Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Someone Broke Baseball

So there was baseball tonight. Red Sox baseball, in fact. With Curt Schilling pitching, no less. The first time there was real, live, honest-to-god baseball in six months...and you know what I couldn't do? Watch it. Not because I didn't want to, not because I hadn't paid to was because, despite upgrades and a price increase, despite its fourth (right?) year of operation, still can't get things right when it comes to streaming games. I'm not talking about the momentary glitches and buffering errors; I'm not even talking about the system's annoying habit of dropping the connection every few minutes. Instead, literally killed the connection without any explanation for six innings and I missed the best part of the game; the part where the players we'll actually be seeing this year were on the field.

I know even being able to watch out-of-market baseball games is a wonder of modern technology that I should be grateful for, blah blah blah, but you know what? It stopped being so novel when I started paying the equivalent of a premium cable channel price ever year for service that is, at best, bleeding edge quality. I know Major League Baseball doesn't care about the fans at all; they're just looking to get more money, increase the bottom line, corporate bs, etc. and is a part of that. We're just caught in a sucker's blind because there's no other way for us to watch games. I've lost any hope that things will change, but I'm still tired with being dicked around.

Oh and congratulations to the Sox for tying the first game of the year. Mayor's Cup, here we come!

A happy team is a healthy team

Everyone knows about injuries in Baseball. Every team gets them, they are a part of the game, conditioning prevents them, and depth makes up for them. Right. Sure. I know, I know, I know. That’s all well and good, but injuries DERAILED the Red Sox last year. We had everything from bad knees and shoulders to irregular heartbeats and cancer. Half of our starting pitching went down and two thirds of our outfield missed a big chunk of time. Not to mention any catcher that wore a Red Sox uniform ended up hurt. It’s easy to drop from first to third in the standings when your team is pieced together with AA guys and waiver wire pickups.

Now I know it’s only Spring Training, but I want to keep track of who is getting hurt from the very beginning. This will help me continue season long tirades against individuals that spend more time with their limbs in ice rather than in gloves and cleats. Not too many guys are members of the walking wounded club yet, but there are three bodies that have seen better days.

Mike Timlin- left oblique: Old guys are always gonna have problems. As the season wears down, they do as well. So it is a REALLY bad sign to see Timlin start hurting before he’s even faced an opposing batter. He’s already started working out again, but his planned appearance against the Twins in the opener Wednesday has been pushed back a few days. Remember when everyone was blaming Timlin’s troubles last year on the WBC? Well maybe we should have been blaming father time.

Craig Hansen- back: Young pitchers who get stiff backs get me a little annoyed until I remember that the act of pitching is an unnatural movement. The human body wasn’t meant to throw a ball that fast and you do damage to yourself every time you do it. That being said, this kid was supposed to be the closer of the future. What happened to that? Now it’s being said Hansen will be lucky to make the bigs when the season starts. Another satisfied Scott Boras client.

Matt Clement- shoulder/brain: If Clement was a horse, he’d be Barbaro. If he was a ship, he’d be the Titanic. If he was a Yankee, he’d be Carl Pavano. He (and many of his deluded fans surprisingly) are holding out hopes that he will be able to pitch sometime this year. That’s ridiculous. Even if he gets a clean bill of health, he’s weak-sauce mentally. This guy hasn’t been right since he took a liner to the head back in ’05 (and he was starting to come apart before that). This guy has done nothing but not live up to expectations, so much so that I bet he WILL pitch this year just because I expect him not to (he’ll still suck though).

Anyway, the injuries are not much to speak of just yet and I hope it stays that way.
To bring up a happier topic, despite my thinking the first game was Thursday (don’t know why I thought that) it is actually tonight against the cross town spring rivals from Minnesota.

There will be REAL Red Sox baseball being played tonight. I can’t explain how happy that makes me.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Goodbye, DJ

Yes, Dennis Johnson passed away last week, but we needed time to put together a proper eulogy...time to bring back another post from the great DC.

Like most people my age, I am old enough to remember Dennis Johnson playing basketball but I am too young to remember just how great he was at playing basketball. When he was winning titles I was just a kid, with no control over the remote, a bedtime well before playoff games ended, and a life that was far too young to care. So this week when DJ passed away I was shocked (as you always are when someone dies too young) and sad simply because, as my brother put it when he called to discuss DJ: “It’s always sad when one of the ‘banner numbers’ dies.” But I wasn’t deeply affected like when Teddy Ballgame died or will be when Larry Legend finally taps out. Then I saw the story on Sports Center, I saw the steal against the Pistons a few hundred times and I realized that I kept getting chills. Then I heard one telling quote from Larry “The Basketball Jesus” Bird that made me rethink the whole thing. That simple quote… “DJ was the best I ever played with.” Finally, I read Sports Guy’s article about DJ and suddenly I realized a couple of things.

First, everyone in the media is right, the fact that this guy isn’t in the Hall of Fame is terrible and the fact that he wasn’t even a finalist this year is even worse.

Second, I should be sad about his passing. Every Boston sports fan old enough to remember DJ on the court, even if those memories aren’t vivid, should be sad about this. Sure he wasn’t Bird, Parrish or McHale…he was just the one getting them the ball.

Third, the clip of that steal against the Pistons will always give me chills regardless of how many times I see it. I don’t know if it’s because Bird’s steal was ridiculous or because DJ’s hoop was SO much more difficult than people realize, or if it’s because of Johnny Most making the call with that awesome voice. But regardless…CHILLS every time!

And finally, I really wish I was 5 years older so that I could have vivid memories of DJ leading possibly the greatest team in the history of basketball. Maybe then I would fully realize the sadness I should be feeling right now.

Rest in peace DJ. And don’t worry, you’ll get the recognition you deserve some day.

Time to shut your @*$%ing Mouth

Manny: “Hey Bitches! I’m here and ready to rock your faces. This where the party at?”

Everybody else: “Oh! We misjudged you! We’re so sorry! Please forgive us!”

Manny: “Quit your crying. Now back up as I hit some f-ing digners.”

How do you like that? Mr. Ramirez has reported early. The circus is now complete. Let's get this ball rolling already. The first spring training game is Thursday against Toronto and my nipples are pert with anticipation.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Jonathan Papelbon, Ca-drillionaire

Ah, to be young, rich, famous and able to invest in Internet startups, just like Jonathan Papelbon. That's right: Papelbon is looking beyond his playing abilities to expand potential talents in other areas of life, just like his teammates: Coco Crisp has his producing thing, Big Papi makes salsa, Manny does public speaking appearances, etc.

What's the venture, you might ask. Where does he get his hot investing tips? Does he have a specific investing vision in mind? As a matter of fact...
  • The venture: ISpottedYou, a social networking site (like MySpace) that uses buttons (the plastic-coated things with the pins on the back you stick to your shirt) like a membership pin so you can spot other adherents in the street. Features investors like Under Armour, "some NFL guys [and] some MLB guys," bilingual capability and the tag line, "where the virtual world meets the real world." And on these lowly beginnings, an online empire is built...
  • The tip source: his agent. I think this may be the equivalent of asking your plumber for medical advice.
  • Pap's investing vision: "to be a ca-drillionaire," where a ca-drillion is an amount of money equal to two metric ass-tons.
Go look at the site just so you can laugh at the idea of a.) people walking around wearing buttons like they're in some sort of cult, b.) those people getting beat up on street corners for wearing those buttons and c.) other people investing their money in this venture. Whatever real-world amount of money a ca-drillion equals, I don't think Paps is going to make it by funding this website.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dissecting Schilling's Negotiation

Remember how Curt Schilling said he'd be back in baseball in 2008? I'm sure you all remember that he did - I mean do you remember literally how he did so? He called WEEI, breaking the news to his beloved public (and I use beloved in both directions) using the same forum he's used many times since he became a Red Sox. At the time Schilling, who acts as his own agent, said that he'd either go into the season with a contract extension from Boston or declare free agency for the first time in his career after the season ends.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Schilling called the radio station again, this time to announce that Theo Epstein told him that there would be no contract before the season starts. According to Shaughnessy, both radio announcements were made without prior knowledge of the Red Sox brass, a move he correctly called "Schilling's bluff." When the media interviewed Epstein about the matter, he said that age (Schilling will be 41 this year) was the primary motivation for not granting the extension.

Robin called me earlier this afternoon distraught by the idea of Curt Schilling even thinking of pitching somewhere else, but he admitted to being overly emotional; I think it's clear this situation is a straightforward example of the art of winning a negotiation.

Curt Schilling is a man who knows how to use the media to strengthen his position in the eyes of the public (just like a politician, right?). His calls to WEEI were tactical in nature: they were surprise statements that attempted to move the negotiations into the public sphere, where he has more power (or thinks he does, at least) because of his success in Boston. Whether or not you think Schilling is a blowhard, the calls were a good idea on his part - if he was negotiating with a weaker management team, they might have gotten him the extension now.

However, the Sox had two advantages of their own in this negotiation. First, Theo knows full well that it's stupid to grant extensions to any player who's 40+ without seeing what sort of numbers they're going to put up during the year. If (God forbid) Curt's arm falls off mid-season, the Sox will look pretty stupid having promised him money in 2008. Second, all Theo needed to move the negotiations back into Sox control was to stick to his guns, both with Schilling (by telling him no extension until before the start of the season) and in public, by stating the obvious reasons why Boston can't afford to make an emotional decision in this matter. Even though the Sox aren't guaranteed Curt's services for 2008, they made the smart response to Schilling's move by calling him out and telling him he needs to prove his ability before they'll give him more money. Well played, guys, well played.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Take a Load off Manny

If you follow the Red Sox but have been stuck on the Moon for the past week, I have some breaking news for you. Manny won’t be showing up for Spring Training until March 1st or whenever he damn well feels like it. Whichever comes first.

His original excuse was that his mom was getting surgery and he wanted to chill with her while she recovered only a few hours away from Ft. Myers. Not really provable, shaky as his last few flake-outs, but understandable I guess.

My/most fans reaction: “It’s Manny. Who cares? He can hit in his sleep and his defense isn’t getting better no matter how much he trains. Let him have his Manny time.”

Boston Media: “WHY IS HE SO SPECIAL???” and “BOO SCANDLE BOO!!”

Yikes. Anyway, it appears now that some story has surfaced that one of the things Manny might be doing while NOT training is going to some car show in Atlantic City.

This is apparently BIG NEWS and it’s only an unconfirmed RUMOR. I have had it with the Manny bashing. He is his own freaking person in his own little world. He demands a trade almost every season, he never goes to the All-Star Game, he sits for no reason (or for a good reason but nobody believes him) and he is a loon in the field (but manages to rack up assists). None of this is new.

So if we already know this (and Manny isn’t changing) so why are the media outlets making this big news? Why do they care if he takes more time off? Why do they care if he gets special treatment? Why shouldn’t he?

In his six seasons with the Red Sox Manny has averaged 99 R, 39 HR, 119 RBI, and about a .315 BA. Oh and a WS MVP award. If that isn’t deserving of some “special treatment” then I can’t tell you what is.

When you weight the pros and cons of "Manny being Manny" it ALWAYS works out in the Sox favor. That's why he should get cut some slack* from the media monsters and negative fans.

*Until his numbers drop off, cause then he’s fair game. Sorry buddy. Such is the fickle finger…

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Return of Captain Crunch

Among the many other subplots swirling at the start of Spring Training '07 (Schilling's contract, Dice Clay's abilities, the extent of Lester's cancer recovery, J.D. Drew, whether or not Matt Clement will be able to throw a ball without his arm falling off - and whether anyone really cares - and all of the other things Robin's already mentioned) is the (hopefully) imminent return of Coco Crisp to form after last year's disastrous campaign. Crisp, who turned out to be the first casualty of the Year of the Walking Dead needed surgery in September to repair his finger and comes to Spring Training wondering whether or not he'll get back on track after his monster start last Spring.

Does Crisp think he's ready? Of course he does - but then again, he's a ballplayer; it's his job to talk up his abilities. I'm convinced more teams would have a stat-head focus if so much of the business wasn't made up of people who've spent their whole careers talking up their skills. In any case, two points in Captain Crunch's (Crunch! Like Crisp! It's funny, right?) favor:
  1. He admits his finger is still stiff when he wakes up in the mornings, but works itself out by the time he has to play. I'm not sure if this sort of honesty impresses me, or makes me nervous. At least he's telling the truth.
  2. Now that the Sox have a real lead-off hitter, the foolish Coco-Bats-First experiment is over. The Herald has him batting second, Robin has him batting eighth, but I don't really care one way or another - just as long as he doesn't do any more head-first slides into third.
I just thought about Lugo and Crisp/Youkilis getting on before Papi and experienced a body-rocking shudder of glee. This lineup is intense, people. I'm very, very excited for baseball.

Everybody’s Pumped! Well Almost Everybody.

Pitchers and catchers have been on duty since the weekend, but now the rest of the 2007 Sox herd is beginning to file in for Spring Training. I am so freaking excited... well pretty much everyone is excited.

Papelbon is excited to be starting.

Tavarez, Pineiro, Hansen, Romero and Donnally are excited because they think they’re closing.

Lester is excited because he had FREAKING CANCER and is playing.

Dice-K or D-Mat or WHATEVER his freaking nickname is excited to actually throw some pitches and turn about 12,000 Japanese reporters heads.

Schilling, Wakefield and Timlin are excited for the new Metamucil tablets.

Lugo is excited to finally try on the new laundry.

Wily Mo is excited to get his contract taken care of (it’s a steal for someone with his upside).

Coco is excited about batting 7th (I hope).

Okajima is excited to have the 2nd most unpronounceable name on the team, and very excited to nail Dice-K’s leftovers.

Breslow, Lopez, Delcarmen, Pauley, Snyder, Gabbard, Murphy, Moss, Kottaras and Hinske better get really excited for AAA until about August.

Youk is excited because people still think he’s Greek (he’s Jewish).

Lowell is excited because people still think he’s George Clooney (he’s Puerto Rican).

Ortiz is excited because people still think they can pitch to him past the 7th inning (he will own you).

Tek doesn’t get “excited”.

Drew is excited because when his ears popped on the plane ride over, it didn’t put him on the 15 day DL.

Pedroia is excited because he gets to play with the big-boys and only has to carry HALF of all their gear this year.

Cora and Belli are excited because even though they play like once a week, they still will have their names in the paper more than the starting lineup of the Kansas City Royals.

And finally, Manny is excited because once again, he doesn’t have to show up until March 1st even though he is like two hours away chilling at his mom’s house. Whatever, as long as you hit your 120 RBI and 35 HR. Whatever.

Friday, February 16, 2007

“Foulke you, Foulke you, Foulke you, you’re cool, I’M OUT!”

It’s the swan song for Keith (Shoulda been 2004 WS MVP) Foulke. He has hung up his spikes rather than pitch an injury shortened season for the Indians (eww Cleveland? Good call Keith). Anyway, his loss from the game will be missed by the many of us Sox fans that loved and supported him. He was a freaking WORKHORSE in 2004 (ahhhh woops, sorry about that arm) and helped solidify a bullpen that was a DISASTER in 2003.

Yeah he called us Burger King workers when he was hurt.

Yeah he sorta forced Curt Schilling into a closer roll when we had no choice.

Yeah he kind got real bad real quick.

But the WORLD SERIES!!!! We won that thing in no small part due to his efforts.
All is forgiven. Live long and prosper Foulkie… you got us a ring.

Happy Trails, Lenny

Buried behind the flurry of Dice Clay-related news springing up like springtime flowers of baseball in Fort Myers was the announcement by the Red Sox that the Oakland A's claimed Lenny "The Loneliest Lefty" DiNardo off of waivers yesterday. With a staff that went from embarrassingly devoid of southpaws last year to one that has an embarrassment of riches this year, DiNardo's presence on the waiver wire isn't particularly surprising. In his three years in the majors he's been wildly inconsistent in his abilities, had peripherals that fluctuated wildly and, in general, suffered from Derek Lowe's fatal flaw: he just can't keep his hands off the ladies. Wait, that was just Derek. Lenny has the other fatal Derek Lowe flaw: he can't keep his pitches down consistently.

Sometimes DiNardo had games like this one, where he seemed to have the command necessary to make him a vital part of the rotation. Most of the time the hopes started high but ended like this gem, with Francona bringing out the long relief to suffer through another round of artillery practice. Now he's off to Oakland, land of second chances, where he'll either harness the hidden potential of his ground ball pitches (or get a lot of lucky fly outs in that cavernous stadium), or he'll languish in the minors for the rest of his career. Either way, I wish him good luck.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different

From: Hoy Digital.

My Spanish isn’t the best, but I think this is David Ortiz dancing with what I believe is a hooker named Betty.

Good times!

Truck Day +1

Dear Readers,

We're sorry we missed the official beginning of Spring yesterday. We were so focused on trying to figure out why the Herald would make a joke about the noble profession of proctology (especially in reference to our favorite new beer-swilling Red Sox) that we missed Truck Day 2007. We know it's no excuse, but we hope you can forgive us in our shame.

Yours in Red Sox obsession,

Eric and Robin

Monday, February 12, 2007

Asahi SUPER "Dry:" The Man Steps In, Says Stop This Nonsense

I've already spoke of my great love for the Asahi ad featuring Dice Clay; its sheer awesomeness has dominated my baseball-starved mind for several days now. According to the blog To the People, however, the US government, in the form of Arthur Resnick, director of public and media affairs for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, isn't so pleased: Resnick thinks that the ad may merit "punitive action," whatever that means, despite the fact that the ATTTB is an arm of the US government and Asahi broadcast the ad in Japan, which is, to my knowledge, not a part of the United States. Looking at the Herald article on the issue, it sounds like the "punitive action" would be brought against Major League Baseball, which authorized the use of the Red Sox logo in the ad.

Even if that's the case (and I confess that for a moment I foolishly thought the punitive action would be against Dice Clay), the idea is, as they say in Boston, retahded, just like every half-assed attempt by the government to intervene in baseball. Can the MLB govern itself? Not really, if steroids is any indication, but I think they still do a lot better by themselves without the interference of politicians.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Psychologist Says Fans are of Two Minds During Sporting Events

According to an article in the Washington Post (helpfully reprinted on the subscription-free, a psychologist named Emily Pronin administered a questionnaire during Superbowl XXXIX (aka The Last Time The Patriots Won) to a group of 58 Eagles fans watching the game on a big-screen TV. During the game, the questions centered on how much attention the fans were paying to the game. Afterwards, Pronin had one last question: "How responsible did the person feel for Philadelphia’s defeat?"

According to Pronin, her study found that people have a tendency to believe that things they do can have magical effects over other, entirely separate events - like fans believing that following certain rituals or yelling at the TV will influence the course of events on the field. All of this research is probably true, but I could have told you that in five minutes, with one very simple anecdote.

In 2004, as some of you may remember, the Red Sox won the World Series after a trip through the ALCS so harrowing that it probably cost me several years of my life. At the end of Game 5, which was probably the climax of the madness, Robin, my then roommate Ryan and I all stood, smacking our hands against our thighs like we were banging mystic baseball-season-saving drums, because that was the only thing that would make Big Papi get a hit. And you know what? Everyone in Fenway was doing it, too. And you know what else? Papi got the hit that won the game on the tenth pitch of the at-bat. What does this prove? Sports fans are absolutely, complete and totally 100% crazy because we think that banging an improvised drum made a man hit a ball with a piece of wood. Holy crap am I excited for a new baseball season.

Via Deadspin; Pronin has her own take on the subject here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Why Does He Make It So Damn Easy?

Everyone's favorite neurotic ball player is now a published children's book author: according to the New York Daily News, yesterday marked the release of Out of the Ballpark, written by Alex Rodriguez. Illustrated by Frank Morrison, who got the gig because of his illustrations for Queen Latifah's book, Out of the Ballpark follows the story of a second baseman named Alex, who commits a costly error during the playoffs. His team rallies and makes it to the championship, while young Alex practices obsessively to make sure he can overcome the rising pressure not to fail again. The best part, though: at the end of the book is "a Rodriguez "scrapbook," featuring photos of A-Rod as a baby, a Little Leaguer and even one of him preparing for his first school dance in junior high."

Is it precious? Of course it is. It's also indicative of the author's state of mind about baseball that he chose this particular topic as the subject of his book; you might say the strain of playing to disappointed New Yorkers is starting to get to him. I wonder if the original draft of the book featured Alex (the character) seeking out Jim Fannin for help?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Awful

This guy makes me sick to my ass. Football, I'm done with you. DONE. Red Sox pitchers and catchers report next Saturday... hurry up.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Asahi SUPER "Dry"

I think I watched this commercial five times in a row before posting, because it's that awesome. How long is it 'til pitchers and catchers report, exactly?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Jon Lester is a Legend

A full 2 weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Ft. Myers, Jon “Cancer-Shmancer” Lester is ready to go. He’s lost some hair and weight to chemo… but he said he is ready to do whatever the Sox ask of him. Start, relieve, Pawtucket, you name it.

I hope Lester has a productive year in Pawtucket and is available to spot start if we need him in the second half of the year… and then he may be ready for full time duty in 2008.

Whatever he does, this guy is amazing. I would want him to back me up in a bar fight because you couldn’t take him down with two pool cues and three broken bottles. I hear that Lester wakes up in the morning, shoots himself with a shotgun, then goes and has breakfast. As a sleep aid, he uses a tire iron to bludgeon himself unconscious. I’ve heard he can even take one of Papi’s salsa farts standing up.

Welcome back Jon.