just one stat to figure out who they’re going to go after to close next year.

Finally, I present to you the slogan for the 2007 version of the Team from Queens: “The Mets: As Arrogant as Ever.” Bring it on, guys. We’ll finish what we started this past June and avenge 1986 all at the same time. GO SOX!!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Meet the New 'Pen, Same as the Old 'Pen?

I think it’s clear Robin and I should stay as far away from gambling as possible. Not only have we been completely wrong about the World Series (eh tu, Tigers?), but we are already 0 for 1 on signing predictions: Mike Timlin is coming back for another year in the trenches. DC loves this news because it means another year of “Black Betty,” but I’m going to go for cautiously optimistic: if a normal Spring Training, a completely healed shoulder injury (you forgot about that one didn’t you? Yeah, me too) and a more balanced bullpen that doesn’t rely on Timlin as the every day go-to guy mean one last good year, I’m all for it. Also, when you need pitching help (and oh, does Boston need pitching help), you don’t look a gift horse (1 year, $2.8 million, with the player willing to do his own negotiation and take a pay cut to play) in the mouth. If it works, it works; if it doesn’t, at least Timlin will never be Rudy Seanez.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tigers Knot the Series

Kenny Rogers is channeling Derek Lowe. Or he’s channeling whatever Derek Lowe was channeling two years ago. In any case, who would have guessed that a guy could go from black sheep to post-season hero in so short a time?

Also: Robin’s an ass. Tigers in four, indeed. Clearly he meant Tigers in five. Dumbass.

And now… a moment of silence

It is with a heavy heart that I must report the passing of a Red Sox legend. Nelson de la Rosa was a king among men (think chess piece) and a near mythical figure in the annals of the 2004 World Series. Who can forget Nelson on the shoulder of Pedro after the victory over the Angels? Or Millar getting him wasted on a thimble of PBR? Or when he served as de-facto master of ceremonies during the rolling rally? It’s impossible. To forget him is to forget ourselves.

Let the flags fly at half mast, let all players wear black armbands, and let the schools out early. We have lost 2 feet and 4 inches of good luck charm, hero and brother.

Adios Nelson de la Rosa, you Lilliputian champion, you tiny titan, you bite sized behemoth.

Goodnight sweet prince.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Golf Clap

Congrats Cardinals! You made it to the big show again with a nail biting victory over the Mets in a stunning Game 7. Good job.

Now prepare to get your ass kicked. Get ready to bend over and grab your ankles just like in 2004. I swear this is gonna to be ugly.

Tigers in 4.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


"Is this your stop?"

I know it’s taken me forever to write my personal end chapter for the 2006 season. I’ve been making excuses and avoiding this for over 2 weeks. After the awful end to the Red Sox season I wanted to avoid writing about baseball all together. Yet, now that a truly horrible tragedy has prevented me from enjoying the Yankees bounce from the playoffs (they always manage to take my fun), I need to find some closure. If I don’t get it now then I won’t be able to enjoy the playoffs like Tommy Lasorda wants me to or dive into the “hot-stove” season like Scott Boras wants me to. I must dissect and examine before I can focus and move on. Also, I must make fun of and ridicule before I can accept and love. I just work like that.

I wouldn’t say they mailed it in, but the Sox didn’t look on the top of their game in the final month. Papelbon got hurt and shut down. Manny’s knee got his own daily column in the Boston Globe and Schilling even felt the effects of time. It was the perfect cap on a perfectly awful season. Forget 100 wins, they didn’t win 90. Toronto surged past the slumping Sox to give us the bronze medal for the first time in as long as I care to think about. Far be it from me to try and find the silver lining in the cloud of crap, but this does let me vent a little bit about the Red Sox Nation.

It’s not what you think. I know everyone is putting Theo and Co. on a spit for the lack of moves (rightly so), and everyone is taking shots at the coaches (sending 2 of them up the river in fact), and EVERYONE is bemoaning the injuries that the whole team endured (yeah yeah yeah)… but those aren’t the fleas biting my behind.

I have an axe to grind with the fans.

Not the diehards who knew Williams and Pesky personally, or the kids that grew up watching Boggs and Greenwell, or even the people who had to put up with Vaughn and Everett…

I am talking about all of those folks who show up in the 3rd inning. The girls who still list Johnny Damon as their favorite player (“Cause he’s so HAWT”). Morons who said “who’s that?” when Buckey Dent threw out the first pitch in game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. Folks you never saw in Fenway before 2003. You know… those chicks in

Now I am not trying to be sexist (as Brian Fantana said “Don't get me wrong, I love the ladies. I mean they rev my engine…”) cause there are absolutely some guys who are just as guilty and I’m not trying to be elitist either, but you have to admit that the fan base has gotten a little bloated. This is when a losing season is a good thing. It cuts the wheat from the chaff. I HARDLY think this will affect ticket sales, but it may just chase away those idiots who only ever watched the “Idiots”. People who were starting to jump ship in 2005 and were pretty much done watching by August of this season. This is exactly what we needed. A chance to be underdogs again (second highest salaried underdogs…but still).

Get off the bandwagon. We never wanted you and now maybe I can buy a ticket without slicing off an arm. Give the team a chance to rebuild. Theo HAS to make some moves now… and the young guys are only going to be better. Let us have an off-season and a summer of peace and quiet and then we can brace for the “jump back on” next September when the Sox are 4.5 games up in the standings. As for right now, don’t let the door hit you in the seat of those awful Rhode Island clam chowder colored warm-up pants that say “Red Sox” on the side. You walking eye sores.

Ahhhhh! The fan lounge has emptied out a bit… the ceiling is a little lower again… and the air smells that much cleaner.

So now it’s time to go into a slow down mode here at Keep Your Sox On (like I haven’t already) but we will be around with updates and commentary on big headlines, playoff news, trade rumor crap, and maybe even a book review or two. I like the smaller fan room… more intimate. GO SOX.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Moment In Time

Do you watch Lost? If not, you might just be better for it – it’s pretty damn addicting and gets very frustrating when you can’t watch more than one episode at once (i.e., during regular seasonal broadcasts). In any case, whether you watch Lost or not, something happened on tonight’s episode that’s Red Sox related, so by God I’m going to blog about it.

Some background: imagine you’re stuck on a tropical island after your plane broke apart. It’s been 69 days since you crashed and you’ve tried everything you can think of to get away – especially since things have gotten very weird on this island and people who weren’t on the plane with you have started kidnapping people who were on the plane. All of a sudden, you find yourself captured by these people and locked in a tank that used to house dolphins and sharks and they start trying to get you to do things for them. Not bad things, mind you (or so we, the audience, think), but things must be done. And then they’ll send you home.

But the thing is you’re not entirely sure that these people really can send you home. They claim they’ve lived there all their lives, after all – how do you know they can reach the outside world. So they give you proof: news events. You crashed in September, 2004. It’s now November. President Bush has won the election. Christopher Reeve has passed away. And the Red Sox won the World Series. And to prove it, they show the final seconds of Game 4, as Foulke tosses the ball to Mientkiewicz…and that’s what proves to you they’re not lying. How incredibly powerful is that? It’s a ridiculously important moment in the life of any Red Sox fan, but all of the sudden it becomes a moment of validation for someone thousands of miles away who didn't have any hope of ever seeing home again. And that’s pretty cool.

R.I.P. Cory Lidle

Not exactly a Red Sox topic, but certainly worthy of the exception: Cory Lidle, currently of the Yankees but a free agent this off-season, died today when his small plane crashed into an apartment building in Manhattan. Lidle was 34, became a pilot during the 2005 off-season and clashed with Yankees management over his desire to fly – Thurman Munson, anyone? – insisting that even in the case of engine problems, his plane would be safe to land because of a parachute. Unfortunately, something seems to have gone wrong today, with terrible results. Rest in peace, Cory.

2006: The Soft Underbelly

As we all know, it’s time (past time, really) for the season-ending, soul-searching, celebrating-the-Yankees-elimination post that ends every annual volume of Keep Your Sox On (2005, 2004). Robin has a rant planed on the end of the Pink Hat Faction that should scorch the paint and offend a few readers in the process, but he’s a slacker who can’t cut his post down to less than 4 pages. Or he’s crazy passionate about the topic and can’t cut his post down to less than 4 pages. In any case, he’s promised to have his season-ender up by Friday or I get to hit him with something heavy.

In the meantime, you have me. I spent this past weekend up in Salem, Massachusetts with my in-laws, who, besides being Yankees fans are also big Halloween fans. Needless to say, my wife, father- and brothers-in-law were less than pleased about how the ALDS turned out for their team, but couldn’t understand why I insisted on gloating about their misfortune. After all, they pointed out, my team wasn’t even in the playoffs. One brother-in-law, who was in a bar in Boston for Game 4, said that he asked the bartender the same thing and heard that Red Sox fans would rather see the Yankees lose in the playoffs than the Red Sox win. I’m going to assume this bartender was either plastered out of his mind or on crack, but it got me thinking (some more) about how this year turned out.

At the midway point of the season, we were all riding pretty high on how things were throwing down in Beantown. Sure, the 13 game sweep of the NL was over and we’d had some struggles (ending the mid-year with that tough game against Chicago wasn’t that fun), but as Robin wrote in his All-Star Break wrap up, “Can they get 100 wins and will that get them into the playoffs? Yeah, I think so.” Hell, we were 53 and 33 with three games up on the AL East and things were looking pretty bright. And then the second half happened. A tough string of games on the West Coast at the end of July, Varitek’s departure for the DL on August 1 (otherwise known as the Raven Game) then the full-on collapse against Tampa Bay and the Royals had Robin posting about injury woes. And then that stupid five game set against the Yankees, followed by the final nails in coffin pounded in by Seattle, Oakland and Anaheim basically pushed the playoffs out of reach, even though I wasn’t prepared to admit it at the time. All of the sudden, it’s the end of the year, Jon Lester has cancer, the starting rotation has become Schilling, Beckett, Tim Wakefield and whatever warm body can throw a ball, the Sox don’t come anywhere close to winning 100 games and have their worse standings finish in about a decade. What the hell happened?

Obviously, a complete collapse happened, but how? Was it really the injuries that sent the Sox from the top of the world to the bottom of the heap in the matter of a month and a half? The Yankees had injuries too, but they had the depth to make up for the problems – or were their injuries much more superficial because they involved their 35 outfielders, while Boston lost half of the starting rotation? My feeling is that injuries were the prime suspect because they were to so many key players. Much has been made of Theo’s decision not to go for a big trade at the trading deadline that would have kept Boston in the running with another starter or some bullpen help, but I think in retrospect the move played out well in the long run – who would we have given up and who, truth be told, would we have acquired in exchange? The Javy Lopez acquisition looks pretty crappy looking back and Boston only gave up Adam Stern and his base stealing potential. Imagine if we had traded away one of the young guns instead? We could have another Cla Meredith situation staring us in the face.

2006 exposed the soft underbelly of the Red Sox, pure and simple. Injuries ripped the team apart, made it vulnerable to easy exploitation by any team across the AL (no matter how terrible a record) and spoiled any chance for a playoff berth. All we had to make up for the loss of the veteran core was a legion of promising but untried youngsters who could not hold up the burden on their own and Julian Tavarez, who is certainly the biggest enigma of the year and possibly of the whole decade. Now we move forward, we look forward to the off-season acquisitions that will fill a number of big holes and we await 2007. GO SOX!!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Heads Start To Roll

What do companies do when something starts to go badly? They downsize. They bring in new talent. They refresh the pool of available resources. They decide to go in a new direction. Whatever you call it, people lose their jobs. The Red Sox, of course, can’t downsize, unless they had a fire sale, but they can start firing people – and they did yesterday, giving hitting coach Ron Jackson and pitching coach Dave Wallace their walking papers. Check the Globe article I just linked to for details, but it sounds like Tito was behind releasing Papa Jack – fundamental disagreements over player development over the past few years, coupled with the lower offensive output this season – and Epstein the motivation for releasing Wallace, possibly for concerns about the slow development of the younger pitchers.

I don’t have any issues with the hiring and firing of managers – both guys were popular, but I’m sure the motivations for releasing them made sense for the organization. What does worry me is that the Sox are once again entering the off-season without vital pieces to team management. Not as vital the GM, obviously, but who’s going to spend the off-season beating Wily Mo over the head until he realizes he doesn’t have to swing at every bad pitch? Who’s going to smack Josh Beckett until he gets it in his head to start pitching with his head every game instead of every third game? We’ve got five or six months until Spring Training and the 2007 Reincarnation; I just hope the Sox find coaches in time to make a difference to key to players this winter.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Games 160 - 162: At Last

Final Scores:

Game 160: Boston Red Sox 4, Baltimore Orioles 3
Game 161: Boston Red Sox 4, Baltimore Orioles 5
Game 162: Boston Red Sox 9, Baltimore Orioles 0

Thank God, it’s over. 86 wins, 76 losses and the season ends with a series win against Baltimore (again) on a rain-shortened day when a guy who started the year in Portland tossed five complete innings of no hit ball to get his first major league win. Oh and the first third-place placing in nine years. J.P. Ricciardi must be very proud of himself and his expanded payroll. Still, if you’re gonna give the hometown crowd something think about during the long off season, you might as well end with all cylinders firing: no errors, Hansack’s no-no, homers by Lowell, Lorreta and Hinske and a Kapler double. So, yeah, good stuff.

The big story of the weekend was the return of Manny to the lineup after a three-week absence. Ramirez came back to work like he hadn’t missed a day, going 2 for 3 with a homerun and a single and adding fuel to the “Manny wants to be traded – again” controversy. Here’s my crazy thought of the day on that one: did anyone care to notice that Manny made this year’s trade demand after the papers started calling him out for missing time for his tendonitis? I mean, look at the Herald article I just linked to – the writer hints in overtones a child could read through that she thinks Manny is faking his injury because he’s lazy and she’s not the only writer to do so. I don’t know who the Boston sports writers think they’re doing any favors for with their opinions – if they’re reacting to the end of a season of lost opportunity, or they honestly think anyone with half a brain really cares. Because, to be honest, if Manny Ramirez really is the clubhouse cancer writers like Shaughnessy and Massarotti claim he is, the front office will get rid of him. The rest of us should just enjoy the 1.058 OPS, the 35 HRs, the 102 RBI and the .321 AVG Manny put together this year – not to mention the protection he provides for Ortiz in the lineup – and shut it.