Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays From Keep Your Sox On!

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except for Curt Schilling calling out Roger Clemens in his blog;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Johan Santana soon would be there (but please don't trade Ellsbury);

Red Sox Nation was nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of future championships danced in their heads;

And Hazel Mae in her 'kerchief, and Jerry Remy in his cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
Jerry sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window he flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash (making sure not to knock over Wally).

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to his wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight championship pitchers in the guise of reindeer ("Nahmally," he thought "you don't see pitchers playing reindeeah"),

With a young driver, so lively and quick,
He knew in a moment it must be St. Theo.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Wakefield! now, Beckett! now, Matsuzaka and Okajima!
On, Papelbon (and your overeager dog)! on Delcarmen! on, Tavarez and Timlin!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the Green Monster!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of rings, and Theo Epstein too.

And then, in a twinkling, Jerry heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each pitching foot.

As Jerry drew in his hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Theo came with a bound.

He was dressed in slacks and button down shirt from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of player development profiles he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

And Jerry laughed when he saw him, in spite of himself;
A wink of Theo's eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave Jerry to know he had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But Jerry heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Hot Stove to all, and to all a good-night."

Friday, December 14, 2007

The MITCHELL! Report

What better way to start discussing the most damaging MLB investigative report ever than to open with a Joe Don Baker movie of the same name. Mitchell is like the white version of Shaft… no wonder it got the MST3K treatment.

Anyway, the Mitchell Report tells us a lot about who used Steroids and HGH over the last 20 or so years in Major League Baseball. It names names, points fingers and has a ton o' evidence to support it. It’s the smoking gun everyone has been waiting for or dreading depending on how you feel about our national pastime.

Personally I almost wish that this dirty laundry stay hidden and never saw the light of day…but with this many people and with so much pressure from the US Government (seriously, don’t you guys have better things to do?) this was bound to happen.

So without further adieu…here is my cherry picked list of favorites (and least favorites) from the Mitchell Report. The full list of players can be found here and the complete document (yikes) can be found here.

The “No Duh! I Already Knew That” Group
Barry Bonds- That does not help your court case buddy.
Jose Canseco- He even tried to bust in on the press conference with an “I told you so!”
Rick Ankiel- So much for that comeback of the year award.
Rafael Palmeiro- No more finger pointing?
Gary Mathews Jr.- Still, nice catch…
Jason and Jeremy Giambi- Only one of them was taking the “good” steroids though.
Gary Sheffield- I guess flaxseed oil isn’t a truth serum.

The “Well That Makes Sense” Group
Jose Guillen- Roid rage poster child.
John Rocker- No longer just a racist.
David Justice- Former Mr. Halle Berry
Troy Glaus- Always looked the type to me.
Benito Santiago- Popeye arms… but tainted spinach.
Kevin Brown- Loved seeing him on here. I guess that’s why he punched that wall so hard.

The “Dirty Dealer” Group
Larry Bigbie
Paul Lo Duca
After looking through the report, it seems like these two knuckleheads were responsible for introducing tons of players to the trainers and other contacts that had the illicit substances. Way to go guys…share and share alike.

The “Media Frenzy” Group
Miguel Tejada- Biggest current bat on the list. Have fun in Houston next year Miggy.
Andy Pettitte- Biggest current Yankee on the list. Graphic details in the report too.
Roger Clemens- Biggest asshole on the list (close vote). He and Pettitte got some special treatment in the report due to the first hand knowledge of the accuser. This was almost like a Christmas present.

The “Say it Ain’t So” Group
Chuck Knoblauch- Knob-head? Really? This was the “scrappy guy” I grew up laughing at as he threw the ball in the stands.
Brian Roberts- Wow. Just never would have guessed him. He seemed to have the shakiest evidence in the report however.

The “Red Sox Connection” Group
Brendan Donnelly- Only one of 2 Sox who played on this years team. Roids were done before he joined.
Eric Gagne- The other one. He should have KEPT on taking them. Maybe he wouldn’t have sucked.
Mike Lansing- This one kinda shocked me. I always thought of him as a small quick guy. Shows what I know.
Mike Stanton- Traveling Mike on the juice? Maybe this explains why he was in the league for 40 years.
Paxton Crawford- His name came up months ago. I barely remember the guy but it still fires me up that he was using while on the Red Sox.
Mo Vaughn- This one really hurts. Add him to the “Say it Ain’t So” Group too. It was said he used it to rehab his ankle... but man, does this do a number on my inner child Sox fan.

The “Bad Rumor” Group
This is a collection of names that were on a false early report leaked this morning or just rumored from some other spot. NONE OF THESE GUYS ARE IN THE FINAL REPORT.

Albert Pujols- One of the faces of baseball? I feel like we dodged a bullet here.
Nomar Garciaparra- This would have made me sad…
Trot Nixon- …but not as much as this and…
Jason Varitek- …not NEARLY as much as this.
Carl Evertt- Crazy Carl is all natural.
Johnny Damon- Would have made some sense…and made me laugh.
"Your Kiss"- As reported by Hall and Oats.
A-Rod- Not mentioned at all, but I did notice he pushed to get his contract finished before the report came out today…makes you think…well, not really.

So that’s my personal short version of the guys who graced the content of this fine publication. But now that the Mitchell Report is public…there are still a lot of questions. Are these all stone cold facts (not really)? What’s gonna happen to these guys who got caught (probably nothing)? Should this list even have been made (yeah…but maybe not for the public)?

It’s kinda like Pandora's Box, but the lid's been off for years…we’ve just never looked inside before. This might have been something that could have been done internally, but alerting the public and media gives just the amount of outrage to the story.

The moral of this report? Try not to hangout with Paul Lo Duca and don’t pay for Roids with checks. Words to live by.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

What to Do...What to Do

It wouldn't be a hot stove season at Keep Your Sox On unless our pal DC had a few pearls of baseball wisdom to dispense to the fortunate masses. Here's his take on how the front office is doing as they gear up for the 2008 campaign. Enjoy...

I've been promising to give my opinion of the off-season needs of the Old Towne Team ever since the World Series ended. So why am I so late in doing so? Well, let’s just say that living with Robin can apparently make you lazy through osmosis. So yeah, I know Theo and the boys have already done some things but its never too late to chime in. So without further ado, we might as well start with what’s already happened...

Moves Made:
  • Schilling Re-signed – I would have approached this exactly as the front office did. The pitching market this off-season is as dreadful as Ron Jeremy’s physique, so why wouldn’t you throw a one year deal at Schill? Even if he’s no longer a top two guy, he's still a workhorse who competes, drives the rest of the pitching staff, and wants to win. Maybe he can even teach young Clay how to put a little meat on his bones.

  • Lowell Re-signed – This too was ideal in my eyes. I was saying during the World Series that they should offer the Cuban George Clooney a 3 year deal with a club or mutual option for a 4th. Turns out, they got the man with the golden glove for 3 years without the option. So now we all win, Lowell gets paid, the Sox get a World Series MVP, we all get to enjoy his flawless defense and my girlfriend still has someone to think about while we’re in bed...yeah, don’t ask.

  • Wake’s Option Picked Up – This was a no-brainer! Timmy Knuckles continues to be one of the biggest bargains in the league. The guy gives you quality innings, saves your pen, and is one of the vets who keeps things loose. Wake’s option will be picked up every year until he decides to hang it up...and then hopefully he’ll go teach the knuckleball to our A and AA squads.

  • JT’s Option Picked Up – Much like signing Schilling, this makes total sense. The free agent relief pitchers this year are like a who’s who of crap. The devil that you know is much better than the devil that you don’t...particularly when the devil that you know is nuttier than squirrel turds and a quality relief option.
Work To Be Done:

I like the strategy that Theo and the moneymakers seem to be following. In short, secure the starting line up, re-arm the bullpen and then fill in the bench. So let’s look at these three tasks in order:

  • Starting Lineup – With Lowell signed, the only decision to be made is who’s in center field. Personally, I like Coco. The guy is a freaking vacuum in center field, only if a vacuum was jet-propelled and was able to fly through the air like Bobby Orr. That being said, Jacoby is clearly the talk of the town and is clearly talented. Sounds like a no lose situation to this guy.

  • Bullpen – As of right now we have a pen of Paps, Okie Dokie, MDC, JT Killer, Javier the Lesser, and Franken-Bronson. Unfortunately a quick perusal of the free agent market leaves you feeling like you just ate a crate of Hot Pockets. While optimistic Sox fans may have faith in the emergence of Bryan Corey and Brendan Donnelly, the reality is we’re talking about a 34 year old with only 3 years of experience in the bigs and a guy coming off Tommy John surgery. So, the front office is going to have to rescue some arms off of this year’s free agent scrap heap and they already missed out on the likes of Kerry Wood, David Riske and Scott Linebrink. Here are some viable options:

    • Mike Timlin – This guy is quickly becoming the ageless wonder. Just when we were all writing him off this season, he came back and cut through more lumber than Paul Bunyan. As long as Tito doesn’t overuse him, he'll be great for 2008.

    • Jeremy Affeldt – Managed to rejuvenate his career for this year’s NL Champs and he’s one of the few free agents who’s actually under 30.

    • Ron Mahay – I don’t know...why not? I trust him more than LaTroy Hawkins.

  • Bench – At this point our bench consists of Alex Cora and the aforementioned Ellsbury. That means we probably have 3 spots that need to be filled and they most likely need to be an outfielder, catcher and utility guy...

    • Catcher – I know somehow Belli fell out of favor with the Boston fans. But here’s the deal, no other guy in the league is a sure thing when it comes to catching Timmy Knuckles. There is no youth available so you’re not getting Tek’s future replacement this off season. So why not go with the sure thing?

    • Outfielder - Bobby Kielty: that huge home run in the World Series has got to be worth something right?

    • Utility - Rob Mackowiak, Eric Hinske, Mike Lamb – None of them are going to carry a team any time soon. But each will give you innings at multiple positions and they all have experience starting games if need be.
Irons in the Fire:

You didn’t think we could go through this roundup without discussion of the blockbuster trade rumors, did you? Honestly, the Santana trade makes me uneasy because of the size of the contract that it will take to complete this deal. $25 million a year is a lot of money for any pitcher. At this point, making a trade for Erik Bedard is more enticing. This trade will cost the Sox fewer prospects and less money. In fact, the ideal move here would be something along the lines of Lester, Coco, Jed Lowry and a mid-to-low level prospect for Bedard and Kevin Millar. This gets Theo the splashy pitcher that he wants, solves the need for a utility guy and makes Boston the most fun-filled clubhouse in the league again. Everybody wins! Regardless of who the Sox trade for (Santana, Bedard, Haren) the real concern here is what does this mean about Dice-K? Do Theo and the boys no longer see him as Schilling’s replacement as 1A to Beckett’s 1?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hell No! Don't Let Jacoby Go!

Ladies and gentlemen of Red Sox Nation, I want to thank (most of) you for not being retarded. I'll admit my lack of faith: When I saw that had posted a poll asking users whether or not the Sox should include Ellsbury in a deal for Santana, I was pretty sure results were going to swing to a decisive yes, and that I was going to rant on for several paragraphs about why that would be such a bad idea. Instead, out of the 50,000 or so of you who answered, only 18.2 percent were so thick headed as to want Santana at any cost, and I appreciate that level of intelligence very much. (By the way, if you disagree with me, feel free to let me have it in the comments section.)

Whether or not the front office shares that same intellectual fortitude still seems to be a matter of worrying discussion, with silence on the matter reigning from the negotiating powers that be. If Ellsbury is on the table, I have two hopes:
  1. That he's part of a ploy by the Sox to get the Yankees to abandon Hank Steinbrenner's latest foolish ultimatum and overbid by including Ian Kennedy in a deal. Sure, Santana would end up in pinstripes, but as I've observed before, that's not a situation that I find particularly concerning.
  2. That Boston remembers that while they don't need Santana (they'd just like to have him), the Twins only have until July to get something for their ace before he walks out the door and leaves them with a draft pick. Santana may generate interest from multiple teams, but the Twins are still in the weaker bargaining position.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Should the Sox Try For Santana?

I opened up this morning to see what was going on in hot stove land, and came across this piece by Eric Wilbur on the relative value of putting Johan Santana or Dan Haren in red stirrups for 2008, who it would cost the Sox to make such a mega deal happen, and whether or not the overall deal would make sense for both our 2008 championship aspirations and the future of the club. Wilbur made an interesting point: he said that if the A's are looking to shop Haren - something that's still only in rumor mode at this date - he'd be a much better choice than Santana, and I agree. Here's why:
  • Santana's numbers at Fenway are pretty ugly: 29 base runners and 12 earned runs in about 16 innings. Haren's Fenway numbers in the same number of innings are better (26 base runners and 8 earned runs), and he's two years younger. If we're going to lose a year having a pitcher adapt to winning at Fenway, I'd prefer it'd be from the guy who's got a head start and the younger age. On a related note, if the Yankees grab Santana, his history in Fenway means he won't be an automatic Sox killer.

  • After his monster year in 2004, Santana's ERA+ fell about 25 points in 2005, then took another 30 point drop in 2007, leading to (among other things) a failure to anchor the pitching staff on my fantasy team. More importantly, although he's had his famous second-half resurgence every year since 2004, the quality of those resurgences is slipping: OBP against, for example, was nearly equal in both halves of 2006, and higher in the second of 2007, where it had been much lower in the second halves of 2004 and 2005. Might this be part of a trend?

  • Santana will cost a whole lot of money to keep - he's coming into the end of his contract, and Wilbur has his rumored asking price at $25 million a year. A contract year performance would support that kind of money, but if Santana's entering a period of decline, he won't be worth $25 million in 2009. Haren, meanwhile, is a paltry (by comparison) $5.4 million for the next three years; plenty of time for him to prove he can be another dominating starter at Fenway without nearly as much monetary risk.

  • Haren's numbers have been trending up since he became a full-time starter in 2005, and garnered an ERA+ of 137 (his highest yet) in 2007. He hasn't reached Santana's godly levels, but he's definitely getting much better as he gets older.
Now, assuming such a deal might actually take place (and the great news for us fans is that it doesn't have to happen for us to feel secure about next year's start), who would be the logical trade bait? I say Coco and Lester. Coco's the obvious choice - he's never lived up to his promise in Boston, and Ellsbury has "rising star" written all over him in permanent black marker - while Boston's surfeit of pitching makes Lester the more attractive option (over Buchholz) to deal away; his peripherals are trending in the right direction (lower WHIP, higher strikeouts per inning), and he's had more time to prove himself at the major league level.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lowell and Behold

Oh thank you merciful baseball Gods, thank you front office planers, schemers and geniuses, and most of all… thank you Mike Lowell you magnificent WS MVP bastard. Your George Clooney looks and Puerto Rican/Cuban heritage is back where it belongs… third base in the City of Champions.

I have to admit, I’ve been in a baseball bunker ever since the season ended (notice the lack of posts) and the Lowell situation had a lot to do with it. I was so freaking worried this guy would end up on the Yankees and I just couldn’t come to terms with it. Losing so many key members after the 2004 victory (speaking of Orlando Cabrera) was a hard pill to swallow… I knew I didn’t want to go through it again.

But Lowell made it all easy. He took a potential pay cut (Sox gave him 3 years $37.5 mil while the Phillies reportedly offered 4 years $50 mil) to stay with the team he’s grown to love… and that loves him right back. I know he will probably decline with the years (who doesn’t?) but anything close to this season’s numbers will be amazing. Remember when this was the THROW IN with the Josh Beckett deal? This just makes me giddy.

Even when you discount the fanboy aspect of this contract, it still looks like a good deal. There was NOTHING in the way of corner infielders on the market and when you look at the other veteran contracts (Posada??) it’s a freaking bargain.

So we have the WS MVP at third, a gold glover at first (congrats Youk), the ROY at second (Pedroia), and a silver slugger at DH (props to Papi). That is an exciting collection of hardware.

My prayers have been answered. All is right with the world and the Sox look primed to repeat. Now all we need is to round out the bullpen and things could be pretty rough for the rest of the league…

Wait a minute… Kerry Wood???

Ummm… time to go back to the bunker.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This Crow Tastes Awesome!

A little over a year ago, I was in Yankees Stadium to see the second game of a Sox/Yankees doubleheader, becoming witness to one of the more improbable and exciting comebacks of the 2006 season, in what turned out to be the last gasp for a Boston team that was past due for the fork in the back. The second game was Dustin Pedroia's 21st game after his call up in late August, and he was mired in the struggle that would haunt him through the beginning of 2007, with an OPS of .489 that was remarkable only because it had doubled in 11 days. There were two Boston fans in the stands nearby who kept calling him DP (as memory serves, he did hit into a lot of double plays), and who led the ironic cheer when he jumped the pass ball that scored the tying run. That was Boston's second baseman of the future, pride of the farm system: a short guy with a big swing who couldn't seem to buy a hit.

Two months later, the Sox announced Pedroia would be starting at second or shortstop in 2007, sight poorly seen. Robin was outraged, I was surprised, and our friend DC...well, DC was outraged, so we let him write about it, and give Pedroia a new nickname (Wonderboy) in the process. Wonderboy indeed; it seemed like most of us couldn't figure out why Theo was so high on his potential for success in his first full season.

We all know what happened next: a miserable April, a whole month of Sox fans calling for Pedroia's head, for Francona's head, for Theo's head, for Alex Cora to start...the typical paranoia and venom of the passionate fan. No finger pointing here: our archives from April are full of it. Then Magic May, steady improvement, and all of the sudden the Kid Who Couldn't is making all of us naysayers look very, very foolish; OPS always above .800, strong fielding with more than a few web gems, a string of post-season hits that were usually likely to touch off a rally, playing with a cracked bone in his hand...any Boston fan who wasn't chanting Rookie of the Year by August wasn't right in the head. The Baseball Writers Association of America agreed, awarding Pedroia the AL Rookie of the Year award for the 2007 season yesterday, making him the first Red Sox to win the award in ten years, and the first qualifying rookie second baseman to hit .317 for the season.

Congratulations, Dustin. We'll all go eat this delicious plate of crow, never so happy to be wrong about something in our lives.

Friday, November 09, 2007

An Open Letter to Mike Lowell

The Red Sox have reportedly offered you a 3 year deal.
It is worth between $12 and $15 million a year.

Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.
Take it.

You know WHY I want you to take it? Cause my buddies in Sox Nation (read: readership) and I will blow a frigging gasket if you follow the 4 to 5 year deal you are almost guaranteed to get elsewhere. We all know in our heart of hearts… you won’t last that long. WS MVP or not, you know that the front office is right not to give you a longer contract. They were right with Pedro, they were right with Damon and they are sure as hell right with you (honestly I think 3 years might even be a stretch).

So take the deal Mike. We just made something wonderful…why ruin a good thing?

I know it’s a lot to ask and I know it might not happen. For some reason ($$$) if you don’t end up back in Boston, I’ll be ok with it. I would hurt… but I’d live. Just don’t go to the Yankees. Right now I am so full of joy and jubilation and love for the world… you in New York would teach me how to hate again.

Take the deal Mike.
Take it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What the Schilling Deal Means to Sox Fans

Looks like safe money means $8 million plus incentives, because Curt Schilling is officially a member of the Olde Towne Team for what he figures to be his final year as a professional baseball player. Schilling goes into the full details of the contract, including the $2 million weigh-in-based incentive he made the team add, in his blog, but what really makes this deal (which I didn't think was possible a few days ago) really interesting is that it slides another successful piece into place. (Speaking of which: congrats to Youk!)

As I talked about in my last post, the biggest difference between 2004 and 2008 is the lack of dismantlement. To be sure, the end of the 2004 season saw the expiration of more big contracts, but the spirit this time around seems to be different, and Schilling's resigning underscores that feeling: Red Sox management isn't going to be satisfied with another two years of near misses, or another set of experiments; they want to repeat in 2008. Giving Curt Schilling, Big Game Pitcher, another year in a Sox uniform means this team has taken the Yankees comparison to heart: they're going for dynasty numbers, establishing a championship pedigree before Schilling gets too old, or Manny's contract expires, or they lose any major components to the market.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Party's Over

The party's over, and people have started to leave. As the overhead fluorescents flicker back on, the mood lighting disappears in a blast of blue-white glare and you're left holding what you hope is the jacket you wore on the way in. The World Series is over, the rolling rally has rolled on into history, and it's time to figure out who's coming back in 2008 and who's hitting the dusty trail to another city and another team. As the announcements start to pour in, however, let's hope the powers who manage our favorite team learned one thing from the aftermath of 2004: trying to duplicate success with cheaper replacement parts dances with disaster at every turn. So far, they haven't figured out that means bringing back Mike Lowell, but there have been a few other moves of note:

Exploring New Opportunities
  • Curt Schilling - No surprise here; Curt's been talking his next move since the Sox declined to extend his contract by a year back in the Spring. The master of media relations has been keeping the media and fans abreast of select negotiations matters through his blog, including an announcement intended to dispel rumors that he's ceased discussions with Boston management. Should Curt stay in Boston: behind the fate of Mike Lowell, that's the biggest question about this championship team. I've been inclined to say no, to give both Lester and Buchholz space to shine in next year's rotation, but that means Matsuzaka would need to have a much more consistent year in 2008. Safe money would have Schilling back for one more year.

  • Doug Mirabelli - Dougie filed before the Sox announced they'd be exercising Wakefield's option and before Kevin Cash chose free agency over assignment to Pawtucket, so it's likely he'll be back in Boston for another year, come hell, high water or the promotion of catcher Dusty Brown. When it comes to the knuckleball, I can't see the Sox making the same mistake twice.

  • Bobby Kielty - I wonder how much that pinch-hit, game-difference, helped-win-the-World-Series-with-one-swing home run added to his contract value as a utility player. I'd wish this guy luck, but with Eric Hinske testing the waters I wonder whether or not Kielty might end up making a good bench option for 2008.

  • Matt Clement - I think that marks the end of the "We Don't Need Pedro...We Can Sign Two Starters for Double the Effectiveness at Half the Cost!" experiment Theo launched in 2004. I'd say it all worked out poorly for Boston (I still have nightmares about David Wells taking the mound), but the Sox were right: Pedro's arm is now seeking to finalize the divorce from his shoulder, and the Mets are still paying him to rehab. I guess the winners are the teams that got the compensatory draft picks.

  • Eric Gagne - So, um...don't let the door hit you on the way out, ok?
Demonstrating Their Commitment to the Team
Entering a Mutually-Chosen Period of Readjustment
  • Royce Clayton - Clayton was the acquisition most people (including myself) don't remember Boston making in August; the guy who played six games and sat on the bench in the post-season, and now he's gone, just like that. Royce, we hardly knew ye, and at age 37, it seems a little unlikely any other team will, either. We'll always have Taco Bell, though.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Late Night With Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon on Letterman: “…and this is to quote-unquote David Ortiz: ‘Hey, guys, I've got to tell you some-sing, if you wear a Red Sox uniform jersey, you're a bad mother@#$%!’”

“…but David Ortiz happens to be a huge Bedazzler.”

And I've got nothing to add...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Want My Funeral to Be a Rolling Rally

How do you describe pure unadulterated joy? How do you comprehend that feeling when it’s experienced by a whole city? And PLEASE someone tell me how NOT to get caught up in it! The emotion is just too strong to fight. You just take the wave and ride it into shore. The comforting arms of a city that has had its dreams fulfilled… a second time.

Unlike 2004, I was lucky enough to partake in the rolling rally this time. What a majestic sight to witness 50,000 people celebrate something that they have followed religiously for a whole year. I felt like I was mashed in a tuna can the size of Government Center with a couple thousand of my brothers. Brothers that when cut, would bleed the names of every player to ever don the Red Sox laundry. Brothers who skipped class, work, hospital appointments and if they could, their own funeral arrangements to be part of a city wide party.

By the time the duck boats cruised my way, I was comfortably compact with the rest of the mob waiting to catch a glimpse of heroes. I rubbed elbows with an elderly couple from Newton excited that they were able to attend two such events in their lifetime. I met Sam, a banker from Miami who flew up just incase there was a game 6 or 7 and decided to stay for the rally as the best consolation prize ever. I even helped 9th grader Evan start one of the MANY “Re-sign, clap clap, Mike Lowell, clap clap” chants that forever dogged the procession. Sox Nation had the biggest town hall meeting ever… and they want to make it an annual event.

When the core of this slithering amphibious line stopped in front of my position, the roar of the crowd was deafening. Newly appointed dance instructor and official rockstar of the Boston Red Sox, Papelbon was joined by the Dropkick Murphy’s and a very inebriated Mike Timlin. To make good on his promises, Papelbon wearing a tartan kilt, grabbed a Rockie sweeping broom and danced, air guitared and embarrassed himself into another collection of unflattering poses. It’s just too bad everyone was too busy enjoying it to make him stop. He was a man about town that had suddenly brought the town to him.

As of this point, I am not ready to discuss signing, firing, quitting or trading of any member of the 2007 World Champs. Just please gimmie a few days or more to enjoy the party while it lasts.

Like when Youk when asked about the future of many of his free agent to be teammates his reply was simple and complete: “no comment.”

I agree. I’m too busy loving life right now to worry about next year… at least let me clean the confetti out of my clothes.

Monday, October 29, 2007

World Series Game 4: We Are The Champions

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Colorado Rockies 3

I've paid my dues/Time after time/I've done my sentence/But committed no crime

I've been trying to figure out what to write about last night ever since Papelbon threw that final strike and leaped straight up in the air like a caricature of a celebration, as the people all around screamed and shouted for joy, as I jumped from my seat like I was shot from a gun. Three years ago, I couldn't process it all at once; bits of happy kept leaking out and I'd start grinning for no good reason. This time around, the feeling is different; I'm satisfied, like I've just eaten a good meal with a fine wine, and I'm sitting on a screen porch watching the sun go down on a warm summer evening. This Red Sox team was the team intended to win it all, with a catalyst for winning hidden like genetic coding in Pedroia's swing and Ellsbury's feet and Lowell's glove work. That catalyst finally ignited when the Sox had their backs to the wall in Game 5 of the ALCS, but looking closely you could see that ability to win everything was there from the start.

And bad mistakes/I've made a few/I've had my share of sand kicked in my face/But I've come through

As for the game itself, well...before last night, Jon Lester hadn't thrown a ball in anger about a month, a length of time that seems inconceivable in a World Series starter until you look at his opponent, Aaron Cook, who hadn't pitched since August. Lester's reputation for high-risk, five-run outings with low inning totals and high pitch counts made a loss a very real possibility, but the results were otherwise: nearly six innings of scoreless, three-hit ball, a night spoiled only by losing the plate before he departed to Terry's wonderfully quick hook. The overused Okajima might regret the placement of the pitch that Garrett Atkins smashed over the wall in left, but excellent bullpen management and the sheer awesome factor embodied by our godlike closer (no runs, two hits, three strikeouts, and three saves in four and a third innings? There is no stopping the Cinco Ocho!) meant that we can now define a "Colorado Rally" as "not quite good enough."

I've taken my bows/And my curtain calls/You brought me fame and fortuen and everything that goes with it/I thank you all

On the hitting side, there was plenty to enjoy, too. Draw first blood? Check: Ellsbury and Papi connecting in the first for a double/single combo to score Boston's last first run of 2007. Contributions from the all-pistons firing lineup? Check: solo shot from MVP Lowell, RBI single by Varitek, a .333 batting average and a .936 OPS as a team through the Fall Classic. Random off-the-bench contributions? Check: Bobby Kielty, coming off the bench to hit the home run that made the difference in one of those odd baseball events that make great trivia and stories for the grandkids ("I remember when Bobby Kielty hit that home run that won the Red Sox the championship in one expected it to make a difference...").

But it's been no bed of roses/No pleasure cruise/I consider it a challenge before the whole human race/And I ain't gonna lose

All in all, this game, this series, and the championship with it are confirmation of the transition of the Red Sox from hard-luck underdogs or misguided over-spenders who tinkered with their winnings to winners, pure and simple. As the winter progresses and you pine again for Spring and baseball, remember: the Red Sox have a built a powerhouse in Fenway; a group of guys capable of going the distance for years to come. It's time to revel in what they've put together. GO SOX!!!

We are the champions - my friends/And we'll keep on fighting - till the end/We are the champions/We are the champions/No time for losers/'Cause we are the champions - of the world

Sunday, October 28, 2007

World Series Game 3: For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 10, Colorado Rockies 5

Stand up and be counted /For what you are about to receive /We are the dealers /We'll give you everything you need.

Here we are once again. On the precipice of greatness, on the cusp of ultimate victory, on the forefront of… you know… GOOD THINGS. Anyway, the Red Sox are close to achieving the same goal they reached in 2004. They are one victory away from being champions of the baseball world!

The strange thing is that I’m just not feeling the same excitement I found in 2004. Maybe you can’t go back to the tip top of mount awesome once you’ve reached that summit. Or maybe it’s the fact that the Rockies aren’t really putting up much of a fight. They try to look all tough (and even gave me a scare in this one), but the mountain men are rolling over even quicker than the red birds did 3 years ago (which is actually impossible, cause we swept them too).

Game 3 had all the makings of a blowout in just the 3rd inning when the Sox bats sent Josh Fogg running like a scared woodland deer. Ellsbury rocking doubles (he had 4 freaking hits!!), Pedroia spraying singles and Lowell driving them all in. When Dice-K has 2 RBI along with a fantastic pitching performance… let’s just say Sox victory was a foregone conclusion.

Or so I thought…

With a 6 run lead I was so busy making fun of Rockies players (we had a great Yorvit Torrealba as the Swedish Chef joke going) that I forgot to focus on the near bullpen collapse. After Dice-K was yanked in the 5th, Lopez and Timlin did a great job not doing much of anything, so in saunters Okajima to cool off the suddenly hot Rockies. Thank God cause Holliday was up and he can really… crush… oh… wow… um… yikes… that… oh wow… that’s not coming back.

Ok, so they made it close for a few innings and managed to suck the life out of the room at the same time. Not fun at all. We had to routinely check pulses and buy more beer. Was the earlier gloating out of hand? Was the collective Sox Nation hubris suddenly catching up with us? Yeah… not so much.

We're just a battery for hire with a guitar fire /Ready and aimed at you /Pick up your balls and load up your cannon /For a twenty-one gun salute.

After limiting the damage from the Fogg disaster, the Rockies bullpen finally came apart in the 8th and 9th. The last two insurance runs completed a metaphor I was working on earlier in the game.

“See this was like a great Chinese food dinner. It was awesomely delicious staring off (the 6 run lead) but it left you feeling nauseous and sick (suddenly 6-5) and everything feels better once you take a big dump (4 insurance runs).”

Too visual? Sorry.

So in the end, Papelbon locked it down, the Sox are up 3-0 and we are all about to return to the land of milk and honey. Just thinking about that parade is giving me the chills that this series is lacking. We are about to rock… and it’s gonna be great.

For those about to rock, we salute you
For THOSE about to rock, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee salute YOU!

Friday, October 26, 2007

2007 World Series Game 2: We Rock

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 2, Colorado Rockies 1

You watch their faces/You'll see the traces/Of the things they want to be/But only we can see

Hope you were watching tonight, because you might have just watched Curt Schilling's swan song performance in a Red Sox uniform. Opinionated, loud-mouthed, self-promotional, unlikable; whatever your opinion may be of the man, he's always delivered when it really, really counted, whether it be a particularly pivotal start in the regular season, or when elimination loomed in the post-season, or just to establish a commanding lead in the World Series.

They come for killing/They leave and still it seems/The cloud that's left behind/Oh, can penetrate your mind

Tonight, I sat and stood and stomped and pounded and clapped amongst the crowd at Professor Thom's to an effort was no different: vintage Schilling - he of the power pitch and the massive shift in speeds - may not be anything more than a shadow of a memory, but the wily pitcher Schilling's become ain't no schlub, either. Here in the autumn twilight of the season Curt suffered the Rockies to garner a single run, scored only as a result of a tight inside pitch and a poorly-produced play at second. Throw in four strikeouts, two walks and four hits over five and a third and you have Curt Schilling, playoffs 2007 edition: still deadly effective. Far more sublime than masterful, it was an effort - along with those of Okajima and the indomitable Papelbon - that was still more than enough to keep Colorado from taking the final lead.

We pray to someone/But when it's said and done/It's really all the same/With just a different name

Meanwhile, we all awaited the glacial cracking of the edifice of Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez, whose high-speed heat and tricky off-speed pitches are not yet paired with the pin-point control that can keep an offense like Boston's on its toes. The offensive strategy was simple but deadly: wait for Jimenez to show his wild side, leave a pitch where it shouldn't be or hand out a walk, then strike viper-quick for the run. We all loved to see its fruition, even as we despaired of our team's ability to break the score open for some breathing room, our frustrations epitomized by the mass celebrations that broke out during David Ortiz's Pesky Pole-bound foul ball in the fourth - the one we were all so sure was a home run that we did not watch its flight out of fair territory.

They come for killing/They leave and still it seems/The cloud that's left behind/Can penetrate your mind

Although the great thunder of last night's bats passed with the Game 1 rainstorms, there were enough hits, and enough runs: after two innings and two-thirds innings and a trip round the lineup, the Boston hitters seemed to realize they weren't going to catch up to Jimenez and his 97+ mph heat, but they could wait for him to hang himself. Ground outs and strikeouts quickly turned to walks, which became hits, two runs scored and 12 men left on base. Jimenez retired in haste in the fifth, the victim of his own inability to control his pitch count. Meanwhile, innings mounted, outs decreased, and excitement in Professor Thom's rose to a fever pitch, as 150 or so Sox fans lived and died by Cinco Ocho; his death mask pitching fast, his fastball, his brilliance. The win became collective, as good wins always do: the players put the ball in the right places at the right times, but we - the screaming masses in Fenway, and their counterparts in a crowded Red Sox bar in New York - pushed them to make the moves.

Sail on, sing a song, carry on/Cause we rock...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

2007 World Series Game 1: Don’t Stop Me Now

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 13, Colorado Rockies 1

Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time /I feel alive and the world turning inside out, yeah! /And floating around in ecstasy

That's a pretty damn good start. Call it Red Sox momentum, call it Rockies rust, call it whatever you want but it was still a pants-down spanking of world serious proportions. I don’t want to say anything too awful about these Rockies, because it’s not nice to pick on people you don’t know… and I still don’t know ANY of these Rockies players. Well, whoever they are, the 9 days of rest seems to have snapped them out of their hot-streak.

Blood was in the water and the Sox bats played the part of Jaws. Right out of the gate Dustin “the littlest rookie who could” Pedroia smashed a Monster shot and grabbed the Sox an early lead… one they never looked back from. I mean, are you kidding me Colorado? That’s your “Ace,” your #1, your big shot? Wait… wasn’t this supposed to be a pitching duel? Francis got absolutely OWNED by every single member of the starting lineup. It wasn’t pretty. And the bullpen? Like I said before, I have never heard of those guys, and now I know why. Every Sox starter but one (Ellsbury) got a hit, every starter but one (Lowell) got an RBI and every starter but 3 (Lugo, Pedroia and Ellsbury) got a double. The Sox had 8 doubles (tied a WS record) in the night, they had 13 runs (sets the WS game 1 record) and had a 12 run victory margin (sets WS record). These jokers even managed to walk in three runs! Unreal. When you take candy from a baby, at least the baby has the decency to cry about it. The Rockies pitchers didn’t even manage to look that tough.

I'm burning through the skies, yeah! /Two hundred degrees /That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit!

Speaking of pitching, the Red Sox could have scored 11 fewer runs and still walked away with this one thanks to the mastery of the gladiator named Josh Beckett. 4-0 in the playoffs? Check. Post season ERA slightly lower than Kevin Millar’s blood alcohol content? Check. Another World Series win under his belt along with 9 fresh strike outs? Big freaking check. The guy is a man-amal: half man, half animal. And that animal? I think it’s a grizzly bear cause he tore through the Rockies like a top of the food chain predator. It is a down right pleasure to see this guy blow away hitters. Beckett retired the first 4 batters by way of the K and could have pitched much longer than the 7th if it wasn’t for the fact that the Sox were already up by more than a touchdown.

Unlike our purple clad adversary, the Sox bullpen looked great considering we were using the B-squad. Timlin and Gagne didn’t allow a base runner in either of their innings of work. You know it’s a great night when you get text messages like “I feel good about Gagne” and “hey I think it’s Gagne time” or my favorite “If Gagne isn’t too busy crushing children’s dreams, I think he could pitch in this game.” Hell, I was happy to see him.

Anyway, do I think every game is going to be this one sided? Of course not (see: yes) but I think the Rock-mes may be a little overmatched. Maybe it’s the lack of World Series experience (only Wily Tavarez has seen action) or maybe it was the roaring Fenway crowd, but the Rockies looked rattled. Their tale of destiny now rests on the shoulders of their game 2 starter, the mighty Ubaldo Jimenez while the Sox have to turn to some guy named Curt Schilling. I heard this Ubaldo guy had some good stuff (I did not hear this) so this could be a good one… but I might have to lean towards the Red Sox in this match-up. They just look unstoppable.

Don't stop me now ('Cause I'm having a good time) /Don't stop me now (Yes I'm having a good time) /I don't wanna stop at all

PS: Thanks, but no thanks Rudy. Sox Nation doesn’t want you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Taking Stock: How to Beat the Rox

Over the past three and a half years, we've all gone through a lot of changes as Red Sox fans: we've had our outlook fundamentally changed by a miracle string of victories, sworn we could face adversity without the passionate rages that characterize our past, had those promises shatter like a glass beer mug hitting the floor during one of the many draw-dropping, heart-breaking collapses of 2005 and 2006, come to terms anew with the passion that never left our hearts, seen our faith tested when our GM left in an ape suit, when our star prospect came down with cancer, when our injury-plagued team hit its nadir over eight games in August and tumbled into third place. Three and a half years later, we're better fans: we still care a whole lot freakin' lot, but we're not so crazy, and we don't give up so easily. We've grown, and we should be proud of it. And now we're back in the World Series.

We're facing a team that may not have the same history as the Red Sox had coming into the Fall Classic, vintage 2004, but definitely has that same fire, coming out of nowhere at the last second to pile on win after win, capture wild card and National League pennant, sweep all comers and generally surprise everyone. With their large crop of home grown young players, much smaller overall salary, and inexperience with the limelight, the Rockies are the true underdogs, darling of non-New England fans who love to see the David and Goliath story reenacted once again. I'm not saying we should root for them to win, though; it's just good to know what we're facing on an emotional level. Now for the stats:

Season Record
Thanks to Bud Selig, Boston's actually faced Colorado this year, and thanks to wretched performances by pretty much everyone on the team except for Tim Wakefield (who won't be on the World Series roster), the Rockies left town with a 2 and 1 record against the Sox, while we put up posts with clever titles. Of course, that series fell in the middle of a 54 game stretch where Boston played .500 ball (how did they win the AL East again?), so we can hope that it's not indicative of World Series performance. Otherwise, we're completely screwed.

Batting Versus Pitching
The sample sizes in question between both teams are absolutely useless, I'm going to focus on post-season stats instead. There are three things that interest me:
  1. Colorado put up a 2.33 ERA and a .172 batting average against when playing Philadelphia in the divisional series, and a 1.89 ERA and a .254 batting average against when playing Arizona in the championship series. Arizona was not a particularly strong hitting team this year, but Colorado made both teams look absolutely silly at the plate. The Rockies' game one starter is Jeff Francis, a 26-year-old who posted slightly above average numbers in 34 starts this year, but gave the Sox screaming heebie-jeebies over five innings back in June. Their game four starter is Aaron Cook, a 28-year-old who posted slightly above-average numbers in 25 starts, but who hasn't pitched in two months because of an injury. Somehow this translates to pitching domination in the junior hitting league. If the Sox offense keeps ticking like it did over the last three games of the ALCS, that pitching advantage might be for naught, which is good because...
  2. ...the Rockies hit poorly in the NLDS and wretchedly in the NLCS, cracking a total of 57 hits over 236 at-bats. That's pretty wretched, and wouldn't seem to be a sign of a vibrant offense, except that about half of those hits turned into runs. Boston had a higher success rate overall, but they had four games where they won by seven or more runs, and they've had a much more productive offense in 2007. Colorado seems to have the ability to be productive when it matters, and they'll be a huge threat if they're allowed on the base paths.
  3. Much has been made of the Rockies and their Christian clubhouse, how the team might be operating under a divine mandate to win everything. That may be the case, but remember: we have Curt Schilling, who's more avid about his religious beliefs than 10 Matt Hollidays, and prays on the mound before making a start. Who knows: speculation about who will win might be a moot point when Schilling takes the mound in Game 2, as Jesus might suddenly decide He prefers Armageddon to trying to pick favorites.
Both teams in this series live and die by pitching; the Rockies because they can't seem to hit anything, the Red Sox because they need to keep the Rockies from scoring any runs, because the offense might just disappear in the face of unknown starters. Assuming we all survive Game 2, I'm calling Red Sox in seven.

Monday, October 22, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 7: Don't Stop Believing!

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 11, Cleveland Indians 2

Working hard to get my fill/Everybody wants a thrill/Payin' anything to roll the dice/Just one more time

This is step two...Sox win the pennant for the 2nd time in 4 years and they did it again with a miraculous comeback. I am too excited to be happy, too happy to be drunk and too drunk to be awake… but somehow I am all of those things. It’s like a euphoric waking coma that I now share with the rest of Red Sox Nation. What a place to be.

Oh man, I need to unwind a second. That was a rough week of baseball, any way you cut it. When I step back and see that the Sox outscored the Indians 30-5 over 3 games I can’t believe it… weren’t these all so close? Game 7 was a game of inches right?

With all of the old mojo the Sox trotted out before the game, I kept checking to make sure I didn’t accidentally go back in time to 2004. Kevin Millar threw out the first pitch and read off the Sox starting lineup. Last time I checked he was on the Baltimore Orioles, one of our division rivals… but who cares! It was just great to see Millar drunk, happy and in Fenway again. Sure he called Ellsbury “Jacob” and Dice-K “Danielle” but it was worth it just to reconnect with a former player that came up big… with a walk… in game 4… of a series that happened 3 years ago. Hmmmm… maybe I am reading too much into this… it was just great to see Millar!

Anyway, Dice-K came out looking like he might be worth SOME of that $51 million, while Westbrook was hankering for one of Paul Byrds HGH shots. Sox put up runs in the first three innings, every little break was falling for Boston, the Indians looked rattled and the road to the Rockies looked a lot shorter. That’s usually when the wheels come off.

Dice-K got hit and hit quick in the 4th and 5th innings. He looked completely gassed, but Francona let him finish the 5th while the rest of Sox Nation tried not to have flashbacks to Grady Little. Lofton pounded a ball off the Monster and Manny gunned him down at second (looked safe). Then it was hit after hit before Dice-K managed to strike out Asdrubal to end the inning. The Tribe only plated two runs, but this happened to coincide with Westbrook suddenly remembering how to pitch. The Sox must have hit into a billion inning ending double plays and I think I was downing a beer after each one. The tension was unbearable.

Some will win, some will lose/Some were born to sing the blues/Oh, the movie never ends/It goes on and on and on and on

The Sox sent out Oki for a two inning hold, and he participated in the one of the scariest sequences of the season. With one out in the 7th, Lofton (why is he ALWAYS involved?) slaps a shallow popup down the leftfield line… and Lugo drops it. The string of obscenities that flowed from my mouth as Lofton reached second would make a sailor blush. And then the momentum shifted again…

For some reason I still don’t understand, Lofton was held at third on a Gutierrez single down the line. He could have walked in and tied the game… but he got the stop sign. So now with runners in first and third, Oki gets Casey “Bad Beard” Blake to ground into a inning ending, rally killing, thought only Sox could do that, double play. Suddenly I could breathe again.

Then it was like someone let the air out of a balloon. The pressure just disappeared. With Jacoby reaching on an error, Pedroia SLAMMED a ball over the Monster for 2 insurance runs. Then in the 8th the Sox took the formally un-hittable Betancourt to school for the tune of 4 runs (Dusty with a bases clearing double) and Youk slammed a 2 run shot off Lewis and the Coke bottles. What the hell happened? No more drama! No more finger chewing! No more doubt! Papelbon came in to clean up the 9th (with a great catch by Coco to end it) and it never looked so routine. The rough and tumble Indians left the ALCS with a whimper. Not their proudest moment.

Un-freaking-real. This series comeback might not be as sweet at it was in 2004 (it’s not the Yankees and it’s not 0-3) but it still tastes mighty good. The bizarre thing about this series is that I never thought it was over and done for the Sox… sure I felt down when they fell into the 1-3 hole… but I never felt like it was over for them. Is that what 2004 did for us as a fan base? Instead of pessimism when the chips are down, is our faith now bolstered by the fact that we KNOW the Sox can comeback from anything? I never stopped believing, never stopped hoping, cause I knew… somehow I just knew… that this was going to go our way. This is the apex of the strange new world of the Red Sox fan. No longer underdogs, now we’re perennial contenders and our belief has never been stronger. Go crazy people… party like it’s 2004 'cause the Sox are going to the World Series.

Don't stop believin'/Hold on to the feelin

Sunday, October 21, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 6: Aces High

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 12, Cleveland Indians 2

There goes the siren that warns of the air raid/Then comes the sound of the guns sending flak/Out for the scramble we've got to get airborne/Got to get up for the coming attack

Baseball is a game of statistics, a math geek's wet dream of numbers and outcomes and probabilities that make it one of humanity's more perfect endeavors. However, within this perfection lies the paradox of improbability and uncertainty, the human element that defies prediction and makes the games worth watching. This human element takes, among other forms, the guise of shifting momentums, tied up in morale; the same unpredictable, intangible feeling that drives armies on a battlefield towards crushing defeat or overwhelming victory. It's why we all hold hitting streaks and strings of victories in such high acclaim: put inertia on your side and you gain the aura of invincibility.

Before this series started, I mentioned that I was excited for the upcoming battle; I focused on the pitching match ups, which have proven disappointing in many ways, but instead I find myself satisfied with the pure baseball appeal of this series thanks to the frequent shifts in momentum. Boston took command with Beckett's first win, then Cleveland asserted itself with three straight victories that put Boston on the edge of elimination. The Sox slowed the rush with Beckett's second win that sent the series back to Fenway, but they really regained the upper hand tonight using both bat and glove in two key moments.

Jump in the cockpit and start up the engines/Remove all the wheelblocks there's no time to waste/Gathering speed as we head down the runway/Gotta get airborne before it's too late.

Moment 1: While Beckett is the golden god of the 2007 playoffs, Curt Schilling is the wild card: his abilities as a big game pitcher are set in stone, but after a weak Game 2 showing and the ongoing concerns about his ability to adapt to his advancing age, a strong outing was more of a fond hope than a clear certainty. However, fortune - and Schilling's own dogged refusal to look bad twice in a row - smiled upon the evening, giving the big righty a stat line that would make anyone proud: two runs on six hits, with five strike outs and a home run, all over seven innings. But this sterling performance might never have happened if not for a lucky call in the first inning.

Grady Sizemore drove the third pitch of the game high and deep to right field, a towering fly ball that screamed home run from the moment it left the bat. It sliced into the seats around the foul pole, as Red Sox Nation drew its collective breath, and watched helpless as the season started to swirl down the toilet. A home run from the first batter of the game: momentum would scream back into Cleveland's court faster than a Boston driver weaving through traffic on the Southeast Expressway. The Indians would go on to score five or six runs in the first inning alone, and the Sox would be on the golf courses by Monday morning. But the baseball gods were kind: umpires ruled the ball, which looked like a home run on the replay, was foul - no gopher ball, no first blood, no nothing. Sizemore grounds outs, Lugo to Youkilis, three pitches later.

Running, scrambling, flying/Rolling, turning, diving, going in again.
Running, scrambling, flying, Rolling, turning, diving...

Moment 2: J.D. Drew has not had a good year. He's getting a lot of money for below average production, he hasn't lived up to his role as a key member of the offense, etc. We all know the story, and we all expect less of Drew - who was 0 for 6 with men in scoring position coming into tonight - as a result. Boston loads the bases in the bottom of the first inning, as Pedroia, Youkilis and Ortiz all reach safely with no outs. Manny strikes out looking after a tough battle with Carmona, Lowell flies out to Trot Nixon in shallow right - too shallow to score a run - putting the burden on Drew. A walk would have been a fine - a single seemed too much to ask for. The fate of the whole game hung in the balance of that one moment, and J.D. Drew shocked us all to the very core: he smashed a 3 and 1 fastball into the camera well in center field for a grand slam.

Pandemonium. I'm in a bar, and though every fan in the place is yelling and screaming his or her head off, we can't believe it. We yell through the shock: J.D. Drew delivered. Ill fortune hangs over him like a cloud, a reputation for injury-plagued selfish play and missed potential dogs his footsteps, but for a shining moment - the shining moment of the whole game, on par in orders of magnitude with Manny's walk off from Game 2 of the ALDS - Drew baptized away all of his Red Sox sins. The rest of the evening was a state of grace: three for five, two runs, five RBI, a one-man wrecking team armed with a bat and the will to make up for lost time. Pour some gasoline on that fire tomorrow and we might finally see the birth of a monster.

Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die/Won't you run, live to fly, fly to live
Aces high!

Friday, October 19, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 5: Ace of Spades

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 7, Cleveland Indians 1

If you like to gamble, I tell you I'm your man/You win some, lose some, it's all the same to me

Like many other Red Sox fans, tonight, for this game, I chose not to venture out into the communal world of bars, where interaction with other members of Red Sox Nation could quickly turn uncomfortable if tonight's game went ugly. In Beckett we all trust, but that didn't stop those with a fatalistic outlook - or a strong dislike of the grief of others - from bunkering up with the home TV and a beer or two. Like wounded animals, we retreated to our caves where we could die with dignity if necessary.

Playing for the high one, dancing with the devil/Going with the flow, it's all a game to me

Fortunately, any such preparation was completely and totally unnecessary; if there was a meter that measured awesome on a 10 point scale, they'd have to replace it: Beckett kept hitting 11 all freakin' night. I gushed about his pitching after Game 1 of the ALDS, I sang his praises after Game 1 of the ALCS, but tonight...tonight was something special.

It wasn't just the mere-mortal first inning that burned off like fog from Boston Harbor in the fiery sunlight of Beckett's other eight, or the career-high-tying 11 strikeouts, or the economies of pitching that kept his fastball still sparking after a full night of 96 mph heat - these things we've come to expect from Beckett the 20 game winner, or Beckett the post-season maniac. Here, tonight, Red Sox fans got to experience in full emotional depth how Marlins fans felt in 2003 when Beckett pitched his first post-season shutout in the exact same situation, picking up his team on their way to eventual world championship glory. Josh Beckett was a big game pitcher before tonight, but this win was his biggest big game test in a Red Sox uniform - and he passed with flying colors.

You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools/But that's the way I like it baby
I don't wanna live for ever/And don't forget the joker!

It didn't hurt that for most of the game, it felt like Beckett was doing everything himself. Youkilis took Sabathia yard on the fourth pitch of the game, and Manny knocked in Big Papi in the third on what might be the longest single ever hit in Jacobs Field, but getting to that eventual 7 to 1 total took so many stranded bodies, Boston might have being trying to re-stage Custer's last stand. These feints toward a breakout weren't the usual cat and mouse game of the Red Sox offense, either; the gaspings and heavings of a fat man mid-heart attack on a treadmill might be a more appropriate metaphor. A typical inning would consist of one or two members of the lineup between Youkilis and Lowell getting on base, followed by the intense pain of delayed gratification and frayed nerves as the Sox failed to score a run (strike outs, double plays, even getting thrown out at home all played their part), leaving the door open for what seemed like the eventual apocalypse when the Indians finally started scoring runs.

I see it in your eyes, take one look and die/The only thing you see, you know it's gonna be

However, even gaspings and heavings must eventually turn into something positive, and in the end the Sox broke through, scored an insurance run or five, and set what we all hope to be the precedent for additional offensive explosions on Saturday (and Sunday, fingers crossed) post-triumphal return to Fenway. Tonight's game might not have been fun in the pedestrian sense, but if we're lucky it shifted the momentum back to Boston's side of the court.

The Ace Of Spades/The Ace Of Spades

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 4: No Excuses

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 3, Cleveland Indians 7

Layin low, want to take it slow /No more hiding or disguising truths I’ve sold

All you nay-sayers, all you chicken littles, all you threat makers, deal talkers and promise fakers… shut up. Seriously just shut the hell up. I don’t have the energy to argue with what “should” have happened with what “might” have been.

Starting Wake in this game was the right move… simple as that. You can’t gamble on the sort rest starter, I don’t care who it is. The fact that analysts and fans alike are going to jump on Francona for this move is just idiotic. You want to scream at Tito? Bring up his quick hook for starters and his bad choice in relievers. On no days rest, Delcarman was not able to keep the match up as close as I would have liked it.

But enough sour grapes. To be frankly honest, it was Indians ability to perform with runners on and a quick solution to the Sox knuckleballer that ended this one. Wake didn’t go any farther than the starters before him and that just won’t cut the mustard. He left with men on… and MDC (who was nasty before this outing) made sure they all reached safely… ugh. A seven run disaster inning. Lester was awesome in relief, but it was too late by then.

Its okay, had a bad day /Hands are bruised from breaking rocks all day /Drained and blue I bleed for you /You think its funny, well you’re drowning in it too

So once again, looking at a deep hole, the Sox can’t get any runs in. Paul Byrd did just about as well as he could have keeping the Sox bats in check. The back-to back-to back homerun parade in the 6th was amazing... and nothing but a big tease. Youk, Papi, and Manny might have made history with those big swings, but they were the only guys to cross the plate for the Sox. The Tribe’s bullpen preformed as well as it’s had the previous nights leaving no opening for Boston to inch its way back into the game.

There were opportunities… and the Sox didn’t take them.
There were great performances… and the Indians were the ones making them.

I guess the sense of urgency has been heightened now huh? No longer can we say that “these aren’t must win games” with the record at 3-1. Bottom line? Lose and go home. Simple as that. It’s now up to Josh Beckett to save us from that fate… let’s hope he stays to form and does the job.

Oh, and sorry this was a late posting… but I currently have the worst hangover in the history of these biological nightmares. Hey… just because I can accept that the Sox got beat doesn’t mean I’m not gonna go ahead and drink myself stupid. Now gimme a minute so I can go puke this all away like a bad memory.

Everyday its something hits me all so cold /Find me sittin by myself no excuses, then I know

Monday, October 15, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 3: Misery (Frustrated Incorporated)

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 2, Cleveland Indians 4

They say misery loves company /We could start a company /And make misery

Forget Soul Asylum, I may need an insane asylum after this mess is over. Between McCarver’s moronic ramblings and the near subliminal TransFormers pomos Fox has been showing, it’s amazing to think that the GAME was the most infuriating distraction of the evening. Almost everything that could have gone wrong with this game went that way… and quickly.

Dice K couldn’t get out of the 5th inning. He looked effective out of the gate, but AARP member Kenny Lofton got the cheapest homerun ever, making it 2-0 early (and who the hell takes a curtain call in the 2nd inning????). Then in the 5th, the Japanese import collapsed like a grass house in a tsunami. Before Bono could unite celebrities and get him some foreign aid, the Indians put up two more runs and Timlin came in to save his expensive ass from further humiliation.

And while Dice-K was being beat, Westbrook was handling the Sox with smoke and mirrors. I guess I can’t totally blame magic on Westbrook’s performance, the Sox had the bases loaded in the second with no outs (0 runs), a leadoff double in the fourth (0 runs) and a pile of walks with nothing to show for it. It was like drinking glass. Double play after double play. I just wanted to hide my head after every at-bat before the 7th inning.

Put me out of my misery /I'd do it for you, Would you do it for me? /We will always be busy, making misery

Not helping ANYBODY was the home plate umpire and his ever shifting, ever shrinking strikezone. It’s up, it’s down, it’s left, it’s right. Inside, outside, high, really high… but never very low. How much do you suck when the best thing I can say about your game calling is “well, at least he didn’t call a low strike ever?” If Dice-K crap performance had left me with any energy, I would be throwing things around the room.

Other random notes from this game:

Sizemore has a cheering section called “Grady’s Ladies” and are made up of the hottest chicks in Cleveland. 8 women and 6 teeth.

Cleveland is full of those awful white towel swingers. Doesn’t that mean you’re surrendering? If this ever started in Fenway it would force me to jump under the T in Kenmore.

I think Timlin’s playoff diet is gunpowder and dead babies. Mixed together.

Tek hit his 2 run shot to dead center and had me screaming thanks to the terrible Fox camera angle. I was sure it was going to be caught by the short stop.

Speaking of Fox, I thought I would miss them after the disaster on TBS… I got over that quick. McCarver and Buck still talk like they learned the sport last week and graphics like “Asdrubal Cabrera is the first player to be named Asdrubal in MLB history!” gives me an urge to just watch the MLB GameCast and listen to the radio.

All I wanted to see this series was Cleveland’s closer, and finally Wedge put the awful Borowski in with a 2 run lead. Careful what you wish for. He got the Sox in order with very little drama. No breaks, no luck, just more frustration.

Put me out of my misery /All you suicide kings and you drama queens /Forever after happily, making misery /Frustrated, incorporated, Frustrated, incorporated.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 2: Mind Riot

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 6, Cleveland Indians 13

I was crying from my eye teeth and/Bleeding from my soul
And I sharpened my wits on a dead man’s skull

Even though J.D. Drew's first season with the Red Sox has fallen far short of anyone's expectations - witness the OBP and SLG scores, the home run totals, the numbers of hits, all off last year's mark, far short career highs and, at $14.4 million a season, not what Boston paid to see - no one in a logical, rational frame of mind would say that Drew is not an upgrade over Trot Nixon, whose market value might be five times less than Drew, but whose returns on investment - fewer hits, about 150 less plate appearances in 40 fewer games, less power, etc. all in a body a year older and far more banged up - has removed him from consideration as a starting right fielder. Trot Nixon has dirt dogged himself into a veteran utility role, pure and simple.

I built an elevator from his bones/Had climb to the top floor just/To stamp out the coals

We look at the stats and the history and we know all of these things to be true on an intellectual level. The higher courses of our brains reassure us with facts and figures, telling us that while day-to-day baseball is fluky, things eventually trend out to prove the superiority or inferiority of a choice. J.D. Drew is the better right fielder; this is known. But that current of rational thought is just a cheap veneer, cracking and melting away from the pressure of the primitive, emotional parts of the brain that focus all too easily on one thing: when J.D. Drew came up to bat in the eighth inning with a chance to start the third (and final) Red Sox rally, he hit a liner to center field. When Trot Nixon came up in similar situation in the eleventh inning, he hit the single that scored the go-ahead run. "Trot Nixon beat us," we rage, "why isn't he on the Red Sox anymore?"

And the candle was burning yesterday/Like somebody’s friend died
And I‘ve been caught in a mind riot/I’m tied within

Though Nixon's single pierces our mind with its sheer ironic temerity, claiming its place as tonight's unkindest cut of all, it was not the only stab of the night: from Schilling's lackluster line (4.2 innings, nine hits, five runs, two gopher balls) to the return of the Red Scare (two blown saves and a seven run, last nail in the coffin eleventh inning), tonight was a blood-stained affair that Red Sox Nation would rather forget. And you know what? I'm happy to do so, to focus on the positive: Manny and Ortiz remain the Castor and Pollux of the 2007 playoffs, the heart of the order continues to rock the party that rocks the body, and tonight Fausto Carmona's deal with the devil looked like it expired in Cleveland sometime last week. Give tonight a pass, and move on to Cleveland ready to get back on track to victory.

I’m luck’s last match struck/In the pouring down wind

Friday, October 12, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 1: Cowboys from Hell

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 10, Cleveland Indians 3

Here we come reach for your gun/And you better listen well my friend, you see

You're just as surprised by the outcome of this game as I am, right? Not that Boston won - that sort of thinking just plain not becoming of a fan - but that what should have been a pitchers duel turned unbalanced in the third inning and into a blowout by the fifth? Not that Beckett made one mistake that ended his scoreless post-season streak, but that Sabathia - in retrospect - didn't have a prayer against the Boston offense from the moment Pedroia rocketed the third pitch of the first inning back to the mound? We're in the post-season, and I'm bored enough by the course of the game to take part in conversations about World War II documentaries in the middle of the fifth inning. Very surprising.

It's been slow down below/Aimed at you we're the cowboys from hell

What's not so surprising: when Sabathia foolishly opened the floodgates in the first inning by giving up a brace of singles to Youkilis, Papi, and Manny, the Sox offense came rushing out, ready to not only right the wrong that Beckett committed by surrendering a first inning home run to Travis Hafner, but completely dominate the score for the rest of the game. Boston couldn't quite pull the trigger in the first - Lowell double played to end the inning - but you could feel the rumble, the tremors of the coming earthquake that would eventually tear the park - and Cleveland's pitching - asunder. Taking a commanding lead was just a matter of time.

Deed is done again, we've won/Ain't talking no tall tales friend

The Indians' home run was a fluke, and Beckett immediately returned to his dominating ways. Meanwhile, Ortiz and Manny solidifying the triumphant return of their two-man wrecking crew, building on flawless nights to garner walks, get hits, score runs, and operate as the unquenchable heart of the offensive attack. The Sox loaded the bases three times, in what must have seemed like a twilight zone for Cleveland pitching: Ortiz would come up, Ortiz would walk, then Manny would wait for the fat pitch that never came and walk in a run.

'Cause high noon, your doom/Comin' for you we're the cowboys from hell

I don't expect such disparate results tomorrow night; looking at how Sabathia and Carmona did in the ALDS (and Sabathia's performance tonight), it seems that Carmona might have better post-season success, put a damper on the potent offense, and keep the scoring down. Indeed, because Schilling is Schilling, capable of performing under such pressure, tomorrow night might be the best game of the series for pitching. However, the Indians have to be wondering right now: with Sabathia in poor form, how far can they get on one star pitcher? If the Red Sox strike when the iron is hot, this series could turn into a rout quicker than the sell out time for a Sox/Yankees game.

Step outside/Cowboys from hell